Day 2 - Carcass Lake to Black Lake (5 km)

Maps provided courtesy of Toporama which contains information licensed under the Open Government Licence – Canada. I have marked my route in blue and portages in red. 

Day 2 - Carcass Lake to Black Lake (5 km)

I was very happy to wake up to sunny skies after all the rain the previous evening. With the sun still low in the sky, the temperature was a cool 5 degrees Celsius, however. I walked down to the lake to get a better view in the bright sunshine. It was a gorgeous little lake.

I quickly got a fire going and boiled some water for coffee. Nothing beats a hot coffee next to a fire on a cool morning in the wilderness. 

After a breakfast of granola and toasted cheese wraps, I broke camp and hit the trail about a quarter past nine. My first task of the day was to complete the 825-meter portage that I had camped on.  This was the view looking east from the back of my campsite.

The trail was much easier than the previous day's walks. There was a lot less mud and a clear discernible trail led me through the forest without much change in elevation. There weren't any navigation issues on this one. 

On the way back for the canoe, I admired a couple of very large hemlocks at about the halfway mark. There were a couple of monster birch trees in there, as well. One looked to have some chaga on it, but it was high up beyond my reach.

At the put-in on Upper Pairo Lake, I could feel a light wind begin to come up. The put-in was between a forest on the left and a swampy area that trail followed to the right. The hills across the lake in the distance made for a pretty view. 

An earlier check on the Fish ON-line website revealed that this lake contained whitefish, so I pulled out my fishing rod for the first time on the trip. I had never caught a whitefish before, so I thought I'd give it a go. Besides, it was early, and I didn't have very far to go that day to get to my booked campsite on Black Lake. 

I had a nibble at one point, but came up with nothing as I trolled the lake. It really didn't matter, I was happy slowly trolling quietly by myself and glancing about at the scenerey, especially on a lake with no structures or anyone else on it. 

I decided to wander over and check out the campsite on the north shore of the lake. Here is what it looks like from the water. 

It obviously had not been used for some time. The firepit was basically torn apart. There was a path connecting to the portage that I came in on from Carcass Lake. 

It wouldn't have been a bad place to stay, though. I mean, it was nothing to write home about, but the clearing was nice, as were the trees surrounding the site. Anyone staying there would also have a pretty little lake to themselves. The water's edge was a little weedy for my liking, however. 

I paddled over to the portage into Lower Pairo Lake and happily discovered that I did not need to take it. Being early May, the water levels were high and the passage between the two lakes was navigable. I did have to dodge a couple of logs, but I didn't even need to get out of the boat to lift over anything. 

Lower Pairo Lake was a little larger its twin. I stuck a line in again and paddled into the southwestern bay of the lake. I could see an ATV trail leading to the lake there and a cached boat on the shore. 

I followed the southern shore and saw the orange campsite sign and the eastern end of the lake. I was getting a bit peckish, so I decided to pull ashore on the site and make a couple of peanut butter and honey wraps. Sitting on a log to do so, I was instantly enveloped in a cloud of blackflies. The day was becoming warm and the blackflies like that. Luckily for me, they weren't really biting yet for the most part, but a few were catching on. I didn't stay long. 

I did take a photo of the site before leaving, though. I looked like a tornado had touched down there; it was covered in deadfall. There was very little tree coverage and the back of a site was virtual swamp. No thanks! 

Back on the water, it was just a short paddle to the end of the lake and the long portage to the Black River. I was dreading it because of what I read about it online. In addition to it being long, it was difficult to navigate. This would prove to be true.

Chalk Creek flowed out of Lower Pairo Lake under a dirt road and a rudimentary bridge made of logs used by the ATVers. I took out there; apparently, the dirt road was my portage. 

I began my first load by heading down the road in an easerly direction. There was a small gravel pit on the left. 

The road was completely submerged in a couple of spots from all the recent rain and I was forced to walk through the knee-deep muck at times. It turned to the south and went up a steep incline over a ridge. 

On the other side of that ridge was where I ran into trouble due to a little yellow sign tacked to a tree on the eastern side of the road. I could see it was a faded portage sign because I could just make out the silhouette of that ubiquitous man holding a canoe symbol that canoeists have come to love and hate all at once.  I was about 700 meters into the portage at that point, and I could see on my map that I needed to go in an easterly direction to get to my destination, the Black River. There was no discernible trail, however. 

I began to talk to myself. Should I keep going on the road, or should I head east through the woods from the portage sign? Why would there be a portage sign there if this wasn't the route? Though there was no clear trail, the forest was open enough to get a canoe through. I vacillated back and forth for a few moments and then decided I would try the woods. The sign had to have meant something, right?  

I climbed up a knob at that spot and then started to descend a long steep hill. After about 150 meters I started to have second thoughts. I could see the terrain getting swampy just to the south of me and very steep ahead of me. With no trail there, it didn't seem right. 

So, I scrambled back up to the top of the knob where I began to hear what seemed like an armoured division of tanks coming my way through the forest. I took off my canoe pack, plopped it behind a tree, and sat down and watched as twelve bushbashing vehicles of every kind were chewing up the road in the direction of my canoe back at the take-out on Lower Pairo Lake. Being up on the knob a good 30 meters into the forest, I didn't think they saw me. 

Well, I had no idea what kind of fellows they might be, and I certainly hoped they weren't the kind to mess with a fellow's canoe and food barrel, but I thought I better head back and retrieve my stuff. After all, I was fairly deep into the bush at that point and there was no one else in sight. Leaving my pack and paddles up on that knob, I trudged back through the muck to my canoe. 

When I arrived, my canoe was where I had left and there was no sign of the ATVs. They must have continued over the log bridge and further down that road. I hoisted my food barrel on my back and was just about to pick up the canoe when I heard them coming back. Sheesh. I waited off to the side while they all passed. One guy stopped for a second and happened to glance in my direction. I waved and he waved back and then he took off again. I think he was the only one who saw me.  

Getting back to the portage sign, I could just see my canoe pack up on the knob. I still wasn't convinced that I shouldn't head into the forest, so I decided I would walk the road for a while to see if I could figure out what that portage was all about. I parked my canoe and barrel off to the side of the road and began to walk it. After 700 meters, I came to a fork with one road going south and one heading east. Yes, I had found my easterly route to the Black River. 

So, I walked back to my canoe and started portaging down that road. I ended up walking that damned 700-meter stretch of road five times! Another group of ATVers passed me on the road. They all waved and looked at me oddly. They must have been wondering what the heck I was doing with a large canoe pack and paddles on their ATV trail with no water to be seen for at least a kilometer.

Toward the end of the portage, the trail became very wet and mucky again. The ATVers were indeed having fun, but it was wreaking havoc for the humble portager. 

When I finally saw the Black River through the trees, I whooped in delight. The ATV trail ran parallel to it, and again, I couldn't see any clear trail to get to the river, so I just bushwhacked again. I had started the portage at 11:20AM and finally got on the river at 1:40 PM. With all that extra deliberating, searching, and walking to scout the portage, it took 2 hours and 40 minutes to finish the 1900-meter double-carry. 

I celebrated reaching the Black River by taking a photo of it in the downstream direction, thinking about how I would like to run the Black River through to QEWII Park someday.  I put in next to the leaning tree on the far right of the photo below. I couldn't see a portage sign anywhere, so I wasn't sure where canoeists were supposed to take out if heading in a clockwise direction on this loop. 

At that point, the sunny skies were giving way to clouds and more wind from the east was coming up. This was a headwind for me as I emerged from the river into Black Lake proper. 

Black Lake was a nice lake and had more of a Canadian Shield rocky shoreline than the smaller lakes I had paddled earlier in the day. The problem for people looking for wilderness is that there is a red cottage that seems to dominate the view when looking down the lake. It still looked like it was boarded up for the winter. Good news! It meant I had the lake to myself again. 

There were two sites on Black Lake and I had booked site 9A. I paddled past it to check out site 9 first, just to see if it was better than 9A. No one had booked it when I had last checked. 

It was a nice site and the fire pit area was high on a knob overlooking the lake. Unfortunately, there was an ATV trail at the back of the site and this is what the firepit looked like. 

It takes a special kind of @$$hole to do this. Who do they think is going to clean this up? If it was ATVers, they have motorized vehicles to carry the garbage out. How hard can that be? They had the room to carry it in, but can't be bothered to carry the empties out? I would have cleaned it up myself but I only had a very small plastic bag with me to carry out the small amounts of garbage that I had. After the trip, I sent a message off to the HHWT people to let them know about the site. Hopefully, they can get someone in there to clean it up. 

I paddled back to site 9A. The front of the site is blocked by a massive boulder, so there aren't any views of the lake from the fire pit. 

In behind that boulder, however, is a spacious site in a lovely grove of hemlocks. 

I hung up my hammock on the other side of the boulder and had great views looking out on the lake. The wind came up stronger and blew away the clouds. With the sun out, the blackflies emerged, and boy did they emerge. For the most part, they weren't biting just yet, but the odd little fellow had found his teeth, so I decided to erect my bug shelter just in case they got really bad. 

I had a lot of sweat on me so I went for a little dip in the lake. With the water temperature at about 5 degrees celcius, I was in and out faster than poop through a goose. I made some lunch which I ate in the shelter, went to my hammock, and had a glorious nap for an hour or so. 

I awoke to some hefty gusts rattling my tarp. This was good because it meant that it would blow away the flies. I sat next to the water for a bit, sipping on a whiskey and thoroughly enjoying having an entire lake to myself.  

The sun was getting low in the sky and the temperature started to drop. The flies went away, thankfully. I gathered and cut a bunch of firewood and sat down to make burgers next to the fire. 

The remainder of the night was sipping whiskey next to the fire and munching on some snacks. The temperature became quite cool, so I kept the fire going to keep me warm. 

It was a fantastic evening. I was happy just being alone with my thoughts next to a warm fire. Even though I hadn't travelled a long distance that day, I was tired from the portaging and long distances of walking. I love that feeling of nodding off next to a fire after a day of canoe tripping and then crawling into my hammock. I slept like a baby that night.