Even though quite a few Confluence Points are a day excursion away, our location in North America meant that the majority of close ones had already been “discovered”. So, we set out on the three day trip early on Friday morning, hoping to hike all Saturday and return on Sunday.
The 730 km drive North from Toronto to Cochrane - the birthplace of the Canadian hockey legend Tim Horton - took nine and a half hours, and was largely uneventful. However, it was interesting to find a "wall of fame" in the local "Tim Hortons" coffee and doughnut shop, complete with photographs of him and his 4 kids, and the Hamilton Spectator newspaper article about his death. I've always assumed that this national hero died in an unfortunate accident, but apparently he lost control of his "Italian made sports car" as he was trying to escape from the police on one of the major highways in Toronto.
The next day we had to cover another 150km beyond Cochrane on Highway 652, and 10 or so more on an unpaved, yet surprisingly smooth, gravel road after the Highway ended (photo #7). Highway 652 is rather interesting because it’s a pretty good paved road 150 kilometers long, yet leads to no permanent settlements at all – it’s a kind of road to nowhere. It was built specifically for logging and mining trucks. I expected to find this remote area completely devoid of civilization, yet we saw quite a few cars parked along the highway or hid slightly out of view on secondary roads. Some of the trucks had empty boat trailers (we assumed the owners had cottages on remote lakes or rivers that were inaccessible by land or just went fishing), and others had tents set up right next to them.
The closest point to the confluence on the gravel road was pleasantly enough right next to an old logging road, which lead in approximately the right direction. The logging road had become overgrown with weeds and bushes, and was impassable in our car because a new ditch had been dug out in between the gravel road and the old logging road. At this point the confluence was 3.93 km away, and we were able to get within 3.40 km by walking along the disused road. Since this was still relatively early in the morning, our pants became completely drenched in dew, with the water rising well above my knees thanks to good old capillary action. My boots were also thoroughly soaked within ten minutes.
Regardless, the whole area around the confluence is covered by a muskeg with a spongy moss growth of varying depth. At some points, our feet only sank in a couple of centimetres, while in the majority of spots we sank by about 7cm - enough to make the walking as difficult as having to navigate your way through unshoveled, deep snow. The bugs were out in full force, with everything from regular mosquitoes to deer flies and horse flies using us for sustenance despite the thick layer of DEET on our clothing.
To be fair, not everything worked against us. The terrain itself was beautifully level, with almost no change of altitude from the road to the Confluence Point. Also, we passed by a few areas that, although covered in the deep moss, were almost completely clear of trees. Overall, we walked around 400m on such "plains". The moss here had some red patches (instead of the green colour elsewhere). However, where the forest was present, it was relatively young and rather dense. At these points every metre was a battle. Compounded with the deep moss and the bugs, the young growth made for a very unpleasant experience (however, my dad would describe it more as a “challenge”). I found myself regretting coming out into "nature", and wishing that I was elsewhere more than once as I was literally pushing my way through these areas.
The dense growth was of two different types. At first, we encountered several thickets of young (15 – 20 years old) fir trees with only a foot or a little bit more between adjacent trees.
Afterwards, at the headwaters of slow flowing streams we encountered deciduous bushes up to two metres high. It’s interesting that these streams had no continuous and clear cut paths. Instead, we could see separate windows of clear water that weren’t connected to each other. Apparently the moss and other plants were covering these streams in most places, creating little caves over them. The unique appearance of these streams was due to the flat terrain and the very slow rate of water flow.
Thinly spread larches with moss were west of the Confluence Point (Photo #1). The Confluence Point itself was located in a South – North stream covered by dense deciduous bushes. These deciduous bushes were separated from the larches by a narrow, approximately 10 metre wide, band of dense fir growth. So photos from the Confluence Point itself are representative of only about one tenth of the area around the Confluence Point, and not of our whole hike.
It was a local pattern: nascent creeks covered by dense deciduous bushes with narrow bands of dense fir trees around them and a muskeg with sparse larch trees further from these streams.
Ultimately, the journey was successful. I was overcome by a great feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction as I came out of the bush onto the remains of the ancient logging road. The solid and unyielding ground underneath my feet, the beautiful flowers around me, the reeds protruding from a nearby pond and even the mosquitoes draining my blood all seemed perfectly agreeable and wonderful. I would recommend attempting this confluence to any relatively fit individual searching for a challenge, wanting to sample a real Canadian muskeg and not minding being mosquitoes’ and other flying animals food. Spring and fall, when the bugs are not there, are probably the best seasons for reaching this CP. Winter snowmobile, ski, or snowshoes attempt might be a challenge because of the patches of dense growth.
We reached this CP in 3 hours 45 minutes and returned in 3 hours 30 minutes.