Boundary Rock Expedition – Day 2

May 7, 2009

Day 2

Sunday, April 12th, 2009: Peskawa Lake

Good Morning Peskawa

Good Morning Peskawa

Windy Lakes

Windy Lakes

High Water

High Water

The Decision

The Decision

An excerpt from my journal: April 12, 2009

“Today was a real turning point for the trip. I woke up at 6:30 and stoked the fire while outside, the wind howled through the bare trees. The news outside was not promising for this trip. There were white caps and a strong wind blasting us from the North West. We took our time with breakfast in the Warden’s cabin and savored the luxury of being warm, dry and safe from the storm outside.”

Bad News

Bad News

The wind howled all night, and when we got up, the weather outside had made a turn for the worse. It was cold and windy and everything was wet. The temperature had fallen below freezing and though no one wanted to say it, we all knew what that meant… snow was on the way.

We knew that we couldn’t leave right away so we took our time with breakfast. Bacon and fried dough. I decided it was a good time to bring out my patacones (fried plantains) as well. So we made some more coffee and had a nice leisurely breakfast until it was time to make the decision.

Breakfast preparations

Breakfast Preparations

Breakfast (and lunch)

Breakfast (and lunch)

We saw the people who had stayed at the Mason’s cabin go back to the portage we had come out of the night before and we hoped they would make it safely back through Keji. It was not a good day to be out on Keji Lake. We studied the maps and saw that we would remain on the lee-side of the lakes for the majority of the day and on rivers for the rest. So we packed up, and set out, with the goal of getting as far as was safe to go and making camp there – wherever that may be.

I know there's a trail here somewhere

I know there

We had to walk through what is for most of the year- a forest. Today the lake had made it’s way into the forest and turned it into a swamp. It was hard going with all the gear, but it was short, probably somewhere around 200m.

Then, it started to snow.

We made our way past Mason’s Cabin and over to the put in spot on Pebbleloggitch Lake, which has got to be the greatest of all lake names.

Mason's Cabin

Mason

Guest Book

Guest Book

Put in on Pebbleloggitch

Put In at Pebbleloggitch

When we arrived at the put in spot on Pebbleloggitch, we were astounded by the clear, calm water. We knew this was the lee-side, but it’s hard to believe that only 200m away the shore is being pounded by the waves and wind.

And off we go again!

Pebbleloggitch Lake

Pebbleloggitch Lake

Pebbleloggitch - "the Edge of Kedge"

the Edge of Kedge

Here we are leaving Pebbleloggitch Lake and entering the stillwater that joins the Shelburne River. This was a beautiful area in the marsh, especially with the water so high, there’s something eerie about it. The red marsh, the green trees and everything else is grey. If you click on the photo below and look at the large version, you can see that it is snowing as we leave Kejimkujik Park. This is where the real journey begins.

Stillwater

Stillwater

Entering the Tobeatic

Entering The Tobeatic

Wilderness Area

Wilderness Area

"and for a moment...  it was perfect."

and for a moment... it was perfect

This stillwater meandered through trees and brush and the silence really struck me. The peace I felt here was complete. It saturated me, reaching parts of myself that had become distant in my busy city life… and for a moment (moments like this seem to transcend time) it was perfect.

stillwater

Stillwater

Rob scouting a run

Rob Scouting a Run

This was my first experience on rivers. Cody was an excellent coach. I suppose it helps to love it as much as these guys do. Now I can see why. I’ve been loving lake paddling all my life, but this stuff is fun! Our first little run was short, but technical, and fun. It felt good. It felt right coming out of that run and just pressing on. I thought, “I can get used to this”.

Pressing On

Pressing On

artifacts

Artifacts

All along the river, the moss covered trees leaned over into the water, like ancient skeletons covered in cobwebs. There were also some old signs posted on trees, like this one marking the game sanctuary, likely a hundred year old. It’s intriguing to think that these signs were here when John McEwan and his crew made their way through to Boundary Rock. Or when Albert Bigelow Payne came through here, this sign has just been posted here.

erratic

Erratic

Spirits are up

Spirits Are Up

Irving Stillwater

Granite Lake Stillwater

Here we are on the stillwater just before entering Irving Lake (used to be Granite Lake). The name “Granite” was moved to a smaller lake up the Shelburne River, and this one – surrounded by Irving land – was renamed Irving Lake. Here was the only sign that logging had occurred. There is a very narrow strip of land between Kejimkujik Park and the Tobeatic Wilderness Area, where there is some privately owned (Irving) land. You can see in the photo above that there is a very narrow corridor of trees next to the stillwater and in behind there is nothing. Irving Lake rests just on the edge of the two protected areas, and however narrow it is, if it’s unprotected, it will be taken.

Irving Lake

Irving Lake

I can see why this would have been called Granite Lake, for all the boulders sticking up out of the water. The landscape is starting to change now, but the weather is not. It’s still snowing.

skirting the Irving Lake

Skirting Irving Lake

We weren’t on Irving Lake for long. We skirted the right shore of the lake for about 500m or less until we found the portage.

Sisketch Brook Portage

Sisketch Brook Portage

We were starting to get the hang of this, and we were all eager to get to camp, so the carry didn’t take too long. It also turned out to be shorter than the book (Andrew Smith’s “Paddling the Tobeatic”) and the Tobeatic map said, which was a nice treat.

Sisketch Brook stillwater

Sisketch Brook Stillwater

From here we continued upstream toward Sisketch Lake. In this photo you can see at the other side of this little hole a small riffle where we had to paddle up the ledge in to the stillwater ahead. Paddling down a river is one thing, but up is hard. It’s just as tricky as going down, but is a lot more work. Of course some part are unpassable, and these parts we walked, or roped the canoes around.

Sisketch Brook

Sisketch Brook

roping upstream

Sisketch Brook

This is where I lost my lens cap. I was taking pictures, and Cody passed me the rope around a tree. I pulled the canoe around the tree and then I noticed the lens cap was gone. I went back to look, knowing that it was black, and if it fell in the water it would have either floated away, or would be well camoflaged against the ground or the dark water. I let it go, lens caps are replaceable and we had to get to camp.

Carry into Sisketch Lake

Carry Into Sisketch Lake

Sisketch Brook

Sisketch Brook

I have to say at this point that for all the beauty of the Tobeatic wilderness and for all the beauty of Nova Scotia for that matter, there is nothing I have seen before that quite compares to Sisketch Lake. Anyone who has been here will likely agree that Sisketch Lake is in a league of it’s own. It’s like stumbling upon an old dinosaur graveyard, except that it’s a living, breathing place. It’s a place where you might not be surprised to see an enormous sea creature raise its head to see who has come by before slipping away as slowly and as silently as it came.

What is striking about this lake doesn’t become apparent at first glance though. It take a few moments to set in. It appears to be just like the other lakes in the area until you notice glacial erratics the size of barns sticking out of the middle of the lake. Just like the visible portion of an iceberg, you know that much more remains hidden in the dark water below. It’s not going to do justice to the beauty and enormity of these rocks for me to sit here and tell you about it. So here are a collection of photos that show what I saw when we entered Sisketch Lake:

Sisketch Lake

Sisketch Lake

Sisketch

Sisketch

Sisketch Lake

Sisktch Lake

Sisketch Lake

Sisketch Lake

Sisketch Lake

Sisketch Lake

Cody on Sisketch Lake

Cody on Sisketch Lake

Rob and Rhynot on Sisketch Lake

Rob and Rhynot on Sisketch Lake

Whale?

Whale?

Stormy Sisketch

Stormy Sisketch

Sisketch Lake

Sisketch Lake

Sisketch Lake

Sisketch Lake

Sisketch Lake

Sisketch Lake

Southern Sisketch Lake

Southern Sisketch Lake

Sisketch Lake

Sisketch Lake

Snowy Sisketch

Snowy Sisketch

Sisketch Lake

Sisketch Lake

As you can imagine, there was a real sense of urgency now to find a campsite and get a fire going. Once we got out in the open on the lake the wind really picked up.  I noticed at this point that, like the rest of the trip so far, the wind had remained at our back.  I can’t help but think that someone or something’s looking out for us.  The skies opened up and by the time we had reached the southern shore of Sisketch Lake, the snow squall had become a real blizzard. The campsite I had marked on my map was not where I had thought, and there was some confusion about where on the map we actually were. We decided that the only thing to do was to pick a sheltered spot and make it a campsite. Across the cove we had pulled into there was what seemed to be a fairly sheltered spot on a small esker, so we made our way across and pulled in for the night.

Blizzard Conditions

Blizzard Conditions

Silent Night

Silent Night

We got it just in time for the blanket of night to drape over the world. The snow coninued to fall all night and from the safety of our camp, and it was beautiful.

"from the safety of our camp"

from the safety of our camp

We set up camp with our fire and meal at the base of the hill and our hammock city just about that in a thicket of trees. It was probably one of the best campsites I’ve ever had. It had great shelter, a beautiful landscape of assorted boulders and tall trees and a great view of the lake and marsh.

Fire

Fire

It was incredibly dificult to get (and keep) the fire going. Everything was wet so here we’ve got the fire burning below and we’re drying out the firewood for the rest of the evening on top.

Black Bean Soup

Black Bean Soup

After supper we hung around under the tarp and Rhynot launched into song and we all joined in singing:

“Acadian Driftwood, gypsy tail wind

they call my home, the land of snow

Canadian cold front moving in

what a way to ride, oh what a way to go”

roughin' it

Roughin' It

It seemed to fitting to be singing The Band songs out here. We were chasing a historical journey that was made a hundred and ten years ago. History. It’s what brought me here to do this trip. It was nine years after these men embarked on this epic journey from Bear River, the same year Albert Bigelow Payne was entering the heart of the Tobeatic that the Battle on the Plains of Abraham took place- which is the inspiration for this song.

At one point in the night, I glanced over at the sky and thought I was losing my mind. I looked again and had to step out from under the tarp and walk down into the marsh to believe what I was seeing. I called the others to join me, that it was urgent and that they should all turn off their headlamps.

We all turned off our lights and looked up to the sky. A silence fell over us. Stars! The sky was full of bright stars. For the first time this trip, there was a break in the clouds, but not just that, there didn’t seem to be a cloud in the sky! We celebrated, hooted and hollared at our echos across the lake. It felt like a miracle to see the sky again, even though there was no sun, there was promise that one of these days we may get some sun to guide us through the lakes.

Boundary Rock 2009

Boundary Rock 2009

For all that had happened already it was hard to believe that it was our first night of real camping. It was my first night in my hammock and tarp set up and if there had to be one, this was the real test for my -12° sleeping bag. It was cold.

Bed

Bed

This is what tarps are for

This is what tarps are for

At the end of a long day, it’s not hard to convince me to go to bed. I was excited about tomorrow, the day when we would get to Junction Lake and finally be able to search for the Boundary Rock. The magnet. The thing that lured us out here into the wilderness to have this experience. I laid in my hammock and listened to the hissing of the snow hitting the trees and the drip, drip of the snow falling from the trees onto my tarp. I listened harder and couldn’t hear the sirens in the distance, the engine braking, the whizzing of cars on the highway, none of it. I could hear the snow falling, and the wind blowing and I was at total peace with my surroundings. How sweet it is.

Go to Day 3

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