Day 1: Arrival
The day started pretty early, as I had to work the morning before we could head up to the park. I left the house early at around 5:30am and I was home by 12:00. We had everything ready at the door the night before so I packed the car, tied down the canoe and we were on our way at 12:40… not too bad!
The drive up to the West Gate, where we would get our permit, seemed slow. But, we were able to get there in under four hours with no stops. The kids did very well. The whole trip north, we were pursued by big, black, ominous looking clouds. We were hoping that they would leave us alone; at least until we could get set up. We used the restrooms at the West Gate and went inside to purchase our permit. I asked the gentleman behind the counter how many sites were occupied and he informed me that there was one other party for our first night, and no body else on the second night. Woohoo!! I love being on a lake by ourselves. We were hoping to stay on the island site so hopefully the other party would not already be set-up there.
We carried on down Hwy 60 and then took the side road leading up to the 150m portage to Sunday Lake. We pulled the car over to the side and got out. The forest was quiet and I took a deep breath of fresh air…. Ahhhhhh! We made the first portage with only a few pieces of our gear and the canoe. Given that we only had the one canoe, we had selected this lake as it was small and we could take the kids and a few items over to our site on one pass, and then Eric (our oldest son - 9 years) and I would return to the portage and bring our gear over.
We got to the lakes' edge and I could see the island was occupied from the portage. D'oh! Oh well, it looked like the point directly across from it was unoccupied and that would have been my second choice. We got to the site and took a look around. We were satisfied that the site would do so Eric and I headed back for the gear still in the van.
It was here that I made the mistake of heading back towards the shore from where we came from, only I headed to the wrong portage. If you look at the map above, you see that there are two portages, one at the north-west corner of the lake, and one at the south-west corner. We got to the portage and it wasn't until Eric and I hit the road (a short walk) that I realized where we were. We started running down the road to where I knew the van was but I wasn't sure how far it was (I didn't have the map with me). After about 200m I realized it was probably better to just head back to the canoe and move to the right portage.
Adrienne and the kids were hiking around the cliff near our campsite and they saw us depart from the wrong portage. Thinking that we were on our way back, they were confused to see us heading further down the shoreline rather than directly back to them. Needless to say, it took Eric and I a lot longer to get back with all the gear than originally anticipated. At least Adrienne and the kids were able to gather some firewood; enough to get supper started.
As Eric and I were heading back, the rain started. It was only spitting but the drops were big. Oh-oh, I thought. We got to the site and it seemed to stop for a few minutes; but I wasn't falling for it. I knew the rain was coming. The sky was black and the temperature was dropping fast. Adrienne and I got the tents set-up and got the sleeping bags in the tent when it started. It was a torrential downpour!
I decided that we needed the tarp up as this could last a long time. The kids hid under the small tarp while I started tying up the big one. It is hard enough under good conditions to get a tarp positioned perfectly (just off the side of the fire pit). Doing it in heavy winds and driving rain is almost impossible. The kids were getting wet even under the tarp so Adrienne moved them into the tent and we continued setting up the tarp. We got soaked but… we got the tarp up, and in good position! (Mark 1; storm 0)
The rain did slow down a bit after that but it stayed at a constant drizzle for the rest of the evening. Adrienne got the kids and herself changed and everyone came out and sat under the tarp. Next, was the challenge of getting a fire going with soaking wet wood. I had brought some paper and fire sticks to help. It took some effort but I was able to get it going and in a short time we were able to get the chicken burgers cooking. Adrienne had pre-cooked them so they only needed to be warmed up. That is such a time and effort saver for times like this!!!
After dinner, we made smores and sat around the campfire, reliving the adventure of getting here and getting set-up in the rain. We had a rough start but we were still in good spirits and primed for a good weekend. Way to pull through! We got the kids in bed and stayed up for a little while ourselves. There must have been 3 or 4 loons on our lake and they were calling all night. I sat back in my chair and closed my eyes as I listened to my favorite Algonquin sound. To our right, there was a marshy area where a number of bull-frogs chimed into the night-time orchestra! A few hours later, we went to bed ourselves as the rain was picking up again. We didn't take a single picture today. It was enough that we made it here!
It rained the whole night. I got up once to pull the small tarp over our tent as it started to leak through. I checked on the kids in their new tent and there was a little dampness but nothing that couldn't wait until morning. I covered our tent and climbed back in. As tired as I was, I didn't fall asleep right away. That was fine with me. I had my orchestra to listen to. Finally, I did drift off again and had a very restful sleep.
Day 2: Moving Day
The next morning, the rain had stopped and the clouds appeared to be clearing. We laid in our tent and Adrienne read a book. We had left books in the tent for the kids and we could hear them reading them aloud and talking quietly. We laid there in bliss that we didn't have to get up yet. Occasionally, the kids would hear us talking and they would call over and we would laugh at each other and peek through our windows at each other. Finally, the kids coaxed us out of bed and we got up and made breakfast. I had a stash of wood under the tarp during the night and I found a downed birch tree which was very helpful in getting a breakfast fire going. Breakfast consisted of eggs, bacon and sausage and a variety of hot drinks. Mmmm!
Scott bouncing on his log .. waiting for breakfast. Notice the blankets drying in the background. They got a little damp.
Brooklyn taking cover from a shower while we started breakfast.
As we were eating breakfast, the group at the island site across from us was packing up. Our 'big' day trip was to head over to the island and have lunch there and fish from the shore. After breakfast, we went over to the island and loved the site! It was open, lots of flat space, rocks to sit on along the shoreline, and the kids could roam around without fear of getting lost (unlike on the mainland site). It was decision time. Do we take the time to pack up and move here, or spend the day fishing. The decision was unanimous .. move here!
We headed back and spent the next 3 hours taking everything down, moving it over, and setting it up again. One of the last things to be set-up was the tarp. My temptation was to sit down for a minute to rest, but I knew better. The clouds were coming back in and I should get the tarp up now before it starts raining again. I got the tarps up and in perfect position with the edge just upwind of the fire pit. I'm getting better at this.
With the tarp up, I could tell that it was going to rain soon. I looked around and of course there was no wood on the island. I solicited Eric's help and we headed for the portage in the north-west corner as we knew there was plenty of wood there (see, there was a purpose in us going there yesterday). We loaded up the canoe with enough wood to keep the fire going all day and enough for breakfast tomorrow. The rain started off and on as we were collecting wood. We got a little wet but not too bad. Eric threw a pile of rocks into the canoe as well as there were none on the island for him to throw into the lake. With the canoe thoroughly loaded, we made our way back to the campsite. Mother nature teased us one more time with a brief glimpse of the sun followed by a light shower on our trip back to the site. Not very nice at all.
We got back to the site, unloaded the canoe, made lunch and finally sat down to rest. I love Algonquin because it is taxing on the body, but works wonders on the mind and spirit. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing, playing hide-n-seek, and eating constantly. We made hot dogs, two batches of fresh cut French fries, sausages and smores. What a job to keep the fire going though. Everything being as drenched as it was. But, nevertheless, we had a great family getaway on our own little island. Here are some pictures from the afternoon and evening. Notice the sweaters and jackets…. this is mid-July, what's the deal?
The view from the 'Thunderbox'.
The view from our front porch.
Shouldn't you guys be in bed yet?
Day 3: Time to go home
We woke up to relatively clear weather. We got up and made our huge breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage and hot drinks again. I love a big breakfast in Algonquin. We started the process of taking everything down and packing up. We weren't in a big hurry. We played some more hide-n-seek. Scott managed to find a blueberry bush on the island that we must have missed yesterday. The kids picked through them and that kept them occupied while we continued packing up.
That one's not quite ripe Scott. Keep looking.
Finally, we were all packed up and we loaded a small amount of the gear in the canoe and left the rest for Eric and I to come get later. We paddled over to Sunday Creek in the south-east corner of the lake. I wanted to see how deep and wide the creek was. It was actually bigger than many of the so-called 'rivers' I've seen. We picked a water lily for each of the kids and headed back to the portage (the right one this time).
Adrienne portaged the gear we brought with us and Eric and I headed back to get the rest of the gear. A short time later, we were all back at the van and the canoe tied down. We started our seemingly long drive home. The worst part of the trip is the traffic on the way back. I have got to figure out a better way!
This trip was a bit of a test for our family as it was the first time we brought all four kids; specifically, our two daughters. We passed with flying colours irrespective of the crummy weather. Four weeks to go until our next trip!