Day One - Friday, Feb. 17th
I was up early around 5:00am at the Wolf Den. I went outside right away hoping for below freezing temps. I was happy it was -2c. This will be much better then the rain. The snow had a crust on it and sleds will pull better.
We got our permits and at 10:00am we were off on Head Lake. Overcast with stiff breeze and just below freezing.
Markus ready to lead the train of sleds.
Taking a break on Cache Lake. Some snow squalls during our crossing.
At the 1640m portage to Head Lake there was a bit of a climb and snow over 2 feet deep to deal with. It only took us about an hour to cross to Cache Lake while wearing only boots. There was about 4" of snow on the lake.
Approaching the portage to Head Lake.
We helped each other push/pull our sleds up to the crest. Markus and Scott took turns breaking trail. I was pulling 2 sleds and that was enough. We need to pack lighter!
Two cross country skiers were about 1/2 km ahead of us for a day trip. Their tracks did not help us much on the portage. They stayed up high on the many skinny boardwalks.
Even with a few breaks on the portage, we crossed in about 1 hour 25 minutes....Not bad for breaking trail and stopping for rests..! We had to help each other over a tree as well. We stopped on Head Lake for a break after sliding down our sleds on the steep decent.
Here's Head Lake looking east from the portage from Cache.
We headed south towards a bay before the campsite on the point. We found a really nice spot tucked in behind some thick evergreens from the western wind. We compressed the snow in a area for the tent to let the snow set while we had lunch. Scott had pre-made some sandwiches for us that were great!
Markus cutting firewood for the night. "Keep cutting!"
Our home for 3 nights.
We made great time getting the tent set up, the stove in place, our personal stuff organized, firewood gathered and a hole chopped for water. My first hole was too close to shore and had to make another in deeper water. We even found time to go for a walk to a near-by campsite to check it out.
Chilli was on the menu tonight with homemade brownies. All made by my wife Laurie for us.
Day Two - Saturday, Feb. 18th - Hiking Day
Breakfast was early and we were on our way by 9:00am.
The boys walking across Head Lake towards the east end.
At the east end of P1035.
Looking back west on Head Lake from a hiking campsite.
We decided to take the Backpacking route due to unsafe ice conditions near the marsh.
We traveled across Head Lake toward the Highland Backpacking Trail and walked the trail about 2km onto Harness Lake. We took turns breaking trail. 2 feet of snow slows you down and breaking trail going up steep hills is a heart attack workout for sure!
On the Highland Backpacking Trail going up to Harness Lake.
There was some open water near the portage to Paredee Lake. We had to follow the shore close to keep from falling in.
Open water close to shore.
On the P145 to Pardee falls, Scott crosses a board walk.
A wrong step and it would be a cold walk back to camp!
At Pardee Falls.
It took about 3 hours to get there. I took a few pictures and went to higher ground to find a spot for a fire. The air was really cool and damp at the falls. I wanted sun to feed the soul.
We had lunch of soup and sausage on a bun over a warm fire. We had a 1 hour break and headed back to camp.
On Harness Lake, on the way back.
Once back at camp we gathered more firewood and made a fire.
Scott cooked us burgers. After such a long hike, they tasted great.
Day Three - Sunday, Feb. 19th - Relaxing day planned - well, sort of!
After breakfast we headed over to see the water falls flowing in from Kenneth Lake. Was a little cold with -10 temps. But, you get warmed up fast snowshoeing. The waterfalls were pretty much frozen-over except for some open water at the very base.
Keeping warm snowshoeing.
The frozen waterfall from Kenneth Lake.
Markus and Scott decided to follow the crosscounty ski tracks made the day before. They headed towards the marsh and up towards Kenneth thru a valley. Moose tracks are plentiful here with a few bed-down areas.
Up towards Kenneth Lake.
Water open at the beaver dam on Kenneth Lake.
We walked down Kenneth Lake, towards the portage back to Head Lake. It was a beautiful day with skies cleared. Half way down I spotted two objects and thought they were wolves! Markus got out his zoom lens and took a picture to see that it was only two deadheads sticking out of the ice!
Looking SW at the end of the portage to Head Lake on Kenneth Lake. There is a rock under the
snow here that is great to swim from in the summer. A campsite is right beside the portage.
Markus on the portage, coming from the near-by campsite.
Scott on the P290 down to Head Lake. With the sun out, it was really scenic.
We took the moment to get a nice picture. Left to right: Markus, myself and Scott.
Back at camp we had sausages over the same fire pit from the night before. Had some drinks as well.
The sun disappeared through the trees. We grabbed our milk crate seats and headed to the lake to get full sun. It was great getting a sun tan .. on the face that is. So bright!
After a hour, we took off and walked around the lake toward the rapids/fall at the P250 to Head Creek.
Soaking-up the sun.
Markus and Scott looking for birds. Walking in the deep snow without snowshoes is hard work.
There are waterfalls near the P250 on the west side. These falls were a nice treat to see on such a perfect day. It was a nice surprise to see more open water and falls running without ice covering them.
We took several pictures here.
Another quick rest stop before we crossed the lake back to camp.
Snow fleas were seen at many places in the sun.
After more relaxation, the sun finally fell behind the tree line and left us in cooler temperatures.
For the cold night to come, we made sure we had enough wood to pre-warm us. When the stove stops making heat after about 2 hours, I sure don't get out of my sleeping bag to light the fire back up. I just hunker-down and hope I don't have to get up to pee!
Dinner was Markus's chilli. What a great dinner to have in the winter!
The night cooled down fast, with temps down to -23C during the night. Went to sleep early. By 9:00pm I'd turned in.
Day Four - Monday, Feb. 20th - Last day out.
I was up early, waking up by 5:00am with a full bladder. I tried to fall back to sleep but by 5:30am I had to make way for the colder air outside the tent. I decided to get the stove going to heat up the tent and get the boys moving for our day out. With some of Scott's coffee and Markus' quick breakfast of bagels, we wasted no time to taking down the tent.
Cold morning on Head Lake.
At 8:15am. Sean Rowley showed up to walk out with us! He came in for a day trip. He said he was walking on Cache Lake just before sunrise and made great time. No snowshoes were needed as our trail on the portage had crusted over nicely.
By just after 9:00am we'd left camp and were crossing Head Lake towards the portage to Cache Lake. The trail was stiff enough to walk on it without snowshoes. We only broke through a few times. And Sean helped me a few times by pushing my sleds up steep slopes. Thanks!
Crossing Head Lake.
10:00am: A water break on Cache Lake.
Sean stocking up on some photos.
I was getting a little tired pulling my sleds and shouted at Markus to hold up. Stopping in the narrows, I didn't realize we were less than 1km from the access point. I needed some water.
From there we could see wolf tracks crossing the lake.
Cache Lake views of a perfect day.
1 kilometer from the access point.
We also spotted the two skiers pulling sleds. About 15 minutes ahead of us, they were coming from the west side of Cache Lake. They waited at the access for us, to find out where we'd camped. The man and woman that own a cottage on Cache Lake were the couple we'd seen on our outbound trip. They'd been making a day-trip loop to Kenneth Lake and back.
We were back on Highway 60 by noon and stopped for a coffee before the real highway madness began.
Another great Winter Trip in Algonquin. Lets hope the snow flies for winters to come!
Cheers ... Mike Burns