The reason that we picked 49°N 82°W as our first Ontario confluence point was that it seemed that it was the most easily accessible among the remaining unvisited Ontario confluences.
To plan this trip we used a custom map prepared with "MS Paint" and OziExplorer. Basically we cut four corners from four Toporama maps adjacent to the 49°N 82°W confluence point, merged them into a new image and calibrated it with OziExplorer. We also prepared OziExplorer waypoints for our planned road in advance.
Some people, e.g. Artem Frolov, believe that the best time to visit Northern Ontario confluences is March. In this case you can use skis or snowshoes to cover "the last mile". At the same time we believe that the best time is mid-April to mid-May. In this case the snow is gone but bugs have not appeared yet. Roads are more easily passable in a car, SUV or a pickup truck than in winter.
We started from Toronto on Friday, April 15th, 2005, at 4:20 PM. After the usual delay in Toronto traffic jams, the remaining journey was uneventful and we arrived in Cochrane (the starting point of the famous "Polar Bear Express") at 12:20 AM (the trip was about 700 km). Navigating was very easy: Highway 400, and then Highway 11 up to Cochrane. You just have to pay attention to the road signs.
On Saturday morning we hit a string of unexpected events. Initially, we were unsure about the quality of the last 40km of the road leading to the confluence point, and planned to rent an SUV or a pickup truck. However, there was no SUV for us at National due to miscommunication. We tried to rent a pickup truck from "James Bay Car & Truck Rental", but were not happy with the quoted price. So we decided to try to use our car to get there. About five minutes after we left Cochrane we hit standing traffic. A truck rolled over and blocked both lanes of Highway 11. In this area Highway 11 (a.k.a. Trans-Canada Highway) is the only arterial road, and in case of a road accident you can spend up to half a day waiting for the accident scene to be cleared. Typically, there is no way around.
Because we had to leave for Toronto the next day, we decided to try finding an alternate route North of Highway 11. We had nothing to lose, so even ending up in a dead end would not have been a loss at that point. Luckily these gravel roads were good enough, and we returned to Highway 11 West of the accident's location, passing through Hunta first. The following drive up Highway 11 to Fauquier was pretty simple, as westbound vehicles were still blocked by the overturned truck, and oncoming ones had probably already heard about the accident.
At Fauquier we turned left, crossing over a bridge that spanned a railway. We then continued on a gravel "Forest Management" road of gradually deteriorating quality. The weather had been dry lately, so we had no problems with mud as we covered the ~40km distance from Fauquier to the spot where we parked our sedan. There were a couple of antique wooden bridges, and the last presented a certain concern to us. Nevertheless, we made it to a point located about 1 km from the confluence point.
The trees looked dwarfed and suppressed in the area. The region's main source of income (in addition to tourism, fishing and hunting) is the pulp industry. Compared to the lumber industry, these companies typically harvest pretty young trees. As a result of this and a severe climate, the forests in this area of Northern Ontario lack taller trees and are not as spectacular as their Southern Ontario brethren.
We discovered some footprints of a large wolf or a small bear on the road. We did not like the idea of meeting a bear in the woods. We even are not afraid to say that we are afraid of bears. Nevertheless we changed our footwear and started bushwhacking South West to the confluence point. Fortunately we did not discover any signs of bears (i.e. dung or scratched trees) in the forest itself. It took us about 45 minutes to reach the confluence point. In some places, pretty dense fir growth had developed after the mature trees were felled by the pulp company around 10 to 20 years ago. The forest was partially swamped. Occasionally, we ran into solitary cranberries left over from the previous year. Except for this, the area was not so hospitable. Most likely, the bears do not like such wet forests devoid of food.
We believe that the best footwear for this season is rubber boots.
The weather was absolutely fabulous: it was about 17 degrees Celsius, sunny and not very windy. So, Yury and Ilia enjoyed this trip immensely.
We made some standard photos at the confluence point (view North, view South and GPS readings) and headed back to Cochrane.
On Sunday, on the way back, we drove through a town named Swastika (est. 1904) just to take this photograph. Then we headed to Cobalt, a town that was the focal point of the Canadian mining industry about a century ago. We also tried to visit 48°N 80°W, which is conveniently located about 60 m from a good gravel road. There was still a lot of snow, so we decided to forego visiting this already discovered point. Nevertheless, we would recommend the 48°N 80°W confluence point for a summer visit (after snow is gone) as the most accessible of all nearby points.