Back in April James Cameron announced that he will be releasing four new Avatar movies between 2018 and 2023. While this is bad news for everyone who had been holding out hope that he’d do Titanic 2: Jack’s Revenge instead, I have to respect someone who can say “you know what? This is going to be long. Like, Lord of The Rings long, except with giant blue aliens instead of talking trees. Maybe I won’t dump it on you all at once.” That’s why I’m declaring the next few posts to be my own personal Avatar. I’m breaking up my recent trip that took me down through Ragged Lake, to Lake Louisa and back up to Lake of Two Rivers over the course of three days and two nights into at least a couple of posts to keep things manageable.
The first leg of this trip was relatively short. I met my brother-in-law at the Canoe Lake access point and together we paddled down Smoke Lake to Ragged Lake, where we found a good campsite and set up camp for the night. The reason the distance was so short is that along for the trip was my four year old daughter, on her first overnight. I’m not sure whether she was excited about the trip itself, or just the prospect of diving headfirst into the metric ton of marshmallows we brought with us, but either way, she was raring to go as we pushed off from the Smoke Lake docks.
The wind was up as we paddled down Smoke, but fortunately it was blowing from behind us. I always forget just how big Smoke Lake is. Even with the tailwind it took the better part of an hour to get down the lake to the Ragged portage. There’s an uninhabited island about halfway down Smoke that I thought would act as a windbreak but all it did was kind of swirl things around so that the wind seemed to be coming from a couple of directions at once. I’m sure there are atmospheric scientists out there who can explain how this happens, but my general rule is to chalk anything I don’t understand up to sorcery and move on from there.
Fortunately, we arrived at the Ragged Lake portage without dumping and with my daughter still enthusiastic about the prospect of camping (read: marshmallows). For those who haven’t done the Ragged portage, it’s relatively short, but there is a bit of an uphill climb to get from Smoke to Ragged. This was a good test for both my daughter as her first ever portage, and for me since it was the first portage I’d done all summer with a full pack on my back as well as the canoe. All my trips to this point had been day trips, which meant my pack basically had a couple of sandwiches, the map and some TP (God help you if you forget the TP). Turns out there’s a fair difference in weight between a day pack and a fully laden overnight pack. I got about ten steps into the carry and started asking myself if I really thought I needed so much granola. Or the tent. My daughter, on the other hand, made it across the portage like a champ, carrying her paddle, life jacket and day pack and giving me a look that basically said “come on old man, you’re embarrassing us both.” as she passed me.
We ate a quick lunch at the other end of the portage and paddled to our campsite. The nice thing about Ragged is that, from what I’ve seen, most of the campsites are pretty decent. Lots of tent spaces, well-built fire pits, great swimming areas. It’s probably why Ragged is such a popular destination for trips with little kids or people on their first backcountry visit to the park. We were lucky to get what is, in my opinion, one of the better sites on Ragged. It’s the second site on the eastern shore after the portage. It sits at the top of a rock face that might appear to make access difficult from the water (and there is a bit of a climb up from the logical spot to pull up a canoe) but up top it’s wide and flat with fantastic tent sites, a spacious sitting/fire pit area and a great view. To top it off, there are multiple swimming spots and even a couple of small ledges where (small) people can jump into the water. My daughter fell in love with one spot and spent the better part of the afternoon alternately jumping off and demanding that I put her back on the ledge so she could jump again, while I stood in the chest deep water slowly becoming one with the lake through osmosis.¹
Around late afternoon we decided it would be fun to try and get over to Wisp Lake as the portage was very close to our campsite and, quite frankly, there’s only so much time I can spend on a site before I get a bit cabin fever-y. We loaded up the boat and paddled over to the small bay that leads into the Wisp portage. It turns out, however, that “small bay” is probably not the best way to describe that particular part of Ragged Lake. I might instead go with something like “deadhead strewn quagmire covered with a quarter inch of stagnant mosquito water. Also, there’s lots of swamp grass”. It might not roll off the tongue as well as “small bay”, but it’s a hell of a lot more accurate. Normally we would have just pushed through the crap and gotten to the portage, but by this point my daughter had passed out in the bottom of the canoe so we decided to turn around and instead paddle around and check out a couple of nearby campsites instead.
The evening went pretty smoothly. We roasted marshmallows and watched the sun set. My daughter passed out quickly once we were in the tent, and I wasn’t far behind her. Protip for all you parents out there: check to make sure your kid hasn’t smuggled a packet of Kool Aid into the tent with you before you go to sleep. I forgot this rule and couldn’t figure out the next morning why my daughter’s fingers looked like she’d soaked them in red wine all night until I found the empty packet buried under her sleeping bag. After a short discussion on the importance of not bringing animal bait into tent, and definitely not sleeping on top of that bait, we did a few more jumps in the water before packing up and heading back to the Ragged portage. There, we were met by my wife who had come down to pick my daughter and brother-in-law up while I turned around and headed south for Louisa and parts of the Park unknown (to me).
65 Down (at that point), 35 to go.
New Lakes Paddled: 1
Total Lakes Paddled: 2
Total Portages: 1
Total Distance Portaged: 240m
Total Distance Covered: 7.0 KM
¹ Dear Grade 11 Biology class, turns out I did learn something