Black Lake - Chipman Portage
Distance travelled 28km
Didn’t sleep much last night; guess we were both anticipating what lay ahead. We were up by 5.30 am and after our last big cooked breakfast we loaded Ed White’s five ton truck [Ed had stored our gear over winter] with the canoe and all our gear and we were on route for the Black Lake Community where we completed last year’s trip. Ed let us off at the dock and it didn’t take long to load the canoe and we were on the water and away by 8am. Some things never seem to change however and surprise, surprise, we were immediately into a cold head wind with moderate rolling waves and some white caps. It was as if we had never been away.
We saw numerous large banks of remnant ice and snow pushed up at the end of Fir Island and along Black Lake’s north shore. This year we started out heavily loaded due to our extra supplies so we were riding lower in the cold water. I was extremely cold after standing in the water [about 6 degrees C.] during loading and then sitting with bare feet in water at the bottom of the canoe. We paddled until 11am but by then my teeth were chattering with cold despite my wearing not just mine but also all of John’s extra clothing; we stopped at a beach near a local trapper’s cabin and warmed up whilst eating lunch. We were on the water again by 12.15pm and made better time in the afternoon as the wind had dropped and the day warmed.
It was an enjoyable trip down the lake towards the portage. We were paddling just off the north shore which is very rugged with high [300 metre] steep cliffs. The shore line had been burnt recently so there was very little black spruce or jack pine, only poplar/aspen and lots of bloody alders [ oh, how I hate alders! ]. The trees were just coming into bud or new leaf so it was a sea of bright green. The only wildlife we saw were birds. We saw both bald and golden eagles, many different types of duck, loons, terns, lake gulls and several V’s of Canada Geese heading north. At lunch we saw a little red squirrel, unusual for this far north. Then just before we arrived at the entrance to the Chipman River with its spectacular waterfall over the escarpment, we passed through several enormous schools of 30 to 40 cm trout swimming in about two metres of water. There must have been several hundred fish.
We pulled into what we thought was the entrance to the portage however after walking along it for about half a kilometre we found another entrance near an old but cared for grave. Using this second entrance we would save 400 to 500 metres carrying in the morning so our camping site was chosen for us.
We put up our new tent for the first time since getting it. It was a bit of a learning curve but it felt good and it looks like it will meet all our needs. The annex really impressed as it is especially roomy even with all our bags inside. I was very tired so despite the bright daylight we had a scrappy meal of pilot biscuits and hot chocolate before being driven into the tent by swarms of mosquitoes for an early night.
Tomorrow the catering service will do better as it will be a huge day. Our first portage is the challenging five kilometre Chipman Portage and tomorrow we are planning to get our canoe and gear at least half way through the portage. It is unfortunate that the Chipman is early in our trip when our load is at its heaviest and we are less fit.