from a map produced by The Portage
17' Nova Craft Kelvar Canoe: Richard, Rebecca & Daniel
Although we arrived at The Portage Store in the park by 8:30, it took longer than we anticipated to review all of our gear and pack up. But by 10:15 we were on our way, in a light rain, wearing our ponchos. JoAnn and Jessica were paddling in one canoe while Daniel, Rebecca and I were in the other.
JoAnn had seemed hesitant about embarking on this trip. As we started out on this journey in a light rain, her reluctance seemed to increase.
Rebecca had been the most visibly nervous. However, after seeing all of the gear we were provided and how well prepared we were, she seemed more relaxed and ready to go.
Daniel was the most excited. Not aware of any of the problems we might possibly encounter, he was just happy to be going on an adventure.
Jessica was the hardest to read. She didn't seem overly excited, but did not seem too concerned with any of the potential hardships or dangers that may lay ahead. She was just being a typical teenager.
I, of course, was looking forward to getting back to Algonquin Park. I also worried that the trip would go well and that everyone would have a good time.
We paddled out of the little inlet that held The Portage Store and headed onto the lower portion of Canoe Lake. As we headed up Canoe Lake, everyone seemed to be adjusting.
This lake was more congested than I had expected, with many homes and camps along the shores and many boats cruising around the lake. The waves from the boats concerned JoAnn, but we all paddled on. As we headed up Canoe Lake, the rain slowed and then stopped. We reached the northern portion of the lake and were ready to face our first portage in good spirits.
The first portage was 295m. Everyone grabbed a pack and started down the trail.. Daniel was a real trooper and carried the plastic encased food barrel pack. I wasn't sure about the canoes, but flipped the first one up on my shoulders with more ease than I had expected. As we walked through the portage, it seemed like Grand Central Station. We ran into a group from Camp Arowhon, and their party had about 10 canoes. Although our second canoe was supposed to be lighter, it seemed a lot heavier. The second time down the same trail is just more difficult. The way the packs were packed, the ones with the camping gear were the heaviest. Since I had the canoes, JoAnn took these heavier packs. They must have been heavy, because she had a sore back by the first night. After this portage, we started through Joe Lake. By this time, the kids were ready for a rest and we stopped for lunch. Nothing too exciting, cheese or ham sandwiches, but no one complained.
Daniel was excited by the fact that he could drink the water from the lakes (except for Canoe Lake which had gas residue from the motor boats). He kept asking which lake he could drink from.
After lunch we paddled to the Arowhon Pines, a lodge nestled along the shores of Little Joe Lake. We stopped in and I saw Eugene Kates in the dining room. He was the director of Camp Arowhon when I was a camper there some 30 years ago. He looked basically the same way he did 30 years ago, but moved a little slower.
We all took a tour of the Arowhon Pines, then shoved off again in our canoes, looking forward to 3 more portages and a short paddle.
As we came to the northern portion of Little Joe Lake, the lake started to narrow, with grass on both sides. This is where Rebecca spotted the first moose of the trip. I then spotted a moose calf that seemed to be with its mom. Since it was raining again, our camera was safely packed away so that we missed our "Kodak moment".
As we docked for the 2nd portage, we thought it was 165m. As I looked up stream, the water level looked high and I thought that we might be able to canoe instead of carry everything over the land. As I examined the portage, I discovered it to be only 16.5m. JoAnn and I were able to paddle both canoes up the short and rocky stream, and we picked up the kids 16.5m up stream.
After we paddled our way around the 2nd portage, it was only a short paddle to the third portage of the day. This was to be 465m. Since the creek we were on seemed to be coming down stream from the direction we were heading, everyone wanted to try to avoid another portage. After examining the map, it appeared that it could be done. As we started to paddle, the water became shallow. Before I knew what happened, JoAnn and Jessica had jumped out of their canoe and were walking up the stream so their canoe could get over the rocks. The water was sometimes fast and sometimes deep, but JoAnn and Jessica sloshed on. I also jumped out of my canoe and followed behind them. After not too difficult a journey, we reached a small lake. We were not quite at our destination, but had reached Lost Joe Lake. Thinking that we had gained nothing and were still required to portage our canoes at this point anyway, I noticed a spot across the lake where water was quickly rushing into Lost Joe. As we paddled over, we believed that we had found an alternate route. Here the water was more than fast, it was actually a small rapid. Before our canoe even reached the headwaters, JoAnn and Jessica were back in the water, pulling their canoe up stream. With the rapids rushing so quickly, Daniel and Rebecca also jumped into the water to assist with getting our canoe up stream. As the water got a little deeper in parts, Daniel needed safety and leaped back into the canoe. The rest of us pushed onwards. As we neared the top of the rapids, we reached an impasse. Jessica, however, was able to dislodge a log that blocked our path. (Some poor beaver had probably worked all day to put it there.) We all struggled up the last portion of the rapids and were into Little Joe Lake. We had beaten another portage.
We continued on our journey and quickly reached our last portage. Since there was a dam that blocked any alternate route, we were forced to do this 200m portage. Upon reaching the other side, it was only a short paddle into Burnt Island Lake.
Although we started onto this huge lake without a problem, the sky quickly darkened and it started to drizzle. By this time JoAnn was anxious for us to set up camp. But now, the camp sites we found seemed to be occupied by other campers and the rain was coming down harder. The wind was picking up and the waves on the lake were increasing in size. At this point I was also starting to get nervous. We finally spotted an empty campsite and stopped for the night. As we unpacked, the rain subsided. Jessica and Rebecca proved to be experts at pitching a tent and quickly had their 4-man tent set up. JoAnn and I had to figure it out as we went. The sky was clearing up, so we gathered wood for an evening fire. Because of the rain, quite a bit of our clothes were wet or damp. JoAnn set up a clothes line to help dry things out. She ingeniously dried some socks by putting them over the handles of the canoe paddles. For dinner we had Mulligan Stew made over a butane stove, and JoAnn and I were both pleasantly surprised that it wasn't too bad. The kids ate a little, then dug into the Gorp.
Rebecca built the fire this first night. Although the strong breezes
off of the lake (probably from the tail end of Hurricane Bertha) made it
difficult to light, once it started it roared. We then quickly consumed
a bag of marshmallows. We cleaned up the campsite and hung our two food
packs from trees. Jessica wrapped the ropes around the tree like a May
pole, and the food remained suspended in the air. We then enjoyed the campfire
before going to bed. Jessica and Rebecca had trouble falling asleep this
first night. I believe that JoAnn was a little less nervous than when we
started since the park was more active with other campers than either of
us had expected. It wasn't quite as desolate as she may have thought. JoAnn,
however, still seemed to be tolerating the trip more than enjoying it.
JoAnn made us a wonderful breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and bagels. We also had our morning coffee to help get us moving. After breakfast, we packed up camp and were ready to go by 9:30. I was surprised that after packing everything up ourselves, we were ready to go almost an hour earlier than the day before when The Portage Store had done the work.
We left camp expecting a short 2-hour travel day, with 4 portages and a little canoeing, on the trip over to Sunbeam Lake.
After a nice paddle north on Burnt Island Lake, we reached the first portage of 680m. We never dreamed how difficult this portage would be. It was a mixture of hills, rocks, roots and oozing mud where you could easily lose your feet and your shoes. Daniel started out carrying the food barrel, some cushions and canoe paddles. With the terrain the way it was, he only made it through about 1/4th of the portage before dropping off the barrel pack. I portaged the canoe and found it exceedingly more difficult than the first day's portages, which were relatively level, well maintained trails. At one point I came to a rock about 2-1/2 feet high, with only a little spot for my toes about 18 inches up. After inserting my left toe into the little slot in the rock, I rocked down and up several times and finally pushed off. A second push on my left toe that was inserted in the little crevice in the rock and I was safely up on top. Up and down some more hills, through more muck, or hopping on the rocks scattered among the muck, and I arrived at the end of the portage, exhausted. After Rebecca's first trip, she went back for Daniel's food drum. Not seeing it, she ended at the beginning of the portage. She then picked up another pack and started back. When I ran into her on my way down the trail, she was trying to carry both the backpack and the drum, which she had found on her way back. I grabbed the drum (she had insisted on keeping the heavier pack) and we walked on together. A third time back to the start of the portage and Rebecca, a real trooper on this portage, grabbed another pack. JoAnn and Jessica picked up the other canoe, carrying it beside them rather than lifting it over their heads. I then picked up one of the heavier equipment packs that JoAnn usually carries. After reaching the end of the portage, I started back again and met JoAnn and Jessica to relieve them of their canoe and finished off our 1st portage of the day. Only three portages left......but we were done with the longest one.
It was only a very short paddle across Jay Lake before our 495m portage. Again we struggled through. After packing up the canoe at the other end of the portage, a sudden and heavy rain storm hit us. We covered the packs with our ponchos and started across the pond. However, even before reaching the other side of this relatively small pond, the rain stopped.
A short 110m portage and we were on Treefrog Lake. Another very short paddle and we were ready for the last portage. The bank, however, was crowded with canoeists. As we patiently waited for the last canoe to disembark, carrying two ladies who just couldn't seem to get their act together, the skies again opened up. Our earlier patience with this pair quickly ended as we sternly encouraged them to get moving so that we might dock.
After completing the fourth and final portage, a trip which began and ended with steep hills, we canoed onto the scenic beauty of Sunbeam Lake. We quickly found a great campsite just north of the portage. A day's travel which we thought would take 2 hours, had lasted over 4 hours.
Our campsite bordered the lake on a wonderful sandy beach. After unloading the boats, the kids quickly changed into their swimsuits.
Daniel: We canoed out onto the lake and jumped off of the canoe into the water. One time we tipped because Jessica jumped off too fast.
The second day was so windy we couldn't set up our tent. Dad had to help us.
Rich: For dinner we had Spaghetti Primavera. JoAnn and I thought the food was much better than we were expecting. The kids again didn't quite agree.
The one thing that we all agreed on, however, was that the scenery could not have been better anywhere. Each lake or pond had its own beauty. That night the window in our tent faced across the lake. As JoAnn and I gazed out the window, we were astounded by the beauty of the park.
Although we were still only in our second day, our group, which was
extremely hesitant about taking this trip, was already talking about next
year's trip back to Algonquin Park.
Our original travel plans for day three included four portages and a trip through Tom Thomson Lake on our way to Littledoe Lake. After a quick reflection of the prior days events, we recalled an alternate route through Vanishing Pond which our tripper Adam had recommended. With the water level as high as it was, he thought this should be a nice trip, with the chance of offering a good deal of wildlife. Since a quick review of this route showed only two reasonable portages, we voted for Vanishing Pond and its wildlife.
A short paddle to the southeast corner of Sunbeam Lake brought us to the beginning of a short 120m portage. After a quick portage, we soon found ourselves paddling across Vanishing Pond. This quickly brought us to the start of a slow, meandering stream passing through a long marshy valley. Right from the start we saw the many dams which were constructed by the resident beavers. The meandering path through this marshy expanse of high grass was fun to follow. One couldn't paddle too quickly, since the turns were sharp and continuous. The kids said that it reminded them of a ride in Disneyworld, where your boat is constantly jerked back and forth. Because of the tall reeds that fill the marsh, it was difficult to see where the next turn went. If JoAnn and Jessica got a little ahead of us, we could only see the top of their heads because of the reeds. If they got too far ahead of us, then we would lose sight of them completely. Although we expected to see more wildlife with this route, I was the only one who spotted a solitary beaver, and that for only an instant. The marsh, however, had its own beauty with the beaver dams, reeds and lily pads.
Eventually we came to the final portage of the day. Although it was 405m, rocky and muddy, it was not too hilly. Since we knew it was the last portage of the day, we did not seem to have much trouble with it. We loaded the boat and paddled into Bluejay Lake. We quickly crossed Bluejay, paddled down another stream and into Littledoe Lake. Since the last day was going to be another long paddling day, I wanted to camp on the other side of the lake tonight. The first two campsites we saw in the western part of the lake did not seem to fit our needs. And the last site there was already occupied. Since it was still early in the day, we started surveying other sites back toward the center of the lake. We finally ended up at the point of the peninsula that jutted out from the northern portion of the lake. Once settled, it seemed that we must have picked the best spot. No matter which direction we looked, the view was breathtaking.
Since we had a relatively short travel day today, there was plenty of time to play. Jessica, Daniel, JoAnn and I did some swimming. I think that Rebecca was hesitant due to the leeches we saw in the water. As I expected, we didn't bother them and they didn't bother us.
That night we had another nice campfire and kept it going longer than normal. We could see two other campfires across the lake from us, reminding us that we were not completely secluded from the rest of the world. Although we were never bothered by other groups, I had expected to be more secluded than we were. The presence of other groups was even more pronounced during the portages. At most portages we did run into other groups, and at some of them the traffic could even be called congested. As one of the trip planners had told us, if we want to achieve more isolation, we need to venture a little further into the interior of the park.
Since this was our first such camping trip, we did not yet feel prepared
for longer portages. This was a decision that we had all agreed had been
a correct decision. Since we had a clear sky tonight, we wanted to stay
around the fire a little longer and wait for the stars to show their brilliance.
One thing we were not completely prepared for was the presence of light
later into the night since we were much further north than we were used
to. Although the sun set just after nine o'clock, the western sky retained
a good deal of light well past that time. JoAnn struggled to fight off
the mosquitoes as we sat around the fire after the children had gone to
bed. By 10:30 the stars were beginning to make their entrance. We enjoyed
the first wave, but went to bed well before their finest hour.
We paddled out of Littledoe, and down the stream toward Fawn Lake. As we entered Fawn Lake, we noticed another canoe off to one side. Upon closer observation, we discovered the other canoe about 20 feet from a wild moose. As quietly as two parents and three excited kids could manage, we paddled over for a closer look. No matter how close we got, nothing seemed to phase this moose. After watching for about five minutes, the moose grunted, and out from the woods came the moose's calf. The calf was a lot more reluctant to get close to the canoes and stayed fairly close to the shore (not the Shores). We watched the moose for about half an hour, while we ran through our roll of film.
Once again we were on our way. Out through the larger section of Fawn Lake, down through some narrows, and out onto Tepee Lake. This lake had special significance for me, for this is the home of Camp Arowhon, the camp I attended as both camper and water ski instructor almost thirty years ago. We stopped in quickly to say hello to the camp director, Joanne Kates, who had been a camper with me.
We then shoved off, canoed across Tepee Lake and down into Joe Lake. A pleasant paddle across Joe Lake brought us to our last portage of 295m. This was the short, flat, well- maintained portage that had given us a false sense of security on our very first day. When we went through it the first time, little did we realize the hills, mud, rocks and mosquitoes that would plague us at the rest of the portages. As we started this last portage, Jessica was determined that she would provide additional help and carry one of the canoes. Although JoAnn and I helped her lift it on her shoulders, Jessica was determined to carry the canoe to the other side. Even though she had to stop several times, her determination paid off and she made it to the entrance to Canoe Lake.
At this point we thought that we were left with a simple ride down Canoe
Lake (we were going with the current) to The Portage Store. Little did
we realize the impact that a strong wind could have on such a large lake.
Since we were mentally set for a quick return, this last stretch seemed
to be possessed by an Eveready battery, it kept going and going and going.
Eventually, after a good deal of hard paddling, the store was in sight.
We paddled up the last inlet and arrived at The Portage Store around 4:00
p.m. All of us left with a strong feeling of accomplishment.......and already
starting to plan next year's return visit to Algonquin Park.
Thank you to The Shore Family of Pennsylvania for contributing the above trip log to "Margaret's Algonquin Park Page."
Send questions and comments about this trip log to The
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