Memories Of Maple Mountain by Dean Martin (Simply Red)
Memories Of Maple Mountain
by Dean Martin (Simply Red)
Here my long version of my log
Maple Mountain, we first heard of it when I was researching Ishpatina. And after Ishpatina, we were talking about doing Maple Mountain next year. I said if we do, I'm in. And Pat was in too. After all, how could we top Ishpatina’s event. And even more, it was another chance to do another great accomplishment with my son.
Well Ralph posted the picnic and it all started. First I did some research, but never got to do any scouting as it was 300kms away. We were thinking of either attempting Mowatt's Landing or attempting it from Elk Lake. After Roger had scouted and emailed me some info, Elk Lake was our game plan. But because Roger did not make it to Bessie Lake, I wasn’t fully sure and decided that like Ishpatina, we would go up on Thursday and scout it out for ourselves. So now with a game plan at hand, the weeks of preparation began.
Game plan: Drive to Skull Lake (330kms), Quad to Bessie Lake (17kms) Kayak Bessie to Old Bill to Tupper Lake and trailhead (5kms), and then hike to the top of Maple Mountain (3.2kms)
Kevin was supposed to join us as well as my neighbor and his son. So I figured we needed our Canoe and 2 kayaks (Pat and I were kayaking it this time). So I figured out a way to haul 2 canoes and 2 kayaks on my quad trailer. Well they all backed down the last week before, so we didn’t need to haul as much, but decided to bring the setup in case others would be in need of getting their canoes in. And then I got an Email from Steve (Team Goju) asking if we could shuttle his canoe in. No problem.
I was hoping to do some caching leading up to the Maple Mountain Picnic so as to make it my 500th cache, but got the flu the week before and was stuck lying around the house for a week. I got lots of rest because I didn’t want to miss out on this event because I was sick. Tuesday rolled around and I was feeling much better.
Packing started Wednesday afternoon, loaded up the quad on the trailer along with the canoe/kayak trailer, placed Kayaks on the roof of the truck and loaded most of the gear in the back of our truck. Thursday, we just had to put our coolers and cameras in and go. We left early Thursday morning and planned to cache our way there. We headed down hwy144 and stopped to grab some caches, the quad was easy to get off and on if we needed it for any of the caches, but our Nissan Cachefinder was able to drive up all the logging roads right to the cache, we just had to find places to turn around, because we were pulling the trailer. So as Pat searched for a cache, I searched for a turn around. We manage to find 7 out of 8 caches before we decided we better get to Skull Lake. We got to see a black bear along the 560, and then stopped in Gowganda to pick up milk and ice. I swore I saw the fire tower as we came to Gowganda and when I looked on my GPS, it was 42kms away in the same direction, so it could have been. When we got to Elk Lake, we had to find a gas station. We found a little Yamaha dealer with a gas pump. Gas wasn’t cheap here at $1.09, but our Cachefinder was thirsty. Now with our full tank we headed down Cooke’s Lake road towards Skull Lake. We stopped and found another cache I had on my GPS from a year ago, it was one of those NOG caches that was archived, but we found the cache. Cooke’s Lake road was wide gravel road with many winding turns and hills, but all in all, a lot nicer than the road in to the Sturgeon River we took for Ishpatina. At the end we came to what amounted as a quad trail with no where to set up camp without blocking the road. So we decided to unload the quad, follow the trail and see if we could find a place to camp. Pat and I jumped on the quad and headed in; we passed a camp and then came to Skull Lake with this perfect little camping spot. A sandy beach, a tub for a fire, some wood and even some grills to cook on. We headed back to the truck and headed in. Pat was on the quad braking branches as to minimize any scratching from the overgrowth in the trail. We got to the site and set up camp. I sent Patrick back out with a sign to put in the trees, so the others would know where we are. We were starving, so out came the steak and I cut up some Potatoes for home fries. With a fire in the tub and a grill on top, we cooked the steak on the open fire and potatoes in the fry pan with oil and spices (one of our favorite camping meals). After having a great meal, we went out on Skull Lake for a kayak ride. What an incredible place, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, it was warm and the water was like glass. And the most amazing thing was the silence; I have never seen a place that was so silent. We were out and Patrick heard a waterfall. He headed for it and when he got to it, it was less than 8 inches high. There was a loon that was making calls and we watched him for a while. I had my line in the water and got a few bites but didn’t catch anything. The sun was going down and we headed back to camp and still were in awe over the silence. Usually you hear bugs buzzing around, or crickets chirping or even frogs, but no, nothing; it was perfectly silent and stayed that way till I fell asleep. We got to shore, sat by the fire and then turned in, covering the trailer with a tarp. I woke up to some rain in the night and then to a full moon. It was 4am and it was bright outside. You could see your shadow on the ground from the moonlight. And still it was so silent, just the odd drops of rain falling from the trees. Went back to bed and woke up around 8am.
Friday morning we had our favorite peanut butter and jam on camping toast. Then put a cooler of water in the quad and headed out for Bessie Lake. Pat drove and I sat behind. It’s great having a grown up son. It was slow going down the trail, the overgrowth was heavy and after 5 kms, I decided to put my goggles on. We ended coming to a dead end and definitely not the right trail. We turned around and headed back to a fork in the trail, now this seemed to be going the right way. We got to within 600 meters of Lake Bessie, but the bush was so thick that there was no way to get to the water with kayaks or canoes. We turned once again to go check Handel Lake which was close to Maple Mountain, but it was a bushwhack to the Maple trail. We found our way to Handel and went pass, but the trail then started going further away. We went back to Handel and I was thinking that this may be our only way. Maybe put the kayaks in here and get to the other end of Handel and bushwhack from there. With that in mind, we headed back to camp. We got back to camp and started to make lunch. A guy, who owned the camp we passed on the way in, was going down to get buckets of water. Then he came to see us. We told him what we had done and what we were going to do. We told him that we went to Handel Lake, he said that there was no way we made it to Handel Lake, so instead of arguing with him, I showed him my GPS tracks recorded. He said that we would be better to go to Anvil Lake which is inside the park and kayak from there. He said that there was a water crossing, but if we could get passed it, we could make it to Anvil. So instead of my planned fishing for the afternoon, we jumped back on the quads and headed for Anvil. The water crossing was deep, but we could easily make it with our quad. So we made it to Anvil Lake. Great we now have 2 options, the hiking one was not Patrick’s preferred way, but the Anvil one consisted of 17km quad ride, then 5 lakes and 3 portages kayaking trip (7.3Kms) and then hike to the top (3.3kms). Pat was insisting on this route and I said we’ll discuss it with the others and see what they think. We headed back for camp. When we got back to camp, Roger and Ruth were there. We helped get them set up and told him our findings. We talked and then started supper. We were suppose to have fish for supper, but didn’t have any cause we were scouting instead of fishing. We once again had steak and potatoes, which was great. Shortly after Team Goju showed up. We discussed our game plan, and talk geocaching and Ishpatina by the fire till we went to bed. Another beautiful bright full moon lit up the night sky, and that silence was as silent as ever.
Saturday morning, I was up around 6 am, it was cool but had the makings of a perfect day. I started getting all the gear ready when Steve also got up. We loaded Steve’s canoe on the trailer and placed one of my kayak racks on the crossbeam of the canoe. Placed the 2 kayaks on the rack and strapped the other ends to the seat. Now placed all our gear in the canoe and we’re ready to go. Had a sandwich for breakfast and made one for the trip. We were also bringing pepperettes, Doritos and a cooler of water that we would leave at the first portage. All loaded up, we all left the camp around 7:30am. We travelled the 16.5 kms by quad to Anvil Lake and got there just after 8am. We unloaded the canoes/kayaks, took of my jeans, coat and boots and put on water shoes. My coat and jeans would stay with the quad, but my boots would be needed for the hike. I placed my waist pouch and boots in the kayaks, GPS in my holder and camera around my neck. I was the last in the water and the others were already making their way across Anvil. Anvil was beautiful, mirror like water and that silence was still there. Once out on Anvil, Patrick waited for me to catch up and pointed out the fire tower. Wow, we could already see it, but it was still far away. We got across Anvil pretty quickly, was only just over 2kms. Now we stashed the water cooler that we put in Steve’s canoe. I placed my waste pouch on and Ruth offered to carry our boots. Lifted up the kayak and started our very first portage. Pat was having a hard time getting comfortable. I was holding it over my shoulders till I found a comfortable position on my shoulders. I was walking behind Patrick, he was holding the front up too high and was catching trees, so he would swerve to avoid them. I told him he needed to get the front lower, because he was wasting too much energy avoiding trees. We made it to the other side. Although Pat had a hard time, I found it not too bad. It was about 130m portage. Now a few pics and we’re back in the water. We crossed about 200m and we were already on to the next portage. A little sooner than we expected. This one was to be the longest (430m). I had my camera and started to film the portage. It was a little tough carrying a kayak through the rocky woods trail and videoing at the same time, so after a minute and half, I turned off the camera. Pat was starting to struggle now and we took a break. I reminded him that he was the one that didn’t want to bushwhack; he wanted to do the portages. Not sure if that was what he wanted to hear, but it did motivate him to grab the kayak and make it to the end. What a relief to put the kayaks down, hopefully we get a rest before the final portage. Bessie was about 500m long till the next portage, so we enjoyed our short break on Bessie. Now to portage another 330m to Old Bill. We were sure glad when we saw the river leading to Old Bill, we could place our kayaks down and our portaging was done, well for the trip there anyways.
Now the river along to Old Bill was narrow with tall grass weed along the sides. It was beautiful kayaking through the river and then across Old Bill. It narrowed again as we made our way to Tupper. I truly enjoyed kayaking along the narrow creek with all the winding turns and shallow water. Pat even hid behind some weeds and waited for us to pass and surprise us. Before getting to Tupper, we had to lift the Kayaks over 2 small beaver dams. These consisted of just getting out, pulling the kayak up and getting back in. I waited for Pat, Steve and Quinn to get over and then got myself over. Roger and Ruth were well on their way along Tupper Lake. Once on Tupper, you felt a sense of isolation. Only access here was the way we came in and nobody else was anywhere around. We took our time on Tupper Lake and just sat there a bit to take it all in. Some clouds had rolled in, just enough to make it so picturesque, so out came the camera and awesome pictures were ours for the taking. Pat was sitting in the calm waters of Tupper Lake and we could once again see the fire tower. With the cloud reflections in the mirror like water and Pat’s bright orange kayak reflecting on the water, positioned perfectly for Maple Mountain and the fire tower behind him, I started clicking. Got some beautiful shots, and we were almost forgetting that we still had to climb to the top. If there was heaven on earth, we were here. The silence of the weekend was still there except for our paddling and camera sounds. While we were enjoying the remoteness and picturesque landscape, Roger was looking for the trailhead. He soon found it and we all headed for it. It was nowhere near the base of the mountain; instead it was at the far west side of the lake. It looked like a long hike just from the water. The shoreline was really swampy; we sunk up to our knees in the black mud and water and pulled the kayak on shore. It was fun trying to get the mud off of you when there was no clean water, so rubbing my legs with my hands and then using one pair of my socks. Off came the water shoes, and on went the hiking boots. Again everyone was waiting for me. So I grabbed my waist pouch with my 2 water bottles, sandwich and other things I thought would be needed and headed towards them. A little ways on shore was remnants of the old cabin for whoever manned the tower. It wasn’t much, but 2 half walls, but was a good place for a group shot. We took some pics and then headed for the top. The trail started out nice, we even encountered some boards on plastic beams to help get across the marsh. It was a well established trail, but slowly started to get steeper the further along we got. It did go down a few times, but that just made you think that now you had to go back up further. Steve and Quinn had stopped for some reason and I just passed on by. They caught up to me and passed me back about a half a kilometer later. Pat was waiting for me and from here on out, we only saw each other till we reached the top.
The last kilometer was the steepest and I was feeling the lack of exercise from the week before, because I was sick. I’d climb up a couple hundred yards and then felt my heart pounding in my chest; I stopped to take a rest and a drink. I could feel my heartbeat slow down a little at a time until I couldn’t feel it anymore, then I would proceed again. It didn’t take long and then it was pounding again, so I would stop and let it settle again. I remember thinking to myself and then telling Patrick that it was like our PS3 at home. When you play it for a while, and it starts to get hot, the fan kicks on high, as it cools, the fan speed slows down till eventually don’t hear it any more. Well my heart was doing the same thing. We reached a small no name lake and I stopped to dunk my head and cool down. Now that was refreshing, both the cool water on my head and the fact that we weren’t walking uphill for a bit. Now a little refreshed, ready to conquer the hill. We finally got to a really steep section and wanted to film it, and then Patrick saw the old ladder used to climb the rock wall we were coming to. There was another ladder there. It was almost 90degrees straight up for about 15 feet. This was the part Patrick was waiting for and so was I since we saw some pics from the net. Up the ladder he went and I followed. You get to the top and take a few steps and turn around and WOW, what a fantastic view. All the sweat, exhaustion and wondering” when” goes away, and you are blessed with a view high above the landscape filled with lakes, trees and sky. It was pretty magical and we still weren’t at the top. Took a few pics and carried on our way, we were less than 200m away. It went up another 50 feet or so and then you basically walk along the top to the tower. Seeing the tower again and so close was exciting, knowing now that we had just accomplished the Maple Mountain Climb. It was 1:15pm when I made it to the top, less than 6 hrs from when we left camp.
Roger and Ruth were already up the tower and Steve and Quinn were on their way up. They asked if I was going up and I said I sure was, just going to sit relax and have a bite to eat first. Pat and I shared a sandwich and had some pepperettes, along with Doritos and a drink. It was a great feeling sitting up there enjoying a lunch and knowing what we had accomplished. I talked to Pat about going up the tower but he wasn’t for it so I left it at that. I used to be afraid of heights and ladders, so I knew where he was coming from. Ruth had come back down and was looking to build a fire for the hot dogs. I put my camera in my waist pouch and headed up the ladder. It was straight up 100 feet to the top. I had to stop a few times on the way up and then relax for a few minutes at the top. You had to fit through this square hole at the top to enter the tower. The bottom half was enclosed so you had to stand to see around. Steve, Roger and Quinn were still up there. Standing up was again amazing. A full 360 view all around was amazing. It was a little hazy but you could still see very far. Out came the camera and I was in picture heaven. The clouds were great for a full picture and there wasn’t too much haze. I took a bunch of pics and soon was up there all alone. I scribed my name in 3 different places to mark that I was there. It was hard to find a spot as there were so many names written all over every inch of the tower. I then took a video of the view. I wanted to go down and join everyone for hotdogs, but didn’t want to leave just right yet. Knowing once I go down, I will probably never ever be back here again, so I just enjoyed the moment for a while. Then when I was finally ready to go down, Roger started to head back up. We both enjoyed the view and talk about the landscape. He saw something shining in the distance and was wondering if that was the plane crash site from 1991. He had to go check it out so I stayed atop while he went scouting. I directed him to it but it was just a fallen birch with the sun glare off of it. Roger said he knew some of the people killed in the crash. With him on his way back, I finally headed down the tower. It was a long way down. I had a hot dog and then we took some pics. After numerous pics, group shots, phoon shots and individual shots, it was time to head back down. We were at the top for about 3 hours and it was now time to head back. We stopped and got some more great shots along the mountain top and then back to the ladder. Down the ladder and down the hill we went. Down was much easier on the heart, but harder on the knees and ankles. Down, down and down, thinking we actually went up all this. We halved the time down, getting to the bottom just before 5pm.
It was great to see the kayak again and knowing our legs were going to get a rest. Back on Tupper Lake, we continued on to Old Bill, saying goodbye to Maple Mountain one last time. Pat and I just took a run at the beaver dams and never had to get out of our kayaks, which was great cause we weren`t looking forward to the portages. The kayak ride was just as enjoyable as before, we took our time while the others seemed to be bee lining for the quads. The first portage took the last bit of energy I had left. The second one my waist pouch started to fall down my legs, I tried pulling it back up but couldn`t with the kayak on my back. I had to stop and put it down. I tightened the strap and placed it around my waist. Then when I grabbed for the kayak and lifted, the clip broke and it fell to the ground. Down with the kayak again. This up and down was draining me even more. I stashed it in with my boots in the kayak and once more grabbed the kayak and lifted it above, then down the trail I went. This was the long one and it sure felt like it. I got to the rocks and was so tired I slipped and stub my toes. Stopped once again for a rest, and then thought `Spaghetti, spaghetti, spaghetti `. This is what I encourage Patrick with the year before at Ishpatina. Spaghetti was our meal when we returned to camp. I grabbed the kayak and made it to the water. Pat was sitting in his kayak waiting for me. I stopped to dunk my head and take a rest. We talked and reflected on what an amazing day and that we only had the one short portage left. I said we could both carry one kayak and then return for the other. So we headed for the last portage. At the portage area, I looked down the trail and said let`s try both grabbing the carrying cords and haul both together. It worked out great but Pat felt it burned out his arms. We both grabbed a water bottle from our stashed cooler and gulped them down. Now, just to paddle the 2 kms back across Anvil Lake. We got in the kayaks and headed across Anvil, a small breeze was on the water but it felt great. We paddled across and kept looking back to see the fire tower one last time, as we knew it was going to be our last glance at it. The others were all on shore by this time and we just kept paddling on. Enjoying it knowing that the rest of the trip would now be on our quad and we weren`t going to need physical strength any more.. We reached the shore of Anvil and the others had waited for us. We loaded the kayaks and canoes and headed back towards camp. It was a long slow ride back to camp with just the one deep water hole to cross. The long ride gave us time to reflect on what we had just accomplished. It was getting dark and when riding along Skull Lake, we could see the yellowish moon and it`s reflection in the water. We got to camp at 7:30pm, which made our whole trip 12 hours. I cooked spaghetti with the lanterns on and had a great feast. After we had a toast to ourselves and to Ralph for getting us out here. It was tougher than Ishpatina, but also more rewarding. We were now able to stand and say we conquered both Ishpatina and Maple Mountain. Our thoughts turned to what shall we do next year, whatever it was going to be, we all agreed we were in. Two father son teams and a couple team, it was great to see that we were all sharing something more than just a climb with someone we loved, we shared memories that will not only be always remembered, but memories that will shape our lives forever.
I did manage to get my 500th cache on the ride home on Sunday. Thanks again to Ralph for getting us here and congratulations and thanks to Roger, Ruth, Steve, Quinn and Patrick, for not only making it to the top, but making it a great adventure full of great memories.
Check out my My Road To Ishpatina story.
Check out my Ode To Obabika story.
Check out my Fraser Hill Fishing Cache story.
Check out my The Air Is Thin Up Here story.New
Check out my Memories From Maple Mountain Video for a truly ultimate cache. It's 16 parts, so follow them in order.
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