By Al LeBlanc
For April 30th – May 4th of 2009, we decided to rent a Ranger Cabin in Algonquin Park after many years of tripping, mainly in the north part of The Park. We decided on the Tattler Lake cottage because it was easiest to get to with some portaging and we wanted a different experience with food and shelter. The Tattler Lake Cabin which was accessible with a P25 and P550 portage allowed for these changes. This was my 3rd time into this area and my friend Dan’s 2nd time. I was there about 15 years ago with some members of my hockey team and 2 of my brothers. The 1st two times were tenting trips at the island on upper Booth. Once with the hockey boys and once with Dan just a couple of years ago. On my 1st trip I was a novis and I remember my then brother-in-law and me trying to paddle up the rapids at the P90. The water was high so we gave it a shot. We made it about ½ ways when the water took hold of the front of the canoe and I couldn’t hold it. That was fun but we were too tired to try again so we portaged. At the end that trip we shot these short rapids on the way out. Now I have a cedar strip canoe and shooting rapids isn’t something I would normally do for fear of tearing a hole in the hull. Dan and I decided to check out the rapids on our way out on Monday and possibly shoot them if the water looked high enough.
The planning for this trip was different since we did not require a tent and we planned on bringing a cooler. This changes the dynamics of food and drinks dramatically. When the decisions were finally made we decided to bring a cooler had some nice meals planned (steak, spaghetti, eggs, shooters in plastic containers that had a cream component and other stuff that required cooling). The loose ice in the cooler was used for drinks. The cooler worked well. We had a Coleman cooler that could keep ice for 5 days at 30C. It was not heavy when empty so carrying it out would not be a problem. But it was heavy carrying it in. We knew we would have 3 trips on our portage.
At the Shall Lake check point we bumped into Algonquin Glenn and his crew of 5. We chatted it up and while departing Glenn said he would drop in for a visit. That sounded like a good idea to us. We looked forward to their visit. Algonquin Glenn and boys were staying at the Kitty Lake cabin. There are no portages to that cabin so they even had their own fire wood!! Hard wood even!
We were lucky this year that the ice was off. Jim at the check point said that the ice was off about a week earlier. The canoe was all loaded and we set off to Tattler Lake. One of my favorite moments about canoeing is immediately after that 1st push off into the canoe. A huge peacefulness overcomes me. We just glide for a few seconds and the feeling is one of pure bliss. Nothing special happened on the trip out. We made good time. We had to triple portage due to the cooler of food and ice but it worked out very well. There was one solo tripper along the way and we chatted with him a bit. This guy had a GPS transmitter attached to the bow of his canoe which informed his wife exactly where he was. Not a bad safety feature (or recovery feature). We arrived at Tattler Lake cabin and 1st noticed that the screen door was torn off its hinges. Dan tried to repair it unsuccessfully so it will be reported to Jim. We also noticed that the fire extinguisher was low so that will be reported to Jim also. Other than that the cottage was in great shape. There was some firewood left by the last inhabitants and we were very grateful. We needed the heat in the evening and morning. The small wood stove and available loose softwood from the surrounding bush could not keep the cottage warm in cold weather. You still require a good sleeping bag and sleeping pad at this time of year. The wood stove is very good at taking “the edge” off and making it comfortable with our jackets off.
The first wild life we saw was a ground hog. Like most folks we wanted to see moose, deer or bear and if a miracle happens a wolf or two. But not on this trip. Just a single ground hog. We began to warm up to this little guy. Take a look at the photo. This is a healthy looking animal. He looks young and strong. His coat is even, smooth and shinny. This guy is looking for a mate! That 1st evening he began gnawing at the cabin. There were no evidence of older tooth marks on the cabin and all of his gnawing marks were fresh. We wondered what he was trying to tell us. “Get out of my field!” This chewing behavior kept up for two days then he finally stopped. He was a constant companion for the 4 days we were there and he settled down going about his business. It was very cool watching a ground hog in his environment. We are much more use to seeing them in the cities and lots of times as road kill.
Ground Hog at Tattler Lake Cabin – April 30, 2009
We had lots of daylight left so we explored for the Thunder Box and the fresh spring water well that folks told us about. We found the wooden box that covered the well and filled up our containers with extremely cold and very clear water. The temperature of the water must have been +.01C. Just above freezing.
We began to collect dead wood to use as firewood. Thankfully I brought along a cross cut saw with a very sharp blade. We cut 2” to 3” sticks into about 10” lengths. Since it was wet softwood we also collected plenty of dry sticks that would burn nicely. With the dry sticks burning well we were able to keep the larger sticks burning. This enabled us to have a nice fire but it required attention every 10 to 15 minutes. This is not very good for an overnight fire. The night time temps were above zero but not much so there was no frost. We felt the cold enter the cabin around 3AM each day.
In the evening a beaver came out of the small bay in front of the cabin. He swam in front of the cabin and around the point to the side of the cabin then back to his home area. I think he came out to check the new neighbors. He returned in the night also. He was on the grass one night when I went out for a minute of fresh air (pee).
The next day we awoke and had some great coffee and pancakes for breakfast. We had Lanark (Ottawa area) Maple Syrup with the pancakes. Woohoooo! Fantastic! It was raining last night and it was windy and cool so we decided to work around the cabin and collect firewood and explore. There isn’t much to report. We blabbed all day and just hung out. That evening we lit a fire in the fire pit to cook our steaks. With the good breezes we knew that an outside fire would burn well and it did. The wind fanned the flames very well. The fire was gaining a great bed of hot coals and knowing that they wouldn’t last long being softwood we got the steaks on immediately. The 1st side of the steak seared very well over the strong heat as did the second side. Once seared the steaks cooked up very well as did the baked potatoes. The wine with our steak was Cabernet Sauvignon, Silverado, Napa Valley 2004. The taste reveals fresh black cherry aromas followed by blueberry, chocolate and new oak scents. Perfect wine! Great Legs! We had a great dinner. Very nice!
The next day (Saturday) we decided to canoe up the Opeongo River to Anne Bay. We didn’t want to go any further because the wind was still strong and we wanted to avoid big water. We thought the narrow river and the trees would protect us and it did. The water level was the highest it has ever been and it took about an hour to paddle as far as where we thought the P150 should be. Since the water was so high we were able to paddle up the P600 portion of the river. One section near the top of the P600 was difficult but we made it without too much trouble. Just some hard work. We couldn’t find the entrance to the P150. We paddled as far as a set of short and very strong rapids which stopped our progress. The P150 should have been at that point. We looked everywhere but could not find it. So we tried to paddle up this short rapid but as predicted we didn’t stand a chance. As soon as the tip of the canoe hit the rapid we were in trouble. Our canoe got caught in the current and we got turned around and then caught in the very fast white water current. At one moment we were broadside to the white water with the rush of water at the side walls of the canoe and the thoughts of total helplessness. We had brief thoughts of being tipped over. But the feeling was for only a moment since the rush of water was narrow and we slipped out of it. It was scary enough for us with the thought of being dumped in +1C water. So we didn’t make it past the P150 and we are puzzled as to where this portage should be. We shot the river all the way back to Tattler Lake. It took about 15 minutes for the ride back. It was a very nice ride with no effort to paddle. Basically just using the rear paddle as a rudder to steer.
Back at the cabin Algonquin Glenn and his friend Dan dropped by. We had a good time chatting about adventures in Algonquin Park and Glenn told us about cabins in the north that were nice. He mentioned Lost Coin cabin as a good one. Algonquin Glenn and Visiting Dan had to cut their visit short because some inexperienced members of their group were stranded on the Booth Lake Island and the weather was not good. He was worried about them. It was very windy when they had to leave. It was weird to see them leave in the middle of a squall. Dan and I settled into our evening routine and that evening we ate spaghetti and meat balls. Fantastic!
On Sunday we decided to paddle the shore line of Booth Lake. The water looked calm at around 9AM when we left the cabin but that only lasted for about an hour. What a day of paddling we got ourselves into! We worked like dogs fighting steady winds and strong gusts of winds. We made steady progress but it was a workout for us. When I built my cedar strip canoe I made it a little deeper than normal (2 planks) and I also gave it a little Chestnut look. The front and rear curve up a little more than say a Prospector canoe. The rest of the canoe is Prospector in design. The result is a 59 pound, 17’ canoe that does well directly into the wind and in a tail wind but a cross wind causes a low pressure area on the leeward side so the canoe is constantly drawn into the cross wind. It is a challenge to steer in this condition. So we had to fight cross winds at times and it was tough.
We made it back to the cabin and we were dead beat. After a while we got some energy back and decided to stock the cabin with as much wood as possible. We wanted enough firewood for ourselves and for the next campers 1st day. So we busied ourselves collecting and cutting wood and straightening out the cabin. We each had a Chicken & Rice package dinner which boasted that it could feed two. We knew better than to believe the package. We cooked one of them and shared it. Two hours later we did the same with the second package. The rest of the time we basically tided up around the cabin and solved all the world’s problems except the Toronto Maple Leafs. They are on their own!
In the evening the beavers gave us a show we have never seen before. One of the beavers was swimming towards the cabin from the direction of their dam. It gave a huge slap on the water and went down but came up immediately. An excited gesture. There was another beaver not far behind. And not long after that another beaver. It looked like they chased the 1st beaver out of the bay but it came back and they chased it again. Could this have been the parents chasing last year’s kit out of the nest? We have never seen this before and it was very cool to witness. It was also very cool to watch the robin and black birds building their nest. And listening to the black birds talking back and forth in the trees along the shore line. I tried talking back but I can’t talk blackbird. I can talk barred owl and they reply but not blackbird. One blackbird was talking in one voice and its partner would answer in another voice. They did this each evening. It was neat. We also watched a fly catcher do his thing. Catching flies.
The trip out on the last day was smooth but we could tell that the winds were going to pick up again that day. We did take a look at the P90 rapids and decided to shoot them. It was short and fun. At the enterance to the P90 a man and a woman called our names. How did they know our names? They had a message from Algonquin Glenn. He has left before us and was sending a goodbye message. Very nice. The man and the woman were heading into Tattler Lake Cabin so we had a good chat for a while. I wonder if any deer or moose came by as they do sometimes.
Our conclusion about the cabin is very positive. It gave us a new perspective of Algonquin Park. By not tripping (portaging & canoeing) and coming across animals as we pass by, we stay in one place and observe the animals who are sharing their space with us. We plan on doing this again next year and I for one will observe much more closely. For those folks who fill out the log books, keep it up. The reading is very interesting and it is great to share your experiences.
Tattler Lake Cabin – May 4, 2009