Temagami: Sturgeon – Lady Evelyn – Solace Loop (7 days / 97 km)

It doesn’t go on, it goes up!  There is no better way to describe our first ever backcountry canoe trip in Temagami than with that sentence.  It seemed like every portage had a boulder garden, swamp, creek or mud pit to cross, all while climbing up a seemingly never-ending slope. Mix in a scalding heat wave and the blood thirsty bugs of early July, and you have yourselves an unbelievable 7-day adventure.  Despite the adversity, we fell in love with the rugged wilderness of the Temagami region and can’t wait to return again soon.

Trip Summary

Starting Point: Gervais Landing (Access #22 on Jeff’s Map)

Ending Point: Gervais Landing (Access #22 on Jeff’s Map)

Total Distance: 97 km

Duration: 7 Days

Difficulty: Advanced

Trip Completed: July 2020

Location

This route passes through Sturgeon River Provincial Park, Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park and Solace Provincial Park in the Temagami Cluster, directly north of Sudbury.

Tradition Territory: This route in Temagami is on the traditional territory of the Anishinabewaki, Cree and Omàmìwininìwag (Algonquin) (source).

Maps & Resources

Guidebook: None

Map: Jeff’s Map for Temagami Version 1 and The Ottertooth Map (Interactive Digital Map)

Campsite Permits: Permits are required. On the Ontario Parks Reservation System, go to the far right and click “Backcountry Registration” and then select “Temagami Cluster”. Purchase a permit for the nights you will be in a specific provincial park. Once in the park, campsites are first-come-first-serve.

Outfitters & Shuttles

Canoe rental from Algonquin Portage just off Highway 17 near Petawawa.  There were no canoe rental locations near our access point close to our route so we picked up on the way.  Some outfitters we considered that were in Temagami were “Smoothwater Outfitters and Lodge” and “Temagami Outfitting Co.”.  There is also Lakeland Airways if you would like to fly in and paddle out.

Trip Report

Within 24 hours, everything shut down. No sports, concerts, or gatherings of any kind. The COVID lockdown had begun.  I (Matt) was sitting at home, now jobless, with an open calendar. Jessica and I had planned on going out east to visit some family for a week over the summer, but that too would end up getting cancelled. Eventually, camping was allowed again, and we saw a huge increase in the number of people camping closer to Toronto, to the point where the more popular parks (e.g. Algonquin) were fully booked every weekend until late September.

With Jessica still working and her vacation time already booked off, she started looking beyond the cozy comfort of Algonquin for a new adventure. Temagami seemed like the right choice to check that solitude button and so the planning for our first Temagami trip began! Jessica did a lot of research and we had some choices to make. What attractions can we go see and how do-able were the routes we selected?  The biggest problem we had was time. Seven days in Temagami is short to do a typical loop. Most go for two weeks, and we soon understood why…

Day 1: Access Point to Woods Lake (8 km)

After a long night of packing, we were like athletes on the morning of a championship final: tired, excited, and a little apprehensive. It almost felt like our very first backcountry trip all over again.

On top of doing what may have been the hardest trip of our lives, in a place we had never been to, I was doing something I had yet to do: record the entire trip for YouTube.  I’m no stranger to recording trips, after producing two seasons of the TV series “Mark in the Park”, but this was different.  This was our vacation and I, an introvert, now had to be in front of the camera.  Anyone who has videotaped anything in the outdoors knows it takes time, patience and a lot of thinking.

After picking up our canoe from Algonquin Portage, we headed to the access point. Looking out the window, we could clearly see the landscape change the further north we travelled.  After a few turns and long dirt roads later, we hit the logging roads at 1:00 pm. Now out of cell reception and not yet on Jeff’s Map (we use the Avenza Maps App for GPS tracking), we were relying on written directions from Ottertooth’s map to avoid getting lost (spoiler alert: we still got lost).

Finally (2.5 hrs later), we reached the access.

Access Point on Sturgeon River: We began our journey heading upstream on the Sturgeon River, and right away had to fight a strong current created by the remnants of an old logging bridge. Jessica plotted a plan to get us through the bridge abutments, and we made our way up the Sturgeon River before taking a right turn onto Stull Creek. It was at this point that an interesting transition occurred that would stick with us for the rest of the trip.  The water went from being so brown that we couldn’t see the end of our paddles in the water (not fun when looking for rocks) to being absolutely crystal clear.

Portage from Stull Creek to Hamlow Lake (1,515 m): The portage was what one would call “unmaintained” in Algonquin. Lots of downed trees, a skinny footpath, but thankfully, easy footing. Oh, and BUGS.

After getting in the water as fast as we could at the other end, the bugs paraded after us for a few minutes before getting blown away. That’s when we noticed the ominous clouds rolling in. Racing against the eminent weather and starting to run short on daylight, we arrived at the 95 m portage into Little Scarecrow Lake. We completed it quickly and paddled our way across the lake, reaching the narrow entrance to Scarecrow Creek.

The setting sun shone towards the small dark opening in the forest, as the fast-moving water of the creek flowed towards us. It looked like a cool place to be until we got inside. Trudging over logs and through the waist-deep current, we finally made it to a point where we could get back into the canoe and paddle towards our final portage of the day. 

Scarecrow Creek to Woods Lake (195 m): The portage into Woods Lake gave us a glimpse of what we would be travelling over for the next six days: rocks poking through the moss, making for difficult footing.

We reached Woods Lake at 6:50 pm and made the choice to stay there instead of pushing on to Scarecrow Lake.  This was a new thing for us, choosing where to stay the day of.  In Algonquin, you book a lake to stay on; in Temagami, you book a provincial park to stay in. There are pros and cons to both but when no one is around, choosing where to go last minute is a freeing experience.

We reached the south side of Woods in less than 10 minutes and decided to stay. After setting up the tent, getting the bear hang hung and attempting to set up the tarp, the ominous clouds caught up with us, raining just hard enough to force us into the tent, before reducing to a light sprinkle for the rest of the night.  Nestled under our (now set up) tarp and with a little fire going, we scarfed down some burgers and enjoyed the heat lightning show off in the distance.

By 11:30 pm, we were in the tent, laying on top of our sleeping bags. Sweating to death from the humidity and having the vestibules shut because of the rain, we still managed to pass out after a long day.  

Campsite:  Southern site on Woods Lake on the Peninsula 

Day 2: Woods Lake to Smoothwater Lake (18 km)

At 7:00 am the sun was in full force. We woke up to a calm lake and a view like no other. From our site, we could see where we were headed first for the day: Ishpatina Ridge. It is the highest point in Ontario (693 m above sea level) and requires a 3.5 km hike from Scarecrow Lake, up the side of a cliff, past a few lakes and up to a lookout area. After that, we were going to try and make it to Smoothwater Lake and camp there for the night.

After having oatmeal (our breakfast for the whole trip), we hit the water at 9:30 am; late but rested.  We knew that the 25 km travel day (including hiking) would take a while, and this is why we originally wanted to stay on Scarecrow Lake. By staying on Woods we had an extra 3 km to travel.  Looking back, we wish we would have pushed on, even though we likely would have been rained on.  

Now on the water, we paddled by the other site on Woods Lake and from what we could see from the water, we decided that our site was much better before we continued on.

After passing through a small channel with rocks everywhere, we reached Scarecrow Lake. Paddling by a very nice island site, and landing at the campsite near where the trail starts, we established that the sites on the lake were Algonquin calibre sites, and often visited.

Hiking Ishpatina Ridge: We headed up the trail climbing boulder gardens, walking across swamps and stopping to admire some huge old-growth trees for just over an hour before reaching the top. It was one of those climbs where we kept looking up wondering where the top was. When you pass a big boulder on the right, the summit is only two minutes later.

The view from the top is beautiful and you can see rolling hills for days. Some of those hills we knew we would be climbing over in the coming days.  The fire tower is pretty impressive as well. Standing 100 feet tall, it is still in okay shape and the top is still there, yet to be burnt by lightning. After a few photos, and enjoying the cool breeze to take our little biting friends away, we headed back down the trail.

Tip: I highly recommend trekking poles or a walking stick for this trail if you have bad knees.

After an hour, we hit the bottom and got back in the canoe.

With a tailwind, we paddled a series of small lakes and did a number of portages including a 1260 m, 60 m, 120 m, 30 m, 50 m, 1085 m and a 690 m.  The last two finish in swamps and because of that, we got destroyed by mosquitoes.  There is something truly disgusting about scraping bugs off of every body part.

The last two portages finish in swamps and because of that, we got destroyed by mosquitoes. There is something truly disgusting about scraping bugs off of every body part.  

5:30 pm and now on Smoothwater Lake, we had a long, hard paddle ahead of us.  After having a tailwind all day, everything turned around and we now had a headwind on the biggest lake of our trip.  On top of that, all of the campsites were on the northern half of the lake. With large swells and whitecaps, we decided to stick to the western shore, protected from the wind by a couple of large outcroppings of land.

Reaching the first campsite and being rather unimpressed, we moved on.  We hit the second site and as Jessica took a scouting trip, I assessed the water situation. If this site wasn’t good, we were going to have to cross the lake to the beach sites on the other side (we were heading west the next day towards Sunnywater and wanted to stay near the portage). It was just before 7:00 pm and dumping out in the middle of the lake would be a bad situation.  We settled on staying at that site, partly because it was interesting, had a steady wind (no bugs), and partly because of safety. 

Setting up the tent in the only location we could find (fantastic site for hammock camping), we got a fire going for a steak dinner.  After watching the sunset on one side and the moon rise on the other side of our 180º view, we put the fire out, hung the food and headed to bed.  Again, laying on top of our sleeping bags.  Passing out, we slept like rocks.

Campsite:  Smoothwater Lake: Middle site on the western shore.

Day 3:  Smoothwater Lake to Lady Evelyn River (11 km)

We slept in, again.  Packed and ready to go, we headed out at 10:00 am.  Our route for the day would take us up and into Sunnywater Lake and back down into the Lady Evelyn River. There was a 107 m climb in elevation over 1,710 m of portages and then back down 123 m into the river.  We were basically going over a mountain, with a canoe, and a pack.

The wind was just as bad as the day before, but now going in the other direction. No waves made the crossing easy.  We hit the first portage and WOW!  The campsite on the 95 m portage into Marina Lake is a 10/10. It had a huge table, beach, small rapids within walking distance, huge flat areas for tents and a thunderbox. An awesome family site.  

Next, we had a portage from Marina Lake to Whitepine Lake (560 m). Entering the Aurora Trout sanctuary, we walked through mud pits, boulder gardens and dried-up river beds, making for a slow climb up and into Whitepine Lake. Getting to the end, the next portage was a short 20-second paddle away.

Portage from Whitepine Lake to Wilderness Lake (840 m): This is an avalanche of boulders that goes straight uphill. Some rocks were bigger than me.

Getting to Wilderness Lake, we had been noticing a change in the landscape that we had never seen before, the water was getting insanely clear. Ever since turning off the Sturgeon River, the water was getting so clear.

Portage from Wilderness Lake to Sunnywater (215 m): We had one last portage before we wanted to stop for lunch. Being a short 215 m, we thought it was going to be easy. Wrong! Straight uphill (again) and steep. To add to it, a tree had fallen halfway up the hill. So we had to work together to get the canoe over top of the blowdown and up the hill. 

Getting to Sunnywater, we were blown away by how clear the water was.  The lake has an acidic pH level making it not possible for things to grow in it. That made the water so clear that we couldn’t see where the air ended and water began.

We headed to the lone campsite and stared down into the water in awe the whole time. We stopped for a much-needed break and had lunch. The site had many tent pads, good swimming (we could clearly see it was just a big drop-off and no trees to get tangled in) and a huge tree that had fallen perfectly between all the tent pads.  The fire pit was very exposed so no tarp over the fire possibilities.  

After lunch, we headed out on the dark blue water constantly looking to see if we could see anything deep down. Getting to the next portage, it had become a different day.  The big puffy clouds and blue skies made way for low, grey, overcast clouds and wind.  The next two portages (385 m and 175 m) going up into Junction Lake were easy. By easy, I mean we were slowly getting used to watching every step and carefully navigating through boulder gardens and swamps.

Portage from Junction Lake to Gamble Lake (2,085 m + 320 m): Walking for what seemed like well beyond 2 km, we came to a meadow. After looking around and not knowing where to go, I pulled up the map on my phone to see where we were. Thinking we were at the end of the 2085 m and would need to paddle to the start of the 320 m, we were shocked to see that we were already there. Obviously, the creek that once ran between the portages had dried up, and the marsh at the end had grown over. Looking to the left, we now saw where the next portage was, or rather, where we had to continue portaging (sigh). So basically, the entire length between Junction and Gamble is one huge portage.

Paddling away, we had our first big decision of the trip to make. Stay on Gamble Lake where we can see that the sites were vacant or continue on?  This is the downside to not being able to book lakes or campsites. We could paddle for a while to find the only campsite taken and have to either paddle back or keep going hoping the next one isn’t taken.

After checking out the sites on Gamble, we weren’t very impressed and chose to push on. Luckily, we landed at the first campsite downstream of Gamble on the North Lady Evelyn River and it was empty. It sits on a little peninsula with good views up and down the river.

We got set up and got supper going. Jambalaya is our staple day 3 supper and the last fresh food of the trip. We had an amazing supper, hung the food and went to bed.  A tree could have fallen next to the tent and we wouldn’t have woken up.  Out like a light!

Campsite:  First campsite downstream of Gamble Lake on the Lady Evelyn River

Day 4: Lady Evelyn River to Florence Lake (28 km)

At 5:30 am the familiar sound of rain on the tent fly gently woke us up. At this point, our screenshot of the week’s weather from 4 days ago was no longer accurate, but rain wasn’t ever in the forecast.

After the gruelling uphill battle and subsequent downhill marathon the day before, we figured today would be relatively easy, having mostly downstream paddling and only two portages totalling 1,315 m to get to our planned destination of Florence Lake.

But it’s Temagami and if something is easy, you’re not doing it right.  Let’s just say that we were quickly and continuously proven wrong.  

At 9:00 am we were on the water when a flash of lightning came from the sky right where we were headed. Decision time: wait it out from the safety of the campsite mere meters behind us, or continue, knowing the clouds aren’t coming towards us? We chose to push forward, slowly. Keeping our eyes peeled and ready at any time to go straight to shore.

The problem cloud passed as we made our way towards the first portage, stopping at the next campsite to check it out. The site is right next to a removed bridge and most of the tenting options are on the perfectly flat remnants of the logging road. It’s very closed in on the waterside but open on the roadside. The bugs were noticeably worse than on our site and we quickly left.

Portage from North Lady Evelyn River to Dees Lake (970 m): Shortly after, we found the 970m portage and got to it.  This portage bypasses a large paddling loop and saves distance and time. It was relatively easy, as it may have been an old road in some parts.

Getting to Dees Lake, we were surprised by something we hadn’t seen in a few days, brown water and lily pads. This distracted us (mostly me) and because of that, we made a wrong turn going into the lake.  Rather than keeping left and finding the channel into the second part of the lake, we ended up in the long finger behind the chain of islands. After correcting course, a bigger problem arose, where was the next portage?  

Up to this point, we had been using Jeff’s Map, as it was easier to see than Ottertooth’s map on the printed copies we brought. After searching for too long and Jessica confirming we were in the right spot with the GPS, I flipped over the map and saw that there was a new portage and that we had passed it trying to get to the old one.

Backtracking up the lake, we still couldn’t find it. Back and forth and back and forth, we hugged the shoreline, searching for an opening in the woods. Eventually, we gave up and decided to go back to what we thought was the old portage and bushwhack our way to the river. It was on our way back to the “old” portage that Jessica finally spotted a portage sign hidden behind a sapling.

Despite the difficulty in finding it, the portage itself was uneventful, until the end. Ever since getting to Dees Lake, it had been spitting rain.  Once we got onto the Lady Evelyn River, it was down pouring, the kind of rain that hurts when it hits you. We paddled through, thankfully without wind to fight.

We hit White Rock Rapids and looked forward to getting some speed going and maybe run some rapids. Well, that wasn’t the case.  The water was now going the other direction from what we started the day with.  After looking at the map, puzzled again, I saw the little arrow showing the flow direction, then saw what we had missed.  We had actually, thus far, been paddling on the North Lady Evelyn River and were only now arriving on the Lady Evelyn River proper.  The two rivers meet in that loop we decided to bypass.  

Bummed that we now had to go upstream, we hit the rapids.  We basically had to walk up the entire thing, because it was only a foot deep and the flow was too strong to paddle against (duh, they’re rapids).

The bed we were walking on, almost looked man-made, with thousands of perfectly round rocks, all covered in slippery algae. I took the canoe and Jessica walked behind me, both of us trying not to roll an ankle. After a few downpours and bailing out the canoe, we continued on.

Once deep enough, we could easily paddle upstream and were mesmerized by the beautiful rock walls towering over us. Coming up on lunchtime and already feeling gassed, we stopped at the sight on “Jack’s Lake”. The site was on a huge sloping rock that stood tall over the “lake” (really just a wider stretch of river).  It was beautiful.

Starving, we headed up the site, eating cautiously as there was fresh bear scat scattered around an abundance of blueberries bushes as well as leftover pasta in the fire pit. The sun joined us for lunch and helped dry out our soggy clothes, and then we were on our way.  

A gorgeous but rather uneventful paddle up the river had us arrive at the mouth of the Florence River, where we saw two canoes with people who looked like they were on a day trip.  Almost in the lake proper, I glanced behind me and brought up, very calmly, that we were being chased. As Jessica turned around to see what I meant, a crack of thunder rang out from the huge black cloud coming right for us.

We quickly made a plan to go to the first site around the corner, and hunker down until the storm passed.  We got to the site, one that had obviously never been used (for good reason), and made a shelter with the canoe.  We sat on the ground waiting for the light show and the skies to open up.  We could see the people out for their day paddle, heading back to their site as fast as possible, and heard them yelling “stroke! stroke! stroke!” as the storm approached.

We heard a couple of good cracks of thunder and had some powerful gusts of wind, but in the end, nothing happened.  The storm blew right over top of us without so much as a drop of rain.

So with that, we hit the water and searched for a campsite. We chose to go to the other end of the lake, as we would be leaving the next day heading south out of the lake. We checked out the cabin and campsite at the 25 m “sand bar” crossing and moved on.  Checking out the first site to the east, below the portage (on Jeff’s Map), we saw it was an emergency site.

There was another site on “Table Rock” (labelled on Ottertooth’s Map) and it was an island site that had one tree, nowhere to put a tent and no thunderbox (or anywhere to use the facilities for that matter). I would assume that the site is likely a place of great importance to the Indigenous peoples of the area, and as such, we didn’t feel comfortable staying there or disturbing anything, so we left. It was weird to us how it was a marked campsite.

The next site, on the west side, was on a little peninsula and seemed like a “primo site”.  A huge rock front porch as the entrance to a sheltered fire pit and good tenting areas. The area also gave me the feeling that it was sacred and people had been living there for thousands of years.

We set up camp quickly and were once again graced with more rain.  Luckily we had the tarp set up just enough to stand under it for the passing shower.  After having some freeze-dried meals and watching a hare hop around munching on things, we sat out and enjoyed the rainbow, sunset and moonrise. Despite the size of the site, there were few bear hang options and my first branch failed to hold the weight of our food bag.  We found a new branch and went to sleep.  Another night on top of the sleeping bags.

Campsite: West side of the lower half of Florence Lake on a peninsula

Day 5: Florence Lake to Solace Lake (17 km)

The sky was a perfect blue and the water was like glass on a fine morning on Florence lake. We took our time to look around and smell the roses if you will. Few bugs and crisp air made us not want to leave. After a quick dip on the super slippery sloping rocks, we headed out just before 10 am.

Like an autopilot switch in a plane, we were in the groove. Because the water was still and the lake so clear, we admired the massive rocks beneath us as we made our way south towards Solace Provincial Park.

Unlike yesterday, we had way more portaging to do: something like 4,400 m over our 16.5 km day. 

Portage from Florence Lake to Bluesucker Lake (1,230 m + 95 m + 760 m): It started off with the first portage (1230m) which was really just a huge bog crossing.  As we trampled through the mud, atop logs sucked beneath the surface, I was trying to capture what we were walking through and walking slowly so it wouldn’t be a blur.

Though careful, Jessica missed a step and sunk right up to her knee in mud, and there was me, swinging around recording what was the “money shot” of one of us stuck in the mud. I do feel bad and I mean, when in school, we are taught to get the shot before helping, but I attempted to do both as she was not happy. Who would be?

Moving on, we came to a big rock slab with few trees and no visible path, and I may have gotten a bit lost. We had been following trail markers, but in this more open section piles of rocks (cairns) were used. We ended up climbing to the top of the rock slab where there was a large pile of rocks, but it was a dead end.

We turned around, only then spotting the small piece of trail marker tape that showed the continuation of the portage. This section was the trickiest footing of the trip, as we walked on the wet rock slope that led into the woods. One wrong step and it would be a long slide down. Going slow, I thought Jessica was right behind me but she wasn’t. I did remember hearing a bang, that I thought was from a tail strike, but it turns out she had slipped and fallen, dropping the canoe.

It is a beautiful portage, I assure you, but hold onto your patience because it will quickly take it away.  

After a few beaver dams, a beaver lodge and two short portages to complete to bog section (95 m and 760 m) we entered Bluesucker Lake.

Another short paddle and portage later (200 m), brought us to Benner Lake, where we headed to the lone campsite for lunch.

This site was an A+ for me personally.  High up off the water with a huge view of the lake, being there created a moment of zen for both of us. With just enough wind to keep the bugs away, it felt good to get some calories going into our stomachs.  Leaving, I felt like I was paddling in Nova Scotia with the way the landscape looked and how the fresh air smelled.

Two portages later (285 m and 80 m), we hit the longer portage from Pilgrim Lake to Maggie Lake (785 m) which is marked as “difficult” on Jeff’s Map, though it wasn’t difficult.

The next portage from Maggie Lake to Bill Lake (720 m) was really hard though. Maggie Lake is 25m below both Pilgrim Lake and Bill Lake so depending on the direction you’re travelling, it will be hard coming out.

Once on Bill, it was just an easy 60 m to Samsun Lake and then 225 m to Solace Lake, destination lake for the evening.

Solace Lake has three campsites and we headed for the south one as it was closer. Luckily the site was free, had a good fire pit, okay tenting area, good swimming and fantastic views, so we chose to just stay there.

After setting up the tent, I changed into my shorts and flip-flops to give my wet feet time to breathe. That’s when I began to feel sharp pains on both of my feet. Looking down, I saw a ton of big red ants.  I never thought such tiny things could create such pain. Putting my pants back on and tucking them into a pair of socks was the only solution.  Jessica had less of a problem with them, but she sat in her camp chair and kept her feet off the ground most of the time. While sawing wood, there must have been 50+ on my feet trying to attack me.

After a swim, homemade dehydrated meal and some relaxing time by the fire, we hit the sack and like other nights, passed right out.

Campsite: Southern marked site on Solace Lake

Day 6: Solace Lake to Paul Lake (10 km)

Waking up to the echoes of loon calls, we packed up and got ready to go as some of the loons came to say hi. With this only being a 9.6 km day, we left at 10:30 am and went to look at the other site. It was raised way up off the water but sheltered. There weren’t any ants, but because it was protected from the wind, the bugs were bad. So ants or bugs, your choice!

Heading to the first portage, we passed by another campsite. It was marked, had a fire put and looked used. The campsite wasn’t on either of our maps, so it must have been a new addition. You will pass it while coming or going from the portage, as it’s on the point at the mouth of the bay.

There are several portages between Solace Lake and Ghoul Lake, connecting unnamed lakes.

  • The first portage out of Solace Lake was 720 m. After a swampy portage, we were rewarded with a heavy tail wind.
  • The next portage (625 m) was a stroll in a swamp as well. 
  • Then we had a quick portage into Barking Lake (100 m). Here we stopped for lunch on a small island.
  • Next we had a quick 95 m portage.
  • Almost done now. Next there was a 270 m portage into Selkirk Lake (according to Jeff’s Map). Ottertooth’s map said 53 m. This difference worried us and we found out why when we were suddenly walking through a creek that wasn’t deep enough to paddle. I’m guessing there is a way around but we just kept going. Once we were back in water deep enough to paddle, it wasn’t long until we were once again out of the canoe.  This time, the obstacle was a large tree that had fallen across the mouth of the creek.  This tricky lift over requires a keen sense of balance.
  • Next there was a 240 m portage into an unnamed lake.
  • Finally, there was a long 1,055 m portage into Ghoul Lake. This last portage was a bit difficult.  Lots of big blowdowns that we had to crawl over or under. Getting to the river was a relief because we now had no more portages.

Tip: On the swampy portages, walk where the moose walk. I followed tracks for most of that portage and never sank into the mud.

Onto Ghoul Lake and paddling upstream, we were surprised a few times by rocks as we couldn’t see them in the incredibly brown water. After a strong swift, we were on Paul Lake. Towering cliffs and emerging blue skies made it a beautiful paddle.

We arrived at what we thought was a campsite. It was on the east side and had a fire pit, but no sign. Both maps say it’s in different places. Not sure if there was another site further on, but with the wind getting stronger, we chose to stay. We debated on going to the other site across the lake but it looked really dark and closed in (not good for bugs).

Our tent was set up in the only “flat” place available, a sloped rock up behind the fire pit that caused us to slide down and hit the end of the tent while in our sleeping bags.

With the sun beating down on us atop the extremely exposed rock, we made the hottest fire ever to boil some water and had some freeze-dried meals before getting ready for bed.

I tried to find a bear hang location but everything was too small and weak. By now, all we had was breakfast and lunch for the next day so the dry bag maybe weighed 5 pounds. With five of my closest deer and horse fly friends buzzing around me, I was losing my patience trying to throw the rope up. I finally got it, hung the food, got a sunset shot and ran to the tent where Jessica had been for a while.

With the fly off the tent and still too hot to be in our sleeping bags, we settled down for our worst sleep of the trip.

Campsite:  East site on Paul Lake marked with flagging tape

Day 7: Paul Lake to Access Point (5 km)

Waking up to grey skies and a feeling of rain in the air, we packed up very quickly, skipped breakfast (a big deal for us) and got on the water.  I have a small car and the roads were bad enough in dry conditions.  If it rained, we would be there another night because I was sure we would not make it out. 

We were on the water at 6:50 am, and because this was the earliest we had been on the water and we were doing small river travel, we chose to not talk the whole way in hopes of seeing wildlife. Up to this point we had only seen loons and other birds. Well, we saw more birds, namely a mother duck protecting her young by leading us away from them.

Hitting some Class 1 rapids/swifts and travelling against the current, we had to get out a few times and walk up. Seeing the access point was bittersweet.  We were sad the trip was over, but happy to get some sanity away from the bugs.

After dragging the canoe over the last little bit, we realized that if you had a well equipped off road vehicle, you could drive over the river and continue down the road on the other side.  I suggest you scout it first though!

Putting things in the car and changing into clothes that weren’t gross, we mounted the canoe, started the car (yay it turns on) and headed back down the road.  A beautiful drive later and now out on roads where we could go faster than 20km/h, we got some well-deserved lunch and headed home.

Trip Video

You watch the full Four Part Video Series here.

Reflections

Overall, we completed the loop in the time we wanted to.  No one got seriously hurt and nothing super bad happened.  We got to all our destination lakes except one and we walked away wanting to go back for more. In the future, we would choose a less difficult route, or allot more time.  

The things that didn’t go well were mainly my map reading skills. Getting lost a few times cost us a lot of time.  It only comes with experience to really understand how big everything really is when comparing to a tiny map.  Add to that, our map lamination failed on the first day and the whole thing got wet. So it was hard to read sometimes and I had to use my phone more often. 

My advice to anyone doing a route in Temagami: do your research.  I say this weirdly in the wrap-up of the video series but in the end, Jessica did hours and hours of research on the route.  Without that, we would have been in way over our heads and might still be there to this day trying to get out.

Another piece of advice: if you have to double carry portages, account for the extra time.  These portages aren’t the sunshine and rainbow kind you see in Algonquin.  It took us twice the time on most portages than normal because every step is difficult.  

Gallery


Author Bio

Matt and Jessica began canoe camping in 2015 and have slowly increased their skills over the years, allowing them to venture to new and more remote locations. They both share the same love and passion for the great outdoors but prefer different tripping styles. Jessica prefers easy going site seeing trips (even though the Temagami trip was her idea) and Matt prefers very difficult remote trips with complete solitude. With so many places to explore and so little time, Matt and Jessica have a never ending list of adventures to look forward to.

Instagram@MattHauhn
YouTube: Matt Haughn

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