Killarney Provincial Park 2015 Part 2: Howry Lake to Carlyle Lake

Day 4: Howry Lake to the Georgian Bay

A bird the size
of a leaf fills
the whole lucid
evening with
his note, and flies.
—Wendell Berry, A Timbered Choir: Sabbath Poems 1979-1997 (New York: Counterpoint, 1998).

The sunrise on Howry Lake was stunning.

The sunrise on Howry Lake

The sunrise on Howry Lake

Brian cut and fried up apples while we boiled water for coffee and oatmeal. We packed up and left the site with a sugar-powered burst of energy.

As Howry Lake transitioned into Howry Creek, the paddling became marshy. We decided to take the P455 but we probably could have pushed up the creek further after the boys broke another dam.

The Howry Creek put-in following a 455m Portage

The Howry Creek put-in following a 455m Portage

Murray Lake, as the map shows, is mostly marsh. We followed the path of the current as it formed switchbacks through the lily pads. There was just too much resistance to paddle straight through. Eventually the marsh gave way to lake and we found Notch Creek Portage (P1470).

I was told that this portage was the most beautiful in the park, and it likely is in the spring. In October there’s no water left in Notch Creek. All that’s left is elevation to climb. Murray Lake is 197m above sea level while Carmichael Lake is 267m. That’s 70 metres of climbing with a canoe and gear on your back. That’s 230 feet.

The portage starts by climbing straight uphill. Rather than waste the effort to lift the bow of my canoe up to see the top, I put my head down and started climbing up cedar-root stairs. It felt like it would never end! I’ve done longer portages, but none quite as intense as this.

Carmichael Lake quickly gives way to the main event: Nellie Lake. After chatting with a couple who were staying on site 142, I paddled far enough around the point to see down the length of it. The park map calls it the “clearest lake in the Park with 28 metre visibility.” It’s hard to imagine the clarity until you paddle on it. Looking down gave you a sense of vertigo.

The clarity of Nellie Lake is astounding

The clarity of Nellie Lake is astounding

We ate lunch on a point of land on Nellie—fried tuna melts, a staple on our trips. When we left for the next portage, I brought a stone with me from the shore. I dropped it and watched it fall through crystal clear waters for what seemed like too long before it crashed into the bottom raising a plumb of dust. It’s ironic that acid rain has created a lifeless lake which is stunning in its beauty.

We quickly found the P2525 to Helen Lake. This portage was the exact opposite of the last one. We dropped even more elevation than we gained previously. Unlike Notch Creek Portage, this one followed spacious well-beaten path as it meandered gently down to an unnamed lake.

The gentle walk from Nellie to Helen Lake

The gentle walk from Nellie to Helen Lake

The trail then changes to a technical walk for another 400m or so until it ends at Helen Lake. There were many board walks and halved logs to cross wet spots, but they were too slick to be useful.

Helen Lake is relatively small and we paddled quickly around the south point until we found the P70 to Low Lake. This portage is a simple lift-over smooth granite. The view toward Low Lake is glorious.

The view across Low Lake from a granite ridge

The view across Low Lake from a granite ridge

If you’re planning a trip and the weather is good, stay on this campsite (138). We decided to press on so we could spend a night on the Georgian Bay. A quick P20 at the end of Low Lake led to a thickly choked marsh.

The marshy paddle to the Georgian Bay

The marshy paddle to the Georgian Bay

Another P19 brought us to the North Channel on the Georgian Bay.

The water here was thick with organic matter flushed out of the marsh. We tried to fish but were unsuccessful. (Later that evening we heard fish jump but still couldn’t get a bite!) We paddled past site 134 to check out 133, but returned to 134.

Georgian Bay Site:
N 46° 05.484′
W 81° 33.575′

The site was pretty well used. We were able to set up our tents 30 metres or so away from the point where we cooked and had our fire.

The shadows fell quickly on our Georgian Bay site

The shadows fell early on our Georgian Bay site

I set up a deluxe edition of the flying squirrel, complete with two ears for more headroom. The ground was thickly covered in moss which made for a cushy sleep.

The deluxe edition of the Flying Squirrel

The deluxe edition of the Flying Squirrel

There was plenty of downed deadwood so we lit a nice fire. Brian fried up onions and mushrooms to add to our pesto and pasta meal.

The excitement came after supper. We found a hollow log that had washed up from the Bay. It was about 4 feet long and 1 foot in diameter. We used some deadwood sticks to prop it up as a flamethrower.

Once the fire died down we were treated to the northern lights. They jumped straight up into the air like the bars of an old stereo EQ. What a beautiful end to the evening. The clouds then rolled in thickly and we went to sleep expecting rain.

Day 5: Georgian Bay to Killarney Lake

I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.
(1979, I)
—Wendell Berry, A Timbered Choir: Sabbath Poems 1979-1997 (New York: Counterpoint, 1998).

We were surprised to be woken up by the sun. We set our camp down and enjoyed a breakfast of oatmeal with dried apricots.

We paddled Georgian Bay east along the North Channel, then south down the East Channel (go figure). There are plenty of cottages on the islands around here. We picked our way through the islands of McGregor Bay before finding the P905 across Blue Ridge. This was an easy walk along a trail marked by bear scat.

The calmer side of Blue Ridge

The calmer side of Blue Ridge

We were surprised by what we found on the other side. The water was calm on the north side of the ridge but not on the south! The wind was coming straight out of the east, stirring up big waves with white-caps along Baie Fine. We fought for every inch of water along this 5 km stretch of water, at times feeling like we were on the nautical equivalent of a treadmill. By this point in the trip the food barrel which provided ballast in the bow of my canoe was very light. Large waves picked up the bow of my canoe and dropped it in front of the next wave, constantly spilling my momentum.

When we finally made it to the end of Baie Fine we saw a group of four otters. I paddled through them as they dove, surfaced, and snorted at me.

We rounded the bend to get out of the wind and had a lunch of fried tuna wraps at site 38. The weather was starting to look stormy and we had already covered the distance we had planned for the day so we decided to push on.

The P370 from The Pool to Artist Lake felt nostalgic as it follows a bit of the hiking loop we have walked before.

The creek approaching the P370 from "The Pool"

The creek approaching the P370 from “The Pool”

Artist Lake was unique. It was full of massive floating rafts of mud and root balls. They must have dislodged from the ground when beavers flooded the lake.

We picked our way around the obstacles to the end of the lake and prepared for the P900 that was marked on the map, only to find about a P70 over a hill to another pond. We paddled the pond to find about a P80 to Muriel Lake. The pond in the middle must have had a portage around it, but it was full of water this time. It’s always a bonus when you get to skip a portage!

Muriel Lake was pretty. A deciduous forest blanketed the south side of the lake, full of bright fall colours. The north side of Gulch Hill stretched up above the colourful trees.

The south shore of Muriel Lake

The south shore of Muriel Lake

An easy P595 brought us to O.S.A Lake, one of the larger lakes in the park. This is when the rain began and the wind picked up. We paddled into the wind for a couple kilometres before reaching the P130 to Killarney Lake. It’s a shame we didn’t have better weather and more time for this lake. The landscape is classic Killarney. The massive quartzite cliffs to the north would be fun to explore.

At the east end of O.S.A Lake the map offered us a choice. We could have taken the P455 to a different part of Killarney Lake, but the shorter portage gave us the opportunity to explore a “Lo” mark on the map. It turned out to be one final beaver dam we were able to break and paddle through.

The beaver dam on Killarney Lake

The beaver dam on Killarney Lake

To our surprise, Killarney Lake was full of people. We paddled past site 21 and 22, thinking we would camp closer to the next morning’s portage. Site 21, 19, and 20 were all taken. We backtracked and set up camp on site 22 which is a great site once you hike your gear up a 3 metre climb from the shoreline.

Killarney Lake Site:
N 46° 03.574′
W 81° 22.061′

The night grew cold.

Our soggy site on Killarney Lake

Our soggy site on Killarney Lake

The rain had a bit of slush in it as we tried to cook pizzas over a burner. It was too cold for the toppings to melt, so we ate cold toppings on a charred pita. Despite the rain, Brodie got a raging fire burning. I set up the flying squirrel in a pine-needled valley between two low rock ridges. It was very windy, but we were warm in our sleeping bags.

Day 6: Killarney Lake to Carlyle Lake

There is a day
when the road neither
comes nor goes, and the way
is not a way but a place.
—Wendell Berry, A Timbered Choir: Sabbath Poems 1979-1997 (New York: Counterpoint, 1998).

Our final day passed quickly. The rain had stopped overnight leaving only the wind. We awoke to low level clouds and mist clinging to the quartzite ridges.

The fog on Killarney Lake

Breakfast was two days worth of granola bars, chocolate bars, and coffee—plenty of energy for half a day’s travel.

The photographer's selfie

The photographer’s selfie

We paddled around the bends to the P1440 to Kakakise Lake.

My solo boat on Killarney Lake

My solo boat on Killarney Lake

The portage was easy except for the extreme rock-fall that drops to the elevation where the hiking trail crosses. Brian and I had hiked this part of the trail a year ago in the spring when we spent a night atop “The Crack”.

Kakakise Lake is a long and narrow lake. We paddled between the island and the south shore on our way to the P940 which would bring us back to our starting point, Carlyle Lake.

The portage was full of brand new board walks. Many of them seemed superfluous, but it might be a different story in the spring.

A new boardwalk in the fall

A new boardwalk in the fall

We paddled Carlyle back to the parking lot and arrived at noon. There was a man on the site we used the first night and a very friendly duo preparing to leave for Johnny Lake.

We spent our last night in the Super 8 in Sudbury after stuffing ourselves at King’s Buffet. It was a fantastic trip.

< Part 1: Carlyle Lake to Howry Lake

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4 Responses to Killarney Provincial Park 2015 Part 2: Howry Lake to Carlyle Lake

  1. Monique Pitfield February 24, 2016 at 12:52 pm #

    Stunning pictures. I lived in Killarney for over 5yrs and didnt know so many lakes were out there simply remarkable. Thanks for sharing all the beauty of Killarney area.

  2. Stephen Barkley February 24, 2016 at 2:20 pm #

    Thanks for the comment, Monique. I’ve been through Killarney on foot a couple times, but this was my first full back-country canoe trip. It is a stunning place.

  3. Daryl Phillips February 25, 2016 at 12:43 pm #

    What an adventurous trip you had! I appreciated the story you told complete with photos. I could follow along with you as you progressed through each lake and portage Also very informative.

  4. Stephen Barkley February 27, 2016 at 5:36 pm #

    Thanks Daryl,

    Writing these little trip logs helps me to remember the trip years later. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

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