Trip Preparation at Galeairy
This was the second part of our May 2004 trip to Algonquin Park. After a grueling 4 day interior canoe trip, we arrived at my brother's island campsite on Galeairy. Our evening started with a well deserved Caesar complete with celery . This was quickly followed by a supper of steak, potatoes and more fresh salad, complete with salad dressing. It’s amazing the supplies that my brothers brings into the park. He’d arrived by 14 foot boat with motor and there was definitely no lack of supplies. I’m sure the boat must have been overflowing, or else they’d made two trips in.
We unpacked while supper was barbecuing and sat down to supper by Coleman lantern and firelight with my two brothers, Bob ("Billy Jim Bob") and Ken ("Bo Knows"). After supper we washed up our dishes by firelight and then sat around the "1-channel-TV" to swap fish stories and tales of our respective recent adventures. We’d both had a rather cold and wet trip and had both been greeted by snow on the second day . Neither of us had had any success at fishing .. except for the tall tales of the fish we’d lost due to hit and run strikes by what must have been at least 7 lb speckles or lake trout (most likely we were only catching the bottom).
During our fire-side conversations, we apparently consumed more than the night’s ration of campfire beverage. Given the existing dent in our supplies from the previous trip, where usage had only been for medicinal/survival reasons, we were easily talked into a next-day side trip to some mountain top lake which Bo Knows knew about. We figured that brother Bob would scoot into Whitney by boat and motor and purchase us additional campfire beverages/medicine in plastic for the second part of our trip. It seems that barley pop in plastic has become a popular available item in Whitney. And, fortunately there’s also a LCBO at which to resupply one’s medicine chest as well.
Day 1: R&R and Side trip to Farm Boy Lake ( F&GL)
We awoke to a sunny sky and cool weather. The real "Tim's ground coffee" was soon perking and quickly consumed. Breakfast for Rob and I was porridge and raisins followed by bacon and English muffins with jam or peanut butter with more coffee.
The day’s side trip would see us troll to Purcell Cove and then do a leisurely hike to Farm Boy Lake which my brother Ken had us to believe was teeming with speckles. This was to be our R&R day but soon became F&GL. We were having no success trolling so after having left the narrows and entering the main part of Galeairy, we decided to just paddle.
Quickly we passed Sea Gull Rock, aptly named for its winged inhabitants and its white-washed colour. A quick right turn had us entering Purcell Cove and soon we’d landed at what my brother indicated was the start of our hike to Farm Boy Lake. Brother Bob waved good-bye and promised to return in 4 hours to help us clean fish and bring us a cold one to celebrate the day’s catch.
We started our trek up-hill .. Ken in the lead and Rob and I following with canoe and gear. Quickly it appeared that the trail started to peter-out but my brother Ken quickly found his way and we followed. It seemed that we followed and followed for about 40 minutes. Finally we decided to take a break .. telling Ken he needed to either find the real trail or we’d head back downhill. Ken quickly undertook the task at hand and climbed to a vantage point from which he clearly said, " I see water, follow me". Rested, we start following again and clearly we too saw what appeared to be water. Shortly, we caught-up with Ken and from a clearing we could all clearly see "Sea Gull Rock" .. indicating we’d aimlessly wandered around the bush and now had clearly found the lake from which we’d started.
We started back and soon found the creek bed that we’d followed .. the map indicating it would take us back to our start point. About halfway back, Ken rejoined us and stated that he’d really found the way. And yes, it was straight up and just over the next hill. Being a bit skeptical still, we decided to cache the canoe by the creek-bed and climb the steep part with just our fishing rods .. to ensure it was really the lake we sought.
Sure enough, after a lengthy climb , we saw water. However, it was down a rather steep incline that made us happy to have left the canoe behind. With difficulty we eventually barely managed to descend the cliff-like incline and to find a rocky shore from which we saw a gorgeous lake that we were sure had to hold trophy specks.
Quickly rods were assembled , lures/hooks with worms attached to the lines and we were all soon spin casting and/or bobber fishing. Robert had the first line in the water and his bobber was quickly tugged beneath the surface. It came back to the surface and remained quiet. So Robert reeled in and found his worm gone. We continued fishing but were quickly disappointed with "no more first strikes".
After spending another 30 minutes fishing every accessible nook and cranny, we were still skunked. We decided to "still fish" while tea brewed and a quick lunch of hotdogs and granola bars for desert were eaten. During lunch I recalled the sign my dad had at the cottage saying "Maybe the fish go home and lie about the size of bait they stole". I suggested to the guys that if there were any fish in Farm Boy Lake they probably were having a good laugh right about now.
Our watches indicated we needed to head back since Brother Bob would soon be arriving. And, a cold brew might just improve the day after all. We ( that’s the royal Rob and I ) spent the next 20 minutes searching for the canoe. It was harder to find than expected but thankfully we’d chosen to leave it beside the creek-bed which we continued to follow until we finally did found the canoe. I took the canoe and portaged to the starting point by following the creek-bed and taking directions from Robert who is breaking trail for me.
Finally , we spotted the boat. My brothers were glad to have closure to this F&GL adventure. I guess you’ve all been dreaming up meanings for F&GL. To make it simple and to ensure that censorship is not implemented, F&GL really just means Follow and Get Lost.
We decided to troll only the final bay before our island campsite, as the day is getting late and we wanted to get home before dark. Soon after we dipped our lines, my brother Ken got a quick hit and miss and then a second one which he hooked. Excitement was great, as this would be the first catch of the trip. The fish was brought to the surface close to the boat and quickly netted. It turned out to be a pickerel which was out of season and was quickly released without even a picture. We eventually did get home with about 30 minutes of sunset light by which to unload and cook by.
Supper was home-made stew with screw driver cocktails, followed by tea and cookies .. by firelight again. Everybody seemed tired and my brothers were soon sawing logs in their tent. Rob and I tended the fire for about an hour or so and then we too decided to turn in early.
Day 2: Galeairy - Night - Pen - Clydegale
We awoke to the sound of wind. White caps were clearly visible on Galeairy but thankfully it appeared the wind would be at our back. The tent was hung to dry in the wind from the nights dew and ground moisture. Breakfast was fresh eggs and bacon with perked Tim-coffee plus toast and jam. After breakfast we thoroughly washed our dishes in my brother's dish pan using their SOS pads .. with hot water, Palmolive soap and clean dish towels. By then the tent was dry so it was packed and quickly we had all our gear loaded into canoe. After another cup of fresh brew we parted ways and silently paddled towards Night Lake.
Shortly, we were turning right into the bay that held the portage to Night Lake. Sheltered from the wind we continued effortlessly down the bay. On our right , we spotted a medium sized black bear that we’d disturbed on the shore line. It disappeared into the bush adjacent to the portage. Reaching the portage, we unloaded warily .. looking for sign of the bear just in case. But our concerns were quickly behind us as we loaded and started across the short portage to Night Lake.
Upon reaching the end of Night lake we took our time preparing for the longer portage into Pen. Paddles, life jackets, fish net and the red plastic bread/crunchables square bucket was lashed inside canoe for the single portage, It was my turn to carry the canoe and as soon as we were ready, Rob assisted me by lifting the canoe while I positioned myself under the carved-oak thwart. Once positioned, I was off with Rob following behind.
Once we got out of sight of Night Lake, the carry was warm due to length of portage and the lack of a cooling wind . Half way along, while crossing a swamp via a log walkway, I lost my sweat soaked hat when it just seemed to slide off my head. I tried to do deep knee bends with the canoe on my shoulders. However, I missed twice with my hand trying to scoop-up my hat. I decided it was safer to walk to end of walkway, stash the canoe in the crotch of a nearby tree and retrace my steps to recover my hat. I then fastened it to my belt for the remainder of portage.
About 15 minutes later, a refreshing gust of cool air greeted me as I rounded a corner and soon Pen Lake came in to view. Reaching the end of the portage, we saw that white caps were plentiful on Pen Lake. We decided to have a snack before venturing on, just in case paddling energy was required. We agreed to cross Pen and continue onwards to Clydegale Lake via the far shore where we would have some protection from the cross winds.
Once we reached the far side, we had a easy but long paddle to Clydegale . Upon reaching the portage to Clydegale, we decided to do the portage twice rather than try and be more organized for a single portage. This allowed for a bit of respite and soon we were rested , loaded and paddling on Clydegale .
From no where came a loud thunderclap followed by unexpected rain which we must of missed observing while doing the portage. Anyways, the thunder quickened our paddling pace. We rounded the first point on the right knowing it held a campsite, only to be greeted by a beached canoe indicating it was occupied. We crossed the bay to the next known campsite on the left .
The landing site was rather awkward and first impressions were that this was not a desirable campsite. However, weather dictated we take shelter and after following the path upwards, we found a rather comfortable site. It was sheltered from the wind and lake visibility. Tarps were quickly erected but soon the rain stopped and the black clouds disappeared. We set about drying the gear that had gotten wet, collected wood, erected the tent and had lunch.
We then decided to explore and fish Clydegale . Paddling into the cross wind, we soon approached the dog leg to the right of upper Clydegale. Rounding the point, we soon found that all our attention and strength was required to basically just hold our location. With great effort we managed to reach the campsite that was basically just 10 feet farther down the lake. We decided to explore the campsite since we were exhausted. Also, we tried to free our lines that we had been trolling. They had quickly become stuck when our forward speed had suddenly became too slow.
This turned out to be a rather great campsite albeit a bit windy but with a great view . We did not decide to move as we were quite pleased with our original site . The return trip was easy as the wind was at our backs, but it did make trolling rather quick and again yielded not a bite. We trolled past our campsite to the end of lake and then tried some spin casting while returning to campsite for supper. The wind was still quite fierce so we docked, unloaded and decided to store the canoe out of the wind’s reach to ensure it didn’t get blown away.
The stove was quickly lit and tea was brewed. Concurrently, I rehydrated some beef and vegetables in hot water and kept it simmering for about 5 minutes.. When I considered the rehydration done, I added the garlic instant potatoes and stirred. This produced my special concoction I call "AP Shepherds Pie". Believe me, it may not look like much but it tastes great, hits the spot and is quite plentiful and much cheaper than any commercial packaged goods that we have tried . If one has the time , normally one would transfer thisconcoction to a fry pan and bake over coals producing a better looking meal which also allows for a before-dinner beverage/cocktail.
However, we had intentions of fishing after supper until dusk, so cocktails would have to wait. We finished supper, washed dishes and quickly set sail to use the remaining daylight for fishing. We returned about an hour later, still fishless but content with knowing it was not for lack of trying.
Firewood previously gathered allowed us to quickly have the "1-channel- tv" tuned and "on-station". Tonight was scotch night with water and after our 2 or 3 ritual night caps, we brushed our teeth and then hit the sack, for tomorrow would be a full day.
Day 3: Clydegale-Welcome/Harry/Rence and Return
We awoke early to another windy but bright and sunny day. Breakfast was porridge with precooked bacon and yogurt granolas bars. Instant coffee was now the norm instead of perked coffee and we used it to wash down our breakfast. Lunch was packed along with fishing tackle/rods and soon we were underway.
The wind was in our face and we hoped this meant the wind would be at our backs going home as we happily put our backs into the paddle to the Welcome Lake portage, located on the left side on Pen Lake. Soon the portage landing was under our bow and it was a quick portage ( 295 m) to the first short paddle/puddle jump.
Then the serious part of portage ( 2000+ m) was tackled . Lots of windfalls had been cut and removed thanks to early trail maintenance by rangers. However, there was and always are the mucky/muddy portage parts that require stamina and skill to maneuver with canoe or loaded pack unless one is wearing hip waders or is good at leaping over such obstacles with canoe on shoulders. Despite such portage events, we made good time and arrived at Welcome lake around 11 a.m.
Welcome Lake was calm and it was my turn to act as a guide. That meant Rob got the front trolling position which allows observation of where we’ve been and the ability to rest/snooze if desired. However, Rob was content to troll/spin cast the entire trip through Welcome/Harry and Rence Lakes.
On Rence , we cruised the lake twice before stopping to eat lunch at a landing/field area about 200 meters past the excellent rock campsite on the right/north side of the lake. Lunch was more hotdogs with mustard, beer .. Followed by tea and cookies. We still- fished from shore and I think even caught a few winks before our watches indicated it was time to head home.
Now it was Rob's turn to paddle in the stern and my turn to observe/offer constructive paddling technique comments. As we were cruising the north shore, Rob got a strike and I had to take over paddling, at the same time find the net and prepare to net the catch. Rob took his time and good thing he did because eventually a 3 lb + speckled was netted and placed on our stringer. We continued on, covering this lucky area twice more before departing Rence into Harry and eventually back into Welcome.
The wind appeared to be picking up and I had to take a proper bow paddling position as assistance was required occasionally due to the headwind. Almost across Welcome, the wind took on a more forceful stance and we wisely choose to turn directly into the waves, even though this took us away from our portage destination. Reaching shore, we reeled in our lines and decided that we had to tack into and go with the wind to reach the return portage. We eventually safely beached on the sand shoal and prepared for the portage to Pen. Before departure, Rob cleaned the speckle and we took a picture with the paddle in the background for size verification.
The outward portage was uneventful except for meeting a group of two coming in who have never been to Welcome before . We advised them of the windy dangerous conditions on Welcome, as well of the availability/safety of a campsite on the near shore. It was growing late and they still had the second part of a double portage to complete and agreed that this was good advice. We had little time to chat as we too had a ways to go and also realized than we were running out of daylight.
Upon reaching Pen Lake, we loaded the canoe and got underway. Unfortunately, we now faced yet another headwind and this tested both our endurance and strength. We finally reached the portage to Clydegale, somewhat tired but determined to get home before dark. The portage quickly faded from view behind us and we soon landed at our campsite. It seemed that we’d just got unloaded, dragged the canoe to a more protected area and reached the tent area when the remaining light faded away. Flashlights were found and soon the fire was providing the required light.
Rob stated that nothing would taste better than a freshly caught trout, so he set about to pan fry the fish while I cooked some wild rice/vegetables. Lemon was found at the bottom of the pack, as well as Soya sauce for the rice. After our bellies were full, we brewed a pot of Tetley tea and broke out the night’s ration of cookies. Well fed, we cleaned up and settled down beside the fire for a couple of Yukon Jacks and warm water. Sour Cream Pringles were later found in food pack and shared to celebrate the fishing success of the day. A few loons could be heard in the distance singing their nightly songs. We prayed it wasn’t for more rain. Soon we were short of wood and doused the fire, before brushing our teeth and turning in for the night.
Day 4: Clydegale - Pen-Rock - Galeairy
The morning that greeted us was somewhat less cool than usual and quite bright with no appreciable wind. Quickly the Coleman was lit and water boiled for the first cup of the day. Breakfast was leftover fish and bacon plus toast, granola bars and more coffee with hot chocolate and whitener ( Black Gold instant mixture). The tent was quickly dismantled, the packs packed and the canoe loaded . We did a once-around-check to be sure we hadn’t missed anything and were quickly underway. A short paddle found us at the Clydegale to Pen portage and 20 minutes later we were trolling down Pen.
It was a great day for trolling and it was my turn to be stern paddler, so Robert had the easy seat. I decided to keep us about 15 feet from the east shore and it was an easy paddle especially with the occasional breeze from behind. About half way down, I got a couple of tugs on my line as did Robert. It appeared to be the bottom, so we both reeled in a bit of line and I added about 10 feet of distance from shore. Five minutes later I got another tug and then a definite hit. Quickly Robert manned his paddle as I reeled in my catch. From the fight that started when it got near the surface I thought it was likely a fair catch.
No more luck was had with fishing and soon the Pen to Rock Portage was in sight so we reeled in our lines and got ready to portage. The portage was rather busy with 3 other groups of 2 coming in and turns were taken with the available loading/unloading spots. Soon it was our turn and we quickly unloaded the gear and got our stuff and canoe up the slight incline to make room for the others to load.
Rock Lake came into sight and the grassy field adjacent to the launch made a great spot to have lunch. More Chuck wagons, some licorice and a chocolate bar for desert was our lunch .. washed down with some Tang. After lunch we loaded-up and got underway and decided to try trolling Rock Lake until the portage to Galeairy. This time it was Rob’s turn in the stern and I had the easy seat. I chose to remain seated forward, by using my paddle as a cross-thwart behind me. I was able to recline and in the sun I drifted off to sleep.
All was well until we exitted the bay and hit the main body of Rock Lake. Here there was some cross wind and the rocking of the canoe startled me awake and I quickly adopted a safer kneeling position. The wind picked up and I had to assist Robert with paddling at times. We eventually passed the islands and soon arrive at the portage around the dam between Rock and Galeairy. This is a short portage and the only difficulty was unloading on the rock shoreline. We did this portage twice rather than lash gear into the canoe. We were soon done the double portage and then were on our way to my brothers' campsite on Galeairy.
We still insisted on trolling as I had caught trout in Galeairy the weekend before but we arrived without a catch. This time when arriving, there was nobody to greet us with Caesars. It turned out that Ken had gone to his secret lake with Shelia ( his wife) and my brother Bob was asleep by the fire. We quickly unloaded and decided to make our own drinks and hotdogs. We were no sooner finished our snack, when we saw Ken and Shelia arriving and they had two nice 2-3 lb speckles with them (caught in Sandy Lake). Ken set about cleaning their catch and we started to discuss supper plans since it appeared they had lots of food remaining and we needed to use up the tomatoes, salad and ground meat.
We quickly agreed to make a salad and to cook up the ground meat to make a meat gravy that would be used to top some instant garlic potatoes. Supper was great and plentiful and we also get the dishes cleaned before the sunlight disappeared. We even had adequate light left to gather more firewood from the near shore, as well to get it all cut up before it got dark. As the sun started to set, we had the fire burning and we were all happy with our respective catches of the past 2-3 days.
Day 5: Galeairy - Rock and then home to Ottawa
Upon rising, we seemed to move in slow motion, in order to delay departure, as this was the last day of our annual May Algonquin fishing/canoe trip. Breakfast was quick, as we only had instant oatmeal and granola bars. But there was lots of fresh coffee , so we lingered a bit longer with the second or third cup. Eventually, we decided the deed had to be done, and the gear was packed and we said our goodbyes.
Robert and I departed via Rock while Ken,Sheila and Bob departed via Galeairy. We were soon over the short portage and headed into a headwind on Rock. This headwind had us hugging the right hand shore as the whitecaps kept more or less head-on to the bow.
Tired but somehow refreshed from the paddle , we reached the end of Rock and entered the creek entrance in order to reach the boat launch from where our trip had started. We quickly had our gear unloaded and stashed into the vehicle. Knowing that we were likely ahead of my brothers and that we’d agreed to meet in Whitney to organize the trip home, we decided we had some spare time and that a hot shower is in order. Wow… This was a great idea and soon we smelled like humans again.
We drove into Whitney and met my brothers at the local boat dock. Here we helped them redistribute the gear between Ken and Shelia’s two vehicles and Bob’s truck. Bob returned to the cottage while Ken, Sheila and us headed toward Ottawa. We stopped at Robert’s home in Carp. And then, Ken, Sheila and I headed to our own homes. We all got home by supper time and it was a pleasure to once again eat at a table.
My tiredness quickly returned and by 9 p.m. I was in bed, already dreaming and planning next year's trip!