This is the story of a one day wander through Joly Township, Old Proudfoot Township and Armour Township in April 2004. I was accompanied on this 20km slog trough Northern Ontario bush and swamp by my indefatigable cousin Colin (a.k.a. The Hurricane). Our plan, which we formulated with the assistance of an old topographical map of the area, was to walk about 6-7km south from the end of civilization in Joly Township and then turn west towards Burk's Falls, thereby circumventing Pickerel Lake. We were persuaded to bring a compass, although we figured if we always kept the sun to our left we'd have no use of it.
Well we set off at the break of dawn and, I kid you not, The Hurricane disappeared into the morning glare of the rising sun. "That's East!" I called after him. "How do you know?" he asked, as he had the compass in his backpack. It was going to be another adventure, alright.
Alex steps briskly in the dawn light, full of vim and vigour.
The first leg of our journey called for a simple descent into a wide valley through which wandered a tiny creek. We could see that there was a bit of swamp on either side of the creek on our topographic map, but it was only about 400m wide and we figured it would be quicker to cross it rather than walk four kilometres around it. I'd like to point out that, since we have yet to time ourselves walking the long way around, it is still possible that we did, in fact, choose the fastest route!
Alex stays above the frigid April water...awkwardly.
Slowly -oh so painfully slowly! -we picked our way through the floating morass to the creek itself. Swollen by recent snow melt it was about 2m wide and almost as deep: a more considerable obstacle than we had anticipated! Further, the banks on either side of the creek were just a weave of organic matter over yet more water, providing a spongy and unstable surface to walk on and (had we the inclination) jump from.
The Hurricane considers his predicament from the "bank" of the "creek".
Fortunately we were able to find some dead fall that was light enough for us to drag from the tree-line to the creek proper. This improvised bridge kept us relatively dry, at least from the knees up.... and that's what really counts, isn't it?
An improvised bridge saves the day.
The next leg of our journey consisted of climbing and following an escarpment for several kilometres. The topo map has the cusp of the ridge standing three hundred feet above the land immediately to the west, affording some stunning vistas of the surrounding area.
The lake in the distance is Pickerel Lake. About one kilometre long and three kilometres wide, it looks like a mere puddle from atop the escarpment.
Along the top of the ridge (but confusingly next to an even higher cliff face) was a bit of low ground that had been flooded by a beaver dam. Of course we deviated from our course to climb the cliff, atop of which we ate our lunch with a stunning panorama at our feet.
A tiny swamp on top of one cliff but at the bottom of another (the shadow to the left indicates its looming presence).
Descending the ridge -which would have been a lot of fun a month earlier on a tobogan -we stumbled upon a tiny rivulet cascading over the living bedrock of the Canadian Shield (that 4 billion year old slab of granite that rings Hudson's Bay like a thousand kilometre wide horseshoe). It was a place of stunning natural beauty marred only by the rusty old bush relics at its base. I suppose the cascade was accessible by a logging road at some point in time, but we saw no evidence of such on our trek...
A tiny cascade runs down a face of bedrock from the ridge.
Unfortunately at this point we ran out of film, but rest assured that we had many more misadventures on our journey! Specifically I can remember one more giant swamp, a very convenient snow-mobile trail and The Hurricane trying to chase down an uppity grouse. We considered the trek to be so successful that another is planned for the spring of 2005.