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We arrived at Sand Lake gate around 9 in the evening. By 9:30 we were carrying our canoes and gear the last 1 ½ km. from the gate on the Achray Road to the put-in at Grand Lake. There was no moon and it was DARK as we paddled along the shores of the lake in search of our camp. I had come up earlier that day and had set up my tent .... now we had to find the campsite in the pitch black night, through the fog on the lake. After a goodly amount of spooky paddling, I loudly announced that the campsite should be here! I looked around at the shoreline and didn't see a thing..... time for the backup system.... I turned on the GPS, looked up my tent location, and the GPS started to flash “arrival at destination”.

 

We quickly set up the girls' tent, Lester settled down on top of his bivy sack, and all went to sleep. In the morning, we woke to the sounds of Lester moving about ( you just can't sleep in if you have a bivy sack). Water was boiled, tea made, thermoses filled, and oatmeal scarfed down. Camp disappeared into the packs and off we went down Stratten Lake. At the end of the lake there is a sheltered bay with the portage at the far end... protected by ice. Thin ice is wonderful....it sounds like wind chimes as it breaks around you. Unfortunately thin ice was followed by thick ice and ten seconds later I was up on top of the ice.

What do I do now? I rocked the canoe side to side and shifted my weight front and back and the ice did not break. A few hard whacks with my paddle verified it was thick... bust just how thick? By resting my weight on the gunnels of the canoe and using my left foot I was able to scoot across the top of the ice. It worked real well until the ice started to thin out again and I broke through. After a lot more bashing I made it the portage....just as the others caught up. That was a hard 100 meters of paddling in more ways than one.

 

On the next lake, we decided to stop for an early lunch.... after all.... what else do you do at 11:00 in the morning. As we ate, we pondered just how good of a jumping off rock it was and if it was a good idea to go swimming or not. Fortunately none of us had remembered to bring a swimsuit and towel (after all... it was the middle of November) and with thoughts off the ice at the last portage, common sense got the better of us and we stayed dry.

After lunch we portaged across to Ooze Lake, found a bit more ice at the put-in, and set across.

For once Ooze lake was clear and there were no islands of floating bottom muck to dodge between. Another portage and we were at Opalescent Lake. While the others gathered firewood for a fire into the wee hours of the evening I paddled down the lake to the Fred Flintstone campsite.

 

 

 

 

So why is it called the Fred Flintstone campsite? This campsite has one of the biggest fire-pits I have ever seen, big enough to roast a dinosaur over.... And the fire-pit comes with wrap-around bench seating with inclined backrests. Somebody at some point was very bored, very creative, and very strong to have rearranged the large stones to make the seating.

 

And beside the sectional sofa there is a kitchen area with a nice surface for putting your stove on for cooking and yet another rock table to do the food preparation on. This is Wilma's dream kitchen. (possibly because there was no sign of Fred)

 

Paula and Lester arriving with a few twigs...

 

 

Around 3:30 supper preparations started. Carol made an unforgettable soup, Paula mixed up the salad, and Carol and I heated up the pasta and sauce while Emily made sure that her tent did not blow away. Lester found some licorice flavored paint thinner and after a brief discussion we decided that it should be disposed of. The homemade pasta sauce and spaghetti quickly disappeared and the dishes were cleaned up before it got dark. The food was hung out of the reach of midget bears and as darkness settled in we enjoyed the fire.

 

By 6:00pm we were commenting that it felt like 10:00pm. By 7:00pm we were running low on firewood and most of us drifted off to our tents, except Lester who was banished to his bivy sack. 7:00am rolled around and most of us stayed put, not quite content with 12 hours sleep and trying to get a bit more. Lester yelled out that there was hot water ready so we emerged from our tents and proceeded to scarf down more oatmeal.

 

 

The camp went back into the packs and a few portages later we were in the Baron River Canyon. Once again the topic of conversation turned to good “jumping off of” rocks but common sense and a light rain kept us in the canoes. We rafted up in the middle of the canyon, enjoyed an early lunch, and then paddled down to Squirrel Rapids. A quick car shuttle, load the canoes on the cars, and the trip was over.

 

I think we will all be back next year. The trip was great.... all it needed was a snowstorm to make it perfect.