Excitement is starting to mount among the 23 Outers, as they begin final preparations for the 12-day spring trip.
Planning for the trip involves six meetings: after the restart meeting (Outers has been inactive since the last winter trip), they cover topics like equipment and packing, Quetico Park rules and regulations, solo, safety, and route planning. One hundred percent attendance is mandatory, said Outers director Shane Fiore.
“That’s a challenge, especially for the boys it seems. They had to have five separate lunch meetings scheduled before we got everyone.”
Planning the trip route is the big activity. The director provides three points: the start point, the solo lake, and the end. The rest is up to the Outers.
“We look at previous trips [route maps from the past nine spring trips are up on the walls in his room] and encourage them to talk to their parents, old Outers and past participants,” said Fiore. “You want to make the trip memorable – that usually means building in some tough challenges – and you want a lot of variety. Some days are paddle days, and some are portage days, but you don’t want too much of one thing.”
“With only two brigades [in each group], you don’t have the bottlenecks at the portages, and that means you can do longer, more challenging trips.”
The boys are definitely “going for it”. They have come up with a route that includes two major challenges – Memory Lane and the Yum Yum portages – and covers nearly the full breadth of the park in both directions (north-south, east-west).
They start at Beaverhouse, which means they will be leaving from AHS at 6 am on Friday, June 10.
“They start with a very ambitious day. They want to get all the way into Sturgeon Lake [via Quetico, Conk, Jean and Burntside Lakes]. If the wind is right, they can make it.”
After that big paddle day, day two will have a lot of portaging, as they go down the Maligne River, then head east into Poohbah Lake, where they spend night two. Day three will feature the first big test, the Memory Lane portages, almost right off the bat. That’s three portages, each over a kilometre long, linking a couple of puddles and taking them to Conmee Lake.
“That’s three long portages, fully loaded. There’s a big cliff on one of them; a huge bog on another. Memory Lane is really starting to become a bit of a tradition with the boys. A lot of the portage footage from the Outers movie [that was of the 2004-05 group] was taken in there.”
They come out of Conmee for an ‘easy’ 850-metre portage into William, and spend night three at the western end of Brent. On day four they head south (lunch is on Argo Lake, always a can’t miss spot for Outers) to the border, then follow it to Robinson Lake.
Fiore called day five the second most challenging on the route. It may, however, turn out number one. It’s a day full of portages, which if water levels are unfavourable will quickly become grueling. And it closes with the Yum Yum portage.
“It’s part of AHS folklore. It starts off with a cliff, and never ends,” said Fiore. “You do get some great views of the park from a plateau, but then there are swamps, and more cliffs, including one that is almost a sheer drop.”
Yum Yum got its notorious AHS reputation in the Outers 40 year, and that rep has been enhanced when Yum Yum had to be dropped from the route the past couple of years due to factors that arose during the trip. Fiore (an eight trip veteran) said he wasn’t convinced Yum Yum deserved the reputation it has earned, but did allow that “this year will tell the tale”.
Yum Yum won’t end the day, either. There are three more medium length portages to get into Shade, where they will spend night five. Day six is a long paddle day, as they work north through Agnes into Kawnipi. They will camp there, and then move to that lake’s MacKenzie Bay for solo.
“It’s a good spot for solo: a little off the beaten track, with good fishing,” said Fiore. This will be the second group solo-ing there since he started doing Outers trips. “It was a very popular spot up until about a decade ago, when they started having some bear problems there.” (There haven’e been bear issues in that area in recent years.)
The Outers will spend nights 7 and 8 and 9 at their solo camps. The staff will check on them twice daily, but otherwise… “The old folks? We fish, we recover,” said Fiore with a laugh.
They come off solo and head into one of the most scenic parts of the trip, the Poets’ Chain, and spend the night on Alice. Day 11 starts the trip home… but it will be a good hike, starting with the Bonhomme Sauvage portage (“It’s really been tamed some since they corduroyed it four years ago,” said Fiore.), then into the ‘B chain’ (Bud, Beg, Bisk) and Pickerel, where they spend their last night in the park.
The girls get to sleep in a little on their first day; they head out from Nym. That’s the Batchewaung route once in the park, with hops through to Maria and then Jessie Lake, where they spend night one. (“That’s a lot of in and outs fully loaded,” said Fiore.). From there, they head west on day two through Oriana (Cedar Portage is always fun), and Quetico, and then shift south through Conk and Jean into Burntside. (They will be following the boys on parts of this route; they should be most of a day behind them.)
On day three, they continue south through Rouge and Sturgeon to reach the Maligne River. They will follow it right into Tanner Lake (their route divides from that of the boys here), where they will camp. Day four will be a challenging one. It starts with the very long Eat ‘em Up portage, and doesn’t get any easier. It’s a long slog (especially if the beaver haven’t been cooperative) to Darkwater Lake.
“There is a nice reward, though: a night in Argo,” said Fiore.
On day five, they work their way east into Brent Lake, from where on day six they will set out to their solo camps. Most will be on the southeast corner of Brent, with Suzanette Lake serving as a back-up if the area proves busy this year.
“This is just an excellent place for solo; there are a lot of great spots. We’ve probably used it a half dozen times over the past decade,” said Fiore.
The girls will group back up on day nine, and paddle the gorgeous Kashapiwi Chain, following the natural topography of the park fault. They aim to get all the way to Cairn Lake, a good paddle. On day ten, they may cross paths with the boys, as both groups head west, through the Poets’ Chain and Have a Smoke portage. The girls go all the way to Russell, where they spend night 10. Day 11 will involve another long paddle, as they work north through Sturgeon, Deux Riviere (“Last year, they hit Deux Riviere and it was almost dry”), Twin, Dory, Portage Bay, Pickerel and the Pickerel Naroows, and then into Batchewaung Bay.
From there, on day 12 they will have an easy paddle to the meeting island, from where they will come out at Nym.
“I know the girls are excited about getting down to Argo. They’ve avoided the Death March portage – the girls often do that – but they have quite a few very challenging days in there.”
Brigades: Girls 1: Dakota Jordan (leader), Kelly Duquette, Allyssa McEvoy, Sam Strom, Raven Barr and Amanda DeCorte. Girls 2: Megan Cain (leader), Nena Armstrong, Natasha Morrissette, Taylor Veran, Jasmine Farmer, Michelle Menson. Boys 1: Leith Reilly (leader), Braden Homer, Brandon Kostynuk, Dylan Stewart, Calvin Hayes, Brodie Matichuk. Boys 2: Lucas Paulson (leader), Chris Ladouceur, Russell Maki, Liam Manford, Troy Thurier.
A couple Outers from last year’s trip, Ryan Hampshire and Kyle Bayliss, will join Fiore, Ed Ojala and Brad Gascoigne (plus one to be determined) on the boys staff canoe. Travelling with the girls will be Mike Krassey, Peter Burton, Pam Bujold, Guy Arpin (he’s a teacher from Rainy River High working on a canoeing program there; he also participated in the fall double overnight), with last year Outers Cheryl Luptak and Tamara DeGagne. (The trip will have a bit of newness for them – there was just the one girls brigade last year.)
Outers set their routes; now into final preparations for 12-day