I had the time of my life- day 2

Day 2, May 15, Grass Lake

Another long, long day…but oh my goodness, what a splendid one it was.

The day began cold, so cold that it invited us to linger in the warmth of the tent and then begged us to don all of our layers—wool base layers, wool pullovers, fleece zip ups and down jackets.  We arose early, around 6 am, grateful for both the hot coffee and the warm breakfast of rice pudding.  

After packing up camp, we were on the water by 9. By the time we were on the Nippissing River, an hour later, the sun was peeking through departing clouds, and when we stopped for lunch, perched upon sun-drenched rocks next to a rapid we were stripped down to one or two layers. Drinking in that warmth and pleasing view refueled us as much as did our meal.

There were numerous ( 6 or 7) portages along the way today, though all of them were under 200 meters, some as little as 60. Because of the swollen waters, we were able to bypass one portage altogether (though we may have left a bit of paint on a few rocks) and to line the boat through half of another, but every trail we took seemed to be ridden with blowdown, making some of the simplest of portages ridiculously difficult.  

Then came the serpentine twists and turns of the alder thicket-lined Nippising river. Often paddling complete U turns, we likely covered 3 times the distance we actually traversed. At times we had to duck into our boat to make passage, and often we were scratched and wacked by the branches as we passed them by.  So much fun! , though I can’t imagine what it is like to make passage there when the alder are full of their summer growth!  Luckily though we were able to slide over every beaver dam we encountered because of the high water levels, which likely saved us quite a bit of time and work at the end of the day .

We saw no wildlife today, save water fowl and other birds- warblers, wood ducks, mergansers (male and female), loons, Canada geese and the like. Again, we noted a plethora of moose scat. In fact, there is quite a bit of it here in our campsite, too, along with a healthy dropping of hair-infused wolf scat on the trail to the box. We imagine he was letting us know he was not happy that humans have returned to his territory.

We understand why he fancies it so. Feeling a bit weary and uncertain as to how long the remaining twists and turns shown on the map might take us, we had paused after the last portage of the day for a late afternoon snack to refuel, just in case. Having passed by quite a few campsites that were less than inviting along the way, we were quite delighted, then, to round that last corner so soon and to spot the orange campsite tag, like a neon sign announcing the location of heaven, on its welcoming tree. We could almost hear the choir of angels singing, so inviting was that sight.

This campsite is just so incredibly amazing – secluded and peaceful, with both sweeping and intimate views of the river, the marsh and the spruce bog beyond. Red pine-needle carpet for our floor and alpine notched hills for our walls, the water stretches long on both sides.   The feeling of remoteness about this place, which takes at least 2 full days of paddling and portaging to reach, is so very remarkable.

The peepers are singing quite impressively this evening as the night darkens. I soon won’t be able to see to write, the first stars have already turned on their lights.  I expect that dark dome to be ridden with stars tonight and I hope to stay awake for at least a taste of its wonder, though I’m not at all certain I will last until those sacred hours. Eight hours on the water and trails, many of them quite physical, pulling boats over logs and up river banks, trudging up hills and hauling gear over fallen trees, not to mention the steering of the canoe around all of those hairpin turns . My entire body has gotten a workout today!.

But here I am now.

I am feeling quite sleepy. Without a fire, I am growing quite chilled, as well. The stars will have to wait…



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