Thursday, November 2, 2017

Algonquin Provincial Park: Hogan Lake Loop from Canoe Lake. September 11th - September 19th, 2017

Algonquin Park with a canoe.  Besides hockey, is there a more fitting Canadian icon?  Photo by Marianne Balkwill

After a very busy summer it was finally time to go on our annual canoe trip!  Back in April we booked our lakes with Ontario Parks. The route, now modified into an 8 1/2 day trip instead of 2 weeks, going as far north to Hogan Lake instead of the initially planned Cedar Lake. Our access point stayed the same, the often busy Canoe Lake launch off highway 60.


As with most of our canoe trips, we first drove up to spent a couple of days at the cottage before heading to the backcountry.  We left on Friday making it as far as Kitchener/Waterloo as the turbo on our car, a 2005 Subaru Outback began to fail.  We stayed overnight in a motel and slowly limped the car home early the next morning. Lucky for us, Marianne's Dad suggested we use his truck, and after a couple of hours of figuring out how to tightly secure the canoe on top of the cap, we were off again.

Marianne's Dad's truck looks quite stylin' with a canoe! Photo by Marianne Balkwill

The canoe trip itself was great, and though it was mid September, a heat wave made it one of the hottest trips we have ever had.  The heat brought out the biting insects which seemed to grow in abundance daily, and the region had quite a bit of rain this summer making it, without a doubt, the muddiest trip we have ever portaged. Still wouldn't trade it in for a sit on your butt tropical vacation at a resort!

Route

Total Days: 8 1/2
Total Kilometres: Approximately 140 Kilometres
Total Portage Length: 21.690 Kilometres
Longest Portage: 3.75 Kilometres
Average Daytime High: 24.25 Celsius
Average Nighttime Low: 13.67 Celsius
Route: Canoe Lake, Joe Lake, Little Joe Lake, Baby Joe Lake, Burnt Island Lake, Little Otterslide Lake, Otterslide Lake, "Mike's Lake", Shiner Lake, Happy Isle Lake, Hailstorm Bay, North Arm of Lake Opeongo, Proulx Lake, Crow River, Little Crow Lake, Big Crow Lake, Hogan Lake, Little Madawaska River, Lake La Muir, Big Trout Lake, White Trout Lake, Petawawa River, Misty Lake, Timberwolf Lake, McIntosh Lake, Straight Shore Lake, Rosswood Lake, Brule Lake, Potter Lake, Potter Creek, Canoe Lake

Day #1 Canoe Lake Launch to Burnt Island Lake

Weather: Sunny skies. High: 22 C  Low: 15 C

We began our morning looking forward to one last hot shower at the cottage.  Unfortunately, we were denied this luxury as the water pump, which is quite ancient, decided it was finally time to end its life. Looks like we have a project as soon as we get back from the bush.

We arrived at the Canoe Lake launch in Algonquin Provincial Park, picked up our permit, and launched from Canoe Lake by 10:45 am.  For one of the busiest launches in the park it wasn't that crowded and there was only one other group ahead of us in line to get their permit.  This will change as temperatures were forecasted to go up and the fall colours were just starting.

There isn't a cloud in the sky today and we were quite happy that the winds were calm today.

Canoe Lake Launch. Aaron and the canoe are on the far right.  Photo by Marianne Balkwill

As we paddled across Canoe Lake we met a fleet of canoes returning to the launch. It seems like 11:00 am is rush hour on this particular lake for returning paddlers. We stopped onshore at the Tom Thomson Cairn and totem on the peninsula near the lake's north end.  100 years ago this year, the famous Canadian painter drowned on Canoe Lake with many conspiracy theories on whether he was murdered, or the experienced canoeist had a tragic accident.

Tom Thomson cairn and totem on Canoe Lake.  Photo by Marianne Balkwill

Our first portage was an easy 290m around a dam into Joe Lake. It was now time to truly test our new Osprey packs on their first trip.  With the heavy weight, Marianne's sagged too far down her rear end. It would take 2 days of adjusting straps to resolve this issue and fit properly on her shoulders, back, and hips without any pain.  Aaron though had a bigger issue with his new backpack.  The internal frame on his pack extended higher than his old pack, which prevented him from resting the yoke of the canoe on his shoulders so portaging the canoe with the pack on was not going to happen.  We now realized we had to double over every single portage for the whole trip, and we have some lengthy portages coming up in the next few days!

Due to high water this year we didn't have to worry about our packs for the next portage, and we paddled right past the 120m from Little Joe to Lost Joe Lake. This was the same spot two years ago where we saw a couple of ladies try to paddle upstream...and...up rocks...

Issues with our new packs continued during the 430m into Baby Joe Lake when Aaron tried to adjust the chest strap on Marianne's pack, only to break the plastic clip.  Now don't get us wrong, Osprey backpacks are excellent! Prior to the trip we should have packed them with a lot of weight and walked around on both level ground and uphill and adjust the straps before heading out.  As for not being able to single over the portages with a canoe and with the pack, that is an issue we are going to have to resolve when we get home.

One last portage for the day was the 190m portage into Burnt Island Lake, and we actually had the wind at our backs when we entered the lake! On our last trip back in 2015 40kph head winds on this lake caused us to be windbound for 3 days! http://backcountrybalkwills.blogspot.ca/2015/11/algonquin-provincial-park-attempted-big.html

We arrived at our site near the eastern end of the lake around 3:15pm. It is a nice small campsite with a great seating area, okay firepit, and a flat spot for the tent. The only downside was the used toilet paper on the ground, not in the thunderbox where it belonged.  After sunset, we had a fire and listened to the wailing loons.  We also had a visitor at our fire pit, a Woodland Jumping Mouse which was a life mammal for both of us!

Burnt Island Lake Campsite.  Photo by Marianne Balkwill

Wildlife Sightings:
Common Loon
Wood Duck
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Herring Gull
People
Black-capped Chickadee
Blue Jay
Hairy Woodpcker
Belted Kingfisher
Red Squirrel
Mosquitoes
Woodland Jumping Mouse

Remember to: Portage and adjust brand new packs BEFORE going on a backcountry canoe trip.


Day #2 Burnt Island Lake to Happy Isle Lake

Weather: Sunny skies. High: 24 C  Low: 10 C



A nice sunny and cool morning greeted us.  After a big bowl of oatmeal, and another quick fire, we were on the water by 9am.  While paddling the canoe towards the portage that leads to Little Otterslide Lake, we noticed a solo paddler that we remembered from yesterday in a white kayak, since it was the only person we saw in one. We would see him throughout the day as we were both heading towards Happy Isle Lake. We are often surprised when we see a person backcountry camping in a kayak, as it seems so much of a hassle. You have to stash your stuff in various compartments in your boat, and at every portage you have to gather it all and place it in one pack before heading down the portage.  What is nice about a canoe is that you just toss your pack in and out of your boat and you are on your way.

As for portages, we had four today.  The first, a 780m from Burnt Island to Little Otterslide was muddy, the second from Otterslide to "Mike's Lake" at 540m was also muddy.  It was at the end of this particular portage we decided to sit down, have a quick lunch of a store bought prepackaged meal, and have a quick chit chat with the man in the white kayak. After a short paddle we reached the 1855m portage to Shiner Lake.  This portage was kind of brutal as it was our first real lengthy portage for the trip, plus there was both muddy and angle destroying rocky sections. As you can guess by now, the muddy trend wasn't going away any time soon. Besides dodging rocks and mud holes on portages, we also had to avoid stepping on hundreds of little toads on this, and many other portages on the trip. Luckily the last portage was a fairly easily 930m into Happy Isle Lake, where we wished the man in the white kayak a happy rest of his trip.

Unamed Lake/Pond, though on some maps it is labelled as "Mike's Lake". Photo by Marianne Balkwill

Happy Isle Lake is a pretty nice lake. We see people at the island campsite, which is the only island on the whole lake.  We decided on the peninsula site on the north shore and arrived around 5pm.  It was a nice site with the flat spot for the tent and the firepit out of the wind at a lower section of the site right next to the lake.  We both planned to take a bath in the lake to take the stink off  but the water was ridiculously cold! We are talking about the kind of cold that actually hurts! After setting up the tent, it was time to chill and take in the peaceful afternoon at our site.  We saw a couple trying to fish near the island campsite, while a pair of loons drifted by.  As the breeze calmed down this evening we made a small smoky fire to ward off the bugs.

We had a pretty good day today for our first full day in the park with our usual mix of paddling and portaging as we continue to paddle deeper into the heart of Algonquin.

Happy Isle Lake campsite.  Photo by Marianne Balkwill

Wildlife Sightings
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Blue Jay
Red Squirrel
American Toad
Black-throated Blue Warbler
People
White-throated Sparrow
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Garter Snake
Hairy Woodpecker
Mosquito
Herring Gull
Double-crested Cormorant
Yellow-rumped Warbler

Remember to: Drink more water. We definitely didn't drink enough water today as it continues to get warmer.


Day# 3  Happy Isle Lake to Big Crow Lake

Weather:  Sunny skies.  High: 25 C Low: 12 C


After a hearty breakfast of honey granola with powdered milk and dehydrated apples, we left our site on Happy Isle Lake at 8:30am in the midst of warm sunny skies.  We paddled past the Delamater Memorial plaque that is on a rock on the south side of the island.  It is a memorial to a father and son that lost their life during a "hurricane" that went through the area back in August 1931. I wanted to dig a little deeper into the hurricane that supposedly went through Ontario that day, but it appears that there was never a hurricane that month, let alone that year, that tracked through Ontario. Doing a little research, it was a squall that swept over this lake (known then as Green Lake then) and others in Algonquin. "Happy Isle" was actually the name the father and son gave to the island campsite on the lake which was their favourite spot to camp. After their death, the island was officially called Happy Isle, and later, Green Lake changed name to follow suit.

Memorial Plaque on Happy Isle Lake.  Photo by Marianne Balkwill

Our first portage was the longest for the day, a 2150 m from Happy Isle Lake to the Hailstorm Bay section of Lake Opeongo.  Though long, it was relatively flat with only a few muddy sections where we saw moose and deer tracks in the mud.  Along this portage we saw a Ruffed Grouse and....the smell of cows?  No really, there was a section along this portage that smelled identical to a cow farm which we smelled all three times we hiked by that section on the portage. The tricky part along this portage was where a beaver dam caused part of the wooden boardwalk section to float, and even sink a bit when you stepped on it, making the portage more exciting/frustrating.
 
The floating boardwalk between Happy Isle and Hailstorm Bay in Lake Opeongo.  The wet section is where the boardwalk likes to sink... Photo by Marianne Balkwill

After we dropped off our packs at the end and made our way back for the canoe, we encountered another group of six guys that were spending their last night in Algonquin on Lake Opeongo before being picked up.  Most of the group put in at Hailstorm Bay (which had a dock!) when we arrived with our canoe, and we decided to wait and have lunch until the other two gentleman cleared their canoe from the launch.  It was during this moment that Aaron noticed that we had only 1 paddle next to our packs. We looked around and turned to ask the two remaining guys from the group how many paddles they have.  Turned out they had 3, but they all had the "Algonquin Outfiiters" logo marked on them and were rather short. Someone from their group that already left into Hailstorm Bay dropped their packs and paddles right beside ours (which you really shouldn't do) and accidently grabbed one of our paddles instead of theirs (and almost loaded one of our packs since it had been moved 6 feet to the left!).  Luckily the group didn't go far and we shortly exchanged paddles. 

Paddling into the North Arm of Lake Opeongo we got a sense of how huge this lake actually is!  As noon approached the temperature rose, and with very little breeze we were beginning to sweat. There were a few motorboats on the water enjoying the late summer heat.  We were quite glad to get out of the canoe and onto our next portage, a 1,290m into Proulx Lake to get into the shade.  Except at the Lake Opeongo end, the portage was relatively flat which was nice, however the entire portage was somewhat infested with mosquitoes and we got bit repeatedly on the arms and the back of the neck!

After a quick paddle to the north end of Proulx Lake we entered the Crow River which was easy going along with the current, and we were met with a totally new landscape that included open marsh lined with tamaracks.  We kept an eye out for Moose, but the only wildlife we saw were Wood Ducks and a Great Blue Heron. It was around this time we heard what sounded like a fighter jet going over.  We looked around and couldn't see anything though. Kinda makes you pause for a little bit and think about what might be going on in our big crazy world while being off the grid.

After winding along the river and snapping some photos we eventually exited the river and after a brief paddle through Little Crow Lake, we entered our last lake for the day, Big Crow Lake.

View from the canoe along the Crow River.  Photo by Marianne Balkwill

We picked a site across the old fire tower.  This is the only fire tower remaining in the entire park, though the wooden structure up top was struck by lightning, burning away completely back in 2011.  As soon as we got to our site we wanted to get our sweaty butts into the lake to cool off. Big Crow Lake wasn't nearly as cold as Happy Isle Lake, and we felt a lot more refreshed after drying off.  Later we jumped back into the canoe and pumped water while taking in the calm of the evening. Tonight's site was fairly large, with a few widow makers around, and a small spot to swim. As evening approaches the mosquitoes and no-se-ums (biting midges) began to show up, so we retreated to the tent early tonight. 
The last standing fire tower in Algonquin Park on Big Crow Lake.  Photo by Marianne Balkwill


Tomorrow we tackle the longest portage of our trip, a 3750m portage from Big Crow Lake to Hogan Lake. Earlier today we ran into a couple of guys that tackled this same portage this morning and they said it was incredibly buggy....We plan to tackle it as soon as possible tomorrow morning.

View from our Big Crow Lake campsite.  The fire tower, though you can't see it, is on the top of the large hill towards the left side of the photo.  Photo by Marianne Balkwill

Wildlife Sightings
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Eastern Chipmunk
Common Raven
Blue-headed Vireo
Ruffed Grouse
Wood Duck
Common Loon
Moose and Deer Tracks
People
Mosquitoes
No-see-ums
Ruffed Grouse
Double crested Cormorant
Herring Gull
Turkey Vulture
Garter Snake
Merlin
American Toad
Golden-crowned Kjnglet
Belted Kingfisher

Remember to: Always be nice to fellow paddlers.....in case they steal your stuff and you have to ask for it back!


Day #4  Big Crow Lake to Hogan Lake

Weather: Fog in the morning with sunny skies for the rest of the day.  High: 26 C Low: 10 C

We got up before sunrise, had some tea and Kind Bars, and were on the water just after 8am.  Our goal was to take on the 3750m portage from Big Crow Lake to Hogan Lake while the weather was still realtively cool, and the mosquitoes hopefully not that active yet.
The paddle towards the portage was nice and cool with fog on the lake. When we got to the portage we see that the sign states both the 3750m portage and the 5570m cart trail.

3750 metre portage versus the 5570 metre cart trail...we'll take the portage. Photo by Marianne Balkwill

With the cool morning air still lingering, Aaron decided to portage the canoe first before the mosquitoes got active, as it is easier to swat mosquitoes with a pack on instead of a canoe over his head.  The first section of the portage, being the cart trail, was nice and flat.  About a third of the way, the real portage began while the cart trail continued off to our right.  The easy going of the flat cart trail was now over and it was back to the usual hilly sections, flat sections, and muddy sections that make portages fun!  About halfway we came to a gravel road, which we are guessing is a logging road.  Eventually we crossed over the cart trail again and after a bit more made it to Hogan Lake.  During the walk back to grab our packs the mosquitoes began to show up.  Arriving back at Crow Lake for our backpacks, ready to complete our last 3.75 kilometre hike back to Hogan, we decided to treat our arms and neck to some Deet. When the portage was all said and done, arriving back at the put in with our backpacks it took us just 4 hours to cover better than 11 kilometers! 

We now entered Hogan Lake which is a familiar lake to us.  It was now midday, and it was sunny, with hardly any breeze, and it was very hot.  The fall colours are still around 10% in this section of Algonquin.  We arrived at our site, which is on a large irregular shaped island nearest to tomorrow's portage. There is wooden stairs leading up to the top of the site. Talk about luxury!

Seating area and fire pit at Hogan Lake.  Photo by Marianne Balkwill

Charred trunks at the site on Hogan Lake...Most likely due to a careless camper.  Photo by Marianne Balkwill
 
Looking around you could tell at one point there was a fire here as there were both charred and dead trees.  We made sure that no widow makers were near our tent.  In the afternoon heat we went for a cool dip in the lake, rinsed off our clothes, and hung them over the thwarts and yoke of the canoe.  Aaron, not used to the heat, felt really exhausted and had a nap this afternoon in the tent while Marianne explored the site and its bird life that included some Red Crossbills, and a Black-backed Woodpecker. 
Red Crossbill at Hogan Lake site.  Photo by Marianne Balkwill
 
Around 5pm we pumped some water for supper and saw 3 canoes go by.  After supper we had a fire and heard some Canada Geese migrating over. We had a red hot sunset this evening and listening to the Environment Canada forecast, we were to have a humidex into the low 30s for the rest of the trip.  The mosquitoes and no-see-ums are gonna love that...and us!!

Warm sunset at the end of a hot day on Hogan Lake.  Photo by Marianne Balkwill

Wildlife Sightings
Moose tracks
Commmon Loon
Common Merganser
Blue Jay
Eastern Chipmunk
Red Squirrel
Garter Snake
American Toad
Bull Frog
Ruffed Grouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Black-capped Chickadee
Mosquito
No-see-ums
Palm Warbler
Red Crossbill
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Phoebe
Black-throated Blue Warbler
White-throated Sparrow
People
Black-backed Woodpecker
Belted Kingfisher
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Canada Goose

Remember to:  Keep the daily length of portages under 3 kilometres.


Day#5 Hogan Lake to Big Trout Lake

Weather:  Foggy in the morning giving way to sunny skies.  High: 26 C Low: 12 C



We woke up before sunrise (because we are on vacation) and made it onto the water and fog by 8:20am.  The fog was so thick we had a hard time finding the 710m portage from Hogan Lake to the Little Madawaska River.  While trying to find our way we ran into a family of River Otters that were not very happy to see us. While one of the parents kept swimming ahead of our canoe, popping up once in a while to chuff at us, the rest of the group swam to shore and ran off into the bush.

The 710m portage was pretty easy going with a steep section at the beginning.  Paddling through some shallow water along the Little Madawaska River we soon entered the expanse of Lake La Muir.  It was incredibly calm this morning with barely a ripple on the water. With such calm air and water, sound carried far this morning, and we could hear heavy machinery in the distance with  what sounded like the combination of a wood chipper and a bulldozer.  After a lengthy paddle we reached the 2590m portage into Big Trout Lake. This portage was long and it was getting very hot, but for the most part we were thankful that it was nice and flat!  We were a sweaty mess when we arrived with our packs to the put in at Big Trout Lake, and we were glad the mosquitoes were not that bad.  Greeting us next to the put in was a  Ruffed Grouse drumming on a log, barely visible through the undergrowth. 

Big Trout Lake is a big and beautiful lake with a landscape of rolling hills, and the lake is dotted with island campsites. We paddled around to some sites hoping to find one that was worthy of us spending two nights on.  We choose an island with 2 sites near the centre of the lake.  We choose the more northerly site as it would provide shade all day to give us relief from the heat. 
Shady north side of the island on Big Trout Lake.  Photo by Marianne Balkwill

The sunny side of this island campsite on Big Trout Lake. Photo by Marianne Balkwill

We hoped that no one would take the other campsite so that the whole island would be ours.  After setting up camp and having some homemade chili, we jumped into the lake to remove the sunscreen and Deet off of our skin. Aaron relaxed in the tent reading the park newspaper while Marianne sat at the fire pit, and watched some canoes go by.  Tonight we had a campfire, though the bugs made us retreat a bit early to the safety of the tent where we looked over our maps. Eventually we turned off our headlamps for the night, while a lone Barred Owl called hauntingly far off in the distance.

Wildlife Sightings
Ruffed Grouse
River Otter
Canada Goose
Moose Tracks
People
Red Squirrel
Eastern Chipmunk
Black-and-white Warbler
American Toad
White-throated Sparrow
Black-capped Chickaddee
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Great Blue Heron
Bald Eagle
Wood Duck
Mosquito
No-see-um
Barred Owl

Remember to: Keep all portages under 3 kilometres per day...yup we wrote this twice.


Day#6 Day off on Big Trout Lake

Weather:  Sunny with a few clouds by afternoon.  High: 25 C Low: 15 C


Day off today on our island campsite on beautiful Big Trout Lake!  We actually slept in until 7:30am and began our day with one of Aaron's epic campfire pancakes with peanut butter, strawberry jam and even a little packet of honey that Marianne got from her Gramma! YUM!  We also had a package of instant coffee which we mixed in with our tea making it sub par at best. Being our day off, it was time to do some chores that included washing clothes, making water, and we even moved some rocks at the put in/take out so that other canoeists coming here won't scrape their boats on rocks. We also played a round of Uno in our tent.

We had some canoe traffic go by our site today with paddlers, both male and female, looking to be in the age bracket of mid twenties to mid thirties.  With such unseasonably warm temperatures, a lot of people are probably booking Algonquin and other Ontario Parks this weekend.

For lunch we made homemade bannock and added Mary Jane's brand Black Bean Hummus, which tastes really great, though it looks like someone dropped a big messy deuce on it.

Bannock with Mary Jane's Black Bean Hummus on top.  Looks gross but tastes great!  Photo by Marianne Balkwill.

Marianne took advantage of the warm weather and bathed in the lake while Aaron started to read the SAS survival guide (pocket version) that we bring on every trip. Today we realized that our island isn't big enough to support a Red Squirrel or even a Chipmunk as we saw none. We also noticed that there were nails everywhere around the site. Multiple nails in a tree, the odd nail on the ground near the fire pit, and a bag of nails nailed on a homemade shelf someone made...with nails...

After supper we took the canoe out to fill up our water supply for tomorrow 's journey to Misty Lake. We made a fire this evening, but again we retreated early to the tent as the mosquitoes and no-see-ums came out. The Barred Owl once again announced its' presence to creatures that make up the night shift, while Common Loons wailed on and off during the night.

Pumping water on Big Trout Lake.  Photo by Marianne Balkwill

Big Trout Lake, without a doubt, is one of the most beautiful lakes we have ever visited in Algonquin Provincial Park, and a future canoe trip to this location is a must for us.

Wildlife Sightings
Sandhill Crane
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Common Loon
Song Sparrow
Golden-crowned Kinglet
People
Blue Jay
Belted Kingfisher
Red Crossbill
Brown Creeper
Mosquito
No-see-um
Barred Owl

Remember to: No remember to today! Yay!


Day #7 Big Trout Lake to Misty Lake

Weather:  Sunny skies, with sun and clouds and a breeze in the afternoon.  High: 25 C Low: 16 C

We have a big day today so we were up before dawn around 6am.  We left our site around 7:40am onto the beautiful waters of Big Trout Lake one last time. We made our way into White Trout Lake and headed towards the Petawawa River.

Exiting Big Trout Lake.  It's already starting to get hazy.  Photo by Marianne Balkwill

While on White Trout Lake we checked out the remains of the McLaclin Brothers Depot Farm on the north side of the lake.  The once cleared area now has bramble bushes, what looks like wild strawberry plants, and an interesting fruit tree.  The farm was created by the McLachlin brothers, who, along with other lumber entrepreneurs such as J.R Booth, created a business of supplying lumber to the growing cities in the United States by driving down logs to mills.  The depot farm itself had supplies for other lumber camps and, though we are not sure about this particular depot farm, there were crops grown for those logging in the park.  Where we stood the once cleared area was now quite over grown and with some bear scat found, we made sure we were quite vocal while we were exploring.  During our brief time exploring here we found the remains of two buildings, a few bucket, and some old pottery and glass. 



Three photos of the remains from the McLaclin Brothers Depot Farm.  Someone placed some pottery and glass in the last image.  Photos by Marianne Balkwill
 
Finding the entry way to the Petawawa River can be a little tricky, but thankfully the park has a couple of signs placed up in the water to help guide your way.  The first four portages during the Petawawa were pretty easy going, as they went around some rapids.  Paddling upstream was no problem for us and the high water was in our favour as we skipped the 160m portage, though we did bump into a few rocks.  It was during this point in the day that we noticed that the wind was starting to pick up for the first time on this whole trip!  The last portage, an 840m, had some steep sections, a muddy section where you had to watch your footing, and it was hot!  There was also a dam along this portage, but we couldn't see it through the trees.  We finished this last portage around 1:15pm and entered Misty Lake.  We had a little bit of a head wind that actually felt nice to dry off the sweat that was pooling on our skin and clothes!

Looking where to put in along the Petawawa River.  Photo by Marianne Balkwill

Fall colours now greeted us here in more abundance than any other part of the trip with even a few maples already at 100% leaf change glowing a brilliant red and orange.  We landed on an island with three campsites, our site being the middle site. It was an okay site, with a messy fire pit that had some garbage in it including tins cans, and there were nearly 10 grates of various quality next to the fire pit, which seemed over the top.  A fish hook was also found stabbed in a tree that had a fake worm as a lure attached.  The spot for the tent was not completely level but it did the trick and there was a nice flat shallow spot for bathing. 

Campsite on Misty Lake with a sampling of the many abandoned grates.  Photo by Marianne Balkwill

After another hot day, Aaron was pooched so as soon as we set up the tent he took a nap inside.  Later in the afternoon some clouds began to roll in and the forecast calls for showers and even a thunderstorm in the next 24 hours so we may have another early start tomorrow.  We are not the only ones on this lake, as we see at least one other person across the lake, and later in the evening we see a light from a headlamp from the opposite shore.  After supper we took the canoe out to pump some water and got pretty close to a Common Loon that wasn't bothered by our presence.  Tonight we had a pretty good fire to keep the bugs away and we were quite surprised to see a canoe go by well after dark with red lights mounted on their boat.  Can they really see where they are going?

Wildlife Sightings
Moose Tracks
Beaver
Wood Duck
Bald Eagle
Common Loon
Double-crested Cormorant
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-winged Crossbill
Blue Jay
Great Blue Heron
Eastern Chipmunk
Red Squirrel
Canada Goose
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Barred Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Common Merganser
People
Common Raven
Mosquito
No-see-um

Remember to:  2 double rolls of toilet paper for 2 people lasts only 7 days!  Marianne brought an emergency 1/3 of a roll in her rain jacket, which had its first use today!


Day #8  Misty Lake to Potter Lake

Weather: Light rain in the morning with heavier showers in the afternoon.  High: 21 C Low: 16 C


Environment Canada forecasted 70% chance of showers by noon today, so we got up before 6am so we could cover as much ground/water as possible before the rain. Our first light rain shower came while we were eating breakfast (oatmeal), which sounds about right when you are depending on Environment Canada to plan your day. On and off light showers would be with us for the rest of the morning.

We took off from our Misty Lake site just after 7:30 am under cloudy skies and we could see rain in the distance. Making our way to our first portage, a 840m from Misty to Timberwolf, we remained dry, as it was during the portage (another muddy one) that it began to rain. This wasn't too bad because the trees sheltered us for the most part.  The rain let up again for our second paddle across Timberwolf Lake to our next portage, a 400m, into McIntosh Lake. While paddling under cloudy skies, McIntosh Lake revealed its beautiful landscape and fall colours making this lake a potential stopover lake for future trips into Algonquin.  The 680m into Straight Shore Lake was muddy, but the 1010m portage into Rosswood was the muddiest portage we have ever done in our lives! There were a few muddy spots that would have easily swallowed up your hiking boots (or higher) if you took one step in the wrong direction.  The addition of a light blanket of freshly fallen (yet beautiful) leaves covering some of these sections, would sometimes leave us debating where to take our next step without getting sucked up by the mud.  Due to the high water level, we managed to skip over the first section of the 180m portage to Brule Lake, however a beaver dam forced us to get out and portage the rest.  Brule Lake is a pretty nice lake and we pumped water here.  More beautiful fall colours and a couple of cottages were easily seen as we entered this lake. 

Progressing fall colours on Brule Lake. Photo by Marianne Balkwill

We debated on checking out what may be left of the Brule Lake Station and town site on its northeast shore, but we decided to push on due to the forecasted rain. 

Continuing southeast on Brule Lake we made it too our last portage for the day, a 720m portage which used to be the old Ottawa, Arnprior and Parry Sound Railway that was constructed in 1894 to 1896. It would have been something to see the railway when first used, with woodburning locomotives moving through the park. This very rail line also opened up the park to tourists with passenger trains, and with them came lodges were created along the railway to accommodate people. Before the creation of highway 60 in 1936 that would eventually seal the fate of travel by rail, the rail transported lumber, tourists, grain, and even troops during World War I. This section of rail was used until 1944.  If you look at certain maps of Algonquin, and do your own research, you can find old foundations from lodges, and other relics throughout the entire area that make Algonquin Provincial Park an exciting place for anyone that wants to find samples of human history now hidden amongst the trees.

Unless you knew about the railway, you would have never known it ever existed where we were as it is now a rough road. We were expecting it to be more like the abandoned CNR railway that runs through the park's eastern and northern end that closed in 1995 where we were finding all sorts of relics from the rail. What we had here was a nice, flat, and dry portage, though now it was beginning to rain more steadily. 

A quick shot of the old railway (now a road) from under the canoe during the rain.  Photo by Marianne Balkwill

We put on our rain jackets, covered our backpacks with our rain covers, and made our way to the put in at Potter Lake which was a little tricky with quite a few rocks.  As we began our last paddle for the day on Potter Lake, the rain picked up even more and we wished we put on our rain pants as our legs were now beginning to get wet. It was now time to look for a site to camp. We paddled past the sites that, according to the map, looked like they backed onto marsh, as we didn't want the company of mosquitoes this evening. We were hoping to get to the second last campsite next to the road, but it was already occupied.  We settled on the most southern site on Potter Lake which had a nice fire pit (though in this rain we will not be using it) and a nice flat spot to launch and bath. We made pretty good time, arriving at 3pm, and we quickly set up the tent and ran inside to change into some dry clothes, and hide out for a while from the rain.  Around 6pm the rain let up, so we ventured out of the tent and put up the tarp around the seating area for a quick supper.  No fire tonight to keep the bugs away so we retreated to the tent early this evening. 

Damp Potter Lake campsite.  Photo by Marianne Balkwill

This is the last full day for our trip, and even though the rain was annoying, the cloudy and cooler temperatures were a nice change and made for some comfortable paddling/portaging.

A break from the rain before sunset on Potter Lake.  Photo by Marianne Balkwill.

Wildlife Sightings
Moose Tracks
Red Squirrel
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Red Crossbill
Belted Kingfisher
Blue Jay
Common Loon
Wood Duck
American Toads (along the portage.....I think...I think we may have stepped on some as they were so tiny)
Black-capped Chickadee
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Common Raven

Remember to: Aaron needs to bring two pairs of camping pants...in case one gets soaked.


Day #9  Potter Lake to Canoe Lake Launch

Weather: Early light shower in the predawn, with overcast skies in the morning.  Low: 17 C


Of course, like with almost all our camping trips, we always struggle to sleep the night before heading out.  I guess it is because, though we don't want to admit it, we were eager to get back to the launch, have a hot shower, and some real food, and a glass of cold milk!

We were up before sunrise, and heard light rain hitting the tent.  Listening to Environment Canada the forecast from the night before changed from "Partly Cloudy" to "60% chance of showers with risk of a thunderstorm". For @#$% sake Environment Canada!!

After a great breakfast of GORP and water (you can tell we just want to get going by having the quickest breakfast next to having none at all) we entered the lake just after 8am. A short paddle south and it was back to the road for our next portage, a 740m to Potter Creek. Potter Creek acted more like a river with some fast moving water, and with a lot of rocks!  We tried to maneuver as best we could but it was very hard to see the rocks when the water is moving so quickly, and we bounced and scrapped our way down the creek. Eventually we made it to what looked like a take out, but there was no portage sign. There is supposed to be 2 portages along this section.  We decided that this is probably not the portage and pressed on which was a big mistake as the rocks became more numerous and we bounced and scraped constantly and even got stuck on a rock with the rushing water that tried to dump our canoe! Marianne also had her new sunglasses bumped off her head and into the water by an overhanging branch. Speaking of rocks, there was probably every colour of the rainbow painted on them along this section of Potter Creek from other canoes who skipped the same portage. We came across another take out without a portage sign, and this time we thought better of it and got out.  We quickly looked at the map and realized that the first patch of flattened ground that looked like a take out was indeed the first portage, a 95 metre portage which instead for us, was 95 metres of misery out in the water.  The portage we were on now was the 65 metre. After this portage, Potter Creek became less of a river and more of a calm winding creek that was easier to navigate.  The last portage for the day, and the whole trip, was a 390m around some rapids and it was actually NOT muddy!  A few more twists and turns and we were on our way back into Canoe Lake. While heading back we saw what remains of an old bridge built in the mid 1930s from the main railway line to an old sawmill that was built in the 1920s.



Three photos of the crumbling bridge on Canoe Lake.  Photo by Marianne Balkwill

Paddling our way back to the launch we heard and later viewed motorboats and canoeists heading out on their own adventure while ours was, sadly, coming to a close.  We arrived back to the Canoe Lake launch under cloudy skies (the rain held off thankfully) around 11:30am, put the canoe back on the truck, had a long hot shower, and ate at the restaurant that included a big glass of milk! The fall colours were now more vibrant here than when we first arrived over a week ago.  No busloads of leafers yet, but they will soon be arriving en masse. As for us it was time to say goodbye to Algonquin Provincial Park and head back to the cottage to fix the water pump, which we are happy to say went smoothly.

We had a great trip this time in Algonquin, but we have come to the agreement that the north end of the park, launching from Kiosk or Brent is more our style as it is less crowded than Canoe Lake.  Big Trout Lake has definitely become one of our favourite lakes so we will have to visit it again! See you soon Algonquin Park!  Sooner than you think!

Wildlife Sightings
Red Squirrel
Common Raven
Belted Kingfisher
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Great Blue Heron

Remember to:  If it looks like a portage...USE IT!


Sunday, December 18, 2016

2017 Canoe Trip Planned! Algonquin vs. Temagami

For our 2017 canoe trip it was a toss up between a 2 week trip in Algonquin Provincial Park, or a week and a half trip in Temagami.  In the end we decided on Algonquin Provincial Park. Woodland Caribou Provincial Park is now scheduled for 2018, with Temagami in 2019, or vise versa depending on what comes up....like another forest fire in Woodland Caribou for example.

Choosing between Temagami and Algonquin was hard.  Part of the decision process was that the drive from our cottage to Algonquin is only 135 kilometres vs. the 360 kilometres to Mowat Landing, which would have been our access point in Temagami. Another factor is that our 2015 trip in Algonquin was kind of a failure ( http://backcountrybalkwills.blogspot.ca/2015/11/algonquin-provincial-park-attempted-big.html ) and this trip will be somewhat of a redemption with a longer, more challenging route.

Launching from Canoe Lake on the highway 60 corridor we will be paddling east to Radiant Lake, north to Cedar Lake, south and as far west to Brule Lake, and return south to the Canoe Lake launch. We will be visiting some new lakes along with some familiar lakes like Cedar Lake which we will now visit for a third time.



Route 

Total Days: 12 days
Total Kilometres: approx. 223 kilometres
Total Portages: 50
Total Portage Length: 33.01 kilometres
Longest Portage: 3.75 kilometres (Big Crow to Hogan Lake)
Route: Canoe Lake, Joe Lake, Little Joe Lake, Baby Joe Lake, Burnt Island Lake, Little Otterslide Lake, Otterslide Lake, Shiner Lake, Happy Isle Lake, Opeongo Lake (North Arm), Proulx Lake, Little Crow Lake, Big Crow Lake, Hogan Lake, Little Madawaska River, Philip Lake, Little Madawaska River, Radiant Lake, Petawawa River, Cedar Lake, Petawawa River, Catfish Lake, Petawawa River, Burntroot Lake, Longer Lake, Big Trout Lake, White Trout Lake, Petawawa River, Misty Lake, Timberwolf Lake, McIntosh Lake, Straight Shore Lake, Rosswood Lake, Brule Lake, Potter Lake, Potter Creek, Canoe Lake

This trip will be as many days as our Killarney trip in 2016, but with 100 more kilometres added to it in total.  This averages around 8 kilometres more per day which is about 2 hours more per day of travel.  For this trip we are looking at 6 to 8 hours per day of paddling/portaging whereas in Killarney we had quite a few days where we were at our site near, or just after lunch.
In other words, this trip will not be as relaxing as Killarney with no lay over days (unless we are forced to).

We also get to try out our new packs next year that we purchased on our way home from Killarney. 

Probably should pack these before the trip to see how everything fits.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Backcountry Bucket List for Ontario in the next 5 years


So many choices!  Where to start?


During the winter months, Marianne loves to pour over the maps and books, along with online forums and websites to plan potential routes for us to paddle in the future. We began backcountry canoe trips in the year 2007 and continue to this year. Here is a list of our past trips that includes the location and total days.

2007: Killarney P.P (6 days)
2008: Quetico P.P (4.5 days)
2010: Frontenac P.P (3 days) not a canoe trip
2010: Algonquin P.P (5.5 days)
2011: Killarney P.P (8 days)
2012: Killarney P.P (6 days)
2013: Temagami (2.5 days)
2013: Algonquin P.P (6.5 days)
2014: Quetico P.P (10.5 days)
2015: Algonquin P.P (4.5 days)
2016: Killarney P.P (12 days)

As you can see, we have paddled Killarney Provincial Park the most and have probably covered over 90% of that park.  If we were going to recommend any area to beginning paddlers it would be Killarney.  What is so great about Killarney is that almost every lake you encounter is different.  You can go from crystal clear lake to marsh after one long portage, or from towering white mountains to a bay with smooth rocks and cottages in a day.  The only downside about Killarney (though we don't mind it) is that the length of the portages can be grueling, but it is definitely worth it for the views you will encounter at the end of your journey on lakes such as Nellie and Grace.

Algonquin is the next area we have paddled most frequently.  We have had 2 successful trips starting from Brent and Kiosk in the fall, and a somewhat unsuccessful trip starting from Canoe Lake where we were wind bound for a few days on Burnt Island Lake. We love paddling the north section of the park as there are less people.

Quetico Provincial Park we have visited twice.  The first time we had to take a detour as we couldn't find the portage for the life of us. We rocked it out on our second visit in 2014 with the Hunter Island Loop.  We wouldn't recommend a long trip in Quetico Provincial Park to a beginner paddler as nothing is marked in this park, as in no portage or campsite signs. Also be prepared to be wind bound as this particular route crosses some of the biggest lakes in the park. 

So as you can see we have barely scratched the surface when it comes to canoe trips in Ontario. 

Here is a bucket list of what we hope to accomplish in the next 5 years:

1. Algonquin Provincial Park: A 2 week trip possibly covering the majority of the park as our longest trip has only been 6 and a half days.

2. Temagami Region: After a failed trip in June (never again) we have just barely scratched the surface of this area.  A 2 week trip is in order for sure which will hopefully include a climb up to Maple Mountain, or if possible, Ishpatina Ridge which is the highest point in all of Ontario!

3. Woodland Caribou Provincial Park: Northwest of Quetico Provincial Park along the Manitoba Border, this is a definite trip in the next 5 years.  It takes 2 full days to drive there. If it wasn't for possibly buying a new vehicle next year (and this vehicle reaching the end of its life) this would be our 2017 trip. We have thought up a route this year, but due to forest fires that have consumed a pretty good portion of the park this past summer, we would probably make up another route.

4. Quetico/Atikokan Area and Sleeping Giant Provincial Park:  A week in Quetico Provincial Park, or the Atikokan Area on crown land, followed by hike in backcountry sites in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park for a few days.

5. Day trips or long weekends: This includes Bon Echo Provincial Park, Massasauga Provincial Park and even the Thames River which is practically in our backyard.

After reading over these possibilities, it is a toss up between Temagami and Algonquin Provincial Park as of now for 2017.  One region that many will notice that is absent is Wabakimi Provincial Park.  Unfortunately we have no maps of that area yet so planning a route is difficult. Hopefully when we go to the Ontario Adventure Show in Toronto February 2017, we can obtain some maps and info.  If not, there is always lots of information online which one can obtain as easily or with a little bit of research and reaching out to the proper individuals.  Going to the Outdoor Adventure Show itself will be fun as it is nice to get away for a weekend while there is still snow on the ground.  Also absent from this list are any routes that involve white water, as we lack the skill and canoe for such a trip.

Where will your next backcountry canoe trip be?