Lake Travers Fall Family Trip - Sep 9th-11th, 2016

by Craig White

Background: Somewhere along the way, while discussing and contemplating other trips this year, my brother (a.k.a. Unkie) and I stumbled across an idea. Could we find a lake with boat access, some swimming/fishing options, and big enough campsites to allow us to bring both our Dad, and my son on a little park trip? The big site would be necessary to allow for the tent + cot option for Dad, and relatively easy accessibility. Some swimming to keep the boy amused if fishing was slow, and, well, we all love to fish, so potential for that was a must. After mulling over the Highway 60 options, we decided that perhaps our best bet was an early fall weekend to Lake Travers.

Day 1:

Dad and Unkie had the longer drive coming from the west, especially pulling the trailer with the little aluminum boat and 3HP motor (4-stroke). We were as clean and quiet as we could be in this regard, but there is no way Dad was spending any time in a canoe at this point, so it was a necessary means. We were coming from the east as usual, and met them for fresh baked treats at the Algonquin Portage Store on the Barron Canyon Rd about 10:30am.

We chased both a fox and a mink off the road on the long drive to Lake Travers. The parking lot was nearly empty, and we were ready to go before noon.

Boat and canoe loaded for the trip - portage free luxury awaits!

We fished our way down the lake, hoping to get one of the three prime beach sites Id read about .. opposite the big island. With only two reservations showing in the system, I was pretty confident.

The view north up Lake Travers

Of course, both of those parties were on the first and third sites, and I felt a little bad jamming in between them on such a big lake. But the middle one met all of our needs, featuring a nice blend of level areas, space, and ease of access to accommodate our crew ranging from age 7 to age 73. And if the reservation system was correct, both parties were there just for the Friday night. The site also had a good spot for the hotel, a.k.a. the 8 man car camping tent wed brought along. It worked great, fit a big cot and 3 of us on the ground with room to spare.

The view up from the beach landing

Getting set up around camp

Fishing was slow the first day, a couple small bass. The muskies were following, but not biting. however, the boy got his first channel cat!

Yup, using the sissy gloves, not wanting a poke from a spine

Day 2:

We awoke to a calm and peaceful morning, with plenty of fog hanging around the lake.

After prepping a big breakfast, Dad and Unkie setoff along the western shore. The boy and I paddled back over to the big island to the east, and worked north from there through all the dead heads. We met up at the hilly island site for morning snacks, and found a fantastic tent site perched high atop the island, even big enough to hold an 8 man tent!

A few more channel cats were caught, and we finally talked ourselves into keeping one to try for dinner along with a few bass. None of us have ever cleaned nor eaten one, not even Dad. There were a few more muskies spotted, although none were interested in playing this morning either.

As the cloud continue to roll in from the south, the boy and I paddled back toward camp. We decided to head to the northern adjacent site, now vacated, to check it out and enjoy its beach for a nice swim. The site is about on par with the middle one, but the swimming is superior as the sand drops off quickly and is weed-free there. After some swimming and sandcastle/moat building, we headed back to put up a second tarp. We felt wed need it much sooner than later.

Dad and Unkie arrived back from fishing. We all settled under the tarp for lunch, as the rains gently began to fall. In a veteran move, Dad took a long afternoon nap, almost perfectly timed with the three hours of steady rainfall. The rest of us snacked, played some cards, processed some firewood, and attempted to stay amused.

At some point after 4pm, things let up. I managed to get the catfish cleaned, not very artistic, but in nice bone-free pieces for the pan. and we setup about supper prep. The rain held off for us, so we could prep, cook and eat out from under the tarps, which was a nice. The catfish tasted very good. We all had a share. However I found the texture a little on the mushy side, even though it was well fried alongside the bass fillets. Not bad, but not a delicacy in my mind.

We started to prep for an evening fish, just as the rain opened up again. I went solo in the canoe, as I wanted to check out the southernmost of the three sites for reference. The rest of the boys went north in the boat. We werent out long and the rain intensified significantly!

Rain seen looking north, a tiny wet boat visible to the left of center

Losing sight of the end of Lake Travers

Then came a fifteen minute stretch of unbelievable change, Ive never seen such low level cloud torn out of the sky so fast! It was an incredible scene as the skies opened to reveal the large towering storm clouds previously hidden from sight. Wed later find out a tornado watch had been on for most of eastern Ontario, and it sure makes sense looking back at it. To the north, the equally soggy boat was finding some success at least with bass biting, a nice walleye thrown in the mix, and Unkie finally landed his first muskie! I had the only waterproof camera in the canoe with me, but Im told it was a great looking fish!

On my short paddle back to camp, this Jack Pine caught my eye; it had a unique fork structure to it . . .

We all rallied back at camp to hang items to dry and enjoy the evening fire. Winds were certainly still blowing hard as we went to bed, but being on the west shore, we were mostly sheltered from the worst of it by the forest behind the site.

Day 3:

At some point in the wee hours of the morning, a good sized tree was blown over in behind out campsite. D and I both heard it go down, but that was the only disturbance of the night, other than the sustained winds.

We woke up and prepared some pancakes, while setting about the usual chores of taking down camp. The wind was still blowing strong from the west, and it was going to be a tough enough paddle depending who was in the canoe, so the path of least resistance quickly became apparent. The other three would load into the boat, Id fill the canoe with gear, and ride in the stern to give it a keel effect, and they boys would tow me back up the lake. Ill be honest, it felt like cheating. But it worked great. We made good time across the breezy lake, and left us lots of time for better things on the way out.

Lazy? Guilty as charged!

For anyone whos read my Booth Lake trip log, that is indeed the salvaged Booth Lake cooler making a return trip to Algonquin, re-use at its finest!

The bridge is right there!

After getting loaded up, we drove back out to the Barron Canyon trail. Ive passed by the canyon trail three or four times, but never stopped. We all hiked to the top for the awe inspiring views and we were not disappointed.

Looking downstream

A surprisingly large amount of shoreline between the cliff and the river

Looking upstream

After finishing the hike, we made a last quick stop for treats at the Algonquin Portage Store before splitting up and heading in opposite directions on Highway 17.

Another trip and some more rain, not a big deal, but in a drought filled summer, with weeks at a time of no rain! What are the odds of hitting solid rain 2/2 on interior trips? A great time had by all, and Im really glad we found a way to get 3 generations of us out together for a weekend camping trip that well all remember!