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Nature – Bearbells & Beagles

Nature – Bearbells & Beagles

Bearbells and Beagles

by Leslie Noonan

So you may have been following my story about my previous solo trip along the Ganaraska trail.  If so, you know that things were not going well. At this point I was demoralized and had just pulled off a toenail and had a massive blister.  I was unsure if I could continue into the next gruelling section of trail in the Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Park.  Well, of course I did.  I have one of those personalities that must finish what I start out to do, regardless of the consequences, and this next section had some serious consequences.

I headed out from Moore’s Falls with the goal of putting up camp in Victoria Lake.  By this time a thirty-kilometre hike seemed like nothing, yet I was about to be pushed to my physical limitations.  The Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands is just that; full on wildlands with no cell signal, minimal trail, and at times gruelling hiking up and down the Canadian Shield.  I would spend three days within the park and have no contact with another person, see a plane, hear a car or have any other indication that the human world still existed.  Victoria Lake is gorgeous, and I set up camp to the sound of loons.  Early in the morning I was woke by the sound of elk bugling as the sun rose over the horizon while a heavy mist lay over the lake.  I set out and within a few km came to an area that my map said to use the 1.5 km beaver dam to traverse between lakes.  This was late summer, and the vegetation was thick and heavy.  I was unable to locate the dam so I started a methodical circle pattern in the swamp to try to find it, as there was no other way for me to get across the lake.  It was then that I fell into a water channel.  My large pack prevented me from falling through all the way, so there I was with my legs dangling in water of an unknown depth, while my upper body is stuck in thick reeds 10 feet high. I had few choices.  If I unhooked my pack, I risked falling all the way into the channel and having the vegetative mats form over my head and drowning.  On the other hand, I could not get myself out of the channel with the weight of my pack holding me down.  Remember when I mentioned at the start of this series that I forgot something?  Well, I forgot a GPS.  So here I am, stuck, in an area where I may never be found and unable to get help.  I spent hours trying to desperately to pull myself out.  I admit it, I gave up.  I put my head down on the reeds, and resigned myself to dying there; until I thought about how my children would never know what happened to me.  I couldn’t let that happen to them.  With one last burst of energy, I dragged myself out of the channel, giving myself a painful hernia in the process.  As I headed back to shore I stumbled against a brush pile.  Wait, not a brush pile, a beaver dam covered in small bushes and grass. Groan.  And this is only the beginning of this day, and it gets so much more interesting.

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