2011 Smoke Lake to Cache Lake - by David Pile

August 2nd to August 8th

Drive north: Tuesday, 8/2/2011
Launch, Wednesday: 8/3/2011
Take out and drive south: Monday, 8/8/2011
Paddlers: Jester and Baron

Once again the images of wet cement or route doodling dominated this summer.

Our 4 man group dropped to 3 as one of our guys who is a lead for the Cleveland emergency services had to cancel vacation when someone else went in for surgery. So we mentally adjusted to a group of 3 and began changing our menu for one less paddler.

I waited until just a few days prior to departure before doing the final food packing primarily to keep everything sealed in the original packaging. During the packing of my personal gear and preparing the equipment pack I decided to only combine the ingredients for each meal that we normally do not adjust for the number of paddlers such as Butter Buds, bouillon and other adds that amounted to 1/8 cup or so. Major ingredients such as the gluten free TVP which we measured out at 1/4 cup per person per meal was packed separately with enough for 3 guys for the meals to which we were adding TVP. The day we arrived at Algonquin Outfitters we would do a final measure and add to each meal's Ziploc as required. We were counting on 1 pouch of Knorr Rice & Sauce for 3 paddlers.

The night before departure I drove over to Baron's and stayed the night and we spent the evening guessing whether Approximately would call and drop out since he was saying that he felt a little iffy but wanted to go. Sure enough, when Baron and I were eating our breakfast the phone rang about 6:25 AM and Gerry reported that he was not able to go.

While driving north, hoping Gerry was not seriously ill, we discussed what needed to be adjusted such as food, gear, etc.. We realized that not much was impacted, as the big adjustment had been going from 4 to 3. We were only bringing my Sierra Designs Antares which is a good size for 3 without gear indoors or fabulous for 2 with extras inside. The tent fly has useful vestibules on both sides so food was the only item about which we needed to mull over. The fact that we had decided to only partially pre-pack each supper made measuring out the proper ingredients. We also left some of our stove fuel home knowing we would be boiling less water each meal.

We enjoyed a lunch at the Montana's in Barrie. It seems with all the road construction in the last decades where we once ate in Oakville we now find that leaving town about 7AM we are able to pull into Barrie at 1 PM, depending upon traffic. On our trip home, depending upon when we leave the park, we find that the St. Catherine's Montana's is where we eat supper.

Wednesday, August 3 - Smoke to Ragged

We drove in to the Portage Store for breakfast on Wed morning, Aug 3 and realized we were way too early so we headed over to the Canoe Center to finalize our permit. We sat around on the deck watching the threatening weather approach and finally begin to rain. We ended up eating some granola bars I had in my travel bag and then it was time to get on over to Cache Lake where we were going to leave Baron's car and hook up with the shuttle driver from AO. We unloaded our gear and stored it inside the shelter near the Cache dock and parked the car.

When the van arrived we tossed our gear in the back, dodging some pretty steady rain. Soon we pulled up to the Smoke dock and quickly unloaded....again, in a steady rain. We launched onto the calm waters of Smoke sometime after 9AM and paddled south in the rain so you can imagine that we were getting wet even though we had our rain gear on. Yup, perspiration and rain dripping down my collar.

Route as planned.

Route as paddled.

After about an hour we were at the Smoke-Ragged portage and climbed the hill with the canoe and equipment pack, then returned for our personal packs. We were only going as far as Ragged for our first day, which is a much shorter distance than usual but we had been planning on paddling with a few older members of our group and we built the route segments to provide several hours of layover time each afternoon in addition to an actual layover day about 2/3 of the way through the trip.

At the portage we were told the group heading north had just left a good site on the west side of the lake near the narrows formed by the west end of the large island. We paddled through the rain until about 11 when we settled on a campsite that had a nice beach making it easy to unload even though it was raining and we weren't in a hurry. We stashed our packs under some trees and settled into waiting... and waiting.... and waiting. Our lunch was energy or granola bars, dried fruit and other self-provided items.

Early afternoon view of our campsite from the Buckley tarp.

Baron played the "I think it's clearing in the north" game but I did not bite. I scouted out possible tent and tarp locations and ruled out the areas that were flat but situated where the water had pooled after several hours of steady rain.

About 2 PM the rain had stopped but there was no sign of sun though we could see hints of breaks in the clouds. Eventually the sun teased us by brightening the grass here and there. The site we had chosen to rig the Buckley tarp was damp but located up the hillside near the back edge of the open area and we were beginning to feel that this site was really our home. Soon the breeze coupled with the sunlight made the sight far more appealing than it had appeared to us upon our arrival.

Late afternoon view of our campsite from the Buckley tarp.
We pitched our tent close to where that large log stands upright.

The scene quickly became beautiful and the views from our now sun warmed rocks to the south was inviting. The waters were still fairly calm though the breeze, thankfully, was still strong enough to help dry the area even more.

I think we set the tent up by 5 PM down near the lower edge of the grassy area. It was the flattest area that was dry but someone had left a cut log, about 2 feet in diameter, standing right in the center so it was not obvious to us at first. Eventually I pushed the stump over and rolled it toward the stack of firewood, declaring to Baron that unless he had a better spot I had found our tent spot.

The Buckley on our hilltop showing hints of the sunshine that helped dry our site,
so we could actually enjoy the evening.

About 5:30 we had a normal supper and settled in for some reading out on the rocks. Supper was Knorr Spanish Rice with 1/2 cup TVP, 3/4 cup corn, 1/4 cup carrots, 1/8 cup tomato powder, 1/8 cup onions, bouillon, Butter Buds. We missed both Leigh and Gerry as we ate supper but were thankful that the evening was dry and we hoped our trip would be a safe and fun adventure.

Wed morning presented us with virtual perfection on the water and in the sky.

Thursday, August 4 - Ragged to Bonnechere

Thursday found us eating another self-provided breakfast of instant oatmeal before we began loading our canoe. The absolute transformation from Wednesday’s weather to the beautiful weather and absolutely calm as glass water was encouraging. We paddled east around the main island over to South Bay and slowly approached the portage to Big Porcupine Lake. Every year we use this route we wonder about the water level which affects the obstructions in front of the landing. Some years you can paddle quite close to the beach while other years the rocks are so exposed there can be a short hike over and around both logs and rocks.

We soon were unloading gear, after pulling our canoe to the right hand side of the landing near the grassy area. Thankfully our shoes were pretty dry as we began to climb the hill. We knew this hill was a challenge but it had been over 5 years since we’d been through this area. Remember, that is at least 5 “old man’s years”. Baron did super work hauling the canoe up the hill while I did less than super work carrying my personal pack and then returning for our equipment pack.

I stopped at regular intervals to bend over and recover from the sciatica which was still bugging me. My lower back began to ache on our trip back in July and the week after returning home from that paddle I felt the lower back soreness move into my left hip which is the normal pattern, when I am developing a sciatica condition down my left leg. Fortunately, this summer I was not as hobbled as 2008 when I was exhausted from just walking across the parking lot and into our building when I went to work.

We finally got up to Big Porcupine, where we continued to have wonderfully calm water. We have never paddled straight south to the portage that cuts through the peninsula in the northern end of BP. It is a nice paddle and allowed us to get in more work while seated. Paddling is almost like being seated at an outdoor desk, where the views all around are taken in, digested and absorbed by the inner being. Going around the point and paddling south allowed us to check out some of the campsites we have not used as well as 2 along the east edge of this land mass.

As we passed the last campsite at the corner where we began paddling east through the narrower straights leading to the lower portion of BP we reminisced about a trip one year when 3 of us paddled a tandem and a solo through much of the intended route being traversed this year. That year we had marvelous weather until we were on our return and we were on our way out when the rains began and we pulled in to camp at this site. We rigged a small tarp and pitched my old Eureka Timberline 4 man with the separate vestibule attached to one end. It was a wet afternoon that year and Baron and I were happy to have gotten through the first day’s deluge and were counting our blessings as we passed by. At least that was my excuse when we nearly hit a submerged rock. “Sorry, Baron. I was counting my blessings. I’ll pay more attention to what is ahead.”

We went around the islands staying east, in between the mainland and the island and I was eagerly looking forward to a flat portage after two hill climbs. I pointed out to Baron where the portage used to connect with Big Porcupine near some large rocks. Upon arriving at the landing where the trail leads off east to Bonnechere we stretched our legs, since we seem to have reached that age where sitting in a canoe causes us to stiffen up and walk like ostriches when we return to vertical.

Baron loads his Gregory pack and is about to head from Big Porcupine Lake,
over the short and level trail to Bonnechere Lake.

Bonnechere as seen from the portage landing . . .   
looking north towards the main portion of the lake.

As soon as we began to paddle the waters of Bonnechere, we began looking for a site we had read about but when we stopped at the first site north of the portage I climbed up and quickly saw a large area and fire pit, but no obviously flat tent areas. However, I climbed up to a second level and began to see that there was much more to this site than the area near the fire-ring. Above the second level there was even more open space and when I shouted down to Baron, he got out of the canoe and began to inspect the site.

Looking back west southwest from our elevated tent site back down to the Buckley tarp.
To the left of the tarp, there was fire ring at which we found plenty of firewood, left in a
ragged stack but which Baron organized during our stay.

Looking north through the campsite, towards the point and the waters
that lead to the “chicane” shows how nicely the shade and
the sunlight were both present.

We spent most of the afternoon eating our energy or granola bars, some snacks and reading books. There were some nice rocks near the place where we made our landing; plus a little further to the north there was a rocky point which made a great spot for reading, when the sun wasn’t too hot. The campsite itself was shady but had enough breaks in the tree cover. So I moved my hammock a few times to avoid first the shade, then to avoid the hot sun. My Travel hammock with its loops of knotted rope and S-hooks made it a snap to hang, re-hang, decide to move without killing time to remove any knots.

Supper on Thursday night was a 4 cup serving pouch of Bear Creek Creamy Potato Soup, to which we added a foil pouch of salmon, about ¾ cup of potato dices, ½ cup of dried peas, 1/8 cup of chicken bouillon and Butter Buds. Over the years, combining salmon with potato soup has become a favorite meal. We call it our pseudo chowder and is brain dead simple. It also has the advantage of being one of the gluten free soups from Bear Creek.

It was great to have had a warm day and significant time to read, relax, nap, check our gear to make sure it had all dried out from the previous day’s weather. We pitched our tent up on what was the third level above the lake. We crawled in and had a good night’s sleep. It might have been about 9 PM but I honestly don’t remember. Usually I’m in the tent first and the rest of our crew follows after they have resolved all of life’s issues, replaced all of our politicians and stopped laughing at Jester’s one liners and puns.

Friday, August 5 - Bonnechere

Sometime between 4 and 5 AM I was awakened by my racing heart, which hasn’t happened since the first year after my heart catheterization. I kept trying to control my breathing in an attempt to slow the heart and basically was awake until after 8 AM when I think Baron stirred. Again, breakfast was self provided oatmeal or energy bars so we had little to clean up as we prepared to break camp.

I finally broached the subject of changing our route with Baron. The next couple days were supposed to go through the southern portion of the loop and this segment included a few longer portages. I asked Baron if he wouldn’t mind skipping McGarvey, North Grace and Louisa, despite the fact that these lakes were some of the reasons I had selected the “south of the highway loop”. After the uphill trails and my heart’s early morning performance, I was not eager to do the whole loop. I suggested heading north and east through Phipps and Kirkwood, joining our original route at Pardee.

Baron thought for a moment and then suggested that we take a full layover day on Bonnechere and then on the following day head across to connect with our planned route. So we enjoyed a full day on this beautiful site and read our books and then traded books. Baron had brought 2 or 3 while I had just brought one.

From our private point we had a view north towards the narrow mid-section of Bonnechere.
From out on the rocks we could see part of the southeastern section of Bonnechere,
which led to the portage we would have taken to reach McGarvey.

Friday’s supper was one of the few freeze dried meals we have used in the past decade or so. As part of our effort to develop gluten free meals for one of our members we had been testing several items and found AlpineAire Chili to be pretty good. To this we added 1/2 cup TVP, about 3/4 cup of dried corn, 1/4 cup of carrots, 1/8 cup of onions, 1/8 cup of tomato powder and 2 beef bouillon cubes.

Saturday, August 6 - Bonnechere to Harness

Saturday morning had more beautiful weather. Even though we had another fairly short day ahead of us, we were surprisingly quick in packing up. Part of the reason for this was our bringing somewhat less gear for the two of us, and partly due to keeping a clean campsite.

We headed north from the campsite landing and reached the point at the north end of our campsite. We looked off to the east, because that is where we felt the campsite we were originally aiming for was located. We saw the large rock face that matched some of the photos and as we left for the “chicane” that is located in the middle of Bonnechere, we were confident that if we returned to the lake in the future we now had 3 good sites from which to choose.

Jeff McMurtrie’s map labels the “chicane” as the Devil’s Razor. Over the years, water levels have been such that we have either carefully paddled over the rocks or treated the rocks as a variant of a beaver dam. This year we had to pull over at the very left or southern end of this section to get into the northern half of Bonnechere. Once over this obstacle, we paddled through what has always been a quiet section of the lake, though each time we’ve paddled through there has been at most one other canoe and some years in late May or early September we’ve seen no one else. Perhaps 10 minutes after launch we were nearing the dead end and the smooth rock landing at which we unloaded and began our easy walk northeast to the Phipps Lake portage. I warned Dick about what I remembered as a significant step down to the beach and upon reaching the end of the trail I was pleased that I had actually remembered this spot accurately.

Earlier in the trip, we encountered a group that said they had come west through the segment we were now crossing. They had mentioned that the water level in, I guess it is Phipps Creek (I need to dig out the topos), was really low. At the time, we kind of smiled knowing that on past trips there had been times we had come through the creek and remembered walking across the lumpy grass at the edge of the creek, especially in late season.

The Bonnechere end of the Phipps portage showing a portion of the rocky descent, the early
season beach landing and the point at which the seasonal trail through the grass ended.
We actually carried the canoe and gear another 20 feet or so, to where the creek
turns right or east. You can just see a ribbon of blue marking Phipps Lake.

Upon reaching the creek, we saw that we’d have to carry the canoe and gear quite a ways before loading and attempting to paddle. After making our second crossing of the short trail, we placed the canoe in the water and then moved it quite a ways down from where this season’s temporary trail ended. Even then we ended up tracking the canoe a couple hundred feet. The creek meandered enough to mask the true distance, before I boarded. We were able to paddle the remaining distance to Phipps.

Phipps is one of the prettiest lakes in this region. One of the 2 sites located there has been on our list of destinations for some time. We were soon through this small lake and ready to hike over to Kirkwood along the short easy slightly downhill path to the landing just below and to the side of a falls.

Each time we pass through Kirkwood, we recall one of our trips when we left Cache and went through to Kirkwood’s island site where we pitched the tent and Buckley tarp on the hilltop. This location had made a nice base camp from which we then headed back to Lawrence, then south through Rod & Gun, Louisa and then uphill out of southern Louisa southwest to North Grace Lake and on to McGarvey where we ate lunch. From there we'd headed north after first trying the little creek that bypasses the portage over to the northern of the two Whatnot Lakes. Of course, that was the year there was a note about a broken beaver dam and low water in this area. We'd only been able to go a short distance in the thick, muck before we turned around and took the portage. Eventually we arrived back at Kirkwood and we had enjoyed our day trip and put the region on our list for future trips.

Moving through Kirkwood, we were pleased to be able to reach the Pardee/Lawrence portage landing after encountering such low water back near Phipps. We went through the rocky shallows and ended up right at the rocky beach where we unloaded. We then staged our gear at the top of the first incline, which is a short but steep section of the trail.

This trail would be the longest one of the day at 715 meters. But it was basically a downhill walk with a few rocky sections here and there. There were a few short climbs, with the last one close enough to both Lawrence and Pardee that a brief glimpse of water is a welcome sight. I forget who carried the canoe, but I remember sitting for a few minutes and sipping from my water bottle before returning for my second load.

Pardee has a couple of sites, one on the east shore and one on the north end of the lake, west of the portage. One year we stopped at the northern site just to check it out and it did not appeal to us. Dick took time while we were walking the short Pardee to Harness trail, to duck down the side trail to take in the creek’s rushing waterfalls as it passes over boulders. Its reminiscent of a natural bob sled run.

We had thought about investigating the first campsite on the right hand or eastern shor,e as we paddled north. However, we never got close enough to determine the suitability for our needs. Every trip through Harness we have chosen the site at the narrows which affords some nice rocks at the north end, an open grassy area between a hill and the north end of the site. The middle of the site is wooded and fairly shaded while around the back side of the site, to the east of the little rocky and sand beach landing, is a “secret glen” between high walls and rocks, which is a good place for a tent. Since our last visit we noticed someone has built a fire ring back in this area.

Years ago there was a large tree out on the point and it has since fallen over. Now the campsite sign, which once was on the trunk, has been affixed to the root system which is now the dominant feature facing north. While the sign faces north and some paddlers who arrive from the south (Head Lake portage) initially try to land on the rocks DON’T do it. Paddle to the small and much safer landing along the eastern shore in what we call the narrows.

Additional tent space is nestled adjacent to the main site, east
of the small landing used to gain access to the campsite.

The view looking north from the tent shows the hilltop hammock
spot plus a sliver of Harness Lake through the trees.

One additional feature of this site is perhaps my favorite. To the east of the main area and north of the “secret glen”, on the top of the rocks is a flat area almost good enough for a tent. I’ve never pitched my tent here but I have always hung my hammock on a pair of trees that allow me to enjoy a mix of sun and shade. Also, at the top of the rocks is a tree that allows you to sit high above the lower area and either use your Thermarest chair frame with the pad or just sit and lean back against the tree. Plenty of places to read and relax, which had become the theme for this trip.

We enjoyed another afternoon of reading and relaxing. I continued to hope that the next day my sciatica, which remained moderate in intensity, would be gone. I was thankful that my heart had not gone into overdrive since the first morning on Bonnechere but I knew that my health had caused our trip to be totally rearranged and, although still a wonderful time, we weren’t doing what we had long anticipated.

Supper was another Knorr based meal this time Cheddar Broccoli to which we added ½ cup of gluten free TVP, ¾ cup dried broccoli, ½ cup of dried peas, 1/8 cup of onions, 2 chicken bouillon cubes and Butter Buds.

Sunday, August 7 - Harness

We ended up taking another layover day on Harness and enjoyed the breeze, sun, alternating warm and cooler temps depending upon where we chose to sit or recline. We restored our souls as well as our muscles. I couldn’t help wonder how I would be feeling if we had actually taken the original route. “Next year” bubbles up in the back of my mind even now, though it was only 2 weeks ago that my sciatica disappeared completely.

The northern view shows the grassy area with an older fire ring, our Buckley
and the tree that used to provide additional shade out near the rocks.
In the background you see an island that has 2 campsites.

View of the lower or main campsite area from the high rocks.

A brief note about encountering other paddlers .. each day we saw other canoes but never in great numbers. We encountered what we felt were low numbers of other parties on the portages and at the landings, which made the trip more pleasant. I recall at most one or two other groups at the Smoke to Ragged portage and the same at the Ragged to Big Porcupine trail. On the short trail to Bonnechere from BP we saw no one and saw no one on the Bonnechere to Phipps, the Phipps to Kirkwood, the Kirkwood to Pardee, the Pardee to Harness and the Harness to Head trail. Not all of these are short so the fact that on even the longer trails we encountered no others would indicate we either hit it just right, this region is less used or park usage was down. As expected the area around Smoke was busiest although the Head to Cache trail had at least 2 other parties carrying into Cache while we were walking towards Cache. A school group was just leaving Cache for Head as we arrived.

Sunday’s supper was another Bear Creek soup. We started with a partial pouch of gluten free Tortilla soup to which we added 1/2 cup TVP, 3/4 cup dried corn, 1/8 cup dried carrots, 1/8 cup of tomato flakes, 1/8 cup tomato powder, 1/8 cup onions, 2 beef bouillon cubes and Butter Buds.

Monday, August 8 - Harness to Cache

We cleaned up the Harness campsite before, during and after our energy bar and instant oatmeal breakfast. It was funny to eat oatmeal and then strike the tent, staging some of the gear next to the equipment pack and then dig out a Clif Bar to eat a little more. We were actually doing well in our random approach to packing up, in part because Baron and I just don’t get disorganized while on a trip. We may have gear at various places around the campsites we use but there is a reason to where we store items. Certain items are usually found inside (or under) the Buckley tarp while during the day, at least in good weather, other gear stays in or around our personal packs.

We were soon paddling north-northwest to the long portage over to Head Lake. This trail is pretty nice, though a bit more up and down than the longer trail that we were going to be walking on our last day. We were first to break camp and leave Harness which meant probably 2 or 3 groups were still sleeping on the island sites which was good as we prefer to walk the trails without encountering others. Often we have found the portages to be quieter and more enjoyable than when we are leap-frogged by others.

The weather was overcast and we were trying to outguess the weather report, which was obviously a week old and no longer to be trusted. It was our intention to camp on Head Lake and hike out to the access point the following morning. I actually forget how long it took for us to reach Head Creek but upon reaching the western end of the creek we saw that the sky had darkened and the hydrologic cycle was about to shift from ascending to descending, which meant rain was slowly approaching. While we passed several occupied campsites on which nothing stirred we saw one party leave the campsite on the point south of the portage landing.

By the time we reached the portage, we both had decided to take at least a short break during which we’d evaluate whether to camp on Head and leave on Tuesday, August 9th or continue on. We had discussed our options as we paddled west on Head and almost before we had climbed the stairs that lead from the nice beach landing the impending weather made our decision for us.

We stowed our gear at the back edge of the open area above the portage landing to keep it out of both the path of the others using the portage and the drizzle that had crept in over Head Lake. I took enough time to drink water and then put on my pack and head out trailing another group that had been hauling their gear towards Cache. As we went down the trail we had a few brief exchanges with the guys who were making good time with their gear. On this trail, as well as the Harness to Head trail, Baron and I were using the “walk about 10 minutes and drop the first load” approach which we follow when we desire to use the walk back to retrieve the second load as a way to recover from the first load. Sometimes I feel as if this is more of a placebo or psychological restoration but we still find ourselves trying it at times.

I seem to recall that it was a little after 9 AM when we left the Head Lake area but we were in no hurry, at least at first. The further north we proceeded the steadier the rainfall. Somewhere along the path, perhaps ¾ of the way I was stopping to drop my personal pack and return for the equipment pack when a voice said, “Keep going”. I turned to see a young man with whom I had earlier chatted approaching and hanging on his chest was the equipment pack. He said he would carry it all the way to Cache Lake.

I tried to convince him that though I looked like death warmed over I was prepared to haul the pack but it was soon obvious that youth and strength were going to win this debate and I smiled at my good fortune. Eventually I reached the stairway leading down to the waters of Cache and saw the pack sitting at the top. I put the personal pack down and then brought the second pack back away from the congested area and chatted briefly with the other paddlers who were both loading canoes to continue to the access point and unloading canoes in preparation for heading south towards Head Lake.

Just as I was about to go see if I could help Baron with the canoe, so he could bring his personal pack, I saw the same young man who had already carried one of our packs part way show up with our Swift canoe. I was amazed at the exuberance being demonstrated, but also amused by the smile that approached. As the young man put the canoe down at the edge of the lake, I asked if my friend Baron told him the weight and when he admitted he did not know I bragged like a proud father that it was 32#, though I later learned it was actually 34#.

I suggested that the others in my new friend’s party check out the construction of this new Swift Algonquin 16’ carbon fusion Kevlar or whatever the new layup is called. The molded in gunnels are really nice and stiffen the construction as well as eliminate some of the roughness that is present in an aluminum gunnel design. I noticed that when my knees were pressed against this new design I did not get sore legs. I still got stiff legs but that is a function of the old body which is fast approaching the need of significant time in dry dock.

Soon Baron approached with his pack and we were both elated by our good fortune. I noticed that it was perhaps 10:15, maybe 10:30 AM so we were making good time in our return to the access point. It usually takes us between 35 to 45 minutes to cross Cache Lake, meandering between and around islands and the peninsulas that make Cache an interesting lake to paddle, even though it has many cabins or camps.

As we cross Cache and made the final turn and saw the parking lot, I asked Baron if he thought the guys who had been so nice to us might be interested in sharing a meal when we returned. He thought they would probably enjoy their own comaraderie. When we docked and started to unload our gear from the canoe, while Baron was getting his car, I asked the guys if the young man who carried our gear was around as I did not see him. They told me he had been over to Bartlett Lodge. I handed my Bending Branches canoe paddle to one of this group and asked if they would make sure the young man who had been so kind to help us got the paddle as a token of our appreciation.

Before we were done loading the car and canoe on the roof, a boat pulled up and this young man stepped out so I went over and got the paddle from where it had been left and made my presentation. This time, the young was saying he just couldn’t take such a gift, but I persisted and said it would be my pleasure to share the paddle with someone who had been so kind.

Baron and I headed over to The Portage Store area and took showers and changed prior to entering the restaurant, where we had a nice post trip lunch, though I can’t recall what it was that I ate. Probably a clubhouse sandwich though, as even the Baron will testify, I have expanded my selections over the years. I think we both had seconds on our beverages, something that is probably never going to change.

Dick and I headed back to Algonquin Outfitters where we turned in the canoe and tie downs, then proceeded to hit the road. By this time the rains, which had diminished during lunch, began to fall in earnest and we were somewhere south of Barrie and nearing the northern suburbs of Toronto before the sun returned.

We stopped at the St. Catherine’s Montana’s for supper, which is another post trip tradition in the last decade or so. We had a good drive home, although as we approached Cleveland, Dick learned from his wife that a major storm was approaching town from the west. Eventually we saw lightening south of where we were and upon arriving at Dick’s, I got my car out of the garage and I transferred my personal gear to the Civic and I headed over to my side of town.

It felt good to be safely home though I was disappointed that my health had caused us to adjust our route and the anticipation that had built during our planning had slowly dissipated like helium from a leaking Goodyear blimp. We had discussed our future tripping during our July trip which was a shorter paddle. We felt more of our group and possibly new paddlers might be interested in a trip that included no more than one day of paddling with a couple portages and included a base camp approach which would allow those that wanted to stay in or near camp and relax, read or fish from shore could do that while others might like to day trip around the area.

So between doctor appointments I’m doing less map reading and route doodling for 2012. But hopefully someday I’ll be back and finally spend a night on North Grace Lake, a beautiful lake through which we have travelled but have never stopped for either a lunch break or an overnight.

For Baron,