The hike from Tranquille Lake up to Porcupine Ridge is a hike that is listed in many sources – in hiking books, on websites, on recreational maps, and in regional literature. It is the first leg of the Masters Sub-Alpine Trek, a route all the way across the Bonaparte Plateau to Bonaparte Lake. But this hike is not a recommended choice:
- It is poorly marked and overgrown.
- There are very few view opportunities.
- It passes through wetlands and is wet and buggy.
- It doesn’t really go anywhere. It is an out-and- back without a special spot to remember.
When we arrived at the starting point at Wendego Lodge on Tranquille Lake, we spoke to one of the owners, Norm Flynn. He said that the snowmobile club had been clearing and marking the route, but he had not seen them for a couple of years. He helped us with directions and warned us that we may encounter route-finding challenges. We nevertheless tried the trail.
We followed the double track up behind the lodge and kept track of our distance with a GPS. We saw the single track trail strike off north and noted the blazes on the trees along the way. It started well, but as we climbed through mixed forest, the trail became more overgrown, harder to follow, wetter, all without reward of views. At a few points, we had to guess which fork to take. Near the top of the climb, the trail faded out at the edge of the swamp. A hill rose on the left and a deadfall area to the right. In the winter, snowmobiles go right across the open swamp, then climb the slope on the northwest corner. There is no clear hiking route around the swamp, but hikers can climb over the hill and aim NW. The forestry lookout is above on a high spot that is not obvious from below. There are some decent views south from the lookout tower if the weather is clear. The lookout sits at 1800m.
The route beyond winds through forest and open meadows and is reportedly easy to follow for much of the route over to the Wentworth Road area, although a map, compass and GPS are recommended. Logged areas sometimes hide the route and route-finding is left to best-guesses. One one trip, I picked up the trail from the Wentworth Road, crossing meadows, skirting ponds, and winding among groves of trees to intersect the trail. The plateau is rolling and there are few viewpoints so getting your bearings isn’t easy. The whole route needs someone to backpack it, taking GPS readings all along the way (a future project).