mag map lost_jpg_t285Mike and I camped on a bush site snuggled in a back bay where a rugged portage leads into Kelsie Lake, to the west of Island Lake. I saw this part of Island Lake years ago while working on a guide book where I included lakes to the west: John, Mud, Smokey and Noganosh. Those lakes had just become a new provincial park and what I saw on the map, the place where Mike and I were now busy exploring, seemed intriguing. But after portaging from John and Kelsie to Island, I made the decision to retrace my steps. It felt like the right thing to do at the time, to allow this area to remain a secret for just a little longer.

It was just before 8:00 am when we were on the water again the next day. Mike gets up quite early on trips, which is fine by me.

The night before we had walked the 1000 meter unmaintained portage from Island to Myrtle Lake - which leads into Dutton (Cross Lake) - so we knew what we were getting ourselves into. But locating the trail at first wasn't easy, at least the proper trail. We found two. Mike walked a newly blazed route and I kept to the original portage. The older trail was the more direct. Mike's route zig-zagged a lot, and then forked near the end — the left joining up with the old trail and to the right leading over a small creek and then linking to what seemed to be a ATV trail that went right, then a snowmobile that went left, and then eventually to Myrtle Lake; very confusing to say the least. It's as if the person who blazed the new trail had never even seen the original one. Mike suggested that it was probably the winter when he traveled through, and the deep snow hid the old portage. Not a bad guess.

Myrtle Lake is tear-drop shaped, very clear, with the bottom covered completely in aquatics, mostly coontail. It was also a decent bass lake. Mike and I caught quite a few moderate sized fish before heading onto Dutton (Cross) Lake. The portage was at the very end of the southern inlet. We were confused for a bit at first though when we noticed the snowmobile/ATV trail prior to the inlet, on the left. That trail eventually linked up with the original portage but we would have walked a bit further by taking it.

The portage out of Myrtle was far clearer then the one in — not sure why that was. It did, however, fork once again near the end. The portage, measuring 300 meters, seemed to end where the snowmobile/ATV trail went left and right. We went right and soon came to where the creek empties into Dutton (Cross) Lake. And there to help us across was a make-shift bridge made from three TV antennas, frost fence and chicken wire. It had to be the oddest overpass I've ever seen, and Mike and I were a little nervous carrying over it. A sandy beach marked the put-in to Dutton (Cross) Lake, just to the left of bridge.

Mike and I caught more bass, more smallmouth then largemouth, while making our way across Dutton (Cross Lake), and then checked out an old cabin on the far south end. Our progress was slow, not only due to fishing far too much but by checking out every bay and inlet for possible bush trails. We located a very overgrown path linking up to Old Camp Lake to the northwest and a very old trail heading off towards Duck Lake. Mike and I nearly missed the second portage, and only discovered it by stopping for lunch on a rock outcrop to the left of the entrance to the southeastern inlet. It was like solving a mystery; the clues being an oddly placed rock, a grown-over blaze scare and rusty nails hammered in an old pine that obviously once help the portage sign. The portage itself was very difficult to follow, however, and Mike and I opted to look for an alternative route around to Duck Lake by using Wolf, Boundary and Four Bass Lakes.

We headed south on Dutton (Cross) Lake to where a marshy creek flowed in. Here we met a local trapper guiding a group on a fishing trip. They were camped to the left of the creek and Mike and I stopped to ask if the watercourse was passable. The trapper didn't know but advised us to just take the ATV trail behind them to the connecting beaver pond. We thanked him for his advice and tried the creek anyway.

We should have listened to the trapper!

Mike and I were able to paddle up the creek for about 20 or 30 meters, then we carried through patches of sedge and dogwood bushes for another 100 meter or so before coming to where the ATV trail crossed over. Another 20 meter walk got us to a giant beaver dam. From here we paddled across a small pond and then, to the right of a creek, walked through a 50 meter bush trail, hidden by young red pine and large patches of raspberry bushes, to reach Ely Lake.

Wolf Lake was our destination for the day and Mike and I only had to paddle across Ely and carry 80 meters over to reach Wolf. Once here, we found the first make-shift campsite and set up for the night — hoping to relax before taking on more "undiscovered" portage routes the next day.