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Flying in and Paddling Out
Haven to Obukowin in Woodland Caribou Park
By Grant Pastuck  "the Otter"

Not all our trips are like this...
It was summer 2002. We were driving to Wallace Lake to catch a plane to Haven. This is not a pleasant drive but the road is getting better. From Hollow Water to Bissette the drive goes from bad to awful but if you take it easy, your canoes might stay on the car. If not, come home.

As we got to Bissette, it started raining. By the time we got to Wallace Lake, it was pouring. A Beaver was supposed to be here to fly us to Haven Lake but the only people here were campers and a group of college buddies going fishing in the pouring rain. They were unpacking a huge disarray of miscellaneous things to go on a fishing adventure. They looked at the Comm and the Otter, standing on the dock in the rain, with a lot of very organized and important things ready to load onto a missing Beaver, like we were lost. We had enough gear here to carry us for two weeks.

Our ride was late. Well, it was pouring rain, and the ceiling was about 200 feet. We were watching College Boys trying to load up some small boats with gear that would carry them for the next two days and we wondering if we should go back to Bissette.

"What if the plane doesnít come?"

"Well we can camp here or back to town."

"Can we phone them?"


We waited. Otter smoked a Drum. The rain fell; the fisher gang carried their stuff onto the dock. We heard a sound, a whining drone; the sound of a Beaver at low altitude, in wet weather. You get to recognize it after a while. Weíve met planes in such conditions before. Itís quiet at first, but when it gets close, and the only reason it gets so close is because itís here for you. You recognize it. It banked low and we could see the pilot looking out the window through the rain. We waved and hooted. The plane circled the lake and landed, taxiing up to the dock.

We looked at the fisher people and said, "Hereís our ride. Could we get by?"

"I wasnít sure youíd be here" the pilot said.

It was pouring rain.

"Why not"? we wondered.

We loaded the plane and took off, flying at tree top altitude over lake, swamp and forest. The pilot had this little hand drawn map, but he had a GPS device, and we got to Haven Lake.

"Where do do you want to land ?" he asked.

We couldnít see the lake in the rain, and weíd never been here before, so he dropped us next to an island with a small sand beach.

We started unloading the gear. The first thing we did was to set up a tarp over the camp sight. It was pouring rain. We can set up a tarp anywhere now. It was up in a minute and we unloaded the gear under it.

We discovered that we were on a small, heavily overgrown island with a small sand beach for a camp spot. THATíS IT.

As the Pilot passed out the last of our gear, he looked at us standing under the tarp, with smiles and our faces and beers in our hands. He asked, in the really pouring rain,

"Are you sure you guys are going to be okay?"

We said "Yeah! Sure. Have a safe ride home!"

Off he went. We were suddenly alone in the wilderness in the pouring rain on Haven Lake. Fantastic! We are so lucky.

Why It is Called Haven Lake
Haven Lake has two distinct bulbs. We had been dropped in the northern end on a very uninviting spot. But we made the best of it. It was still raining hard so we did something very clever. We learned a new trick. We set up the tent under the tarp and put our sleeping gear inside, without getting anything wet. Then we pushed it out so we had room under the tarp to hang out. The door of the tent was still under the tarp so we could get in without getting wet. I still think this was brilliant. It was our Haven.

The next day we looked for a better spot. The north half didnít offer anything until we got to the narrows between the two bulbs. There we found a great site; it was big and open, had great tent spots, and had lots of firewood. There was a great cliff lookout with a gorgeous vista, and it was hardly used. It had one of those fire rings with trees growing in it. Donít worry, we didnít have a fire there. For one thing, it was too hot. Secondly, we didnít stay there.

We paddled into the south bulb and camped on a little island that looked out upon a beautiful archipelago of islands. It featured a great classic rock slab fire pit, which we didnít use. Too hot. No fire camping is the way to go in the high summer.

After supper, I went for a solo paddle down the lake into the islands, sitting on the centre thwart using the kayak paddle. The lake was a crimson mirror, it was so calm in the easy summer sunset. I had a beer in the bottom of the boat between my feet and I just floated through islands, with a purple sunset sky happening above. Truly beautiful. Then I felt like I had to pee. I tried to lean over the side of the canoe, but each time I did, I almost tipped. It couldnít be done. Finally, I got out onto a little island, and was relieved. After meandering through these little islands, I paddled back to camp. The Comm was waiting for me. For some reason, I decided to see how far I could lean the canoe from side to side before it swamped. We were using the Duralite 17 on itís first trip. I rocked back and forth really far. It could tip over a lot, a lot more than weíd ever let it on the lake, but finally it went over and filled with water.

Here we learned something new! How to empty a swamped canoe in the water. Itís that not easy at first. You have to stand on the shore and pull the boat up a bit and tip it. Some water comes out. Pull it up a bit more, tip, pull up again, tip, and soon the canoe is empty. You must be patient. Full of water, a canoe weighs several hundred pounds. Best advice; donít tip.

We Donít Tip , We Trip
The main reason we donít tip is because we donít shoot rapids. Almost never. We paddle lakes and rivers and walk the portages. Weíre no heroes. Occasionally, we rope up or down fast water, but only if we are confident it will work. It only takes seconds to ruin your day if you make a bad decision. Be patient. The joy is in moving through the bush, and the canoe is not a motorcycle. Where we trip, there are no big rapids to shoot, so why bother?

We also donít cross big water if there is a risk of swamping. Again, why bother. Weíve been wind stayed a total of five days in twenty five years. Patience, little Grasshopper, is a virtue. (My mother used to say that when I was a kid. I hated it.)

The Wind
For some reason, every time we stay on Haven, itís windy. The next day, the wind blew us off the island. We went around the corner and put into that great spot we found in the north bulb. The heat was intense and we spent the day swimming and hiding from the sun.

We set up the tent and readied all the sleeping gear and then realized there was a better tent site in the forest, on a soft moss bed, and sheltered from any wind direction. To move camp, we developed a new technique. See, we learn things all the time. Learn on the fly. As Zalman Schachter said, "GOD IS A VERB." Mazaltov! We picked up the loaded tent by cords tied to the four corners and carried it to the new, better spot, plunked it down, stretched it out, and there you have it. We were so proud, we had another beer. Promotions to all.

From Haven we paddled south, walked an easy portage to Adventure Lake, and headed northwest, enroute to Haggard Lake via the much feared Bulging Lake. Bulging is shaped like and seemed about as big as Lake Erie with no islands for protection from the wind except from the south. We would enter Bulging from the southeast corner, paddle along the south shore, and exit from the south west, so as long as the wind isnít from the east, west, or north, we should be okay.

We stopped before we got to Bulging because it was getting late and it was a long way to Haggart. We were in a little river that widened as it got to Bulging and, right at the end, we came to a pair of islands. Now this was interesting. These two islands looked like they had once been one inland that had been split in half. We slowly paddled through the jagged narrow channel between them with high matching cliffs on either side. They were like pieces of a puzzle. If you pushed them together, they would fit. How did that happen? Another mystery of nature.

We stopped on the lower one and set up camp because there was a fire pit, so as they say, "This must be the place". We had supper and a few beers, but remember, it was really hot so we didnít eat a lot so it is not much of a meal. When we started to set up the tent, the only spot was on a beautiful patch of blueberries. We ate the blueberries, which took half an hour and we assembled the tent and put the sleeping pad and bags inside. We didnít like the spot and didnít like the idea of crushing these beautiful blueberry plants. The Comm pondered," I wonder if there is a tent spot on that other island?" It was only about ten yards away. I paddled over to look and there was a perfect little spot for the tent. We didnít need a fire pit because it was too hot for a fire. So hereís what we did.

Similarly to our tent-moving epiphany on Haven Lake, rather than break everything down, we put the set up tent, with the sleeping gear inside, into the canoe, standing up, by putting the poles deep into the canoe. We paddled the short distance to the sister island. I could see, but the Comm could not, because of the tent, so I shouted directions to him. We crept across the passage and docked on shore, pulled out the already set up tent and put it on the tent spot. Voila! Donít try this maneuver without proper training. Itís only for experts!

So weíre sitting on this little island at sunset and the Comm points out a tree on the other island with a hole in it. "I wonder if a bird lives in there?"

A little bird flew up to the tree, climbed into the little hole, turned around and looked at us , as if to say, "Yep, here I am." Nature often makes sense.

Miracle Drink
Iíve been going on about how hot it was on this trip and how we werenít eating much. It was in the 30ís C. Well we had Miracle Drink. This is a soya protein powder combined with a product called Greens Plus; dehydrated powdered vegetables. We would take three tablespoons of this, mix it with lake water, stir it up, hold your nose and drink. WOW! It was pure nutrition. You could go until supper on that. It probably saved us on that trip . We had it for breakfast almost everyday. On hot weather trips it is an essential. Thereís a lot of crap people take as food on canoe trips, pancakes, bannock , but if you donít get protein and fats , especially if itís hot out, forget it. Carbos are out. Cheap food with no staying power. This stuff is for real. You could live on it, although you wouldnít want to.

Actually, in the city , I have Miracle Drink, with some refinements, for breakfast almost daily. But this was the camping version and it worked great. I have two converts now. I must say, on this trip I lost ten pounds and Iím not big.

Across Bulging Lake
We got up early for once, for the paddle along the south shore of Bulging Lake. Just look at it on the map. It bulges. There is no protection from the wind and there are no campsites on the south shore. We were a little leery. We put in and pushed like hell bent for leather, whatever that means, along the south shore. But there was no wind, so there was no problem. So we got across to the west end, no problem. The south shore is kind of one long cliff for miles. No possible campspots. At the west end there was a line of islands, stretching north. The Comm commanded that we must explore these for possible campsites. I complained that it wasnít worth it. The wind was coming up, and I knew of something better. Haggart Lake. Hell, we both knew but we toured the island nevertheless. NOT A THING except rough rock, seagulls and seagull droppings. This was a big, wild, uncampable lake. Thereís no way youíd explore the north shore. It is so far away, There are no islands to hide in, and the far shore is a wall of cliffs. I wonder if anyone has ever been there? Why go there? This is the most inhospitable large lake Iíve ever travelled. Iím glad we didnít have to camp here. But we didnít have to; Haggart Lake was close and the day was young.

So we went south into Haggart Lake. Itís like going from the north Atlantic to the Caribbean. Granted, there are very few campsites for a such big lake. But it is deep and clear, with lots of vista and we know a spot... Well sometimes thereís a spot... It is a gem. It is two islands of dense bush connected by a sand isthmus (I assume you know what an isthmus is?) that was 30 meters wide, with trees for sun and wind shelter, and your choice of fire pits north and south, trees to tarp onto if you required, and two, hundred yard long sand beaches (believe me, I paced them, several times) and perfect , flat tent spots. The water out back drops to 350 feet! This is a deep lake that doesnít attract fishermen because the water if too deep; nothing but big fatty Lake Trout. There is a fire ring in a clearing in the forest with log benches to sit out windy, rainy days.

The strange thing about this spot is there is a motor boat here, like a fishing type, thatís been here for a while. Someone had used this spot a lot but with no sign of recent, I mean ten years since, use. Someone had used this as a major getaway at sometime, but how did they get to it? By plane one would think. Or it was associated with the almost neglected fly-in fishing camp on the other end of the lake. Weíve never seen anyone else on this spot or observed recent use, such as litter. Good for us.

So, in high summer, and high temperatures, we are here. I put on my snorkeling gear, which weíve dragged all this way; mask and snorkel, fins, and a shorty wet suit , because knew we coming here, and last time we were here ,I recognized how great the lake would be to snorkel, because it was deep and clear. I went in.

Other than West Hawk Lake, where I got swimmers itch, it was the best fresh water snorkeling I had done. Diving 25 feet down, good visibility, weird rock structures, and the odd cold looking fish, I thought this was great. I had tomorrow planned.

We had set up. Tomorrow was a layover day, so I was going to snorkel all day. Even just to get out of the heat.

Well for the only time on this trip, the next day was cool , windy and wet, and instead of tripping the beach, we sat up in that sheltered spot in the forest, under a tarp. But it was styliní. We took turns reading to each other, an Arthurian book. Once youíre in the bush, your senses get heightened because the the nature of the stimuli, and listening to to the Comm read this story was better than a movie. We had a small fire going, we had a cup of Good Single Malt, the smoke rose fragrantly within a ring of tall pine. It was magic. We read that story until it got dark. We were in Avalon.

We stayed at this spot for two days. It was so relaxing to walk along the private beach, sit out on the rock cliffs, swim, nap. Whatever. What a place. Something created this universe. Get over it. I show my appreciation by being there, resonating with the beauty.

Next, we began our exit from the park. We paddled north to Bulging and up to the Haggart River. Out of Bulging there is a gorgeous three layered waterfall into the Haggart River. We carried down the trail and stopped for lunch. We sat on big flat rocks beside a wide rapids, thinking about sliding down the water on lifejackets, but we were in travel mode. There is a camp site on this point, so someday I may stay here and play in the rapids.

During lunch, another party passed by, three guys from Minnesota, with a dog. They seemed to be doing okay. We greeted each other with calm happy spirit that those who understand this land do. They hadnít seen anyone since theyíd arrived and neither had we, and thatís how it should be. I passed on the location of the sand beaches to them, because they were heading for Haggart. You can trust other paddlers.

North up the Haggart River, was very tricky, because it is quite wide and twisty, and full of island and bays. We got somewhat lost. I looked at the maps and compassed our position. "If we bear west only, we should get out," the Comm said. So we didnít look around, because lots of false bays looked like the main body of water. We stayed in the narrow shallow water and, there it was, the gap to the next half of the river, where it widened up beautifully, with great camp spots on one shore and high cliffs on the opposite. But we carried on.

The river was calm, and on the flat water I saw big spiders walking on the water. I was intrigued. Then I saw spiders floating on the breeze on long lines. They were crossing the water by launching from tall trees on one side and blowing across to the other. We were impressed. What a world. " Better than the city!" " Calmer than you are!" But why did the spiders feel the need to cross the river? How does stuff work? We just muddled on.

Nice campspot that night, big flat rock spot at the end of the river, water a bit reedy, but what a sunset. We were happy and doing fine. No fire, pretty hot out, the bugs came out at 10:00 and we happily sat in the tent with the fly off, (nothing but mesh), watched the stars, and the diamonds of moonlight sparkling on the lake, listened to the loons, sipped a beer, and quietly said, "We are so lucky". Itís the most beautiful place on earth, and thereís no one else here. Except twenty million mosquitoes and a film of mesh between us, so if you go out for a pee, be careful with the tent zipper. Exiting and entering the tent with half the air filled with mosquitoes is an art.

I have compassion for the mosquitoes. Our mere presence here creates great excitement for them. They can sense our body heat and the CO2 that we exhale, so theyíve got a target, but weíre not like a deer. We have a film of mesh separating us and THATíS IT ! They can yell all they like but they canít get us. But mosquitoes Must be pretty successful creatures, because there are so many of them. Really, I hate them. I often wonder if some major eco-disaster would occur if they all suddenly dropped dead out of the sky and disappeared. I hope not, because some day... Iím from Winnipeg, after all. On the bright side, there were no Blackflies. Compared to Blackflies, Mosquitoes are your friend!

Further Up Haggart River to Carroll Lake
The next day was a pretty hard push north up the river, with seven challenging portages, difficult put-ins and exits (Are we there yet?) and we finally we got to Carroll Lake. I knew we were at the lake because I saw a motorboat go by. This is a big lake connected to several other big lakes, all passable by motorboat, so there were lot of fly-in-fishing camps and tourists. The only reason to be paddling here was to get somewhere else. Out. We were really hot and tired, so we had a swim and lunch and headed west to find a camp spot. The site we were aiming for was already claimed by a large group of canoe tripping young women from Wisconsin. We spoke with them briefly about their route. They were heading up the Bloodvein. They told us that the Haggart River route we had just covered , according to the Park Office, was impassable. Good for us, I thought. We passed the impassable! Promotions all around for Otter and the Comm.

We spent that night on a small island with a decent tent spot and pretty good swimming. It was too hot for a fire. There were boats all over the lake. At one point, a boat with a Japanese family (from Japan) pulled up and asked where the fish were. Like we knew. What a difference from what where we had been. Commercialized wilderness.

The Trouble Starts
We left Carroll and entered Obukowin without much fuss (or regrets) and set across the lake. We checked out a fishing camp on the far shore. There was a large building that was the lodge and some out-buildings. Pretty bleak, empty. We read the maps on the wall; but secretly I was checking it out as a refuge if we got into trouble.

This was a big horseshoe shaped lake with an east and west half, connected at the north. We entered at the south end, paddled all the way north, turned the corner, and paddle all the way south, in a blistering hot headwind. It was so hot. It was so windly. It ripped the moisture right out of us. We drank water constantly. I didnít know it, but we were losing electrolytes fast. Sodium, Potassium , Lithium, whatever.

We crawled down the lake in the teeth of this wind to the south of the lake, as close to the portage as we could, and landed on the last island, as wretched a spot as weíd been to and hauled out. It was weird. The wind was howling, it was 36 degrees C, the bugs were awful: sand flies, they donít care if it is hot and sunny, not like mosquitoes who at least wait for dusk. They bite you all the time. They look like houseflies but they bite like Horseflies. And they donít give up. You end up slapping yourself silly. We took what cover we could from the wind and heat and sun and bugs and waited. Waited for whatever came next.

Well, an hour before dusk the wind died. Good. Then it got somewhat cooler. We paddled with just us, no gear, to the south shore to locate the portage for the next morning. A big sign " Obukuwin Portage". Great. We walked the first push, not bad, took fifteen minutes across. We came back and paddled to camp.

Our plan was to get up and hit the portages early, before it got too hot , and paddle the rest of the way at ease. There were three long portages ahead of us 900 m., 1250 m., and 2500m., but we were moving strong and , " How bad can it get?"

Pretty Bad
We got back to camp and were driven into the tent by the bugs right away. We were tired but relaxed, bracing ourselves for the next day. We knew it was going to be difficult but felt confident in our ability. I sat up reading by the fading light and the Comm dozed. There were flashes of light off to the south. We sat and watched as the darkness took over. More flashes. There was a big thunderstorm way south of us. " I think itíll pass by", we both agreed, as these flashes erupted. It was the biggest light show Iíd ever seen. This went on for an hour, getting brighter and closer.

Then a flash of light and an immediate blast of thunder to our left, then a whooshing sound to the south; it was the wind crossing this previously calm lake right at us. Like a Freight Train it hit us. We got out in a blinding rain to put the fly on the tent, got back in and were hit by a hammer that flattened the tent. I was awed at how fragile our shelter was; our shelter that we took for granted as safe and secure. Flattened. I sat up against the wall to hold it up. The wind raged and the rain pummeled us. Things in camp blew around. Lightening hit a tree on our island but the forest couldnít catch fire because it was raining so hard. We ran outside in the storm to tie down the canoe to some trees and ran back into the tent. It was a soggy film of nylon lying on our faces as the wind tried to blow us off this miserable chunk of rock. This went on for hours. I sat against the wall of the tent holding it up, silently reciting Mantra. The Comm was lying down, doing his mantra. Any mantra in a storm. I thought we might die here. Any of those lightening strikes could hit us. I often reflect upon enlightenment. Maybe this was the Quick Path. I gave up and laid down on my damp bed. It was already getting light before I got any sleep.

At 6:00 A.M. with sandpaper behind my eyes we got up and surveyed the camp. Everything was blown around but nothing was blown away. A cup of Miracle Drink and off.

Between Obukowin and Siderock there were two small lakes and three long portages; 900, 1750 and 2500 meters. The maps we had for this part of the trip had no portages marked so you had to find them by deduction. We executed the first portage in less than an hour, 900 paces, but a lot soggier now than it had been yesterday evening. The exit was boggy and we had to wade the boat out and climb in from a rock at the edge of the water. So it had started; our first bog waddle of the day.

We were in a small, shallow murky lake. We paddled across and started looking for the next portage. We couldnít find it on the first pass, so we traversed the shore again. We found a trail and followed it inland, thinking it was the path, but it just stopped at a small clearing where there was an old aluminum motorboat. Why would anyone cache a motorboat here? So we followed the shore, and at the edge of a bog we could see a faded strip of tape on a tree at the edge of the forest. So once again we dragged the loaded boat across the bog as far as we could, unloaded it and carried the gear to the portage, (note - to the portage, not on the portage). This was taking a lot longer that we had anticipated and we were only at the beginning of the second portage.

This one was 1750 paces up a high ridge, across a huge flat barren plateau and then down again to a long , hot airless walk through the woods, to the bog that seemed to serve as portage exits in his spot of the camping world. Then there was another strange thing. At the top of the plateau, we saw a huge pyramid about ten feet tall built out of flat stones. What the hell is this? We took a picture just to make sure we werenít hallucinating. It was around noon and mid thirties Celsius and we were out of water. The Comm collapsed in the shade of a tree and I carried on to the end of the portage, dumped the gear, wiped the sweat off my face with a soggy towel and pumped swamp water through our "Sweetwater Filter", drank a liter and pumped another liter for the Comm. I walked back while he drank, I loaded up the next trip and carried it to the bog, wiped my face with the soggy towel, drank some sweetened swamp water, and did it all over again. The Comm couldnít carry anything and I was starting to have some doubts about our ability to get out of here. We even talked about going back to Obukowin Lake and moving into the empty fishing lodge wait for the plane to come. We had enough food and the water was good there and after we were a few days late, a plane would look for us and that would be that. But instead we dragged it all over and we got across the bog, got the boat into another Coca Cola pond, and started the frustrating search for the next portage.

Again no luck. We searched from one end to the other, but no portage to find. We even got out and walked the south ridge in the direction of Siderock Lake to see if we could spot the portage, but nothing doing. This ridge was pretty spectacular though, so itís nice to see you can appreciate natural beauty while suffering. We decided that having exhausted all possibilities, the path must be through the marsh at the south end of the lake, so we paddled down, and there was a little passage, about three feet wide but passable, that wound through the reeds and reached the forest, with another faded piece of orange tape. We had found it; sort of a mixed blessing when we thought about what we faced next. We were now committed to moving on instead of going back.

Last walk, 2500 paces and the Comm wasnít doing so good. We loaded up with water and walked on. The plan was to do ten minute carries, drop the gear, go back and get another load, staging the gear up a half at a time, so you get a rest every ten minutes and keep the gear from getting too strung out. Ten minutes is a long walk loaded, about 500 meters. So do the math; double tripping 2500 paces 500 meters at a time is 7500 paces, or 4.5 miles, temperature 35 C. Iíd say we were in trouble. Of course carrying it this way, we would run out of water and not get any until the last leg of the portage sequence.

As I said the Comm wasnít do well at all. After a carry, my heart rate was 130 and didn'tí slow down when I rested. So I slowly pushed on and the Comm followed. I caught myself thinking how people die in these situations, doing hard work in hot, humid conditions. Donít think like that. Just do it! I live in Winnipeg, where in the winter you can die by just being outside. It can get to minus 40 degrees Celsius. We live in that no problem, and here I was, north of Winnipeg, in mortal peril from the heat. What a country. Once again I digress.

This was an extremely difficult portage , the length not withstanding. Boggy at times, steep rises , no markings so you couldnít relax for a second. At the top of another ridge, we found a 15 foot Inukshuk, an Inuit sculpture of a human built from huge slabs of stone. What the hell again! We for sure were hallucinating this time, but we took a picture just in case it was real. We walked on, me carrying the gear, dropping it, wiping my face with the soggy towel, and the Comm followed. He looked bad and I didnít even consider asking him to carry anything. But we were close to the lake now, maybe a half hour more. I just kept thinking, "Once we get to the lake weíd be okay". It went on like this forever, walking and thinking positive thoughts. We got to the end of the portage in really bad shape. But we made it alive. Iím writing this, after all.

Now comes the really sad part of the story. At the end of the portage there should have been a cute little river that went to Siderock Lake with an easy put in. We were so close we could taste fresh lake water and feel ourselves cooling off. We paddled down the creek only to find it totally blocked by beaver dams and boulders, worse than the Wanipigow. We hauled up onto the left hand shore and laid down under the shade of a small perfect cedar tree and promptly passed out.

I awoke with a start, unable to breathe. My throat was so dry, it was constricted. I pumped some a liter of swamp water and drank. I know now why in those old cowboy movies where some old guy who would get rescued in the desert, and someone would give him a jug of water and say "Drink slowly". I discovered that if you are dehydrated and you gulp the water down, you instantly get incredible stomach cramps. You think youríe going to die. Well, Iíd thought that already, soí " How bad can it get?" I pumped another liter, drank, pumped another, woke up the Comm. "Drink slowly" ,I said gravely. He drank a couple of liters.

We had to get going. It was there and then we decided to abandon all the gear and bushwhack to Siderock , where we would be able to flag down a fishing party to get us back to the car. We were about a km from the lake. I kept the creek on my right and just went for it. Weirdly enough, Iíd see old faded orange tape on trees here and there, but they didnít mark anything; there was no trail here at all. What the hell. After another half hour I staggered down to Siderock Lake, slogging through a marsh, walked along the shore to a sand beach, and fell into the water. I sat up to my neck in the water and drank fresh water, as much as I wanted. I stayed there for a long time. My pulse dropped to a normal rate and I was cooling off. My head no longer felt like it was about to explode. Salvation!

I saw the Comm finally come out of the marsh, covered with leaches. Gross He had waded up the creek for half an hour. We didnít bother with salt to remove the leeches, we just ripped them off.

So thatís about it. We climbed up onto a high rock, flagged down two guys in a motor boat out fishing and they took us to our car. We drove home, my hands cramping on the steering wheel from loss of potassium due to sweating and drinking water like maniacs all day. Got home, passed out.

The next morning my sweetie and I went up to our cottage, where I relaxed on the beach under the shade of a big umbrella-beside a gorgeous blonde in a hot pink bikini, sipping an ice cold beer, eating a sandwich. If, when I was lying under that tree the day before, soaked in sweat and drinking warm swamp water, if, someone would have told me that the next day Iíd be here, I would have said, "How on earth did I pull that off? Did I die and reincarnate?" We are so lucky.

Four days later the Comm went back to Wallace Lake, hired two guys and a motorboat, and retrieved the gear. Good for him.

As an afterward, I think Natural Resources should either permanently close the Obukowin Portage, or do some major work on it. It is actually dangerous. (And they should fix up the walk up the Wanipigow. Itís not dangerous just difficult. It could be greatly improved.) Oh, and by the way, remember the ten foot pyramid, the fifteen foot Inukshuk, and the motorboat in the middle of nowhere? When we developed the film, they were really there. But why? I found out that winter.

The "Dreaded Obukowin Portage Trio" is so awful and difficult that Outward Bound uses it for executive team building exercises and they built the pyramid and the Inukshuk and the fire pits that had had us so flummoxed, and are a better team for it. Of course, they camp on the portage, they donít go through the whole thing, so big deal. I say shut it down and dredge the Wanipigow to Crystal Lake. Thatís it.

We really enjoyed this canoe trip except for the last day. As the Comm commented, "Hey, this is our best adventure yet!"

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Copyright 2004 by Grant Pastuck