Day 1 – Aug 8, 2006 – It begins again
We started the car trip from Sarnia at 4 a.m. and made good time arriving at the Portage Store at 10 a.m. We had the canoes delivered to the Rock Lake access but had to stop at the store to pick up the paddles. Once we had our paddles we were off to Rock Lake to start this year’s adventure. This year we had 6 in the group. Myself, my two brothers-in-law, my son, my nephew and his friend. We set off to paddle the length of Rock Lake in great clear weather.
We arrived at the portage to Pen Lake (375m) at about noon and discovered that two of the canoes we had rented had the old flat yokes instead of the more comfortable deep yoke. This would cause our necks considerable pain over the longer portage to Welcome Lake. We did the portage with only a couple of us having to return to do it again.
We wanted to get a campsite close to the portage to Welcome, so we paddled south down most of Pen Lake. We wanted the site on the point (east side) that had the nice beach area. But, it was taken. So we ended up just south of it. This was the same site we had camped on years earlier! It doesn’t look like much from the water, but it opens up in back and is actually better that the "point’ site.
Our campsite on Pen Lake.
We set up the tents, hunted up lots of wood and settled in. Dinner was hamburgers and they tasted great! Two of us went over to scout the portage access, as we remembered it was a bit difficult to find. We did find it without much trouble.
The stars were obscured by a full, early rising moon, so we went to bed early.
Day 2 – Aug 9, 2006 - off to Welcome Lake
We had bacon and scrambled eggs for breakfast and got on the water by about 9 a.m. We wanted to make sure we had some energy for the task ahead.
The portage is accessed by entering a swampy area that weaves back and forth. I had to get out once because of our heavy load (or was it me?). Water shoes are in order.
The first section is 325 meters and heads past a waterfall that is fun to stop and explore. However, we waited until the return trip to do that.
The portage ended at another swampy area which can be paddled but requires a few pushes and pulls and one beaver dam pullover. After we completed that section I changed from water shoes to hiking boots.
The next section was 2100 meters on a very well maintained trail. There are canoe rests at approximately 1/3 and 2/3 distances. Because two of our canoes had the "bad" yokes we couldn’t carry both packs and canoes. So we had to do the portage twice (which is really 3 times).
Two of our group took their canoe out to find a campsite, while the rest of us completed the portage. All in all we spent about 3 hours completing this part of the trip.
The site we chose (as on our previous trip to Welcome) was just north of the portage. It has 100 meters of sand beaches in both directions from the main tent area and also a nice rock "porch".
The beach has no rocks in it and you can easily walk 25 meters out into the lake. The tent area and fire-pit are just up a small hill on a nice grassy area. This would be our home for the next three days. We broke out the food pack and had some grilled hotdogs on tortillas .. a hard earned lunch, for sure.
The beach at Welcome Lake.
We used a tall grill and a piece of plywood that we found to fashion a "poker table" and we had a nice game of Texas-Hold-Em. What a location for a poker game! As far as we could see we were alone on the lake.
The campsite at Welcome Lake.
Dinner was penne and sausage. Desert was a new discovery that will be on all subsequent trips .. toaster strudel! It packs perfectly in a zip lock, and survived the portages nicely. We carry a compact metal grill that locks the food between two layers and makes it easy to toast or grill anything. We only wished we had brought enough strudel for every night! We did have enough for two nights.
We had another game of poker after dinner, tied up the food, star-gazed briefly because of the moon and enjoyed some Black Russians by the fire. It was soon time to hit the hay.
Day 3 – Aug. 10, 2006 - Welcome Lake
The day started with some drizzle, so we put up the tarp. But it was sunny again by noon. We spent the day exploring our new world. We could easily take a 5 minute walk and still be on our campsite!
Our camp from the far end of the beach.
We also paddled to some of the other sites on the lake, just to confirm that we had the PRIMO one! (We did). Some of us tried some fishing with no success for the entire trip. This was definitely a day to just soak up the Algonquin experience! Dinner was pasta and mashed potatoes with beef gravy. Poker, stars, campfire…..you know the story now!
Day 4 – Aug 11, 2006 - Harry, Rence and Moose
One of the younger boys was not feeling well so my son stayed with him while the rest went on a side trip to Harry and Rence Lakes. We had an uneventful, but fun, paddle through Harry Lake to Rence where we had a cold lunch of polish sausage, cheese and tortillas. We got back to Welcome camp at about 2 p.m. and spent the rest of the day swimming and just hanging about. Of course I would always have my 3:30 nap! What a pleasure!
Welcome Lake shoreline.
Dinner was pasta again, this time with scalloped potatoes. After dinner we had a visitor to camp. On the beach to the east of us a moose came down for a drink and to munch on some plants growing near the shore. We spent about half an hour taking pictures and got closer than we thought we would be able to. He was aware of us but basically unconcerned. We finally went to play some cards and he was still there. He laid down on the beach to rest and we thought that he was there for the night. As it got darker we could still see him there, but one time we looked over and he was gone. What a great experience that was!
Moose on the beach!
Twas "scotch" night in camp that night. I’ll say no more about the subject except that scotch defiantly provides that best "punch" per liter!!!!
Day 5 – Aug 12, 2006 - back to Pen
We did the reverse of the portage over with only a stop at the waterfall to rest. We were lucky to get the same site that we had on the first day in. It was a Saturday and Pen Lake was VERY busy! As I said before, this site does not look like much from the water. I think a good rule of thumb when looking for a site is to stop and go take a look, even if first impressions are not that good!
We set up camp in familiar territory and had a fun last evening in the park. After our traditional KD dinner (this year with bacon!) we watched the stars. By now the moon was coming up a couple of hours later so we had great viewing and got to see some of the Leonid meteor shower.
Day 6 – Aug 13, 2006 - Home
We were up at 6 a.m. and had broken camp and were in the canoes at 6:45! Pretty impressive I would say with two 15 year olds in tow! The lake was very misty, which made it hard to recognize directions. Always Always Always have your map available!!! It would have been so easy to get lost and paddle into the wrong bay. We were at the Rock Lake access in two hours exactly.
We left the canoes at the access and took the paddles back to The Portage Store. Here we complained about the yokes that were on two of the canoes. They had us talk to a "Manager" that gave us no satisfaction at all! It’s Algonquin Outfitters for us from now on.
We headed of on the long car trip home and got back to Sarnia at about 4 p.m.
Another successful Algonquin Adventure!