Yet another dazzling Killarney Lake.
We set up camp, and then set off up the ridge behind us to locate the exact spot that the group of 7 artist had sketche Nellie Lake from. Getting to that spot, involved going up. And up. And up. Sometimes using our hands like real mountain climbers, although more in a scramble style than an outright alpine attack. At the top, the view was...immense. We could see literally hundreds of square kilometres stretched out to the east. The jewel-like Charlton Lake below us, other lakes shimmering like stars over the ridges behind us to the west. The day was gloriously sunny, and warm for October.
Very close, but not the exact vista...
We arrived at the top, and knew we were close, even to the point of thinking that we had found the spot. However, Mike went a little further, and called us over to where he was, below the top of the ridge, and as soon as we saw the view from that spot, we realized that it was the exact spot that A.Y. Jackson sketched Nellie Lake from. Rarely have I had such a unique feeling as at that hour, when we located the site. To think of all the work that it must have been for Jackson and his pals to get up there in the fall, at a time when when the winters, and, I assume, the autumn and spring seasons were much harsher. Even if he came in from Charlton Lake below the Notch Creek, it was still a difficult day to get into Nellie Lake. Who knows where he made camp? If it was at the site of our camp, then all Jackson had to do was climb straight up on granite for 200' and decide where to sketch.
The Notch Creek Canyon.
As one could well imagine, the views up there are fabulous. On the west are the La Cloche Mountains of the North Shore, with lakes glittering like jewels in the sun. To the east and north the land falls away into hardwood forests and relatively flat. And with lakes glittering like jewels in the sun. Jackson's sketch site is at the edge of a deep canyon that is split in half by the Notch Creek. Across from us the ridge looks even more difficult to access, although it can probably be done. It is not a sheer cliff face, but I sure wouldn't won't to lose my footing up there! On our side, it is a far more precipitous precipice.
It's a long way down!
Mike headed back down to camp much earlier than the rest of us, and by the time we started down he was lazing around the bay in one of the yellow rented canoes. He had a radio with him, and so did Steve. This turned out to be a great idea, because ascending a cliff is always easier than descending, unless it is a true rock-climbing experience with harnesses and ropes and the like. It appears that we were coming down a different route than what we had climbed, and Mike was able to point us closer to the original route. We didn't really get stuck on the descent, we just had to backtrack slightly and go up and over further. Mike sure looked small in his canoe from the height that we were at.
Swimming in Killarney in October.
After returning to camp I decided that it would be fun to go swimming. Remember, this was in early October. I had gone swimming in North Tea Lake in Algonquin Park the previous week for 15 or 20 minutes, and the weather had been pretty decent in between. However, Killarney is located in a much different ecological zone, and the weather can be very different from my usual Algonquin haunts. Thus, I was swimming in Nellie Lake for maybe 5 minutes before I started to go numb from the neck down! I was amazed at the difference one week can make in the temperature of a lake. Still, it was warmer than jumping into a lake a few days after ice out on one of my spring trout fishing trips into Algonquin!
A Killarney moonrise.
That evening I tried out the Manual mode on my camera, which I had just discovered in the last 2 or 3 days. I thought that I was a fairly competent photographer, but spending 4 days in a row with pro and semi-pro photographers was a real learning experience. (The day before we went into Killarney I took a fall colours photography workshop in Algonquin.) So when the stars came out over Nellie Lake (and Grace Lake the night before) I was now able to capture the night sky for the very first time.
On the way out we managed to send three paddles back with the water taxi. Steve and Mike headed out on the first trip and would head down the long trail to Grace Lake and then return to help us out. George, Richard and I were the last off the campsite. It was yet another glorious sunny warm October day, and I had that strange sensation of flying over the waters of Nellie Lake again. I threw the canoe over my head and began the portage, after one last look at Carmichael Bay. I mentioned in Part 1 of this blog about the crazy descent at the end of the portage into Nellie Lake. Now, I faced a 65 metre uphill start in the first 500 metres. I struggled to the top, where I put the canoe down. My legs had turned to rubber! I am reminded of another vicious portage in Algonquin Park, from 3 Mile Lake into Manitou. That one is 2800 meters long, but the trail drops dramatically immediately before Manitou Lake. Trippers are known to do that particular canoe route in a direction so that they can avoid going from Manitou into 3 Mile just because of those first (or last) few hundred meters! Steve and Mike had made it back to our position on the trail, and Steve volunteered to carry the canoe the rest of the way. Thanks, Steve!
A northeast panarama above Grace Lake.
After an easy crossing of beautiful Grace Lake, Steve and Mike decided to head straight for Frood Lake and the cars, while George, Richard and I did some more exploring. George knew that Frank Carmichael had been photographed high above Grace Lake, and he wanted to see if we could find that location, as well. So up we went. And up. And up some more, until we got to the top of the ridge. Up there, I was surprised and amazed to find that we could see the Sudbury Super Stack with our bare eyes, about 80 km away! I also found a pond high above Grace Lake, which is rather unique. We did not find the exact spot where Carmichael was photographed, but we were very close, and one can assume that we were climbing in his footsteps. This trip was one of the few times where I really had a sense of history, where I could easily picture the artists reclining against a rock wall sketching the wonderful views in front of them.
The paddle back to Willisville.
With an easy 1700 metre portage-downhill all the way!- behind us, George, Richard and I headed out onto Frood Lake for the 2 hour paddle back to the cars. We could see the other two about a kilometre ahead of us on the lake, but we did not try to catch up to them. The scenery and sunny October day were just too nice to waste paddling full steam ahead. Our canoes were different from what I am used to paddling. The rentals were lightweight kevlar that did not look very strong, but as the saying goes, looks can be deceiving! My 3 seater canoe was about 17.5 feet long, yet it might have weighed 60lbs, and probably considerably less than that. It was also unique to me because the seats were so low, meaning that we had no choice but to have our legs stretched out, rather than tucked beneath the seat, such as on a traditional canoe. This lower centre of gravity creates a very stable canoe, and it was a delightful revelation to me. At long last we turned the corner into the narrows of Willisville, between Frood Lake and Charlton Lake, glided onto the boat launch, and cracked open well deserved cold ones with Steve and Mike, who had arrived about a half hour before us. Despite the lack of fishing, it had been a terrific canoe trip. I had never gone tripping in the Killarney back-country, but I look forward to my next opportunity. In October the weather is generally hit or miss, and we definitely hit it right this time.