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Wilderness Tripping: Swift-Water Canoeing
   Sand River Valley
   Lake Superior Provincial Park
   Algoma District
   Wawa, Ontario, Canada

   July 4-11, 2006


Highlights from an 8-Day,
Wilderness Canoe Trip
through Ontario's
Lake Superior Provincial Park:
Inland lakes and the Sand River

July 4-11, 2006


By C. A. Susan
   Ann Arbor, Michigan
   Copyright 2006

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Memories of a wilderness canoe trip...

This was my first wilderness canoe trip with my new solo boat (actually used, but new to me). I had purchased it 7 weeks before the trip and (thanks to my expert friends) had gotten it into wilderness tripping shape in that time: cleaned up; rigged to contain my portage packs, bailer and sponge; seat modified; bow and stern drilled for the painters; and, last but not least, that oh-so-important portage yoke, complete with pads, thwart bag and water bottle holders!

My 13'6" "Sandpiper" by We-no-nah Canoes is made from Royalex--I debated the Royalex vs Kevlar/carbon question before buying, and after portaging, paddling, lining, and tracking (and dragging in some places) through such rugged country for 8 days, I was happy with my choice.

We paddled through inland lakes for three days until we hit the Sand River, then after paddling upstream 2 kilometers to stay at a campsite with which Michael was familiar (we were ahead of schedule), we headed down the Sand for the remaining four days.

Making a transition from sea kayaking in years past to canoeing on this trip, I learned a lot about wilderness canoe tripping (not to mention portaging), and had a great time! Below are some of my favorite memories from this Canadian wilderness trip.

  • The anticipation and excitement of (finally) putting my Sandpiper into, and paddling down, Gami Lake.
  • Working on my paddling technique throughout the trip in an effort to become more efficient. (I still need more practice, of course.)
  • The quest for the portage trails. Checking the map and looking for the portage signs (or remnants of signs) as we paddled through the lakes was a fun challenge--like a treasure hunt on each lake.
  • Our first night's campsite at the far end of Picea Lake. It was fun hanging out, setting up my modified explorer shelter and eating dinner together at our little campsite.
  • The Lakes. I loved them all. I especially love the feel of first coming onto a lake that is wild and uninhabited.
  • Old Woman Lake. Checking out the lodge again (having been there on a winter trip in February 2005): reviewing the log book; meeting and chatting with the current visitors/residents...then paddling across the lake in the early evening to...
  • Our campsite on the east shore of Old Woman Lake. I liked sitting on the flat rock at the water's edge and watching the sun set beyond the hills of Burnt Island.
  • Retracing part of our February 2005 winter-camping trip and remembering what it was like dressed in snow and ice.
  • Setting up the Z-drag and pulling down the big tree limbs that blocked the portage trail: good learning, good practice, good fun.
  • Bowie-knife lessons on clearing out the overgrown portage trail were too fun!
  • Finally getting to see and camp on Hardtime Lake. I had seen it on the map and thought I definitely wanted a chance to visit a lake named "Hardtime." (Such a great name--wish I knew how it came about.)
  • Seeing the moose swim across Hardtime Lake in the evening and trying to catch up to it to get a closer view (yes!) and maybe a picture (no chance). Eating dinner by the lake. The evening paddle up the lake narrows with Mary. The fog on the lake the next morning.
  • The Sand River! Worth all the long, hard portages to get to it!
  • Hanging out on the flat rocks at our first eve's campsite on the river: eating dinner, taking pictures of Mary reading and of Michael fishing for brook trout from his canoe, and watching the moon rise over the trees.
  • Wildflowers, wildflowers, and more wildflowers…. (the list is long, including pitcher plant and sundew, to name a couple).
  • Following the shapes of the lakes and the twists and turns of the river on the map (when my attention wasn't occupied by other things while underway, like maneuvering with that single bladed paddle!).
  • Calwin Falls, and getting our tarps up just before the rain started--yea! Eating dinner together under the tarp; talking after dinner.
  • While not exactly a "highlight," or a "favorite," hunkering down in the woods to wait out the 3-hour thunderstorm was certainly memorable!
  • The "twin chutes" of Lady Evelyn Falls, from above, from below, really cool from all angles.
  • Our campsite below Lady Evelyn Falls. (Have you figured out that I love every campsite we stay at? Even if I don't love it at first, I become attached to it through the evening and overnight--every time. I think it is the living in it: choosing my tarp site, setting up, cooking and eating dinner, sharing conversation with my campmates, scouting the area for a suitable tree limb on which to hang my food rope, not to mention the fun of getting the rope over the limb, often after multiple attempts.:) Mary's fire on her elevated fire pan was awesome. Getting dry after being soaked felt sooo good. Sawing firewood--I always like to do it. How did Thoreau say it? "They warmed me twice, once while I was splitting them, and again when they were on the fire."
  • Playing in all the rapids up and down the Sand River. From bumping through low water, to running those rapids we could, to practicing forward ferries, backward ferries, and eddy ins and outs! Fun, fun, fun. (With occasional frustration due to inexperience: missing an eddy, banging into a rock I had seen and hoped to avoid, etc.)
  • Our final night's camp--always bittersweet to have to leave the next day. Lying in the sun, hanging out on the rocks, bathing in the open air, being mesmerized by the whitewater flowing over and through the rocks, dinner together at our campsite. Nightfall by the river.
  • Throughout the trip, all the sights and sounds and smells of the water…

All of it makes me look forward to doing it again…


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In God's wilderness lies the hope of the world,
the great, fresh, unblighted, unredeemed wilderness.

 — John Muir 1838-1914, Alaska Wilderness, 1890

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