Sweaty, bug bitten, sun burned, dehydrated and … possibly lost? In the theme of Man Camping and solving the problems you’ve created, I wanted to talk about a trip I took with 2 of my best girlfriends and my 2 dogs this past July on the Tim River.
First, let me introduce myself. My name is Ashley Young from Young Outdoors and I am an outdoors enthusiast! I began going on backcountry trips about five years ago with my now husband J, and it lit a fire inside that I never knew I had. With my specialties being in fire and navigation, I was ready to take these girls and the dogs on an unforgettable adventure.
As for the dogs we have Riley, a 3 year old chipmunk chasing, high strung, cuddle loving husky mix. We also have Dodger, a 4 year old strong, majestic, protector shepherd mix. On a previous trip I came very close to hypothermia, but with some quick thinking, my husband placed each dog on either side of me to use their body heat to bring my core temperature back up and stop the constant shaking. These two ‘hard as nails’ boys have gone on every backpacking and canoeing trip that we have gone on and they were up for the task at hand.
Now let me give you an idea of who these two girls are. For identifying purposes we will call them D and C. The year prior to this trip, D had gone on her first backcountry trip with me, backpacking in the Eastern Pines trail in Algonquin Park, after doing a handful of car camping trips with me and a few others over the years. C was embarking on her first backcountry trip this time but had done plenty of car camping over the years at various campgrounds including a few in the states. They brought thong sandals, expected a relaxing vacation with a bit of work, along with wildlife viewing, campfires at night, and great food. They certainly had not anticipated the length of trip that I had planned out for us.
With C in her kayak, and D in the bow of my canoe, we were off on an adventure that would take us from the Tim Lake access point down to the Magnetawan Lake access point… a trip of approximately 35kms in 3 days. I’d like to fast forward to day 2 “Feeling LOST on the Tim River”.
We woke up before the sun, on our campsite on Rosebary Lake, enjoyed a breakfast of bacon and eggs, and hit the water. On day 2, D took on the kayak for the first time, and C joined the dogs and I in my red Nova Craft Canoe. Much to our luck, we saw our second moose of the trip that morning after we crossed Rosebary and headed towards the narrowing where the lake meets Long Bow. He was gorgeous, quiet and kept to himself as he slurped up the water. After a while he noticed we were there, on the north side of the narrowing , finished up his morning drink and carried on into the woods with his rack crashing into tree branches on his way.
We did a quick portage to the next section of the river where we would then enter the gates of hell. It was hot, no breeze and bug central, not to mention the 12+ beaver dams we had to drag over. I thought I had done all of the research I needed to do before the trip, but much to my surprise I didn’t know how brutal this section would be to pass. D was on her own moving the kayak as C and I had the bulk of the gear and packs in the canoe, along with two anxious dogs. We would heave and heave, one person on each side of the canoe standing on top of the dam. “One… Two.. THREE” we grunted together time after time just to get over one dam. D was ahead of us leading the way, and I was in the back with the map. We would hear D shout “Here come’s another one”, come around another corner to see a dam bigger than the last. We had to portage to get around a massive fallen tree that was too high to drag over, and too low to sneak under. It was an unofficial portage and difficult to maneuver as we had about a foot and a half of ledge before the 7 foot drop back down.
We even came across a dam so big that we had to completely empty the contents of the canoe onto the dam, get the dogs out of the canoe, then drag it over. We were losing steam after every portage and fading fast.
Now if you take a look at the map, the distance from Long Bow to the portage to Queer Lake is 6.2 km and should take roughly one hour and forty five minutes give or take. Our trip was certainly a “take”. When the two and a half hour mark came along the girls were starting to get worried. “Are we lost?” “Ashley, do you know where we are?” I had a pretty good idea of where we were which is difficult on a winding river like that, but I was getting a bit concerned myself. It seemed like it was taking far too long to get where we needed to be. Did we miss the portage? Have we gone too far? No, that doesn’t make sense, we still have to see the falls. These were the thoughts going through my head. I couldn’t tell the girls I was concerned, I had to hold it together for the group! We didn’t want to filter the brown beaver water and were running out quick.
After 3 hours of sweat, lack of water and hauling canoes over beaver dams, we finally came to the portage and sprawled ourselves out on the landing. We had a feeling we wouldn’t see anyone else on this portage. What other idiot would do that stretch of Tim River in the hot July heat when all of the black flies, deer flies and mosquitoes are out? We ate our turkey sandwiches for lunch and drank our last drops of water before we attempted the 1450 metre portage. We felt defeated and deflated, but we carried on. Of course it had to be a difficult portage with a constant incline while we would be carrying.
On the other side, we filled our bottles and our bellies full of lukewarm lake water, it was just what we needed. After getting our gear, the canoe and the kayak over to the Queer Lake side, which took close to an hour and a half in the sweltering heat, we decided to take a campsite on this lake. Our permits said we would camp on Little Trout, but we needed to make camp, cut fire wood and make dinner. It was getting late and we were exhausted. We paddled up to the first campsite closest to the portage, C hopped out of the canoe and went to see how the campsite looked. To our surprise and relief there was a massive pile of cut wood and generous strips of birch bark! C shouted out to us “Guys, there’s so much wood! We are staying right here!”.
It’s a great feeling when you can sit down at the end of the day and know you learned a rough lesson, and you can reap the rewards from your hard efforts. We made sure to leave plenty of wood for the next guy at the campsite because backcountry karma can go a long way! I know that we aren’t the first group to challenge themselves with a day like that and end up at that exact campsite. I can appreciate the extra help and I will gladly help the next group if I can.
We relaxed by the roaring fire and listened to the loons call into the night. I turned to the girls to let down my guard and tell them that I too was scared on the river today. They gasped! They couldn’t for one believe that I felt lost and for two that I was able to hold it together for the group. Needless to say they got a lesson in map reading and knew exactly where we were going the next day.
There’s more to this memorable trip with these two tough chicks, but I’ll save the rest for another time. Don’t forget to stay young and get outdoors!
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