Algonquin Park 2008 Trip Log

This trip log covers my 4th trip into the park. This time, we used a new (to me) access point and had a very early season departure, arriving about a week after ice out. Ice out conditions at the park in the early season can be checked here.

For this trip, we brought together 8 guys, 4 canoes, rain, wind, cold, and a few mishaps to create a tough but memorable journey. Having a large group and wanting to relax a little, the plan was to travel into Timberwolf Lake via Access Point #3 and stay there for 3 nights.  You might notice the longer route we took through Misty Lake and the 130m portage, instead of doing the 765m portage... more on that later.

Route Map

Jay was the primary organizer of this trip by putting the group of guys together and got the ball rolling with the planning of food and sharing checklists of what to bring.

Invariably, it seems that each trip triggers a shopping spree and this time was certainly no exception. New additions to my pack this year included: Leatherman Multi-tool, new pair of Motorola walkie-talkies, more rechargable batteries, LED headlamp, cycling gloves for paddling and a decent rain suit (not just a poncho!), to name a few.

Many of the guys were coming from the Toronto area, and I was coming from Peterborough.  We planned to meet in Hunstville on Friday night, and stay at a hotel.  This would give everyone a chance to get there after work, and would give us a clean, dry place to do some last minute shopping and organizing before heading out in the morning.  Considering the rain we got on that Friday, I am glad we were staying in the hotel.  As an added bonus, the hotel provided a continental breakfast in the morning, but unlike most, this one included scrambled eggs and bacon!  We stayed here at the Holiday Inn Express.

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Saturday, May 3, 2008

We left the hotel in Huntsville around 7:00 AM on Saturday, May 3, 2008. We headed North on Hwy 11 towards Access Point #3. Before we could launch our canoes, we had to get our camping permits and rent our canoes and other gear.

By 8:00 AM we had arrived at the park office in Kearney and secured our camping permits and paid our fees. Next we headed down the road a short ways to Canoe Algonquin. This outfitter provides rental equipment to those that need it, including canoes. Another service they provide, and one we took advantage of, is the canoe drop off service. For an additional fee, the outfitter will deliver your rented canoe to the lakeside Access Point of your choice. This is a great option for us city folk with cars. Not having to fiddle around with tying a canoe to the roof saves time and effort, and was well worth the delivery fee, in my opinion. You can find more information here: http://www.canoealgonquin.com/

The weather was a bit cool and things were still wet from the rain we had earlier that morning. We spent some time organizing and repacking things in the parking lot. Our rental equipment included 2 small food barrels (they were out of the big ones) and some other items like sleeping bags that required last minute packing. At this point, we took the time to synchronize the date and time on all the digital cameras we had in attendance. I took some ribbing for this idea, but when you get home and put all the pictures from several cameras together, it is nice to be able to sort them chronologically (especially if you are going to write a trip log!). Once things were stowed away we left for Access Point #3, around 8:30. Here Neiland, Jaff and John ponder the excitement to come.

I have been into the park a few times before, but from Access Point #5 at Canoe Lake. This time was a new experience. It is amazing the difference that an access point can make. #5 is commercialized with a store and restaurant and is located only a couple of minutes off the highway. The drive from Canoe Algonquin to Access Point #3 took around 40 minutes, and lead through a series of gravel roads that afforded nothing to see but trees and gravel... and it was perfect. It really helped to foster that sense of seclusion from going into the backcountry when compared to the Canoe Lake entry point.

In our case, the drive also provided the sight of some snow that was tucked away at the base of trees, or in a sheltered ditch hidden from the sun. Another reminder of how early in the season this trip was. It was exciting and a bit unnerving.

Access Point #3 consists of a few simple clearings, in the middle of a forest, which provide for car parking, plus an unloading area maybe 100 feet from the waters edge. A good quality path extends from the loading area to the water where a nice dock awaits the beginning of your adventure. We jockied our three vehicles into the unloading area and got our gear down to the lake. Our rented canoes were locked to a tree with a cable lock, having been conveniently delivered lakeside for us by Canoe Algonquin. Here is the dock on Magnetawan Lake that would mark the beginning, and later the end of our journey.

By 9:50am we were suiting up, with the canoes loaded with gear. Here some of the guys wait, somewhat patiently, for guys like me to finish getting organized and stop taking pictures.

The air was a bit cool, with overcast skies. Perfect for paddling because it wasn't too hot nor too cold. Around 10:00am we were in the water, paddling towards our first portage and getting our "sea" legs. Even though I've gone on other trips before, there is always a small period of adjustment getting used to the canoe and the stability of it. The neat thing is that with every trip you take, it takes less time to get comfortable. Our first portage (135m) was a very short paddle up Hambone Lake. We almost ran through this portage, eager to get on with things.

We were able to skip the second portage (55m) from Hambone Lake into a pond. The high water levels allowed us to easily navigate the creek. A pleasant surprise, but one that would have been better appreciated if it had come along later in what would turn out to be a very long day.

The pond passed quickly and by 10:30am we had reached the 420m portage from the pond into Daisy Lake. This might be a good point to comment on the portages. Being early in the season, the portages were wet. Muddy in some areas, slick in others. Many of us wore rubber boots and in my case, I wore the same rubber boots with the felt liners that I wear when I go ice fishing. These are terrible for hiking in, but at times on the trail, I was so glad I was wearing them. If I take another early season trip, I think a good quality pair of waterproof hikers will be on the shopping list.

As an aside, taking pictures of the portage signs are a great way of creating a timestamp of when you start and finish a portage.

It took us thirty minutes to complete the portage into Daisy Lake. At this point we took a few minutes rest and drank some water. In addition to being wet and slippery, the portages through this area are fairly hilly and provide a good workout.

Here Jaff looks on, as we leave the portage dock in the background. This area is quite low and wet. You can see the log plank path extending left from the dock towards higher, dryer ground.

A few minutes later put us into Daisy Lake which is a good sized lake, shaped a bit like a crescent moon. At this point in the trip, it was beautiful, but on the way home, this lake seemed to go on forever. I'm not sure if being out of shape has anything to do with that or not, but it likely doesn't help.

Here Neiland is caught floating around and smiling for the camera, instead of paddling. Ok, well, I guess the others in the background aren't paddling either.

A couple guys took the opportunity to wet a fishing line as we crossed Daisy Lake. At this point in the trip we were still energetic. The weather was decent for travelling and we were taking our time, soaking up the scenery.

At 12:10pm we reached the start of the fourth portage, a short 135m from Daisy Lake into the Petawawa River. The rain was still holding off and we felt were were making decent time. The end of the portage revealed a small rapids where the lake empties into the river. It only took us about 15 minutes to finish this portage and set out on the river heading Northeast.

Here Jaff poses with the portage sign to mark the start of the portage. You can see how the land slopes up in the background. Some hills mixed with wet ground made for some good hiking, that required a careful eye and a cautious step. It was very easy to slip on a muddy slope, especially when carrying an overloaded pack on your back. At the end of the portage, this pic shows a few of the guys loading up the canoes, with a nice little rapids in the background. Jay and John launched first, and killed the time waiting for the rest of us by casting a line into the base of the white water, but nothing was hungry.

By 2:00pm we had completed the 450m portage on the Petawawa River and continued paddling Northeast towards Little Misty Lake. The river stretches out beyond Jaff's pose and was a really nice paddle, for the most part. One of the benefits of going so early in the season is the complete lack of bugs. Normally a paddle through a narrow river like this would be brutal for bugs if you hit the season right, but this time it was awesome.

It was around this time that things got interesting. The rain started. A sometimes heavy, but mostly steady fall of rain. It was kind of neat at first, but it wore thin after not too long. The rain would not be the only excitement along this river of adventure. In some shallow water, the tight curves of the river produced some areas of current. One of our canoes was caught snoozing, no doubt induced by the steady patter of rain, and was pulled sideways by the current into a log that half crossed the river. Now this particular log had a broken branch on the side that closely resembled a spear. That "spear" made its mark, punching a fist sized hole through the side of the canoe. Luckily, the hole was well above the waterline, so it only served as a wake up call and was not any kind of emergency.

Given the rain, the cameras were mostly tucked away for awhile. Around 3:00pm we arrived at the start of the 935m portage from Little Misty Lake into Misty Lake. The rain let up, and allowed us to finish the portage, but the ground and everything else was quite wet.

By 4:00pm we had reached the end of the portage and stood on the shore of Misty Lake. Things couldn't have been all bad yet, as Bruce was still smiling . The rain was still falling on and off and we were getting tired, eagerly looking forward to arriving at our campsite.

With the fatigue setting in, we looked at the map. Two routes were available into Timberwolf Lake from Misty Lake. Behind door number one was a 765m portage. Door number two promised a 130m portage, and given the higher water levels, our wishful thinking led us to believe that we might even be able to bypass the shorter portage by paddling the creek. Based on this wishful thinking and a definite lack of desire to do another long portage we decided to paddle the long way around, down Misty Lake and opt for door number two.

It is hard to say which way would have been better in the end. We were tired, hungry and wet. The hilly terrain and wet ground would have made the long portage a real challenge for us at this point. While crossing Misty Lake, we found some sheltered shoreline that harboured some ice and snow.

Around 5:30pm we arrived at the shorter portage at the far end of Misty Lake. This was our 7th and last portage for the day... ok, 6th if you remember we were able to skip one. It was good to finally reach our destination lake, but we had a ways left to go to find a campsite, and the youngster in me was yelling "Are we there yet?!?!"

It was getting late, and we were now on a mission. The rain fell pretty heavy at times, and we headed across the lake to try to get one of the campsites on the island. We made landfall on the western one first, and I wanted to check out the other one. Even though we passed the north side of the island on our way into the lake, the other site was hidden by a well treed point. Jaff and I made our way around the rest of the island looking for the other elusive site. As we rounded the island and opened ourselves up the west, we caught a faceful of wind and driving rain that came out of nowhere. When we finally found the site, it was too small and hilly to fit 8 guys, so back we went.

This excursion cost us more time than we realized, and by the time we got back, the others had long since decided that the first site would become home, and had started putting up tarps. I don't blame them, I was exhausted.

We fought the rain and the wind and managed to put together a makeshift campsite. It would have to do until we got more energy and some better weather. It wasn't until after 8:30pm that someone snapped a picture of the waterlogged travelers.


Sunday, May 4, 2008

We awoke to a cool, overcast morning. The night before had been cold. I bought a new backpackers sleeping bag rated for +7C, which was in line with the weather forecasts that were predicting lows of +5C. No worries I thought, a couple of degrees either way, I'll just wear an extra T-shirt. Well, that didn't work quite so well, considering the actual overnight low dipped to around 0C. It was a cold, shivery night.

Without the previous urgency to set up camp in the rain before dark, I could now survey the campsite we had chosen. It was a good one. A nice point with exposure on two sides, and a short walk to the Southwest would reveal the end of the point and full exposure to the whole lake. Nice mature trees which were great for slinging ropes, especially clotheslines, which were in high demand today. The clearing around the firepit was large and well suited to 8 guys with gear. The site also had an aluminum boat in the clearing, which I assume was an MNR boat, that served nicely for a table and bench.

By 1:00pm it became clear that for the most part, the order of the day would be to dry out. The weather was not very co-operative and the sun remained hidden, leaving us to toil around the fire, propping boot liners up on sticks. We had lunch, consisting of sausages wrapped in pemeal, wrapped in a pita, with cheese. These would be the bright spot of the day so far. There were many groans to be heard as this group of city boys got up stiff and sore after a night of sleeping on the ground, which was preceded by a full day of paddling and portaging. Given the long day before, I was content to chill out around the campsite on day 2. My rainsuit and some other clothes were wet, and with the overcast skies threatening more rain at any time, the thought of heading out across the lake and getting soaked in my last set of dry clothes wasn't too appealing. The temperature remained cool all day, with many of us content to wear full coats, toques and gloves, even at midday.

There are some drawbacks to drying clothes by the fire, including the constant monitoring required, and the potential for damage if it is too close for too long. This day would see several scorched shoes, boot liners, and this poor hat of Bruce's. Of course, Bruce would have you believe that he left someone else in charge of the "constant monitoring" that is required, and it was therefore someone elses fault that the hat suffered an unnatural end.

A few of the guys were more adventurous than I, and decided to go try their luck at some fishing. Jay was rewarded for his efforts, and returned with a nice trout, but overall they weren't that plentiful.

In the afternoon, we decided to go for a hike around the island. It was something to do, and came with the added benefit of helping to keep us warm. We marched around, single file, taking in the natural surroundings, including a tree riddled with woodpecker holes, and several piles of animal droppings, from what I assume to be a deer. Our efforts were rewarded, as the sun made an appearance, and the cloud cover began to break up. It was great to see the sun, and feel the warmth. A few of us took the opportunity sit down, and relax, soaking up the new heat source.

After some lazy relaxation and with the sun shining, the motivation was stirred in some others, and many of the guys went out to do some late afternoon and evening fishing.

I stayed at the campsite to move my tent to a better location, wipe up some water and air some things out now that the sun was here to help. I wanted to readjust things a little bit. I wasn't happy with the tent location that we ended up with the night before, it was a bit low and situated downwind from the firepit.

The others didn't have much luck with fishing, but they did get the chance to enjoy some late day sunshine out on the lake. The weather at this point of the trip might have been among the better days we had, being sunny and not too windy. By 7:00 PM I think most everyone had returned from the lake, and my tent relocation was completed. Dinner was underway and I was looking forward to a nice evening campfire.

The chill in the evening air was unmistakable, and I was glad I brought my touque with me. The fire was a success and so was the belly warming beverages that made their way around the firepit. Our last photo was taken at around 9:30 PM. I'm not sure what time I crashed for the night, but I don't think I lasted much after 10.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The dawn revealed a nice calm day. I was up around 7:30 AM and the sun was shining through the trees. I felt refreshed by some sleep and the promise of nice weather. I made my way around the campsite, taking some photos. Jay and John were up early, with the energy and desire to head out on a daytrip to do some fishing. Their plan was to head back out the way we came into Misty Lake, and travel east down the river in search of some good fishing. The night before, they did their best to recruit some other members for their expedition, however, the rest of us were still feeling the effects of the long paddle in and didn't want to sign up for more portages just yet. We were content to take a more laid back approach, with a gradual start to the morning, followed by setting out to explore the Timberwolf Creek that enters the lake from the West side. By about 8:30 AM Jay and John were on their way for their daytrip. By 9:30 AM the lazy campers that stayed behind (I'd like to think of us as energy conservationists) had sausages cooking on the open fire for breakfast.

Later that morning, by the time we headed across the lake to Timberwolf Creek, the wind had picked up and was quite strong. This made the creek a good choice for exploration because it gave us some cover from the wind, which made playing around on the open lake a little undesirable.

Timberwolf Creek was your typical creek, with the odd beaver lodge and wetland marsh marking the boundaries of the open creek. Perhaps not typical of a creek in Algonquin Park, this one seemed to be lacking fish. Despite our afternoon efforts, the fish remained absent from our party. Meanwhile, in another part of the forest, Jay and John reached the Petawawa to Petawawa 195m portage at 12:43PM while doing their daytrip.

The map showed that Timberwolf Creek was fed by a small lake, Larry Lake. Jaff and I decided to be explorers and attempted to travel up the creek to see Larry. As we navigated through the creek, it kept getting narrower, until in places it was barely a paddle length across. At 12:30 PM we reached the end of the road, as seen here just beyond the end of Jaff's paddle, where the creek withered to a width and depth that we didn't feel like fighting with. The view the other way shows me and the path we took to get here over my left shoulder.

We paddled backwards down the creek until we found an area in which we could turn the canoe around. We headed back out at a leisurely pace, taking the time to cast a line in here and there along the way, but still without any luck. The others were not as adventurous as we were, and had already started heading out the creek and back towards home. We reconnected with some of the guys near the mouth of the creek. Some chit-chat and fishing later, we headed back to the campsite.

The late afternoon and early evening brought beautiful sunny skies and the wind died down, giving us all a great opportunity to hang out and relax. Jay and John returned from their daytrip, without fish, but still glad they went. The late day activities included me posing for the camera, the guys sitting around watching the sun go down, Jaff climbing a tree, and an awesome sunset.

Our last night in the park was spent sitting around the campfire trying to stay warm. The weather forecast NOAA recordings that I could pull in from my walkie-talkies suggested that overnight lows in the park could reach -2C overnight and would perhaps be the coldest night for us so far.

If you recall earlier, I had bought a new sleeping bag for the trip, rated to +7C. Each night so far, I had been experimenting with different combinations to improve sleeping comfort. I think the worst of all of them was wearing my coat to bed (together with other T-shirt and sweatshirt layers) inside my sleeping bag. I think the rainproof coat did more to hold in moisture than heat, and I wound up sweating and then shivering.

The last night may have been the coldest, but for me personally, it was the most comfortable. The best combination of layers I found over the three cold nights we were there was the method I used on the last night. I wore the same T-shirt and sweatshirt layers inside the sleeping bag, but then used my coat as a blanket on the outside of the sleeping bag. Lesson 1 - bring a better sleeping bag to account for weather that doesn't exactly follow the forecast. Lesson 2 - keep your coat outside your sleeping bag.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The first pictures taken on Day 4 captured bright sun shining through the trees at 6:49 AM. Several of the guys said they thought the night before was definitely the coldest we had had so far. The fire was stoked to make some breakfast and the process of packing up was underway.

By 8:10 AM the packs were filling up, and at 8:30 AM the group gathered for a picture on the campsite before we left. We wanted to get an early start on heading back, because we knew from the trip in that we had a long day ahead of us.

This time, we opted for the shorter paddling route and would take the 765m portage from Timberwolf Lake into Misty Lake arriving there at 9:25 AM. We pushed on through Misty Lake to arrive at the 935m portage into Little Misty Lake at 10:41 AM. You can see the start of this portage has a fairly steep bank along the shore of Misty Lake. This can be a tiring challenge when the ground is wet and slippery.

By 12:40 PM we had completed three portages (a distance of 2,150m). This brought us to the 450m portage from Petawawa River to Petawawa River, where we stopped and took a break for lunch.

After lunch we finished the trip through the Petawawa River and another 130m portage and entered Daisy Lake. By this point, we were getting tired again, and Daisy Lake seemed the like the lake that would never end. We finally reached the 420m portage into the Pond from Daisy Lake around 3:40 PM.

Once we skipped the 55m portage from the Pond into Hambone Lake, our pace seemed to pick up a bit, no doubt due to the pshychological lift that came with nearing the end of our trip. Tired and sore, I was looking forward to a shower, some junk food and a warm bed. We hit the last portage around 4:00 PM from Hambone Lake into Magnetawan Lake and by 4:25 PM we had finished that portage and made our way back to Access Point #3 where the journey started.

That wrapped up another long travel day that included 8 hours of travelling, an approximate distance of 18.2km and a total of 2,840 metres portaged.

With the cars mostly packed, the gang gathered at 5:07 PM for one last group photo before heading back home. The trip was a success. Nobody was injured or killed and I think everyone had a good time.

Hope you enjoyed the triplog and thanks for reading!

Troy...

Feel free to me with comments!

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