Each year I try to plan quick trips to Algonquin Provincial Park for a few days of hiking or paddling. Algonquin has long been a special place for me and I enjoy repeat visits to its lakes and trails. In recent years a few friends have begun to share the wonderful offerings of the park and this year my friend, the Baron, and I scheduled the Friday before Memorial Day weekend as a vacation day to stretch out our 3-day weekend.
Unlike the preparation for week long summer trips on which many of us have embarked where close coordination of packing is needed, the "quick trip" package consists more of determining when we leave, where we hike or paddle and then purchasing enough food for the duration. Our bags are usually packed and ready for a 3 or 4 day trip.
Both Dick and I are light, if not smart, packers, especially when it comes to food and food preparation. Our typical breakfast meal is instant oatmeal, which affords an easy beginning to the day with limited cleanup requirements and usually gets us on the water early. Lunches are some form of pita bread, peanut butter, honey, granola bars and/or dried fruit.
Suppers usually are one-pot meals, based upon the Lipton Rice and Sauce type pouch meals. To these meals we often add freeze-dried green beans, peas or corn plus beef or chicken. This bulks up the meal without incurring the typical cost of eating a complete freeze-dried meal. When traveling solo, sometimes I repack these meals into zip lock bags and get 2 meals from one pouch. Alternatively, I forego the freeze-dried additions and simply eat the Lipton pouch meal.
The highlight of supper preparation is listening to the constant inquiries from chef Baron who asks such questions as, “Should we add some tomato soup?” or “Should we add some Onion soup?” Translated from the baronial tongue, these questions are truly statements and the Jester is not one to stand in front of such a culinary steamroller. I long ago concluded that the primary reason Dick paddles is to cook with his soup mixes in an attempt to gain entry into the Inventors Hall of Fame.
Having paddled the Tim River area located on the park’s West side and after studying the canoe route map and checking with friends who have the good fortune of living closer to the park, I settled on Access Point 3 as a starting point. Magnetawan Lake provides several interesting choices or options and it was our intent to paddle through Hambone, Butt Lake and Little Trout Lakes, stopping at Queer Lake for our first evening.
The second day was to have been portaging to the Tim River, paddling until the Shah Lake portage, continuing on through Misty Lake and then following the Petawawa River East to White Trout Lake via Grassy Bay.
We would return from White Trout through Grassy Bay, McIntosh Creek, McIntosh Lake, and Timberwolf Lake stopping on Misty Lake for the third night. This, we thought, would put us in good position to paddle out through the Petawawa River, Daisy Lake and back to the access point by mid-day Monday.
Although the Baron wanted to depart Thursday night and drive part way, he had a dinner engagement, which made departure planning difficult. Eventually a motel room was reserved in Burlington which, while not as far North as we desired, got us close enough to Toronto to significantly shorten the Friday A.M. drive.
The drive from Cleveland through Pennsylvania and New York was uneventful. It took some time to cross the Peace Bridge due to lack of open lanes in New York and luck of the customs officers in Ontario. Finally we were through the delays and arrived at the Comfort Inn about 1 AM. Driving the QEW at night is great for making progress and there are fewer large vehicles competing for the lane in which my Civic is motoring. However, getting to sleep after 1 A.M. knowing we were setting our alarm for 5 A.M. has a certain downside.
Upon awakening Friday morning, we dressed in our paddling clothes and arranged our gear so as to facilitate a quick departure once we were at the access point. By 6 AM we were on our way through Toronto and soon standing in line at the King City Service Plaza for breakfast. In fact, we arrived in Huntsville a little before 9 AM and found that the outfitter’s store did not open until 9:30. I forgot to read the hours in the Swift Family’s annual news rag so that gave us time to fill the Honda’s gas tank and “fiddle” with our gear. Our friend and sometime leader, The King believes we fiddle with our gear more than those who use his Duluth Packs. Of course, this observation is true. One cannot begin the fiddling ritual without first having found the gear. Only those using modern equipment such as an internal frame pack have a prayer of discovering any gear within a reasonable time frame.
Friday - Access Point 3:
The Magnetawan Lake access is approximately 35 miles North from Huntsville and on the way we had to stop in the small town of Kearney where the trip permits were purchased. I am glad Dick read the access point information as the last time we paddled in this area the permits were purchased at the ranger station on the Forest Tower Road. I believe Kevin Callan’s book on Algonquin Park refers to the now non-existent permit office. This is another reason to verify that you know your route, including the route to the permits. Things change even in the North.
Photo: Access point area .. the path to the dock on Magnetawan Lake is just behind our Swift Dumoine.
The parking lot closest the dock was full by the time we arrived at Magnetawan Lake although one large trailer-full of canoes was pulling out as we parked the car. A group of 6 folks from Rochester, NY were loading canoes with gear as I carried our Swift-made Kevlar Dumoine down to the dock area. One woman said, “Now that I know one person can carry these things, I’m not doing any more work.”
We noted the National Public Radio logo on one of the shirts and concluded that some of those pubic radio supporters must like the National Geographic radio expeditions a whole lot more than creating an adventure of their own. But I digress and am dangerously close to broad-brush analysis.
We’re Outta Here!
Dick and I quickly loaded our two 12-year old Lowe Alpine Morningstar internal frame packs, Lowe Alpine Walkabout daypack, PFDs and spare paddle. With the ritual shout of, “Take this canoe and shove it!” we groaned off the gravel bottom and pushed off from the dock. It was great to be paddling again after a winter of living on memories and dreaming over topo maps, planning trips, which entice the wilderness traveler.
In a few minutes we had figured out that the first portage was around the point and we got a chance to test our “finely-honed” ritual of carrying the canoe first then our personal packs with the food pack. Of course, the portage was short and we spent more time talking with the group from NY than actually walking. 135 meters is hardly a test of our skills however one canoeist from Rochester had brought along a wheeled dolly, similar to many we have seen in magazine. Approximate distance to Hambone Lake portage: 0.27 Km. All distances based upon NaviTrak's "Wherever" software which measures cumulative distance per day.
Poor fellow, indeed. Not only did the contraption slow down the progress of their canoe over the trail, the others in the party had to wait while this trolley navigated the land route. However, in the Jester’s considered opinion, what had to be the worst of it for this New Yorker was having an audience which included the Baron, whose Swedish engineering orientation prompted encouragement such as, “Oh, oh. You’re not going to like that thing!”
Each portage trail encountered seemed to have a little bit more in the way of obstacles for wheeled devices and we wondered about the suitability of such a gadget for anywhere other than a cottage lawn or similar location. Ah, but we had our own quirks about which more will be written later. Approximate distance to Hambone Lake: 0.46 Km.
Paddling on Hambone Lake. we soon saw the bay off to our South where we would be paddling come Monday morning on our return. Perhaps 15 minutes of paddling found us on the second portage trail, this time carrying our gear to Butt Lake along a short trail marked 295 meters. It was here that we last saw the trailer contraption from New York. Approximate distance to Ralph Bice/Butt Lake portage: 1.66 Km. Approximate distance to Bice/Butt Lake: 2.02 Km.
Butt Lake/Ralph Bice Lake is the longest lake in this stretch of paddling and it was quite nice. It was also good to have a couple short paddles and portages under our belts prior to settling into a paddling rhythm on Butt. My guess is the name of Butt Lake was changed to prevent author Kevin Callan from cracking more anatomical jokes similar those comments he usually makes about Crotch Lake.
As we paddled Northeast up the length of Ralph Bice Lake we passed several campsites potentially making this lake a nice destination spot for a family or party wishing to make a quick trip into the park. This last weekend in May, Dick and I commented on the serenity of many of the lakes through which we traveled and I urge consideration of this area. As you paddle these lakes it us often easy to forget the map is laid out to fit the paper and to orient map to compass you must turn the map a bit counter clockwise. A quick check of the grid lines near Access Point 3 will illustrate my point as Butt Lake is almost at a 45-degree angle to the grid.
Friday - Lunch Stop:
We stopped for a quick lunch break at a campsite located on a West-facing point about 2/3 of the way up Butt Lake just prior to the lake narrowing into an East West arm. It was about 1 PM and the heat had increased throughout the day. We were having the same 85 degree Fahrenheit temperatures, which we had left back in Ohio. Approximate distance to lunch spot: 5.69 Km.
Ever the compulsive gadget ferret, this lunch break provided Jester the opportunity to break out his newly discovered spreader. The pita, honey and peanut butter were arranged and out came the $0.69 plastic putty knife purchased at the local Home Depot store. Although an excellent addition to any wilderness traveler’s ditty bag this claim should be confirmed by contacting the Baron.
From our vantagepoint we could watch for any paddlers who might be heading our way so if need be we could quickly pack our lunch pack and launch the canoe. We had our eyes and heart on the campsite nearest the long portage from Queer Lake into the Tim River. Of course, we had never been through this section of the park and had no way of knowing whether that site was a quality location or if we should head for the nearest campsite once we arrived on Queer Lake.
A portage of 435 meters got us into Little Trout Lake, the second largest lake in this leg of our journey, although Queer Lake and Little Trout Lake look to be similar in surface area. Little Trout has several small islands through which we navigated as we paddled towards the Northeast corner and the short portage. We did not check out the campsites on this portion of our journey but there are 3 marked on the old canoe map. Approximate distance to Little Trout Lake portage: 8.54 Km. Approximate distance to Little Trout Lake: 9.18 Km.
After paddling the length of Little Trout and hiking the last portage of the day we were on Queer Lake which at first glance appears quite small until one looks through the narrow opening which unfolds more lake and more openings to the South. Approximate distance to Queer Lake portage: 10.93 Km. Approximate distance to Queer Lake: 11.22 Km.
Friday - Campsite:
After paddling around to the campsite nearest the portage to the Tim River we found that it was situated where the lake narrowed into a small bay. We set up our tent and within 5 minutes there were a couple of backpacker hammocks hung between small trees. Since the Jester can not tie knots as fast as he can say, “Left over right and right over left” or “The tree, hole and rabbit” he had brought along a couple of spare carribiners which meant a “clip, snap & take a nap”. Approximate distance to campsite: 11.84 Km.
Supper was a rare treat for us. We actually followed the instructions for a Lipton Spanish Rice and Sauce meal. Dick did get some of his vegetables into the pot, under the guise of French cuisine and a quick application of the King’s logic which goes something like this: “Since I brought all this extra stuff, why not use it?” At least the Baron’s extra stuff can be carried in a spice bag.
During preparation we tested the cheap-O putty knife and found that it was up to the scraping test in our hot one pot meal although we were cautious in how long we kept the “plastic” material in contact with the metal pot.
After supper, Dick and I paddled out from our secluded spot around the northern portion of Queer Lake through the narrows to investigate the main portions of this large lake. Looking at the canoe route map Queer Lake reminded me of balloons, which have been twisted into a constricted shape and joined to form some animal. Paddling South into the main portion of the lake presented us with a sunlit campsite either on an island or a point of land and it was quite inviting.
Photo: Post-supper paddle around Queer Lake's middle section. South, or to the right of the Little Trout portage landing, the lake opens up and has this attractive camp site.
In reviewing both the paddling and portages of the day, we had an easy time of it. The wind was a non-factor and the portage trails were short and easy. At least neither Dick nor I can recall a bad spot or major uphill climb. There may have been some muddy spots, but 1999 was dry so we benefited from the lack of rain yet the water levels were quite adequate for late May.
Since our campsite faced West and the morning sun might not awaken us, I set my Timex for 5:30 AM with instructions for the Baron, an early riser, to awaken me if he was indeed up prior to the alarm.
Apparently the short night Thursday, early departure from Burlington Friday AM and the paddling in the heat of the day got to the Baron, as the Jester was first one awake. Both of us were quickly packed after a pseudo-hearty breakfast of instant oatmeal.
A few minutes up the bay we arrived at the beginning of the 1330 meter portage into the Tim River, a river which both of us had paddled in prior trips to the Western edge of Algonquin. We had looked at the topo map but it did not indicate much about the trail, other than one small knob seemed to be about midway down the path. The contour lines did not indicate much in the way of elevation changes but we have learned over the years that if the topo lines represent 50 feet we should expect a 49-foot change in elevation on a good trail. On a bad trail expect a 49-foot change, then a second 49-foot change back to the original altitude in preparation for a third 49-foot change, again just shy of the change which would trigger placing a contour line on the topo. Approximate distance to Tim River portage: 0.46 Km.
Translation of the above paragraph: There can be many hills which don’t show up on topo maps so if it looks marshy and flat on a topo, count your blessings when it actually is marshy and flat. Sing praises to the highest heavens when it is flat AND dry or the log walkways actually help rather than intrude on your progress!
The last several hundred meters of the trail follow along the edge of the Tim, which affords several views of the river. Our trail from Queer Lake joins a trail, which bypasses a rocky section of the Tim so you may encounter the rare paddlers who are traveling downstream on the river. Approximate distance to Time River: 1.92 Km although the topo on which Navitrak is based is incorrect and does not show the Tim River portages joining near the river.
Tim River to Misty Lake:
Once at the Tim we were quickly on our way and fell into the slow, almost methodical, turning through the switchbacks of the meandering Tim. We also spent time checking the obstacles that lay across the waterway. We expected a river marked by quietness and beauty and we were not disappointed. On occasion we encountered beaver dams, fallen tress and other conditions which prompted discussions about which way to paddle but only one time did we have to actually step out of the canoe to bypass a fallen tree. We treated it as if it were a beaver dam and Dick stepped out from the bow while I crawled up and out until we could slip the canoe forward, up and over, then back into the water.
The Tim both in this area and farther upstream when Access Point 2 is used is a great river to practice your teamwork or, for some, your wisecracks. The width of the river is anywhere from 15 feet to 25 feet wide with many turns where you can come to a standstill as you maneuver the canoe left, right and watch for logs or other objects in the channel. The bow person is constantly using draws, crossdraws, pries and perhaps other strokes as well while the stern seat occupant is often doing the reverse of the bow person's strokes or coordinating the use of rudder-like paddle action.
One thing for sure, we really had a hard time judging where the heck we were on river stretches such as this. We were looking for the portage to Shah Lake although the meandering nature of the Tim prevented us from knowing either the distance to the portage or the distance we had paddled. Based upon the topo map, we began counting the streams entering the Tim from left and right and after a few hours (who can remember?) Dick commented that we should really start looking for the portage signs.
Before the words faded into the quietness of the Algonquin forest Baron turned to look over his right shoulder and there facing him was the yellow and black park portage sign, indicating that up the bank was our Shah Lake portage of 1125 meters. Simultaneously we experienced elation and sadness as this meant we knew where we were, we had completed another portion of our water travel but another long walk through the woods was about to begin. Approximate distance to Shah Lake portage: 7.65 Km.
After hauling the canoe and packs up the embankment, we did a quick bug check, reapplying the Muskol bug spray and enjoyed another 5-minute water break. We then headed off down the trail, one of us carrying the canoe and the other beginning the trek with a personal pack and paddles. We continued on like this for 5 minutes or so, then dropped our loads to return for the second personal pack and the daypack being used for our food and some kitchen items.
Whoever carried the day back was next in line to take over the canoe, which meant the shoulders got a respite from the heavier packs right before we shouldered the canoe. Most of the portages were not difficult although the Shah Lake portage was uphill in several places and carrying the Dumoine Kevlar canoe, with its backward installed yoke was a bit tricky. We have had worse loads to balance but walking about 5 minutes and rotating loads or returning for the waiting items enabled us to enjoy the walking part of our canoe journey a bit more.
Although not as long as some we have walked, this portage seemed to wear us out as we drew closer to Shah Lake. During the last portion of the trail I was thinking that we’d be foolish to attempt to push on in the heat all the way to Grassy Bay and I silently mulled over the options. Approximate distance to Shah Lake: 8.94 Km.
Photo: Endangered species found at Shah Lake.
Arriving at Shah Lake, Dick and I decided to paddle partway across the lake to a point on a line with the portage out of Shah. From a distance this site appeared to be more sheltered and in the mid-day heat, we were looking for a cool rest spot. As I headed for the canoe I mis-stepped and began to fall while wearing the backpack. In the next second I saw water rushing toward me but also caught a glimpse of spongy moss and tried to twist as I fell to avoid the water near the canoe.
It was a fortunate Jester who completely missed the water and found himself lying awkwardly with feet aimed one at the sky and one at the shoreline where Baron sat holding the canoe steady. Try as I might, I could not regain my footing and lay on the ground like an upside down turtle.
Once on water, we made good time paddling towards the campsite on the Eastern shore of Shah and found it to be a nice lunch spot and, had we been looking for a stopping place for the evening, probably a good tent site. The permit office clerk had mentioned that Shah Lake was where a group had seen a large number of moose during their stay. Approximate distance to lunch spot: 9.21 Km.
Photo: Chef Baron busy in the kitchen.
We ate our pita, honey and peanut butter lunch, drank more water and searched for those wonderfully inviting shoreline rocks on which to lay. I found a nice depression in the campsite area and since it was in the shade, I simply sprawled out. As the earth rotated the shade away from us, we adjusted our nap positions as well. At 1:30 or so we launched the canoe and made for the southeastern corner of Shah and our next portage. Approximate distance to Pandion Pond portage: 9.62 Km. Approximate distance to Pandion Pond: 9.89 Km.
We hiked the portage trail to Pandion Pond (335 meters) and after another quick paddle we were hiking towards Misty Lake, the destination for our second night. By now I had mentioned to Baron that I was thinking we should stop on Misty Lake rather than traveling on through the Petawawa down to Grassy Bay and the campsites in White Trout Lake. I don't remember if it was before or after we hiked the 704 meters from Pandion to Misty Lake but after a short discussion we once again had a unanimous decision. The heat and the early morning portages had prompted our route change and staying over on Misty was a good choice. Approximate distance to Misty Lake portage: 10.69 Km. Approximate distance to Misty Lake: 11.30 Km.
We paddled out into Misty and soon were studying the large number of waterfowl sitting in the bay nearest to our point of entry. It was as if we were visiting a bird sanctuary and was another reminder of the Algonquin diversity. As we rounded the point and steered West towards the campsites that lay before us we saw a number of canoes, indicating this lake’s popularity. Since it was now late in the afternoon we began an earnest hunt for a vacant spot for the night.
We entered Misty from the North and paddled Southwest, almost parallel to the first day's route. By this time Misty was breezy and there were small whitecaps developing so we made for the first open campsite available. It took 15 to 30 minutes of paddling into the breeze as several campsites in one of the narrows were occupied and several canoes either moving along the shoreline or pulled up at campsites.
The first site available was along the left-hand, or Southern, shore just past the narrows. Although the “bird in the hand” approach is good advice when picking a tent site, once we walked around and checked out the area, Dick and I both thought we could do better, especially noting that the morning sun would miss our location. Additionally, the first vacant site was well shaded and potentially a buggy spot.
The Baron gave the signal and we pushed off into the waves and paddled towards the island in the middle of Misty, hoping that one of the sites located there would be vacant. As we paddled nearer to the island shore, we thought we saw an empty site although there seemed to be movement along the shoreline. Slowly approaching this location we realized that a moose was munching the Algonquin salad bar and the campsite was, indeed, unoccupied. Approximate distance to island campsite: 13.88 Km.
Photo: Misty Lake looking east from the island campsite.
This site, facing east down the length of Misty, was a far better choice than the mainland shady location from which we had just come. There was a good rocky shoreline upon which we could sprawl out or sit in our ThermaRest chairs.
Much to my frustration I simply can’t recall whether there were hammock trees. Hammocks have been an important part of every trip with the Baron since our 1992 backpacking trip to Isle Royale.
You must ask Dick to share the story of how he transformed one woman’s disappointment at having to leave a group tour on that beautiful island National Park and turned it into the highlight of her vacation.
The evening on Misty was quite relaxing as we watched the late afternoon change from windy to calm and saw the moon rise over the waters. During this time we proceeded with our typical one pot meal, fiddled with gear and traded stories from previous trips. We possibly solved half the world’s political and economic woes as well, but usually I leave all that important “stuff” to the King, Czar, Baron and the others.
Photo: Misty Lake looking east-southeast just before the bugs swarmed around the campsite.
I had chosen to not pack a book to read so I kept looking at the canoe routes map to see what the Petawawa River route back towards Magnetawan Lake would bring.
Sunday - Petawawa River:
Early morning found us ready for another adventure as neither one of us had ever paddled the Petawawa River, although we have studied the guide which details the lower Petawawa white water route. Even though we were miles away from such adventure, just repeating the name Petawawa seemed to make us eager to paddle upstream this day.
We chose to paddle counter-clockwise around our island home in order to check out the other campsite, which we felt might be a good one based upon Kevin Callan’s book on Algonquin paddling. As we approached the Northwest end of the island we noted that quite a number of canoes were pulled up and signs of activity were obvious. Perhaps this was a camp or school group and it was good we were paddling early in order to avoid potential crowded paths and portage landings.
Photo: Approaching the west end of Misty Lake and the first of 3 portages along the Petawawa River.
Soon Dick and I were seeking signs of the portage into Little Misty Lake at the far Western end of Misty. Although not one of the park’s longer trails, at 935 meters we were curious as to how we would handle this first trail of the day after some long carries during the heat of the previous day. We actually found ourselves doing fine and enjoying the river walks alongside the Petawawa. Approximate distance to Petawawa River portage: 2.40 Km. Approximate distance to Petawawa River: 3.23 Km.
This section of the trip was enjoyable as we portaged close to the water more often than not and had few major hills to climb. I don’t remember feeling as beat as the previous day although I am certain I took advantage of my habit of carrying two water bottles rather than one.
It soon became apparent that we’d have company during the day. After setting our canoe down off to one side at the end of the first portage and while grabbing my small pack towels, I saw a couple guys arrive with a canoe. It turned out that they were from Springmont High School, near Owen Sound.
Photo: Petawawa River portage.
Now, no matter how old one is, or how tired one might be, the presence of another party always stimulates the desire to look like you know what you are doing. I always warn Baron that in front of others he should allow me to help him with the canoe. Dick shouldering a canoe is not one of the most graceful of acts. While others can mount the canoe in approximately one fluid motion, Baron has developed what is now known among the King’s faithful as the “reverse herk”, since he usually puts the yoke in front of his head the first time. Needless to say, the only fluid motion associated with Dick and portage trails is the regular mopping off the sweat from his brow. Approximate distance to second portage: 6.65 Km. Approximate distance to Petawawa River: 7.15 Km.
At one of the portage trails we stopped to watch a cow and calf lazily eat their way across one of Algonquin's salad bars. The moose stood around for perhaps 10 minutes while Dick and I took photos from the downstream portage landing. The portion of the Springmont group which was still behind us slowed their canoes and watched from the water. Eventually the humans and moose parted company and the portaging was completed. Approximate distance to third portage: 9.17 Km. Approximate distance to Petawawa River: 9.43 Km.
Photo: Springmont High School group and resident moose.
Our ability to pretend to be skilled while actually demonstrating our lack of skills has been honed to perfection and we enjoyed sharing trail moments and stories with this group. They were good crews and we eventually stopped for lunch on Daisy Lake near one another. The two young men who paddled far out in front chose a nice point for their group’s layover and swim while we went to the next site on the opposite shore and, once the dead snake was tossed into the shade, our site afforded both of us a nice respite from the heat. Approximate distance to Daisy Lake lunch spot: 10.86 Km.
We paddled for about a half an hour after lunch with the leaders of the group and it turned out that one of them knew Hap Wilson. Trading stories of Temagami and other places to which we had visited was fun and the additional banter between canoeists that had never been introduced provided some distraction from the afternoon heat.
Sunday - Daisy Lake:
Choosing to stay on Daisy for the last night of our trip we searched for a site nearby the northern outlet from Daisy into Hambone. Although no sites were in the northern neck of Daisy, we found a nice site on the southeastern shore, which would enable us to paddle almost straight North in the morning. Approximate distance to campsite: 13.55 Km.
To be honest, the next series of events proves how ill prepared we are for the North. After pulling over to check out the campsite and discussing the site’s merits, I failed to note that Baron had tossed his gear onto the shore. Then as I proceeded to reach into the canoe for my gear, Dick said, “There is the spot for us to unload!”, pointing to a log dock 15 feet away around a small pine jutting out from the land. As I changed modes from unloading to boarding I slipped, fell across the canoe and landed on my Lowe Alpine Morningstar pack.
Crack! Hey, what the? Finding myself horizontal with one leg wet, wondering what had broken and finding myself unable to move, the next moments were a blur. I felt helpless as I watched the canoe begin to fill with water. Within 15 seconds, I was standing in the lake, reaching for my gear, which by this time, was floating in the canoe. I began to toss items onto the shore and search the water for small items such as our map case, which had been loose in the canoe. Once we had emptied the canoe of gear, Dick and I, by this time both standing in the water, were able to roll the canoe and lift one end and drain the lake back into the lake.
An outdoor enthusiast is always stung by failure and this fox paux proved once again that accidents, errors and imperfection are never far away while we enjoy the outdoors. Although to any onlookers we must have appeared to be descendants of the keystone cops and no damage was done, how often have we slipped on the trail and felt a little ankle twinge? Have you ever slipped while slowly inching down the steep embankment towards the water while carrying the canoe? Ever put your back out while traveling solo? Ever spill white gas on your hand and then have it flare off in a burst of brightness?
Dick and I thought about the good fortune we have enjoyed on almost all of our trips through Algonquin, Temagami or near Chapleau. We’ve had storms, rain, wind, slips, falls and cuts but nothing that has caused serious injury or forced a change of our plans. In fact, much of what we have encountered has been good for our souls and egos. As often as not, one of us will have just finished waxing eloquently on some wilderness topic and then proceed to become the exception which proves the rule. May it ever be so.
Monday-The End Is Near:
Arising Monday A.M. for an oatmeal breakfast, we found the weather once again to be clear and favorable. We loaded the canoe and pushed off for the last few hours of paddling, soon leaving Daisy Lake behind as we walked the 420-meter portage to the unnamed lake between Daisy and Hambone Lakes. Almost as soon as we had settled into a paddling rhythm we were across this small lake and beginning the short portage of 55 meters into Hambone. Approximate distance to Hambone Creek portage: 1.03 Km. Approximate distance to Hambone Creek: 1.62 Km. Approximate distance to Hambone Lake portage: 2.16 Km. Approximate distance to Hambone Lake: 2.26 Km.
Once on Hambone we began looking for the bay, which would lead to our last portage trail. A glance at the canoe route map provided us with that paddler’s shorthand route description. “Enter Hambone Lake and hang a left!” Of course, often “hanging a left” is easier imagined than performed and we paddled a bit longer on Hambone than we were expecting because the bay with the portage was not the “first” bay. I find myself looking for any deviation from a straight shoreline and thinking that “Maybe that is where the portage is located.”
Soon we were making that last walk from lake to lake and grateful for those 135 meter portages. Of course, we both wondered out loud as to how the canoe cart was working out for the folks who drove to Algonquin from Rochester, N.Y. We were pleased with our method of carrying everything in shifts. No matter how successful we declare our trips, we always think “Next trip, we’ll take less and carry packs and canoe simultaneously.” Approximate distance to Magnetawan Lake portage: 3.72 Km. Approximate distance to Magnetawan Lake: 3.90 Km. Approximate distance to Magnetawan Lake Access point: 4.23 Km. Total trip distance: 43.5 Km.
Upon reaching the parking area we loaded the gear into our car and then tied down the canoe and began the slow return to asphalt and society. After returning our rental canoe and eating at the nearby Navigation Company restaurant on the Huntsville waterfront, we pointed the car south and began our last leg of the trip. Of course, the 8 ½ hours of driving affords plenty of time to plan, dream and be thankful for the many gifts which Algonquin offers those who take the time to visit.
By the time we had paddled across Magnetawan Lake and reached the access point we were thinking about a return visit. Some of our friends have not paddled in Algonquin with us and those who have joined up with us have not seen some of the areas to which we have paddled and hiked, prompting us to continue planning short trips to places where access affords entry to some of the nicest lakes and rivers.
If we were to paddle the route again, we’d probably head South out of Hambone Lake and follow the route through Daisy Lake and the Petawawa River rather than looping through the Tim River. Either route would be enjoyable, but in the hot weather and early in the season we did succumb to the portages into and out of the Tim River. Of course, studying the maps between trips and planning alternative routes is one of the greatest aspects of canoeing.