As far as trips go, our weekend at Wolf Lake was one of those trips that I will never forget and will never be replicated. It was a weekend of many firsts for the Sometimes Eventful family. And it was a weekend where I saw first-hand how an online group translates into a wonderful real-life community.
It didn’t take long to settle on a destination, based on pretty simple criteria: it had to suite a range of skill levels, it had to fit a big group, and a thunderbox would be nice.
That’s when a member of this motley crew of paddlers stepped-up with a suggestion we all loved. He had spent quite a bit of time in the Temagami region this past summer, and wanted to share the incredible Wolf Lake with the rest of us. We all jumped on the opportunity, as the rest of us had never been there. On a strictly personal level I was crazy-excited to camp at Wolf Lake as it was a place I had wanted to visit for over 20 years.
- 8 canoes
- 14 adults
- 8 kids
- 3 dogs
|Photo courtesy of Paddle In|
The feeling of camaraderie lasted the entire weekend and has continued long after we loaded our gear to head home from the trip.
Within a few short paddle strokes, we were at the second portage. Really! We could actually see the second portage from our put-in at the first portage. Matt had mentioned this one was also around 300 meters, but was uphill. What he didn’t tell us, is that it was also a narrow path up a steep incline that had a rock face on one side and a gully with a raging waterfall on the other. An unfortunate misstep on this portage could mean a BIG problem. Remember my little issue of falling off of things? Things like narrow paths on steep inclines where there is a waterfall? This portage was a physical challenge for me, but it provided me with a psychological challenge, too. I wasn’t the only one who struggled with the physical climb, but despite the challenge the community rallied around each other and helped get everything and everyone to the top.
|Some of us humans may have struggled with this upward climb to Silvester Lake. But Buddy loved it. Of course, he wasn’t carrying anything, either!|
I would not classify that particular part of the trip as “easy peasy”. But, I think it was that tricky portage that really sealed the bond between all of us. I like to tease Matt about it. I may even have told him that I hated him for it… But that’s not really true. Because it was worth the challenge to get to the put-in that would see us paddle across Silvester Lake to our final, small challenge of the journey: the narrows between Silvester and Wolf Lake.
Once again, we were last to arrive as our group waited to make it’s way through the shallow narrows that would take us to Wolf Lake. Here,we saw Matt jump out of his canoe and help each of us navigate through the rocks and shallow water.
That first day of paddling and portaging and chatting set the stage for the rest of the weekend. Like old friends we chatted and joked non-stop. Like new friends we shared stories about ourselves to get to know each other better, and as outdoor enthusiasts we talked about our gear and shared tips and tricks we’ve learned on our individual adventures. We also found common interests outside of the camping world, including a love for horses!
Camp life was easy, with each family group being responsible for their own entertainment, food and gear. And even then, much sharing happened around the campfire as we shared snacks from our barrel stashes. The Camping Family, Duane and Marian even shared the balls stuck on the legs of their camping chairs with Buddy, although that was more Buddy’s idea than anyone else’s.
|Camp life on Wolf Lake|
The kids played flashlight tag and hide and seek in the forest and card games on the rocks, with the older kids taking the younger ones under their wings.
Even the dogs found their places, as inexperienced and young, little Buddy learned some manners from the wiser, older (and somewhat grumpier) Jake, while gentle Skye hustled cuddles and love from everyone while trying to avoid Buddy’s boisterous puppy love.
|Jake on the portage|
On the second day of our trip, most of us stayed close to the fire as high, cold wind kept us off the lake. Short hikes were made to explore our site on ancient Wolf Lake and wander among 300 year old trees. All of us hoped for a clearer day on Sunday to paddle home and Pete made an offering to the spirits of the lake. As darkness set around the site, old traditions with new friends carried on as both silly and spooky stories were told around the fire.
Sunday morning brought us calm waters and the promise of an excellent paddling day. Pete’s offering worked. As we made the paddle back to our vehicles, we felt as though it was the perfect summer day as the sun shone done. Just as with the paddle to Wolf Lake, we worked together as a community to load canoes and work our way back. This time, it was Pete helping at the narrows, showing us where Matt learned to be a stellar paddling guide.
When we reached the portage at the end of Silvester Lake, we were all relieved that this time we’d be travelling down the slope. And it was here that Matt revealed the not-so-secret location of Paradise Lagoon. Our portage turned into an hour-long stop that included a scramble over an old deadfall at the top of a waterfall to get to the cliffs of the lagoon. I wasn’t going to make the deadfall crossing. Afterall, the words dead and fall are a little more real to me than some other people. But Matt made me do it, and even held my hand as I crossed the slippery logs.
I’m glad I did, because it took me to the beautiful place where campers braver than me leapt into the frigid water below. Even Emma jumped, fully clothed for an exhilarating wake-up call when she hit the turquoise pool. (As an aside, doing that portage and crossing those logs to get back to the trail were MUCH easier the second time around. Funny how that happens.)
|Leaping into Paradise.|
Relaxed, refreshed and a little sad that we could not have one more day in this amazing area, we took off for the final paddle home. Once again, our canoe was the slowest. And once again, we were kept company for great conversation, but this time by three other canoes.
When we reached the take-out, we were all a little tired, a lot hungry and ready to make the long trek to our various home-bases. But this time, the parking lot was the place for hugs and handshakes. And instead of introductions, we asked when we could do it again.
There were so many firsts for Alex, Emma and I on this trip. It was the longest we had paddled to get to a campsite; the hardest portage we have done to this point; our first experience with a swift; the latest we’ve camped in the year; the longest amount of time Buddy has spent in a canoe; our first group trip. And it was all awesome. Our weekend on Wolf Lake really raised the bar on our backcountry and paddling experience.
But more than giving us some backcountry credentials, this trip truly solidified that this group of outdoor bloggers and enthusiasts I had originally met on the Internet is truly a community of incredible and inspiring people in real life. And we can’t wait to go on another trip with them.