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Woodland Caribou – 2005 Canoe Trip – Garner Lake

Trip Dates: Monday, June 13, 2005 to Saturday, June 18, 2005
Total Trip Distance (km): 80
Difficulty Notes: This is a remote trip, completely off the grid. You are on your own as soon as you portage out of Garner Lake.
GPS TrackDownload GPX File
Lakes Traveled: Beresford, Garner, Jestor, Mather, Haggart


Preamble & Planning

In early 2005 the emails and phone calls started circulating among our canoeing group again. When the dust finally settled we agreed that another trip through Woodland Caribou Provincial Park (WCPP) was in order. The trip in 2004, with an entry through Wallace Lake at the north end of Nopiming Provincial Park, was one of the best trips so far. Some members of the group felt that it was a bit long (over 120 km!) and so we shortened the 2005 trip by roughly 35 km. Another difference was the entry point. Instead of Wallace Lake, we would start at Beresford Lake and enter from Garner Lake, a more southern approach to WCCP but still from the MB side. As in other trip reports, this one will be from actual journal entries that I’ve made along the way, with photographs scattered throughout. Enjoy!

Update Major Wildfire Impact to WCPP – May 2016

The Boreal Forest requires fire to ensure it’s survival and in May of 2016 there was a big one in Woodland Caribou! Selfishly, I am saddened that I will never again experience this western part of the park in the glorious old growth state it was in during our mid-2000’s trips.

The approximate area affected by the huge RED3 wildfire in May of 2016. Note that the area affected most is the exact areas we paddled in 2004-2006.

Monday June 13 2005

A closer look at our first couple of days on the water. First we put in at Beresford before winding up the Garner River, which was quite wide. Even motor boats can go up here. Garner Lake can have large waves, but we stuck close to shore with no issues and camped on the eastern edge at a well used camp site just before the 300m portage.

Monday June 13 | 21:06 – 21:46 | Camp on Garner Lake

Back from fishing already – not much luck on Garner Lake tonight. It was a typical first day with clouds and wind. The waves were fairly large on Garner but we stuck close to the north shore and didn’t run into anything too extreme. It felt good to power the paddle again. The loons were already out calling at each other.

Night birds are chirping away and evening is settling in around camp. I think Jon is already done most of his beer! The fire is warm and cheerful and everyone is excited for another trip. Dad and Ron are already in bed. I wonder if this could be Dad’s last trip? I hope not. Time for some schnapps…

Monday June 13 | 23:13 | Camp on Garner Lake

Ah. A nice warm fire is roaring again after replenishing it with wood. The crackling fire is competing with soft laughter of the guys conversing around it. We are reminiscing about past trips and tackling big issues already, such as politics and religion. There is a light rain coming in off Garner Lake and we are going to be going to bed soon. I’m staying up for a bit and then I’m turning in too.

Tuesday June 14 2005

Day 2 was all about portaging and making our way up the Garner River before turning south towards Mather Lake.

Tuesday June 14 | 19:55 | Camp on the Garner River

I’m sitting on a little point of rock that is jutting out into an unnamed lake along the Garner River. I’m waiting for Rod to finish up his supper dishes so that we can head out to try a bit of fishing. As we drifted into this lake, I immediately cast my lure towards shore and had a 7lb northern on! Rod had a much larger fish on Jestor Lake, but mine still put up a pretty good fight.

We were drifting along the shoreline of Jestor, earlier in the day, when Rod nailed an absolutely massive northern pike on his 6lb walleye rod! It took a bit to reel it in, but eventually Rod won the battle and after some photos, we released it back to fight another day.

Tuesday June 14 | 00:50 (!) | Camp on the Garner River

I’m waiting for my water to boil after going out for some after supper pike fishing. There doesn’t seem to be any Walleye on the Garner River system, which has been pretty disappointing, but at least there’s Pike. Fishing was good, but not great. We startled an Osprey which was pretty cool as it was not happy with us and spent many minutes screaming above us until we moved off.

It’s now after midnight – a bit too late, but the fire was too good to leave earlier. Rod is blowing up his self-inflating sleeping mat. Hmmm. Apparently it doesn’t actually “self inflate”?! 😉 Good thing his alarm is going off too… We had another fabulous night around the camp fire. Having Eric along definitely helps with the conversations and laughs. One of tonight’s hot topics was dealing with what the human spleen is for. We also dealt with heavy topics such as chickens and all things related, and the location of the North Star.

We are situated on top of some really soft moss, which is making sleep very hard to resist. I think I’ll continue journaling in the morning – oh, it IS morning! 😉 Fine, I’ll continue a bit later this morning.

Wednesday June 15 2005

On Wednesday we camped somewhere in Mather Lake and spent the afternoon fishing for copious amounts of energetic Lake Trout. On Thursday we portaged over to the Haggart River and on to Haggart Lake.

Wednesday June 15 | 07:33 | Camp on the Garner River

Well, it’s officially a bit later this morning! The fire is still going and the sky is still clear. I got up around 06:45 followed reluctantly by the rest of the camp after a very late night previous. The wind is from the east today so that will not impede our progress into Mather Lake by too much. Time to pack up the tent before making pancakes and bacon for breakfast.

Wednesday June 15 | 18:55 | Camp on Mather Lake

Wow. Just done a fantastic supper of fried fish, garlic Alfredo spaghetti and tomato wrap, topped off with a cup of hot chocolate and some M+M’s. The sun is burning down on us as Harry and Bill dump their extra food on top of a growing pile on the yet-to-be-lit fire. It’s even too hot for the bugs to come out! My thermometer says 27 degrees in the shade.

We didn’t have much luck at first, fishing today. Mather is a deep, cold lake so that wasn’t a huge surprise. We really haven’t had luck with Walleye either (on hindsight, after doing some research, there is no Walleye along most of our route on this trip). We’re heading out again after supper to try fishing on a perfectly calm surface.

Wednesday June 15 | 23:04 | Camp on Mather Lake

Jon got skunked. For the rest of us, it was an amazing night of fishing! We were out and about on Mather Lake, just casting for Pike along the shoreline when I decided that lures weren’t working. I attached a mid-size blue Rapala and cast into shore. Nothing. I switched to a 3″ blue deep diving Rapala and tried again. WHAM! First fish on! Rod said if I caught another one he would switch too. One more fish later and Rod was also using a Rapala. The action died down, so we continued paddling around the corner of the island we were fishing. Half way around the corner my rod bent deeply and I was onto a monster fish of some kind!

When I finally got to see the fish, I let out a double “moose call” to call over the other boats. Over the next hour we caught and released over a dozen large lake trout using everything from deep diving Rapalas to 1 oz tube jigs to small Walleye gear. It was a very memorable experience – a first for all of us. Fishing rods were bending double in every boat as the fish went snake-crazy on us.

Now we’re sitting around the fire with the loons serenading us as we relive the experience. We are going to get up at 06:00 tomorrow to do some more Lake Trout fishing.

Thursday June 16 2005

Thursday June 16 | 15:11 | Camp on Haggart Lake

We’re sitting on a point camp site in Haggart Lake, eating freshly caught Lake Trout with wraps and ice tea. It’s Hanneke’s birthday today and instead of getting her a present, I caught 3 or 4 Lake Trout for my own present. 🙂 It’s another clear blue sky above us, cooking down with very little wind. I caught the first Lake Trout as we entered Haggart Lake and we nailed a few more before continuing on 3 km to our present camp site.

Thursday June 16 | 19:27 | Camp on Haggart Lake

After a ‘hard’ afternoon of nailing Lake Trout we are sitting down to a meal of Trout, whole wheat wraps and vegetable beef soup. We caught the Lakers by trolling deep-diving Rapalas at high speed past a section of cliff bands and deep bays. We are heading out for some more of this fun after supper.

Friday June 17 2005

Friday June 17 | 19:26 | Camp on Jestor Lake

After a late night party which saw Eric in the lake while attempting to clean his cup (!), we took our time waking up. I am now in an after-breakfast doze while everyone else is busy preparing for launch. It’s hard to believe it’s already our last full day on the water, this trips always pass by so quickly after all the planning and excitement that goes into them. Last night was another good time with a cheery fire and many good laughs.

After paddling most of the day and a number of portages we are now settled into another great camp on Jestor Lake. The weather was beautiful again today – probably some of the best weather we’ve had on a canoe trip for a while. Today had some fun moments with pushing trees over on portages (Jon!) and a solo paddler giving us the stink eye as he paddled past our camp in the morning before we cleared out. I think we were a bit too noisy the previous evening, probably when Eric fell in the drink at midnight. 🙂

Friday June 17 | 23:22 | Camp on Jestor Lake

Everyone’s sitting around the fire trying to off load their left over candy and snacks so they don’t have to carry them out tomorrow. We’re telling stories and enjoying more good times with Eric regaling us with tall tales. Of course, we also let off the obligatory bear banger fireworks in the trip ending tradition. Naturally we’re also discussing the next trip already.

Saturday June 18 2005

Day 6 saw us paddle and portage out of Jestor Lake before going across Garner Lake and back towards Beresford Creek and Lake.

Saturday June 18 | 06:30 – Noon | Paddle from Jestor to Beresford Lake

As usual, I have no journal entries for the final half day of paddling and the drive home. Needless to say, this was another great canoe trip where we spent more time than usual around the camp fire and learned how to catch Lake Trout. The only disappointment was the lack of Walleye, which we should have researched ahead of the trip.

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