From Steve Bremner, Aylmer Quebec:
As the centerpiece to a five-day canoe trip into the Algonquin in July of '97 I spent an afternoon running the upper loop of the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail. I reached the trail via a portage leading from Cranebill Lake, where I had left my canoe and pack.
The portage ends at a short little pond that after another short portage brings you to Islet Lake. Lacking a canoe I simply bushwhacked alongside the pond to reach a lead-in trail from Rain Lake. A kilometer or so along this approach trail brought me to Ishkuday Lake, where the loop begins.
My dog, Sam, a Husky-Malamute-Wolf hybrid, and I proceeded in a counter-clockwise direction, soon reaching the outstanding Islet Lake. This lake is the most scenic lake on the circuit, with many picturesque islets scattered across its wide expanse. As we loped along the trail I anticipated sighting happy campers along the shore. We were eerily alone, however. It was a beautiful July day and not a soul in sight!
After passing the last campsite on Weed Lake and not yet seeing anyone I realized there would likely be no one else on the entire trail! This turned out to be true! In mid-July, in perfect weather, there was not a single other person on the entire 30km upper loop. Up until this point I had allowed Sam to run alongside me untethered as I assumed there would be people around to keep the wildlife away. Realizing we were alone, I put the leash on him.
Not ten minutes later, in a low spot between Weed Lake and Stammer Lake, we came up stealthily on two wolves! One of them quickly dashed into the undergrowth, while the other stared at us for some seconds before loping off in the opposite direction. I wondered what went through his mind as he tried to figure out what we were! A person with a wolf attached? Sam tried to join them and it was all I could do to control his 90 pounds of enthusiasm.
We climbed out of the valley of the wolves and reached probably the high point (elevation that is) of the loop above Stammer Lake. The view extends a ways to the west and the cliff drops several hundred feet to the lake. Continuing on to Stutter Lake we first dropped down to a low swampy region where again we stumbled on wildlife--this time two young moose. As they crashed away into the swamp I again wrestled with Sam.
The next lake, Pincher Lake, had several outstanding camp spots along its shores. Nice flat sunning rocks extended into the warm waters. We lingered and took a cool-off swim before moving on. We passed Tern Lake without stopping and continued through forest, spotting a white-tailed deer that the wolves would have been happy to have found!
Between Cervais Lake and West Otterpaw Lake one has the choice of cutting about 10 km off the upper loop via a short cut by Lady Slipper Lake. I had already planned on doing this in the interests of time. (I only had an afternoon to do 30 km!) This 3 km shortcut was covered in debris from previous storms and was not as well maintained as the rest of the loop.
Eventually we came on Brown Lake where we saw a great bull moose wading along the shore. He saw us but didn't appear to be overly concerned, continuing to munch on tender morsels in the lake. I was pretty beat by now and sort of went into a survival march to the portage point. I was happy to reach my camp site on Cranebill Lake with enough daylight to cook up a feast to replenish spent calories.
From Joe Spencer, Florida:
Having passed very quickly through Algonquin Park some twenty years ago, I was determined to return for a closer look. In late April I finally did.
I backpacked the lower loop of the Western Uplands trail and was in awe at the rugged splendor. The trail was well laid out and marked, would be rated as easy to semi-moderate in summer (April still presented a lot of ice on the hills which increased the difficulty) and presented me with countless photo opportunities.
Overall, an excellent break from the monotony of the single, long weather pattern of South Florida.
From Kevin Farley, Newmarket, Ontario:
One of the nicest 6 day treks out there begins at the Hwy. 60 Corridor entrance to the Western Uplands Trail. I am personally one for camping on small lakes and so have kept away from Maggie L., McCraney L., and Islet L.
This trip is planned for an average 15-18 km per day pace. Arriving late in the day on the first day, I made Maple Leaf Lake my first stop. Hiking around to the far north camp sites, they offered more solitude from the others. Continuing North on the trail, and heading on the West fork Leads up to Clara L., nice and small, but along a set of portages for canoeists. Keep heading North along the trail and again keep to the West fork all the way to the top of the trail on Ishkuday L. just past the end of Islet L. Only one campsite here, you may have to hike and extra 3 km to Brown L. On to Rainbow L. from here keeping to the East (not South) fork. I found this portion of the trip particularly pleasing to the aesthetic eye. The second last leg takes you all the way down to Guskewau L. Leaving a short hike to Hwy. 60 the next day for the trip home.
This trip as a whole is not too difficult, but certain areas such as the section between Hardy Cr. and Clara Lake have lots of ups and downs that get a little tiring. The Algonquin Trails map with contours of the land is an absolute essential for this trip, for adjustments to pace or anything else.
If you have a favorite Algonquin Park backpacking loop, click here.
Return to Margaret's Algonquin Park Page Table of Contents