Brain Lake 2010 - by Geoff Meers

July 4th to July 7th

(Drove up from Hamilton to Mattawa July 3rd)

Day 1 - On the morning of July 4th, went to permit office in Mattawa. It was still closed, so we had to wait till 10:30 am before we got our permits. Leaving Mattawa, we made our way down Hwy 17 to Boundary Road then to Daventry Road. Once past the boundary sign to Algonquin, the road got really rough. We arrived at the parking lot at Brain Lake 1 hour after getting our permits.

Brain Lake Parking Lot

Dock at Brain Lake

Off just before lunch, we headed across Brain Lake to the 215 portage to Brain Creek. Then we did the 65 meter and the 845 meter portageas .. with a single carry . We continued on doing the 100 meter portage to Stretch Lake, due to the low water. After dealing with the muddiest portage so far, we headed down Hurdman Creek into Stretch Lake. Then we did the 245 meter portage into West Corbeau Lake and then 3 portages leading to Hurdman Lake (120, 165 and 80 meters).

Now in Hurdman, we continued to Lower Hurdman and did the 130 meter portage into Laurel Lake .. doing them all double carry as the portages were in poor shape. We crossed Laurel quickly and grabbed water at the south west corner (the dam). We saw a massive turtle before we headed over the last portage of the day (130 meters into Little Cauchon).

We grabbed the first site right after the bridge. By then it was after 7:30 pm. We set up camp quickly. We ate only a few snacks, moaned-and-groaned about our booboos and called it a night.

View from campsite, Little Cauchon

Looking up Little Cauchon

Solo canoeist on Cauchon Lake

Day 2 - We woke up around 7, explored the site, had breakfast, packed up and left by 11. We encountered strong headwinds the entire length of Little Cauchon. We passed under the bridge and into Cauchon Lake where we yet again had to battle strong headwinds.

We stopped for lunch on the south shore 3 sites from our exit to Mink Lake at 2:30'ish. While having lunch, we saw a solo canoeist coming down the lake using the wind to speed effortlessly by us. We left round 3:15 and continued on to the 440 meter portage to Mink Lake. We arrived just before 4:00 at the portage which had a logging road halfway through it. We then paddled across to the other shore to the 1165 meter portage into Club Lake.

We leap frogged thru our day’s portages, ending at the lumber building remains. After briefly checking out the building and car parts, we made our way through a multitude of lilly-pads to the lower part of Club Lake. We arrived at our site with the sun getting low in the sky, also with the realization of having pretty badly sunburned feet. We got camp set up and we fed by 8:30pm and then relaxing by the fire till 9:30. It was then beddy-bye time after tons of mosquitoes, black flies and sun. Woke up round midnight to the sounds of frogs and after a short time went back to sleep.

View from the 440 portage

Lilly Pads of Club Lake

Club Lake campsite

Day 3 - I woke up at 7 and my feet were burnt pretty bad. Despite the sunburned feet, we decided to go on. We had a breakfast of coffee, tea and oatmeal. We then packed up the site and made our way to our next portage, the 610 into mouse. We completed that portage in 25 minutes, due to it being so hard to walk on burned feet. We got to Mouse Lake and there were bear prints all over the little sandy area at the end of the portage.

We started off across Mouse and the winds got crazy and we were being broadsided by waves. We only made it as far as the second site on the northeast side of the lake and came out of the water. The entire rest of the day was incredibly windy and never stopped, so we made camp slowly and checked out the site. It was big and loaded with garbage (household cans of raid, drinking boxes, bread ties, broken tent poles, pop cans and food wrappers). After cleaning up and burning what we could, we ate and spent time checking out the adjoining site.

We retired to the tent shortly after 8:30 and the wind finally began to dissipate. Hearing this ever so soft buzz slowly getting louder, we realized it was “the borg” (mosquitoes) approaching. Now would be our tents test. We finally crashed out about 9:30.

Club Lake Morning

View of beach, Mouse Lake campsite

Mouse Lake campsite

Day 4 - We woke this morning about 7, got out of the tent, and started to decide what the course of action for the day was. After having coffee and breakfast, we decided that there was not enough time to complete our original loop trip. So, we decided to begin our return to Brain Lake via the way we had already completed.

We packed up and left Mouse Lake by 10 am and started back to the 610 meter portage to Club Lake. We continued back thru Club Lake, the 1165 to Mink Lake, and the 440 to Cauchon. Now we had an awesome tail wind all the way down Cauchon Lake and Little Cauchon. It sure beat the headwinds of a few days earlier. We managed to cover all that in half the time and completed the 130 into Laurel Lake around 4:30 and grabbed water again at the dam.

We decided to push on and stay in Lower Hurdman Lake. It was 5:15 by time we made camp at Lower Hurdman. Everything looked new .. new benches, new huge pile of wood and a brand new Thunderbox. What more could you ask for! We set up and got water, found a spot for the bear rope and set out investigating the area. For supper we had beef stroganoff and crystal light and watched as the sun began to go behind the trees across the way. The next day would be 9 portages on painfully burned feet, so lots of burn cream went on before bed.

Leaving Mouse Lake

Our campsite, Lower Hurdman Lake

Lower Hurdman Lake

DAY 5 - We woke to gray skies. We made breakfast and sat around the morning fire with coffee, anticipating the return trip. It was then time to pack up from what turned out to be our favorite campsite of the trip and began our trip up Hurdman Lake and the 3 portages on Hurdman creek (80, 165 and 120).

We never did see the campsite on West Corbeau, but we did see the cabin at the beginning of the portage to Stretch Lake. Once in Stretch Lake, we saw hawks throughout the cliffs overlooking the lake and did the 100 meter portage around the stinky mud pit. We enjoyed washing our feet off in the little lake between the 100 meter portage and the 845 to Brain Creek.

Once done cleaning and cooling our feet we made our way thru the portages on Brain Creek to Brain Lake (845, 65 and 215). While at the 65 meter portage we began to hear helicopters and started seeing a lot of airplane flying low. Wwe heard on our way home that a Father/Son had gone missing near that area and were found. We paddled around Brain Lake for a half an hour and then the inevitable departure back home.

Looking up Lower Hurdman Lake

Phae at the 845 portage to Brain Creek

Brain Lake, looking north