DSC_4517_JPG_t285We figured our last day en route would be the easiest. All we had to do was paddle a section of West Little White River and portage through a few small lakes to re-enter Kirkpatrick Lake, and then rejoice back at the lodge with a sauna, hot shower and fancy meal provided by the camp chief. It was, however, the only section of the route which the junior rangers hadn't maintained the previous year, meaning it hadn't been cleared since 1981. But our other options seemed worse: a 1700 meter snowmobile trail leading out of Robb Lake's southeast bay to the central bay of Kirkpatrick or a direct but very long 3000 meter snowmobile trail from Robb's southwest bay, beginning left of the West Little White River, and ending on the north shore of Kirkpatrick, directly across from the lodge.

We began the day early, paddling to where the West Little White River flushes out of Robb Lake, over an old and half-decayed logging dam, before 9:00 am. To the left of the small river we noticed the 3000 meter trail leading directly to Kirkpatrick and wondered if we should just haul everything over that way. But we all wanted to keep to the original route and went over to the right side of the river to look for the first of two consecutive marked "lift-overs" on our old map. There were none. Just thick bush. So we just balanced over the decrepit dam and then flushed our canoes down the remaining shallow gravel rapids. It seemed easy enough and we continued on thinking we'd be at Kirkpatrick by noon (we arrived after 7:00 pm).

A small lake/pond was next and it was here we spotted our first moose of the trip. Jeff and Jay were ahead of us at the time and Ash and I noticed them giving the well-recognized sign for moose ahead — hands placed on top of your head with fingers spread out — and we snuck up with video camera put on record.

The cow moose was feeding in the far end of the pond and at first we thought it would be impossible to sneak up on her before she spotted us. But we did. We snuck up too close, actually. A stiff wind blew us right to her. The cow looked up at us drifting only two canoe lengths away, and the sight of us snapping photos and shooting video must have been nightmarish for the poor creature. She turned and ran, stopped to take a pee (moose do that when they are startled) and then, surprisingly, turned around and ran directly at us. We had managed to escape into another back bay and let the cow moose return to its foraging.

With all the moose action, we ended up being a tad confused of our exact whereabouts on the pond and blindly started looking for the old 900 meter portage that would take us further along the route in the wrong bay. Two full hours later our group was still wandering through thick bush and swamp ooze looking for a blaze or faint path through the woods, finding nothing except for a very perturbed beaver who I nearly stepped on while trudging through a thick patch of sedge. We scared the crap out of each other.
Actually it was only Jeff, Jay and I who got lost. Ash stayed back with the canoes, munched on GORP and had a snooze. He insisted we were in the wrong bay and decided it would be foolish to look for the portage from where we were. We mocked him — that is until the two hours of searching found nothing and when we backtracked to the other bay and found a big blaze on a massive white pine tree, indicated the beginning of the portage.

Even though we had eventually found the proper trail, it still wasn't a perfect portage. I walked it for awhile and noticed a few sections were faint and a number of trees had fallen across. It was doable, we figured, but the group thought that since the first half seemed to follow the left bank of the shallow river, it might be wise to just paddle, pole and wade down as far as we could get. So we did, and ended up losing the trail completely and dragging the entire stretch of the rock-bound river to where it enters Onedee Lake.

At the far left bay of Onedee Lake (Elbow Lake on some older maps) our map showed one last portage (350 meters) marked to the left of the river before entering Kirkpatrick Lake. However, we were quite concerned of its condition and decided to take Jay's advice of locating a trail he knew of along Onedee's northeast shoreline that linked up with the last quarter of the 3000 meter snowmobile trail leading to Kirkpatrick Lake.

None of us will ever know if the 350 meter trail was doable or not. But we do know that Jay's "short-cut" was a very long "short-cut." It had the measure well over 1000 meters. We did, however, find a path that linked to the snowmobile trail; two paths actually. The first was knew and freshly marked with orange flagging tape. It was also flat but created a much longer time spent carrying canoes and gear. The second was the one that Jay remembered from when he guided here — but he forgot how steep the first section was (even a goat would find it a challenge!)

A cold rain had also soaked us through on the way across the trail and we were already chilled from walking down the river. Good news was that we could see Blue Fox Lodge directly across the lake. What a sweet sight, smoke coming out of the main lodge's chimney and the chime of dinner bell echoing across the lake.

A five minute paddle and our canoes were beached, and suddenly it was all over. No packs to be readied, no rapids to wade, no wind to struggle against, no painful portage to carry over. We had lost the intent of the trip and now, after relishing in the comforts of the lodge, it seemed as if we had lost our purpose. We quickly grew bored easily and eager to get back home…and plan our next adventure north.

But getting home seemed to impossible — stay tuned for part 5 (last part) and find out why.
Plan your next great adventure with explore!
Off the beaten path locations, tips and tricks, interviews with intrepid explorers and more.