After a few years of being unable to make our annual Victoria Day weekend canoe trip into the Kejimkujik National Park backcountry, we were back on the water this year. The national parks have instituted a more “fair” lottery system for reservations and as in every other lottery, I’ve been pretty unlucky with the results. This year I was 2306th in line so I wasn’t holding out much hope of getting what I was hoping for. Turns out I was right and had to settle for a two night stay on a site further down my wishlist, site 6. It wasn’t my first choice but it turned out to be a pretty good one.
With our canoes loaded on top and gear loaded inside we started the drive to Keji. Luckily when we arrived we were a bit early and there wasn’t too much of a line to check in. I had answered all the registration questions before arriving so we were in and out of the visitor centre quickly. We really wanted to unload the car at the Big Dam parking lot and get on the water.
After a few short walks between the lake and the parking lot with all our supplies we were were finally in our canoes and on the water. The weather was a little cloudy and cool, perfect for a few hours paddling our rhythm. After making our way up Big Dam Lake and through the narrows, we found ourselves at the longest portage of the day, Portage R. We met a couple of other small groups hanging out and taking a rest, portages are great for meeting other backcountry adventurers and having a quick chat.
We lugged our gear across the portage, taking our time. Portage R isn’t too bad, it’s mostly flat and the path is clear and easy to follow. After a few trips back-and-forth for the canoes and gear, we were back on the water, this time on Still Brook, a wide, meandering river. We had no idea what was waiting for it at the other end, Portage S, and the entrance to Frozen Ocean Lake.
After a seemingly endless paddle down Still brook toward Frozen Ocean Lake, we came around the final of many, many bends to find the destruction nature can wreak on manmade structures. The small, wooden dock at Portage S had been twisted by a large tree that had fallen over the river, blocking our path forward.
We decided to pull out a small machete and hack a small tunnel through the tree’s branches and make our way through. It wasn’t easy with the current trying to push us down river but after a few minutes we made it through and were on our way again. Of course at this point the river becomes quite shallow so we decided to get out of the canoe and walk it the short distance to the shore and take a rest.
Luckily, from here it was a short paddle to our final destination, site 6.
We paddled our way out of Still Brook and around the point to site 6, a welcome sight after out little adventure on the river. We pulled our canoes ashore, unloaded our gear, chose our tent pads and began setting up camp. For most of us going into the backcountry means not having a whole lot of gear to move and unpack but it still feels like a lot when trying to get to the bottom of a portage pack to pull out your sleeping bag.
Site 6 is a lovely, open site under the towering crowns of beautiful Hemlock trees. Having an open site is helpful in the spring when the bugs are at their worst and ready to furiously attack anything with blood in its veins. There was almost always a light breeze through the site, so that combined with the smoke from a small fire we fared fairly well against the bugs. I was trying one of those newish permethrin infused shirts to see if it worked to keep the bugs away and I was happy to find it did a very good job. Surprising really. While my two adventure partners had to wear their bug nets the whole weekend, mine stayed in my tent.
One of the many great things about the backcountry in a canoe is you can bring some heavier gear with you and make some excellent meals. My supper was fairly boring but luckily I was in the company of people who know how to do it right. We had steak on the fire the first night and excellent breakfasts both mornings, including cream cheese and lox on bagels, and tex-max fried rice with eggs cooked over a smoky fire. You can’t beat meals like those with hot coffee in the woods.
As quickly as it started, our weekend in the woods came to and end. Lots of exploring and relaxing was had before we had to pack everything up again and make our way back to the car. We slept in and started fairly late but we managed to get everything organized and packed, and left the site exactly the way we found it.
It was another great weekend with friends in the Keji backcountry. Great weather, sore arms, and a little bit of adventure. Looking forward to next time!
Check out a map: Canoeing to Keji Site 6