Turtle Mountain

I was excited that Becca was available to come with us on this trip. It would be her first backpacking adventure and I hoped she would love this spot as much as Ryan and I did two years ago on our first backpacking adventure.After a 3 day stretch of extreme heat and humidity, I was happy that it was cooler (still high 20°) for our hike. We took the scenic route to Grand Bay Westfield and arrived around 11am.Joining us was a trio of eager hikers who were planning just a day trip and volunteered (or were voluntold) that they could carry our extra 6 liters of water up the mountain.The hike begins with a bridge between Robin Hood and Little John Lakes. We started out together but it quickly became apparent that day packs and overnight packs were not even close to similar weights and our trio pulled ahead. They were kind enough to hold back and wait as we approached any obstacles so we could all cover that ground together. The heavy rains from the night before wrecked havoc on the trail, turning it into a muddy, marshy, rocky water obstacle course that we had to maneuver through carrying our bulky, heavy packs. It was slow going, but we felt we were making good time.As we approached the top of a bedrock hill, I remembered back 2 years when I was in the same spot. At that time I was ready to pitch my tent right there at the halfway mark and let the others push on. Except that I had no idea what I was doing and would never have made it alone. This time was different. Was I hot, sweaty and tired, YES! Was I ready to call it quits, NOT A CHANCE! This proved to me that I had gained strength and endurance over the past 2 years and we continued on the path.At the 6km mark I began to hit a wall, I knew the hardest part was coming, and I pulled out my handy pack of mixed gummies–my secret weapon! These gummies gave me just what I needed to make it to the edge of a granite dome of rock that leads upward to the top of Turtle Mountain.That part of the climb is the hardest for me, you are climbing up a smooth granite rock face at a very steep angle. It feels like you are climbing forever…but it is actually only about 400 meters.When we reach the top our day hiking friends are almost ready for the climb down, so we took off our packs and waved them off and down the rock face we had just climbed.We took some time to explore the mountain that we would call home for the next 18 hours. Once at the top it is obvious how this mountain got it’s name. The top is a huge granite dome, much like a turtle shell, and you can see for miles in every direction. It is absolutely breathtaking. In the distance you can see lakes including Turtle Lake, Sherwood Lake, West Lake and Labrador Lake. In the middle of the dome there is a small, mostly coniferous forest where we pitched out tents for the night. We layed down for a bit until the heat of the sun dissipated.After teaching Becca how to use the Butane cook stove and how to make supper we explored some more. We even created some mountain art.Soon enough the sun began to set. The sky lit up in a rainbow of pink, orange, purple, yellow, green and blue. It was as though a rainbow quilt was being pulled across the sky.We talked and waited for the stars to come out. We layed on the warm rock dome and watched the skyline as we listened to the birds, loons, frogs and other night sounds. We were rewarded with a spectacular array of stars that filled the night sky. We even saw the most brilliant meteor!We had hoped to be up before sunrise, however that did not happen. When I awoke the sun was high in the sky and the day was already warm. We had a leisurely breakfast and packed up for the trip down off the mountain. It was amazing how much the water had dried up in less than 24 hours. The walk out was a bit less muddy and much better to see coyote, moose and deer prints. The day was cooler in the shade and there was a nice breeze. We took our time and were pleased when the journey seemed shorter in this direction. As we walked the final steps to the car I felt proud of my girl for trying something new and hoped that she might try it again soon.

My top 5:

1. Take of my pack.

2. Change out of my wet, muddy shoes and socks.

3. Wash my hands.

4. Find a real bathroom.

5. An ice cold iced coffee from Tim’s.

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Nepisiguit Mi’gmaq Trail

Our day begin with a rainstorm. We knew the trail would be wet, but the rain stopped just prior to us arriving.We begin our journey on the east side of the Middle Landing Bridge. The trail was well marked with turtle signs and there was a trail head map. We followed the river through beautiful ferns and trees towards 2 beaver dams.We noticed the huge beaver lodge first and plenty of signs that the beavers had been busy. Next we tested our balance by walking on the edge of 2 massive beaver dams between dead water on one side and the river on the other. We walked through a forest of huge hemlocks and pines.We could hear the eagles calling but were unable to spot their nest. At the bottom of a steep bank we found our tenting site. It was a gorgeous spot right on the river that had tent platforms and a huge teepee to sleep, gather or cook in.We were able to start a small fire in the teepee to keep the bugs at bay (they were vicious, blood sucking creatures in swarms big enough to carry a person away–do not attempt this hike without bug jackets, long sleeves and pants.)We ate supper on the bank of the river and I spent my evening enjoying the riverbank. I saw ducks, beavers and fish.I woke the next morning to the sound of 2 eagles and the downpour of rain that was not supposed to come until Friday night. We started a small fire in the teepee and ate breakfast dry and toasty. We considered just staying there another day, but decided to embrace the rain and keep moving. We climbed the steep embankment back to the trail and continued wet but happy. We hiked through a boggy cedar patch where I quickly got wet and muddy feet. It was worth it to see the amazing Papineau Falls. They were magnificent!My trail partner and I agreed that we would hike that section again sometime for sure. After a precarious crossing of an offshoot of the river, the trail continued through a giant pine forest. There was a section here that was muddy, slick, and very steep where I slipped and slid down a huge embankment on my side. You will need to have 2 hiking poles here and best to wait until after the rain next time. After I climbed that point we found a lovely lean to in the forest where we had lunch. It was obviously a private camp, but we needed to get out of the rain and rest and we really appreciate that it was there and open.The rain let up after lunch and we continued on. Looking forward to a log bridge spanning the Red Brook. Red Brook looked more like a river and the bridge was a pile of rubble so we made our own bridge to cross the river. From here we hit a dirt road for a bit around private camps and towards a set of railroad tracks. We arrived at the same time as the train and took a rest while the train passed.We crossed a rope bridge and climbed a rough trail with many small ups and downs on a high narrow ridge for quite a distance where the view of the river was awesome. The trail continued in a boggy patch of giant pines and tamarack where we crossed the bottom of yet another massive beaver dam. We ended on a dirt road towards our car.Our feet were sore, our packs were wet and we were walking slowly but we were happy. At the end of every hike I think of the top 5 things I want when I finish, today’s list was:
1. Take off my pack
2. Take off my wet shoes and socks
3. Take an Advil
4. Find a real bathroom
5. Get a coffeeWe hiked 22km of the trail and would definitely do the section E to the falls again. The trail was well marked, a lot of the winter tree fall was cleaned up and the trail was well maintained. Because of it’s easy access to water there is no need to carry a lot of extra water with you.