Atikaki Provincial Park – Aikens Lake 2003

Trip Dates: Monday, June 2, 2003 to Saturday, June 7, 2003
Total Trip Distance (km): 96.5
Difficulty Notes: This is a remote trip, completely off the grid. You are on your own as soon as you paddle out of Siderock Lake.
Lakes Traveled: Wallace, Siderock, Obukowin, Carroll, Aikens, Kostek, Leaf, Wallace

In 2000 we completed one of the toughest canoe trips we’ve ever done in a loop from Wallace Lake over the Obukowin Portage route (5km) through Woodland Caribou Provincial Park and Carroll Lakes down the Gammon to Aikens and back to Wallace. This trip was so tough, mainly because of the horrendous weather conditions we had. Persistent rain, strong winds and temperatures of around 10 degrees hammered us for days, flooded portage trails and swelled Atikaki Provincial Park – Aikens Lake 2003rivers and creeks making them dangerously fast and high. To top it all off, I got some gut rot and managed to lose about 10 lbs in a week! Good times.

Wallace to Aikens Lake Route Map

In 2002 we planned to come back and do the same trip in better conditions. Alas. The day we were leaving the weather was absolutely brutal again! As we camped near Wallace Lake on Monday night, trees were blowing down around us! Several guys actually slept in the vehicles due to the nasty weather. Only Steve and I slept in our tent and we ended up with a hilarious skunk story that I’ll tell you about if you ask me sometime. We bailed on Aikens and drove to the Rabbit River in Nopiming Provincial Park and did a very easy Cole Lake canoe trip instead.

Canoeing on Siderock Lake before the Obukowin. On this trip we camped part way down the Obukowin which nicely broke it into two distinct sections.

Finally, in 2003 we managed to get our luck together! We planned a full 5 night canoe trip to take full advantage of the loop – planning to camp at some gorgeous sites we’d hurried past three years previous in our race against the conditions and the clock. We were all stoked to see how this trip would hold up in good conditions and we weren’t disappointed – it was fantastic! I was delighted to find my journal and some old film scans from this trip in early 2023 and will share it here in its original form.

Monday, June 02 2003 – Wallace Lake to the Obukowin Portage

After the first long portage section we crossed a small lake and started the route past the “Stone man” to the kidney shaped lake. This is where we camped on day 1 before continuing the portaging on day 2. This broke the 5km long Obukowin in half and worked very well. I can see it being pretty buggy where we camped though. You may not want to bother.

Journal Entry | June 02, 2003 | Three Mothers Portage Camp | 22:12

Lots of noise. No wind. I’m sitting high above a still lake with a mosquito buzzing into my right ear. The neighborhood is alive with sounds. A cacophony of noise will definitely keep me up tonight. There are frogs and birds and insects vying for top spot. We’re all in good moods because today went really good. We portaged a good portion of the Obukowin right off the hop and boy was it different than last time! The trail was wet but not compared to last time! The bugs aren’t out yet so Ben is in shorts and I’m in a t-shirt. Its 22:52 now and cooling off nicely. Dad and Ron went to bed early, so we figure that if our fire gets out of hand we’ll take off and disown them the rangers come along. I met a guy named Peter who invited us to the Carroll Lake lodge for some free booze.

Cousin Steve did a incredibly good job today considering he only had 2.5 hours of sleep last night. I have to get a new backpack because the one I’m using doesn’t support any weight on the hips anymore. My shoulders and neck could be a little sore tomorrow, we’ll see. Steve and I were bulls today and stormed through everything. Apparently Ben accidentally used the Stone Man’s dog to make a firepit so the official line is that the dog ran off. The moon is setting already and I’m off to bed soon.

Tuesday, June 03 2003 – Obukowin Portage to Carroll Lake

Day 2 saw us complete the Obukowin Portage route before continuing across Obukowin Lake and into Woodland Caribou and Carroll Lake. From here my memory is a bit hazy as I’m not 100% sure where we camped on Day 2. Obviously, as you can clearly see from the photos, we had much better weather than the previous three years!

Journal Entry | June 03, 2003 | Falls between Obukowin and Carroll Lake | 14:00

Sitting by the falls from Obukowin Lake to Carroll Lakes. Caught about 15 fish in 15 minutes here! Mostly pike with a few small walleye. We portaged out of Obukowin around 08:00 and haven’t looked back since. Steve and I were very glad we portaged the canoe ahead of time. I caught a small pike in the portage lake and a few in Obukowin Lake. It is a mix of sun and cloud with more sun than cloud. It may rain later on today so we’re pushing on to our campsite on Carroll Lake. We hope to catch some walleye for supper.

We saw a beautiful bald eagle hovering far above us this morning – what a majestic creature! This is the way man was meant to live IMHO. Not in an artificial environment  breathing fake air and drinking water out of a plastic bottle. We were meant to squat near a gentle waterfall with frogs singing along to the tune of the bubbling flow and bald eagles soaring above. Every year it’s like when I come out here, I’m coming home from a long absence. Some day, I tell myself, I’ll leave the office and do this full time. Some day. Well, the fresh walleye that Bill just fried up is ready to off I go for some lunch.

Journal Entry | June 03, 2003 | Camp in Carroll Lake | 17:41

Ahhh. I’m relaxing in a hammock off a windy point in Carroll Lake. The sun has been shining most of the day and now we are situated in a very nice camp. We caught several large and lots of small walleye already on this lake. Maybe after supper we’ll head out and try again. I had a nice “bath” which felt really refreshing and even put on a clean tshirt. There shouldn’t be too many bugs here because gales of wind are rocking my hammock pretty good. The water is lapping against the rocky shoreline almost directly underneath me and a loon has started to echo its call over the lake. All-in-all a pretty darn good day to be alive.

Journal Entry | June 03, 2003 | Camp in Carroll Lake | 22:57

Ben and I went fishing in a little bay about 300 meters from camp and totally cleaned house! I caught at least 20 walleye and a giant pike. The loons are out again and the wind has completed died down. The conversation lept around wildly from fishing to working conditions. That’s the advantage of sitting around a campfire without worrying about where the conversing goes. Everyone else is packing up for bed so off I go too! Tomorrow we go through Aikens Lake so are all excited for that.

Wednesday, June 04 2003 – Carroll Lake to Aikens Lake

The third day saw us navigate the Gammon River back into Aikens Lake. It was spectacular, as always, providing excellent fishing and gorgeous scenery. In a highlight for the trip, we camped on a sandy beach after crossing a glass-smooth Aikens Lake, located right near the long portage from Aikens to the Broadleaf River.

Journal Entry | June 04, 2003 | Aikens Lake beach campsite | 20:50

Up at 05:30 this morning to try to repeat last nights fishing adventure. We caught a few pike but no walleye. After an excellent breakfast of pancakes with syrup we were off for the day. While we were paddling through a section of the Gammon River we saw the “Peter” guy from the gas station. I think they were pretty impressed with our progress.

There were a bunch of Merganser ducks on a shore as our boat sped towards them. I desperately searched for my camera case and tried to quickly pry it open only to catch my finger nail on the release and snap it clean off! There wasn’t a lot of pain as the blood dripped from my hand into the Gammon. Ben gave me some medical tape and I bandaged up. We watched as 6 bald eagles took off as we rounded a corner in the river. These birds really capture the essence of this land. They are huge and wild and free.

Eventually we came to a small set of falls and proceeded to hammer a lot of walleye here. All together we caught over 50 fish in just over an hour! We continued down river and portaged around the beautiful Carlson Falls. Steve and I caught some walleye for lunch and we had our best meal yet – walleye and hashbrowns. When we finally got to Aikens Lake the wind was blowing into our faces but we bowed our paddles and powered across the water in no time flat. Now we are set up in a wonderful beach camp.

I am sitting near a small, clear stream that runs right past our tent. The sand is fine-grained and we have a great beach fire going. The waves are gently lapping at the shore. We went fishing after supper but this lake is huge and cold and there are no obvious places to fish structure. People pay $4000 a week to come here so there must be lots of fish. Oh well. We’ll have better luck on Kostek Lake. Time for a hot chocolate!

Journal Entry | June 04, 2003 | Aikens Lake beach campsite | 23:58

Sitting around a campfire on a sandy beach. This feels like we’re in Survivor! A whipper-whorl is calling out repeatedly and Bill is getting nervous about getting any sleep tonight. Harry is regaling us with tales of the Mantario Trail and Isaac Smit. A lot of hearty laughs and good times. A loon is echoing its call and I am going to crawl into my sleeping bag and sleep very well tonight…

Thursday, June 05 2003 – Aikens Lake to the Broadleaf River 

Day 4 we portaged the long (1.8km) trail from Aikens Lake to Kostek Lake and the Broadleaf River in perfect weather and continued our trip on a much subdued river compared to 2000! We camped at Leaf Lake again and caught tons of fish on our way across it.

Journal Entry | June 05, 2003 | River Camp | 23:59

We’re sitting on a small lake in the Broadleaf river system. Today we came over the 2km portage from Aikens Lake to the Broadleaf River system. Dad was the only one to actually catch any fish on Aikens. He caught 6 pike. It was hot and humid on the portage. Under the canoe it was very, very hot! We got into the lake on the far side around noon and proceeded to fish our way towards Kostec Lake. Steve caught a very nice walleye and Harry and Bill caught walleye and perch which both tasted very fine indeed! We got to our destination around 16:30 and proceeded to set up camp on a nice point in a tiny unnamed lake.

After scalloped potatoes and sun dried tomato soup and fruit cocktail, Steve and I went fishing with Ryan and Ben. Everyone caught walleye, perch and pike and a good time was had. About 22:00 Bill and Harry came back to camp with tales of fish and one monster pike. It’s time for bed because we’re up at 05:30 to catch some more fish.

Friday, June 06 2003 – River Camp to Leaf Lake

On Friday we paddled down the Broadleaf and to Leaf Lake. As I stated earlier, this trip was so much different than in 2000 it seemed like a completely new trip. I can highly recommend this as a nice 46 day loop for experienced canoe parties.

Journal Entry | June 06, 2003 | River Camp | 05:54

Up early to go fishing! My hands are all beat up from the fish we’ve caught on this trip. It’s a bit cloudy with drops of rain coming down gently. A grouse is thumping in the background and the mossies are buzzing. Steve is desperately trying to wake up, thrashing around in the tent and Harry and Bill are murmuring what to do. I am really tired but as they say – there’s time to rest at work next week!

Journal Entry | June 06, 2003 | Broadleaf River | 12:21

I’m sitting by a small set of falls along the Broadleaf River. We’re heading into Leaf Lake. This morning Steve and I dragged ourselves out of the tent at 05:30 to catch some walleye for breakfast. To our surprise we ended up catching more than we even needed! We kept 3 nice sized ones and had them with hashbrowns. That was the premium breakfast of the trip – no doubt! We don’t know exactly where we are right now because the map is so shitty for this area. I am just settling into the lifestyle of canoeing and camping and fishing and the trip is almost over. I have to do these trips more often and over longer stretches of time. Someday a 3-week excursion would be nice! The morning sun was highlighting the green trees that lined the river like soldiers at attention as we paddled by. The beauty is all around us here and the forest is magical in places. It’s hard to think of a better place to be when your canoe is cutting a surface of glass and an eagle is soaring high overhead while you glide silently through the landscape.

Journal Entry | June 06, 2003 | Leaf Lake Camp | 18:26

We’re eating supper in Lake Lake which is loaded with pike. Once camp was set up we proceeded to catch perch and pike nearby. Steve and I might go out for a bit after supper to catch some more. Once again the weather is cooperating. The wind blew us down the lake to our island campsite and the sun is shining from a mostly clear sky. This trip has been as good as it gets. We have had no bugs, no rain and warm sunny days with the wind pushing at our backs for a good 80% of the time. We had to take down a number of beaver dams on the Broadleaf River. Dad and Ron kept up tradition by falling right into the water while Dad was trying some kamikazee move jumping into their canoe at one of the dams.

Running a beaver dam, after spending a ton of energy breaking through it.

Journal Entry | June 06, 2003 | Leaf Lake Camp | 23:55

The wind is whistling across the campsite tonight but the sky is clear and the air is cool. This is the last night out on one of the best canoe trips of my life. Leaf Lake is loaded with hungry fish and we all caught silly amounts. Pike are now officially considered “weeds”, not fish. We also catch lots of tree bass, rock bass and weed bass. Harry and Bill came back to camp around 21:00 with some perch for a fish fry. I told them I would catch a few more off the campsite to supplement the fare. To my great surprise I caught 2 big perch within 15 minutes.

A nice fire and clear night on Friday again.

This has been an amazing trip, not soon forgotten and certainly a new “standard” for us. The memories should get me through another year until the next one at least. Dad did the traditional bear banger fireworks thing. My eyes are literally falling shut right now, so off to bed I go.

Saturday, June 07 2003 – Leaf Lake to Wallace Lake

On Saturday we finished our trip down the Wanipigow River into Wallace Lake. As I stated earlier, this trip was so much different than in 2000 it seemed like a completely new trip. I can highly recommend this as a nice 4-6 day loop for experienced canoe parties. (Update 2024: Now that I have 20 more years of canoeing experience, I know many folks who do this loop in 2 or 3 days.)

Journal Entry | June 07, 2003 | Wanipigow River | 12:57

Good thing my notepad is waterproof – it’s raining. Yep. We’re finally getting soaked. Oh well. We’re stopped in the same falls area as last time we came here. Dad and Ron are getting impatient to get home. I’m feeling pretty bummed out to be honest.

Paddling through a beaver dammed Wanipigow River to Wallace.

Journal Entry | June 07, 2003 | Wallace Lake | 16:11

Done! We bulled our boats over the last few portages and waded through thick clay before finishing up the trip in Wallace Lake.

Another excellent canoe trip comes to an end.

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