Day Seven: Grayson River To Whitewater
distance: 9 km.!
The next morning we got up later than usual and had a leisurely breakfast while all of our wet gear was spread out in the sun. We were feeling better now that we had turned the corner on Thunder Bay 50 and with every stroke south and east, we would be getting further away! We were also entering water we had just paddled the summer before.
The goal for the day was a modest one – a campsite on one of the small islands just to the west of Porter Island. A short carry over P34 and we were at the mouth of the Grayson River. Once on Whitewater Lake, a look back north confirmed that the fire was still smoldering but we were heading in the right direction.
We found a nice tucked-away-from-the-wind campsite on the east side of a small island on the west side of Porter Island. We had moved nine kilometers – but we were fine with it!
Day Eight: Whitewater Lake west end to Best Island (South Beach)
distance: 22 km.
With breakfast done, we paddled down the west side of Porter Island and over to the channel on the west side of Grange Island that leads right to the Ogoki Lodge, an abandoned property developed in the early 1970s which seems to have fallen on hard times.
We had visited the site the year before but dropped in for another look. You can read the entire story about the Lodge and how it came to be in this related post –
Then it was down into Secret Lake and back east into Whitewater Lake again. There is one easy portage to get you into Secret Lake. Then it is a turn to the east and back to Whitewater Lake, dealing with some shallow water and probable canoe hauling in spots if the water is low. (It was both times we’ve gone through here.)
Once back into Whitewater Lake from the Secret Lake short-cut, it was time to head down to the Beckwith Cabins on Best island. The year before we had somehow missed them on our way down the west shore of the island since we weren’t exactly sure where they were. We were better prepared this time.
We would spend some time on the island checking out the various structures that an American recluse built in the 1960s and 70s. We ended up putting together an entire post on our visit to the Cabins, as well as to the Ogoki Lodge Complex. Click on the title for more pix and info on two interesting Wabakimi stories:
While there is a campsite on the beach near the cabins, we decided to push on. We had something new to factor in – something troubling that we had noticed in the bush about five kilometers west of Best Island. It was another fire! More smoke! (We would later learn that it was given the name Thunder Bay 57.)
We headed to the south end of Best Island, across from the Mattice Lake Outfitter Lodge where we found a tent spot. Nearby is also a collection of a half-dozen cottages probably belonging to the Whitesand First Nation at Armstrong Station. We figured that it would be a safe place to be even in a fire situation given the amount of property nearby that would surely be protected!
The Caribbean-like sand beach goes on for a couple of kilometers on the south end of Best island. (Good luck with the sandflies if you decide to tent there!) BTW it is a bit hazy because of a second fire – Thunder Bay 57 – just west of our campsite.
The sand flies, however, would make the half-day we spent here our #1 worst campsite in thirty years. It took over this ranking from the previous #1, our tent spot at the start of the portage trail going from the Missinaibi River to Brunswick Lake. We wore our rain gear to protect most of our bodies; my cheeks were numb for the next day thanks to all the bites!
The air was thick with smoke and ash from the fire was falling onto our tent. Seeing a helicopter land at the outfitters’ lodge across the water, we went over and chatted with the crew foreman about the situation. They were there to set up the hoses to create a water sprinkler perimeter and get the water pump motors running. He said we should have no problem paddling south into Lonebreast Bay the next morning.