This is my 6th annual Pack for The Cure in support of CIBC's Run for The Cure.
The Crew: Simon and SherpaJeff
Location: Kejimkujik National Park-Channel Lake Loop
Trailhead: Big Dam Lake Parking Lot.
Park Information: http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/ns/kejimkujik/index_e.asp
Trail Description: http://www.trails.gov.ns.ca/SharedUse/kj018.html
Kejimkujik Weather: http://www.theweathernetwork.com/parksfx/cans0228
Day 1 (Oct 25/08)
I have been meaning to get back to Keji since I moved away to Fredericton in late 2003. Dino and I had planned a 4 day trek doing the Liberty Lake loop earlier in October but a passing Hurricane stopped us in our tracks. We rescheduled for late October and hoped for the best. With three days left to go, Dino became ill enough that a 4 day trek in Keji's backcountry was out of the question. That left me and Simon to decide what alternative route we should do instead. Although I would have looked forward to the Liberty challenge solo, I really wanted to share that trip with Dino as it would have been my first. So, Dino kept the original 1st night booking for me at site 45 on Frozen Ocean Lake.
On Friday I checked the weather and it looked like heavy rain on Sunday so I was getting a bit discouraged with the whole thing. I checked with the park and other sites along the Channel Lake loop were already booked. Site 6 or site 5 make great stopovers on a 25km overnight but they were already taken so I kept 45. I wasn't sure until I got to the administration building that am which route I would take.....do 12 kms to site 45 taking the loop counter clockwise or going 16kms in the clockwise direction. I was happy to find that site 5 was now open and I could do the loop clockwise doing 13 kms on Saturday via Channel Lake and finishing the 25 kms on Sunday via Big Dam Lake. Going to 45 the first day via big dam lake would mean a 16km finish on Sunday through the toughest part of the trail and potentially during heavy rain.
Simon and I drove to the Big Dam Parking lot and promptly 4 Deer ran across the road in front of us. You can see alot of Deer in this park as well as much other wildlife. We started the Channel Lake loop at the sign indicating the turnoff to Channel lake being 4.6kms out. A group of Teenagers left in advance of us carrying a multitude of gear and pillows strapped to the outside of their packs. This path is just that, a narrow rocky path and you have to watch your footing on. Luckily the trail was dry this day so the footing was good. Simon and I made good time after passing the younger group getting to the Channel Lake junction after 1 hour and 4 minutes. I had worked up a good sweat even though it was only 12 degrees and somewhat overcast. I dropped my pack to get my bandanas out as in my haste I had packed them in my pack versus my camera case. Unfortunately they were located in my clothing stuff sack at the very bottom of my pack and I had to empty everything out. Once I repacked and made sure I had everything, I tied a bandana on to wear under my Tilley Hat. I like these hats but a bandana really helps keep your glasses from steaming up and the sweat from running into your eyes!
I pressed on past Channel Lake as the trail circled inland to avoid wet areas. The trail remains narrow with uncertain footing. As you progress more and more you begin to see old softwoods and large rocks left behind by an ancient glacier . The walking was very pleasant and Simon is great company. There is very little topography in this area so the walking is largely flat yet strangely tiring. I was taking a lot of pictures (120 over the two days) in an effort to catalogue the trail for this website. After about two hours and 6.5kms, I stopped right after the sharp turn that indicates you are heading directly towards Frozen Ocean lake for a bit of lunch. It always feels good to get the pack off even though this go around I was only carrying about 33 pounds in my Gregory Z55. I had started with 500 mls of water in my regular bottle and I had filled my Katahdin Filter bottle before leaving but I was feeling like I didn't have enough. There was no place to refill along the way since I did not stop and take the 1.6kms round trip detour in to Channel Lake. (I would feel this a bit later). Take more water at the start of this hike.
After this nice rest I knew that over the next two hours the trail was going to cover uneven terrain with nice softwood and hardwood stands and a series of small ascents and descents. With an hour left to go before reaching Still Brook, I ran into a nice couple who were day hiking the loop in the opposite direction in one day.....a long day that started at 8:30am. After sharing a nice chat I pushed on to Frozen Ocean Lake and site 6. Just before reaching this site I was able to make a short bushwhack to the lake itself and get a great picture. Simon and I stopped at site 6 to take a few pictures, fill up on water and rest knowing I only had another 15 minutes or so to site 5 and the end of our first day's hike. Site 6 is gorgeous with two tent pads and is located in a beautiful stand of old Hemlocks! One tent pad is quite slanted and wouldn't be too comfortable. The firewood provided at this site is usually large and requires a good axe to split it. The site is located right on the edge of the lake and is popular with canoers and hikers alike. I made the final trek to Still Brook and looked for an easy place to cross.....none....all crossing spots seemed just too far. I finally spotted a spot with a rock in the centre that I felt (in my tired state) that I could navigate. I leaped and slipped getting myself wet up to the waist. I was lucky to not get hurt as this was a STUPID manoeuvre. In any event I got through ok and was able to dry my hiking shoes easily in camp. This was particularly stupid as I had my sandals with me for just this purpose.
After gathering myself, Simon and I hiked over the esker to our site. Site 5 has to be one of the prettiest in the park at the bottom of the esker on a flat area near the lake.....wow! I was glad with this choice. I had hiked by a few times in the past but never camped here. There are two flat tent pads, an outhouse nearby, a new cable system for bear bags and garbage, a great wood supply and the lake right at your doorstep. I set up camp and Simon found his ball and insisted on playing bally even though he just carried his pack 13kms. He didn't care and he enjoyed the openness of this site chasing the ball up and down the esker many many times. The weather was fantastic with the sun out and no wind to speak of. It was going to be a great evening. Later Simon and I followed the S portage that connects the stillwater that runs out of Big Dam Lake into Frozen Ocean Lake to its end to chronicle this part of the location for my website. We ate our dinner (KD and Tuna for me!) and Simon finally settled down by my feet as I tended the nice campfire. I took quite a few shoreline pics as the sun set. (check out the gallery) I knew rain was forecast for 1pm the next day so I planned to get up early the next day and be out by 11am. I have 12kms to do but the trail out is really easy so an early start would guaranty success. It got dark by 6pm and by 8pm I was in the tent. I was satisfied and tired.....looking forward to a good nights sleep and the morning.
Day 2 (Oct 26/08)
I was up at 6:30 thinking to get an early start but I couldn’t believe how dark it still was. I waited until 7:00 but it seemed just as dark so I started packing up my sleeping bag and Sleeping pad etc with my headlamp on. When I went outside and began to boil some water for breakfast it was still quite dark but with the headlamp all was well. I gave Simon a half portion of food (he usually eats in the late afternoon) and we finished packing and headed out by 8:10 am at which time it was just light enough to navigate the trail. I anticipated a quick 3 hour jaunt covering the last 12kms due to the ease of the trail.
The section between sites 5 and 46 is very nice starting off by following the top of the esker for a ways before dipping down into the woods to follow the edge of the lake. Just before site 46 a boardwalk provides the tread way over a marshy area that is extremely buggy in the Summer. The boardwalk ends abruptly in the middle of site 46, another great camping area with two nice pads etc. This is a spacious site that I have camped at several times before including my 2003 Pack for The Cure trip. Just beyond the site you are faced with a well signed junction…head straight cross Torment Brook and you have about 50kms to civilization…..head left and you arrive quickly at the wharf….I turned right leaving me 10kms to the Big Dam Parking lot. At this junction you will note two large wood shelters holding the firewood waiting for transport to various sites around Frozen Ocean Lake. The wardens keep a boat and a canoe in the area for this purpose.
The trail now becomes an old wood road for the next 5 or so kms and provides easy footing and an opportunity to make a little time if you want to. Take the time to note the great number and size of the boulders strewn around the edges of the trail...some are quite remarkable! There are a couple of nice bridges providing easy water crossings along the way. Just before the end of this section you come to a bridge crossing a very lovely river (Thomas Meadow Brook) that always lends itself to great photo shots. The trail takes the new shortcut and rejoins another road that leads down to a wardens cabin on Big Dam Lake. Soon after, the trail turns off and becomes a trail again for the last 4kms. If you have time, stroll down to the cabin by the lake...it's a great rest area or for lunch.
The diversity of this trail is evident again with the ever changing woods and width of the footpath. Big Dam lake was now on our right for the balance of the hike. Simon and I stopped to snack and rest for the first time at site 3 after about 2 hours of hiking. This is another gorgeous site (they all are here!) with two pads and an excellent source of firewood that is now covered in its own open shed. Site 1, 3 and 17 (on Channel Lake) are available for Winter Camping. The rest of the loop is closed after the Remembrance Day weekend.
With the end in sight we made our final stop to take pictures of site 1 which is on the spring fed end of the lake. Site 3 is on the bog fed end and is tannic. Site 1 has clear water and again has the same amenities as site 3. I always experience a strong sense of déjà vu when I visit this site as I spent my first backpacking night here in 2001. We met a nice family who seemed very interested in my gear, our trip and of course Simon….as always! We made the final one kilometre trek in no time and we were packing the truck shortly thereafter.
Another fantastic Pack for the Cure. It could only have been better had Dino, Roots, Booyah, Skeeter, MrBig or Lady had been able to come along. I can’t recommend Keji enough…especially if you are looking to initiate yourself into the great activity that is Backpacking! As always check the photo gallery out and email with any questions or comments!