November 11/12 - Days 0&1
A beautiful day for a paddle!

This was a quick two night stay on Fork Lake via Access#10 Sunday Creek. "SmedleyCo" was to be my canoeing partner for the trip and my good friend "Mike B" along with is friend "Kevin" would be teaming up with us. A group of four guys, perfect for a short weekend in a quiet month. With the short days and wanting to avoid a long nighttime drive, Mike had suggested taking time off the day before and staying at the Wolf Den the night before our trip. It was a great idea and we all agreed. It had been a few years since I had seen Ben (Who owns and runs the Wolf Den) and I looked forward to the opportunity to chat with Ben again. I arrived around 5pm on Thursday evening as the sun was going down, which was good as I was concerned about driving at dusk with deer in the rut, a risky time to be out driving!

As I arrived, there was a nice campfire going with Mike & Kevin already there enjoying a few cold brews before the warm fire. "Nice evening for a paddle?" I greeted them. It certainly was a beautiful evening, it was cool but not cold, not a drop of wind and hardly anyone around with very little traffic on the highway. I was thinking about going for a paddle, but settled on beer around the fire instead. There would be plenty of opportunity to paddle through-out the coming weekend.

Mike fed me beer and continued to feed me beer when he decided it was time for dinner and fed me a tasty Subway sub for supper. Thank You sir! We chatted for a bit with Ben then returned to the fire while we awaited the arrival of "SmedleyCo" (Scott). By 9pm Scott arrived and joined us by the fireside. All of us had made it safely and we shared laughs around the fire and shortly after 10pm it was decided then to head to bed. We wanted to be up early and ready to get our permits by the time the West gate opened at 9am.

By 5:30am I was up and drinking coffee, Mike & Kevin were already up, they were the early risers. *Yawn*… On my second cup, Scott arrived and helped himself to coffee, we chatted and ate breakfast then packed up and went outside to get ready for the drive-in. Heavy frost covered our cars and canoes. It had plunged to around -6°C overnight and the morning air was chill with the coming of winter.

We said our good-byes to Ben, thanking him for the short but fun visit and waited outside as our vehicles defrosted. Just after 8:30am we left the Wolf Den and made our way to the West Gate, arriving shortly before 9am, where we entered the office to find it already open and a fellow by the name of Glen there manning the desk. Glen greeted us and proceeded to fill out our permits for our trip as we told him of where we wanted to go. I had met Glen many times before and just like all the other APP staff is a great person to chat with when it comes to The Park. We picked his brains with questions galore for a further 10 minutes or so then decided it was time to head in.


Chilly morning
Waiting for the cars to defrost at the Wolf Den


I settled into my car for the long drive over to Sunday creek and enjoyed the brightening sunny morning. By 10:00am we were at Sunday creek, canoes loaded up and ready to launch, where we gathered for a group photo. It was a blindingly sunny morning as we paddled in a southerly direction down Sunday Creek. With Mike & Kevin in the lead and Scott in the bow of my canoe, I was the last in the group to follow. I couldn't see much anyway, it was so sunny.

The sky was brilliant blue which was reflected by the still waters of the creek. Soon we started to see ice along the shoreline of the creek and just before we caught up to Mike and Kevin who waited for us to change the lead, the creek widened and so did the ice cover on the creek. There was a clear channel to paddle between the ever growing ice and the going was easy. A few more minutes went by and we emerged onto Norway Lake. There wasn't a sound, there wasn't a drop of wind. I experienced a feeling that I had arrived on a newly born world, The Earth dripping with sunshine and water flowing like glass, it was a marvellous morning to be on Norway Lake. I was kneeling in my canoe at this point and glad I was for I gave a silent thanks to any deity that might care to listen. It was 10:35am.

Sunday Creek gang
Left to Right: Kevin, Scott and Mike pose for a photo before departing on Sunday Creek


We passed by a campsite on Norway Lake as we paddled on heading for Fork Lake. As we approached the South end of Norway Lake, Mike & Kevin who were ahead of us broke through an ice sheet that covered the latter half of the lake and paddled onwards heading for the narrows. We arrived at the narrows and immediately Mike was able to spot through the bare forest, the glittering of metal. This was the location of our winter campsite from two years earlier.

The glittering metal shine was two aluminium snow pegs for the canvas tent I had. They had been buried in the snow and left behind. I retrieved my pegs and tossed them into my canoe. I was glad to retrieve my 'litter' as a big 'oops' escaped my lips. I had since invested in 30cm pegs versus the 23cm ones that I had left behind…Longer is better when it comes to winter tent pegs. We had experienced one meter plus snow depths that winter trip, so I'm not surprised a few got left behind, the snow had been really quite deep.


Paddling Sunday Creek
Closing in on Norway Lake we encountered lots of ice on Sunday Creek


We surveyed the winter camping spot some more, finding many piles of large moose scat, fresh from that season. We climbed back into our canoes, came to a beaver dam and manoeuvred our way across the dam and paddled out onto a magical looking Fork Lake at 11am. The lake was like glass. A flood of joy and relief surged through my soul. So many trips, so many times I have come to The Park every year, so little experiences like this have happened to me, I was very happy to be there at that moment, we all were. It almost seemed a sin to paddle the absolutely still water.

We paddled onwards and eventually landed at the mainland campsite on the North shore. By 12:45pm we had camp set-up. Tents and tarps were up, firewood cut and gathered. It was time to set-up the chairs and sit back and admire the view for a bit. The water continued to be still like glass and the sun still blazed, as no clouds or winds had emerged to tarnish the perfect day.


Paddling Norway Lake
Heavenly sight: Arrival on Norway Lake. Note the ice in the distance

 

Fork Lake
Nothing to do but sit back and soak it all in: Mike relaxes after our campsite on Fork lake is established


An hour later, I wanted to go fishing and asked Scott if he wanted to give it a try also? Scott wanted to fish as well, as we both had brought our fishing gear. Splake season was still open and now was our chance to try some late season fishing, the conditions wouldn't get any better: They were perfect.

After about 45 minutes of trolling around to no avail, Scott wanted to check out a flow of water that moved into the lake. As we approached we found that the little bay where some tiny rapids could be seen was iced-in. We pulled into shore and got out on a handy flat rock and surveyed the surroundings. There was some thick ice along the shore, about a half inch thick and I decided to take some pictures of the ice while Scott made ice-cubes.

We followed the stream of water that flowed into Fork Lake and came upon a marsh in the distance. Scott told me it was the "Bittern Marsh" and it certainly looked like a nice place to paddle in the spring and summer months.


Fishing Fork Lake
Scott and Mark fish Fork Lake for Splake


Since the marsh flora was dead for the season it seemed pointless to have to portage the canoe into the marsh. Besides, there was some uncertain soil conditions and a few dams that needed to be crossed during the improvised portage. We felt that it was late in the day and decided to paddle back towards the vicinity of our campsite. It was only 2:30pm!! Yet the sun was so low in the sky and having been awake since 5am-ish, it certainly felt like it was 6pm or something. Scott and I headed back to the canoe and paddled around Fork Lake some more. We paddled down by the portage to Rose Lake, around the island campsite then back to camp.

By 3pm we were back at camp. I took a variety of photos of the nearby island while enjoying a cold beer from the lake (In plastic bottles) that Mike had provided (Awesome friend!). Twenty minutes later Mike and Kevin returned. They had paddled and explored the western park of Fork Lake past our campsite and then over to the portage to Jean Creek.


Fork Lake ice
Scott making ice-cubes on Fork Lake near Bittern Marsh

 

Fork Lake in mid-November
Fork Lake near Bittern Marsh


By 4:50pm the sun was beginning to set when to my dismay a cloud bank moved in and obscured the sunset. Well, at least with the cloud cover it would stay warm overnight. As the evening came on, minnows and even a fish or two came to the surface on the lake, a few were close to the campsite landing; The fish were laughing at Scott and I. Just before dinner a small beaver went by and came ashore next to our campsite, but quickly retreated back into the water and swam away.

Fork Lake island campsite
A view of the island campsite on Fork Lake

 

Fork Lake campsite
Left to right: Mike, Kevin & Scott relax around camp on Fork Lake


I fixed dinner that night for Scott and I; Chicken over the fire with instant mashed potatoes and they were very good! After dinner we had a nice roaring fire and by 7pm Kevin went to bed!

Kevin was somewhat sick fighting a cold of some sorts and had also had an operation three weeks earlier. Through-out the day Kevin mentioned that he didn't feel good and I know how he felt, for back in October I went on a trip when I was sick as well. It left me feeling very weak, the cold my body was fighting sapped my strength. By 8pm Mike went to bed and I looked at Scott in alarm! Going to be an early night for all of us the way it was going! By 9pm I caved in and went to bed, it was feeling like midnight to me. Scott went to bed 45 minutes later.


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