Trip Log - Two Nights Solo - Little Carcajou Lake and Upper Spectacle Lake
heat, humidity, deer flies, and old age
The plan was that I — Bob — would head up "towards" Greenleaf Lake via Carcajou Creek, solo. I hadn't been out solo for several years and I wanted to establish that I could still do it. My interest in Greenleaf had recently been rekindled and I said "towards" Greenleaf because I wasn't sure that I could make it there in the time available. But I figured I could make it to Carcajou Lake and then perhaps visit Greenleaf Lake as a day trip. (One of the issues I have with getting older — I'm 74 — is that I no longer have any accurate concept of what my limits are except that they are less than they used to be and declining). So my conservative plan was to travel to Little Carcajou Lake the first day, then to Carcajou Lake for two nights and return as I had come. But Little Carcajou was not available for the return leg so I would have to travel a little farther that day and camp on Upper Spectacle Lake instead.
Since Diana and I had done essentially the same trip four years ago, I wasn't particularly concerned as to whether I could do it or not. But I guess I hadn't factored in the heat, the deer flies and the additional years. I didn't make it. I decided to bail on the first evening; I was completely exhausted and my first priority had to be to get myself out of there safely. I retreated to Upper Spectacle Lake the next day and then home on the following day. Because I was so tired, I took very few photos above Carcajou Falls (no photos of Little Carcajou Lake at all.) However, I kept up my diary and most of the following is a copy-edited transcription of my diary
Monday, 2019 July 15
I'm sitting in my canoe just off the Achray pier. It's sunny — and starting to feel hot and humid — and dead calm.
I was away from the house at about 07:30 and at the Sand Lake gate at about 08:30. There I encountered Gerry who was going into Sec for a day of fishing. I got my route but not without some difficulty with the attendant. He was confusing Carcajou Lake with Carcajou Bay. I arrived at Achray a little after 09:00. And now I’m ready to go.
I stopped for a snack in Carcajou Bay at 10:15. Someone is camped at the point. It’s dead calm, hot in the sun with the sky a little milky. It’s a shame that I read the weather reports [possibility of severe thunderstorms]. Weather is a demon I’ll be facing all week, I suspect. My other demons have largely fled now that I am out here.
I am up against the rock face on the south shore of the channel connecting Carcajou Creek and the Spectacle Lakes. I am in the shade so that provides some relief from the sun and the deer flies. The deer flies were brutal on the last portage and they seem unaffected by DEET. It is very hot.
I managed to paddle up the rocky defile at the top of Carcajou Bay. My first thought was that I would line it up, but there was a floating tree along the shore at the top that made that awkward. The paddling was OK but it was shallow.
I’m sitting under the tarp on Little Carcajou Lake. I’ve been here almost 2 hours and I am only now boiling coffee water. I am absolutely knackered. I guess the issue is the heat rather than the absolute physical exertion, but I was clearly operating at my physical limits. I’m not sure what I’m going to do but I don’t think I should stick to my original plan. I don’t think there is any way I can travel from Carcajou to Upper Spectacle in one day and yet that is what the reservation system would force me to do. And to think back home I was considering Carcajou to Achray in a day as a serious possibility.
I started the Upper Spectacle to Little Carcajou portage at 13:00 and reached the pond at about 15:00. There was enough water to paddle the pond but only just. I triple carried the last section from the pond into Little Carcajou because that section is quite rough and I wasn't completely steady on my feet.
I reached this campsite at 16:30 and have been stumbling around ever since, basically on autopilot. The food rope is up, the tarps are up. The bug net is not deployed as I felt is was too breezy. However, the breeze has been abating.
Normally on a portage the walk back to get the next load is all the rest/cool-down that I need. But not for me today. I needed explicit rests and even they were not sufficient. I really felt that I was operating right at my limit. But that’s an interesting question. Can you judge what your limits are when the issue is overheating?
P.S. This is a rotten campsite — even worse than I remember it.
The coffee was an equal mixture of Nescafe Sweet and Creamy and Via Columbia — a little rough at first sip but really nice by the end of the mug. [Perhaps I didn't stir it enough.]
The bugs seem to be making an entrance so I have deployed the bug net — but that reduces the air flow and it’s still hot, about 27C. The deer flies have been brutal ever since Carcajou Falls but they weren't too bad under the tarp..
In case you haven’t guessed, I’m not going to have a regular dinner tonight.
And my soup’s ready.
The sun set at one end of the lake as the moon rose at the other. The bivy sack is set up, essentially within the bug net. The food is up and teeth are brushed etc. It is still very warm. I can’t tell if I’m hearing distance thunder or jets. I wasn’t going to have a Bushmills this evening but maybe I will since everything now seems under control and there's nothing else I need to do. It’s dead calm with a solid bullfrog chorus.
Tuesday, July 16
My coffee is ready. I'm under the tarp in the bug net. The temperature is 18C, the pressure is 998 mB and it's overcast with a slight air movement from the east.
I had a comfortable night, the bed was fine, but I only slept lightly, seemingly lying awake for periods of time. That was probably more in my head than reality. The first part of the night was clear with a gorgeous moon, then it clouded over with intermittent very light rain. I slept in my long underwear using the sleeping bag as a quilt.
The forest creatures were quiet overnight, although the bugs are not quiet this morning. The mosquito coil is going. Assuming that the lake is oriented east/west, the clouds are moving out of the south although the surface air is seeping out of the east.
I'm sitting in the canoe drifting down the lake. The wind is from the west. It’s overcast, warm and muggy, and the deer flies are brutal. I'm heading towards Grand Lake, but I don’t know where I’ll sleep tonight.
I guess I’ll sleep on Upper Spectacle Lake tonight. I’m sitting under the tarp on the easternmost campsite. I have the lake to myself, which is surprising because according to the online reservation system one site was occupied all week and both on Friday. But since both are empty, I don’t feel too bad about squatting.
It’s hot — 28C — and the wind is intense. And I’m pretty exposed here. Whether I’ll be able to rig enough protection to boil water remains to be seen. The sky is clouded over with low distinct clouds coming out of the west.
[The decision to stop on Upper Spectacle Lake was essentially made for me by the wind. There was no way I woud be able to cross Grand Lake safely under these conditions. Considering the campsites between here and the mouth of Carcajou Bay, this one seemed the least likely to have a legitimate permit holder show up.]
The food rope is up, water is filtering, and the wind is still blowing, but perhaps diminishing. This campsite is pretty exposed, but where else am I going to go? However, the wind doesn’t bother the deer flies. I think they take it as a challenge.
I’m feeling a bit rough — heat related — but not nearly as bad as I felt at this time yesterday. I’m about to see if I can manage to boil some water and have some coffee.
I successfully made some coffee but I kept dozing off while drinking it so when I finished I lay down on the ground and had a nap — in spite of the racket from the tarp in the wind.
Anyway, I’m up again. I’d like to make some soup, but the wind seems to be getting worse — a last hurrah, I hope. Whatever, I’m going to try to make some soup, have a brownie and go to bed.
Soup and brownie successfully eaten. I will now, at a slow rate of speed, put everything away and pack it in. It’s still 27C. Tonight the moon doesn’t rise till more than an hour after sunset.
After I wrote my previous comments, the deer flies returned with a vengeance so I deployed the bug net. Then I went to hang the food. My carefully established setup failed (branch broke). I had a hell of a time re-establishing it. The issue was lack of good throwing objects. Upon returning to the bug net I discovered a sizeable population of deer flies had taken up residence inside. I sprayed them directly with DEET which seemed somewhat effective. I don't know if it killed them, but they sure didn't like it. I am now slowly returning to sanity but I have still to deploy my sleeping quarters. The wind still blows but I remain optimistic — and Stoic in reserve.
And things are back under control, although it’s still warm. The wind has dropped and the deer flies are behaving themselves. The little guys [mosquitoes] are making an appearance but they are outside of the net. And I’m resisting the temptation for a Bushmills tonight. I expect I’ll go home tomorrow, but we’ll see.
Wednesday, July 17
Good morning: I'm sitting in the bug net having morning coffee. It's warm — 20C — dead calm, 999.7 mB — the bugs are out. I had a good night, slept solidly in spite of the whippoorwill. I inadvertently left the inReach on all night –- it's down to 64% battery this morning. So no harm done, but that sort of thing could be an issue on longer trips.
Not much to say this morning other than beautiful morning except for the bugs.
I'm sitting in the canoe just off shore of last night’s campsite. I'm probably heading home but right now appreciating a breath of wind — although not much — and some relief from the deer flies. It is quite warm and muggy — very close.
I just finished a snack break at the halfway point of the portages around Carcajou Falls. There is a refreshing cool breeze and no bugs. I met another solo paddler heading for Greenleaf; he had a 16’ Keewaydin and his father’s in his 70s. We exchanged pleasantries, etc.
I'm taking a break at the pictograph site. There is a strong breeze blowing right into the bay so I’ve got my work cut out for me. Various people in Carcajou Bay including a father and son heading for Upper Spectacle — they’re going to be disappointed with the swimming — and someone in an inflatable. I hope they don’t mind waiting until sundown to get back to Achray.
[I paddled back to Achray without incident or drama and proceeded home. Diana had been watching my progress via the inReach and had pretty well figured out the story of my trip.]
That route, under those conditions defeated me. But was the root cause my age, the deer flies, or the heat and humidity? In retrospect, I believe it was the latter — the temperature was in the high 20s and the humidex in the high 30s. I think I would have been OK in more temperate conditions, but that is a proposition I will have to test.
The 2 km portage from Upper Spectacle Lake to Little Carcajou Lake is not a difficult one but it is not a particularly pleasant one either; it is quite rough at the Little Carcajou Lake end. When I solo, I double carry; one load is the larger pack, the other load is the smaller pack and canoe. Usually, the walk back to get the next load is all the rest needed between carries. But not in that heat. I would still be absolutely flushed and burning up; I needed to explicitly stop and sit down between loads. (I take multiple short hops, leap frogging across the portage). Now part of the problem was my hat, a standard Tilley. It was just too hot. But if I took it off, I would get eaten alive by the deer flies. (And even with it on, they would crawl through the grommet holes and get me anyway.) But even so, it was just too hot and humid for the exertion required.
Given the state I was in by the time I reached the campsite on Little Carcajou, I remain convinced that the decision to bail was the correct and prudent one even though I feel a little sheepish about the whole episode. But still, I don't regret going; I got to know myself a little bit better and in a weird way, enjoyed the experience.
Don’t demand or expect that events happen as you would wish them to. Accept events as they actually happen. That way peace is possible. Epictetus