day 8 – traveling mercies

I am writing this morning of yesterday’s events because the day was so full that there was no time to scrawl a word, and I was so exhausted by day’s end that I fell to sleep as soon as my head hit the inflatable pillow.

The morning’s journey began in the cold, though the winds had shifted overnight and were coming again from the west, where we could imagine a slight promise of clearing, if we peered hopefully. We packed up camp and were on the high water early, anticipating a long day ahead of us, hoping to make it to Daisy Lake, but uncertain which direction the rising water might force us to take if we discovered the Petawawa was not paddle-able. None of us were looking forward to the alternative, which would mean a significantly longer route back with much longer portages than we’d yet seen and a final paddle into the wind on the large Ralph Bice Lake.

Secretly, I was still hopeful, though I kept my optimism in check in deference to my friend’s unease. As we paddled from camp, we awakened a loon still asleep on the water, her head tucked into her back. Startled, she looked at our canoes, then back at the campsite, as if to say ‘Oh, you’re leaving?’  Perhaps she had been keeping us ‘under her wing’ throughout our stay.

The portage from Misty Lake to Little Misty was slick and muddy, with water flowing along portions of it like a mountain spring in, well, springtime.  At its mouth, we found the end of the portage trail submerged under water 20 feet inland from the Lake, the feet of large trees standing in water. The lake itself was windswept, the wind strong in our faces, and so we had to paddle determinedly across what is probably more typically a picturesque little body of water.algonquin 2014 130

From the portage trail, we had spotted a tent on the shore of the only campsite on Little Misty Lake just beyond the long portage trail to the alternative exit we had mapped out, but seriously hoped to avoid.  We headed toward the orange shelter to check in with it’s owners,  hoping they might tell us something about the Petwawa river. When we arrived at the campsite, it was clear the campers had taken refuge there and were drying out (or attempting to). They indicated how much the water had risen overnight onto the campsite and mentioned that they had shared the campsite with another couple who had also been storm-bound. We asked what they knew about the Petawawa, since they told us they had come that way. They claimed it was quite paddleable and that we should have no problem, that there was a current but that it was deep in the riverbed, and that there was just one log to get over before the portage trail, though we might not encounter it with the sharp rise in the water levels.

Their reassurance instantly lifted the spirits of our little band of travelers, the tension released almost as if someone had opened the release valve in an overly inflated balloon.

Oh, what a beautiful paddle was the Petawawa!, swollen over her banks, through an alpine bog thick with wild cranberries, just turning red. The scenery was breathtaking, with ooo’s and ahh’s and sighs being emitted from the bow paddler (that would be me) of our boat around every S turn. Sadly, I was able to capture only heart-images, since the combination of paddling upcurrent and significant wind meant that both paddlers had to keep their hands paddling, not focusing and snapping, though at one point the appearance of blue sky caused all of us to exclaim our hallelujahs and amens!

algonquin 2014 132

Two separate portages were necessary around rapids, where the landmass shifted from swampy, spongy bog to boulder strewn woodland and, correspondingly, the Petawawa transformed from meandering creek to roaring watercourse. Again, as with the Tim river earlier in the trip, the power of the water at these byways filled me with reverence and amazement. You could actually hear the boulders being bounced around.

Quite hungry after the first section of the river took longer than any of us expected, we paused near a rapid for a lunch of peanut butter oat bars, dried apples and carrot chips. Later in the afternoon, during a portage around a fast moving, though typically un-paddle-able section of the river, the Petawawa had spilled its banks such that the portage trail itself was filled up like a canal and we poled our canoes through a section of the hiking trail.

algonquin 2014 133

Finally, we arrived at our destination for the day, Daisy Lake, a beautiful long, narrow body of water with many bays and a generous island.  Though we were happy to see her and the weather had cleared enough to appreciate her beauty, we had to paddle a long way to the farthest bay from the one which we entered, to find a decent campsite. We were all weary when more than 8 hours after we had left our campsite on Misty Lake that morning we finally pulled ashore for the evening. My own fatigue and hunger made the last several hundred meters cranky ones (I’m sorry, dear)

The campsite we settled on was wooded and banked, and we each found a suitable, relatively flat area to set up our tents. A quick happy hour on a narrow granite shelf above the water, just wide enough for our bottoms, while our dinner of shepherd’s pie rehydrated over the fire, refueled us all. The cleared sky gifted us with a vivid sunset, behind which we were graced at last by a starry evening.

algonquin 2014 145 algonquin 2014 152 algonquin 2014 151

Spirits improved greatly, and conversation flowed once again.

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