The night passed with warm and calm weather - so much so that many of us slept with our sleeping bags unzipped. The day had dawned warm and still, but not sunny - an unevenly-thick but still continous cloud deck covered the sky.
After a reasonably relaxed morning, we headed out onto the water at about 9:30 a.m. Our route continued west, up the Opeongo River. Generally it was placid and flat, except for a small, short rapid leading into Kitty Lake. Arn and Gosia managed to muscle up against the current; the rest of us opted for the 90-metre portage around it.
Above the small rapid, we continued on, gliding across exceptionally smooth glass-like water. We came to another section of visible current and increasing rapids, and soon arrived at the beginning of the 550-meter portage up to Booth Lake. This portage was not optional - the section of river up to Booth Lake includes much larger rapids, and the Booth Lake dam - both impassable by canoe.
The 550-meter portage seemed longer than 550-metres, but perhaps my sense of distance is warped with an extra 40 pounds of canoe on my shoulders. By 10:45 a.m., we arrived at the put-in point on Booth Lake, just above the dam.
Next, we began the longest stretch of paddling for the day - the crossing of Booth Lake. Booth Lake was by far the largest lake on this trip's itinerary, and Arn and the others recounted how crossing it could be (and had been) challenging in more windy conditions. Fortunately, today there was almost no wind, and the crossing went by with comparitively little effort. It took us well under an hour to cover the 3.6 km straight-west shot across lower Booth Lake.
From Booth Lake, a short-ish (< 400m) portage climbed up to the little pond of Ryegrass Lake. Here, Arn and the others had encountered some brushy / blowdown-ish conditions on a previous trip. Today, there was still a bit of paddling through a narrow marshy channel, a branch to duck under, and a slightly troublesome rocky take-out, but overall it was easy. Soon we were moving up the next 400-ish meter portage to the next little lake in the chain we were following: Rumley Lake.
The day had become quite warm and stifling. The put-out point on Rumley lake was shaded and had a nice onshore breeze, so we decided this was a perfect spot to stop for a lunch break.
Lunch at Rumley Shore
Rumley was another pond-sized lake, and it took only a few minutes of paddling to get to the far side. The longest portage of the day awaited: a 1.4-ish kilometre overland journey across a low divide (the highpoint of our entire journey, in fact) to Godda Lake. Godda Lake was the location of our next campsite, and it also marked the highpoint (and essentially the halfway point, distance-wise) of our trip. We had been paddling upstream to this point; afterwards, it would be all 'downhill', from a water point of view.
I don't find it particularly enjoyable to lug the canoe over long distances, but with the assistance of a comfortable shoulder pad and Jenn's tip-balance assistance (and by simply putting one's mind elsewhere for a few tens of minutes), the distance is reasonably quickly covered with a minimum of discomfort.
The Big Portage
Our planned campsite on Godda lake was only perhaps a hundred metres from the portage end-point. As a result, we opted to hike our packs along the shore to the campsite, and then return afterwards to paddle the boats in. It was not yet 3pm; According to Arn, we had achieved excellent time. He credited most of the advantage we'd gained to the good conditions on Booth Lake.
After setting up camp, many went for a quick dip in the chilly waters of the lake. I took a nice hour-long nap, and the kids spent time practicing their canoe skills on the calm water near camp. Afterwards, we sat around and played some card and dice games.
Up to this point, although the skies had been mostly cloudy, the weather had been warm and calm. We knew, however, that the forecast had called for the possibility of thunderstorms and significant precipitation. And, as the afternoon progressed, there did seem to be a slight darkening of the skies to the west. This gradually continued, and it became obvious that something was coming our way.
As it became more and more obvious that rain was coming, we set about tidying up our camp, putting away loose items, and ensuring our tarps and tents were well-fastened. Although we didn't see any direct bolts, there were occasional distant flashes and rumbles of thunder. Soon, dark clouds with sharp tendrils could be seen on the far side of the lake. In one sense, it was fortunate that the weather was coming to us from the far side of the lake, as it meant we had a clear line of sight to it. On the other hand, it could also mean that any winds coming from that direction might be less damped.
The skies continued to darken, as did the temperature, as the storm approached. The sky spat a few drops, then stopped, and the wind began to pick up. We all retreated underneath two tarps we had set up.
The rain soon started again, this time more continuously, and the wind continued to increase in intensity. We had all donned top and bottom raingear at this point, and with good reason - the wind was blowing strongly enough that it didn't matter all that much that we were underneath tarps, as the rain came in at a semi-horizontal angle.
A line of white-ness appeared across the lake, approaching in our direction. I had a pretty good idea that this represented a significant ramp-up in storm intensity, and I warned the others that conditions were soon likely to get a lot rougher. Many in our group decided to retreat to the tents, out of the stinging sideways rain.
The line of white hit us a few minutes later. Both the wind and the rain immediately notched upwards in intensity; the surface of the lake had become a frothy turmoil. We couldn't see more than a few tens of metres in any direction. The tarps we'd tied between the trees began writhing and flapping furiously, and Dave - one of only three of us still outside, struggled to shore up the lines holding it in place. Around us, the tents bowed and bent in the strong gale; I could see the staked-out flies pressed hard against the inner walls. Fortunately, though, they stayed firmly anchored into the ground.
As we were struggling to further secure the tarps, I glanced lakeward once again. To my surprise, I could see another, even more intensely white line approaching us. This storm apparently had another notch left on its intensity dial.
It was pretty much impossible to communicate without shouting as the powerful pulse hit us. Standing up became tricky. Within seconds, the wildly flapping tarp we had set up nearer to the water broke one of its attachments with a large snap. Kai and I stood enveloped in the tarp as we stood with our backs against the wind.
A particularly strong gust of wind caught Dave's overturned canoe, lifting it perhaps four or five feet in the air and throwing it against one of the tents, causing much shrieking and concern from the inside. Dave quickly manhandled the canoe back down to the ground, where he managed to wedge it in place amongst some trees.
I had placed my camera in the tent a few minutes before, and I later regretted that decision. Had I had the camera properly within its Outex enclosure, I could have taken many pictures of this awesome little display of nature's power.
A few minutes later, the intensity of the storm began to diminish, and soon after, it dropped off to almost nothing. A bit of light rain and drizzle continued for a few more minutes, and then stopped. Not long after, a bit of sun began to shine.
We surveyed the damage. Dave's tarp had several corners shredded; In the nearby tent, Nel had had her thumb twisted and pulled by the force of the flying canoe against the tent she was in. Our campfire, roaring strong before the storm, was now only smoking and steaming (although there still seemed to be a core of hot coals). We were all partially soaked in some manner or other, and a few items of food near the campfire had been waterlogged. Overall, though, we'd come through it all fairly cleanly.
We spent the next little while cleaning up and drying off. With no further stormy weather in sight, we then made dinner (for us, a tasty combo of polish sausage and potatoes). We were thankful that we had not started to cook dinner before the storm hit.
The passing of the storm had caused a marked drop in temperature; it was no longer muggy and 27 degrees C; instead, it was now clammy and damp, perhaps only about 15C. We huddled around the now-revived campfire as darkness fell. Nel and Emma were interested in doing some "light-painting" (done by taking long exposures with the camera on a tripod), and we spent a good 40 minutes or so drawing out all manner of names, shapes and scribbles against a dark forest backdrop.
After the light-painting and a few more minutes warming ourselves against the cold dampness of the night, we turned in shortly before 11pm. We hoped that there would be no storm repeat during the overnight hours.