Monday, September 03, 2007

14th Kayak Outing

Labour Day Weekend, weather forecasters predicting three days of solid sun with winds in the 5 to 10 km/h range. My wife and I set out to 31-Mile Lake for a short 2-day and 1-night trip. For those of you who haven't heard of this lake it's a surprisingly under-developped lake with clear water and lots of pristine shoreline. The only (mostly) paved access points are from the South (Point Comfort) and the North (Ste-Therese). There are a few other boat ramps around the lake but not necessarily near populated areas.

There are 27 sites managed by SAGE (Societe d'Amenagement et de Gestion Environmental) on the lake, most are on islands, a few are on the edges of the lake. All sites are free and available on a first-come first-served basis. That means we're taking a bit of a gamble on one of the busiest weekends of the year and paddling out on Saturday instead of Friday. They allow short-term camping on small islands but without dry toilet facilities.

As luck would have it, the winds are closer to 20km/h and blowing the wrong way (in our face) when we set out from the put-in at Camping Alie at Point Confort at the Southern end of the lake. Despite our best efforts, we're no match for the power boats full of campers heading out onto the lake. Knowing that we could be paddling for a good part of the day, we pick a pace that we can maintain for an extended period of time.

After about 2km, we come accros the first site (#28) on an island. There were already two canoes and at least one tent set-up already. We decide to press-on another 3 km to the next site. A boat and canoe with two tents were already set up on #27 on the edge of the lake. The occupants suggest we check-out a site "just around the bend". We found it but it was marked private keep out so we kept on going. Three kilometers later, we started looking for site #26. We stopped at Price island, using it to shield us from the wind as we ate lunch in our kayak. Unfortunately, this didn't provide much opportunity for relief.

According to the SAGE map with campsites ( it looked like site #26 was near Steamboat Island but in fact it's on Ile du Pin Rouge. Turns out 4 fishermen (and 1 dog) were already set-up there so we started looking at our options. We could cross the lake to site #25 on the opposite edge or keep going North towards site #24 (with the option of going even further to site #23). We chose to keep going North. After a slight detour (map reading error) we passed Ile a la Croix on the West side to site #24. There were already 2 tents set up on the Northern tip of the island but we found that this island also has a spot for a tent on the East side, complete with fire-pit.

We were thankful to finally find ourselves a spot, after paddling between 11 and 12km during a 4 hour period. But to find such a peaceful and scenic spot was icing on the cake. After unpacking the kayaks, we found a good spot to go swimming and to rest in the sun on the Southern tip of the island. Our campfire by the mirror-smooth lake was a real treat. That night gave us an impressive display of stars and when the moon rose later on, flashights were no longer necessary. Had it not been for our "neighbors" who played music & laughed until 330AM, this might have been the most relaxing night of the summer.

The loons woke us up the next morning with a most impressive symphony of calls. The sight of the fog floating on the lake under the early morning sun rays was a memorable sight (unfortunately the picture doesn't do it justice).

Two friendly SAGE volunteers came around by boat to check up on things. From what they knew, we were lucky to have found a spot the previous night, possibly it was the last spot available on the lake. According to these guys, access to the campsites may be fee-based starting next year, with reservations possible at some sites. If it allows them to maintain/expand what they've done so far, I'm all for it.

With the latest weather forecast predicting an afternoon with 20km/h winds from the South (in our face on the way back) we headed out early. It was 11AM by the time we were packed up and paddling back, just when the wind picked up. For the entire paddle back to the put-in, the winds were gusting to 30km/h and the waves were high enough to splash the decks of our kayaks. Despite modest speed against the elements, we managed to cover about 10 km in 3-1/2 hours. I cranked up the speed in the last kilometer and my shoulders made me pay for it the next day!

We definetly would like to go back, this time during the week when most of the campsites are empty rather than full.

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