Lunch break on Royd Lake

A Fly-In Canoe Trip to Royd Lake in Woodland Caribou Provincial Park

September 21st, 2002
Martin Kehoe

Part 2

A fly-in trip to Royd LakeFor thirty minutes we had the pleasure of looking down on the North Country as free flying eagles. We went over lake after lake on our way to Royd. There was no thought of the portages as Norm trimmed the airplane to adjust for the winds outside. Those thirty minutes put seven to ten days of paddling and portaging behind us. Norm banked around and pointed to where he was going to drop us off. He set gently on the water and taxied over to where we would unload. As he cut the engine and jumped out to shore while grabbing a trailing rope his thirty years on the job were evident.

This float plane thing was exciting and we took time to watch him taxi downwind and then swing the plane around and pick up speed for takeoff. Once he was out of sight the real pay off of a fly-in trip was upon us. An hour after leaving our vehicles in Red Lake we were in an isolated location in the backcountry of Woodland Caribou. We were not to see another face until the Otter would return and pick us up twenty miles to the NE on Murdock Lake. In the meantime we had six full days to enjoy the solitude and beauty of the interior of Woodland Caribou.

Trapper Cabin on Royd Lake - Woodland Caribou ParkIt was late Sept. and the weather was typical. The wind was blowing and passing clouds would sprinkle the lakes surface. We donned our rain gear and loaded the canoes before the search for a campsite began. I knew of a possible campsite on the eastern shore but with the weather calling for two days of passing showers and NW winds we began searching along the north shore of a big arm in the middle of the lake. I had paddled down the lake on an earlier solo trip and knew that the rock walls did not allow any campsites. After going ashore a few times in hopes of finding flat ground we spotted the remains of a trapper’s cabin from years gone by. Upon checking it out we found that it would make a good campsite and be out of the wind.

The gear was piled together and covered with a tarp while a rain fly was put up. With that first hint of a camp taken care of I called for a lunch break I had thrown the snacks leftover from driving into the packs at the last minute and they now made for an unusual canoe trip lunch. My trips do not usually contain a ration of Dr Pepper and Mountain Dew. The cold piece of fried chicken and the cheese and crackers were not quite so odd. Tent pads were found and the camp was being completed. I added a tarp to the rain fly and that allowed me a spot to sleep on rainy nights. If it was not raining I would be out under the stars.

When everything was in order we paddled out to explore and try some fishing. The exploring went OK but we blamed the poor fishing on the changing weather. We boiled up some Dinty Moore meals with rice bags and then topped it off with pudding. The lantern gave us a well lit area under the rain fly. We watched the full moon rise above the trees but it was soon swallowed by another change in the weather. The group had been kidding Bruce about the pepper spray that he had insisted they stop and buy as soon as they got into Canada. You cannot bring pepper spray into Canada unless it is marked as an animal deterrent. He left it out on a rock so it would be handy and he did not want it to go off inside his tent.

...there was a bear across Royd CreekSunday morning Ron was the first one up. The temp was 38 degrees F and the skies were still cloudy. After breakfast the skies were starting to break up but that had happened so many times that we left our rain gear on. The north wind was bringing V’s of geese down from the nesting grounds. Bruce, an avid fisherman to say the least, was casting from shore when in a concerned but subdued voice announced that there was a bear across Royd Creek. Most of us grabbed our cameras while Bruce went for the bear spray. The bear was 400 feet away eating Creeping Juniper berries. It looked our way just as Ron got the binoculars focused on it. Ron’s composure changed a little after getting stared at through the barrels of the binoculars. It seems that just as he got focused the bear looked him in the eye. The size estimates of the bear increased dramatically. It was raining lightly so pictures were hard to get and after a while the bear moved off. I really do not think that the bear knew we were there. The wind was pushing our scent and camp sounds out into the lake and away from it.

"Dumb luck had put them over the Lake Trout...'With a known bear in the area we took our food packs with us when we went fishing or exploring. We were fishing for Lake Trout but only caught Northerns before taking a break on shore. Ron and Bruce came over because the bent shaft paddles had gotten mixed up and Ron wanted to reclaim his. When we parted they had plans on where they would fish next but Bruce, who always has a line in the water, caught a Lake Trout as they left our rest spot. Dumb luck had put them over the Lake Trout and they caught two more.

Don and I were touring more than fishing so we pulled to shore when we saw an old boat up on some rocks. The boat was an old wooden one with fiberglass falling off the outside. It had been there a long time and had some cans and debris inside. Finding old remains like the cabin at our campsite and this old boat always causes me to wonder about the people and the era they represent. What was life like then? Why hadn’t the boat been turned over? When we come across these historical items we must take care not to harm or change them in any way. The cabin will be there for many more people to enjoy and wonder about its past if everyone will use the area with the utmost respect.

The sun was breaking out again and the patches of blue were getting bigger. A kingfisher was calling and an adult Bald Eagle flew over the lake. While exploring where Royd Creek exits the lake we found that with present water levels the first 40 meter portage was not needed. The water levels were high enough that our paddles did not even hit anything. The sun breaking outI came across a warning in the park newsletter that in times of heavy water run-off this section of Royd Creek can be a wild ride.

As the others came back to camp water was put on to boil so Ron could brew up a pot of his delicious Swedish coffee. We had three trout and two northerns so after a filling meal of fried fish and wild rice we still had enough fillets for a breakfast of fish and hash browns, a favorite treat of mine. The weather was still changing back and forth and even threw some sleet at us. The evening calm got Don and I out for a paddle in the fading light at the end of a great day in Woodland Caribou. With the gas lantern lighting up our shelter under the rain fly we put a final touch on the day with some hot beverages and strawberry cheesecake from the folks at Jell-O NO Bake.

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Copyright 2002 by Martin Kehoe -