Our only hope to get off this Island was to start early, and try and cross back to the western side of Eagle lake and move ahead. We packed everything we could the night before, grabbed a bar and a swig of water, and pushed off into the water at 5:15 AM. Mike and I were really hoping to move ahead at least a few miles, as the wind was also supposed to pick up today. Our crossing was quick and the wind , although present, was manageable. We chugged along the shore at about a 2 MPH pace until we started to home in on our next landing site, known as the Tramway Carry. We were hoping to locate the remains of two steam locomotives that hauled logs here from 1927-1933. This article provides a brief history of the most ambitious and unique venture.
The only signs here on the Waterway were the initial entrance sign, and the small triangular brown wooden signs that discreetly mark each campsite. There was no sign for the path that leads to the engines, but we were summoned to the correct place by the loud splash of a beaver whacking its tail on the water just in front of a beaver lodge that marked the entrance to a little cove. We expected to push through overgrown thickets to find the trains, but after a brief uphill rise, an opening in the forest revealed these gigantic locomotives, each over 60 feet long.
Sixty foot long steam locomotive
The wheels were 5 feet high. We were floored to see them here, so far into the deep woods.
Mike and I explored them a bit, snapped some shots and then were on the water again.
The wind kept coming at us, and we continued to hug the western side of Eagle Lake, and eventually made the 1 mile crossing of Russell Cove.
Waves are building
Next, we skirted the two mile long shoreline of a big peninsula where we passed three campsites. The only watercraft we saw on those sites were the usual 20 foot square ended boats fitted with 10 horepower outboard motors.
Next, we planned to stop at the Eagle Lake Ranger Station, mainly to cook up our belated breakfast. There was nobody home, and after using the outhouse, we were getting ready to unload the cooking gear when the white powerboat from yesterday came right at us. It was the same ranger who checked on us yesterday. We learned his name was Kevin, and we thanked him for his advice to head back to Pillsbury Island and wait out the wind.
Kevin laughed and told us, “ Only 10 per cent of the people I talk to ever listen to me.”
We listened even more carefully when he looked at his watch and told us “ I’d get off this beach as soon as I can. It is almost 10 AM and that is when the wind really picks up”.
I asked him if we had time to whip up a quick breakfast, and he said, “ If it was me, I’d eat later.”
We said good bye and he headed off.
Mike and I really struggled to get off the beach, which by this time was getting clobbered by high rolling waves, which were big enough that if you went broadside, would swamp the canoe. By pushing directly into the waves, and paddling like heck, we managed to get off the beach, but furious paddling into the waves was now causing us to go out into a two mile wide mini-ocean, which was not good. If we swamped out there, we’d be goners. Shouting back and forth, we agreed to surf back into shore again and somehow move the canoe left along the shoreline. Adrenaline was copiously entering my bloodstream. We tried to paddle along the shore but couldn’t do it. Mike spotted a quieter pond of water behind a natural retaining spit and we jumped out the the canoe into the water and haulded it back over the rocks and were able to paddle along the shore in this more protected channel for a few hundred feet. Eventually the pond ended and we pulled the canoe back over the wall again and really had to dig deep to make forward progress. We inched two miles up the shore paddling into whitecaps, and our full strength strokes were not even giving us 2 MPH. This was the final solution until we reached the protection of the Fred King campsite in the most northeast corner of Eagle Lake.
For a brief moment in time, we entered camping la-la-land: a sunny, sheltered spot; fresh clean water bubbling past us from a visible stream; and a rest, preparing us for the afternoon’s adventures.
Mike prepared huge servings of “caboose hash”, a family recipe handed down to him through his grandfather, who was connected with the railroad: bacon, eggs, cheddar cheese, onions, with white and sweet potatoes. I perked up another pot of DarkStar.
The Waterway narrowed down as we moved through Round Pond, went under John’s Bridge, and evenually reached Churchill Lake, where we ended our day at what has to be one of Uncle Tom’s Top Ten campistes of all time : Scofield Point. All and all , we moved close to 20 miles today.
In the spirit of “ a picure uquals 10,000 words”, here’s a two minute walk-through of this most spectacular site, which was all ours for the next 18 hours.
Mike was fishing off the point this afternoon, where encountered a nesting pair of Canada Geese. He had first noticed their empty downy nest, and on his second trip out there spotted 5 freshly laid goose eggs.
Mike and I seem well suited for this work together. Both of us might be described by some as mostly focused in our energy, and both of us are taking a cautious approach to the challenges we’ve faced so far.
Kevin visited us again this afternoon. He gave us some tips about the best campsites for the next few days, mentioned some preferred fishing holes, and offered us a strategy for dealing with the wind on the upcoming Umaskis Lake.
Mike and I beamed like two proud children when Kevin told us, “You two are good canoeists. You are going to do all right from here. I knew you guys could get up this far today”
Later, as I sat on my sheetrock bucket writing these notes, a big gust of wind came up, and I instinctively started rocking my hips, as if I was in the canoe again.
At 7 PM, Mike is fishing again, “ I almost brought in a 12 inch Brookie ( trout). Now I know they are out there. Don’t wait up for me. I may be here into the dark.”
Mike in action