The empty area behind the canoe is where the tent had been; now it was tucked away for the day and the canoe was put into temporary service as a table.
Our breakfast is definitely low-fuss. A serving of instant oatmeal, supplemented with cranberries, raisins, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and walnuts – individual servings all prepackaged at home in small plastic zip-lock bags – is the daily fare. While we’re taking down the tent we put a liter of water to boil on the butane stove. After the tent is down and packed away, one of us takes care of the breakfast – preparing the oatmeal and setting up the coffee filters and mugs for the main course!
Meanwhile the other person is getting the lunch bag ready – instant soup packages, Wasa bread, different spreads (peanut butter, dehydrated black or pinto bean spread, or mushroom pate). Also laid out on the table are the snacks for the day – a Clif Bar and another zip-lock bag with mixed nuts and fruits for each of us. It means that during the day there is no need to go “furkling” (Thanks to the mountain guides in the Canadian Rockies for teaching me that word!) through every bag to find a snack or to put lunch together.
DAY THREE BASICS:
distance: about 17 km.
weather: sunny in the morning; noticeable WSW wind once on Knox lake
rapids/portages 3 – all portaged around + the one into Knox L; distance: 1935 m
campsites: our best one so far at Pictograph Point at the east end of Murdock Lake
In a few minutes we were at the start of the day’s major undertaking – the big portage into Knox Lake. We would spend two hours getting everything to the Knox Lake side. Our usually-efficient portage system broke down pretty quickly. The first 500 meters or so looked pretty much like what you see in the image below – carrying a 60 lb. Hooligan pack and then a 30 lb. duffel on top of that was not possible, given the absence of any sort of predictable footing! After about thirty meters we were down to one bag per carry – and even that was a challenge.
Eventually we got the packs beyond the initial muddy stretch. That still left the canoe! Impossible to walk up the middle of the trail with it and impossible to walk along the side of the trail, we were reduced to dragging it through the mud.
The other two-thirds of the trail was quite walkable and helped us forget the mud pit we had just experienced. At the end of the portage there is room for a couple of tents if a campsite is required for paddlers who took on the portage at the end of the day.
And then it was north to the outlet of Knox Lake and the first three of the eighty-nine rapids we would face for the rest of the trip. The “89” comes from the Wilson/Aykroyd guidebook Wilderness Rivers Of Manitoba. Their chapter on the Bloodvein is in the essential category for planning a trip down the river. In it they identify 89 different sets of rapids that paddlers will face in getting to Bloodvein Village on Lake Winnipeg. For most of these rapids, they provide a grading system (using the Class 1 to Class V system), accurate drawings of rocks and channels to be dealt with, information about what to look out for and what to avoid, as well as various portage options.
We’ve used their numbering system – and the names which they gave to some of the rapids – in our posts. So – W01 125 refers to the first set of rapids described in the Wilson/Aykroyd guidebook. We added our estimate of portage length at the end. The length is in meters – one meter equalling 1.1 yards if you want to make the conversion into a measure you understand better. For the Headwaters section of the river you can also find rapids/portage information on the official WCPP Map and on the Chrismar Adventure Map for the park.
We will admit to really liking the feel of being on a river, as opposed to paddling a series of lakes connected by portage trails, which is what the first couple of days from Douglas Lake to Knox Lake mostly felt like.
Lunch at the end of W03 and then it was time to move on. We had a stretch of actual river to paddle down – being able to see both sides of the river as you move down creates a sort of intimacy that you don’t get in the middle of crossing a big lake.
Coming out into Murdock Lake, we soon paddled by the outpost (nobody home!) on our left. Our eyes were on the look-out for a pictograph site indicated in Wilson’s book. We realized later that he only provided a general indication of where they are. The first one ended up being maybe 200 meters further south than we had estimated from looking at his map. Perhaps this is his way of making sure that everyone still gets to experience the thrill of discovery!
We got to the point just south of the pictographs around 4. Thinking that it might make a good place to stop for the night, I scrambled up to the sheltered area above the sloped rock face on the shore. I found the best campsite so far! The significant SW wind that we’d have to deal with if we continued down Murdock Lake convinced us to call it a day – and take on the next stretch early and rested the next day instead. it was an excellent choice.