I awoke at about 6am to the sound of continued rain, but definitely less rain. In fact, it sounded more like a light drizzle than anything else. I could hear no activity from outside, and concluded that it would just be best to lounge around until I did. I did not see the point in standing outside getting wet when I was nice and dry right where I was.
After a couple of hours of dozing, I finally heard activity outside at about 8am. I finally also didn't hear another sound; namely, the sound of raindrops. It appeared that the rain had fully stopped.
Emerging from the tent, I was happy to see this was in fact the case. There was still a solid layer of clouds hanging low over the lake, but no rain, which was more than sufficient by me. Arn and Dave had struck up a morning campfire; the kids were running through the woods, shouting and playing. Arn and Gosia were soon preparing another excellent meal, this time a homemade version of Egg McMuffins.
With breakfast and camp pack-up out of the way, we were ready to head off at the very relaxed time of 11:30am. We didn't really have all that far to go to get to our next campsite, though, so that really wasn't a big deal. The plan was a four-lake sequence of about 8 kilometres, starting here on Johnston Lake, portaging over to Stratton Lake, on to St Andrews Lake, and ending on long and narrow High Falls Lake.
The day's journey starts
For the first segment along Johnston Lake to our first portage point, I was paired with Nel, Arn and Gosia's daughter. With a moderate wind at our back, we easily paddled eastwards across the lake. We were unsure where the yellow-marked portage point was, and despite our best squinting, we missed it. By the time it became obvious we had gone past it, perhaps a half-kilometre too far. What came next was a minor lesson in canoeing: how do you canoe upwind?
Across Johnston Lake
Although Nel is a spunky and enthusiastic paddler, she is still young, and not yet able to put in large amounts of muscle into her strokes. I'm a completely new canoer, barely able to manage a reasonable J-stroke. Every time we got the canoe half-way around into the desired direction, the wind would catch the broadside of the canoe and swing us back again. Try as I might, I could not get the canoe pointed in the intended direction of travel.
After floundering about for a bit, I decided that a combination of tacking and staying near the shore - somewhat in the lee of the trees - would allow for progress towards our goal. Although we had started out well ahead of everyone else, we finally arrived [with much effort] at the portage point only after everyone else had arrived and pulled out (Note: if you open the trackmap associated with the pictures on Johnston Lake, you can see the extra wandering we did during this bit of folly).
I quickly retrieved my pack and fumbled the canoe overhead, hurrying after the others along the portage over to Stratton Lake.
Stratton Lake put-in point
The canoe across Stratton Lake went more smoothly. Paired with Gosia and this time trailing behind Dave and Nancy in their canoe, we headed down the long main arm of the lake. The wind was again at our backs, making progress very easy. My GPS on the floor of the canoe often reported speeds in excess of 8km/hr.
Nel and Arn on Stratton Lake
On Stratton Lake, I took the opportunity to experiment and get used to my Outex-covered camera. Other than what is visible in the viewfinder, you can't see any indicators or controls. Everything is operated by feel through the latex. This sounds difficult, but if you know your camera reasonably well, it is actually remarkably easy - at least for the basic operational controls. ISO, aperture, zooming, focus, shutter release - all no problem. One thing you may notice as you look at the pictures taken from the water in this report: virtually all of them are shot at ISO 1600. With the lack of a good way to review pictures (because the LCD is not visible inside the latex shell), I wanted to ensure that I always had a high enough shutter speed to not have to worry about camera shake.
Mr. Lavigne, Stratton Lake
At the dog-leg on Stratton Lake, we continued east, entering the short creek that drains the lake into nearby St Andrews Lake. Just before arriving at St Andrews Lake is a short section of relatively easy-looking rapids, along with a marked short portage bypass. There was talk of whether or not we should just run the rapids, but out of an abundance of caution, we did not. The rocky but short portage around the rapids was completed in short order, and soon we were gliding out onto the waters of St Andrews Lake.
On St Andrews Lake, we turned north, staying near the western shoreline to stay out of the westerly wind. We had an uneventful and pleasant paddle for about twenty minutes before arriving at the northern end of the Lake and our next portage point.
The Portage from St Andrews Lake north to the next lake, High Falls Lake, was a longer and steeper affair: a drop of almost a hundred feet of elevation, circumventing several more serious rapids and waterfalls. This was also where the series of interconnected lakes of the Barron River drainage became more organized, forming into a river proper. From here on, the lakes would be smaller and fewer, and, more often than not, not much more than temporary widenings of the river itself.
After a longish and somewhat uncomfortable portage down to High Falls Lake (I still had not figured out a positioning that avoided the unpleasant arm-circulation-cutoff problem), we were nearing our camp for the day: our booking was for one of the two campsites on High Falls Lake.
High Falls Lake campsite
After a few short minutes of canoeing along the lake, we arrived at the the two campsites, situated on the lake's eastern shoreline. Since the two sites were so close together, we disembarked and did an on-foot visual inspection of both. There were both quite nice, with excellent fire rings and more than enough tent spots for all of us. Although the first site had a higher position over the lake, the second campsite had more room and a very nice stone slab table. So, we chose that one.
Lunch at High Falls Lake camp
After setting up tents (this time under nicely dry conditions, thankfully), Gosia again prepared a tasty meal. This time, smoked salmon with cream cheese, onion and lemon on ciabatta buns, along with fresh carrots.
Second day's lunch