Friday, May 29, 2009

Algonquin PP Jul 28 08 - Day 4

Making the best of the rough campsite on Waterclear Lk

No luck with the weather again this morning. The grey pall seems like its going to be the norm on this trip. Despite the gloomy feeling, we had several forest friends to entertain us this morning. The first was a possible fisher that skirted along the shadows of the campsite early in the morning. I couldn't be 100% sure but it was certainly too big for a marten or mink, - cool! The second was a friendly chipmuck that came in the shelter and couldn't get out. Of course Marylou's frantic cry for help had us both jumping and shreiking inside the mesh tent trying to let the poor thing out. It decided to express its gratitude by leaving behind some brown-coloured treats. Last of all, I got to hang out with 3 large garter snakes along the rocky shoreline. We were all there taking a moment to relax and enjoy the surroundings before starting the day.

Hanging out with garter snakes on the shore of Kiosk Lk

It was hard to leave that great campsite, but the temperamental on and off showers quickly had us on our way in no time. If it wasn't for this great campsite, there was certainly lots of activity on this lake to preclude me from ever wanting to camp here again, like the floatplane that just landed, the buzz of outboard motors, and cabins doting the shoreline. So much for a wilderness experience. As we continued east, the light showers continued unabated like the increasing number of canoes on this big lake. Further inspection revealed a major access point which would explain this. We eventually paddled through a narrow channel where train tracks use to cross overhead. I'm not sure when it was decomissioned, but the map indicated that it belonged to the CNR, - a good thing.

Want to see some snakes in action?
Check the video out.

As we continued SW on Kiosk Lk (short form), our second loop was to take us down to Erables Lk where we would then continue back up Maple Creek and end up in the present lake. Our first portage to Little Mink Lk was where we first encountered major human traffic, which I am so fond of. Talk about bottleneck, there were 4 groups including us on a 730m trail. Loading up to go, we briefly spoke to a solo paddler who was cutting his trip short and heading home due to all the rain. (no kidding!, we probably should have followed him out!) Anyhow, we deftly weaved in and out of the congo line and quickly set off from the put-in to try and distance ourselves.

The beauty and sheen of a new canoe's gelcoat.
Wonder how long that will last?!

The short paddle through Little Mink Lk brought us to our next portage. It wasn't a nice take-out as we had to get out of the canoe before shore and balance on shifty rocks beneath the shallow waters before getting to dry land. The most annoying thing was the 2 aluminum canoes blocking our way with 4 young guys sitting on shore chatting. I bit my tongue trying not to say anything, but eventually one kid finally clued in to drag the canoes out of the way. Its not often I get upset, but this kind of stuff really annoys me. Thankfully it was resolved before I said anything. As we were loading up to go, the rest of their troop came trudging in as I found out they were a school group out for a month or so. I was happy to hear that there were still schools doing this kind of things with kids.

This tent is big and spacious, as well as being
stable in heavy wind and rain. More
on it later.

This 450m portage leads to Mink Lk, but we took the 1300m turn off to White Birch Lk, our intended destination. At the put-in we met up with more kids from the same group. They marvelled at our light Nova Craft Pal and even asked to lift it. (compared to their Grummans, I could see why!) I even felt more remorseful after seeing their packs - gray canvas with thin leather shoulder straps and no tumpline or hip belts! I inquired and found out that the tumplines were now a legal liability so they were removed! Man, these kids are really roughing it! Hats off to them! As a twisted farewell, the skies opened up and let loose on all of us. Sigh!

Whitebirch Lk was pretty with some nice campsites on its eastern shoreline. (which is where we should have stayed!) However we continued down its length and quickly portaged 345m to Waterclear Lk. It was the name of the lake that got me curious about camping there, but the overcast skies did little to show her off. It certainly didn't seem as nice as Whitebirch Lk and the only nice campsite at the south end was taken, so we paddled back up and opted for the first one. Evident as it was that the site was not well used, we made the best of it and it actually turned out to be pretty good.

When there is an opportunity, everything
comes out to dry!

Thankfully the skies eventually cleared and a nice breeze followed so we took the opportunity to dry our gear out. Its amazing how grateful we become out in the wilderness for the simplest of pleasures - to be dry! Its times like this that we fully appreciate things we often take for granted. We lived on the edge tonight and slept with the fly door open!

Next: Day 5 - "You have to be kidding me, SPAM?!?"

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Algonquin PP Jul 27 08 - Day 3

The ubiquitous canoe stand - an icon of the
Algonquin portage trails

Sometimes there is more going on at night in the tent than you'd expect, - now that's not what I was getting at! The first time I woke up, I found Marylou's headlamp on. I couldn't leave it to drain the battery so I woke her up to turn it off. Found out she couldn't sleep and felt odd/claustrophobic so she turned her headlamp back on to make her feel better. (apparently she just fell asleep - ops!) I told her to get out and get some fresh air. I couldn't understand as we were using the Eureka Tundraline which is a 3 man tent and there is more than ample space compared to our usual 2 man MEC Wanderer. She did feel better after she came in and did eventually fall asleep. Weird.

The next time I awoke was to a mouse using our tent as a playground! The critter kept climbing up to the peak of the A-frame tent and glissaded down the side as if it was a huge slide! Mind you, I couldn't blame the bugger cause if it was me, I would have done the same thing! Weird.

Our very wet campsite on Three Mile Lk where the mouse
effectively used our A-frame tent as a big slide!

Despite waking early, I decided to sleep in, especially to allow Marylou to get some more rest. By the time I thought it was fitting to get up, it started to rain, - crap! So I slithered back into the sleeping bag and hoped it would stop soon, - which ultimately meant more time for sleeping, reading, and writing. It was beyond procrastination at this point. We got up at 11:00!!! Whoa!

For our tardiness, we had a 2800m portage to begin the day. This would get us to Manitou Lake and complete our first loop. We were a little apprehensive, but generally "pumped" to get through this as quickly and painlessly possible. (What's the chance of that?!) Thankfully it was relatively flat as it followed a logging road most of the way. I have to say it went much better than I expected as we finished in just over an hour.

The portage to Manitou Lk was definitely long
but thankfully fairly flat.

Our bigger concern was the headwind and waves that were being funnelled up this arm of the lake at the put-in. We saw an outboard across the other side loading up the group camping there with their canoes and whisk them away. "Was it that bad?!" Well with the Pal and the shallower depth, it was obvious as we paddled across the biggest waves to the other side. Confident of our ability to handle the conditions, my only concern was seeing the 2 - 2 1/2 foot waves make its way over the gunwales. I knew with the Prospector it wouldn't have been an issue, but that wasn't the case now so we plodded on quickly before we took on too much water. Thankfully the big pack and barrel that fit snugly across and above the gunwale helped to deflect some of the water out.

Of all the places I could have stopped for a break on the 2800m
portage, it had to be below a loose creaky branch!!
See video below

Once we rounded the point, the rest of the paddle on Manitou was easy. We pulled up on a broad sandy beach at the east end of the lake where we began the 1190m portage to the Amble Du Fond river. I noted some cabins with outboards in the vicinity and realized that despite the fact the beach was fairly deserted, I could see how popular and crowded this spot could be on a nice day. The river portion had some nice campsites along its shores but we decided to continue on to Kioshkokwi Lake for the night. We paddled down a swift before pulling out at the next portage, of which this and the next one went downhill bypassing some extensive falls and rapids. Unfortunately our late start meant that there wasn't time to view them.

Finishing our last portage, Marylou checks for campsites on
Kioskokwi Lk before heading out

Once on Kioshkokwi Lake, we headed east and found camp on an absolutely beautiful headland. The type where you wished you could have stayed a few extra nights. Flat tent sites, open forested canopy, great firepit with benches, elevated vantage points, and a nice rocky platform to go swimming from. (which I did!) I also forgot to mention it included a way-too-friendly camp mouse that visited us in the shelter and wanted to inspect our assortment of edibles. It was promptly kicked out. (not literally!, sheesh!) By the way, Kioshkokwi means "lake of many gulls" in Algonkin of which we were well aware of. It seems that even the "winged Lake Ontario posse" has a weekend wilderness retreat!

Considering the dramatic skyline, what would make me
hope there would be no more rain?!!
Arghh! - Three Mile Lk

When the sun and blue skies poked through the grey cloud cover earlier, we hoped for some good weather ahead. We laid out all our wet gear and clothes in various places to dry out, but of course once everything was done does it not start raining again!?! We were still in recovery mode from the extremely wet Obabika River trip, but it was evident we were not going to get any reprieve. We slept with the tent fly doors closed.

Next: Day 4 - "There are 3 big fat snakes down there!"

Friday, May 8, 2009

Algonquin PP Jul 26 08 - Day 2

Viewing the small falls at the south end of Hornbeam Lake

Sleep wasn't restful due to the muggy condition and the rain that came during the night. Despite feeling sluggish, it was time to get up and get started. It was grey and overcast outside but at least the rain had stopped.

Our first of 3 loops was to head SE to Biggar Lake and then head back north to Manitou Lake. Paddling down Mangosti Lake, the skies darkened ominously and began thundering in the distance. (deja vous?) As we portaged 240m into Hornbeam Lake the deluge began, but it didn't stop us from taking time to see the rapids and chutes that it bypassed. A quick paddle brought us to another portage that skirted a small but wide fall that I would imagine would look much better at higher water levels. Then one final portage brought us to the considerably larger and aptly named Biggar Lake.

Checking out the chute along the portage to Hornbeam Lake

At the east end of Biggar Lake, the sun finally came out so we beached the canoe on its sandy shoreline to refuel and hydrate before we began a marathon portage session that Algonquin is so well known for. We decided to aim for Three Mile Lake, but that entailed 4 moderately long successive portages with short paddles in between. (barely enough for a "recovering" rest) So we tightened the belts/straps, prayed for strength and motored on. The first 475m went without a hitch, but the second 960m began uphill. To say the least, it winded us, but we made it to the top and I took full advantage of the canoe stand that Algonquin is also well known for. Near the end, a very wet section had a boardwalk that literally sank (and disappeared) as you walked across it, which gave us a few good laughs.

See the "disappearing" boardwalk!

This walkway could use some more support,
- "Really, I'm not that heavy!"

The third portage was short (320m) but the put-in had me stumped. The trail followed a logging road near the end but it disappeared under water! As there was no portage at the water's edge, we had no idea if we were in the right place? We backtracked and searched for the "correct" route but didn't find anything, so we decided to put the canoe in and paddle out. We quickly found the reason for the flooding as the left side of the road was built up like a small retaining wall. We also soon found the answer to the perplexing put-in dilemma as the portage sign appeared on a stump a distance from shore! I guess the architectural landscape designer (aka the beaver) didn't like the past shoreline! Is it too much to ask that he move the portage sign as well?!!!

Seems to be a trend with the trail doing the disappearing
act! See video below.

Upper Kawa Lake was a pretty gem of a lake and it was an ideal place to camp, but it was early and we had another 1125m portage to go, so we reluctantly set off. Despite the length, it wasn't too bad and we soon arrived at the put-in to Three Mile Lake where we met a solo canoeist.

I rarely meet people on my canoe trips as I avoid places/times when they are around. Not that I'm antisocial, but it is my time to get away from it all, so the opportunities are minimal. Although, the few times I've met canoeist, its been quite enjoyable, sharing stories or trail info, of which we presently did with Ron. We ended up talking at length as we both were covering the same route and then exchanged contact info. I would say half the time nothing ever materializes afterwards, but in our case with Ron, he did contact us and we now send the odd email. (if you read this Ron, sending a "Hi" your way!)

Taking a break on the eastern shore of Biggar Lake

We continued our paddle up the NW shore where we eventually camped on a point 2/3's of the way up. It was a good day, tiring, but of the good type. The one where despite the exertion, you feel positively satisfied. Unfortunately we didn't get to have a warming fire due to wet environment, but a hot soup with bread for supper warmed us thoroughly and contentedly put us to a deep sleep that night.

Next: Day 3 - "Water is coming over the gunwales!"

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Algonquin Provincial Park Jul 25 to Aug 2 08 - Day 1

Preface: Canoeing in Algonquin during the busiest time of year is not something I do, as most of you are probably aware. So to understand this self-contradicting decision without getting into too much detail, I decided to touch on this subject briefly. I had originally planned a trip with Marylou far up north near Geralton (N of Lake Superior) for 16 days. By the second day, we were confronted with an insurmountable problem which couldn't be resolved, thus prematurely ending the trip. So after a long drive home, we managed to salvage the remaining vacation time by putting together a substitute trip in Algonquin, of which the following trip report is about.

A typical shot that is "part & parcel" of the
Algonquin experience

Tripping in Algonquin during its peak season is not something I would dare fathom, but a major fiasco on a previous trip had unfortunately precipitated this radical decision. The one side benefit was the opportunity to finally paddle the yellow Nova Craft Pal for the first time and take her on its maiden voyage.

On the drive up, we hastily decided to paddle three separate loops in the NW corner of the park. We arrived at the familiar Kawawaymog Lake Access point, but not before stopping and visiting our good friends (the Thornborrows) at the Swift Trac Outfitters. (see South River trip post)

After purchasing the permits, we quickly unloaded and "gently" laid the Pal on the surface of the lake. This process was certainly going to take some getting used to. (my equipment/canoes usually take a lot of abuse) After making some minor adjustments to the canoe, we set off across the lake.

The yellow NC Pal on the shores of Kawawaymog Lk, ready
for her maiden voyage. "Marylou, where's the
Champagne bottle?!!"

It didn't take long getting used to how she paddles, but there was some significant differences. (in comparison to the Prospector) The narrower beam along the length of the canoe meant a lot less space for paddler and gear. The lower depth also meant our barrel/pack sat higher above the gunwales, including us. However, the Pal tracked well and moved smartly through the mildly choppy waters. We immediately noticed how fast the canoe moved and soon found ourselves across the lake at the opening to the Amble Du Fond river. This was a good opportunity to see how well she turned in the twisty narrow watercourse. It was soon obvious due to the negligible rocker she didn't spin very well, but its light weight and its experienced paddlers made up for this shortcoming. Here's a link to the Pal on the Nova Craft website if you want more info:

A healthy moose grazing on Pickerel weed on the Amble
Du Fond river - see the video below.

As with all new things including canoes, people attempt to keep it pristine as much as possible and as long as possible. Well after our first portage, Marylou failed to notice a mischievous rock hidden under the surface as we set off from shore. The resounding scrape not only shattered the silence but sent shivers down both our spines. It was heartbreaking for the Pal to be scarred so soon, but once she got her first battle scar, it just went downhill from there!

Even with a privy in sight, little white flowers abound!!
Its beyond comprehension!!

The amusing thing about tripping in Algonquin was the opportunity to witness some unusual things. Of course everyone trips differently depending on purpose and goal, but it still was quite an eye opener of sorts throughout our trip. I've heard of people tripping with coolers, but I had to see it to believe it. On the last portage to Kawawaymog Lake we ran across a bunch of guys obviously burdened by the loads they had brought - which included huge coolers that had to be carried by 2 guys! Of course, there were lawn chairs, duffel bags and who knows what else, but it filled every nook and cranny in the canoe! Briefly talking to them, it was acknowledged that they were staying put on this lake, otherwise I could see a mutiny!

Trying out the new Littlbug Stove - a fabulous invention!

We headed east across North Tea Lake and camped 3/4's of the way down at the narrows. We decided to stop early as we were tired and lethargic in the muggy heat, so after setting up camp we relaxed for the remainder of the day. We also got the opportunity to finally try out our new compact wood stove, the Littlbug Stove which I wrote a review in an earlier post, ( ) We instantly fell in love with it as it was so simple and easy to use. No moving parts, compact, portable, and effective for channeling the flame and heat where its needed, - and most of all, no need to carry fuel with you! We ended up boiling water in a kettle and enjoyed hot drinks that evening, compliments of an innovative inventor and Mother Nature for fuel!

Next: Day 2 - "The boardwalk disappeared!"