Opeongo-Proulx-Big Crow-Hailstorm Creek-Opeongo then To Crotch Lake/Farm Lake

Aug. 31 - Sept. 14, 2016           by Wanda Spruyt

The mother-daughter part of this trip took place from Aug 31st to September 8th 2016. The Crotch and Farm Lake part of this trip was to take place from Sept 8 to Sept 14 and was going to be with a friend. But it turned into a solo due to my friend's sudden severe health problems.

The plan was to meet my daughter J. at Opeongo Lake, and to start our trip from there. It's quite a drive from our home locations, and with construction season in full swing, we anticipated delays. My trip would extend to two weeks, but J. had to leave after day 8.

Part One - Opeongo-Proulx-Big Crow-Hailstorm Creek-Opeongo

Day 1, Aug 31

The drive turned out to be fast and easy. We found ourselves hours earlier then anticipated at Lake Opeongo. We'd never started a trip from here, although we had been at the access point at another time. The water taxi wasn't till 5pm, so we had time, and lots of it. The weather was sunny and hot, so we unloaded my vehicle leisurely. I had all the bags and equipment in mine.

Then we took a stroll along the boardwalk, where we got talking to one of the boat drivers. He had no one to take at 3 pm, and wondered if we'd like to go then? We nearly jumped for joy. No need to tell us twice! So in high gear, we parked the vehicles, raced back. Thankfully, my daughter had already signed all the needed paperwork for canoes etc, so picking them up was a matter of minutes. Then we got on to the water taxi and off we were, in even better spirits than we already were.
Opeongo .. ready to go.

There was a very stiff breeze out of the north. And, traveling north in the water taxi became an excursion in bone-rattling wave-skipping. We were the only two on board. The young man seemed in great control of the boat, but going as fast as possible. I'm still surprised we didn't get pitched overboard sitting in the back with all the banging around over the waves. I would truly fear for people with hats, sunglasses not on tightly, as well as any other loose amendments! No wonder you have to wear your lifejacket. But, all too soon we slowed down and we arrived at the Proulx portage. There's a great new looking wooden dock, so unloading was a breeze.

Being early in the afternoon, we took our leisurely time portaging to the other side. It took two trips, as we were heavily loaded, meaning we do not have the most up-to-date- lightweight equipment, but rather a hodgepodge collected over the last 38 years. And, both of us have demanding outdoor jobs, so we like to eat. Therefore we bring lots of food, although all of it is dried but for the first couple of days' worth.

Our meals consisted of porridge in the morning with fresh eggs and bacon. Wraps with peanutbutter and nutella for lunch (or pancakes with dried fruit), cheeses, soup, pizza. Dinners are mashed potatoes/gravy, rehydr.veggies, carrots, or pasta with knorr herb /parmesan addition, campside made garlic bread, pasta/rice/mushroom sauce dinners etc , granola bars/fruitbars for snacks, and loads of coffee.

The portage was an easy path. But on our 2nd carry, I had a large backpack as well as a smaller one on front and two paddles. J. took the canoe and a pack, and hiked quickly out of my sight. Unfortunately, one of the lifejackets had come partly loose from underneath the canoe, and was bobbing behind her like a balloon on a rope as she walked , which tickeled my funny bone. I was chuckling to myself to the point that I had to stop for a breath once in a while.

Proulx portage.

She continued on without stopping, none the wiser. We arrived in short order at the pond, where you can make the decision to either hike around it or paddle across it. Just because we had lots of time, but also because my pack was real heavy, we decided to paddle.

Proulx portage pond.

It's only a short 300m hop. We carried on with the portage after that, hop schotching the packs until we reached the end. There we no bugs at all, but my it was hot! So we greatfully paddled out on to Proulx. It waw now early evening. And after a long day, it was time to find a home for the night. As the long weekend was coming up (we had arrived on Wednesday evening), we anticipated all the lakes to be real busy and were not surprised to find the first few campsites taken. However, that did not leave many available ones, so we took the first open one(PCI map campsite #2).

Proulx campsit #2 on the PCI.

The landing was terrible, with deep water, large uneven rocks, and thick shrubs which kept us from getting our dry bags out quickly and easily. But, I was done for, and wanted to stay regardless.

A cool breeze had sprung up. Under clear skies, it promised to be a cold night. This campsite is surrounded and populated with cedars, and, mosquitos LOVE cedar trees. As well, cedars like damp feet. It became loud and clear that this is NOT a summer site! The ground was spongy, but dry, thanks to the hot summer we just had, and we were guaranteed a soft sleeping spot. No bugs to speak of thanks to the cool night.

We made ourselves our beloved fresh food dinner, of steak, salads, and toasted garlic buns. Kidding around about the fact we thankfully hadn't forgotten anything important, we soon found out we weren't THAT good. After dinner it dawned on me that after last years trip I had chucked out the pot-scrubber and dish cloth, and that I hadn't replaced them. So now what to use? Sand was not an option at this campsite. It all of a sudden occurred to me I was carrying a J-cloth, strategically placed on my person. I often use J-cloths in my work outdoors and stash them everywhere. Tarraaaah! I produced the J-cloth, to a daughter whom nearly fell off the log she was sitting on, unable to stop laughing as she realized where the cloth had been stashed.

Scrubbing with something was more difficult to solve, although not immediately needed. The only scratchy and tough thing I could think of was to use a home knitted , very sturdy, goat hair sock. It was quite common in my mothers and grandmothers time that they knitted their own wool socks. It was cheap to do, and they are very long lasting, so I had several pairs with me, as they are the best for warmth. However, they are also very special to me, as I never could get excited about knitting them myself (although I do know how) and I have to treasure the stash my mother and grandmother left me. You should have seen their knitting needles fly when watching a good soccer game on TV!! Because of the memories, using one of the goat hair socks as a scrubbing pad was a great dilemma to me. So, only in utmost dire straights would I do that. Thankfully it wasn't necessary on this night.

Sunset on Proulx Lake.

Evening on Proulx.

Day 2, Sept. 1

It was a cool and sunny start to our morning. We slowly got ready to head out. We are not early birds, and have enough on a half word, until breakfast and coffee are consumed. Bacon and eggs and toasted, left-over buns .. then a couple of coffees and we were ready to pack up. There was no wind, and by what we guessed was about 10 am, we set off. Neither of us had a watch, and apparently, we had nothing else to tell the time with. We often go by the sun and daylight to tell time as well as our stomachs in our daily work. And I don't have a cell phone, and J's was in her car. We weren't concerned, as for the next 7 days it wouldn't matter anyway. We get up when awake, eat when hungry, and go to bed when tired or sleepy. It soon turned cloudy, and a nasty north wind picked up just as we hit the Crow River. It made for a workout and a half as a light drizzle fell.

Down the Crow River.

We had hoped to see some wildlife on the way, but had no success. We both loved the river travel, which was a first for J. Coming out eventually at Little Crow, we decided to have lunch before carrying on to Big Crow.

The burned-out out site on Little Crow really is a tiny site. But it protected us from the northerly breeze, and it was actually warm once we were out of the breeze. Happy that we made reservations on Big Crow Lake after having checked out the other 2 sites on Little Crow, we paddled onward. We then got the wind broadside from the north as we entered Big Crow. It was actually very windy. Checking campsites as we went (we were hoping for a beach site), we soon realized the campsites were mostly very large, and very much surrounded by cedar or pine. And there seemed to be no fire wood anywhere on or near the sites. The sites looked picked clean, and chopped clean of anything usable.

Crossing into the heavy rollers, we were forced to paddle north into the wind in order not to tip or get swamped. It was brutal, as we went two strokes forward and one and a half back. We are both strong paddlers, but we had the feeling we might not win this battle. After a good half hour, and still in the middle of the lake, a sudden lull had us turn the canoe south and aim for the east side where we thought we could see an empty site. The north wind immediately picked up again. But this time, we were able to get to the campsite reasonable easily by going with the rollers. A very large, elongated site awaited us, with our own sand beach (PCI map CS #1). The fire pit was surrounded by very large old logs, and there were level tent sites galore across all of the site.

Beach at CS #1 on Big Crow Lake.

Campsite #1 on Big Crow Lake.

We'd found our home for the next few days. However, to me, we had unwanted additions to the site. I cannot understand why some people find it necessary to build structures. To me it is a misguided sense of being useful. In this case, fresh cut hemlock saplings strapped to large pine trees, to try to create 2 different level tables. If I wanted a table I'll bring one from home. I find it disfigures the site, takes away the idea you're in a place where nature comes first. There was also an accompanying very large heap of stripped branches, still with green needles, unusable for anything. We proceeded to clean it all up, lamenting the fact that the arm thick poles used to create the table brace could not even be used for firewood when sawed up, as sap was still dripping out of them. What a terrible waste. No usable firewood to be found in or around the site, so we scrunched some wood from along the lake edge, just enough for a small fire.

Feeling better after the cleanup, we proceeded to set up our tents, and kitchen area. We watched the sun come out and help to warm things up. One of the new things we'd brought along, besides my MEC TVG2 tent, were lightweight foldable chairs. Mine could also be used as a canoe seat. J's was just a nylon adaptable strap contraption that fits over a standard size thermarest to form a chair. Her's turned out to be amazingly comfortable. It was even better when used with the grill (the heavy-duty ones on legs), so she didn't need to sit on the ground. It worked amazingly well.

Comfortable Chair.

It was quite easy to keep the soot from rubbing off the grill, by setting the grill in the water, and scrubbing it with sand. As we do not use an open fire for cooking, but rather an old peak 1 stove, the grill often did not need to be used.

Day 3, Sept. 2

It was another beautiful morning. We basked in the sunshine and warm temps, checking out the area surrounding our site. Our site was on a 4 to 5 foot rise above the beach, so we had a nice view out over the lake, unobstructed but for the sides of the bay we were in. Eager to see more of Big Crow, and realizing we would need to look for more firewood if we wanted a fire that night, we set out along the lake edge, soon realizing the whole lake is surrounded by lots of cedar (which burns hot and long) as well as red pine. Traveling north, we could see a long beach coming up on the east side, so we aimed for that, and having the map with us, it looked like a campsite was located there as well.

Beach near campsite #9 on Big Crow Lake.

Beach in front of campsite #9 on Big Crow Lake.

As you can see on the pics, this campsite was also huge, able to hold many tents on level spots all throughout. The entrance to the site is on a point and has a small beach of its own, the large beach being directly around the corner.

Firepit area of campsite #9 on Big Crow Lake.

And again we noticed there wasn't any firewood to be seen anywhere. We returned to our own site, as it had become very hot and we wanted to go for a swim. Walking out into the lake, we noticed the water was very clear, and there were a lot of fresh water clams on the bottom. They were standing up and had their shells slightly open, which means feet can get hurt badly. So, coming back in from our swim, we floated back as close to the beach as possible so as not to hurt our feet, managing to come within 2 feet of the beach sand.

As the hot afternoon progressed, we noticed foam forming along the edge of the bay. Thick dollops of it. There was almost no wind, so what was causing this? We watched and soon noticed a bright green soup starting to form, about a foot wide around the small bay. Algae! We started getting worried about drinking the water. Was it still safe? We always use tablets and wait a half hour. We now decided to double up the tablets and also boil the water for 4 minutes on a full boil. We found this show of algae fairly scary, as we knew that Lavielle was still closed due to an algae bloom. As the weather cooled into the evening, the foam and algae disappeared again. Thankfully, we did not get sick.

Day 4, Sept. 3

Up again and into another warm day. We were off on a daytrip to see how far we could get down the Crow River. We hoped to make it to the 1220m portage, or further. It was a lovely paddle to the first short portage. Wondering what we would find, we walked to the other end of the portage, where we were astonished to find it was not a river, but a trickle. Another party was returning, not wanting to go through and risk breaking an ankle on the slippery rocks. When we saw what we were up against, we bailed too.

What was left of the Crow River.

So, a new plan was needed. We decided to go and hike the old growth pine trail, which is close to the portage. It's a bit of a rough landing, but as soon as you take the first few steps you look up at a humongous pine, which turned out to be the healthiest one on the whole trail. The trail wends its way thru a mostly deteriorating forest, up a couple of steep hills, where many of the giants have fallen, although a few were still in good shape.

The trail all of a sudden seemed to stop after about 1km, we thought this was odd, turned around and walked a few feet back, where we noticed a pink ribbon alongside an old decayed kind of bridge over a small swampy area. We entered that and soon found the path continuing on, along a grove of old pine trees and in particular a beautiful large shell-bark hickory. We also noted that the undergrowth along the trail was not new pines as I would have thought, but hardwoods, like beech and sugar maples. It's an interesting trail if you are interested in trees, but it's not very scenic.

It was becoming very hot and buggy, so we headed back to the canoe and our campsite. This was the day for baking garlic bread along with stew and noodles and getting the bread to rise takes a bit of time.

Garlic bread.

Coming around into our small bay, we noticed we had gotten neighbours. Our campsite was close to theirs .. 3 young men in kayaks, who loudly pronounced to each other they were going to catch their dinner, as they brought very little else. They had come up in one day from Opeongo. We noticed they were still fishing after sundown, and could hear them complaining about not catching anything. Yikes! That would have been a hungry night. We were having breakfast the following morning when they packed up. They were talking to each other, saying they'd decided they'd better go back to Opeongo and off to a party that night. I'm still wondering if they did this on an empty stomach.

Sunset on Big Crow.

A beautiful morning.

Day 5, Sept. 4

The hot weather just wouldn't stop! Another beautiful day, and after having a slow morning, we were off to the Hogan Lake portage, where J. wanted to run the cart trail and I wanted to hike the portage.

We pulled the canoe off to the side and each went our own way. It's an easy trail until the cart trail goes one way and the portage goes up the hill. It's a very narrow path with lots of ankle breaking rocks, which continues until you cross a road. From the road, you can not see a portage sign onto the portage path, although the road was marked pretty decently to watch out for people with canoes over their heads.

On the other side of the road, the path continued downhill for a spell before getting to Hogan Lake. I had a break, then turned around and was happy that we did not portage this with all our gear. It's quite the hike. Crossing back across the road I happened to see J. coming, and waited for her.

She had quite the tale to tell. Coming around one of the corners on the cart trail, close to where we were standing, she had surprised a black bear. It was apparently difficult to decide who was more stunned. Not immediately sure what to do, she slid to a halt, and the bear did the same. It was a staring contest for a few moments, after which the bear took a few steps forward, and sniffed the air. J went backwards, which then gave the bear the idea there was another way out, and it leapt sideways into the brush and disappeared. We whistled the rest of the way back to the canoe. Just in case.

Having seen some very interesting lichen growing on the pine trees on the way back (lungwort, which likes clean air), I spent some time taking pictures, and by the time we got back to the canoe most of the afternoon had passed.

Lungwort on the Hogan Lake portage.

Slowly, we made our way back picking up firewood along the west side of the lake, and checked out the few campsites there. But we did not care for them all that much. They'd do in a pinch, I'm sure. We felt like eating pizza for dinner.

Pizza for dinner.

Day 6, Sept. 5

It was time to pack up. I'd always wanted to go to Hailstorm Creek. We thought we'd attach that to this trip. We took our time. It was Monday of the long weekend, so we anticipated it would be busy. It was. Canoes were coming from everywhere, and it looked like a highway.

Thankfully by the time we hit the Proulx portage, most people had gotten ahead of us and we could actually land easily. We hoofed it across, and found lots of parties waiting for the taxi. Wow, one party of 6 had a canoe on a cart and it was loaded with large storage containers, coolers ,chairs etc. I'm still wondering if the whole party had to push and pull to get this thing across the portage along with their other 2 canoes!

We paddled out of the river and onto Opeongo, thinking we might spend the night on the North Arm before heading for Hailstorm. Unfortunately, there were no open campsites. All had motorboats and one even had a very loud generator running. So we aimed for Bear Island, which was also taken. Then we went onto the next island, which did not have a fire pit nor any wood, and looked like a fishing camp. So we passed it by too.

That meant we had made it to Hailstorm Creek, we came around a bay with a gravel beach, and immediately grabbed the fantastic site, as my arms were about to fall off. The site looked out to the entrance of Hailstorm, as well as the Happy Isle portage. (PCI Campsite #18) Just as we were looking around, a watertaxi came racing in and we noticed quite a few canoes departing from the portage. Uh oh! No open campsites on the point where we were now. The other two sites were already taken too. And none on the north arm of Opeongo but for the fishing camp.

I was absolutely taken aback by the fact that it was that busy, thinking most people would have to go home at the end of the long weekend. We set up and had our coffee out on the sloping rocks in the warm sun. This campsite is huge, flat, and has many areas for tents. It also has a west- and east-facing large sloping rock for sitting on. The site is surrounded with brush which gives a bit of protection from the open lake.

Hailstorm site.

Back of the Hailstorm site.

Full site.

Day 7, Sept. 6

We couldn't wait to get ourselves over to hailstorm, as it supposed to be teeming with wildlife. We paddled ourselves to the beaver dam that needs to be crossed and were wondering how long it will take before this beautiful area will have grown shut with floating plants and decaying floating mats.

Hailstorm Creek.

Hailstorm Creek beaver dam.

It was easy to follow the open water strip between all the aquatic plants. It looked quite deep. You get the feel of emptiness with nowhere to get to solid land, no people as far as we could see, and only bird calls in the air. You could hear the stillness. Quite a few birds of prey flew close by us, hawks, an eagle, and several others I could not so quickly identify .. all kinds of ducks.

Then, while floating and leaning back in our canoe while eating lunch, we heard snorting and puffing. We peeked over the side (we were sitting in the bottom of the canoe eating and resting) and a mother river otter and her two pups came straight at us. Of course I did not have my camera handy. The pups were curious and came right up to the side of the canoe, while mom snuffed and snorted, then disappeared. But not for long, as the pups had no interest in joining her, and kept swimming around the canoe. After about 20 minutes they moved on, as did we.

Next, we had a merganser just to the side of us. He went under, then came back up a foot in front of the canoe. We slid past him slowly, not paddling. We could have touched him. It must have been a young bird, it had no fear yet whatsoever. It played the game with us for at least fifteen minutes, disappearing again and again, only to let us float past again and come up. After hours of paddling it was time to return to camp. Being late afternoon by now, we hoped for the one thing that we have not yet seen; a moose. It was not to be. Although we hung around the mouth of hailstorm for quite a while.

Day 8, Sept. 7

Our holiday was coming to an end. J would be heading home and I would carry on to Crotch Lake. We packed up under sunny skies and paddled out to the sandbank in front of Hailstorm Creek, where the water taxi would be picking us up. Since the pickup was at 10.30 am we were not too worried about not having any idea what time it was, as we figured we would hear the water taxi all morning. It never occurred to us that maybe no one needed to be picked up.
Waiting for the water taxi.

A dense fog hung over the water, making it look like a small world out there. We wondered if the water taxi would be held up by the thick fog. But no, he came right on time, and had 1 other party on board, shivering with cold. Unfortunately, the people did not speak English. It was not clear to them that they had to disembark here. So J. and I walked into the water to help them, carrying the young girls in their brand new shoes and jackets to the sandbar. Dad carried mom, who had a murderous look on her face by now, and they stood forlornly on the sandbank, looking at their canoe as if it was an alien. The taxi driver did his best to make clear to them that they had to follow the open water path to the beaverdam, go over it and continue. But I'm not so sure they understood. As we were loading up, the family did not attempt to climb into the canoe, but stood their gazing in consternation.

We were asked to sit up front in the boat. My gosh, we should have put shampoo in our hair, as we got thoroughly washed and rinsed going full speed back to the outfitters. What a fantastic trip, we had great fun, fantastic weather, saw a lot, and would do it again in a heart beat!

Having landed thoroughly soaked from the heavy fog, it was time to clean ourselves up (although we had swum every day) and to head to our separate destinations. J. had to go home. I was off to Crotch Lake, where I was booked in for later this afternoon. But, having a decent shower was a must. Oh what a disapointment. There was lots of water to be sure, but it was cold. Not even slightly warm! And that at 11.00 am in the morning. We shrugged it off, great reason to put on a warmer sweater.

Part Two - Crotch and Farm Lakes

My lunch at Whitneys Mad Musher restaurant tasted devine, then I was off to get some groceries and then to Madawaska Outfitters to pick up my paddles and pfd, as I had requested a solo canoe be delivered to the access point. I had never been there before and thought it might be easier to have the canoe delivered, in case I ended up getting stuck for time. Normally I reserve a pakboat for a solo trip, but Algonquin Bound does not offer those. So I'd booked a solo canoe instead.

The drive down the access toad was a treat, lots of wetlands, but no moose unfortunately. The access lot parking lot was quite full, but it was not busy at the permit office. The rental boats were laying to the side of the permit office where I noticed a path to a lake. However, the lady at the permit office was quite clear and told me to portage the canoe across the road and parking lot and launch from there.

Access point at Crotch Lake.

So, I went over to see which canoe was mine and was a bit disappointed to find a very beat up 14 foot canoe. It looked about as wide as it was long and had more of a bathtub shape then anything else. It was in the light weight category, but man, it sure did not feel like it. I tried getting it up and over, but could not manage it. So I pushed it up on the railing of the deck, then backed under it and proceeded to do as I was told.

Just as I crossed the road with the canoe on my head (I had checked for cars), I heard loud squealing truck brakes, and my heart flew into my throat. Oh God! Nothing happened. But my knees were shaking, so I put the canoe down to see what had happened. Thankfully, it turned out that a logging truck had stopped for a stop sign a hundred feet or so up the road. Pheww!

I quickly loaded up and paddled towards Crotch Lake (I use a kayak paddle when I solo) and of course, passed the little path near where my canoe had been beside the permit office (GRRRRR).

Due to the sun going down, I realized I'd better find a campsite, wondering how far I'd have to go. To my surprise, Crotch Lake was much smaller than I'd anticipated and I found myself in the narrows quite quickly. The campsite located there appealed to me, although it was a hilly one. The campsite (PCI site #3) on the lake edge could hold a solo tent close to the lake's edge. 30 feet up-grade, there was another pad big enough for a tent and a short climb later a beautiful spot looking out over the upper lake. But it was more rooty, had an old crummy unusable picnic table and a fire pit.

Crotch Lake campsite.

View to the north from the campsite.

Firepit area of the campsite.

The hill that the campsite was on was covered in tall red pines, with almost no undergrowth. It was really nice and open, and for once there was lots of branches for firewood around. Not that it mattered, since knowing I was going to be on a paddle-in campsite, I'd bought a bag of firewood in Whitney. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, as I had also brought several books with me.

Day 9. Sept. 8

I took my time getting up and eating breakfast. I then connected a hammock between trees for reading, which I did for a good long while. In the afternoon I decided it would be nice to paddle around Crotch Lake just to see what it was like and to look at some of the other campsites.

My canoe did not like just having me for company, and it was brutal to paddle. So I returned and took one of my seal-bags and dumped water in it to give the front a bit more weight in it. It was not much help. The 'bath tub' was impossible to move in the slightest bit of wind. Completely taken aback by that (the pak boats do GREAT, it occurred to me I might not be able to get to Shirley Lake. The portage is no more then a 20 minute paddle or so from my site, but I fought the boat all the way. Disgruntled, I got out and decided to walk the portage to stretch my legs and to see how hard it would be.

Shirley Lake portage landing.

The portage undulates more then the Proulx portage. But is nice and wide, although here and there strewn with decent size rocks. It is my opinion that a cart could be used, but that it would take 2 people to get it to the Shirley Lake end of the portage. But then, I'm no youngster. It also occurred to me that if I was to get into windy weather, I would certainly get wind bound with the bathtub. So I reluctantly decided to stay where I was already camped and maybe go to Farm Lake instead. The evening was full of stars and there was a spectacular setting sun. How peaceful!

Sunset on Crotch Lake.

Day 10, Sept. 9

The nice weather just wouldn't quit! Another round of sunshine, and I packed my camera and a lunch to go and see how far I could get up Farm Lake.

A strong, warm breeze blew sideways at me, giving my arm muscles quite the work out, even though it was sheltered between Crotch and Farm Lake. It was quite busy at the access point. So I was glad I had the site I did and didn't have to look for a new one. Lots of boats were heading off to Farm Lake, and likely beyond. One of the first sites on Farm Lake had a bit of a wetland. So I stopped and went looking for sundews and any other difficult-to-find plants. I was in luck, the site was covered in the little sundews , as well as winterberry shrubs, covered in bright red berries. And just on the edge of all that grew lots of cranberries, full of fruits that were not quite ripe.

Along Crotch Lake.

Sundew on Farm Lake.

I spent lots of time with my camera there. And then the wind picked up. Being in the middle of the afternoon that was usual. But once again I could not manhandle the 'tub' into doing anything I wanted and it cut my exploration short.

Rather then having frustration get too much of a hold, I floated back leisurely to my campsite and read for the rest of the day. The clouds rolled in, and for the first time this holiday I wondered if the weather was about to change. The permit office had a bit of everything on the weather-board when I'd arrived. But it had been sunny all the way, until now. I put up the tarp, just so I had a bit more space to sit since I had a chair with me. I made sure to tie it to the bottom of sturdy trees and shrubs.

Nothing much was wrong until in the middle of the night, when a windstorm broke loose. I'm not easily scared, but this did it. The wind howled. The rain came down in sheets , and I wondered if I was safe. I had checked for widow makers when I set up and hadn't seen any. But that doesn't mean a tree won't come down. The pines creaked, and snapped, and branches were coming down close to the tent. It was spooky. In the morning, with my eyelids hanging on my knees having gotten no sleep at all, I went outside to see what the damage was. Very little in fact. It had helped that I was protected by the hill behind me, and no trees had come down.

After the storm on Crotch Lake.

Day 11, Sept. 10

It stayed very breezy, which limited me severely in where I could go and what I could do, due to my struggles with the 'tub'. I therefore decided to break up camp and leave early, and spend a few nights along the Highway 60 corridor at a campground, and do some trail hiking. Not having been at Mew Lake before, I thought that might be a good spot, as there are lots of hiking trails in the vicinity. But I did not have reservations for that. Being nearly half-way into September and there wasn't a lot of color yet anywhere in the trees, I thought that reservations should not be an issue. Wrong!

When I arrived, I requested a campsite in the radio-free area, and found out there was only 3 sites still available. Ok! No problem. I went to go and see. There wasn't much difference, so I grabbed one and set up.

Now, what I found quite the oxymoron was the claim that it was a noise free area. Yeah right! It wasn't the neighbours at all, but rather the highway, which was at times so loud it was hard to converse with the neighbor! Not a great spot. However, it did quiet down at night. So I stayed and left in the daytime to do the hikes.

Days 12 - 15, Sept. 11 - 14

It was still great weather, and I enjoyed myself immensely. But one trail stood out for me, and that was the Hemlock Bluffs Trail. I have a great interest in trees, and found the enormous stand of old and very large hemlocks a particular joy to see .. especially alongside the bluff, where you look out over a small lake . Once the trail goes down to lake level, the trail becomes much more of a hacked out path, dark and dingy in places, before returning to hardwood forest and the end of the trail. It is not a trail I would like to do in rainy, warm weather, as I think it would be awfully buggy then. Of course, all good things come to an end, and this holiday did too. But we had a great run, from beginning to end!