This year’s trip started out with the customary night before packing at the cottage where we tend to keep most of the camping gear when not in use. Logistics this year was at the top of the planning list since the number of teenage drivers at our homes far exceeded the vehicles available and there was concern expressed about Robert or I taking a vehicle to basically sit idle for the duration of our planned 9 day trip. Anyway, we were fortunate that my two brothers were also planning a trip and that their two vehicles were available and they allowed us to use one of their vehicles. This solved the logistics at the last minute and peace remained in our respective families.
Day 1 (Rock / Louisa)
Early Saturday morning, 6 a.m. was rise and shine time. We quickly made coffee and had a light breakfast and then finished loading the vehicles to drive to Whitney to rent a kevlar canoe. More coffee was had in Opeongo Outfitters store while we rented the canoe and arranged delivery to Rock Lake starting point. My brothers decided that they were now hungry and were going to the Whitney restaurant for breakfast having forgone the light breakfast offered earlier. My canoeing partner, Robert, indicated that perhaps we too should eat, since canoe delivery wasn’t scheduled for at least another 45 minutes and that this would be the last chance to eat in a restaurant for a while.
After breakfast, we quickly parted ways with my brothers, who were headed to Galeairy Lake, as we headed for Rock Lake dock. We arrived without any moose incidents or dents in borrowed vehicle, unloaded and had all our gear on the dock when OO outfitters arrived and unloaded the canoe as if on queue. Canoe was loaded, a look at the graying sky caused us to put on rain pants and have jackets handy just in case it rained while on the water and then we headed out for Louisa Lake portage at the far end of Rock Lake. In the creek part of our route (before entering the actual lake), we passed a small bunch of ducks .. mom and baby ducklings, I guess. Farther on down the lake, we saw another similar sized gaggle of ducks .. if that’s what a bunch of ducks can be called. It started to drizzle lightly as we sighted the portage. We were able to get unloaded and prepared for the first portage of May 2004, still mostly dry and in happy spirits.
Off came the perspiration-inspiring rain pants. However, we kept the jackets handy just in case. After losing out on getting the Canoe for the first carry ( I always volunteer to carry canoe when it’s raining but so does Robert :-) we started out with the intent of a double portage .. due to extra gear/food we'd brought along for warmth. Robert was to carry the canoe all the way and then head back to get the heavy pack which I'd take half way. My return from the first pack carry would have me return to the start and take the remaining pack-gear from start to finish. On the second leg of my carry, I came to the original first carry pack at the mid way when it was raining rather heavy. I moved all the packs to a dryer spot and eyed my partner coming back from his canoe carry. We discussed the rain situation and decided to just get the gear to the end of portage where we would load, eat something high in energy and quickly find a campsite so that we could weather out the remainder of the storm.
Upon reaching Louisa, we noticed the wind would be in our face and a little rough. We donned rain gear, securely loaded the canoe and set out looking for a suitable campsite. Shortly after starting down Louisa, Robert stated that he was chilly and tired .. that he was prepared to settle for the first vacant campsite. This vacant campsite became elusive as campsite after campsite was occupied and we had to continue onwards down the lake. I tried to cheer Robert up by saying that I heard the best campsites were at the far end on the islands or on the point on the left far end of Louisa.
The first vacant campsite we found was on the largest island. After quickly getting out in search of the outhouse, I returned to the canoe with the intention of unloading, setting up camp and getting something warm to eat when Robert said,” You know, I sort of don’t like this site. We should try the point you raved about earlier.” Well, knowing I now had very little energy/desire/ability to canoe anymore that day, I agreed only on the condition that “because the point appears vacant, was just across the bay and we would return to this island if I thought the island site was better”. So, off we went .. quickly paddling to find awaiting us the best 6 star campsite one could wish for in Algonquin Park.
Day 2 (Louisa / North Grace)
We awoke early to a cold tent and no sound of rain. So I said, "Thank goodness the rain's stopped!"
Robert was first dressed and out the door when he confirmed that it had stopped raining for he exclaimed, “Hey Randy, right you are. The rain's over. Instead, now we have SNOW!” Well, I guess that explained the briskness and stiffness of the clothing that I was putting on .. as well as the shivering I was experiencing getting dressed. I quickly joined Robert by fire pit where we started a fire and got coffee with chocolate brewing on the Coleman.
A breakfast of porridge with raisins and precooked bacon warmed up over the fire .. followed by English muffins and more coffee .. soon had our appetites quenched. We started talking about what to do today. We agreed that a day trip to North Grace was in order as the wind and waves on the main part of Louisa deterred us from venturing out into the larger body of water. We soon had our required gear packed and started out down the bay to the portage. The wind and waves didn't die down so we went all the way to the end of bay and then back up other side to our portage; rather than chance traversing the bay broadside to the waves.
The portage landing was tricky with the snow and ice, But we managed to unload without falling into the lake and soon were on the way. Lots of downfalls along the way caused some havoc for the canoe carrier but eventually the lake came into sight as did the fresh moose scat and tracks between us and the lake. We followed the tracks that lead to the portage landing. We quickly set sail .. not waiting around to meet the beast that had made the tracks.
North Grace is a gorgeous lake. It's one that I'd like to camp on someday for its solitude. However, no matter what lure we used or wherever we fished, we didn't get any indication of fish being present except for the minnows we spotted at lunch time. We made three tours of the lake, fished ever nook and cranny and finally started to get chilly and hungry. We headed to the campsite near the portage for lunch. Instant beef flavored noodles, warmed Chuckwagons and beverage from yesterday’s lunch were on the day's menu. For desert we had licorice and gorp followed by tea and a yogurt granola bar. We tried the lake for about another hour or so without luck and then headed back to camp at Louisa. The Louisa wind and waves had died down, so it was a shorter paddle back as we were able to go directly back across the waves this time.
Supper was chosen with weather and temperature in mind. We quickly had a pot of chili simmering in the double boiler. I cook that way as it guarantees no burned food, allows unattended cooking which permits other concurrent activities such as fish cleaning (sometimes), wood cutting or just sitting around the fire resting and perhaps having a drink or two before supper. Supper was finished at the same time as the sunlight left us, causing dishes to be done by firelight once again. At least it wasn’t raining anymore. Our windbreaks seemed to be properly placed and it was warm by the fire that night, albeit a bit smokey which seems to always be a minor problem when tarps, wind, damp wood and fire are involved.
Day 3 (Louisa/Rock/Galeairy)
This day was bright and a bit warmer. Blue sky greeted us when we exited the tent. However the wind seemed to still be in full force. But at least would be at our back going out. Breakfast was cooked by Robert as I broke down the tent and packed our sleeping bags and mattress pads. A second coffee was handed to me by Robert when he announced eggs and bacon were ready and best they be eaten before they got cold. More coffee/hot chocolate followed with toast and jam/peanut butter. After breakfast, we packed the rest of our gear, did a once around site-check just to be sure we had not overlooked anything and then loaded the canoe. I won the stern canoe seat and looked forward to an easy trip out as the wind was at our back and likely I would only need to steer. Robert decided that we should troll on the way out which we did. Twice we got stuck, which required some tricky back-paddling by the both of us.
We abandoned trolling about half way down the lake. It was getting rougher and it was getting difficult to keep our speed slow enough with the wind at our back. We didn’t wish to lose any fishing lures should back paddling become a problem. We were soon were at the portage. I took the canoe pack first and Robert followed with the remainder of the gear. Lots of portage mud needed to be negotiated on the way out and we meet two or three groups coming in. We kidded them as being fair weather Algonquinites, having missed the snow and rain. Halfway out, Robert and I switched loads and the remainder ofthe portage went smoothly.
We ate a lunch of Chuckwagons, fruit bars and Tang in the sun before heading out to traverse Rock Lake and meet up with my brothers. They were camped on a Galeairy Lake island just beyond the dam that separates Rock and Galeairy lakes. We were looking forward to a day of rest there and then getting resupplied from the gear we had sent in with them for the second part of our trip. They'd gone in by my 14 ft aluminum boat and had taken many luxuries that I felt could be well used by us for well-deserved R&R. However, this turned out to be "F&GL" instead. But more about that in a follow-up posting which will follow soon.
Anyways, in closing this trip-log, we spotted my brother sitting in his aluminum armchair complete with foot rest fishing and/or sleeping in the sunshine. I guess we made too much noise or he wasn’t really asleep, for he also spotted us and welcomed us ashore and offered us a Caesar complete with celery and spiced Clamato juice. However, his promise of poached speckled trout on toast was not forthcoming as they too had not caught any fish. They'd alsol had had some issues with the rain, snow and wind. Anyways, here we would rest for a day or so. And then with a resupply of food and gear, we'd soon start another 4 day trip in Algonquin Park’s interior.Randy Born