Trip Diary - 2012 April 13 through 16 - Gilmour Lake in the Brent Crater

This is the minimally edited and largely unabridged diary of our trip. In general, Bob was the diarist, with further comments by Diana.

2012 April 13

It is now 1:15 and Diana and I are eating lunch on the campsite on the north shore of Tecumseh Lake (17T PM 950066).

Our start was delayed this morning as we had to wait to get our permit. I tried to buy it yesterday but was told I couldn't buy it in advance and I would have to wait until 8:30 this morning. I started phoning at 8:30. [name deleted] finally answered the phone at 8:45 and said he would have to phone me back as he had just arrived. He phoned back at 9:00. The whole process took about 10 minutes. We finally got away at 9:15 and reached Deux Rivieres at about 10:00. We started the portage about 11:00.

The road in was rough but ok in the [Subaru] Outback -- I had been told yesterday that I needed a 4 wheel drive. Wet in places, bumpy, water across the road once and snow in other places.

We had a snack 10 minutes into the portage [from the Brent Road down to Tecumseh Lake]. Reached Tecumseh Lake at about 12:15. Quite difficult to get Kippy through to the lake proper. Bob ended up with "damp" feet. On the lake at about 12:00. Stopped here at about 1:00. Away at about 1:40, looking for the portage.


It's now about 6:00 pm. We are relatively comfortably set up at the lone campsite on the south shore of Gilmour Lake -- I say relatively comfortable because I have my doubts about the tent spot. [The tent spot was fine -- the new Exped sleeping mats were very comfortable]

After lunch we proceeded to the portage and were through in about 30 minutes -- 1 1/2 carries. The portage still had significant snow in places and snowmobile tracks were evident. It was also evident that some blowdowns had been cleared during the winter with a chain saw -- chain saw chips on top of snow.

A bit of wind on Gilmour Lake, but not a problem. About a 1/2 hour paddle from the portage to the campsite.

The campsite is on an old road and there is an old car mouldering in the bush. It appears to be a Ford sedan from about 1950.

Had coffee at around 4:00 pm and are now awaiting our soup.

Tarp is set up as is food rope. We have a fire going for entertainment but are cooking on the Trangia using the Littlbug Sr. as a windscreen. Note that the fuel container leaked a little, so a more appropriate container is called for.


Diana's notes:

A beautiful clear, sunny day -- quiet this morning but wind building as the day went on. No doubt thermal, and will die at sunset.

On the drive up to Deux Rivieres, saw a very large moose on the old bit of Highway 17 northwest of Stonecliffe. There is water right up to the road and he was having a drink.

Only saw 2 or 3 vehicles on Brent Road near highway -- otherwise empty. Appears there is no one else here. A few trees down, blocking half the road.

Saw geese go over during our 1st snack break. Flushed 4 geese when we got to campsite.

Both portages had snowmobile tracks and blowdowns cut with chainsaws.


It is now 8:00 pm -- supper over -- chicken and Singapore curry noodles, very good. Dishes washed, food up. Sitting by the fire with our Bushmills. Very quiet. Wind has mostly died. Temperature dropping. Was about 15C, now 8C.


April 14

It's morning, it's cold and I'm up but Diana is still in the tent. I don't know what time it is because Diana is official keeper of the time piece (when the GPS is off). I can't read the thermometer in the available light (which includes my headlamp) but no cat ice has formed in the water container. Had a good night -- up twice. The Expeds were very comfortable. My sleeping bag has sprung a leak [seam opened] at the bottom so a repair is necessary. [We subsequently decided that the repair could wait until we were home and no significant down loss occurred].

Don't feel too stiff, but my left knee is unhappy. That's part of what got me up. I'll take a couple of Ibuprofen later.


I subsequently determined that I was up at about 6:00 and the temp was about 0C. Somewhat of a nuisance -- it was hard to sweeten our coffee -- was that the brown sugar was frozen into a solid lump, impenetrable by our Delrin spoons. I expect I must have run into this issue previously but I don't recall. Also, the hand sanitizer was showing no enthusiasm for emerging from its bottle.

The stars at midnight last night were amazing but it was far too cold for stargazing in just my long underwear. Heard a loon during the night -- first of the year -- and Diana heard a barred owl. Basically a quiet night but the wind rose occasionally towards morning. It is calm now however.

Away in the canoe at 9:00 am. Explored the Muskwa seep. Nothing much really to see. Paddled across the lake and started down Gilmour Creek. Shallow and a good flow. Will have to work hard going back. Proceeded to the portage at the bottom of Brant Lake. We didn't get out [of the canoe] because, although it was a portage, getting to the shore was difficult [and not worth wet feet]. In another corner of Brant Lake we discovered some old logging works. Submerged dock? Log staging area at end of a winter road?

We had hot granola for breakfast. Quite good and fast and easy to prepare -- just add hot water.


Diana's notes:

Up twice in the night to pee -- 1st around midnight -- chilly, dark sky, huge brilliant stars, still some rising and falling wind. Calmed, then started again. Up again around 4:20 -- sky not so dark, air chillier, wind died. Calm at 6:00, temp 0C. Temp 1C at 8:00, 3C at 9:00.

Red sunrise, lots of bird activity -- woodpeckers, multi robins (one a very poor singer), gulls, little twitterers, jays, distant loons, etc., etc. Saw a good-sized fish rise.

On Brant Lake -- also visited the outlet (near 200m portage). Bedrock, lots of logs across with water flowing under, a bit of a drop over rocks then rapids. (possibly an old logging bridge and/or dam?) Must be the distant roar I heard last night after the wind died.

[We observed] Battling mergansers near the logging works (dock?) on lower bloop of Brant Lake.

Concur with Bob's rating of Exped down mats, hot granola, etc.

Before leaving on day's explorations, Bob did a lot of tarpage in case of rain.

Broken clouds now thickening.


Back at campsite at 11:20. Both feeling a little chilled, so started a fire and got in a good supply of firewood. Had coffee and a leisurely lunch. Temp now at 11C (around 1:30).

Now about 3:30. We both had a snooze in front of the fire (we found a couple of footrests to complement the chairs). The weather has been changeable from sunny to hints of rain and back. The breeze comes and goes. Unfortunately I got somewhat chilled while snoozing -- that'll teach me. But I feel better now after a snack and revitalizing the fire.


7:40 Food up, teeth brushed, sitting around the fire drinking our Bushmills. Very light rain.

Jambalaya and pepperoni for supper. Good but perhaps a little spicy. Tomato vegetable soup was good but a little fiddly to prepare. Although we are getting better, we still seem to be using a lot of fuel.


Diana notes: Jambalaya might be good with chicken instead of pepperoni.


April 15 -- Bob's birthday!

Up at six, sky clear up misty over the lake. Pink glow to the sky. Temp about 5C. Good night. Up twice, clear skies both times. Wasn't feeling that I hope it doesn't get any colder [as I was the previous night]. Very large plane went over in the middle of the night -- Globemaster or equivalent perhaps. Diana suspects we were visited around 4:00 am but I didn't notice anything.

([Proposed] General rule for appropriate food to cook on alcohol stove -- pre cooked and dehydrated i.e. needs only rehydrating and heating.)

Waiting for RR [Red River] cereal, which doesn't qualify under above rule. Temperature now up to 9C.

Big toe joints were aching during the night so I took 2 Ibuprofen with breakfast (as I did yesterday). No issue with my knee this morning so I attribute that to how I slept the previous night.)

I was optimistic about the weather when I first got up but now I am more pessimistic. The wind is from the south and cloudy. It "feels" as though rain is in the air.


Diana notes:

Not a bad night -- no wind, warm in sleeping bag, clear and stars when I was up and out of the tent. Wind started rising and falling some time after 4:00am.

Loons on this lake during the night, also heard some soft quacking near the shore. Just caught the end of the plane noise.

Visitor? Tripped over tarp rope, one 'thump' near fire pit. Toilet paper disturbed. Raccoon maybe?

Lots of birds singing and tooting this morning, plus red squirrel. Lots of drumming from woodpeckers.

Concur with Bob's food comments. RR cereal takes too long, but [one] can save some fuel by finishing in pot cosy, which works very well.

Air very humid, wind rising and falling from south. Temp 10C degrees at 8:30. Broken clouds very low racing from south. Perhaps a bit of rain then clearing? We'll see.

Bob is going through a complicated clothing change.

Current plan is to get organized then explore the road behind the campsite.


It is now 10:02. We are sitting on a log beside the Brent Road at map ref PH 941 027. We have followed the old trail from our campsite to this location. This trail has been recently cleared and thus Gilmour Lake is accessible by ATV by summer and snowmobile by winter. There was no snow left on the trail and thus we were unable to determine if this trail had been used by snowmobiles in the winter but it looked as though at least one ATV has visited this season.


It's now about noon and we're sitting under the tarp at our campsite enjoying snacks and coffee. (We arrived back at about 11:20). The weather is turning out much nicer than forecast. It is mainly sunny but breezy (from the southwest), temp at 17C. Not much else to say. The trail to the Brent Road traverses some very nice hardwood bush but on the other hand I am pissed off that the trail exists at all. It would seem that all of these northern brook trout lakes have direct snowmobile and ATV access. Perhaps Algonquin used to have a unique world class brook trout fishery, but I can't see it lasting much longer.


Diana's notes:

Saw a large bird while returning on the trail (old road) -- looked like a turkey vulture, but didn't stick around long enough for ID.

Nice walk in the bush. Quite steep up from the campsite -- climbing out of the crater, I assume -- then leveling out somewhat in the hardwood bush. Some very big trees.

Wind rising and falling from approximately SW. Some clouds appearing -- "mackerel scales and mare's tails". Maybe it will rain later despite the nice morning.


So after snoozing and snacking etc., I thought I would do something useful, so I launched the canoe -- me, a paddle, and our nylon water bucket -- to get some water. After filling the bucket, the Mamaygwessy entered the act. A gust of wind came up and stole my hat. In rescuing my hat, I dumped the contents of the water bucket in the bottom of the canoe. As I was kneeling, I soaked my lower legs and shoes. I refilled the water bucket and returned to shore.

As a separate exercise, I measured the temp of the water I got. It was 10C. This seemed somewhat high, so Diana took the thermometer down to the shore and measured the temperature directly -- albeit shallow water at the shore. She also measured 10C. [Believe your instruments but] maybe I need a new thermometer.

It is noticeably more buggy today than it has been but not yet a problem. But only mosquitoes -- no black flies. I can't explicitly remember a spring previously when the mosquitoes preceded the blackflies.


It's now 4:30. We had been down on the beach, basking in the heat of the sun, watching the fish rise (singular) and discussing the state of the world and the future of the Algonquin fishery. But the clouds have moved in and we're back under the tarp and started the evening fire.


Diana: Air temp has been around 19C. Very warm in the sun, but it is now covered by clouds.


The clouds are more serious but the wind has largely died.


About 7:30 -- everything done and sitting around enjoying our Bushmills. The weather remains benign, but no idea what it's up to. Calm, cloudy, misty, intermittent very light rain.

Supper [was] minestrone soup followed by scalloped potatoes with bacon bits -- very good, albeit a bit salty (but so is all camp food). We need to increase our ration of two bite brownies to two per person per day. [It turned out that taking only one per person per day was due to a misreading of our packing list.]

Low on fuel, but probably enough. (Diana: seeing that breakfast granola can also be served cold [if need be].)


Diana: Single loon on the lake.


April 16

7:02 -- up at 6:10 to very light rain. Now just murky. Now having our coffee. It appears that we brought the exact correct amount of both fuel and Coffeemate. Good night, mild, intermittent very light rain. Temp at 6:30 or so about 13C.

Diana thought she heard wolves very faintly in the distance around 4:00am.


10:55 -- sitting under shelter [a spruce tree] at the Tecumseh Lake end of the portage, waiting out a thunderstorm. We were away from the campsite at about 9:05 with some "is that thunder?" rumbles in the distance. It started to rain in earnest when we were a couple of hundred metres from the start of the portage -- suited up in our rain gear and were across the portage in 15-20 minutes. Too much rain for me to continue writing. [this page of the diary has water spots on it.]


11:00 and snacking, sitting at the [Tecumseh Lake] end of the portage out of the crater. It took us 23 minutes to paddle the lake and 12 minutes to navigate the channel through the fen [(data filled in from GPS track extracted after we were home)]. I thought we might get hit with another thunderstorm in the fen, but now it is sunny with white cumulus clouds. I can hear the wind in the tree tops, gentle, but it is still here.


12:32 and we're having lunch on the road by the observation tower. [We had] Finished the portage at 12:10 -- hot, sweaty, hard work. [According to the GPS track, it took us 52 minutes to complete the portage.]

Blue skies, white clouds, and [now] the wind is really roaring. Glad that the paddling for the day is over.

Good trip. Went better than I expected (says the born pessimist) but it sure is a whole lot easier to portage into the crater than out of it!


Diana notes:

View from the observation tower is really nice in early spring, especially with today's light (fast-moving cloud shadows).

Except for a pickup truck with a trailer full of garbage heading out of Brent, we met no other vehicles on the Brent Road. Highway traffic was light. The wind was gusty and the car felt it. Finally arrived home around 2:30. 25C when we got home. No internet service till 4:00 -- just enough time to look at a few things and read the wind warning on the weather forecasts (cold front with gusts to 90 or 100 km/hr) [before the] Power went off at around 4:30 -- Hydro says it should be restored around 7:45. Ordered Godfather's pizza for supper and picked it up. Tree had fallen on power lines at the usual spot on Highway 17 (passing lanes). Laurentian Hills fire trucks were there, but excitement over. After some impressive wind gusts and sprinkles of rain, things seem to be calming down. Hope the power comes on as scheduled so we can watch the hockey game and I can have a shower!!


[power was restored around 8:15, but went off again at 11:00 and came back on again about 2:00am]