August is my favourite month for paddling. The temperatures are warm. The lakes and rivers are warm. The evenings are warm. So it was with dismay that I looked at the calendar and saw that August was coming to a close. It had been on the agenda to take my two boys, Milo, 6, and Eli, 4, on an overnight paddle before school was to begin. With the end of the calendar looming, and the end of summer holidays looming too, plans were made.
Milo had been out the summer before, but this would be the first overnight paddle for Eli. Thoroughly enjoying his first trip out, Milo was ready and excited. Eli was a little nervous, but with brotherly support, he was ready too.
I decided this time to head to White Lake and then portage into Cabin Lake. As I have mentioned before, White Lake holds special memories for me from my childhood. Milo and I headed to this area for his first trip, so it was now time to head there again with Eli. It was also around this time that I enlisted the help of Grandpa, who happily agreed to come along.
We launched from White Lake campground. It was warm for the end of August, so we took a dip at the beach before departing. The paddle across White Lake follows the shore south towards the portage to Cabin Lake. As the boys are still small, they took the space ahead of the stern seat, with all other space used for bags.
At the portage to Cabin Lake, there is some nice smooth rock. Once we unloaded, we cooled our feet and ate some snacks in the shade. There is some conflicting information on the length of the portage to Cabin Lake. In places, it states 500 meters, while others say 1000 meters.
I know that many a book or article on paddling with kids say to even skip portages for early trips altogether, but I reason differently. Sitting in the canoe is all well and good, but for a four-year-old, it can get tiresome. The portage was just the remedy: a chance to explore, and especially, walk.
There was a beaver pond at one time that you could paddle and get closer towards Cabin Lake and then portage, but on our trip, the beaver pond was bone dry. The portage was 1000 meters. The boys took their paddles and Grandpa and I schlepped the rest. We carried everything to middle and then went back for more. This gave shoulders a chance to rest. Well, for Grandpa anyway. I carried Eli back on my shoulders. For the last leg, Grandpa and the boys waited at the end and I returned for the canoe.
At Cabin Lake there are the customary scattered boats chained to trees, and the accompanying litter to go with them. From the portage, we headed out to a point and stopped for lunch. Unfortunately, the north basin of the lake was murky with fine green algae, no doubt a symptom of the low water levels.
There are two marked campsites on Cabin Lake. We headed over to the one on the east shore first. It is on a higher rock, with fire pit and picnic table. There was an older, but useable, red fibreglass canoe there, but not a soul to be seen. It appears that people hike in and then use the canoe on the lake, as a hiking trail comes into Cabin Lake from the Red Rock Lake road. We decided to head to the south end of the lake to the other campsite.
Water quality was much improved at the south end of the lake. The designated site at the south end is fairly small, but again has a fire pit and picnic table. However, the site we chose was opposite of this site on a nice, low, rocky peninsula. We were not the first to do so; in fact, it appears that this site is the de facto site most people use.
With its low shoreline, the boys could safely explore. And explore we did! A snapping turtle watched us as we watched countless water bugs, investigated snails and starred at pelicans that glided by. Once camp was set and firewood piled up for later, we took the canoe out and poked into the other bays nearby. Evening brought light winds and mirror-like water. By the bedtime, it did not take long for two boys to fall asleep.
The two-legged alarm clocks were up early. Oatmeal, with sunrise added in, made for a great breakfast. Trying our luck with fishing after, the wind began to pick up. Packing the rest of our gear, we headed back towards White Lake.
A trip on some roots at the start of the portage set the tone for the rest of the portage. Poor Eli bit his lip on his fall and, needless to say, was not happy. “This is the worst”, “I am never doing this again” and “I don’t like portages” were all things heard by every bird, tree and animal until we reached White Lake. Some lunch and rest at the end of the trail was good medicine for everyone. That “strong backs and weak memories” thing they say about portaging is certainly true!
The wind had picked up more by now, but, thankfully, was a tailwind from the south. We endeavoured to make a sail, but there was not enough patience to make it work. After reaching the beach at the campground and packing the car, we headed to the store for some well-deserved freezies and popsicles. Talk of going again was the sure sign that it was fun for everyone.
For the record, there is no cabin on Cabin Lake.