Day 10 - Caribou River to Little Caribou Lake Take-out (22 km)

Day 10 - Caribou River to Little Caribou Lake Take-out (22 km)

All maps shown on this page are provided courtesy of Toporama which contains information licensed under the Open Government Licence – Canada. I have made additional markings to show route information

We awoke to a sunny day, but the wind was still blowing; it had changed directions, however. It was now blowing from the southwest. A weather check on my satellite device revealed that would be facing gusts of up to 30km/hour. Yikes! We had a massive bay to cross. 

The fellows camped across the river had already packed up and departed. We guessed they were trying to beat the wind. We, on the other hand, accepted that we probably weren't going to avoid it based on earlier weather checks. We didn't dillydally, though, and departed the site by 8:30 AM, our earliest shove-off yet. As we paddled away, I took a quick pic of the lovely point that we were lucky enough to call home for a night. 

We paddled out of the Caribou River and into the expanse of Caribou Lake, and as soon as we got beyond the protection of the point to our west, the wind slammed into us like a freight train. Eyeballing the size of the waves was deceiving; from a short distance away, the whitecaps appeared to be manageable, but once in them, we quickly realized we had underestimated their size. Some were two-foot swells that crashed over the gunnels on our starboard side. We had no business being out there in those conditions. 

Aiming for a small island to our southeast, we paddled hard, carefully positioning the canoe in a way that would get us to our destination, but not take on the brunt of each wave wanting to slam into our sides. We made it, but it was a good ten minutes of clenched jaws and puckered you-know-whats. We paused on the leeward side of the island and were forced to bail out the boat. There, we had to decide whether to wait out the wind or somehow press on. Another quick weather check stated that the wind was there to stay for the day. Studying the map, we felt we could negotiate the lake by hiding behind islands to the east. It would be a much farther distance to paddle, but there looked to be enough islands to actually make it work.

In the end, it was the right decision. There were two more crossings between islands that were a little rough, but nowhere near the danger of that initial one. Beaver Island provided a lot of protection, as did the two round islands to the south of it. We stopped for a snack and a water break on the northeast side of the last island before the portage into Little Caribou Lake. 

Seemingly in a final way for Wabakimi to remind us that we were in the rugged north, the take-out for our final portage of the trip was nasty. We had to precariously balance on boulders in deep water to get our gear and canoe ashore. The portage was steep toward the end, but we were rewarded with a very pretty put-in at the north end of Little Caribou Lake. 

Our plan, when we awoke that morning, was to stay one more night on Little Caribou Lake, however, we weren't lucky enough to find a site that we liked. Maybe it was because we had been spoiled by so many amazing sites on the trip thus far, or maybe it was because it was still early in the day, or maybe it was the fact that we knew we were so close to Armstrong, but we couldn't seem to settle on a site at which we would have wanted to stay. 

As we paddled south, there was a very nice site on a large rocky rise on the west shore, but it was occupied by the fellows that were camped across from us the previous night. We continued south, and each site that we passed on our map seemed bushy and buggy. One on the west shore would have been nice, but it was on an exposed point and had been decimated by blow downs; it must have been quite a storm. 

Another site looked to be nice on the north side of an island in a large bay about halfway through the lake, but when we stopped there to check it out, there were no flat spots to pitch a tent, let alone two. We took a break on the rocks there and had another snack. The view was enjoyable. 

In fact, we found the scenery on Little Caribou Lake to be very pretty. There were a number of dramatic rocky outcrops and small cliffs interspersed with pretty little islands dotting the bays. 

By 2:30 PM, we had reached the southern part of the lake and the last campsite that was marked on my map. We coudln't find it! It didn't seem to exist.  We stopped at an island, and I took out my sat device to contact Clem to arrange to be picked up a day early. He reponded by saying he could retrieve us in a couple of hours, so we took out our stove and made a rare hot lunch with the remainder of some freeze-dried meals. We also fished for a bit and had a swim. 

We paddled to south end of the lake in time to meet Clem, only to find quite a nice site next to a huge boulder sitting in the middle of the bay. Doh! Oh well, we had already contacted Clem, and didn't want to change the plan in case it put him out, so we glanced at the site longingly and paddled on. 

We arrived at the end of the lake and saw some buildings there. We thought that was the take-out, but discovered that it was someone's private property when we wandered ashore. They were very nice people though, and pointed us in the right direction. The take out was up a creek heading south and at a bridge on Caribou Lake Road.

There were a few vehicles parked there. We pulled our gear ashore and only had to wait a few minutes before Clem arrived. He was right on time. 

Our trip in the Wabakimi wildnerness had come to an end. It was everything we could have hoped for and was one of the most rewarding and amazing trips Dad and I have been on. It had everything a canoe tripper could deal with and ask for: weather, wind, large lakes, whitewater, incredible fishing, wildlife, historical hermitages, incredible sunsets, rocky, windswept northern landscapes, etc, etc, etc. Was it worth the long train journey to and from Armstrong Station? You bet! Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. Will I return to Wabakimi and explore more of this incredible park and the area? You'd better believe it! 

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