06-Aug-2004 -- Not wanting to accept defeat after making an “incomplete” visit to N47 W83 last summer, we felt that we owed the confluence deities another attempt at making this CP.
Last year it was just Steve Wunch, and Mark and Mira Shnier. This year, Linda and Jeff Mooallem came along -- they didn’t want to miss out on all the fun.
Our plan was to make a long weekend out a two-confluence trip, this one and N47 W82. This would involve a total of 1550 km of driving, three days of canoeing, a number of portages and of course, bushwhacking.
We made sure we were better prepared than we were for the N48 W84 visit last year, where we had no compass, and the GPS batteries died. This time we had 6 compasses, and 5 sets of spare batteries stuffed into various pockets and packs, plus a new and improved colour-screened Garmin GPSmap 76CS.
We left Toronto at around 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, August 5. A mere 685 km drive, on increasingly narrower and narrower roads took us to the shores of Rocky Island Lake. Déjà vu – this was as far as we got last year. We set up our tents, BBQ’d some chicken, roasted marshmallows for s’mores (*), and washed up. We ended the evening with some ghost stories by the campfire, and then crawled into our tents.
We were up pretty early the next day, in anticipation of our adventure. We were on the lake at around 9:20 a.m. It was an easy paddle of 3.5 km down the one arm of Rocky Island Lake. Eagle-eye Jeff spotted the beginning of the portage to Elf Lake, which was completely camouflaged by a pile of driftwood near the shore. We carried the canoes and gear over the 250 m trail through the woods.
We were welcomed to Elf Lake by the echo of the haunting calls of 7 loons together. A rare site as they are usually seen singly or in mated pairs.
Another short paddle (1.8 km) took us to the end of the lake and the final approach which would be 1.2 km of bushwhacking. It was just after 11:00 a.m., so we figured we wouldn’t bother carrying the lunch with, since we would be done in 2 hours or so. It’s funny how optimistic one can be before a trip begins!
Well, we didn’t get off to the best start. We had gone no more than about 50 meters, when we realized that the camera was still where Mark had it in the water proof case in the canoe. So Mark and Mira doubled back to fetch it.
Looking at the topo maps, we chose a route that would follow a stream in a NNE direction, and then head up the ridge to the CP. Mistake. This took us through the densest patch of alder growth! I’m not even sure if a machete would have helped. We slogged through this for a while, trying to keep to keep to our mostly N heading, until we finally agreed that we would be better off heading for high ground. This took a while, but we were finally rewarded with a slightly more open path, with the added bonus of the occasional patch of blueberries.
Our feelings of elation were deflated when Linda, who was leading at the time, became entangled in some string! The string seemed to go on and on, and was more or less going in the direction of the CP. Shortly after that we noticed red paint blazes on the occasional tree, which Jeff determined where painted quite recently.
We were dumfounded. Had someone preceded us to the CP? Should we just give up now? Who were these people? How on earth did they get such a long piece of string? And how did it get thorough some very dense undergrowth, which we felt that a normal person would have circumvented. “Who was,” we asked, “Lord of the String?” We had checked the website on Wednesday night before we left the city. No one else had logged any intentions of going to this site.
Brave souls that we are, we chose to continue on in our quest, and just hoped that we get our story onto the DCP site first!
Since the string seemed to be going toward the CP, we followed it for quite some distance, until we realized that it was going too far to the west. In fact we over shot our destination by about 145 m.
Our spirits rose as we made our final approach to the CP. There was no sign of any string or red marks on any trees. Perhaps we will be able to claim this as a first visit after all.
We did the usual confluence dance, but just couldn’t get both numbers to go all zeros. We took the requisite pictures of the four ordinals. Typical for the area, the flora consisted of a mixture of Jack Pine, Spruce, Poplar and Birch.
As with most other visits, the trip out went much more smoothly than the way in. We chose this time to stay high on the ridge for as long as possible, and only descended to where we had left our canoes when we were much closer. I must add, that Mark lead us back to within 10 m of the canoes just by following the compass.
All in all, the bushwacking portion of our quest took us about 2.5 hours to go to the CP, and only 1.5 hours out. We were rightly famished by this time. Since it was buggy by the shore, we loaded up the canoes and headed for the middle of Elf Lake. We enjoyed our lunch while drifting in the canoes.
A short while later, we were back at the tent site. We loaded up the car and drove 230 km to the small town of Webbwood, where we had reserved rooms for the night at the
Webbwood Pines Bed and Breakfast. We told our host, Don, about our adventures, including the part about the mystery string. Don thought that prospectors, looking for the “big three”-- gold, silver and platinum, probably left it there. We know that we were successful in our quest. We can only wonder if they were successful in theirs.
(*) S’mores: A camper’s favourite. Stick one marshmallow on the end of a long stick. Roast it over hot coals until it is nicely browned on the outside and all melted in the middle. Place it between two graham crackers with a square of chocolate. It’s so good you want s’more.