Day 6 was the last day of the group trip and the first day of my solo effort. It was a day full of mixed emotions and excitement – most of it good and some of it a bit different than I expected. As with every good adventure worth having, my first solo canoe trip in WCPP started and ended much differently than I antcipated. I’ll pick up with a journal entry from the end of the group trip while waiting to exit the park for the outfitter pickup at the Onnie Lake entry point.
As usual for WCPP over the past few trips, all of our pre-planning kind of went out the window as the end of July 2018 approached, thanks once again to wildfires. In 2016 my plans were thwarted by both a sprained foot and a huge wildfire, this year it was just a whole bunch of forest fires that cut us back to “plan B” planning. Of course, as usual, WCPP “plan B” trips still consist of pristine wilderness, amazing landscapes, endless amounts of fresh Walleye, Pike and Lake Trout, moments of peaceful tranquility and excruciating pain and suffering, so it’s pretty hard to complain too much about them. The main impacts of changing plans last minute was that we ended up with two days that were a bit small and short compared to what we normally do.
The sun was hot and the sky was “summer blue” as we drove the dusty, bumpy, rocky road that starts out as an easy 80 km/h drive and gradually slows to a 20 km/h crawl or even less on rougher sections past the first 18km off highway 518. We were in excellent moods as I parked the truck on the sandy parking area off the road at the Onnie Lake entry point. We were a bit surprised to see three vehicles parked there already, but on inspection we noticed they were all from Wisconsin and one of them was pulling a large canoe trailer so they were obviously all part of one large group. With feelings of anticipation and trepidation about how my injured foot would handle things, we prepared for the first portage of the trip – 350m right from the parking lot.
In north-central Saskatchewan there is a town called Missinipe which is the base for a paddler’s paradise of rivers and lakes nestled in the gorgeous geology that is the Canadian Shield which is the backbone of Canada and among the oldest surface rock on the planet. Long used by the Native Peoples of Canada and by the fur traders that paddled her waters for trade, the Canadian Shield is characterized by countless square kilometers of 3.96 billion year old Precambrian igneous and metamorphic rock, covered in a thin layer of soil which supports incredible numbers of spruce and trees and water ways. The rivers and lakes are teeming with fish and support wildlife of many types from moose to bear to ducks and birds.
Early in January 2014, a group of us started throwing around the idea of another canoe trip into Woodland Caribou Provincial Park (WCPP) near Red Lake in North-Central Ontario against the Manitoba border. We’ve done many trips into the southern part of the park, accessing it from Garner Lake, Wallace Lake and even from the southwest, through the Eagle-Snowshoe Nature Reserve. This trip would be no different, considering a time constraint of around 5.5 days. Due to holiday / family schedules, I think the only way we will ever experience the northern part of WCPP will be via a one way North-South fly-in canoe trip or a much longer excursion in a loop from the south.