May 15 Ė 18th, 2009 ... by Aaron Robichaud
The Night Before
Iíve planned this trip for roughly 3 months. All my camping gear has been laid out all in the garage for months and Iíve been through every packing list know to man. For weeks now Iíve been shopping at Bass Pro, LeBaronís, Tentcity Outfitters, Canadian Tire, Walmart, and The Dollar Store, picking up any items missing on my Master Packing List. The gear has been packed and unpacked more times than I can count. All the camping essentials (tent, tarps, sleeping bag, etc.) packed into the canoe pack, and all the cooking equipment and food is to go into the barrel pack. I know Iíve got too much packed, but since this is my first solo trip Iíd rather pack too much, than not enough.
So all the planning, packing, and preparations have come down to this, and here I sit in the garage waiting to go. My brain is swimming with the ďwhat ifísĒ, thinking of all the things that can go wrong, or problems to deal with.
HOLY CRAP!! What have I gotten myself into?! I canít wait.
This is going to be awesome. I miss the ĎAlgonquin experienceí, the quietness, the peacefulness of nature. And this time something new, the solitude of a solo trip.
Something I think I need, and we all need Ė to return to nature, and to slow things down.
With all of our modern day conveniences we, as a society, have lost touch with the Ďsimple lifeí.
It just kind of hit me just how much of a shock to the system that this is going to be.
I just want to hit the water and get back into a canoe. Itís only been 4 years, far too long!
Well itís off to the couch for a little TV and then bed Ė tomorrow is going to be a busy day.
Day 1 Ė Iím Here
Out of bed at 4:50 am, shower, shave, dressed, packed up and ready to go at 5:45 am. This is too early for it to be a vacation. A little kiss on the forehead for my sleeping daughter, and a juicy one from the wife.
I was on the highway (400 North) at 6:00 am, after punching in Kiosk, Ontario into Lola (newly purchased GPS from our Myrtle Beach road trip).
It was pretty much an uneventful drive. After a stop at the Algonquin North store to pick up my paddles and life jacket, and to pay for the rental; I was at the Kiosk campground around 10:15 am.
While at Algonquin North store I chatted with the ladies there about where I was heading. They all seemed shocked that I would pick a dead-end destination like Lauder, but itís all about the Speckled Trout, and finding the time to explore a lake. The girls said that the fishing has been excellent, and that the bugs are not biting. Good news thus far!!
ďJudyĒ at the Kiosk campground said the exact same thing. Her name is in quotations as I didnít get her real name and Iím just continuing on from Markusí nickname for her (from www.algonquinadventures.com forum).
The big topic of discussion was the wind Ė Judy said that yesterday (Thursday) the wind was so violent there was no possible way anyone could get out on the water. Today the wind is just a light breeze; the Gods must be looking out for me.
I picked out my canoe, a 16í Swift Kipawa - # 26, and had it all loaded by roughly 10:30 Ė the last time I really care what time it is. Now comes the trepidation factor, is canoeing really like riding a bike? Iím in, and of course I havenít forgotten how to travel by canoe Ė itís ingrained in me somehow. Oh how nice it is to be in a canoe again. With all of my gear placed in the front and the barrel in front of me, the canoe was very stable and well balanced. I paddled along at a steady, yet slow and comfortable pace Ė such a nice way to travel.
Kiosk Lake was fairly calm, with just a little chop, but any little wind was in my favour as Iím heading east. Roughly half way to the portage into Lauder, Kiosk is cut in half by the ĎMile long bridgeí, a bridge for the trains that used to supply the small lumber village of Kiosk, Ontario. Passing under the bridge, there isnít much headroom, as the water levels are pretty high. Also with the wind blowing it created quite the current flowing under the bridge. I approached cautiously making sure I didnít get caught in an eddy or sucked under too fast. Once past the bridge itís like a whole new lake.
Just past the bridge there is a really nice looking campsite Ė the second site in on the north side of the lake.
I continued onto the portage without incident, enjoying the nice day at a leisurely pace. The goal was to take the ďHigh Water PortageĒ up Lauder creek, which is only 490m. I started down the creek, which at this point is pretty wide, but is fairly shallow. After a few mins of paddling I approach a beaver dam that covers 99% of the creek, and the remaining 1% is just wide enough for a canoe.
Captain we need more power Ė RAMMING SPEED!! I lined myself up with the opening and gave it all I had. But the current coming out of that little opening was too much for me and the overloaded canoe. So I had to retreat back to the regular portage, with my tail between my legs. I think if I had a bowman we would have made it, or if the water was a little warmer I would have just gotten out and walked over.
So I arrived at the portage, which has a pretty nice put in / take out spot. I quickly unload the canoe and pulled everything off to the side, and looked down at the gear Ė 3 trips for sure! So I grabbed what I though would be the worst first Ė the barrel pack. Wow was I right; I had loaded it all wrong. It was way too top heavy which forced me to walk at what felt like a 45 degree angle.
The portage starts out in a forested area of nice pines and birch trees, then after 200 m or so it opens right up into an area of lots of deadfall Ė clearly evidence of a tornado. Itís nice and sunny and quite warm, perfect for a little hike with a barrel strapped to me! While in this clearing I came across 3 separate groupings of bear scat Ė which looked quite fresh (only a few hrs old). Bear patrol on high alert!
The path width of the tornado is quite wide, probably 200 Ė 300 meters. Then back into the forest. The portage has a gentle upward slope and is fairly clear and wide Ė I came across 3 or 4 fallen trees that were in the way. As you continue on, you can hear the creek / waterfall flowing out of Lauder into Kiosk, and getís quite loud. Once you hear it roaring, you turn a corner and there is Lauder Lake.
Back to the barrel - I got to the other side and thought I was going to die Ė get this fín barrel off me. I also carried 2 fishing rods, a plastic bag with a few loose items that wouldnít fit in the other packs, and the fold up chair Ė which kept hitting me in the knee and now hurts. I immediately opened up the chair and collapsed into it. The only cup that I had was my travel coffee cup / thermos (from this amís coffee), which I dunked into Lauder to sample the brew Ė mmm fresh Algonquin water, with an after taste of coffee Ė eeww! Lesson learned; always have a Nalgene bottle on you.
After a 5 Ė 10 min break I was strolling back to the other side. I kept reminding myself that itís the journey not the destination. So I took my time walking back, and about half way I saw the sign for the high water portage breaking off from the main trail. So I went exploring, time to see how close I got to it. From the looks of it, youíd have to travel a fair ways down the creek to get here Ė I was no where even close. I managed to get closer to the waterfall for a look, it was fairly overgrown and took a little while, sure wish I had the camera with me for a few pics. Time to get back to the start of the portage; Iíve still got a long way to go.
Grabbed the pack this time, tightened up the straps, I also grabbed the two paddles and off I went. Despite being probably 60lbs+, the canoe pack was properly packed and didnít cause me any issues Ė no pains in the back or shoulders. I made the carry across without incident, and once at the other end I dropped it off and immediately started the walk back, Iíll rest on the way back. The last trip was with the canoe, which felt natural to carry, again no pains on the shoulders. It was rather interesting carrying a canoe over the 3 or 4 fallen trees in the way, which took some fancy footwork to get under / over a pair of trees.
All in all, it took roughly 1.5 hrs to traverse the portage with three trips, not too bad. After a 5 min break I had the canoe loaded up and was back on the water. This was the first time I got a real good look at Lauder, water was nice and clear (a little stained), lots of fallen trees in the water Ė should be good for fishing. There was a little bit of a headwind paddling up the left shoreline. In the little end bay by the portage all you can hear is the waterfall, which is quite loud. While paddling along I kept wishing I had my rod setup with a spoon or spinner, but that was packed in the barrel and would be too much effort to get out right now Ė thereíll be plenty of time for fishing after camp is setup.
I was tempted to stop and check out the island site (that isnít on the canoe routes map), but I just wanted to find a site, and get everything setup and organized Ė Iím running out of energy. While making my way up the lake, I was introduced to the lakeís pair of Loons, who were quietly fishing. Hopefully there will be some loon calls tonight.
I was at the first site on Lauder by 3 pm. Itís a nice site, situated on a point, while still being somewhat sheltered. The landing spot is nice and shallow, and provided easy in and out access. From there you climb up a large rock, perfect for sun basking / star gazing. The fire pit has a big rock as the backing, which should be good for reflecting heat outwards; also complete with a bench.
There are a couple of options for the tent, I chose right beside the water, which has a line of trees for protection for the wind and elements. Also there is plenty of large firewood available, it would appear that someone tried to burn some monster logs in half and these are the remains. Looking around I noticed lots of fallen trees, so no issues finding firewood.
After quickly surveying the site, I unloaded the canoe and got started building my home for the next few days. With the tent setup I started to blow up my air mattress Ė yes thatís right I brought an air mattress, a double one too. Even though this thing weights more than my tent, itís going to be nice to sleep on. Although I should have brought the air pump Ė it took quite a while to blow up, and what a head rush! Then I laid out my sleeping bag, sheet, and blanket Ė yep I brought it all.
With my bed all arranged, time to focus on getting some firewood and thinking about dinner Ė Iím hungry (very soon stomach)!!! I spent roughly an hour getting wood, and sorting out food and all the miscellaneous stuff that was thrown into the barrel. Camp is set up, time to sit back and relax for a bit. This is a nice spot; my looking rock provides a nice view up and down the lake. As I sit here looking out over the lake the bugs are swarming Ė theyíre here; they arenít biting, but sure are annoying. Time to pull out the bug shirt, just to keep them away.
Itís now 5:45 pm, and Iím DONE. Wow what an exhausting day, but a good day. It feels really good to get away from everything, and to be out in the great Canadian wilderness. It felt great to be in a canoe again, and I look forward to catching the first Speckled Trout of the year.
Any little bit of wind has completely died down and itís looking like it will be an absolutely perfect evening. I want to get out fishing, but I donít have the energy Ė plenty of time later. I think that it will be dinner, fire, some star gazing, and bed Ė I bet Iíll be sound asleep by 10 pm.
Take a look at the pictures of my dinner Ė what do you think?
It was AWESOME! The steak, the potatoes, and of course the red wine to go with it. What an evening, I couldnít ask for a more perfect moment; one of those that will be with me forever. I only wish my family was here to share the experience. I have the entire lake to myself.
Itís 8:45 pm, the sun is about to go down, and the lake is like glass Ė not even a ripple. Simply amazing. Now the loons are calling back and forth as they patrol up and down the lake Ė they keep passing by my site. Iíll have to troll along their route tomorrow; hopefully they are showing me where the fish are.
Itís so quiet here, aside from the birds chirping away the only other sound is the odd airplane flying way above. Oh, and I was just reminded about the woodpeckers. The bugs are gone and itís quite warm, Iím still in a T-shirt Ė it feels like an August night.
I was wrong, I wasnít asleep by 10 pm Ė it was 10:07 pm when my head hit the pillow and I was out by 10:08 pm. What a great night!
Day 2 Ė Rain
I slept great Ė no sounds other than the loons.
I was awoken at 7:21 am to the sound of light rain on the tentís fly. The weather forecast was calling for rain all day today. So I got out of bed, and got started right away on setting up the tarps. Not just once, or twice, but 3 times Ė the first attempt failed because I didnít get it tight enough and wouldíve had drainage issues. The second try was a disaster as I ripped the tarp. So the third time I just put a rope across two trees and draped the tarp over, then I secured the corners to trees/stakes. I clearly need some lessons on how to do this properly.
Then I focused on building a little fire, and collected a whole bunch of fire wood, before it all got wet. Total time to set up Ė 2 hrs. At least Iím dry, and have plenty of dry firewood. Only problem is the wind, itís blowing pretty good Ė I might need to build a wind break, oh and itís much cooler now Ė I can see my breath.
I brought a single cup cone filter and freshly ground coffee; so time to get that fired up and get some hot oatmeal into me.
10:45 am, and itís still raining, and still very windy. There are signs now and then that it might clear up. Regardless Iím content to keep the fire going, watch the lake, and stay warm and dry. Even if it does clear up, I doubt Iíll get on the lake today, as the wind is very gusty and there is quite the chop on the lake.
1 pm and still raining, almost a mist, and very gusty. Iíve got some all day logs on the fire now, and I just pulled out the iPod and speakers so Iíve got some tunes Ė thanks Diana. I think I can handle sitting here and watching the weather and lake, and keep the fire going. Now Iíve got the munchies Ė time for some gorp.
If this misting stops I might be able to get out and try some drifting with a worm, or trolling with an EGB spoon.
Looking around my camp, Iíve got a tent, the barrel beside me, a canoe, a chair, and thatís it. It makes you realize that you donít need much.
Later on the afternoon cleared up; there is still the odd sprinkle of rain and lots of wind. I set up my rods, one with a white jighead and a black power grub, and the second rod with the EGB spoon my daughter bought me for my birthday. Letís go fishing!
As soon as I left camp, you could see the gusts on the water coming down the lake. I forgot how helpless you are in a canoe when it comes to wind Ė even more so when youíre solo with no gear. I started to drift along where I had seen the loons yesterday fishing, and very quickly I saw one of the loons pop up, almost right beside me. I snapped a few pictures, but itís kind of hard to keep the canoe steady and on target in a wind storm.
The loon was fishing, so I thought that Iíd just follow him around for a while. Before I knew it I was almost on the other side of the lake Ė thatís when the realization hit me that Iím just sitting on a leaf out here. A gust of wind could quite easily blow me completely down the lake and Iíd be stuck or worse yet tip into the cold waters.
Thatís when I pulled in and made for home Ė weíll try this later when the wind dies down a bit.
Once back at camp I thought Iíd try my hand at casting from shore, as the shoreline looked real good, with a nice drop off. On the third cast, I hooked into a decent sized trout, which got off right at my feet, roughly 16Ē or approx 1.5 Ė 2 lbs. Woo hoo!!
Somewhere around 5 pm it started to clear up, and the wind started to die down Ė perhaps it will be another perfect evening. After some debating (with myself) I decided to get a roaring fire going in preparation for dinner. The debate was whether or not the weather (ha ha) would be good for the rest of the night.
Suddenly, it got real calm all of a sudden Ė time for more fishing. I quickly departed to try my luck about 50 Ė 60í away from shore. As soon as I got out there the wind picked up again, and after 15 mins of fighting with the wind I came back to shore. No luck.
Time to cook up some dinner Ė on the menu tonight is chicken burgers, macaroni salad, and an oriental vegetable mixture.
Itís 9 pm now and the wind has intensified, and itís quite cold, good thing I brought my coat. While being land locked for most of the day I had built up quite the wood stash, good thing because Iíll need it to stay warm. I stayed up quite late tonight keeping the fire going, was in bed around midnight. After I drank too much rye, fell asleep, and ran out of wood. It was a cold night, I slept with several layers on, and the blanket over my head. But I had a great night sleep.
Day 3 Ė Déjà vu .. Rain & Cold
I set the alarm for 6 am to get up early and go fishing; but when I poked my head out it was way too windy to even think about getting in a canoe. So back to bed, after a couple of advils for the headache. I finally got out of bed around 9:30, feeling like crap; not sure if itís the hangover or the complete lack of energy. Fire and a coffee are a must!
I cooked up a whole package of bacon and 4 scrambled eggs. Way too much for just me, I usually only have 2 or 3 slices of bacon Ė what makes me think Iíll eat a whole pound?!
I brought way too much food, more than enough for 2 people, and now Iíve got to carry it back home. Anyway, breakfast and coffee was fantastic, time for another one.
The weather today isnít looking good, very windy, much colder, but hey at least there isnít any rain. Thatís right no rain Ė itís SNOWING!!!
I donít think Iíll be able to fish again today, so much for the grand fishing plan I had. Also, no lake exploration trips either. Hopefully the weather will cooperate with the travel plans to get back home.
Another quick check on the lake Ė yep those are white caps. Definitely landlocked today.
Itís surprising how much energy is spent doing the most basic of things. For example making a coffee requires wood for fire, water to boil, get the filter, get the coffee, add boiling water, sugar, stir, drink (before it gets cold), and then clean up and put everything away Ė the 15 minute coffee. I know that itíd be quicker if I used the stove, but I already have a fire going; plus itís not like Iím going anywhere right now.
Now that Iíve got food in the belly, warm liquids, lots of fire wood, Iím anxious to do something Ė enough of this weather already!! Iím thinking about tomorrow, need to pack up and do the portage again. What about the wind Ė if itís as bad as today, I can get myself to the other side of the portage, but what about Kiosk? That lake can be terrible with just a little bit of wind. Well the one thing I have learned on this trip is to deal with each and every problem as they come. So weíll wait and see what tomorrow has in store.
Today the plan is to keep the fire going, lots of wood for the day and night (not running out again), and if I canít get on the water, then Iíll do more casting from my casting rock.
Got one Ė the wind had subsided for a bit, and within 5 casts I had him on, another quick release fish, roughly 15 Ė 16Ē. The colours on these fish are amazing Ė only a picture would do it justice, time to catch some more. Every time the wind calms down Iím going for a few casts Ė like right now.
Got another one, and this time I got some pictures. This one is smaller only 13Ē, but still so colourful.
Itís 8:30 pm and the clouds are breaking up and showing some blue sky Ė a first since I got here. Iíve got lots of wood for tonight, and dinner was white mac & cheese and sausages. I canít believe how much food I brought Ė I could have fed my whole family for the same amount of time.
Itís my last evening here Ė hard to believe the time went by so quickly. Yet Iíll be glad to get home. I canít wait for my squeeze hug and juicy kiss Ė I know the dogs will give it up without issue, weíll see what the girls have for me.
I figured that at some point during this trip Iíd feel lonely Ė but that really hasnít happened. But not seeing another person or speaking to someone for a couple of days is a little weird.
Well the evening turned out awesome Ė the wind died down completely, and the lake is like glass. The sky is crystal clear, and the stars are just coming out. The only way to describe the stars is unbelievable Ė next trip I should bring some star charts. Well, time to stoke up the fire and fire up my last doobie, and soak in as much of this experience as I can. Oh and I canít forget the loon calls.
Itís COLD, below zero for sure. Iím layered properly so Iím not cold, and Iíll sleep with the blanket over my head again, as it kept my head nice and warm.
I was in bed roughly at 11:30, only woke up for a pee break around 2 am. Again such a great sleep.
Day 4 Ė Oh So Soon
I woke up bright and early just before 6 am. Thereís a frost on everything, and still very chilly. The lake has a very thick fog on it, but its clear skies, virtually no wind, and the sun is just coming up Ė letís go fishing!
I didnít get out in the canoe, rather I chose to use my casting rock Ė I lost one right at my feet, and landed two, all small guys. But I got a few pictures. Just look at the colours in the fish.
A quick look at the time, 6:40 am, time to get some coffee and oatmeal going then focus on breaking camp. What a great morning, as I sit here sipping my coffee watching the mist slowly meander across the lake, that is before the sun burns it off. Itís looking like a beautiful day Ė why do I have to leave?!
Itís pretty nice sitting here on the lake, listening to all the birds .. so nice to see the lake under a clear bright sky. This is a nice site Ė would be excellent in the summer.
I packed up all the gear, while taking frequent breaks for a few casts. Once everything was laid out Ė I stuffed it all into the packs. I took my time, but also kept an eye on the time, as I didnít want it to be too late in the day when I get to Kiosk Ė just in case the wind picked up again. 9:15 am Ė time for another coffee and some more fishing. No luck, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time here.
With the canoe all loaded up, I took one last walk around camp, and said my goodbyes. I shoved off at just after 10 am, and this time with a line in the water Ė with my lucky EGB spoon. I was so tempted to paddle up the lake and do some exploring, but reality set in Ė I have a long haul still to go. So I set off straight for the portage. No fish along the way, despite passing several spots that looked very promising.
At the portage, with all my gear laid out. I grabbed the barrel, hoping this time I had packed it properly, and sure enough it was much lighter (no steak, potatoes, beer, or wine), and was actually quite easy to carry. As I made my way down the portage, I noticed that there are more fallen trees Ė and of course more trees in the portage path. When I made it through to the other side, as soon as I got there, an elderly guy in a small aluminum boat was just at the mouth of Lauder creek. My taxi has arrived.
I waved to him, he saw me, and immediately turned around Ė no wave, nothing. Weird!
Anyway I dropped off the barrel and proceed back to grab the canoe pack. Again I reminded myself that itís all about the journey, so I took my time. When I got to the clearing I looked around for a while, almost expecting to see a bear or a moose somewhere, but to no avail; just lots of birds and plenty of woodpeckers. Once back at Lauder, I grabbed the pack. I was also timing myself, it took roughly 16-17 mins to walk without gear, and with gear about 20 min. For the last carry with the canoe, I stood on the shores of Lauder and said my goodbyes, it pained me to leave. But Iíll be back.
So in total it took just under 1.5 hrs to do 3 carries, for a total of 5.5 km hiking. Despite the fallen trees in the way, this probably is the easiest portage in all of Algonquin Park.
After a quick snack break I was off. The wind had picked up a bit, and Kiosk was looking rather choppy, but no white caps.
Just after clearing the mouth of Lauder creek and out from the wind protection of the islands, the wind blew me right into shore. I sat there for a minute or two, considering my options. It was quite shallow, so I continued to Ďpoleí my way along the shoreline, and with any break in the wind I was able to make some progress. I used one of the islands as my wind break and paddled right for it. As soon as I got to the island, the wind really picked up and there were white caps all down the lake. There was no one at this site, and I was tempted to get out, but just then the wind died down Ė hereís my break. So I picked a point on the main land and made for it, I was quite nervous about being a fair way from shore, in the wind; but I also knew that I needed to get to that side of the lake in order to get anywhere.
Once across, the wind picked up again, but this time I was protected, so I continued along. At the bridge I was again nervous about the wind and potential chop on Kiosk. But it was fairly calm, and I managed to paddle along. I sort of lost track of where I was on the lake, and I was watching the shoreline, when all of a sudden I saw a truck drive by. It surprised me because I didnít realize that I was at the campground already. I was disappointed, my trip was over.
Itís only over if I get out of the canoe!! And Iím not getting out, not yet anyways. So I continued to paddle along, while trolling with my EGB. I thought that Iíd check out some of the sites on the west side of the campground Ė we have a family trip planned in August; this is also the site that we stayed at a few years ago Ė site # 13 I was very surprised at how high the water is, almost to the top of the rocky break, I also noticed that now there are steps leading down from the site to the water.
I kept fishing for a while, as itís a nice rocky shoreline, with lots of fallen timber (from logging). Not a single bite. Oh well, I guess itís time to go. Back at the campground, I loaded up the car, and put the canoe back in its place. After a quick chat with Judy, I snapped a couple pics of the lake; itís time to go home.