Rain Lake to Canoe Lake – Day Two

This is part two of my four day trip from Rain Lake down to Canoe Lake by way of Islet, Misty and Brule. Day one took me through Rain, Little McCraney, McCraney, Way, Wee and Weed and gave me a chance to explore quite a few of Islet’s campsites. Day two took me to … well, let’s find out!

I was up and off the site on Islet by 8 the next morning. It was shaping up to be another gorgeous day. Overhead, a thin layer of gauzy cloud was being pushed south by a clear blue sky. It was kind of like nature had decided to let George Lucas direct the morning, and he’d brought along his treasure chest of screen wipes. The water beneath my canoe was flat and still. There wasn’t even a hint of a breeze, but it was still early enough that the air was fresh and cool. In other words, the weather wasn’t awful.

The paddle across Islet went quickly. Before long I was pulling into Islet’s eastern bay and getting ready for my first portage of the day: a steep P45 that the map told me could take as long as half an hour to complete. This is a cool portage. It goes up and over what I believe is an old railway line but is now a part of the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail. The map isn’t lying about it being steep. Every step on the downslope felt like I was on the verge of inventing downhill dirt skiing.

Once I had my gear across I took a minute to check out the nearby ruins of an old bridge. This is a really neat spot. There were large concrete foundations straddling both sides of the log choked narrows that connect Islet to a small pond just before the Cranebill portage. Standing down at water level and looking up at these relics from the Park’s earlier days left me with a small sense of awe. I felt a bit like Frodo looking up at the Argonath, but if Peter Jackson had had a much smaller budget.

That said, the half hour recommended by the map for this portage seems like overkill. I was done with the carry in about five minutes, even doubling back. Another five minutes for poking around and channeling my inner Hobbit, and I was back on my way for the (short) paddle across the pond to the start of the Islet to Cranebill portage.

Now, this portage will take you half an hour (or more!).

Entrance to the Islet/Cranebill portage.

Islet to Cranebill is a low maintenance portage that clocks in at just over 2 kilometers long. That’s a lot of low maintenance portage. Add a double carry to the mix and you’re looking at the next hour and a half of your life spent tromping through the woods in between Islet Lake and Cranebill Lake. The good news was that, as far as low maintenance carries go, this one wasn’t that bad. Those woods are actually quite pretty! Sure, there are a few mucky areas and places where the scratchy stabby bits outnumber the non-scratchy stabby bits, but all in all it’s a reasonable portage.

It was tiring, though. By the time I finished I was only four kilometers away from where I’d started the day, but I’d travelled eight. That’s not an ideal conversion rate. I loaded back up at the Cranebill end, then took a few minutes to drift and have a snack. Once I felt refueled, I set off down Cranebill, helped along by the first stirrings of a small tailwind.

Cranebill is a pretty lake that I have to imagine doesn’t get a ton of thru traffic. There are three portages leading into Cranebill, two of which are over two kilometers long and low maintenance. Speaking from very recent experience, two kilometer, low maintenance portages are a lot of work. My guess is most people look at those long squiggles on the map and do everything in their power to avoid them.

The Cranebill site

Adding to Cranebill’s sense of seclusion, there’s only one site on the lake. It was empty as I paddled past, so I stopped and took a look. It’s a decent site: with a nice southern exposure, a big rocky area for swimming and a good fire pit area. I’d happily stay there if I was looking for a private lake. I just probably wouldn’t go the Islet route to get there. (I wouldn’t come up from Lily Pond, either. By far the best way to access Cranebill is coming down from Moccasin).

By the time I was at the northern end of Cranebill and crossing the P415 up to Moccasin I was tired. By the time I had cut the corner off Moccasin and finished the P440 over to Bandit I was tired and hungry. I decided to stop for lunch on Bandit; a good decision that, unfortunately was shared by a few other groups.

Up until this point in the trip I’d barely seen anyone since leaving McCraney. That changed on Bandit. Both sites were taken, as was a small island in the middle of the lake that isn’t a site but looks like a great spot to stop for lunch. With no decent options available, I decided to press on to Wenonah and try my luck there instead. It was too bad, Bandit looked like a nice little lake and the campsites seemed decent. I pulled up to the P540 that leads over to Wenonah, had another snack, and started across.

Wenonah Lake

I didn’t love this portage. It’s not super long or anything, but it does climb. There’s about 20 meters in elevation change from the lake to the highest point of the carry. That’s not a huge difference, but it feels like more than enough when your stomach is growling and your legs are starting to complain about the working conditions. I arrived on Wenonah ready to take a break on its only site and cook some food … only to discover that that site was also taken.

Expletive Deleted.

The problem with Wenonah is that the shoreline doesn’t lend itself to just pulling over making a spot to sit and take a break. I paddled along, looking for a place to stop and before I knew it I was at the next portage. By this point my stomach was writing angry letters to its MP and I knew I couldn’t put off lunch any longer. I took my pack across the p370 to Muslim Lake. Once I was over, I filtered and boiled some water, then went back for my canoe while my lunch (Backcountry Wok’s dehydrated Green Curry) rehydrated.

Damn, that was good.

I spent about an hour on that portage. It’s not the most picturesque spot to stop for lunch but, and this is important, it was a spot where I could stop for lunch. That made it the best lunch spot ever (for that day). Eventually I had devoured all my curry, and worked my way through half a bag of M&Ms as well. As I sat in the dirt in my post lunch haze and looked down at fingertips that had been dyed blue, red and from the M&Ms, I realized that I should probably move on before I ate through the next three days’ worth of food. I packed up and set off for the final push to Misty.

Muslim Lake

The paddle across Muslim went quickly. It’s a small lake and I still had a bit of a tailwind helping me along. Soon, the P1030 at the east end of Muslim was the only thing that stood between me and Misty. I had not been looking forward to this carry. At just over a kilometer it was my second longest of the day and, since I was double carrying, it meant I had three kilometers of walking ahead of me.

Ugh.

Happily (and unexpectedly), those three kilometers went really quickly! The portage is pretty much entirely downhill from Muslim to Misty. It’s clear, easy to follow and I don’t recall there being any significant mud pits, blowdowns or mountain lion habitats. In less than 40 minutes I had everything across and was paddling out on Misty, looking for a home for the night.

Arriving on Misty lake

By this point I was exhausted. According to my GPS I had done just under 26 KM of traveling between Islet and Misty. Almost 15 of those kilometers were along portages. That’s a heck of a lot of ground covered given that it’s only about 12 KM from Islet to Misty.

Like I said, double carrying is the worst.

I knew that Misty was fully booked for the evening, so I resolved to take the first site I could get. I didn’t have enough energy to go hunting for a great site, and I didn’t want to pass up something decent in hopes of finding something better only to find out that nothing else was available. From the portage I could see a couple of sites on the far shore that looked empty, so I went in that direction. I figured even if they were both taken, there are quite a few other sites along that shore and I’d eventually find at least one free. The good news is that I didn’t need that contingency plan. The sites I saw from the portage were indeed free. I picked the closest of the two because, well, it was the closest of the two. Fortunately, it ended up being a pretty nice spot.

I liked that site. It’s a big one. There’s enough room for a good sized group to spread out. It’s got a nice little beach down at the water and, beside that beach, a set of rock ledges that make for a perfect spot to set up your chair. I went for a couple of swims, ate some dinner and did very little for the next few hours besides sit in my chair and watch day two wind down.

Eventually I crawled into my tent and slept the sleep of the dead. The nice thing about a 25+ KM day is that you don’t spend a lot of time tossing and turning when it’s time to go to bed. I closed my eyes at around 10:30 and didn’t open them again until the next morning.

Day 3

Campsite Reports
Cranebill Lake – Site 1
Misty Lake – Site 3

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