Killarney – North Boundary Loop – Day 10

Killarney – North Boundary Loop – Day 10

Thursday, August 27, 2015 – Muriel Lake to George Lake – 15.3 km

Our route on day ten took us through Muriel, O. S. A., Killarney, Freeland and George Lakes.  We had been expecting quite a chilly night.  The forecast was for a low of eight degrees, but it didn’t seem that cold.  There was a slight chill in the air, when we got up in the morning, but it was actually a beautiful, clear morning!  We lazed around and went through our morning routines more slowly than we usually did.  I don’t know if we were taking our time, because the weather was much improved, or because it was our last day and we were just enjoying our final morning in Killarney.  I made a fire, and we sat and talked, as we drank tea and ate oatmeal, with lots of raisins and brown sugar.  It was after 10 am, when we left our beautiful camp-site.

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Muriel is a small lake, so it did not take us very long to paddles across it.  We enjoyed the warm sun in the cool morning air.  The 595 metre portage to O. S. A. Lake is on the north-east bank of the lake.  The portage landing was mucky, but the portage itself, was fairly flat, with only small inclines and declines.  When I booked the trip, I had tried to book our last night on O. S. A., but it had already been booked solid.  O. S. A. is an absolutely stunning lake!  We enjoyed paddling across it.

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There is a portage that leads directly back to George Lake, but it is 1285 metres and quite steep.  We decided to paddle a little farther, and do less portaging.  There are two portages on the east end of O. S. A.  Both lead to Killarney Lake.  The one in the north-east corner is 455 metres long.  The one in the south-east corner is only 120 metres, so we decided to take it.  It might not have been a great decision.  The portage itself, was quite easy, but it led to a very mucky bay in Killarney Lake.  We had a little trouble paddling through the shallows, and we were happy when we got to deeper water.

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Killarney Lake is a large, very picturesque lake.  We had to stick near the south shore to get to our portage to Freeland Lake.  We had to paddle around a large peninsula and skip over a couple of bays.  I should have gotten my compass out, but didn’t. because it looked pretty straightforward on the map. I accidentally had us paddle into one of the bays.  We soon, figured out my mistake and were back on course.  The portage from Killarney Lake to Freeland Lake was incredibly busy.  We were a little shocked to see so many people, after so many days away.  The portage was crazy!  Quite a few of the paddlers were newbies and weren’t following typical etiquette.  Some people had a big lunch spread out, blocking the portage.  Some other people had left gear blocking the trail.  We were glad to push off into Freeland Lake, although, I did take time to stop and get a nice picture of a cascading creek.  We paddled Freeland Lake earlier in the trip.  It’s a narrow, shallow, plant-filled lake.  It was far too busy to see any wildlife.

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We did the short portage back into George Lake.  It was also busy.  When I was bringing the food barrel to the dock, I noticed Charlotte talking with a young couple who were about to land.  She was giving them paddling lessons!  It was their first time in a canoe, and they were glad to get some advice.  They were just out for a day trip and had made it across George Lake.  After watching them paddle for a bit, I got a little concerned about them getting back.  They had the wind helping them get to the portage, but would have to paddle against it, the get back to the campground.

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A couple of the above pictures clearly show the pink granite of the south shore, as well as the white La Cloche Range.  I am amazed by these to beautifully contrasting rock formations.

We were tired, as we paddled across George Lake, into a slight head-wind.  We certainly had a sense of accomplishment, but I was also a little reluctant to see the trip end.  The prospect of a cold beer and fish and chips on the dock, in the town of Killarney helped our tired muscles get us to the beach on George Lake!

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Killarney – North Boundary Loop – Day 9

Killarney – North Boundary Loop – Day 9

Wednesday, August 26, 2015 – McGregor Bay to Muriel Lake – 17.6 km

Our route on day nine took us through McGregor Bay, Baie Fine, The Pool, Artist Lake and Muriel Lake.  The weather forecast for today was cloudy with rainy periods.  We were prepared, once again, for rain during our travels.  However, it held off and we had a nice travelling day!  We really needed that!  In the morning, we had to choose between two possible routes for the day.  Both were potentially very tough!
Option one – paddle up Kirk Creek, against the current, negotiate seven short portages and a few beaver dam lift overs on the creek and then portage “The Pig” to get to Artist Lake.  The Pig is the highest portage in the park.  We would end by paddling across Artist Lake to the portage to Muriel Lake.
Option Two – paddle out into McGregor Bay, potentially fighting wind and waves, navigate around a bunch of islands to a shorter, less steep portage over the Blue Ridge and then paddle back in Baie Fine (hopefully with the wind at our backs) to another portage to Artist Lake.  We would end by paddling across Artist Lake to the portage to Muriel Lake.

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We chose the second option.  It was the longer one, but it had far less arduous portaging.  Georgian Bay looked calm from our camp-site, and there was only a slight west wind blowing.  We left our site at about 9 am.  It took us about an hour to paddle to the 5 km to the portage to Baie Fine.  As we paddled, the wind started to stiffen a little, and the Bay became choppier, so  we were glad when we arrived at the 905 metre portage to Baie Fine.  The portage was fairly easy.  It is located in a valley of the Blue Ridge; the elevation gain is only 17 metres, whereas “The Pig” has an elevation gain of 98 metres.  As we did the portage, the wind really picked up on McGregor Bay.  We were pleasantly surprised to find Baie Fine significantly calmer than McGregor Bay,  It seemed odd, because they are both part of Georgian Bay.  We stopped for lunch at one of the camp-sites, where Baie Fine narrows.  It was nice to have a break.  Baie Fine was gorgeous!  It was quite different from being on small, inland lakes.  The wide open expanse of the water and the tall cliffs of the Blue Ridge, were both impressive.

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The sky was a dark, dull grey most of the day, but we were glad that the rain held off.  After days of soaking rain, we were elated to have a cloudy day!  We saw a few sail boats and a power boat on Baie Fine, but they kept their distance and posed no problem for us.  Shortly after our lunch stop, we got to “The Pool.” That is where the boats had been going.  The Pool is a deep, protected area of Georgian Bay, where sail boats and power boats can moor and enjoy calmer waters, compared to the open bay.  We saw a couple of them moored, but we headed up a small creek to our 415 metre portage to Artist Lake.  Artist Lake is a shallow lilypad filled lake.  There are places where the mud reaches above the surface of the water.  Charlotte had to be on the lookout for good channels for us to paddle through.  We passed a group of people at the end of the portage from Three Narrows Lake – “The Pig” – that we had chosen to paddle around.  They were all saying, “Never Again!”  I think we made the right choice.

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At the end of Artist Lake, we made a small navigational gaffe and portaged on the wrong side of a small waterfall.  It ended up going to a small beaver pond, that we had to paddle across to get back to the correct portage.  The map lists the portage as 35 metres, but it is really closer to 100 metres.  After paddling a couple of hundred metres, in yet another beaver pond, we reached our last portage of the day, a 165 metre level, grassy path to Muriel Lake.

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We chose the second of the two camp-sites, on the recommendation of some people we passed on Artist Lake.  They were camped on O. S. A. Lake and were out for a day trip.  They had eight people in their canoe!  The site was steep, but wonderful!  The view was great, there was lots of space, and the tent pads were flat.

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Charlotte went to bed early, but I stayed up and tried to make the most of our last night in Killarney.  I sat by our cozy fire listening to a loon’s call echo off the Killarney Ridge.  The clouds parted, and the almost full moon came up and was beautifully reflected on the still surface of the lake.  I drank the last drops of Scotch from my bottle.

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Killarney – North Boundary Loop – Day 8

Killarney – North Boundary Loop – Day 8

Tuesday, August 25, 2015 – Nellie Lake to McGregor Bay – 14.1 km

Our route on day eight took us through Nellie, Helen and Low Lakes, a small beaver pond and into Georgian Bay (McGregor Bay).  It rained almost all night, and it was still spitting as we ate breakfast and took our tent down.  We were on the water by 9 am.

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The portage to Helen Lake was our second longest portage, but not one of the hardest.  The first two-thirds of it were a gentle downhill, on a wide path.  We had hoped to paddle Faux Lake, but it is aptly named.  It is more of a swampy beaver meadow, than a lake.  We took the rugged path around it, crossed the stream by jumping from rock to rock and then continued along the portage to Helen Lake.  It took us two and a half hours to do the 2525 metre portage to Helen Lake.  It lightly rained or spit the entire time, but even though it was cool, we were warm.  Carrying on the portage helped us stay comfortable, despite the weather.

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At Helen Lake, we were disappointed.  We had to paddle into a stiff headwind, while rain hit our faces. It was very challenging!  We were glad when we finished the two kilometre paddle across it and arrived at the 70 metre portage to Low Lake.  Low Lake sits a lot lower than Helen Lake.  Because of this, it was a lot calmer on Low Lake.  The rain died down. and the sky even brightened a bit.  We were able to paddle a creek that runs between Low Lake and a beaver pond.  We did have to do a 25 metre portage around a beaver dam, partway along the creek.  The beaver pond was choked with water plants.  Charlotte and I had trouble finding the portage to the North Channel of McGregor Bay.  We found it on our third try, thanks to Charlotte’s excellent navigational skills.  Our first two unsuccessful attempts were due to my navigational blunders.

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Because Helen Lake had been so rough, we were concerned that the Bay would be windy and wavy too.  Fortunately it was calmer than we had feared.  We decided to skip the first two camp-sites that are right on the North Channel and to check out the next two camp-sites on the East Channel.  As we paddled, the wind picked up and the waves got bigger.  The first site looked pretty good, but was taken by some kayakers.  The second camp-site was horrible!  It was just a huge, wide open rocky point.  We decided to press on to the last site, at the mouth of Kirk Creek.  The wind was quite strong, when we were heading west.  After we turned south down a narrow channel, the Bay calmed right down.  We did have to deal with a little wind, when the channel widened and we made the turn east, to head to the camp-site.  We had wind and waves pushing us where we were headed.

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We couldn’t find the site marker, but the place where we thought the site should be was occupied.  We stopped to talk to the people to see if it was site 137 or if they were just camped at an unofficial site.  Drew and Amanda thought it was the site, but hadn’t found the site sign either.  It was a big site, and they offered to share it with us!  We gladly took them up on the offer, set up the tarp and made some nice hot soup!  It was a windy and drizzly evening, so after supper, we retired to the tent.
Killarney – North Boundary Loop – Days 6 & 7

Killarney – North Boundary Loop – Days 6 & 7

Sunday, August 23, 2015 – Van Winkle Lake to Nellie Lake – 10.8 km

Our route on day six took us through Van Winkle, Hanwood, Leech, Murray, Carmichael and Nellie Lakes.  We got up early and were on the water before 8:30 am, because we knew the day would be a challenging one.  We were headed for “The Notch” – the steepest portage in the park.  Before we headed out, we made time for tea and a nice breakfast of eggs and salsa on a tortilla.

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Because we had camped on the west side of Van Winkle Lake, we only had a short paddle to the 120 metre portage to Hanwood Lake.  It’s a short portage, but it’s a pretty steep one!  I carried Charlotte’s pack over it, because she was having trouble with her knee on steep hills.  We were a little disappointed with Hanwood Lake.  Our guide book said that paddling through Hanwood Lake, was like paddling through a gorge, so we expected to see some nice cliffs on both sides of the lake.  It turned out to just be a narrow lake with treed banks – no cliffs at all.  It is a nice enough lake, but the book oversold it.
The 150 metre portage to Leech Lake was fairly flat.  We made pretty quick work of it.  Leech Lake has a couple of cottages on it, but it still manages to be quite picturesque.  The water was calm, and we enjoyed a leisurely paddle.  The landing at the portage to Murray Lake was rocky.  The 1090 metre portage was grassy and fairly flat.  We made good time on it.  We had been warned about poison ivy, on the side of the trail, but we didn’t see any.  Charlotte was encouraged by how the portage went, which was good, because she had felt a little overwhelmed this morning.

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Unfortunately, the paddle across Murray Lake was very short.  After about a kilometre of paddling, we were portaging again.  However, this time, we had “The Notch” to deal with.  The portage is called The Notch, because it follows the shoreline of Notch Creek for much of its 1470 metres.  However, the steep part of the portage does bring you up through a notch in the steep hill.  The landing on Murray Lake was fairly flat, but rocky.  The trail started off with a couple of moderate ups and downs; however, soon the trail made a sharp turn to the right and went up, up, up!  It is hard to describe how steep The Notch is, and pictures don’t do it justice.  It certainly isn’t vertical, but if it were a staircase, it wouldn’t pass the building code – it’s just too steep.  I made three trips up The Notch.  First I carried the canoe pack, then the canoe, and finally, the food barrel.  My calves and quads burned more , with each trip.    Once at the top of The Notch, the portage leveled out for quite awhile, with some smaller rolling hills, before it hit us with another shorter, but still crazy steep section, not far from Carmichael Lake.

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When we arrived at Carmichael Lake, we definitely felt like we had earned it!  On the positive side, it is quite a scenic portage.  We stopped to take some pictures of Notch Creek, as it rushed over cascades and little water falls.  There were also plenty of tranquil moments, as the creek wound its way through gravel beds and around small hills.  We stopped for a quick snack of trail mix, granola bars and water, before we pushed off.  There are three sites on Carmichael and Nellie Lakes.  One is right where Carmichael Lake narrows and flows into Nellie Lake and two more sites are a little farther into Nellie Lake.  I was hoping to get one of the two sites on Nellie.  As we paddled, we saw that the first site on Nellie was taken, so we headed for the last site.  Unfortunately, it was taken as well.  We had a nice conversation with a young couple that had two kids.  They were paddling a beautiful cedar strip canoe.  We headed back to the Carmichael site.  Site 142 is a big, open site, which was a concern for us.  The forecast was for wind and rain!  Just before we arrived at our site, the people from the first site on Nellie, landed to investigate our site.  It was a bit odd, but they were friendly.  We chatted for quite a bit, before they paddled on to hike The Notch, just for fun.  They had a dog, as well, and Foxie got along with her!  Wow!  Today was a tough day!

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Paddling on Nellie is quite freaky!  The water is as clear as everyone had told us it was.  Charlotte and I both had trouble looking down.  It was a bit like walking on the glass floor of the C.N. Tower.  You know you are safe, but your brain still thinks you are in danger of falling!  After we set our camp up, we had a little nap before having a late supper.  During our nap, the wind really picked up.  While we were cooking our supper, it started to rain.  I forgot to take a picture of our delicious Spanish rice.  We ate supper under the tarp.  After we did the dishes and read for a little, we retired to the tent for more reading and writing.

Monday, August 24, 2015 – Rest Day

Rain!  That’s about all I have to say about today!  Rain!  It rained on and off for most of the day – mostly on.  The rest day was good and hard.  It was good, because our bodies needed the break, after six sometimes challenging days of canoeing and portaging.  It was hard, because we didn’t really do anything.  I felt like I was going stir crazy!  Charlotte rested in the tent quite a bit.  I stayed out, read my book and made tea a couple of times.  I finished my book and talked to the few people who happened by, during the rainy afternoon.

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I was glad when night came, so we could sleep and then get moving the next morning.  I was also disappointed that our day on Nellie wasn’t more fun.  I had planned the rest day on Nellie, on purpose and had been looking forward to exploring it a bit.
Killarney – North Boundary Loop – Day 5

Killarney – North Boundary Loop – Day 5

Saturday, August 22, 2015 – Fish Lake to Van Winkle Lake – 12.8 km

Our route on day five took us through Fish Lake, a small beaver pond, Round Otter Lake, Goose Lake, Bear Lake and Van Winkle Lake.Happy birthday to me!  I love canoeing on my birthday!  Charlotte gave me a funny birthday card.  We got a later start today – about 9:30 – because we had eggs with salsa for breakfast.  We had also left a couple of jobs for morning, like pumping water and organizing our lunch and snacks for the day.

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We had a nice morning paddle across Fish Lake.  It is a very scenic lake.  We paddled into a very slight breeze.  The portage to Round Otter Lake was easy to find and fairly flat.  First we did a 300 metre portage to a small pond formed by a beaver dam.  Charlotte saw two fishers at the small pond, but I missed them, and I had the camera!  I was behind her a bit on the trail.  After we paddled across the pond, we had a 105 metre portage.  Round Otter is a small, open lake, open that is, except near the creek we had to paddle up!  The bay that leads to the creek was choked with muck, lily pads and other plant life.  It took us two attempts to find a clearish path to the creek.

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We were supposed to paddle up the creek, turn left up a tributary and start a 710 metre portage to Goose Lake.  However, we avoided a good portion of the portage by carrying around several beaver dams and paddling the pools the beavers had created.  It was time consuming, but it sure beat portaging!  We were pleasantly surprised, because our guidebook said you could only paddle the pools in the high water of springtime.  Goose Lake is a swampy mess!  You can really only paddle a narrow path along the north bank.  The rest of the lake is full of lilly pads and muck.

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As we did the 200 metre portage to Bear Lake, we met a group of teen boys on a trip with a camp.  They had 12 people in their party.  We talked a bit about our respective trips.  The portage was short, but fairly steep.  Bear Lake is a large lake.  It is also out of Killarney Provincial Park.  It is part of the newly-formed Killarney Lakelands and Headwaters Provincial Park.  As such, it is very much a cottage lake.  We saw a lot of cottages, but very few motorboats.  That was a pleasant surprise.  We were also pleased that it wasn’t windier on such a big lake.  We paddled about 5 km along the south shore of Bear Lake, before we came to our portage.

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The portage to Van Winkle Lake took us back into Killarney Provincial Park.  It is a short, but steep 180 metres.  We took our time on the steep slopes.  Van Winkle is another gorgeous lake, with clear water and rocky, tree-lined shores.  There are three camp-sites on Van Winkle.  All of them were empty.  We chose to paddle to the last site on the lake, to make tomorrow’s day a bit easier.

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It was nice to have this whole lake to ourselves!  Charlotte and I had a birthday toast with supper.  We had a great veggie stew with tofu for supper.  It was tasty!  Foxie really enjoyed the leftovers.  We had loons visit us a few times, but they stayed far enough away that we couldn’t get a good picture.  Our site (182) is a bit weird for the back-country of Killarney.  There was no toilet box, so we had to dig a cat-hole!  Our site faced east, but the island was small, so we could easily walk to the other side of the island and see the beautiful sunset.

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Killarney – North Boundary Loop – Day 4

Killarney – North Boundary Loop – Day 4

Friday, August 21, 2015 – David Lake to Fish Lake – 8.8 km

Our route on day four took us through David, Great Mountain and Fish Lakes.
Charlotte felt better in the morning.  It had stopped raining shortly after midnight, so the tent and the tarp were completely dried out.  We had tea and English muffins with peanut butter and jam for breakfast.  We left our camp-site a little before 9 am.
David Lake is a beautiful Lake!  We were able to enjoy it more, without yesterday’s high winds and choppy waves.
This was one of the portages we had been dreading!  It was a 2945 metre slog up some pretty big hills to get to Great Mountain Lake.  We took our time on the portage.  Instead of carrying the canoe the whole way and then going back for the food barrel, we portaged using a leap-frog method.  We carried one load about 500 metres and then went back for the lighter load and carried it a little farther.  In this way, we got several short break, rather than one long break.  I helped Charlotte carry the heavy canoe pack up and down some of the steep hills.

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We did about 2/3 of the distance in this way, before we stopped for a good half-hour lunch break, at the top of an exposed rock peak.  The break was good for us.  When we started back at portaging, we had a little more strength.  On the way, we met several people.  We were shocked that one of the more challenging portages in Killarney was the busiest one we had seen yet!  We met a group of young adults learning how to be canoe guides, a family with two young daughters whose parents were avid canoeists and another family that was just going to Great Mountain Lake for a day trip.
At the end of the portage, we had another rest and pumped some water.  We didn’t push off until 2 pm.  Great Mountain Lake is another gorgeous Lake!  We had plenty of time to enjoy it, as we paddled very slowly across it.

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The 470 metre portage to Fish Lake was relatively flat and simple.  We camped at the island site (157), the first of the two sites on the lake.   We were both very tired, when we arrived, so we rested a bit before starting our regular camp duties, like setting up the tent, collecting firewood and pumping water.

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We had a nice supper of shrimp pad-Thai!  It was my favourite meal on the trip.  We also had a pretty nice campfire.  After carrying the heavy food barrel over the 3 km portage, we decided to play a game called, “Will It Burn, and burn some extra food we had with us.  Here’s some interesting info: mayonnaise will eventually burn, squash leather burns fairly well, but dehydrated chickpeas burn the best!  They are quite flammable.  They actually made the fire flare-up!

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Killarney – North Boundary Loop – Day 3

Thursday, August 20, 2015- Three Mile Lake to David Lake – 10.4 km

Our route on day three took us through Three Mile, Balsam and David Lakes, although we were supposed to add Great Mountain and Gail Lakes to that list.
It stormed all night!  There was thunder and lightening and lots of rain.  The storm basically stopped around 8:30 am, but it continued to rain.  We got up a bit late, had breakfast and cleaned up a little.  We delayed a bit, hoping for the rain to stop.   Eventually we took down the tent while it was still spitting, packed everything up under the tarp and then took the tarp down.  We started paddling around 9:30.
We met a few canoeists heading out the Bell Lake access, as we paddled.  A family of four got to the 30 metre portage to Balsam Lake, just as we were loading our canoe.  They were friendly, so we chatted for a bit.  As we pushed off from the portage, the rain lessened and stopped shortly thereafter.

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We made pretty good time paddling on Balsam Lake, even though we had a slight headwind.  Balsam is quite swampy in a lot of places, so we were hoping to see a moose or some other wildlife.  We didn’t get to see a moose, but we did see a couple of large birds, with red heads,  that looked like cranes.  They let us get pretty close.

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The portage to David Lake starts with a very steep climb.  I carried Charlotte’s pack to the top of the hill for her.  The 665 m portage is fairly level after that and ends with a more gradual slope to David Lake.  At the end of the portage, we stopped to dig out our sunglasses, and I put on some sunscreen!  The weather had changed that much!  We also grabbed a granola bar, before we pushed off into David Lake.
We paddled against a stiffening headwind, as we crossed David Lake.  We took what shelter we could on the lee-ward side of islands and in sheltered bays, but eventually we had to battle the wind head-on, as we crossed the main body of David lake.  Our plan was to stop for a quick lunch at a sheltered rock or an empty camp-site.  However, we couldn’t find a sheltered spot and all the camp-sites we passed were occupied.  We ended up crossing the entire lake and stopping at camp-site 104.

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It was only 1:30 pm, but we were pretty tired after paddling against the strong wind and high waves.  Here is something of which most people are unaware.  Provincial parks leave a couple of camp-sites unbooked on large lakes that have a lot of camp-sites.  They do this to help canoeists who can’t follow their trip plan due to inclement weather.  They do fully book small lakes that only have a few camp-sites.  Of course, if possible, you should stick to the route you booked.  We had planned to get a really early start today, because we were supposed to travel 17 km, with 3.6 kilometres of portaging and end our day on Gail Lake.
The winds were strengthening.  We would have paddle north-west, with the waves hitting us broadside, in order to get to Great Mountain Lake and then Gail Lake.  We decided to stay the night on David Lake.  We had planned a very easy day for tomorrow.  Staying on David will make it a more challenging day, but hopefully we’d be able to get an early start and have better weather.

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We tied our wet tent, fly and tarp to some trees.  We also hung up all of our wet clothing.  The strong wind had everything dry in no time!  Our biggest concern was retrieving flying clothing!  We lazed around and did a little reading during the afternoon.

While we were cooking supper, it started lightly raining again.  Fortunately, we had already set up our now dry tent and tarp.   We moved the stove under the tarp and had supper under there as well.

It stopped raining for a bit and then started up again, just before sunset, so we retired to the tent to read, before bed.  Charlotte was feeling a little under the weather, so I hoped a good night’s sleep would help her.

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