Thursday, June 17, 2010


TOP Photos L & R
The Mt. Goat portage. Don't trust that rope!iT'S 80 VERTICAL FEET
MIDDLE ROW PHOTOs : Me and third falls > a scene hard earned. LOOKING down over the abyss
BOTTOM PHOTOS, LEFT :My truck at the takeout. Where's the nearest pizzeria?

The last of the three great waterfalls is just at the end of the lake on which I camped the night before. This biggy has the most difficult portage of the three, the famous "Mountain Goat " portage. It's the norm to do this portage river left, although another route exists on river right. I sort of wished I had at least checked out the other less-used side to see if it was indeed more difficult and longer (as said my old MNR trip notes). It may also have provided a better photo view from the top.

The portage is about 250 yards. Not difficult until the end where it drops a good 80 ft and is very steep, and vertical at the beginning for about 10 ft. I'm glad it wasn't raining. Operating solo the entire job was particularly arduous because I kept the pace really slow to ensure safety. After cutting up a tree that had fallen over the top that winter. (I was the first one on the Kopka in 2010!) I started lowering the gear down, then the canoe. the really steep part is the first 20 ft or so. Then it angles to a pitch that can be walked down by holding on to a rope. I didn't trust the existing rope for my own self, just used it for the gear. Sometime soon the rope tied to that top tree is going to break. It was good in its time . . . real kernmantle . . . but the years are wearing it out. If your going, bring your own rope -- the old stuff might be gone or if not, you probably won't trust it. A few carabiners are going to come in handy, too. The D-Roller tm is a nice one for using as a pulley. I had two with me.

I think the entire portage took almost three hours. In a group the time would be much less because things could be passed up and down. I had only myself there and when all the gear was lowered over the edge, boat too. I followed down on a one-way trip all by myself. The lowering was all done in stages. First a quarter of the way, then the rest. There's enough slope "platform" to keep things from going all the way down in freefall. I anchored a rope to a deadfall to hang on to as I moved down the rest of the way. The top part you climb down straight vertical.

When everything was at the river's edge at the bottom I paddled across to the other side and had lunch at the campsite there. You get a great view of the falls . The campsite though is used somewhat by locals (it's obvious) and a little on the blemished side -- trashy is too strong for it, but time may make it so. Not bad but glad I stayed at my little lake site upstream.

The course out of the canyon is beautiful and a fitting farewell path from the falls. Wigwasan Lake is large and uneventful. It's obvious that heavy winds could wreak havoc on any canoeing on this lake and Lake Bukemiga, but I was fortunate. The narrows into Lake Wigwasan are easily negotiated. About 2 miles past the rapids of the narrows, still in the SW arm of Lake Wigwasan, there is an island with a nice campsite on the south side. I took a break there and noticed a raven had built a nest in one of the nearby pine trees and her little darlin's would make a real racket when she came in with a mouthful of groceries. They probably nest there every year, so you may not have missed out my friend. Also this island would be a good place to stay on overnight if the winds were bad and going to tear you up when you hit the open water of the main lake. It was actually more pleasant than the more humanized campsite at the Lake Wigwasan/Lake Bukemiga connexion trail.

The course can be run easily between lakes Wigwasan and Bukemiga -- by now your an expert, right? Just stay to the right hand channel at the end where the water is deeper and you'll be fine. I checked out the campsite there, where I had originally planned to camp for my last night and decided it wasn't that great, so I just kept on. On Bukemiga, it was raining and I was concerned about the wind picking up the next day so I decided to camp at the takeout and drive off the next morning. In retrospect I should have spent one more night in the real bush instead of the very civilized camping ground/trailer park of the takeout.

There is actually a nice little campsite nestled in the woods on the right bank of Lake Bukemiga in the southeast arm just before it bends right and south for the last 1/3 mi. of paddling. Camping here the last night would just have meant a 20 min paddle in the morning in a protected inlet of the lake, and a fast exit.

Be that as it may, I proceeded to the takeout where I was met by a great furry dog of one of the local fishermen. There were some summer locals camping out in their trailers and they were a friendly bunch who insisted on giving me a few free beers and ultimately a great chili dinner to boot. There was plenty of grass, not rock now, on which to pitch a tent and I knew I wasn't in the wilderness anymore when an electric generator got going. But I had my earplugs, which I use anyway when sleeping near a rapid or waterfall, and I slept like a baby. In the morning I was offered a mug of steaming mocha by my buddy in the trailer and I know I'm back in civilization for real.

The truck gets loaded up and I say my farewells. On the way out I pass a black bear half sitting, lazily eating grass by the road. I roll down the window and say "hello bear !" He doesn't move and looks at me languidly, the expression on his face saying , "You must be new around here , Cheechako. "

I drive off . . . what a trip!

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