September 23rd: Balsam and David Lakes

Balsam and David Lakes

Date: Friday, September 23, 2016

Weather: 15 degrees Celsius, partly sunny

Distance: ~10 kms of paddling and 695m of portaging through Balsam and David Lakes



I looked at my watch. 6:15. Good time to start packing up the inside of my tent. I was planted beneath an old white pine so it was hard to tell if it was still raining or if the wind was knocking droplets off the tree’s boughs. I emerged – ungracefully – from my tent and looked around. Mist rose from the water in the bay.


The food barrels were stashed near my tent so I rolled them over towards the fire pit. The rain had ended overnight and the rocks near the fire pit looked to be a nice place to set up the stoves. I grabbed two pots and headed down to the water. I took a deep breath, gave thanks for the silence and the pink tinged skies, and headed back up the hill with water to boil for coffee and tea.


The women stirred. One sliced oranges to nibble on while Jenny and I set ourselves up to whip up breakfast. I banged the coffee pot to get the grounds to settle, waking anyone else who might still be asleep. As Jenny and I cooked scrambled eggs and toasted English muffins we heard gasps from our clients.  A medium-sized black bear was making its way along the shore in the direction of our campsite. It would stand up, sniff the air, and keep meandering along the shoreline. It took a hard left and crashed off into the bush – enough excitement for one morning for all of us. I will never be able to use the line “we’re too big and loud a group to have a chance of seeing big animals” on a Wild Women Expeditions trip again.


As women finished breakfast, they packed up their gear. Jenny tore down the tarp. I got going on the dishes. We had all the gear packed up and brought down to our rocky staging area. After one last sweep through the campsite, we had an overview of how the day would run, how portaging worked, where we were on the map and where we were headed.


With boats loaded we made fast work of the one kilometer to the 30 meter carry-over, a remnant of the logging industry. We efficiently hauled gear and boats from Bell to Balsam. we were on our way again in no time. We made a brief stop at an island where we had found loads of low-bush cranberries during our July Women & Girls trip. They still weren’t quite ripe but there were a few that looked good enough to harvest for our pancake and fruit compote breakfast morning.


Though the sun shone brightly, the breeze was cool and women were chilling quickly so we decided to move on. We wound our way through Balsam’s curves and landed at the portage trail to David Lake around 11:30.



We suggested bringing a load of gear over the 665m portage trail first, to get a feel for how its contours moved. The initial hill is steep but it levels out and turns into a lovely walk in the woods. We took a “slow and steady wins the race” approach to bringing everything across the trail in two trips per woman. We soaked up the sun at the end of our portage and enjoyed a picnic lunch before pushing on to our David Lake campsite.


The lack of winds on David Lake this week made the last few kilometers easy peasy. We enjoyed clear views of the first ridge above David Lake, white quartzite rock gleaming in the sunshine. We admired the private island camps. We arrived at campsite #103 – our desired spot – at 3pm. We knew we’d camp here for two nights, so we took our time unloading the canoes. Women took their time deciding on the best place for their tent.



Jenny and I started in on dinner prep. Women enjoyed a rest, a wander. Someone collected more firewood and started a fire to boil water for tea. Our Moroccan stew dinner warmed us from the inside. As the sun set, we added layers of fleece and wool to warm us from the outside. We let the fire run while we wandered out to the smooth rocks to soak in the stars on a clear, dark night. Jenny told the geological history of Sudbury, her hometown. Someone shared a story about a constellation she knew. We watched planes and satellites zip across the sky. One by one we headed for our tents for a restorative night’s sleep.


For more on this trip report, click here.

Published by Kate Monahan

Travel happy. Outdoors professional. Writer. Photographer. Educator.

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