Queen Elizabeth II Wild Lands Prov. Park
April 21, to 27, 2017
The Route this year was to paddle the Gold creek Route from Smudge Creek up to the ponds in the Flat lands above the northwest side of Smudge Lake.
Two weeks earlier we had 5 boats and 10 people…. but we ended with 3 boats and 5 people, And I know Paul was really upset getting hurt the week before, so maybe he will be up for a fall trip.
Ray the older Statesman, Margaret, Greg, Matthew and me!
Lets just say that the combined age for this trip… is pretty good… except for Matthew who was the “kid” on the trip.
I had paddled much of this route before with my son several years ago so I was somewhat familiar with parts of it, but since the known entry into “Bon” lake (unofficial name) now has a pretty long ugly portage since some ponds went out, the idea was to find something a little more paddle friendly.
Big bonus this time is much better Satellite images available than there was in 2009.
And that is important if you plan a pond hopping trip into this park as when ponds are out, you need to be able to have a plan “B” “C” and so on. In certain areas it is pretty easy to jump over to other pond chains or find another way in.
To go in with just the topo maps, there is much information missing from them to be able to help you. The SAT. shots from “make a topographic map, Ontario “ can fill in a lot of blanks and if a pond is out, you can make a good decision on what might be the better way. Also the ability to zoom in is a wonderful bonus once you can “read” the land features. You can make reasonable guesses on the better way to portage or approach a pond.
(SPECIAL EDIT: Since we went in and I wrote this they have had exceptional high waters and there is reports of ponds out in other areas. So you should plan appropriately if you plan a pond hopping trip in to this park)
Pond hopping Route Maps Topo and SAT. From Smudge Creek to Northwest arm of Smudge Lake.
We choose to climb the ridge from Smudge Creek approx. 200m downstream from the last portage into Smudge Lake, on the west side (river right) where the creek met the bottom of the ridge for a clean/clear (also dry) exit.
The way up. Through the cut in the rock to the left of the white pine and go around through the next cut. And yes it is much steeper than it looks in the pics!
We came up with a new acronym for the ridges…..
B.F.H…..Big….. “Fun” ….. Hills… 🙂
During the trip planning part I guessed this would be 400m best case scenario and 600m worst…..and besides the climb up the ridge, once on top it was relatively easy, especially after we cleared a small path through the bush, but “Murph’s” law won and it was the 600m.
The right hand side of the image is Smudge Creek.
There was signs of an older argus type trail on the ridges, heading towards the falls at Smudge Creek but the distance worked out about the same, except more walking through bush as the trail quickly disappeared in the brush and forest.
Up to this point of our day it had been rather pleasant and warm, but the weather had deteriorated to the point is was now dull, cold, windy and damp, it was good to be on the pond we had chosen to camp.
Greg & Ray went ahead to scout out a campsite while the rest of us continued to do laps on the first portage. They found a nice spot out of the wind near the west end of the first pond (which is over 700m long) and is along side the active ATV trail that goes from Uphill to the camps on Smudge lake. (we saw no-one! )
It was a cool misty night with the temps around freezing, we could hear a pack of coyotes in the area, but they never came close to our camp and by the next morning the weather started to break and we could start to see the beauty of the area.
Today we were in for a treat, at least the section from here to Bon Lake. This is just beautiful pond hopping, good sized ponds, a few lift-overs portage routes that were gentle and did not need clearing and were incredibly easy to scout.
Portage 1 (day 2)
Pond 2 for the day and dam 2nd Portage of the day, we saw some deer crossing the beaver dam from about 200m away.
Portage 2 Pretty tough terrain eh?
Along this pond chain you can head north to Gold Creek also.
This whole stretch was just a pleasure to paddle, there was some minor searching for what was better, lift-over or portage but it was all easy.
Last portage into Bon Lake.
Lunch spot before heading towards Gold Creek. From the Portage. We ate across the narrows on that rock knob by the water.
Ray resting up at lunch!
Looking at the portage into Bon Lake, left side of image & Bon Lake north channel looking east towards the blocked channel. (trees and shallows)
Bon Lake northern arm, looking east towards the blocked channel.
While paddling towards Gold Creek it was hard not to notice the brand new orange boom above the dam… it looked really out of place considering the rest of the scenery.
We paddled north into a pretty stiff head wind as we headed up the lake to Gold creek. It is about 2k from the main body of the lake up to where Gold Creek turns to the northeast. Along the way you actually leave the park for a bit but you are back in by the time you get to the narrows.
When I last paddled up here with my son the first couple of beaver dams were in the process of breaking down, so whatever we found would be a surprise with the possibility back tracking and following the ponds back up to another section of Gold creek
Here is an images from that trip.
Link to gold Creek Narrows
This is what it looked like this year.
What the ponds looked like in 2009
This is what it looked like this year where the ponds used to be…… Yeah, there is a canoe in there!
Here is a neat natural phenomena you can see the wave in the calm water from my canoe as I got in place for the shot. It is like there was a wall stopping the wind.
We were very lucky as there was heavy rain on the Thursday and it put enough water in the Creek for us to float/pole/push up.
This kinda of boating is “creekin” for open canoes. (White water joke) And yes I almost managed to go for a swim when my paddle got stuck in the mud and I held on, good thing the water was not cold. But it did take a while to find a spot where I could bail out the half boat of water…..
Creekin’ open canoe tripping style!
Once out of the beaver meadows Gold Creek widens a bit up to where the creek forks and Gold Creek continues to go N.E.
The flow here is split in two.
This was the spot where I thought most likely we might have to use a alternate route. The fork that heads north leads to a pond chain that can lead you to Montgomery Creek that runs east/west on the northern border of the park to where we came south from Loon lake a few years ago.
But we were lucky as it was just wide and deep enough to float us up to the Gold Creek falls.
This is the beaver pond just before the falls, the next pic was taken from the top of the ridge in this image. The falls and Gold Creek are to gap on the left. Right gap takes you to another pond chain in a very beautiful canyon.
This is looking west from the south ridge of the falls looking west. The Falls/Gold Creek is to the right.
It is a very pretty little falls here.
Here is where the up to date SAT images saved some effort of climbing and portaging another ridge. The topo maps just don’t show just how far the little bay raps around the ridge. It took only a little effort to clear a very nice portage.
Camp site 600m up-steam from the portage. This was a first 2 night location so we could get some rest and do some ridge exploring in the area.
The view from the camp site.
This was a great location! We could hear the coyotes far away, We had some new visitors as the Whippoorwills returned and were full of song!
Day 3 as the day of rest/exploring is a lot of fun. Ray hiked north of the camp and came across a ATV trail that has not been used in a few years, found the garbage from an old hunt camp including metal bed frames, but also a nice falls on one of the streams.
I went south to the major pond chains there that can take you back to Bon Lake.
All I can say is wow!!
Easy hiking, and just incredible huge ponds! with beaver dams around 3 m high! Super impressive construction
An amazing canyon! This is looking back towards Gold Creek falls, to the left the canyon narrows and goes up into the pond chain that can go south or east.
The place was eye candy! This pic looking north towards the way you would go to Gold Creek.
On the way back I made notes and checked out a paddle route to Gold Creek from this chain. The upper blue rectangle is our campsite.
I too also came across a dis-used ATV trail with markers. Some of the wetter areas had grown over but it was pretty easy to follow and this would take you to the area by Smudge lake.
After getting back to the boat, I decided to follow the creek up-stream to scout a bit for tomorrow, and was pleasantly surprised. When I came through here with my son is was a narrow, pretty little creek with lots of small pull-overs. Due to our beaver friends the small valley was completely flooded all the way up to the “dog leg” lake.
link to gold creek then
Notice the rocks are the same, I did not do this location on purpose, because I could not remember exactly where I took the pic I matched it when I got home.
After I got back to camp we traded hiking stories and Ray reported he found the remnants of an old Hunt camp which we reported to the Park people when we got back.
If you ever go into this park you really need to take the time and just hike around, it is absolutely amazing and you are just cheating yourself if you don’t and your missing so much of what this area is about.
At night we were serenaded by this, what an amazing sound! This was recorded with my Samsung Galaxy tablet (I call it tabi ) It records amazing sound quality. I played with it a lot this trip to see how it would work for trip story telling.
I got an early start before the group on day 4, because I knew there was some debris near the south end of the Dog leg lake and some very shallow marsh land leading up to the next pond Chain.
New Questions are raised here, notice the cut in the logs, this is not a natural cut, you could still see the ax marks! What a cool Find! This is the narrows of the Dog Leg lake.
Looking west back at the entrance to the portage from the Dog leg lake over to the smudge system.
When I came through her with my son, we had one 25 m portage and several quick lift-overs to get to the “high” pond.
This time we where not so lucky but it took very little clean up to make a very reasonable portage trail to the high pond where the group was met with some Otters errrr ,ahhhh, having some fun. 🙂
This is where Gold Creek turns north again and there is a very pretty little falls.
This year the local engineers made things really interesting. When my son and I came through most of the water was coming down Gold Creek, and the north-east exit was dry, This year most of the water was going into the Smudge System.
The portage to the creek that goes to Smudge and where it is paddle-able is about 200m, with just a bit of a bush push, along an old unused ATV trail and along side the creek.
Here we crossed the creek and headed up the ridge to the next Pond chain, this image is coming along the creek from the High point and Gold Creek watershed.
The other two boats went up the creek canyon a bit to the water falls, and since I was slow on the portage I got the benefit of their wisdom.
Up the ridge had some very nice natural ramps. Looking from the ridge. Left (west) is to Gold Creek, Right (north) to another pond chanin.
Looking west towards the Gold Creek system.
Looking south towards the south west arm of Smudge Lake.
But it was a very pretty location not just for the neat falls but the all around views.
The smoothed rocks tell a great story on how long the water has been running here.
So this part of the route was new to me as we would pond hop up to the Northwest arm of Smudge lake.
I left the Snowmobile trail on the map as that was our plan “B” in case of ponds being out.
I marked the Granite rock face marked because that is where you want to get out to portage into the last pond before Smudge, it saves you some grief of walking back or pushing through some very dense wetland growth. This could use some trail marking as the old ATV trail has grown over but it is not very hard terrain .
On top of the Rock face, we came into this pond from the left, to the centre you can go north to the Ganaraska trail.
Last pond before the decent into Smudge Lake.
At the east end of the pond above Smudge lake looking west.
If you ever try this section of this pond hopping route, as a day trip, you really want to to go clockwise and go through the southwest arm of Smudge Lake. Going clockwise lets you go downhill into Smudge Lake and yes this his has some attitude to it (yes I did that on purpose) It is another one of those BFH’s but the way through is actually quite nice.
It is an old ATV trail to the lake, and the vegetation is not dense. Looking towards Smudge Lake.
View is looking northwest from the campsite on Smudge. Portage is in the bay between the rock face in front and the cliff face to the right of it.
Even though the image does not due any justice to the height of land, it does give you an idea how much you have to climb. The ridge line runs from the lake all the way beyond the last pond we paddled, it is a great day hike from a Smudge Lake base camp.
There is a small stream that flows from pond on the other side of that ridge, but the bush is more than just a little thick is some places and walking even with day pack is very tough. Portage/trail to the west is at the left of this image. The cliff face here is also a Turkey Vulture Rookery so avoid it in the nesting season please.
Day 5 brought us our second rest day on Smudge Lake, which are usually a lot more active because it is such a nice lake to do base camps out of.
Forecast from the weather radio was for 40% chance of showers….. but that quickly became several hours of rain (not in their forecast though)
But we tarped our selves in and enjoyed the fire.
The day started off nice enough!
Just before the rains came in the Turkey vultures came in, landed on the cliffs, and then took off again, I think they knew it was more than showers.
The rains ended in time for supper so it ended up being a good night by the fire.
Day six started off cool, grey and misty and our target for the day was to go back down Smudge Creek and camp by the Head Lake dam so we would have an easy paddle day out on day seven.
The rains actually put some extra water in the creek so we had an easy time at the shallow sections.
It was really nice to see the Beaver pond at the top of the portage out of Smudge lake occupied and rebuilt. It is about 7 years since it gave way a bit and no-one was home.
Bottom of portage looking south
Some black flies were sitting on top of the water on the way down, so
By the time we portaged up over the two rapids on the Head River it was now Sunny and still with no wind it was great to set up camp in the warmth.
Ray, Greg & I hiked up the “Mountain”, we always called it “old Baldie”
After all these years the plateau section still fascinates me on how big and flat it is.
When I was a kid there was very little growing here besides the moss.
I had a visit with my Mom, and we all enjoyed the view from up top
Ray and Greg checking out the view.
Looking south towards Head lake.
It was a great calm night and we could hear the Whippoorwills, and this night we heard the Wolves off in the distance to the north east.
We got an early start on day 7 which was a good thing, the weather forecast was for warm temps but winds over 40 k out of the SE. which would have been blowing right into us as we crossed the Lake.
My brothers who we met on the way in for a day trip were not so lucky later on in the afternoon.
All in all it was a good trip, good company and we got to see some very remote areas of the park and confirmed some very interesting and enjoyable routes.
And of course we will be back!
Here’s a link to the slideshow.
Oh by the way, next springs (or maybe this fall ) adventure is now in the planning stages!