It was an absolute ideal "northern" holiday.
Our canoe trip portion got an early start due to the fact we stayed the night directly at our access — Sportman's Lodge on Kukagami Lake. This was an ideal setting. Rooms were nicer (and cheaper) then a hotel and we were able to park our vehicle in a safe area for a mere $5 a day (the lodge also offers shuttles to other access points for $20-$30 and rents canoes if you need them).
The morning of day one was spent paddling from the beach put-in and across to the far side of the lake, where a narrow inlet joins the south end of the lake with the central portion. Cottages line the banks on both areas of the lake but there are a few island campsites situated en route — which were surprisingly clean for such a busy area.
The lake kept calm the entire morning and Alana and I were able to paddle to the far northeast bay of the central portion of Kukagami Lake — Carafel Creek Outlet Bay - by 11:00 am. The only problem was that Kyla, and our twelve year-old dog Bailey, were having their naps in the canoe and we had to wait until just before noon to attempt the first portage.
This portion of the route — Carafel Creek to Maskinonge Lake - was completely new to me. In fact, I hadn't even considered it until the lodge owner mentioned it to me that morning. The portage showed little sign of use, but it was a clear route. The only issue was near the beginning of the meter trail (found to the right of the creek), where it forked. Bailey wanted to keep right but I insisted we keep to the left. I should have listened to Bailey. The trial to the left did actually lead to a proper put-in, and measured only 70 meters or so. But it only led to a small pond. From there we had to lift-over, drag, line, wade and bush portage through a series of shallow rapids that snaked around the corner, from right to left. It was all doable but the rough trail Bailey found would have avoided all that and saved a lot of bottom paint on our new canoe.
The second portage, found not far from the first and also on the right of the creek, was an easy 90 meters. But the third, a longer 450 meter trail beginning on the right, was a rougher path and came complete with another confusing fork in the trail, this time closer to the end. I managed to go the wrong way again and carried the canoe down below the base of a falls (nice falls). That wasn't correct. Bailey continued to the right and simply barked at me to clamber back up and keep right.
How embarrassing. My three-year old daughter and wife were smart enough to keep with Bailey.
A weed choked creek mouth eventually opened up to reveal Carafel Lake, where we had planned on camping our first night out. It was 3:00 pm and we could have continued on to Maskinonge — but Kyla and Bailey were ready for snacks and another nap.
Our choice of sites were three in total. The first choice was on a small island directly across from the creek mouth. It was way too small though and we continued our search. The second was situated at the far south end of the lake on a medium-sized island. Problem was, it was full of garbage. Beer cans, toilet paper, broken glass…littered the site and we quickly left to look for another possible tenting spot. We didn't come upon our third choice until we paddled all the way back up the lake. It was situated on the other side of the point of where we entered the lake. It was a great site. Only problem is that a group of anglers had just left it, using it for a shore lunch, and left the remains of fourteen bass fillets scattered in the back woods. Bailey located them all (and rolled in at least half) before I took notice. Not sure what the fishers were thinking.
Alana and I were able to clean up the site before dark and we thankfully had no wild animals visit us, except for a beaver whom we caught attempting to chew a tree down across our tent just after mid-night.
…and the adventure continues next week.