The first day started very early, like all of my trips to Algonquin Park. It was actually a continuation of the day before, since we had little to no sleep on the way up. Final preparations and pre-trip jitters kept us from sleeping before we hit the road. Energy drinks kept us going all the way to Kearney, where we picked up a canoe for Brent and Tom. Bryan and I were borrowing a canoe from a friend, and we would have to remember that it was free several times during the next week (usually while portaging it).
The drive from Kearney into access #3 was scenic and not too long. I donít think there is an access road north of Hwy. 60 that is actually short enough for me. By the time I get to the access road, Iím about ready to jump out of the truck and run to the access lake! But we arrived at the Magnetawan parking lot without incident, and prepared to launch off of the convenient dock. Both canoes were loaded with gear and paddlers by 9:35 a.m. and we set off to round the point and find the portage to Hambone Lake.
A picture-perfect start as we paddle on Magnetawan Lake.
It was a short paddle and then we landed at the portage. We donned our packs and two of us, Tom and Bryan, hoisted the canoes. Tom and Brent used a system where Tom carried a smaller pack and the canoe each time, while Brent carried a large pack. Bryan and I started the trip alternating the small pack with canoe and large pack roles. While Tom had little trouble carrying the Kevlar canoe, Bryan and I found our borrowed ABS canoe to be a severe pain the neck (and other parts). Bryanís discomfort was brief since it was only a 135m portage. By 9:53 we were paddling on Hambone.
The paddle across Hambone was easy. The wind was at our backs, the sun was shining, and the clouds looked like cotton balls stretched out across the blue sky. So far, the weather was perfect on this trip. We landed at the portage to Ralph Bice and it was my turn to bear the heavy beast upon my shoulders. I was too used to the contoured yokes typically found on Algonquin rentals. The standard yoke didnít hold the yoke pad well, so it kept sliding off my shoulders. Add in the weight (about twice the Kevlar) and you get one uncomfortable canoe to carry. I hate to bring up the problems with this free canoe, but it would influence our route decisions later on. I managed the 295m portage without too much pain and suffering, and after a quick reloading of the canoes we were heading northeast on Ralph Bice.
After about a mile on Ralph Bice, we left the narrow bay and entered the main body of the lake. It didnít take long for the wind to pick up and we found ourselves paddling on rough waters. We were closer to the eastern shore, so there was no break from the wind and waves. As the waves approached 2ft. in height, Bryan and I became worried. Brent and Tom were fine in their canoe, but our shorter craft seemed to ride lower in the water. After the second wave crashed over the bow onto my legs, I began to wonder if we would be swamped. We paddled feverishly and tried to ride the waves to the shelter of the large island in the distance. I remembered reading about the tragic death on this lake earlier in the year, and I wondered if I might be next. I came to the conclusion that if my time was up this day, I was in the right place. I continued to dig my paddle into the waves and finally we came to the calm waters east of the island. We took a well-deserved break before entering the narrows at the northeast end of the lake.
Rory and Bryan paddle the shoreline of Ralph Bice Lake amidst whitecaps. The waves splashed over the gunwales a couple times!
We arrived at the portage to Little Trout and prepared for the 435m hike. The hard paddle across Ralph Bice had taken a toll on the sleep-deprived party, and we began talking of finding a campsite for the night. We enjoyed some gorp at the end of the portage, and that passed for lunch this day. It wasnít late, but we were ready to call it a day. As we paddled between the islands of Little Trout Lake, I pointed out a site that I had stayed on in 2000. It was one of the prettiest sites Iíve ever stayed at, and not just because I was with my wife a month after our wedding. The portage to Queer Lake was a short hop of 175m, and my shoulders barely noticed the heavy canoe before it was off and back in the water.
With a little assistance from Bryan, the Leidecker brothers are ready to portage packs and canoes.
Somewhere along the portage, the sky became overcast. As we began our search for a campsite, the rain began. We inspected one campsite after another, even splitting up to search two at a time. We wanted to get out of the rain and into our tents, at least for a while. It seemed to take forever, but it was really only about ten sites until we found one to stay at. We set up on the west side of Queer Lake, the farthest south site. It was around 2pm when we pulled the canoes ashore. The rain did not last, and we enjoyed clear skies the rest of the day. It felt good to take off my boots and put on my sandals, but I was unhappy to find an inch-long hole in my right boot next to where my big toe would be. Wonderful. I had dealt with such a problem before, fourteen years ago on a disaster of a trip. Did this mean another disastrous trip? Not if duct tape had anything to say about it!
Having found a good campsite to claim, it was time to switch from boots to sandals. This was when I found the hole in my boot.
I was more tired than disappointed, so I set up my hammock and fell asleep for about an hour. Brent and Bryan strung up their hammocks too, leaving my brother Tom to sit on the ground for a while. Maybe next time heíll bring his own hammock, so he wonít have to wait for one of us to wake up refreshed and decide to walk around. I was a little chilly in the hammock, so I decided to crawl into my tent for a bit. It turned out to be a three-hour nap, but I needed it. Tom had scooped up my hammock in the meantime, but I didnít care. By the time I woke up, it was time to eat. Great timing! We had made the excellent decision to bring in some fresh food, and cheddar bratwurst was on the menu. It doesnít get much better than cheddar brats cooked over a fire while the sun sets over Algonquin Park. I was back in the Park, well-fed, and finally well-rested. Life was good! We could hear voices from across the lake about a Ĺ-mile away. Sounded like a group of young girls. We hoped they would quiet down when it got dark. I donít recall if they did; I might have been too tired to hear them if they were still loud. I fell into a deep sleep that lasted the whole night.
Rory, Bryan, and Tom sit around the fire after a long first day of packing, driving, paddling, and portaging.
I woke up feeling really good. No aches or pains, thanks to my air mattress. Itís a great feeling to wake up in Algonquin Park and know you have a whole week ahead of exploring its beautiful lakes and rivers. Water was boiled for coffee and oatmeal. Pretty boring, but oatmeal is cheap, light, and comes in a variety of flavors. We added a little kahlua to the morning coffee to spice it up a bit. As we began breaking down our camp, we could hear the sounds of the girls across the lake doing the same. By the time we had our canoes loaded, they were already headed down the portage trail to Little Misty Lake.
A section of the portage between Queer and Little Misty. Vegetation was up to and sometimes over the trail in many places.
A quick paddle brought us to the portage. The other guys grumbled about the length of this portage (2435m), bought I was optimistic. It helped that it was Bryanís turn to carry the canoe. With a generous reinforcement of duct tape around my right boot, I set off and completed the portage in about an hour. About 100m from the end, I caught up with the last of the group of girls. I set my pack down about 10m from the shore of Little Misty and asked if anyone needed help, but they had everything under control. Bryan came barreling down the trail, bringing a grim expression and a string of curses aimed at the green tormenter resting on his shoulders. I headed back down the trail to find Tom and Brent. The trail turned out to be just a little too long for Tom, so I relieved him by carrying the Kevlar canoe the rest of the way. By the time I returned to Little Misty, the girls had set off and a new group was landing. We were pretty tired, so we waited until they pulled up their canoes and set off down the trail.
We launched onto Little Misty Lake and turned toward the portage to Misty Lake. After just a few paddle strokes, I noticed a familiar face in a canoe approaching us. The other canoe was passing by about 50m away, headed to the portage we had just left. I called out, ďJeffrey McMurtrie! Come over here, I want to talk to you!Ē Jeffrey and his dad turned their canoe and met us out on the lake. His face was familiar to me only from pictures posted on AlgonquinAdventures.com, and I had only communicated with him previously on the forum. They were at the end of a long trip devoted to collecting additional details for Jeffreyís maps. We chatted about where they had been, where we were going, the rainstorms they had endured, and other trip-related topics. After about 20 minutes, we parted ways. Always nice to meet another AAer actually IN the Park!
We continued on across Little Misty, then crossed the 935m portage to Misty Lake. It was my third time down this portage, and I would walk it again on our last day, but I donít remember anything remarkable about the trail. The portage finds Misty Lake at a shallow, marshy spot where the Petawawa connects it to Little Misty Lake. We passed by the island campsite where I had stayed in 2002. Beyond the island, we were on the main body of the lake, and we stopped to fill our canteens. It was just about 10:30 a.m. when we resumed paddling east down the length of Misty Lake. I pointed out a few other campsites to Bryan, one Brent and I had stayed on in 2007, and another that my wife and I had stayed at in 2000. Today, we were just passing through. It would be several days before we were back on Misty to stay overnight.
The marshy route following the portage from Little Misty Lake. Once past the island in the distance, you are on the main body of Misty Lake.
Lunch was quickly consumed at the Misty Lake side of the 805m portage to the Petawawa River. Next, we began the second challenge of the day: navigating the stretch of the Petawawa between Misty and White Trout. Looking at a map, the portages donít look so tough, and they arenít. The challenge came from the twists and turns, with the added annoyance of several very shallow sections. It was a low water year, and this was obvious on the Pet.
A saw blade reminded us of Algonquinís logging history. I have read that items like this are sometimes moved from place to place.
We were relieved to finally emerge onto Grassy Bay. Herons, ducks, and loons greeted our arrival to White Trout Lake. It was around 4 p.m. and we were starting to get tired. Originally, we had planned to stay at Big Trout this night, but we modified our plans to fit the situation. We found a nice site on a C-shaped island. It was a huge, wide-open site, with more than enough room for our group of four. Bryan and I set up our tent to take advantage of the cool breeze blowing off of Grassy Bay. Tom and Brent found another nice, level spot for their tent. It didnít take long for the hammocks to get hung and occupied. Brent started a fire in the pit, and a little while later we made dinner.
Bryan and Rory ease up close to a pair of loons. Bryan is taking out his camera for some close-up pics.
Dinner consumed, we enjoyed a few adult beverages, then put everything edible in the food bag and hung it from a tree. We enjoyed the views from our high vantage point and took the steps down to the rocky shore for some sunset pictures. Some time after dark, we retired to the tents. It was a warm night, but the cool breeze felt good and helped us sleep.
Mr. Trip Planner (a.k.a. Rory) enjoying a warm fire on a scenic campsite in his favorite summer destination!
Continue to .. Day 3