Lady Evelyn / Maple Mountain Loop - Temagami - 7 Days

Total Distance: 117 km

Duration:  7 days

No. of Portages: 24 (Some can be avoided if running rapids)

Total Port. Distance: 9.7 km (based on Hap Wilson's distances, not from the map below)

Level of Difficulty: Moderate to Advanced depending on condition of portages and wind on Lady Evelyn Lake 

 

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

Page under construction....I'm working on it! 

 

Apparently, these irresponsible campers weren't the only ones to use this island as a makeshift campsite. Less than a week after we were there, I learned that other boneheaded campers used this island and didn't fully extinguish their campfire properly. A fire broke out that required fire rangers to camp on the island while putting it out and float planes to drop water bombs on the island. Sigh.

Leaving the island, we paddled to the 450m portage and made our way into Killarney Lake. Rounding the bend and getting into the open expanse of the lake, we were hit with a very steady headwind coming from the east. We crossed the bay and hugged the southern shore as we made our way northeast across the lake. I was very impressed with my daughter's strength in paddling during this crossing. It wasn't easy, especially across the large rounded bay at the south end of the lake. We had a rest at the base of some impressive cliffs after making this crossing. 

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Entering the narrower eastern end of the lake, which contains a couple of pretty quartzite islands, the wind was much more manageable. 

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We made our way to the end of the lake and decided to take our chances paddling up the creek rather than opting for the long 1375m portage. The water seemed high enough and we only had to lift over a couple of beaver dams. We stopped to have a lunch of cheese wraps at the first dam liftover and what a large dam it was! 

 

The creek itself was fine to paddle through, and with the Lacloche mountains in the background, it was very picturesque. 

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With about 200 meters or so before Norway Lake we ran out of water. We dragged the canoe over to the left side of the creek and couldn't really spot a path up to the portage. I bushwacked about 25 meters into the woods and found it easily enough. From here it was only a short carry to the put-in on Norway Lake. We were happy that we turned a 1375m portage into about 180 meters. 

 

The put-in on Norway Lake is in a narrow bay directly behind an island. We paddled around to the east end of the island and found the vacant campsite sitting high on a rock overlooking the bay and the northern expanse of the Lacloche range. It was a nice site and we happily set up camp. The other campsite across the bay was vacant, so we had this entire bay to ourselves. The site even came equipped with an outhouse!

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The rest of the day was spent swimming, exploring the lake and relaxing at the site. After a lovely pasta dinner, a loon floated past. I thought I'd pull out my loon call that I learnt to do as a kid and, low and behold, it actually worked! The loon turned around and started swimming toward our site. It swam in circles a bit before realizing something was "Rotten in Denmark", or in this case, "Rotten in Norway", and dived into the depths of the lake. My daughter happened to get some of it on video. 

We had a nice night by the campfire discussing my daughter's future. She is going into her final year of high school during a pandemic and there is a lot of uncertainty in her life. Decisions need to be made. Not only are backcountry canoe trips an excellent escape from the trappings of modern living, they are also a great place to step outside of one's life and invite some introspection and contemplation.  

 

Day 4

 

We didn't know it when we woke up that morning, but this would be our last day of the trip -- and what a long busy day it would be. Our original plan was to do the long portage from Norway into Kakakise, pausing to hike up to Heaven Lake halfway along, and stay our last night on one of the two sites on Kakakise to do a bit of fishing. It was to be a relatively short day, so we took our time in the morning and didn't leave the site until shortly after 10 am.  We turned around to take one last shot of our campsite before leaving. 

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We paddled around the bend and into the southern bay of Norway Lake, passing another campsite along the way that was occupied.

 

The take-out to the 1425m portage was on a beach which made the process of getting out of the canoe easy. After the first 100 meters, the portage meets up with the Silhouette Trail. From here, there is a steep increase in elevation for a few hundred meters that gets the heart racing somewhat. At the height of land, the trail splits in two. To the left, the Silhouette Trail continues its way up the mountain and on to Heaven and Whiskeyjack Lakes; to the right, the portage makes a long gradual descent into Kakakise Lake. Here, we left our canoe and gear off to the side of the trail and we made a quick sidetrip up to Heaven Lake where we had read there was a nice view over the park. The trail scrambles over some rocks for a bit, crosses a rocky meadow and emerges at Heaven Lake, which is really not much bigger than a pond. 

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Just to the left of the lake, the trees open up and indeed there are fantastic southwestern views over Killarney Park and Georgian Bay. With the exception of Silver Peak, this location is among the highest in the park. In the photo below, the ridge on the horizon in the distance is Manitoulin Island -- the world's largest freshwater island! 

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After a short rest at this scenic location, we started back down the trail to the portage and our gear. We were accompanied by a solo hiker who was completing the entire Silhouette Trail in 7 days. He was nearing the end of his trip and we chatted a bit about our various hiking and canoing adventures. The longest hike I have done was a four-day hike in Nepal in 2013. It was a section of the Annapurna circuit in the Himalayas. This was relatively easy because our family hired porters; we did it when our children were still quite young. I also did a 3-day hill tribe trek on the Thailand/Burmese border back in the mid 90s. No doubt, these are once-in-a-lifetime experiences, but If I had to choose between hiking or canoing, I'd choose the latter. For me, hiking is a portage that doesn't end, but after learning a little more about the Silhouette Trail, it has now been added to my bucket list. It really seems to be an amazing experience. 

Back on the portage, we gathered our belongings and finished it in two trips. It wasn't too bad and was well-maintained. It even had a little bridge built on it to cross a creek. We were paddling out on Kakakise, the lake we had booked for the night, by 12:30 and passed by the vacant site on the eastern end of the lake. It looked a little bushy and at the end of June would be quite buggy at dusk, so we decided to take our chances to see if the other site further up the lake would be vacant. 

 

Kakakise is long and narrow. The northern shore is dominated by a high ridge that blocks any views further afield. A large island fills the centre of the lake. There is a private cabin or cottage on the eastern end of this island near the other site on the southern shore. When we passed it, there was a generator running that was making quite a bit of noise. The site there was also in a dense stand of trees. We knew there would be very little air moving through the site as it was near the island and in a narrow spot on the lake -- again, a mosquito haven. Hmmm, more mosquitos and the hum of a generator -- not ideal. Neither of the sites on Kakakise were appealing to us. Perhaps, we'd been spoiled by the amazing views and sites we'd had the previous two nights. 

 

It was here that we decided that we would hike up to the Crack and paddle back to our car by the end of the day. The only thing that we were concerned about was the long 1765m portage from Kakakise into Freeland. This meant our day would consist of the 1425m portage and the hike up to Heaven Lake, which we had already completed, AND the 3-hour hike up to the Crack, another 1765m portage AND the paddle back through Freeland and George Lakes. Whew! On the bright side, we had a lot of daylight left at the end of June. We were just hoping our energy would last! 

 

We paddled to the end of Kakakise and found the portage to Killarney Lake. From here, the trail continues northeast and up to the Crack. We ate lunch, filtered some water and started up the trail. The trail is quite steep, and as you get closer to the summit it involves scrambling over massive boulders. Before that, you need to pass through a narrow crevice, thus giving the hike its name. It was also VERY hot and we found ourselves going through our water at an rapid rate. It was busy along the route and at the summit, but after experiencing the views at the top, it is easy to understand why. 

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It was about 4:30 by the time we had returned to our canoe, had filtered some more water and were paddling west into Kakakise Creek. We came to a bridge and ran into a couple that was finishing the Silhouette Trail. We had met them at the Crack and hiked down the mountain together.

 

The water levels looked fairly high, and having luck the previous day on the creek into Norway, we'd thought we'd try heading into Kakakise creek rather than taking the 1765m portage. It was a bit of a gamble because if we got toward the end and couldn't get through, we'd be going all the way back through the creek again and then taking the portage and would probably run out of daylight. It was pretty clear sailing through the creek until we came to a massive beaver dam about three-quarters of the way along. Below this, it was a slog. We could see the eastern end of Freeland and knew we were close, but there was a lot of mud in between. The creek got too low to paddle, so we got out on the bank and I tied a line to the canoe and started lining it. It started off fine and I was bragging to Tanya how we had made the right choice as I demonstrated how to line a canoe. No sooner had I just uttered those words, when I sank hip-deep into the muck. Tanya howled in laughter, as did I, when I eventually pried myself out. Never get too confident on a canoe trip! 

 

The ground now was too soft on either side of the creek to line or wade. We had one option left. We got into the canoe, both standing up and poled our way through, using our paddles as poles. It was quite a balancing act, but in the end, it worked! We made our way into Freeland without dumping and portaged into George and were at the George Lake Campground by 7pm. I'd take a short mud bath over a gruelling 1765m portage any day! Tanya took a quick photo of my muddy lower extremeties at the portage into George. 

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Though our trip was shortened by a day, we felt good at the end. We were very tired and hungry after the long day, but it was a rewarding feeling.

 

We had a quick swim at the George Lake campground to wash the mud off us, loaded the car and headed out on the road. Just as we were about to pull out, the hiking couple from the Crack passed by our car. We laughed as we greeted each other for the third time that day.

 

From the highway, we phoned ahead to the Pizza Hut in Parry Sound and had a couple of pies waiting for us when we got into town around 9pm. Pulling into our driveway in Peterborough shortly after midnight, we left the canoe and gear in the car to be dealt with the following day, headed for the showers and driffted off to sleep in our beds thinking about the incredible trip we'd just experienced. Killarney is indeed the jewel that people claim it to be. 

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