Blondeau River - Un-named Lake #2
Distance 6km [494 km]
Up early to a dull, overcast and smoky morning, there was a light coating of ash on both the tent and on the river surface though the fire is very distant. John did not sleep well, he has been worrying about the lining he knows he will have to do and is dreading it. The fact that we don’t really know the whereabouts of the portage from the Blondeau through to Unnamed Lake 1 has been preying on his mind. This portage has apparently caused problems to everyone who has published trip notes, the weird thing is that despite talking about the problems no one has noted the coordinates when they eventually find it.
The six sets of rapids that John had to line lived up to his worst expectations, the water was often chest or head high with slimy boulders everywhere. My bush bashing was not as bad as I had experienced on the Swan. I found what I believe was the remains of an old portage described by the party of four guys who came through here in the 1950’s. It was kilometres long and climbed up away from the river and over the esker, which ran roughly parallel to the river. I suspect it avoided all six rapids John lined but by the time I got back down to the river after the first rapid and found John the banks and bush were such that it was too difficult to get the canoe and gear up to the portage so we battled on.
Having finally got through the rapids we then paddled for a number of kilometres searching for signs of the portage entrance. We were in and out of the canoe checking out possible spots, walking in the bush and across swamps. It took us about two hours of searching but just before lunch we finally located it. We found the tin can reported on a 1985 expedition and the remains of a trappers hut reported by Bill Layman, from La Ronge, in 2002. We set out walking in hot buggy conditions but on what looked like a pretty good portage however after about 200 metres it completely disappeared.
We spent ages looking for further traces all to no avail so decided we had no option but to cut our own. We cut and flagged our way through the bush for about 300 metres when we came across the remnants of the one the 2002 trippers had used. This portage continued for about another 700 metres, mostly up hill on the hottest day we have experienced this trip. It was hard going especially for John, I don’t know how he manages the canoe in such difficult conditions. We made it to the first unnamed lake by 3pm feeling exhausted, hot and bug bitten. John was as disillusioned as I have ever seen him, he is completely lined out from the Swan River and is even threatening not to continue next year but we both know that is destined to be a short lived idea.
After lunch we did the short paddle across Lake #1 to where the next portage was clearly marked on the map, no portage to be seen despite John bush bashing along the shoreline. We decided to try further along the lake at a spot which our experience told us was a more logical place for a portage, sure enough I spotted it where I would have expected it. It is a couple of hundred metres and in reasonable condition. It looks like it is a snowmobile track during the winter. We are now camped in a Jack Pine parkland just short of Unnamed Lake #2. Having eaten, washed etc. we are both feeling more positive about tomorrow, lets hope the portages are easier to find than today’s. Generally too hot for wildlife spotting today however we were entertained by a couple of cheeky squirrels whilst we ate out meal. In bed by 8.45pm.