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Dickison lake Outers Trip 2014

Feb 1, 2013
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Geraldton, Ontario

Springtrip 2014 had originally been planned as a downriver run from Dickison Lake all the way back to Geraldton. However, about a week before the trip, Staff Haslam and Lavoie took a run down the Goldfield road to look at water levels. They were very high. The last three to four days of the planned trip involved a lot of whitewater and “must-make-eddies”. The crew this year was made up mostly of greenhorns. So it was decided that the trip would have to be changed. After much deliberation, it was decided that we would explore further south for a day or two, add a rest day, and then get out before the white water started. In retrospect, this was a good idea, as ten days after the trip, the water levels are still ripping.

Outers gathered by 8:00 AM on June 16, ready to strike out into the hinterlands of Dickison Lake. All ten canoes were secured and barrels loaded on the trailer by 9:00, and the bus arrived at 9:20. We arrived at the beginning of the first port at 11:55 and began unloading immediately.

Today’s travel consisted of two ports and around 12 K of paddling.
On the map below, we started at DP1, and old logging road, ported in 900 meters, paddled for ten minutes, completed a 90-meter port and then paddled for around 10 k to a campsite 2/3 of the way down Dickison Lake.

Dickison is a beautiful island studded lake, but on this day, we had a strong headwind to contend with. Several of the green horns struggled as we hopped from one island to the next down the lake.

We arrived at camp at 6:10, and Staff Lavoie quickly cleared the site out with his trusty chainsaw while the cooks got busy with the traditional first night spaghetti meal. By 7:30 everyone was eating and tents were set up.

Staff Lavoie had tried out my wonder cot that we have discussed so much on this site, and he liked it so much that he bought one for this trip. He said it would level out the most uneven surface.

As we retired for the night, the usual congregation of bloodthirsty bugs gathered both outside and inside our tent. This was my wife’s first extended canoe trip, so I was hoping that they wouldn’t be too bad. The good thing about black flies is that once they get into a tent, they won’t bug you, they just hang out on the ceiling.

June 17, Day 2 Sunny skies, 22degrees C, moderate winds.

Staff Haslam had told the kids the night before that it was a good day to sleep in until 8:00 AM, as today’s travel was not that far. However, at 6:30 AM, Assistant Brigade Leader Raymond got up and started the fire, and breakfast was ready by 7:30. There was some grumbling from the staff tent.

Today’s plan was to reopen the port between Dickison and Greenhedge Lake, and find a place on Greenhedge to camp. This area was all part of an old Outers trip that had not been done since 1989, and involved basically carrying a canoe from Greenhedge to Pays Plat and Lake Superior. It will probably never be done again, although Staff Lavoie continues to obsess about doing it one last time.

All Outers were on the water by 9:45 and proceeded down the placid waters of Dickison. An island past the narrows was checked out and noted as an excellent camping spot. The port to Greenhedge was reached at 11:00, and Staff Lavoie began cutting immediately. Haslam had cleared most of it in 2008, but it was once again fairly blown in. This was the first real port the Greenhorns experienced, and even though it was only 450 meters, there was much suffering. The heat and bugs made it a good introduction to the school of dedicated masochism.

One of the Greenhorns, who turned into a portaging machine.

ABL Raymond trying to get the peons organized.

A few people jumped into the river at the end, clothes and all, to cool down.

Canoe travel resumed at 1:00, with the objective of finding a campsite. Two islands a couple of kilometers from the port were checked out, with the second one revealing a lot of potential. At 2:30, Staff Lavoie began his chain saw magic, and an hour later a beautiful campsite emerged. A supper of stir-fry was served, and by 11:00 PM all that could be heard was the buzzing of billions of bugs.

Feeble attempts to dry footwear.

Blackfly bites!

June 18, Day Three, sunny, 22 C light winds.

Camp awoke at 7:00, but a few irregularities caused a slowdown, so we weren’t on the water until 9:48. A strong headwind faced us, but as we paddled up Greenhedge, the gusts gave away to light winds. Our objective was to return up Dickison Lake and camp across from the four ports we would need to tackle tomorrow. When we arrived at the same port we had done yesterday, the kids flew across. They were already becoming an organized and efficient crew.

ABL Evelynn loading here canoe at the end of the Greenhedge port.

The paddle up Dickison Lake was beautiful, sparkling waters, warm temperatures and light winds.

17-foot cedarstrip Pal

18.5 foot cedarstrip Quetico

My bows-wife Irene in the Spirit 2. I got used to this canoe on this trip, and don’t mind it. At 44 pounds, it is a joy to carry.

We arrived in camp around 3:30. It was the first real opportunity to go swimming, so our lifeguard Chance was kept busy. ABL Evelynn built a beautiful pole tent for the girls. Camp lazed around until 11:00 PM.

June 19, Day Four, sunny, 22 C, light winds. Very cold overnight

This was to be our first regular challenging day. There wasn’t a lot of paddling, but four ports, the last one a solid 800 meters. Camp awoke at 6:00 AM and a slow breakfast unfolded. Unfortunately, while loading the staff canoe, Irene slipped on a rock and wrenched her knee, a problem that would stay with her for the rest of the trip. However, the kids were troopers, voluntarily carrying her stuff.

6:00 AM

Bacon cooker extraordinaire

The first port of the day, 230 meters and river right, was reached at 8:30. Despite the horrible rocky one-canoe landing and launch sites, the crew of ten canoes was over in under an hour. Outers formed a chain-gang at the far end, and sped up the loading process ten fold. The next two ports, also about 230 meters, and located river left, were attacked with a similar strategy. By 12:18, all three ports and lunch had been finished by this record breaking crew.

Cedarstrip boys

Packing it like pros!

Lunch at end of third port.

Falls at end of third port.

The chain-gang loading up the brigade

We arrived at the forth port of the day, the 800 meter transit, at 12:30. The Outers pulled out all the stops here. Despite the port needing to be cleared by Staff Lavoie and a couple of firemen, they still managed to get on the water on the other side by 2:43. This was officially a new record for this particular port.

Staff Lavoie had taken his quad up the road by Flag Lake the previous weekend and located a nice site in a gravel pit for a campsite for the night. The Outers paddled the five kilometers to this site and arrived at 3:45. Staff Haslam had to immediately get things organized for a food pickup four more kilometers down the river. Additionally, it had been prearranged that two students would leave at this time as well. Two canoes left at 4:15 and arrived at the pickup spot at around 5:00, where Staff MacIver was awaiting us with treats and food resupplies. The extra canoe was sent back, and Staff Haslam and ABL Raymond made their way back to camp.

Camp was quite beautiful, with lots of room for tents to occupy, giving staff a much needed rest from the hordes of energetic teenagers. A fantastic supper of Hamburger Helper was served. After Frisbee playing and supper, camp retired at 11:00PM.

Head Fireman Noah tries his hand at cooking.

Cook Alanna chopping up the peppers

Busy firemen!

More futile drying attempts

The inside of the boys tent, 12 x 14 canvas prospector.

Staff site, blessedly quiet and shady.

June 20, cloudy with sunny periods, light winds, 20 C

Today’s agenda was to paddle back up Flag Lake and north on Kamuck Lake. From there we would port over two ports to Keanne Lake.

We left camp at the leisurely time of 11:00 AM, and arrived at the first short port at the north end of Kamuck lake at 12:00.

We were off that port at 1:00 PM, and on to the next one within minutes. We had expected it to be quite bad, with a variety of swamp holes, but once, Staff Lavoie cleared it, the 500 meters was just average on the suffering scale. The kids were also becoming tougher, so they didn’t notice the bad parts as much. We had a late breakfast, so we delayed lunch until we could get onto a small rock island on Keanne Lake at about 3:30.

“Seagull Island”, our lunch spot for day five.

In the cities around here, they have motorcycle gangs. In our town we have canoe gangs, who disappear for days at a time, only to resurface, smelling bad and looking dirty. Watch out for those Nova Craft riders, I hear they are real bad @sses!

We found this campsite after spotting the old trappers cabin. We’re guessing it’s at least 80 years old. After some clearing, this site has become one of our favorites.

The girls are always ahead of the boys when they set up their tent. That is mostly due to the good work of ABL Eveline, who keeps here little peons working.

The boys set good tents too, they just need more time. They like to try innovative techniques for tent setting , like the one shown below:

Supper is always a highlight of the day. Tonight’s fair was smokies, rice, carrots, greenpeppers and mushrooms. Shown below, HF Noah is taking a turn at cooking again.

And here are some of the other cooks preparing the line for a superb meal!

Later that night, there was much song singing around the campfire, lead by Staff Irene. Camp retired at 11:00 PM.

June 21, overcast, warm, light winds.

Camp rose at 6:00 Am with some anxiety about what the day would bring. The day’s objective was to reach Toupee Lake. In order to do so, two ports had to be crossed. The first one was known as Hell Port, due to the sucking loonsh@t that made the 500 meter port almost impossible to walk on. The second port was an old burn over of 880 meters that traditionally cooked people if the weather was hot due to the lack of canopy.

Outers paddled down Keanne Lake at 9:00 AM. There is usually a beaver dam lift over at the end of Keanne which presents some problems, but due to high water it was easily and quickly negotiated.

Lift over at end of Keanne Lake.

Hell Port was reached shortly afterward, and to everyone’s surprise, it didn’t even rate as a Purgatory Port. There were a few wet spots, and a couple of people lost lose shoes to the quagmire, but on a scale of suffering, it was easily a 4/10. Everyone was over it by 11:30.

Cook Destiny lost her sneaker in the mud and had to go diving for it. She got it back!

We proceeded to the entrance of the next port and started lunch at 1:00PM. Staff Lavoie went ahead with two firemen to clear the port. The chainsaw seemed to be going forever. At 1:30 Outers started porting, and were finished by 4:00. A short paddle across Toupee Lake brought us to the excellent campsite. A rest day was scheduled for the next day, so spirits were high.

June 22, Overcast, 22 C

A day of eating! It all started at 9:15, when ABL Raymond began cooking pancakes for everyone. He turned out masterpieces, one at a time for each Outer. He even perfected the frying pan flip, no spatula needed!

Chef Raymond

The hungry Masses!

A big fishing party was organized next. We knew that there were lots of walleye in this lake; there were several cleaned carcasses in the water in front of our campsite. Four canoes got together, including the female Haslam, and headed out to get enough fish for a piscine feast.

While the fishing party was gone, Staff Haslam and ABL Evelynn got out the reflector oven. There is quite a story behind this oven. Our very own OM on this site built it and mailed it to us all the way from the U.S.A. We hadn’t had a chance to try it out since we received it, so today was the to be the learning curve. The students wanted to give OM a big thank you, as the results far exceeded expectations.

We started with a banana muffin mix, because it only needed water. HF Noah mixed it up and Evelynn poured it into the pan and placed it in the oven. We kept a close eye on it, and in a little under an hour it was done.

We continued to use it all afternoon. Two batches of carrot cake, one more of banana, and three batches of biscuits, all devoured with the enthusiasm of starving teenagers.

So once again, OM, a big thanks. This is a permanent part of our cooking practice now. We had never used one before, and we will never be without it again. From my Ojibway Outers, a Gitchi Megwetch.

The fishing crew was skunked, except for one pike caught by ABL Erik, and filleted by HF Tanner. Staff Irene cooked it up, and even though most of us northern folk don’t eat a lot of pike, in the absence of any walleye, it was quite tasty.

We had planned on a fish fry to go with fresh biscuits, but we ended up eating rice for supper, along with a lot of baked goods. All in all, it was one of our best rest days in a long time. As night fell, the bacon was cut in preperation for tomorrows long travel.

June 23, sunny and hot, light winds

Camp was up at 6:18 and on the water by 8:00. It was going to be a long day, so everyone was moving quickly. Our destination was Wintering Lake, and to get there we had to navigate a narrow creek full of log jams.

Girl’s tent was dropped in record speed, with some occupants still in it.

Head Cook Amy sped breakfast along and canoes were loaded quickly.

Head cook Amy.

The first ten kilometers of the creek flew by in record time, and Haslam was sensing that we would arrive very early at Wintering. The water was high, and the log jams seemed to have disappeared. He decided to call the bus and tell them to meet the Outers at 4:00 instead of waiting until the next morning.

At around 1:00 PM, the Outers hit the small set of rapids on this section of the Kenogamisis. Traditionally, there were very few log jams after the rapids. It was a mistake to assume this . Suddenly, a myriad of log jams popped up, usually with less than a 100 meters between them. Poor Staff Lavoie was forced to do his spiderman routine, hanging form the canoe and chainsawing.

The “Spiderman” Lavoie!

The Spiderman clearing around a huge blowdown.

Outers practicing Limbo under the blowdown.

Lots of maneuvering occurred over the next two hours as we fought our way through a mere 2 kilometers of log jams.

We arrived at the bridge around 2:00 PM, and got everything parked and ready for the bus. The bus arrived at 3:30, and we departed by 4:00. Rain came down in droves. We had made eight days without getting rained on once. Outers arrived back at the shop at around 6:15 and work ensued quickly, hanging tents and cleaning up. The shop doors closed at 7:15. Another spring trip was finished.
Jul 25, 2012
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Well, I'm admit I was waiting for this report fearful that maybe that the oven wouldn't work for you. Had I known that your ABL Evelynn was running the show I'd have had more confidence! I remember her fiercely determined mud splattered face from another of your wonderful trip reports. If I've done any good here it's been way more than balanced by the pleasure of reading your reports and studying the great photos. Such fine young people, their expressions are priceless and warming.
One in particular; little girl in blue holding yellow rope, with the girl's tent dropped on some of the occupants. The gestures so remind me of my daughters at that age. She's trying so hard, now how did that happen??!

The young folks are obviously the focus here, as they should be, but without your leadership and guidance, patience and forbearance Rob, none of this would have happened. My hat is off to you.

The trip is over; it exists in memories and photographs now. All those little snippets will fade, memories will be supplanted by the concerns that the tomorrows will bring. Rob, have you ever thought of writing down some of the high (and low) points of your trips? No kidding, I could see a book here; something on the order of 'All Creatures Great and Small.' Think about it, nobody could do it except you.

With sincere admiration, friendship and many thanks, Rob
(the other rob)
Feb 1, 2013
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Geraldton, Ontario
Well Rob, thanks for the kind words and once again, the amazing oven. Gavia, the Outers Club is a wilderness canoe club that has existed at our school in Geraldton, Northern Ontario, since 1967. I run the latest incarnation of it. The structure of the club is based on the old york boat style brigade system. New students start as peons, then work their way up through the ranks of fireman, cook, Head Firemen (HF) or Head Cook(HC), Assistant Brigade leader (ABL) and finally Brigade leader (BL). By the time they reach BL, they are usually fairly competent trippers. We do almost all of our trips on Crown Land around our area. The canoe routes are generally only travelled by us, and once we stop using them, they often disappear. Staff Lavoie is my buddy who takes time off his job every year to come with us and work his chainsaw magic. Pretty sure i wouldn't be able to keep the program going without him. I was lucky to have my wife join me this year as the female chaperone too….it's darn hard to find women who will go into the bush for extended periods of time.
Dec 7, 2011
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Maryland, USA

I notice that the school is a "composite" school. Too bad it isn't a "wood and canvas" school or a "stripper" school. No, I guess the last wouldn't pass muster. :)
Great TR. Love seeing the kids having the adventure of doing this. Thanks for sharing it with us, Rob. Hope Irene has healed OK.
Jun 12, 2012
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Appleton, Maine
I always enjoy reading these reports, I sort of knew the Outers where out there tripping a few weeks back and I wondered how things where going. I can't imagine the work and planning that goes into a group trip like this, then out there with different personalities and needs of the kids, it takes a special group of adults to make it come off smoothly.
I go back to these postings from time to time and view the pictures, trying to read between the lines, looking to gather more information about how much is involved, how did you get that young man or women to do that task and what a great experience it is. Sneakers, jeans, cotton Tees with crazy stuff written on them, mud everywhere, so many smiles, tripping in a wild part of your country that you have to fight for every inch, these things must surely give the kids the feeling if I could do this and have fun, I can pretty much do anything I set my mind to.
Thanks for sharing this report with us and Thanks for doing what you do "Outers" staff.
Plus a Thanks to Oldie Moldy for sending that oven over, not a small deal at all, the results looked excellent, nothing like a bunch of kids watching/tending a fire and seeing desert develop right before their eyes, Good for You OM!
Sep 8, 2012
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Another trip those kids will remember forever! Great work! My sisters, now in their 50s, still recall their trips with the outers club at Sir Winston Churchill CVI in Thunder Bay. They gained an appreciation for the outdoors, the ability to work together, the shrugging off of a lot of minor suffering ( bugs, loon shit, etc) and a lot of self confidence. I missed out on it, maybe the reason I'm overcompensating now...hmmmm Anyway, I second the suggestion that you write a book of vignettes or a canoeing memoir.