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July 10-12 2004

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Intro

A pleasant, relaxing weekend to enjoy good company, explore a new to us place and give the gear an outing before our longer trip.

Here it is July and we haven’t even got the canoe out yet. Since we repatriated it from Irene’s brother’s barn, it hasn’t even been off the rack. Well, Irene’s quick phone call to Québec’s parks and wilderness agency fixed that.

Irene booked site number 6 on Lac Echo, in the south end of the Papineau-Labelle wildlife reserve. This is a write-up of our weekend.

9:45pm, July 10, 2004

Site number 6, Lac Echo, Papineau-Labelle Wilderness Preserve

So this is a good deal for an easy weekend out in the woods.

We set out from Ottawa just after 10am and arrived at the park by noon and were on the water after a dockside lunch by 1pm. We arrived under warm sunny skies.

The park reserves sites online at $25 per party per night. A party is four people. I know some socialites who might disagree, but that’s neither here nor there. We were certainly a party.

Lac Echo is a 6km long lake probably 500m wide – running north-south, near Val-des-Bois. It’s a big lake with only seven sites on it, all placed fairly discreetly away from each other.

The people at the office gave us a map and explained the finer points of navigation to us. “That way. Almost to the end of the lake.”

There’s a beach at the put-in with earnes entreatments that swimming is prohibited because the beach is not patrolled. It seemed to be merely legal kevlar as people swimmed with abandon.

This is the first time I’d been camping in Québec. And while the trees and the water looked similar, the loons spoke a different language. There are differences:

I hasten to add that Québec also has parks, which may or may not have more stringent regulations. This seemed to me to be more of a demi-regulated Temagami.

I noticed that a lot of trees – uncannily the tall, straight ones – had fluourescent orange spray paint marks and the canopy seemed thinner than Algonquin or Killarney. The reserve is logged but I am not sure how heavily or what method is used, but it’s logged.

Conveniently, the thinned forest also works better for moose and whitetailed deer at which you can blast away starting April 30th.

But back to the trip.

We paddled to our site in about an hour. We had a strong tail wind. How often does that happen I was struggling to stay atop the waves, but they were going too quickly but the boat just wiggled as the waves overtook us.

Site 6 is small – two tent pads – located oddly close to another site interestingly called “Site 7”. But for the most part the sites are quite far apart.

Late afternoon and early evening was plagued with the buzzing of small outboards shuttling fishers and their beer back and forth.

About 3pm we started feeling sprinkles of rain, though the sun still poured down on us. But within ten minutes imposing, grey clouds hitherto suspended high above Lac Echo had descended to water level and we were in a downpour that lasted half an hour or so. Then the winds died, the clouds dissipated and we had sun again.

Mike made a lovely dinner of lentils with pesto on couscous. For dessert we had Irene’s ideal cake – apricots and almonds – yummy but not too sweet. We have a nice rocky point on our site but were too bugged by various blood-sucking things to enjoy it long after dinner and sunset. We were in the tent by 10pm.

5pm Sunday, July 11, 2004

That was a pleasurable day. My sleep was somewhat unsettled and I knew we were in for a leisurely day trip to the next lake, so I and I lazed about in bed until around 8am.

We had a relaxed breakfast on our rock point under sunny skies. Porridge mixed with apple, yogurt and sugar. But the best part was the coffee, served from the luxurious lexan bodum. Yum.

After breakfast, Brenda and I spent the better part of an hour trying to hang the food. See, Mike and I had looped the rope between two trees, with the food suspended between, but when Irene and I were hauling it up before we set out on our day trip, one of the branches snapped and our motley collection of barrell, cooler and cooler bag came crashing down.

So we needed to redo the food setup. Whenceforth we hurl rock tied to rope repeatedly upwards in hope of snagging an appropriately placed branch at an appropriate height. Whereafter said same rock alternatingly gets stuck repeatedly in the tree, wraps around a limb only to come loose from its tether and head agressively earthward, straight at your correspondent’s head, whenceforth limb after limb is brought crashing to the ground as we test its strength.

I am becoming more and more of a Hap Wilsonite with every throw. But I have done the vote count on this one and I know the most expedient thing to do is just keep throwing.

Eventually Brenda and I get the rope over two branches that hold, and we haul the food up. I am comforted to know the food was intact and still dangling high above the ground when we got back.

Lac Echo is linked to Lac de l’Écluse by a short, narrows that wraps around a point and a sandbar. In July, this requires walking the canoe for a few metres.

We dawdled through Lac de l’Écluse, stopping to check out the campsite on the peninsula separating the two lakes.

The site used to be the Echo Beach Fishing Club, a private club that operated in the 1800s. (Thanks Roland Boisvenu for setting me straight) Two chimneys, one stone, one red brick, remain amid the rapidly encroaching wilderness. The site looked nice, but it was very buggy. We got back in our boats and headed on.

This actually seemed like a better lake for canoe camping because the shallow stretch might deter the fishing skiffs. But as we were loading up from our stop at site #7, we saw one emerge from the other side of the sand bar. So much for that theory.

The lake is very pretty. Very tall canopy, with more deciduous trees than I would have imagined. There's not a lot of exposed rock along the shoreline which made me think it was a flooded lake. It’s not, but we had a long search for a lunch spot.

The thinned forest is good for deer and moose. Given that this is promoted first as a hunting range, it makes sense. We saw a couple of deer and one dead and one very bloated animal corpse floating in the lake. Ick. Big stink. Many many flies.

We ate lunch at a rare lunch spot. Stuffed vine leaves, brie, sundried tomatoes artichoke hearts on sourdough rye from Bread and Roses. Yes, it sounds elegant but it’s actually a hugely practical canoe trip lunch. But for the cans, it could easily be used on a longer trip because the cheese is supposed to be mushy, everything else is preserved in brine of some kind and the bread is heavy and compact. More or less indestructible.

We paddled south, exploring bays and islands at a leisurely pace. At around 3:30 we headed back. We went for a swim and now we’re sitting on our rock appreciating the warmth of late afternoon sunlight.

Dinner was tortillas with refried beans and the usual assortment of sprinklings. We figured this would be a trip decadence that we could countenance for a short, portage-free excursion. Heck we even brought sour cream . But it turned out to be more hassle that it was worth, even though the food was good.

Cutting all those vegetables without anything even vaguely resembling a cutting surface was annoying. Heating tortillas damaged my pot lids, and laying out the bits of veg and cheese nearly exhausted even our bountiful array of bowls and plates. Live and learn.

We ran inside about our usual time.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Ottawa

We decided to camp Saturday, Sunday and Monday to dodge some of the weekend crowds, which worked. We had the lake to ourselves from mid-morning Sunday until we left today.

But the disadvantage to this is that Monday is a workday and there’s a lumber mill somewhere nearby that you can hear all over the lake.

We had a leisurely pancake breakfast had a long conversation about health care, scarcity and euthanasia. It sounds creepy, I know, but it was really interesting.

We broke camp and paddled again with a tail wind – imagine back toward the put-in, inspecting the other campsites on Lac Echo. Campsite #3 looked promising. Numbers 4 and five looked a little grim.

We got to the put in by 1pm, had leftover lunch, saddled up and headed back to Ottawa, departing at 2pm, just in time for rush hour at 4pm.

Put-in at Lac Echo

Put-in at Lac Echo

Mike and Brenda get on the water

Mike and Brenda get on the water

The put-in is down a short, meandering creek. A sort of safe harbour, if you will.

The put-in is down a short, meandering creek. A sort of safe harbour, if you will.

It's a fair-sized lake, is our Lac Echo

It's a fair-sized lake, is our Lac Echo

Emerging from the creek onto the lake

Emerging from the creek onto the lake

We do seem rather insignificant.

We do seem rather insignificant.

Late afternoon rain squall, Lac Echo, left us 20 minutes later with sunny skies.

Late afternoon rain squall, Lac Echo, left us 20 minutes later with sunny skies.

We had, forunately, set up Mike's Dijon tarp before the skies came down.

We had, forunately, set up Mike's Dijon tarp before the skies came down.

Detail, spider web, the strait between Lac Echo and La de l'Ecluse.

Detail, spider web, the strait between Lac Echo and La de l'Ecluse.

Lac de l'Ecluse

Lac de l'Ecluse

Mike making couscous on the contraption. Mike's not one for microwaves but I reckon if he was he'd be able to fashion one to take on a canoe trip.

Mike making couscous on the contraption. Mike's not one for microwaves but I reckon if he was he'd be able to fashion one to take on a canoe trip.

Detail, site #6, Lac Echo

Detail, site #6, Lac Echo

We didn't see a whole lot of wildlife. This guy was a hit.

We didn't see a whole lot of wildlife. This guy was a hit.

Dusk, Lac Echo.

Dusk, Lac Echo.

Nope. No mistaking where to find the shit b... er... contraption.

Nope. No mistaking where to find the shit b... er... contraption.

This is the first thing you see. I'm sure the rangers left it here as a joke, and to make you feel better about...

This is the first thing you see. I'm sure the rangers left it here as a joke, and to make you feel better about...

...the real thing. A lid, I think, would be nice. Especially on rainy days.

...the real thing. A lid, I think, would be nice. Especially on rainy days.

Irene.

Irene.

Brenda.

Brenda.

The main house on old fishing club at the end of the lake had a few structural issues.

The main house on the old fishing club at the end of the lake had a few structural issues.

...and clearly the groundskeeper had a little weeding to do.

...and clearly the groundskeeper had a little weeding to do.

The rhubarb crop was looking promising though.

The rhubarb crop was looking promising though.

Irene pointing out the need for a lawn mower.

Irene pointing out the need for a lawn mower.

Mike.

Mike.

Lac de l'Ecluse.

Lac de l'Ecluse.

These guys were fluttering around our site.

These guys were fluttering around our site.

W88

I love duck theatrics. This mom was training her ducklings and provided us much entertainment.

Well, we did say it was a relaxing weekend.

Well, we did say it was a relaxing weekend.