My wife Carey and I took our two young boys (aged 2 and 4) into Lavieille for a week long vacation during the first week of August. As a lot of you know, that week saw some pretty extreme weather. Once we got past the heat, the tornado, the microbursts, the intense wind, and the pouring rain - the week opened up into one of the most beautiful I can remember.
We started off at Sproule Bay where we had arranged for a water taxi with our fiends at Opeongo Outfitters. Jimmy helped us load our stuff and without a lot of fanfare we were off. The lake was calm and with the throttle pinned, we made it to the end of the east arm in no time. The plan was to take the cart trail all the way to Dickson, wheeling our canoe along with the gear and our two boys inside. I had looked at the route on a topo and it didn't seem too bad, but there are a lot of hills to climb going in. The heat and humidity were unbelieveable so we took it easy, stopping frequently for breaks and water. The boys were really good about the whole experience and we finally made it to Dickson by around 3 pm. Exhausted and overheated, we decided to stay on Dickson instead of pushing through to Lavieille. Normally this is a no-no (we are very strict about following park regulations), but we had checked with the permit office and they said there was lots of sites open that night. Recognizing we were travelling with kids, they told us not to worry about stopping if we had to.
The island site opposite the portage was open and we knew it had a super beach from a previous trip 6 years ago. We made a B-line across the shallow bay and thankfully it was open. The boys enjoyed a great swim while Carey filtered water and I set up camp. Sneaking around with the camera, I got some great photos.
We had an early dinner and hit the sack by around 9pm. Lying in the tent, we could hear the distant sound of thunder - no doubt the storm we had anticipated from the weather forcast. As it grew closer, suddenly the wind picked up and blew like nothing we had experienced before. The whine and roar of the wind sounded like a tornado, and I thought for sure the tent would collapse. It blew over pretty quickly and the boys slept through the whole thing. Later, two wardens explained a tornado had gone through Barry's Bay. We felt fortunate to have emerged unscathed.
Morning brought clouds and drizzling rain, but we decided to fish anyway. Luck was with us and Carey landed a nice laker which we had for breakfast. We packed up camp and headed to Lavieille, enjoying Dickson Lake's impressive scenery. Hardy Bay was a little rough with strong wind pushing in from the West. Fortunately, the rest of the day was calm, allowing us a liesurely paddle into the western bay of Lavieille. Dragging a line behind us, as I normally do while travelling, we caught a nice speckled trout which became our dinner for the evening. Things were definitely looking up!
Lavieille is a big lake with a fair number of campsites, yet you have the feeling of being completely remote. We fell in love with the view from the west end during a previous trip, so we wanted to spend some time there to really soak it up. We'd spent 3 nights by where the Crow River enters the lake. Our site gave us an unrestricted view of the expanse of Lavieille - pure heaven. We swam, fished, and relaxed as a family.
Browsing the horizon, we could see what looked like a beach stretching to the east of the Farncomb Lake portage. We decided to make a day trip and spend an afternoon on the beach. The sun was pretty strong so we rigged up a make-shift cabana using a tarp, some rope, and our paddles. What an enjoyable day we had snoozing, splashing, and exploring. The boys found a beautiful caterpillar specimen that cooperated for a photo.
We fished on the way back, landing two nice small trout which would furnish yet another dinner. True to form, I couldn't keep my line out of the water and we landed and released two more beauties. The boys protested at the hint of releasing a fish. We used it as an opportunity to explain the concept of conservation and the importance of releasing the bigger fish to breed and sustain the fishery. Not surprisingly, they understood.
That evening, we enjoyed a terrific campfire and hot chocolate. The boys made up a great game with smarties. Everyone gets a handful and you hold up the same color (let's say yellow...) and then everyboyd says "yellowwwww powerrrrrr!". Needless to say, the sugar rush kept them going for a while, but eventually the fire died out and so did they and we were all out for the night.
In the morning we packed up camp and headed for the east end of the lake where we would spend our final 2 nights. The plan was to check out the mouth of the Crow River as it heads to the Petawawa, and then find a site on one of the islands. On the way, I said to Carey "I just want to see if there are any trout down there..." and literally within 2 minutes this big bruiser hammered my setup. It fought hard for about 10 minutes and then after a quick picture, we released her into the lake.
According to Don Lloyd's account in his book Canoeing Algonquin Park, there used to be an old rock crib dam complete with sluice gate but that is all gone now. Looking upstream from the end of the portage is a lovely stretch of river. I can see why John Robins (author of the Incomplete Anglers) fell in love with this site. It was here that he and his brother Tom spent several days camped back in the early 40's fishing for speckled trout below the dam. I lingered at the campsite, snapping a few photos, imagining if this is what it was like when they were there.
The great fishing continued on our way to our site and we picked up yet another Lavielle speckled. This one would become the basis of a camping favorite of ours - fish tacos. We make the corn tortillas from scratch using a flour we buy at a grocery store in our old hometown of Hamilton. The secret to making the taco filling is all in the wrist! Here's Carey's great action photography at work.
Our site was elevated high off the water, but well protected by a stand of tall red pines. That evening, we enjoyed an amazing sunset. I sat on the point waiting for the perfect moment and then this loon strolled into the picture. It seemed perfect and I closed the shutter.
The next day brought strong winds and a very different feeling about the lake. We had not yet seen the fury of Lavieille, but we could feel it coming. Gradually the lake turned into a froth, though not as violent as I had expected. For a big lake, she was surprisingly tame but demands respect. It was not until later in the evening that I could get out for a spot of fishing. Paddling solo, all I could do was put myself out past the island and let the wind carry me down to the lee. Fittingly, I was rewarded with one last lake trout before darkness would force me to return to camp.
The next day, we broke camp at 7:30 am and paddled toward the Dickson portage. Our plan was to rendezvous with the water taxi at 5 pm, and we didn't know if we would encounter wind, so we didn't fool around. The trail going back was much easier, although by the time we reached Wright Lake we were sick of the cart trail. We slipped the canoe into the water and paddled to the portage and carried the gear to the beach. We had lunch and a quick dip, and then as luck would have it Jimmy showed up early and offered to take us back with another group. We were back home in Ottawa by 9 pm.
Best Wishes, Steve from Ottawa