Killarney - Bell to Panache (great bear encounter)

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Sorry there are no pics with this report...you will see why when you read on. This is a great route in Killarney if you want away from the crowds and off the well travelled routes which I refer to as the Killarney Highway. Give this route a try. This is an old report form 2010 but I thought I 'd add it to this site for other.

Day 1 – Thursday August 12th, 2010

After reading Kevin Callan’s book on Killarney and the French River (10-12 times now), the Lake Panache Loop trip is one that has always intrigued me. I was wanting to get off the “beaten trail” of the regular routes and see a corner of the Park that is less frequently travelled. It was for this reason, the Panache Loop was going to be my 2010 Killarney trip.We were travelling in a group of four; three experienced trippers and one “first-timer.” We met at Bell Lake access point at 9am, and due to an email or texting misunderstanding, had to wait for our fourth party to come over from George Lake. We still faired out well, leaving the access point at 10:15 am. This was the maiden trip for my new Kevlar 15’ Prospector Canoe that I took delivery of just the day earlier. While loading the canoes, I once again realized that I have over packed and had a pack of at least 70 pounds. It’s time to reduce and trim the weight for the next trip.We started out across Bell Lake and the weather could not have been nicer. The sun was shining and temperatures were perfect. If anything, it was a little hot. About a half hour up the Lake, I realized that I left my camera on the log at the access point. My first “SPUT” of the trip. We summons a couple with their family returning to the access asking if they found it to leave it in the office. Now we’ll have no pictures. The paddle up Bell was an easy one taking us to the 30 meter portage into Balsam. We came upon the old Tram-way that is no longer functional. The rails are showing their age and the cart is removed. The cement pathway once used for the tram made for an easy carry into Balsam Lake. The portage was busy with returning trippers and day travellers but it made for friendly conversations. The trip across Bell was about 1.5 hours.The paddle up Balsam Lake was beautiful. The water was calm and the weather was still holding up. The afternoon sun was now starting to beat down so a swim was in the near future. Balsam Lake is scattered with very nice campsites, with rock faces and great swimming. The lake is very sheltered from prevailing winds which didn’t really exist on this day. After about an hour we were nearing the marsh and bogs leading into Deacon Lake. We were warned of the low water levels and the possibility of having to line our canoes into the Deacon Lake. This is where the adventure begins. Within 20 meters into the swampy waters, our canoes flattened out and bottomed out on the mug bog bottoms. We were forced out of the canoes and were pushing them over the bog. Every step would result in sinking up to the knee or hip as we used the canoes to stay on top of the floating weed mass. This continued for about 200 meters until we came to the small creek and lift over into Deacon Lake. This passage during low water is un-passable unless willing to submerge yourself in the mud and bog as we did. It’s definitely not for the faint at heart or young family. Once into Deacon Lake, the Lake opens up to a small sheltered lake. It’s very quiet with only one campsite on the center island. I’m sure with the bog we travelled through; this site will be available all year. The paddle across Deacon Lake is about 300 meters taking to a 210 meter portage into Fox Lake.The portage is an easy carry and well maintained. Fox Lake is also a sheltered Lake with no campsites. It’s a weedy and muddy Lake but beautiful in its own way. The trip across the Lake is only a kilometre and easily done in about 20 minutes. This will bring you to the longest portage of the loop.The portage into Peter Lake is 1322 meters but it’s a little more challenging than the others. This is your typical Killarney Portage that goes up hill both ways and never seems to end. The portage has a sharp incline at the start but then levels out and ends on a downhill slope into Peter Lake. Peter Lake is also a smaller Lake with no campsites on it. Something to consider to others that if you travel this route, once you pass Deacon Lake, your next Lake with a campsite is Panache. The paddle across Peter Lake was short taking your directly east. On this day we had the West wind at our backs but this lake is not well sheltered and an East wind would be a battle here. We arrived near the east end of the lake to a 460 meter portage into Hideaway Lake. Hideaway Lake is actually a bay on Panache Lake.Once we made it over the relatively easy 460 meter portage, we saw our first signs of civilization since Balsam Lake. Panache Lake is known for its fishing and has several lodges and cottages on it. The southern shore where we were is not that habited but a small lodge can be seen across from the portage. From the portage, it’s a short 1 kilometre paddle to campsite 230 on Panache. There are only 2 sites on the east end of Panache but the park office told us there is plenty of Crown Land open for camping if they are taken. This area of the park is still new and the campsites have not been developed to the fullest. Campsite 230 has beautiful swimming, it’s clean and spacious. There is no thunder-box and the fire pit is meagre to say the least. This is a really nice site though. This was the perfect site to lay back, unwind from what was an unexpectedly hard day. A dinner of curried chicken with rice, a little backwoods cocktail and it was off to bed. The first day was about 7.5 hours to complete but it was hard day to say the least.

DAY 2 – Friday August 13th, 2010

After the perfect night’s sleep, we woke and got breakfast going. There’s nothing like bacon and eggs to start the day. The weather was still holding up for us but a wind was now present for our pass across the largest Lake of our trip. The wind was coming in from the East which is never a promising sign for the weather. We started our paddle out of the Hideaway Lake, through a narrow channel and out into the main part of Panache Lake. Travelling through Archie Narrows and into Burnt Narrows, we were mostly sheltered from any strong winds. The Lake is a nice paddle, passing by several island cottages. There were a few motor boats on the lake but nothing to contend with. Once out into Burnt Narrows, we took advantage of the wind at our backs. With both canoes together, the tarp was set and we sailed down Panache for 3 kilometres. Heading south into Taylor’s bay is a beautiful paddle through islands and bays, bringing us a short 119 meter portage over to Brown’s bay. From this portage, it’s a meagre 500 meters to the 477 meter portage into Frank Lake. Frank Lake is a small weedy Lake that is well sheltered. The entries and exits to the portage are mud and weeds making them tough to negotiate. IT was at the end of this portage where I found myself pulling 4 leeches from my leg. The wind had slowly changed to a south wind and was now into our faces. The paddle across Frank Lake is only 200 meters and you’ll quickly find yourself at the 315 meter portage into Harry Lake. Harry Lake is a well sheltered lake with four campsites on it. It’s open and clean and all the sites we saw were good. We chose to travel straight across the lake and stay on site 130. The site has a great rock face for swimming, very large but is lacking in tent space. We had three tents in our group and finding level ground for them was a challenge. I ended up placing my tent about 50 meters back into the bush from the campsite in order to find level ground. This was a mistake as I learned through the morning hours. (I’ll explain later). A dinner of pirogue casserole, a quick solo fishing trip around the bay netting 2 small mouth bass, a couple back woods cocktails and it was off to bed. The night was quiet and the site was well sheltered from the southerly winds that were now picking up.

DAY 3 –Saturday August 14th, 2010

Before the light of day, at 4:15 am, I was awoken to a noise of some sort and when I looked to the roof of my tent, I noticed the tent was tilted to the one side. In a sleepy state I couldn’t quite figure out what was happening until I looked out my screen door to see a black bear standing on the end of my tent vestibule, just feet from my head. I slowly say up, and clapped my hands (in fear of course). The bear took off and tripping over the vestibule, took it out of the ground with him. After scrambling for my whistle in the gear loft of the tent, I made my way outside to make sure the bear had not just feasted on our food (that was secured.). Once out of the tent, I realized the bear had not run far. He was now 10 meters in front of me standing in a gulley facing my direction. I blew my whistle and did what we have always been told. I backed up slowly, facing the bears direction (it was still to dark to make him out completely), and continued to blow my whistle. The bear let out a grumbling roar, stomped the ground and then turned to run away. By now my heart was in my throat, and I began to wonder why I’m not hearing the sound of my canoe partners tent zippers opening. Well within seconds, everyone was out confused and a little nervous of what had just transpired. The food was safe and all was good. There was no way I was going back to sleep now so I got up and watched the sunrise from the rocks. Two of our partners went back to their tent and got a few more hours with us on guard for a returning bear. The bear was never seen or heard again that morning. After a quick breakfast of hot cereal, we packed up and started our day. I was not sad to see that campsite go off in the distance behind us. From Harry Lake we paddled about 2 kilometres to the 705 meter portage taking us to Pike Lake. Pike Lake is known for its fishing but we didn’t bother at this point. We wanted to get down to the bottom of Bell Lake on this day and knew we were in for a lengthy paddle. The portage into Pike Lake is not the easiest one we’ve come across on this trip. It’ is full of hills, but is still a beautiful walk. We paddled across the main open part of Pike Lake to find ourselves in the weed chokes narrow section of the lake. The area is passable and easy to navigate. This lake brings back memories of Artist Lake on the other side of the park (for those that have been there.). After about a kilometre of paddling through heavy weed and lily pads, we came to the 400 meter portage heading over to Balsam Lake. This portage is right at a large beaver dam and the smell of rotting weeds and mud is almost choking here. The exit is steep and rocky but the portage is well maintained. Once we were through the portage, we entered into a weed choked bay of Balsam Lake. Navigating the weeds and floating bogs piles was a challenge but it wasn’t long before we were out paddling the open and familiar waters of Balsam Lake. The wind was strong but the sheltered nature of the Lake made the paddle relatively easy. The rain was threatening and the skies were overcast. After about a hour and half paddle we found ourselves at the 30 meter portage back into Bell Lake. The rain was now misting, just enough to annoy you but not get you wet. As we paddled down Bell Lake with the rain threatening us at our backs, we soon found ourselves at the last campsite for the trip. We took site 80 as the sites on the west side of this busy lake were all occupied. This site was a short 30 minute paddle to the access point making our last day an easy one. We set up camp in the misting rain, had a quick swim, and got dinner started. We feasted on dehydrated Sheppard’s Pie, a recipe I got from http://www.Maddythegoose.com. If anyone has not tried this recipe, I’d recommend it 100%. It is one of the best dehydrated meals I’ve ever made and perfect for those last days when the fresh foods have been consumed. Troy has a good recipe here. After dinner, the rain subsided, the Lake became a sheet of glass and I was ready for a quiet sleep. A few more back woods cocktails, a quick game of cards and it was off to the tent.

DAY 4 – August 15th, 2010

We woke to a calm, foggy morning with the Lake a flat as a mirror. The air was still and quiet. It was truly a beautiful morning to paddle out to finish the trip. After a pancake breakfast, a quick pack of our damp gear, we were off. It was a short half hour paddle to the access. We arrived just after 10am at the access, loaded up the car, tied on the canoe and were ready to leave. I went to the park office and was delighted to find that my camera that I left behind at the start of the trip was handed in by a fellow tripper. Canoe trippers and campers truly are a different breed and this instilled a new confidence in people to have my camera returned. I reported the low waters at Deacon lake to the offie staff so they could warn future travellers through that area. They took particular interest in the bear sighting as future campers may want this information also. We were soon off for town, a stop at the Fish and Chip wagon (a must) and then back home. I would encourage anyone to take this trip and see a part of the park few venture into. I would rank it as moderately difficult only because of the low water passage into Deacon Lake and the boggy weed filled passages between some lakes. The portages are fairly easy but the entrances and exits into them are muddy and weed filled. The trip is definitely remote, and you will see very few other people on this loop. I can’t be happier that I did this trip. I will now read Kevin Callan’s book again (14th time) with the personal experience of the trip in my head.
 
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It was too bad we didn't have the camera but it was nice to see someone turned it in and it got back to me.
 
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I had a follow up call from MNR after reporting this bear encounter to killarney staff. They were following up on a couple bears in that area and were quite interested. When I told him the bear's behaviour was text book bear behaviour, he responded by saying yes...but that's not text book camper behaviour. I guess most campers don't get out of their tents and chase bears away or put their tents right on game trails in the first place. hahaha.
 
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