Turner Lake Loop

Total Distance: 52 km

Duration:  4 days

Number of Portages: 16

Total Portage Distance: 9.2 km (based on Hap Wilson's distances, not the map below.)

Level of Difficulty: Moderate (There are a number of long and difficult portages relative to the total loop distance.)

Map is courtesy of Jeff's Maps -- my route is marked in blue.

In the spring, I decided to do a solo loop in Temagami. I wanted a route that I could do in a few days due to time constraints. The Turner Lake Loop in the South Muskego area (Hap Wilson's Route #9 in Temagami - A Wilderness Paradise) seemed to fit the bill in terms of distance, time, and crown land status. (Solo canoe trippers, I encourage you to continue applying pressure on your local MPPs to amend the price gouging inherent in the current permit fee structure for the Temagmi Cluster of Provincial Parks. To see what I mean, click on https://www.ontarioparks.com/fees/backcountry/2023 ..but, I digress.) The only thing that was deterring me was that it would be a real workout of a trip. There were 16 portages en route with an average length of approximately 600 meters --  and those who have tripped in the area know that portages in Temagami can be undulating, rocky, and just generally difficult.  I was willing to give it a go, though. I had some BIG trips planned later in the summer, and this little gem would get me in shape for them. 

Day 1 - Red Squirrel Lake to Aston Lake (16 km)

I got up at dawn and hit the road immediately from Peterborough in my vehicle which was pre-loaded with my canoe and gear the night before. By 11:30 AM, I was swerving around the potholes and washed out bits on Red Squirrel Road. By noon, I was ready to shove off onto Red Squirrel Lake from the very busy parking area that was inundated with tents. 

The weather forecast was looking pretty grim for the entire day, and it pretty much started raining as soon as I started paddling. In fact, it would rain the entire day right up until about 8 PM that evening. The temperature was also only about 10 degrees, making it downright chilly. I was wearing a few layers under my rain gear. 

The 45-minute paddle to the northwest part of Red Squirrel Lake was uneventful. The wind was holding off for the moment and it seemed that I was the only one out on the lake. I passed a few campsites, one almost immediately to my right after I left the parking area that wasn't on my map. It was marked with an orange campsite sign and looked like it would be a nice site for those arriving late in the day to the put-in.

The deciduous trees were just starting to bud with their lime-green hue, and the horizons were an attractive mix of dark evergreens and these budding leaves. 

Just before arriving at the portage, I passed a cabin on my right that appeared to be either newly built or under renovation. A man was outside chopping wood and his dogs came running and barking to the shore upon seeing me. The man came down, as well, and we chatted a bit. He was a very friendly fellow and I gathered that he, too, was an avid paddler based on what he was saying. He wished me luck and waved me on my way. 

The portage from Red Squirrel to Sandy Inlet of Lake Temagami wasn't that easy. First off, it was obvious that I was the first one to use it after winter. There was a bunch of deadfall on it that I cut and removed on the return trip for the canoe. The first carry had been a little tougher than expected as I had to either climb over or bushwhack around the deadfall. The trail was clear and easy to follow, however; it only had one steep bit at the outset. My second load with the canoe was much easier after clearing the trail. The sound of the rapids and chutes of the Anima Nipissing River was audible to my right. 

I still had to paddle a bit of the Anima Nipissing River before it emptied into Lake Temagami. It was a pretty area, but by this time the rain was really coming down. 

Within 15 minutes, I reached the mouth of the river where I spotted the buildings of Camp Wanapitei ahead. 

I paddled under their footbridge that crosses the river and out into the open water of Sandy Inlet. Though the rain was teeming down, there was little wind, thankfully; so I beelined across the expanse of the bay for Napoleon Mountain. Other than a fishing boat trolling in the distance, there was no one else out on the water. 

The 'infamous' Napoleon portage was just to the south of the cliffs at the north end of the inlet. There wasn't a portage sign, but there was flagging tape marking the take-out. There, I snapped a quick photo of the view looking back into Ferguson Bay.

I had never done this portage before. The last time I was in the area, to get into Whitefish Bay, I had paddled south to the Pickerel Bay portage which was shorter and flatter; though more direct, the Napoleon portage was reportedly very steep and difficult. Ironically, I didn't find it bad at all. Sure, the first 50-meter length was a vertical assault, but it was very short; the remainder of the portage was relatively flat, well-used, and easy to walk. In fact, I found it to be one of the easier portages on this entire trip! 

The following photo is a picture from the top of the steep bit right at the start, looking back at my canoe. From there, it's relatively flat along a ridge and a bit of descending steepness at the other end to get back down to the put-in. At that moment, I was wondering what all the fuss about this portage had been about. But looking back on some myccr.com posts from 10 or so years earlier, it seemed that it wasn't used regularly; I'm guessing that more canoe traffic on the trail in recent years has made this portage clear and much easier to negotiate. Perhaps, the Friends of Temagami have graciously done some work on it? If so, thank you! (I donate to the Friends of Temagami, and I encourage other canoe trippers to the area to do so, as well, if it is manageable for them. Their work in the area is invaluable! )

On a clear day, I would have taken the time to do the short hike up to Napoleon Mountain for the views. A separate trail veered off to the north from the main portage to allow canoeists to get there. However, in heavy rain and grey, overcast skies, I decided to save that view for another time. This would not be my last trip to this part of Temagami, for sure. 

I put in on Whitefish Bay where there was a smattering of cottages. 

I wish I could say the paddle to the north end of Whitefish Bay was pleasant, but it wasn't. The rain continued, and on top of that, a north wind began blowing in against me. (...The searchers all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay, If they'd put fifteen more miles behind her...)

In retrospect, it was probably just as well. This required me to paddle harder, keeping me warm. The temperature was only about 10 degrees, and though my rain gear was keeping me mostly dry, the damp, chilly air was penetrating. I hugged the shore and ducked behind islands as much as I could. 

It was around 4:30 PM when I reached the portage into Aston Lake. It was on the north side of a creek to the northeast of a large island that had a couple of cottages on it. Some kids were running around at one of the cottages, playing in the rain. The portage wasn't really marked that I could see but the landing area was obvious on a grassy opening. I could make out the trail heading into the bush parallel to the creek. I hadn't had anything to eat since breakfast, and I was famished. I made a couple of peanut butter and honey wraps and ate them there while there was a temporary lull in the rain. 

The condition of the portage was fine. It was a little over 1000 meters in length. There was flagging tape along it, but for the most part, the flagging was unnecessary since the trail was easily discernible. The forest was almost all birch and small deciduous trees, and at that time of year was fairly open. It looked as if the area was either a previous burn, or had been heavily forested not too long ago. Three-quarters of the way along, it crossed Red Squirrel Road. Just on the north side of the road was a large wet patch that I had to splash through; thankfully, it wasn't that deep. From there to the lake, it was a typical rocky Temagami trail through a thicker evergreen forest. 

By the time I had finished the two carries on the portage and put in again, I was done with tripping in the rain. I wanted to get settled on a site with a tarp up and hopefully get a fire going; that is exactly what I did at the south end of Aston Lake. There was a nice-looking site on a point at the south end of the southern back bay of the lake just a 30-second paddle from the portage. 

I got my canoe and gear up the steep landing area, and began the process of getting dry in a steady rain. I got out my ropes, saw, and knife, cut a couple of poles, and erected a tarp over the firepit. 

After that, I was able to unload my bag, and put up my Christmas present -- my Amok Draumr hammock. This was my first time trying this fancy-schmancy hammock and I was looking forward to it.  I first heard of it on the Lost Lakes Youtube channel, ( Jon and Erin looked pretty cozy in theirs!) and, coincidentally, the zipper on my Hennessy Hammock, after three long and faithful canoe trip seasons, broke on my last trip of 2022; I was in need of a new one. My beautiful wife came to my rescue with this fantastic Christmas present. 

By 8:30 in the evening, the rain looked like it was finally stopping. The forest was incredibly quiet and static; the air still had a dampness and a chill to it but I had a fire going and I was in a few layers of dry clothes. I had just consumed a fantastic steak and potato meal,  accompanied by a Czech Pilsner. The sun, low in the sky, began casting a pinkish glow on the forest across the bay; the silence was then broken by a loon's eerie wail in the distance. It was magical being in that moment with not a soul in sight or earshot-- the reason why I endure difficult portages in terrible weather conditions. 

The remainder of the night was spent cozy next to the warmth of the fire and an attempt at drying out my clothes. I retired to the hammock around 11 PM. The best part was there was not a mosquito or black fly to be seen or heard from for miles.

Day 2 - Aston Lake to Turner Lake (9 km)

What woke me up early the next morning was the wind. It got my tarp flapping quite a bit, creating an awful racket. Crazy wind at 6 AM is not what a canoe tripper wants to experience. I reached for my Zoleo device and did a weather check -- 30 km/h winds from the north all morning. Yikes. I got out of my hammock, pulled my tarp down further to the ground, tightened it, and then crawled back in to get more sleep. I was in no hurry; I wouldn't be going anywhere soon against that headwind. 

When I finally emerged from my hammock, I was happy to see that it was at least sunny. After a day of heavy rain, it was a welcome relief, but the wind was certainly not. It blew hard all morning, sometimes with gusts that would pull my tarps loose. I quickly took them down before they began to rip. On the bright side, my clothes dried in a hurry! 

Even though the waves in the bay where I was camping were not that big, I knew that in the main part of Aston Lake, they would be unmanageable for a solo canoeist. In fact, I could see large whitecaps on the lake through the narrows to the north. 

I waited at the site until shortly after 11, at which time I did another quick weather check. Indeed, the wind was supposed to get less intense as the afternoon wore on -- down to a 'breezy' 18 km/h by 3 PM. I decided to go for it. 

A couple of guys from the lodge at the north end of the lake were fishing in an aluminum boat along the west shore of the bay as I paddled out. "There are huge whitecaps out in the lake," they warned. 

"Yep, I'll stick to the shore. The wind is supposed to get calmer soon," I tentatively replied. I was sincerely hoping that my weather app was correct! 

By 11:30, I was at the north end of the bay and decided to do a little fishing behind a point while the wind was still raging. On my second cast, I tapped into a nice bass of at least 3 lbs. He put up a nice fight. No sooner had I released that fellow, when the wind seemed to subside. I waited a bit and indeed it started up again, but sporadically and in gusts. I decided to make a break for it and off I went around the point and into the expanse of Aston Lake. 

I only had three kilometers to paddle to the end of Aston Lake. In calm conditions, this would normally take 40-45 minutes at the most. On this particular day, it took an hour and 45 minutes! I slogged up the west shore but had to make an open crossing across a bay lest I paddle quite a distance out my way along the shoreline. The waves weren't that big by this time, so I wasn't afraid of swamping, it was just incredibly gusty, and the bursts kept pushing me back and sideways. It was pretty much a direct headwind which also forced me to tack to and fro, causing me to cover much more distance than I needed to. It was all very exhausting and I eventually made it to an island about halfway up the lake where I could take some much-needed rest behind a rock ledge. 

Eventually, I made it into the large northern bay and by this time the gusts were a little less ferocious and a little less frequent. I spotted the creek coming from Lynx Lake and paddled into its mouth to look for the portage. 

My notes for the trip stated that there was supposed to be a beaver dam that I had to lift over before reaching the port. I ended up paddling a good couple of hundred meters into the creek without encountering a dam and there the creek separated into a number of small and shallow channels. It didn't seem right, so I paddled back out to the mouth and saw a grassy landing area on the east side of the creek. I spotted the remnants of an old beaver dam sunken in the water in front of it. From there, I could spot the faint unmarked trail leading into the forest; I had found my portage. 

This trail was a longer one at 1250 meters in length, but to be honest, I was just happy to be out of the wind! Despite being long, the portage wasn't terrible for the first three quarters. There were a ton of fresh moose tracks and droppings which got me thinking that I must have just missed the creature earlier in the day. There was a bit of deadfall that I had to move over and around, but nothing large enough to cause me any concern.  

Toward the end, I came to a creek that had a solid two-foot drop to the water that was also at least a couple of feet deep. There was a single narrow log precariously placed across the creek that seemed to act as some sort of bridge. Well, tightrope walker I am most definitely not, especially with a huge fully-loaded drybag on my back. I dropped my pack and went back for my canoe. 

With my canoe there to act as a bridge, I found a wider spot where I could lay it down and walk my gear across to the other side. I didn't even need to get wet!

From there, it was just a short distance to Lynx Lake,  where I put in at its sandy south end. As I was doing so, a large shadow flittered above me and blocked out the sun on this cloudless day. I gawked up and saw an incredibly massive bald eagle flying less than 10 feet above my head. It must have been perching at the top of a nearby tree when I emerged from the forest. I hadn't even noticed it sitting next to me. 

The birdlife on Lynx Lake was plentiful, indeed; there was a whole lot of waterfowl splashing about. Though relatively small and narrow, Lynx Lake acted as a wind tunnel, funneling the air into me from the north. It took a bit of elbow grease again to make it to its northern shore. There was a pretty little chute of water coming into its north end from Cole Lake. 

At the portage next to that trickle were three guys in two canoes heading in the opposite direction. We chatted on the way out and they were also doing the Turner Loop in the reverse direction, you know, the direction with the wind at their backs, not in their face. Sigh. 

After they departed south on Lynx Lake, I took out at the portage and made some honey and peanut butter wraps for lunch. This is a staple lunch item for me; it's tasty, easy to whip up and eat in a hurry, and is just the fix for an instant energy boost. It was hard getting up because my view looking south on Lynx Lake was gorgeous in that remote, small waterbody kind of way. 

The 220-meter portage up into Cole Lake was short but good ol' Temagami wasn't going to make it easy. Just when I thought the rocky incline was coming to an end, it veered west and straight into the obstacle in the photo below. You can see the trail continuing on the other side up that steep incline to the lake beyond.

With all the deadfall and rocks in the pond, it made getting a canoe through there challenging. There was little room to maneuver the length of the canoe out into the open pond and to alight onto the shore in the deep water on the other side. Luckily for me, I only had a 15-footer. I wouldn't want to be negotiating a 17-footer through there. I wasn't too bothered, though; the scenery was so damn beautiful.

I made it up to Cole Lake after I humped it up the steep incline, uttering a couple of choice words that my grandmother wouldn't be proud of. That short portage required much more effort and time than expected.  Cole Lake, incidentally, was one of the nicest en route. 

Just past the point on the east shore were some dramatically gorgeous cliffs. 

To top it off, the short, 50-meter portage into Turner Lake ascended to the left of a pretty, little cascading stream between the two lakes. Have I mentioned that Temagami is visually stunning?

It was just after 4 PM when I got out onto Turner Lake. Originally, my plan was to camp on Eagle Lake at the end of Day 2, but the late start due to the morning winds had set me back. Honestly, though, I'm not sure I had it in me to tackle the lengthy and challenging 1600-meter portage into Eagle Lake that night. Battling the incessant headwind all day had taken its toll on me. I was ready to make camp.

Purportedly, the campsite at the north end of the large island that dominated the centre of Turner Lake was a gem, so I soldiered on against that dastardly wind to the east side of the island where I could paddle easier in the lee. Unfortunately for me, as I neared the north part of the island, I caught a whiff of burning cedar; it's a delicious and unmistakable aroma. Indeed, a couple of paddle strokes further and I could see smoke coming from the site. To my dismay, it was occupied. 

Retreating south again, I discovered that there was absolutely no campsite to be found at the southern tip of the island, despite one being marked there on Jeff's Maps. The remaining option was back on the southeastern part of the lake where I earlier noticed a large slab of west-facing rock with a fire pit on it. 

When I paddled back there to investigate, I was happy to discover that it was an excellent site. There was a metric ton of deadfall available next to the firepit that a previous camper deposited there, and the views northwest over Turner Lake were top-notch. There wasn't a lot of shade or cover on that slab, but after the previous day's deluge, I was happy to be soaking up those Vitamin-D infused rays. 

The odd thing about the site that I can say is that it wasn't particularly suited for hammock camping. There was a nice tent pad up in the forest at the top of the rock and another along the shore, but there didn't seem to be two decent-sized trees positioned just so to support my hammock. I had to make do with angling my hammock along the downward slope leading to the southern tent pad. After some careful placement of straps, it ended up working out just fine. 

After an attempt at napping, I got out of my hammock and got a fire going to cook dinner. I say 'attempt', because just as I was nodding off, I was awoken by two guys in a canoe from the other campsite talking loudly as they paddled past my site. I mean, seriously, it was a large lake with only two campsites on it, and they had to cruise by next to the shore of the only other occupied site? I don't want to be that old guy who yells at people to get off his lawn, but...jeez...

It was just as well, perhaps, because it was getting fairly close to sunset and I certainly didn't want to miss it with the conditions and views at hand. The air was cool enough that there were still no bugs around. I made another steak for dinner (my red meat fill for the next week, indeed!) and enjoyed some gentle sniffs of whiskey next to the fire in my opulent surroundings. 

Just when it couldn't get any better after the sun fully retired, and not to be outdone, the moon and one of the planets came out on display over the western horizon. 

Day 3 - Turner Lake to Whitewater Lake (14 km)

I slept better on the second night. Learning from my mistake the previous night, I set up my Amok hammock at a more desirable angle to maximize stability. It was a much more comfortable sleep.

I was out of the hammock before 7 AM and went out in the canoe to do a little fishing. The air was quite cold and I wanted to get out onto the calm lake and in the sun. After trolling the bay for a bit, I was still feeling a bit chilled, so I abandoned the fishing effort, returned to camp, and got some coffee and hot oatmeal going next to a fire. That warmed me up. 

After a second mug of coffee and just sitting and listening to the quiet of the lake, I began breaking camp. I had a big day ahead of me with some difficult portages and got on the water shortly after.

Turner Lake was a beautiful lake and I would have liked to explore its northern and western shores a little more, but the big winds the previous day set me back a bit in terms of time. In particular, there were some funky-looking, square rock faces in the northwest corner of the lake that looked intriguing. I'll be back to check those out in the future.

The route into Eagle Lake required a short 160-meter portage into a small pond of a lake called Curt Lake and then a long 1595-meter carry into Eagle. However, first, I had to paddle into a swampy little inlet on Turner's eastern shore to reach the former. 

The portage was a walk through a rock garden up a steep incline; thankfully, it was short-lived. 

I put in off of steep boulders into deep water to get onto Curt Lake. It was a bit of a tricky process, but I used a large fallen log to launch from. 

The long portage was actually not too bad. It had a couple of wet spots, but all-in-all it seemed well-trodden and easy to follow. 

However, like many of the portages on this route, just when a canoeist might think things are going well, Temagami sends the unsuspecting traveller a little curveball. On this particular portage, it was a giant swamp about halfway along. I could see the trail skirting along the right side of it, but in May, that quickly disappeared into water. 

On the bright side, at that time of year, it was deep enough to paddle across once I went back for my second load and brought my canoe there -- an easy solution. I suspect that this would be much more troublesome at lower water levels when the water is too low to paddle across, yet deep enough to cause problems walking. 

From the pond, it was a fairly straightforward carry to Eagle Lake where I could behold the lofty elevation of Eagle Bluff across the lake to the east from the put-in. 

Hap Wilson was absolutely correct in his description of this route, Eagle Lake is worth the hard work it takes to get there. It was easily the highlight of the route for me in terms of beauty and solitude. As good fortune would have it, I had the lake to myself. I spent some extra time paddling amongst and between its many islands and also paddled beneath those marvelous 300' cliffs. It reminded me a little of the eastern skyline along the Spanish River in places. 

I did not have the time to climb Eagle Bluff to get a view of the surrounding area, but, once again, I vowed to return to the area and try it someday. 

By the time I reached the southern part of the lake, it started to get a little gusty in my face, but nothing like the winds that I endured the day prior. I did mutter a four-letter word though. Would I have a headwind in every direction on this trip?! ("Yes" would be the answer to that question.)

I found the 400-meter portage on the west side of the log-choked Eagle River.  As I progressed down the portage, I turned to get a nice shot of the southern bay of Eagle Lake with the island campsite and Eagle Bluff in the distance. My canoe can be seen hiding amongst the alder on the left. 

The trip down Eagle River into Little Eagle Lake was picturesque. There were pretty little side bays along the river and it was teeming with birdlife. Though there was a flagged portage on the east shore to bypass it, I lifted over a tremendous beaver dam that completely crossed the river about halfway into Little Eagle. It was about a 5-foot drop to the shallow waters below. 

Just south of the dam, I had to portage for another 50 meters up and down a steep esker that separated the river from Little Eagle Lake. From there, I paddled through a narrows that had a small set of swifts and to the campsite on the eastern shore of Little Eagle Lake near the portage to Zee Lake. I pulled my canoe up on the beach there. Even though my map showed that there was another site on the western shore, I couldn't find it. Only thick treeline could be seen there.  

I took my barrel up to the firepit, quickly lit a small cooking fire, and rehydrated a fantastic curry rice meal. I needed the energy for the long and most difficult portage of the route from Little Eagle Lake to Zee Lake. I also needed to filter more water. I sat for a bit enjoying the rest and taking in Little Eagle Lake. It was nice, and so was the campsite in a sandy, esker-like way. 

Knowing what I had in front of me, it took a little extra willpower to stand up, gather my gear, and head over to start the long portage. I was done procrastinating.

Within the first couple hundred meters of the portage, I crossed Eagle Lake Road, a road that leads off of Red Squirrel Road. A few meters to the south of the portage was a locked gate preventing access further north. This location can also be used as a starting point to begin this loop trip. 

For the next 500 meters or so, the trail wasn't too bad. I did have some blowdowns on it, but it was fairly easy to follow and had no major obstacles. After that, it climbed up a very steep hill, and to make matters worse, there were a number of large fallen birch trees along that incline. 

To add insult to injury, right at the crest of the hill, the trail seemed to disappear into a deep swamp. 

I managed to avoid the worst of it, though, by veering to the far left of the swamp and frog-hopping on logs and bits of solid earth clumps to avoid the deep, squishy bits. This worked well -- no horrible sinking into deep muck occurred.  

The rest of the portage was fairly straightforward. The highlight of this difficult portage was the massive birch trees en route. It is rare for birch to get to the age and height of the trees I saw in that forest.  

Zee Lake was little more than a pond and unremarkable. The 515-meter portage from there into Birch Lake was fairly easy except for the last 50 meters where the trail had a steep descent to the lake through a nasty rock garden that required tentative and careful footing. 

I paddled out onto Birch Lake and was somewhat taken aback by evidence of civilization -- something I had not seen in two days. There was a large and well-kept lodge at the northeast corner of the lake. I was curious if that was a lodge available to guests or just privately owned and enjoyed.

The 635-meter trail from Birch Lake into Whitewater Lake was both shorter and more difficult than expected. It was difficult because a massive tree had fallen across it very recently; all of the leaves were still green and fresh-looking. It completely blocked the path and there wasn't a clear way around it on either side. I ended up climbing over it, but it was a good 4 to 5 feet off the ground; getting the canoe over it and through its thick branches required some deft maneuvering.  

On the other hand, the portage was shorter than expected because I put in too soon. I came to the shore of a swampy bay and saw a landing area, so I put in there thinking I had reached Whitewater Lake. I did notice that the trail kept going and wondered about that. I soon discovered, after lifting over another massive beaver dam, that I hadn't quite reached Whitewater Lake just yet. I was in a little pond area west of the lake and had to do another 20-meter portage into Whitewater Lake proper. I assume that the portage continued to bypass that area which would have been easier to continue and follow in retrospect. 

Whitewater Lake, thankfully, did not display any whitewater at that time. I paddled the length of its western bay, veered south around a headland, and looked for the only campsite on the lake on the eastern point of an island at the western end of the main part of the lake. I spotted the island and then a firepit at the base of a steep mound of rock. I would make it my home for the night. 

I had completed 7 portages that day, some very challenging, with a combined length of 4.8 kilometers, each one done in two trips. That's close to 15 km of walking alone, never mind the weight of my packs and canoes, solo paddling against a headwind again, and clearing and dodging deadfall and beaver dams. I was exhausted but in that fantastic way of knowing that one has accomplished and experienced something valuable. 

Setting my hammock way up on the top of that mound of island rock, I nearly had a heart attack. Not two feet above me next to the tree to which I was tying my hammock strap, a ruffed grouse suddenly flittered away in distress. I hadn't seen it and anyone who has witnessed a grouse do this knows that it's an instant explosion of feathers and wings. I must have jumped 6 feet in the air.  What the hell was a grouse doing hanging around on an island anyway?!? It was probably thinking the same thing about me. 

After recovering and having a good laugh to myself, I descended my lofty eyrie and went back down to the firepit area, where I rehydrated some spaghetti bolognese sauce and spread it on some naan bread with cheese to make a couple of bush pizzas. They were delicious. At the time, I was saying to myself, "This is the best fricking pizza I've ever had!" I always marvel at how amazing food tastes after a hard day of canoe-tripping. I enjoyed them with a full view of the entire lake unfurling before me to the east. 

For a while after eating dinner, I relaxed by the fire with a whiskey or two in my camp chair and could feel myself nodding off. It was a wonderful, satisfying feeling. It felt even better when I climbed back up the rock and into my hammock; I was asleep in seconds. 

Day 4 - Whitewater Lake to Red Squirrel Lake Parking Lot (13 km)

The weather app on my Zoleo device was predicting high headwinds against me yet again. This was just going to be one of those trips where the wind simply did not want to play fair, no matter what direction I was heading. As a result, I had set my alarm for 5:30 AM to be out and across the expanses of Anima Nipissing Lake before the winds really whipped up. It turned out that I didn't need my alarm because, at around 5 AM, I was awoken by the continuous cacophony of a beaver tail slapping the water down at the south end of the island. This alarmed me somewhat because beavers do that as a warning, but I couldn't see how it was aimed at me; I was perched high in the middle of the island behind a lot of trees. Maybe it could smell me, but it definitely couldn't see me. According to my wife, I'm a formidable snorer; perhaps it heard me? At any rate, I was hoping it wasn't warning a large, third-party mammal. The last thing I needed in the pre-dawn darkness was a moose or bear to come traipsing through my campsite. 

Nothing large materialized out of the darkness as I donned my headlamp and broke camp. I made some cold cereal with powdered milk,dehydrated apples, and cranberries. I didn't even bust out my normal camp coffee routine, I just loaded and shoved off in the grey dawn before 6 AM; I had had enough of fighting the wind. 

The rising sun was peculiar. It was a red dot on the horizon through a misty haze. I didn't know it at the time, but perhaps it was the beginning of the smoke that enveloped large swathes of North America from the very many forest fires across eastern Canada in the spring of 2023. It would later be the cause of pretty much a Canada-wide fire ban and the worst air quality that Ontario has ever experienced. Climate change is a &!#*$ and an ever-increasing threat.

I was surprised by the fleet of fishing boats stashed at the eastern end of Whitewater Lake next to the portage. There had to have been at least two dozen in total. Obviously, Whitewater Lake must have excellent fishing. I wished that I had more time and energy to do more of it there -- again, next time!

As expected with all of the fishing boats lying about, the 225-meter portage into Anima Nipissing was a clear, well-used trail and easy to negotiate, despite a couple of rock gardens along the way. It emerged at a tiny inlet with nice views of the hills to the east across Anima Nipissing. 

I put in and rounded a point heading south. A nice-looking campsite existed there adjacent to some rock faces that possessed some faded pictographs that I could just make out beneath a crevice in the rock. 

It is always a thrill for me when I locate and view pictographs. They are amazing; they tell stories and have incredible historical, cultural, and navigational significance. I feel very honoured to be able to interact with them as they were meant to be -- from a canoe. A tobacco offering is encouraged while passing these sites. If I'm able to distinguish what they represent, I often try to imagine the message that the images are communicating in my own way. The Anishinaabeg people have been inhabiting the Temagami area for over 5000 years and pictographs such as these are remnants of their legacy. Click on the button below to read a very interesting paper on the historical and cultural importance of rock art in the Temagami region from an art history perspective. 

I continued south and made a crossing across a large inlet. I was happy that I had made the effort to get up and on the water early. It was only minutes after 7 AM and the wind was already coming up. 

Twenty minutes later, I was, once again, happy to be viewing more pictographs along a western headland toward the south end of the lake. 

From there, it was a short paddle into the narrows at the southern reaches of Anima Nipissing Lake, and I was riding the swifts and gliding into McLean Lake. 

By the time I got out into the northern bay of McLean, the wind was up enough to make me work hard. I paused to remove a layer of clothing. While I was putting on my PFD again after doing so, I looked up to see a large head about 500 meters ahead of me swimming across the narrows between the two large bays of the lake. It was either a cow moose or a very large bear judging by the size of the noggin!  I'm pretty sure it was the former. As I approached the spot, I paddled very quietly along the opposite shore (after all, I had been downwind) to see if the creature was lingering about, but whatever it was, it was long gone. 

I decided to investigate the very southern tip of McLean Lake where it emptied into the Anima Nipissing River through a culvert under Red Squirrel Road. There is a roadside campsite there, and if it wasn't occupied, I would end my trip there, stash my canoe and gear behind some bushes, and walk the three kilometers along the road back to my parked vehicle at Red Squirrel Lake. This would allow me to avoid 1710 meters worth of portaging. Lucky for me, the site was empty and that was exactly what I did. 

It was a pleasant walk with the high waters of the Anima Nipissing River crashing through its narrow channels parallel to the road. Only two trucks passed me along the road and graciously gave me a wide berth. 

I reached my car in about 30 minutes, found it unscathed, and drove back to load my canoe and gear in a cloud of biting black flies. It was about 9:30 AM at that point and this was the first time the temperatures were approaching the 20-degree mark; the black flies were coming out to play and I was getting out just in time. 

Despite the horrible rain on the first day and the incessant headwinds, I had a great trip. Temagami is an area of unbridled beauty and any amount of time spent there is time well spent. Although I didn't feel 'rushed' in the truest sense of that word, my one regret about this trip was that I wish I had more time to explore. The portages were long and demanding, and in the amount of time that I had to complete the loop, there was precious little downtime to do the 'extras' like more fishing, hiking lofty viewpoints like Eagle Bluff and Napoleon Rock, and exploring the corners and bays of the gorgeous lakes -- the little things that make canoe tripping ultra special. For this reason, I would recommend spending at least 5 days to complete this loop, allowing canoeists a good proper whiff after having time to 'smell the roses'.