Misty Lake and Back

Sept. 6-10, 2012         by - Tom Taylor

We left Toledo at 4:30 am on Thursday. The adventure finally got started. Arriving in Huntsville by noon, we stopped for gas and a bathroom break. There were no restroom at the gas station, so Nate set out on foot to find one. Supposedly the last thing he said to me was, “I'll meet you guys at the outfitters.”

We filled the car up and waited for Nate to return .. and waited .. and waited. We started walking the downtown area looking for him, but didn't want to leave the gas station, knowing he would return. After way too much frustration we slowly drove around a few blocks and pulled into the outfitters. Nate comes walking out asking, “What took you so long?”

Finally we loaded up the rental equipment and canoes from Algonquin Outfitters and then chose to have a last burger and beer lunch on a patio overlooking the river. A red flag went up in my mind while packing at the outfitters. Apparently the e-mail a few weeks back about packing lightly was not read. We had enough gear for a group of 8. Time was tight and I did not say anything.

We paid the price while portaging, way too much and poor packing. While we all share responsibility, we quickly tried to blame Tim, thus earning him the code name “Timmy Ten-packs.” Love ya, Tim, I honestly think we used most everything we carried.

After picking up the permit in Kearney, we headed to access 3 to get things started. The excitement to get going and knowing we were burning daylight made the drive to Magnetawan seem like forever. By 3:30 that afternoon, we were on the water and headed to our first campsite somewhere on Daisy Lake.

We made camp at the site on the north shore near the portage to Ralph Bice Lake. Fresh steaks for our first dinner out was perfect. And watching the stars roll out quickly made us realize why we drive to this special place. I'm pretty sure we were the only ones on Daisy Lake that night, giving a great start to the Algonquin first-timers in our group.

Sunrise on Friday brought us a beautiful Algonquin fall morning with plenty of mist rising off the warm waters of the lake. Plenty of pictures were taken and then we had breakfast.

Peaceful morning on Daisy Lake.

Soon we were paddling east down Daisy Lake toward the Petawawa River. At the end of a narrow bay, we finally come across the portage around what should be a small waterfall. The water levels were so low, what little water was flowing was going around and under the rocks.

A few more pictures were the water emptied into the river and we were on our way. The river is very similar to the Tim River just to the north .. narrow, meandering and slow. As we came upon the first beaver dam of the trip, a decision needed to be made. The water level below the dam was extremely low. A narrow channel of just a few inches of water and several more inches of mud below, awaited at least as far as the first bend. I called the first team meeting to discuss the options. Eric volunteered to walk the river to the first bend to scout farther downstream. He reported that we could paddle again after the bend. I reminded the team that if we continued, we had to face the same obstacles on the return back out. Since Tim and Eric were first-timers to the park, I asked for their opinions. They both were ready to tackle the mud and muck to see more of Algonquin.

We portaged around the dam and walked the canoes down the middle of the river for a couple of hundred yards to the first bend. There was just enough water to let us paddle again. Deeper into Algonquin we went.

Another portage and another beaver dam behind us and we paddled into Little Misty Lake. This is just a long narrow continuation of the river. As we made our way across the lake, a group of three canoes came out from the portage to the north and headed in the same direction as we were headed. Suddenly we had competition possibly for campsites on Misty Lake.

As we made our way across the portage to Misty, I was just looking forward to a nice campsite, hopefully somewhere on the western edge. Once we were on Misty, we realized the group ahead of us had already claimed the island site, so we checked out the first site just around the bend to the north.

It looked great. It had a beautiful little beach to land the canoes and plenty of open space at the actual site. We set up camp, went for a quick swim to freshen up, and started preparing supper. The group on the island were pretty noisy, and yet I took the attitude of “at least they are enjoying themselves”.

Then the fun began. We noticed storm clouds rolling in from the west. We put up one tarp but it was quickly ripped down by a strong gust of wind, “Nate, you're going to need a bigger rope.” The rain arrived somewhere around 6 pm. I stood out on the rocks watching the rain fall onto the lake when I heard some splashing to my left. I turned and saw a white tail deer run full speed into the lake and start swimming from north to south across the lake.

Several times that night, I woke to sound of rain pounding down on the tent. Each time as I fell back asleep knowing that the morning must be bringing better weather. But, each time, I also noticed the tent bottom struggling to keep the dampness on the outside. By early morning I could feel the bottom part of my sleeping bag, which was longer than the sleeping pad, getting damp.

Morning arrived, but to my extreme disappointment, the rain was still coming down steady. We all finally pulled ourselves out of our tents and tried to assess the situation. We all had partially wet sleeping bags, Tim and Eric's tent had the additional problem of actual puddles of water in two corners of the tent. Even after looking at the options before putting the tents up, we still had problems, due to the amount of rain, with the one tent. Luckily Saturday was scheduled as an off day for traveling. We were going to spend two nights at this site and just relax and enjoy the day

Fishing, exploring other sections of the lake and just enjoying Algonquin were part of the day's plans. This slowly changed to a test of endurance against the rain that would not go away. We tried some fishing, exploring, gathering firewood, playing cards, but I was struggling to keep a positive attitude. I simply crawled back in the tent, wrapped my sleeping bag around me and waited , and waited, and waited but it just kept raining. At one point in the afternoon, Eric raised both fists and looked skyward, and yelled “Is this all you got??” I'm not sure he noticed right away, but the rest of us took a couple of steps back, just as a precaution. As the afternoon rolled along, we had one positive thought to keep us going. With ALL this rain, surely the return trip would be a breeze with all the additional water to raise the level of the river.

Finally, some 24 hours after it started, the rain stopped. Too good to be true? We were cautious about celebrating too much. But then we saw it. A rainbow with one end landing on the southern edge of Misty Lake. There it was, the end of the rainbow and it was lighting up some trees on the shore of the lake right across from us. From that moment on, the weather did nothing but improve.

Sunday, our last day in the park, was going to be a long one. We had to paddle and portage back to access #3, load up the car, travel the access road back to Kearney and get the gear back to Huntsville by 4 pm. Could we do it? Probably not, but we were going to try.

We broke camp early and headed back to the portage into Little Misty. This first portage was also the longest of the day at 935 meters. The portages were muddy and slippery but we made it through quickly. The weather was perfect and even though we were focused on our progress, we were still able to enjoy a beautiful day in the park.

On the way down Little Misty, we were traveling close to the south shore when we came across a pair of beavers. No matter how much we tried to annoy them, they would not do a tail slap for us. We continued on, glad to see them, but disappointed in their attitude. So we were able to lift and carry over the first beaver dam and made progress to the 458 meter portage halfway up the river.

The water levels were obviously much higher where it emptied into the river from the series of falls that the portage went around. Again, careful with the footing and we were off again. The next dam was where we had to get out and walk the canoes down the middle of the river, but today we paddled right up to the dam and lifted the canoe over and continued back to Daisy Lake.

We began to think we had a chance to reach Huntsville by 4. We had no way to know for sure so we just kept going, knowing we needed to reach the car by 2:30. One more 135 meter portage and we were back at Daisy Lake. When you are paddling against an unknown time frame, it felt like Daisy would not show us her western end. Finally we were at the 420 meter portage out of Daisy. Once we finish this one, we had 2 short portages and 3 quick paddles through Hambone and Magnetawan Lakes.

Believe it or not, when we checked the time at the car, it was 2:32. There was still hope of reaching Huntsville by 4. We were trying to avoid an additional day's rental on the gear. We packed as quickly as possible, said good-bye to the park and headed out. We arrived in Huntsville at 3:55 to the entire town being victim of a power outage. No add'l charges were necessary.

In one of the greatest decisions ever made, we had arranged to stay in a cabin at Blue Spruce Resort the night after the trip. We checked in and were soon enjoying hot showers (versus cold rain) clean and dry clothes and very comfortable beds. We also rewarded ourselves with wings, beer and NFL football at one of the great nearby restaurants.

Monday morning arrived with an early morning trip through the park on Highway 60 .. for another chance to see our first moose. So into we park we traveled with high hopes. Once again, we were denied. But, as we were all looking everywhere for a moose, at Km 23 we spotted something waddling across the road ahead of us. I think we all yelled “bear” at the same moment. It was our wildlife highlight of the trip!

We back-tracked to the Portage Store on Canoe Lake and stopped to enjoy our final breakfast in the Park. We sat there watching a few canoes heading off on their adventures, while reviewing our own. Another attempt to see a moose and a quick stop at the Visitors Center and then Algonquin Park is soon in our rearview mirror. A final stop to pick out some souvenirs at Algonquin Outfitters at Oxtongue Lake and we then set the GPS for Toledo, Ohio.

Petawawa River before the rain (going in).

Petawawa River after the rain (coming out).

Lunch break at the portage.

Tom and Nate (father and son) at take-out.

- Tom Taylor.