This is my 7th annual Pack for The Cure in support of CIBC's Run for The Cure.
The Crew: SherpaJeff, Dino and Lady
Location: Kejimkujik National Park-Liberty Lake Loop 60.5 kms
Trailhead: Big Dam Lake Parking Lot.
Friends of Keji
Day one-Sept 11, 2009
I met Dino and Lady at the administration office at about 1:30pm as our plan for today was to hike the 11kms to site 45 on Frozen Ocean Lake. I left Simon at home this go around as he would have had to wait in the truck too many times and I didn’t want him to over heat. The weather was perfect at about 20 degrees with a few clouds. In order to complete the 60km Liberty Loop we needed to drop my truck off at the Eel Weir parking lot and shuttle over to the Big Dam lake parking lot with Dino’s car. This added a solid 40 minutes to our itinerary and we didn’t get on the trail until about 3pm. The first 4kms of this days walk follows the two-section Big Dam Lake and is very easy going. In fact the trail is crushed stone almost all the way to site 3 some 3kms out. We passed a few day hikers as we passed the spur trail to site 1 about 1.2kms in…these proved to be the last people we saw along the trail for the next 4 days.
Our first stop was at Thomas Meadow Brook for a few quick shots and to get some water. The water in this brook is tannic as are most sources in the park. There are some spring fed sources but they definitely seem out numbered by those affected by tannins. After the bridge at the brook the trail becomes an old wood road and the walking is very pleasant as you can continue side by side and chat. We saw the first of many frogs and toads and Dino got a great shot of a wood frog. We made great time and decided to stop near site 46 and the boardwalk and boat launch at Frozen Ocean Lake. After a short respite we turned right, crossed Torment Brook and followed the trail, which turns into a rocky footpath at this point, to our campsite 45 about 1km further along. Site 45 is fantastic located up on a small hill amongst some beautiful softwoods over looking the lake. It has two flat tent pads about 20 meters apart from each other, a fire pit, a pit privy and a covered wood shelter. We set up camp and got a fire going quickly and sat back and enjoyed the evening.
This go around I brought my solo MSR Hubba tent, my Fozzils bowl and mug, my MSR folding spork and my Trangia Mini Stove with Cookset in an effort to lighten the weight. See my gear list page for more info. I researched some freeze-dried meals on the MEC site and paid close attention to the member reviews. These meals proved to be light and tasty and allowed me to bring the small stove. This was a great decision as my food/stove weight was way down while still having great meals. Dino and I had a great evening to catch up as we hadn’t hiked since October 2007 at Kenomee Canyon with Skeeter. The forecast for tomorrow was promising and we had a decent hike ahead of us going to Liberty Lake and the new site 42. We planned to get on the trail at 9am so we could take our time.
Day 2-Sept 12, 2009
We woke up at 6:30 am and quickly got a fire going. It was going to be another great day with clear skies and moderate temperatures. After breakfast we headed down to the water’s edge to get a few sunrise shots. The lakes during this time of year have a nice layer of mist adding to the atmosphere. We spotted a yellow canoe on the other side of the lake at site 5 (where Simon and I camped last October). Sound travels a long way on quiet evenings on these remote lakes and we had heard the canoes occupants a few times as we chatted by the fire last night. We wasted little time as based on the hiking distances chart provided by the Friends of Keji we had 12.4kms to do to go to site 42 today. The trail leaving site 45 was gorgeous this morning with sunshine and shade as the trail follows the shore of the lake for some distance. After heading inland a while we came across an old survey marker. Just before site 44, Dino, Lady and I took the 500 meter side trail down to the warden’s cabin located on Frozen Ocean Lake…what a spot!! We spent a good 20 minutes lounging around and taking photos of the area. After rejoining the trail we soon came to site 44 located just before Stewart Brook. The park has made improvements to this site renovating the tent pads and building a new picnic table. This is an attractive site with a lovely brook right beside it and represented our first true break of the day. Our next stop was site 43 located on Inness brook some 3.2kms away. This seemed like a long 3.2kms but we arrived there early afternoon and stopped for lunch. We had 7.1kms to go before reaching our day’s destination at site 42. We noticed that a few clouds had begun to sneak in at this point and by the time we reached the North West Branch of West River it was overcast. We paused at the bridge here for our next break and re-hydrated and had a snack. Just before reaching Liberty Lake, we noticed Little Liberty Lake off to our left and before we knew it we were at the Warden’s Cabin on Liberty Lake. We took a few short minutes to survey the cabin before pushing on as it had started to rain lightly. We made it to the new site 42 shortly thereafter and quickly set up my 8x10 siltarp over the picnic table and set our packs under the little shelter covering the firewood. The park has placed these little shelters at many of the sites and they are a great place to hang gear. It began to rain a bit harder and we set up our tents. The new tent pads are literally side by side and I could sense Dino’s nervousness as I have a tendency to snore when tired. We both agreed that the tent pads should be separated to provide more privacy. The lake access was adequate but shallow and weedy. Once again I got a quick fire going and we were able to sit under the tarp at the picnic table just out of the rain. Shortly thereafter the rain stopped and we enjoyed another great evening chat wolfing down some pistachios. I was tired and hit the hay at about 9:15. I awoke at about 1 am to relieve myself and I noticed a light rain had begun….this was not good news as the start of the next days hike was through waist and sometimes chest high ferns……….it could be wet….it was.
Day 3-Sept 13, 2009
The rain continued all night and into the morning. I was up early and got the fire going while Dino slept in a little later than usual as my snoring kept him from sleeping as well as he’d like. One of the neat things about this area is that you have limited cell phone coverage and I was able to call my wife and get a weather forecast for the day…more of the same…light rain. It wasn’t raining hard at all but that wouldn’t really matter as all of the under brush was sufficiently soaked through the night. We took our time eating and breaking camp, as we knew we were in for a wet day. The great news was that we were staying at Mason’s cabin that evening so we knew we would have a roof and a fire to dry out all of our wet belongings. I was a bit worried as my Atrial Fibrillation was acting up as usual. When this is going on I get tired much quicker so it proved to be a long day. I was diagnosed with this in January and have been able to continue to hike cautiously. We hit the trail at 10:30am and I took the lead as I had gaiters and rain pants. I wasn’t sure how my Merrell Chameleons would do as they’d had a few kilometres on them and I had suspicions that the gore tex was past it’s prime. Well, within 5 minutes on the trail I had my answer….my feet were soaked. The rain pants and gaiters did their job but the shoes weren’t up to the task. I knew this was a possibility but I wanted to have these shoes for the last 18.5 kilometre walk along the gravel road from Mason’s to the Eel Weir. Walking 18.5kms with hiking boots on a gravel road has never been a good experience for me so I guess you take your chances. The trail leading up to site 42 and beyond resembles a game trail so be prepared to watch your footing closely and get wet if there is any moisture at all. On this day the vegetation ranged from hip high to chest high.
Soon after we left the ferns behind and headed down to the West River not knowing how flooded this marshy area would be. We had heard reports that another group had come through here a week earlier and had to wade knee deep with sandals on. We found the area soggy but passable without getting any wetter than we already were. This is a pretty area that offers some real nice photo opps. Unfortunately my camera (as well as Dino’s) began to fog up so I was only able to get a few photos. We pressed on past the marshy area and the trail changed dramatically now following the river just inside the woods. We finally came to the turn off, located atop a real nice esker over looking Caribou Bog, leading to site 22 and plopped our packs down for our first rest. The great news for me was that my heart had converted to its' normal rythym and stayed that way for the balance of the trip. Energy would not be an issue. I took off my rain gear, gaiters, socks and shoes and rung out my socks. I would end up doing this quite a few times but it was important to let my feet dry out some to prevent blister forming prune feet!. We came to the first of three bridges and marvelled at the beauty of it all. There was one tree changing colours already. Dino, Lady and I continued on planning to stop at the last bridge on Red Lake Brook for lunch. This section seemed to take forever and in fact took us almost an hour. The trail climbed up out of the river valley a short way and we saw some very interesting erratics. The final bridge was a welcome sight and we stopped for lunch. I once again rung out my socks. Dino preferred to keep his boots on and I think he paid for this later.
After lunch we had one last push before getting to the cabin. Very soon after we spotted Big Red Lake off to our left and we dropped down to skirt the lake. The trail for the next kilometre or so was mossy, boggy and wet…at one point I slipped and sank in almost to my thigh. Once past this section we found the old turn off to site 41 that used to be located on Little Red Lake but has been moved to just the other side of Lucifee Brook. The trail was much drier here and we began the gentle descent to the brook following the old wood road that we had been following since Big Red Lake. We stopped at site 41 for our final break drying out the socks once again. We only had 3kms left of walking left and this was on the road that eventually leads right past our cabin. The new site 41 is gorgeous located very near the edge of the brook however once again the two tents pads are literally side by side. It was almost 5pm however it started getting dark and I checked my watch to see if it was working correctly…it was and that’s when it started to rain lightly. We made it to the cabin just in time as within 15 minutes of our arrival the skies opened up in earnest…it poured!!!! Instantly there were brooks everywhere around the outside of the cabin and we were very grateful to have the shelter tonight. We enjoyed a quiet evening in the cabin reliving the day we just had. I set my tent up out in the wood shed to give Dino a rest from my snoring. We had a big day tomorrow so we hit the hay fairly early after laughing at many of the log entries in the log book at Mason's.
Day 4-Sept 14, 2009
We awoke to clear skies and cool breezy weather. Perfect weather for our 18.5kms trek along the road. We managed to hit the road about 9:30 am as I still had a 7 hour drive to Fredericton once that was finished. Unfortunately Dino awoke with some serious blisters on his feet and that would slow him down quite a bit. I didn’t envy his forthcoming death trek to the car. I was tired but suffered no other ailments. The walking was good and we stopped at a number of the portages along the way. We planned to stop at site 28 for lunch and refill our water bottles. To make a long story shorter we made it to the truck around 3:30pm and shuttled over to Dino’s car where we started. We said our goodbyes and went home to remember the trip in a more favourable light than it actually was…you always do that. No matter how tough it was at the time it always seems better upon reflection and you can’t wait to go again. This was a great Pack for The Cure and Dino and Lady are great comrades on the trail. For those of you thinking of doing the loop, I would say that the kilometres seem longer than they should. Don’t bite off more than you can chew…you will have to watch your footing a lot. This loop has almost no elevation difficulty whatsoever but this is made up for by the trail conditions which are in some locations the middle of a mossy wet bog. I plan on returning to do this loop again but will go later in the year when it is cooler, there are more colours and it is drier. The park has provided a great adventure at Keji for those who want to embrace it.