Day 7 - McKinley Lake to Smoothrock Lake (25 km)

Day 7 - McKinley Lake to Smoothrock Lake (25 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

Though it wasn't raining, the weather wasn't looking great when we awoke. The sky was dark and it was gusty. 

Ken and John left the site a bit before us. We struggled a bit getting across the round expanse of McKinley Lake. There was a steady wind coming from the west and the entire western shore of McKinley was bare from a burn. There wasn't a lot to stop the wind. We were thankful to get into the smaller bay at the south of the lake. There was half of a moose antler to demark the 393m portage out of McKinley.

We caught up to our friends on the portage and would see them on and off again for most of the day. The condition of the trail was much better than the two portages we did the day before. The end of the portage emerged next to a nice set of rapids west of the creek. We watched John and Ken paddle away in their red canoe. 

We paddled the length of the unnamed lake for about 15 minutes before arriving at the 72m portage that was to the right of a pretty set of rapids. 

It was even a shorter paddle before we were carrying our canoe and gear again over another short portage into Laurent Lake, the last before returning to Smoothrock Lake. The sun began to emerge at this point and warm us up a little. Shortly after putting in and paddling south, we noticed that Ken and John stopped to photograph something on the eastern shore up ahead of us.  It was a moose. It was a bit too far for us to get a great photo, but close enough to watch if for awhile. We heard it crashing in the bushes for a bit. That sighting gave us the trifecta of large mammal sightings on the trip thus far: bear, caribou, moose. Wabakimi is awesome. 

We spent the next half hour paddling Laurent Lake before running through a shallow narrows and into the much larger Lonebreast Bay of Smoothrock Lake.  We would spend the rest of the day paddling southwest on this large bay. 

We made our lunch, ate in the canoe, and moved on; we wanted to make up for the lack of progress the previous day. The sun came out for a bit and the wind was staying down, so we happily took advantage of the good paddling conditions. Unfortunately, this didn't last long. Halfway through the bay we had to tuck our canoe behind a headland on the southern shore when a little squall reared its ugly head. It was a wise move, because we were able to get out of the wind and driving rain while it lasted. It soon dissipated and we continued. 

As we rounded the corner and moved into the massive bay that was the main part of the lake, we noticed the water was considerably rougher than it had been in Lonebreast Bay. We debated for a bit whether we should make the crossing or not, and in the end decided to take the risk. It paid off, because just as we reached the opening that led into Caribou Bay, the wind got nasty.  We were riding some formidable waves as we were forced to thread the needle between some rocks that we could barely see in the froth. We made it to our destination, an incredible campsite on the southeastern shore. 

Only minutes after we arrived and beached our canoe and gear, the wind increased to a level that would have made capsizing a very real possibility. A week into our trip and we were still learning how dynamic and unpredictable the weather of Wabikimi was. 

Our site was an incredible slab of rock jutting out onto a point. We had the entire breadth of Smoothrock Lake unfurling in front of us to the west. The view was tremendous. 

We set up our tents on our usual bed of blueberry bushes and tried to stay warm in the cool, stiff wind coming from the northwest. We had to rebuild the fire pit to accommodate the wind direction and eventually got a roaring fire going to help warm us up. 

We were entertained by a mother bear and her two cubs on the shore across the mouth of Caribou Bay about a kilometer away. We could just make out the black shapes moving about on the shoreline, no doubt enjoying a feast of berries. 

Eventually the wind subsided as the night descended, but kept up just enough to blow any nasty biting insects away. The sun emerged from behind the clouds as it was setting to cast a golden glow over the scene. Beautiful.