Triplog: Algonquin Park – May 10-11, 2014

Cache to Head Lake

Total Distance:  20km

Total Portaging Length:  2650m

Video Log: http://youtu.be/0M1nl_OP55o

This was just a short trip into the Park, to knock the cobwebs off my canoeing muscles and celebrate the ice going out. The plan was to head down Cache Lake, take a 1600m portage into Head Lake, and the next day taking Head Creek downstream and then go west along the Madawaska River and head out. What should have been a routine in and out trip turned into on of the most memorable “first trips” I’ve been on.

The first portage of the year!

The first portage of the year!

We weren’t in the park too early or late on Saturday, we got on the water by about 10 o’clock and were happy to be back in the bush. The winter had been long, and I had been busy, so this was my first time canoeing in 2014. The wind was blowing at about 10km/h out of the west, noticeable but not intrusive. This was my first time on Cache, and despite having months to look over the map, I got us lost immediately. We wound up paddling into Lake Tanamakoon before realizing where I had taken us, and so we set back to get on course.

Head Lake, worth the walk.

Head Lake, worth the walk.

It didn’t take us long to get back into rhythm and made short work of the rest of Cache, heading south to the 1640m portage into Head Lake. This was a long portage for us, but we were still rested and had packed for a single carry. After a bit of adjusting, and adding a rope to the front of the canoe so I could stabilize it with my hands at my sides, we were off. It took us about 30 minutes to get across the nice portage, only stopping twice (and once again, I stopped within 100m of the end of the portage without realizing it).

As good as a campfire, this falls was a good thing to just stare at.

As good as a campfire, this falls was a good thing to just stare at.

Head Lake is a very picturesque body of water, and deceivingly small. The wind had picked up, and was making steady whitecaps across the length of the lake, but it was going at our backs for the short jaunt across to our campsite. Barry, from the Algonquin Adventures forum I frequent, had suggested a site right next to a waterfall that ran from Kenneth to Head lake, and was he right on the money. This site was perfect for us. It had a great view, was relatively protected from the wind in a little bay, and the falls made for something to look at absently.

We were fairly lucky about catching stuff from shore

We were fairly lucky about catching stuff from shore

Lunch was a tuna wrap, easy to do now that I’ve finally found tuna in a aluminum pouch to get around Algonquin’s can and bottle ban. We spent the rest of the day setting up camp, exploring the area, gathering firewood, and wishing the wind would die down enough to afford us fishing from the boat. We had brought with us some gear for deep-water trout fishing, but in the current weather we’d have been in trouble trying to stay right-side up while pulling in our line. Cold water is mighty intimidating when you’re away from civilization.

Shane with his trout

Shane with his trout

We did fish from shore and had some great luck though. The jury is still out over exactly what Shane caught, with our best bet being either a Lake Trout or a Splake. I definitely caught a lake trout…I wish I had a big bright red Brook trout. But regardless it was good to have a tight line.

I was also quite happy to catch something from shore

I was also quite happy to catch something from shore

 

Dinner was fresh-baked pizza in the Outback Oven, and after a few drinks around the fire we retired to a fitful (if not a little cold) sleep to the soothing sounds of the waterfall.

Fresh-made pizza is one of my favorite meals on a trip

Fresh-made pizza is one of my favorite meals on a trip

 

Day 2

The wind had died down overnight...for now.

The wind had died down overnight…for now.

We woke up a bit late, enjoying the warmth of our sleeping bags, and quickly got coffee going once we were up and around. The wind had severely abated in the night, and we were looking forwards to an easy day of small water paddling and short portages. Oh how wrong we were.

Somewhere in there there's a portage take-out, but I can't find it.

Somewhere in there there’s a portage take-out, but I can’t find it.

After a quick breakfast of eggs, bacon, cheese, and tomato wraps we packed up our gear and made for Head lake creek. The wind was starting to pick up on Head Lake, only giving us a little taste of what we’d have to face later on. The portage from Head lake to Head Creek was a strange one. Being as this was a low-volume portage, we found a lot of signs down and in disrepair, but for the life of us we couldn’t find the portage take-out! It mixed with the hiking trail in the area and we had to bushwhack our way onto the water. “This was supposed to be our easy day,” we complained, now covered in mud and cuts from the swamp we had to dig our way out onto, but we were floating again, ready for some fun.

Below these falls lay some fun river sections!  And some tough ones!

Below these falls lay some fun river sections! And some tough ones!

Going downstream on Head creek was great fun actually. The flow of the river made for some exciting times as we zipped through the backcountry and over beaver dams with exceptional speed. It wasn’t until we hit the Madawaska River/creek. I’ve traveled upstream. I’ve paddled into the wind. I have never had to paddle upstream and against the wind like this.

 

Every inch was fought for, every corner a battle against current, and by the time we had made it to our third portage of the day around a set of rapids, we were wiped. Our original plan called for a 3 hour paddle, and a few small portages. We knew that we’d prefer one big portage rather than multiple smaller ones, but the energy drain on that creek was staggering. We refueled with some GORP and water, then pressed on.

Map

Once back on Cache, we still had 3 or 4 kilometers to paddle before we were back at our cars, and we’ve never been so happy to see an open body of water. Despite the fact that the wind had picked up to a rate which would wind-bound a solo canoeist, we were happy to be paddling without a noticeable current to fight. Our last hurdle was rounding the final island before the put-in/take-out. The wind was blowing fiercely, and we were hurting hard by the time we sidled up to the dock and flopped onto dry land.

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Nearly a lifeless wreck, we through all our gear haphazardly into the vehicle and headed down the road to find a greasy meal and clear our heads. What we had thought would only take 3, maybe 3.5 hours, had taken us the better part of 7. We were definitely glad to be out there, and happy that the ice was out, but we were very glad to not have to exert any more energy than needed by the end of that day.

 

All in all, it’s the beginning of another great season for camping!

Triplog: Kawartha Highlands – Oct 4-6

This trip could very likely be my last of the year, so we wanted to make the most out of what we had.  Unfortunately, all we had was a weekend, and it looked like it was going to be a soggy one.

View from the site

View from the site

We decided to head to the Kawartha Highlands again, getting into Bottle Lake, then taking a short 80m portage into Sucker Lake.  It was an easy paddle, less than 4 kms, and this was just perfect.  I planned this trip to maximize our time camping, and avoid getting our boots wet with early October coldness.

Fall colours

We decided, regardless of work or setting suns, to get our site on the north side of Sucker Lake by Friday so that we had all of Saturday to relax.  I was paddling in solo, and my friends in the other canoe were about an hour ahead of me.  I managed to fight the good fight against traffic, but I was still pushing off shore after 7 o’clock in October, well after twilight had set in.  It was an interesting experience to be sure.  My eyes fully dialated, allowing me to use every little scrap of light that was in the air.  A few people were on Bottle Lake, and that gave me some campfire beacons to navigate with.  Everything was going well until I hit the portage.

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Only 80m long, I could have fallen up this portage, and I made very short work of it.  Coming out the other side, I saw a blinking light in the general direction of my site/friends, and I was overjoyed to see them so close!  I packed the canoe up and hopped to getting to them.  Unfortunately for me, they weren’t signaling me from shore, but had rather come to see if I needed help.  It was a welcome sight, don’t get me wrong, but paddling to the site afterwards resulted in a very deep darkness.  It was cloudy out, and had been drizzling as I put in from the parking lot, this meant no stars.  There was no moon.  I could barely differentiate between the trees, the sky, and the lake.  It was very disorientating!

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But we got to site 120 easily enough, and set about putting up camp.  The boys had already strung up a tarp and put up the tents, so there was little to do aside from comfort stuff, but none of us had eatten yet and I had all the food in my canoe.  Dehydrated turkey, pasta sauce, red pepper, and eggplant solved that problem!  We spent  the rest of the night catching up, tending the fire as best we could, and thinking about what we’d do on Saturday.

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We slept in a bit, rousing around 9AM, and got the morning chores out of the way.  Coffee, breakfast, looking at the lake which night had hidden before…it was a lazy start to the day.  But as is prone to happen, we went fishing just before noon.  The waters were warming up, and we didn’t want to miss any activity!  A couple friendly bass and sunfish later, we decided to check out some sites around the lake, see what we were missing.  The island site (#127) seemed nice enough, but it was site 125 that blew us away.  It had enough space to house an army, a lovely privy location, and some really neat features (there was a tree that grew all sorts of wierd ways).  If I could reserve that site, I would have.  According to the wardens that came by (first time I’ve had one look in KH), someone was booked on that site, but they never showed.

The root I'm standing on is still alive and well!

The root I’m standing on is still alive and well!

We headed back to the site for a quick bite of lunch and to stoke the fire.  By this point, we’d found some perfect logs for cutting up and chopping, and we made a point of cutting one or two pieces up when we had a chance.  It was a very tough log, so going was slow, but we were in no rush.  By the time night would come around, we had a tremendous stack of wood to keep us warm.

Plenty of firewood, even left some for the next folks

Plenty of firewood, even left some for the next folks

We had a quick lunch, and were soon out fishing again, this time in a part of the lake the wardens had pointed out.  I was solo again, and was getting no luck trolling, but the other crew was having some luck.  I headed back towards the site, as it was clouding over again (although we’d had lovely fall weather until then!) and tried my luck in the shallower side of the lake.  When the other canoe started back, I’d given up to take a bathroom break and stoke the fire up again.

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Dinner that night was pizza on the Outback Oven.  I adore that thing.  I can’t think of a more decadent and delicious meal when you’re 10 miles from nobody.  The others were impressed as well I think.  The coup de gras was some lake trout the other canoe had run into, cooked to perfection over the fire.  We cajoled about the year long into the night, and went to bed happy as clams.

Shane cleans up around the firepit with a paddle we all hate.

Shane cleans up around the firepit with a paddle we all hate.

Over the course of the night though, we heard the unmistakable noise of wind picking up.  The flap of a tarp and the creek of trees and leaves made us all tense when we woke up around 7:30.  It actually wasn’t that bad, there were no white-caps and the wind was going with us!  The weather networks were calling for lightning around noon, and the wind seemed to be getting worse by the minute, so we forwent breakfast in exchange for a quick coffee as we packed things up while we were dry.  Luckily we got the tents down before the drizzle started (ain’t nothin’ worse than a wet tent in your bag!), and got going around 8:30.

Bryan, with no luck from the site, but plenty in the canoe.

Bryan, with no luck from the site, but plenty in the canoe.

Not much else to say about this trip, it was a great one.  We lucked out on weather, brought all our toys to play with, and had some luck fishing.  I just hope I can get one more trip in before the ice starts up.

IanTendy Finds Out Something About Poland

Howdy folks, Ian Tendy here.  Fun Fact: I’m Polish by name.  I know nothing of the language, culture, or people of Poland aside from my relatives (all of which have been in Canada for most of their lives).  I know none of the language, can’t even ask where the bathroom is.  It’s safe to say, that beyond the food, I embrace other aspects of my heritage before the Polish aspects.

However, this is a special day for all Pollacks.  Today, August 1st, is the anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising. 

Brief History!  The Warsaw Uprising was a attempted coup of the Nazi Regime in Poland.  Hundreds of thousands of poorly armed or organized Poles lost their lives at the end of a gun, and the Nazis made good on their threat to detonate explosives at the castle in the middle of town.

Today, Poland and Germany are friends, with most of Europe developing into a very stable region in terms of political friendship.  Nothing’s perfect, but life has been worse.

But Poland, Warsaw in particular, still remembers those dark days.  They pay respect much like we in Canada do, with a rememberance ceremony and moment of silence at a particular time.  But they do that in a chillingly poignant way.  At 5 o`clock this afternoon, the emergency sirens will wail across Warsaw, and her people will stop whatever they are doing and stand up.  People driving will stop and join the siren`s chorus.  A few will light road flares.  This goes on for about a minute, and then everyone goes back to their business, sit down in restaurants, and start up their cars again.

 

Here`s a video from last year:https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Ejd2rsXoQSI

 

I know what I`m doing at 5 o`clock today.

Trip Report: Kawartha Highlands

Anstruther to Serpentine Loop
Total Distance ~20 km
Total Portaging Distance: 2710m
Video log: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMxtMUJvWmw 

I’ll take what I can get this summer when it comes to camping trips.  Because of work commitments, it seems that I’m stuck with simple weekend trips, and I’m more than happy to do them in lieu of one or two big ones.  This weekend took me back to the Kawartha Highlands in search of its northernmost sites and to conquer its longest portage.

Me and my friend Dan headed out of the GTA on a stormy Friday night, heading to my parents cottage in Haliburton.  We got hit very briefly by an intense cell of rain, wind, and hail, but it didn’t last long (a minute or two) and we weren’t phased!  The next morning though, we woke early and got to the put-in as fast as we could and discovered this…

Poor fella, what a bad way to end a trip...

Poor fella, what a bad way to end a trip…

This truck was good and squashed, and the rest of cars in the row were tight behind the trunk.  I definitely parked (and will continue to park) carefully, and very aware of branches and trees that were at risk of falling.  Looking out over the lake made my heart sink a little bit too.  It was windy and Anstruther lake is looonnnnggg.  Nevertheless, we pushed out into the foot and a half swells and headed into the breeze.  Things were a bit tippy with the wind, but our shoulders were strong and we went up the lake to our first portage.

There are a lot of cottages on Anstruther Lake, with pontoon boats and wakeboard boats whipping around.  “Uh-oh” I thought, “I’ve taken us on another trip where we’ll be able to hear trucks, boats, and ATVs,” but once we got through the first couple portages…nothing.  It was almost magical.  After the first portage, we started to lose the motors, and there were only a few cottages.  After the second portage, there was nothing.  I even remarked to Dan, that it felt legitimately remote up in North Rathburn Lake less than 3km from the cottaged lake.  Terrific part of Ontario, accessible from the GTA, and easy to get to.

From North Rathburn Lake, we took the 1411m portage to Serpentine Lake.  This was the longest portage I’ve single carried with a canoe and a pack and I’ve got to say…it wasn’t that bad.  I had to put down the canoe for a few minutes here and there, but we got through really quickly and I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to double carry it.  The wind was going with us on Serpentine, so we drifted lazily to the site and pumped water, refreshing ourselves in the great weather.

Campsite 221.

Campsite 221.

Our site, was, amazing.  It was a rocky little island near the portage to Copper lake, with two ‘levels’ to it.  One where you could pull the canoe out and then up a small hill to the firepit, picnic table, and tent pads.  Being as we were basically right on the Canadian Shield, I couldn’t stake down my tent for the first time (with this tent in particular).  Because the wind remained high we tucked a few rocks into the corners of the tent, which seemed to keep it stable.

We then set about camp, exploring our little slice of paradise.  We cut up wood for the fire, set up out food-hanging system, went for a swim, fished a little…all the fun stuff!  Dinner was rehydrated ground turkey and spaghetti sauce with some vegetables we’d brought thrown in, and I once again failed to bring enough vodka.  I seem to either bring way too much, or not nearly enough.  This time it was enough to make one good stiff drink, but I wish I had another for the fire at night.  Oh well, you live and you learn.

Our wood gathering really paid off.  We had plenty left for the next people coming through, and this fire burnt down entirely.

Our wood gathering really paid off. We had plenty left for the next people coming through, and this fire burnt down entirely.

 The next morning we got up and running after dawn, mostly because the full moon obscured when the sun was coming up (which is usually a great alarm clock).  We didn’t hurry around camp, the wind had changed and we didn’t know what that’d do to our return paddle, and the sun was shining bright!  Bacon and eggs with cheese definitely helped bring our spirits even higher.

Once we had packed up and cleaned up the site we’d loved so much, we pushed off across the short paddle to our first portage.  Today we were going over more portages than the first day, but A.) They were all short, and B.) They were all downhill.  After the first portage I was pleasantly surprised by the creeks in and around Copper Lake.  It reminded me of the 5-foot wide streams in Algonquin park.

The creek between Copper and Rathburn lakes.  Nice little paddle.

The creek between Copper and Rathburn lakes. Nice little paddle.

This day was characterized by short paddles, broken up by well-worn portages.  It was really a fun time, and the sense of adventure often absent in these weekend trips was certainly there.  By the time we got back to Anstruther lake, the wind had died down and it was a gorgeous paddle back.  We got everything packed up in the sawdust created by a crew which had cut that poor pickup truck out from under a tree, and headed down the road.

Trip Report: Canoe Lake to Burnt Island Lake

Total Distance: 24km
Number of portages: 6 (1 skipped)
Total portage distance: 1790m

Video Log: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RzjrgwPH_c&feature=c4-overview&list=UUgb68LPMOC3V-CrHl8Vebiw

This was another weekend trip to the park, which was a great reprieve from the city, but not quite long enough to get “out there”.  I drove up to a friend’s cottage in Bracebridge the Friday night, and hit the road early on Saturday ready to make the most of my time.

It’s been more than a decade since I’ve been on the Hwy 60 corridor through Algonquin park, and it’s only now that I can appreciate how truly nice it is.  As the sun was burning the fog off the road, I really enjoyed my drive.  I got to the Canoe Lake access point around 6:30 AM, got my canoe/gear in order and was ready when the permit office was just opening up at 7.  By the time my permit was written and my car parked, I hit the water.  It was 7:30, almost perfectly on schedule.

Morning on Canoe Lake

Morning on Canoe Lake

Canoe lake was very calm for such an open body of water.  I had nightmares about getting windbound by 2 foot whitecaps and howling winds (but that’s just my own hangup I suppose).  In reality, there was a gentle breeze at my back, and the camps were just waking up.  It was very calm, and it wasn’t until I rounded Ahmek Bay that I started seeing people.  With that being said, once the first flotilla of canoes from Camp Ahmek started coming around the bend, the lakes turned into the highway that the 60 corridor is known as!

A near-constant stream of kids from all ages started pouring into the portage between Canoe and Joe Lake.  They were all very pleasant and respectful though, restoring my faith in the younger generation of camper.  We even saw a cow moose and her calf as we entered the fork to the portage!  The darkest moment came when a youngster asked if the Ewok on my bow was a panda warrior.  I nearly turned around to go fetch my Laserdisc player wo I could show this kid what’s what.

An easy was for people to know which canoe is mine.

An easy was for people to know which canoe is mine.

All the portages noted here were super VIP.  Wide, graded in areas, flat, the one between Joe and Canoe Lakes even had a composting toilet!  I was blown away.  It was a welcome surprise from the more rugged trails I am used to.
I paddled down Joe lake, flying my Canadian flag so that the group I was meeting would recognize me, and around 10 o`clock I pulled up on the three connecting campsites closest to Little Joe Lake.  My buddy Shane had friends who were getting married there, and they had generously invited me with a ‘more the merrier’ attitude.  I got settled, put on some sunscreen and toasted the happy couple, then me and Shane headed off in a unleaden canoe towards Burnt Island lake for some fishing and exploration.

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Always gotta be ready to go!

According to Jeff’s Map, there are the ruins of an old CNR hotel on Burnt Island Lake, close to where we were, so we headed there first, with the intention of fishing our way back.  Getting there was a joy, the portages were a breeze and the canoe was handling really well.  Also, there used to be a beaver dam on Joe creek, but it has since burst and you can fully skip the 165m portage around it, probably even in the fall (although there are a few big rocks you might have to sqeak by).  We beached approximately where we though the old hotel would have been, and started bushwacking.  Early July is not the time to look for this though.  All that remains of the hotel are 6 or 7 stone chimney’s, and with all the lush vegetation your eyes start identifying every thick tree and cluster as one.  We couldn’t pick out anything in the bush, despite having great bearings between a bike/ski path and a small creek, and decided we’d be better off fishing than getting eatten by bugs.

The wind was picking up as we launched back into Burnt Island, and I didn’t envy anyone who had to paddle across that VERY big lake.  It seemed to stretch on forever, and I couldn’t even see the very end of it!  Of all the lakes we went through, I like Baby Joe the best (you really start losing which one is Joe, Little Joe, Baby Joe, and Lost Joe quickly when you start paddling through them!).  It was a clear, calm lake with one good site on it.  The structure was there for bass too, but we were fishing on it around 2:30-3PM which is the absolute worst time of day for fishing under a beating sun.  We decided to pack it in and head back to camp as the wind picked up.  The wedding ceremony was at 4, and Shane wasn`t feeling too well because of the heat and some bad carrots he`d eatten the night before.

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Paddling Joe Creek

To give him a rest in the shade, I volunteered to carry a 17ft kevlar canoe for a group of women who were staying at Arowhon Lodge and had perhaps bitten off more than they could chew with a day trip.  Apparently they had been all the way to Tom Thomson Lake, making a 15km round trip!  They had struggled getting their heavy kayak over the 1140m portage to Baby Joe, and when they asked how long the portage to Little Joe was I could see their faces sink like stones when I said 435.  So strapped my trusty portage pad to their yoke and carried a truly wonderful canoe over for them, lightening their load a bit. Why won’t people believe me when I say that canoes are far easier to carry than kayaks?!

A big turnout for a wedding in the Park.

A big turnout for a wedding in the Park.

We got back to the site of the wedding with time to spare for a refreshing dip in water to cool off.  The ceremony was short, sweet, and deliciously informal.  From now on, if a wedding I’m at is longer than 10 minutes and doesn’t deploy at least 1 canoe as a reception table, I will consider it a failure.  We spent the rest of the night toasting the happy couple and imbibing drink.  It was another great day in Algonquin Park.

The next morning I slept in very late due to perhaps a bit too much celebrating.  Although slow off the blocks, I managed to clean up my mess, take down the hammock I’d set up, and put everything in my pack.  It wasn’t a pretty packing job, but with only 1 short and luxurious portage, who really cares right?  We were trying to beat the rainclouds out, and even with all our gear haphazardly strewn about and double-carrying the portage, we managed to get to the Portage Store in 2 hours.

Ominous clouds spurn us towards our cars by mid-afternoon.

Ominous clouds spurn us towards our cars by mid-afternoon.

While this trip was a hoot and the people were great company, it wasn’t the usual expedition missions I’m accustomed to.  There were coolers, motorboats, and folding chairs galore.  This was perfect for the wedding, but I can’t help but feel like I was at a car-camping site at times.  With that being said, Algonquin is still Algonquin, and I’m glad I got to see parts of the park I haven’t yet, but I’m probably going to avoid the Hwy 60 access points during the height of the summer for a while.

Trip Report

Haliburton Highlands
Total Distance covered: 15 km
Total Portage Distance: 1353m
Number of Portages: 6

We put in at the sandy beach that is the Big Hawk Lake access point. There’s a marina there and plenty of parking, both on the road near the marina and by the typical outhouses.

The weather was drizzly, and our spirits weren’t too high, as we had driven through some very heavy rain on the way to the put in, but I was safely tucked into my 99c poncho I had bought on a whim before my last Algonquin trip, and we were on the water by about 7:30AM. The paddle across Big Hawk Lake was uneventful, but it sure was covered in cottages. I couldn’t help but feel like we were just in someone’s backyard rather than in the Canadian wilderness.

We got to the first portage and realized that while the path was well worn and short, the late June bugs were in full force. This was the first trip I was using a “canoe” bag, a waterproof stuff-sack which held things like the water filter, fishing lures, GORP, and my Pelican case. I love it, it allows me to have everything handy, and when I get to a portage (or any time I have to get out of a canoe), it’s easy to clip to a pack or throw in a bigger bag. Makes things really handy when there’s a swarm of skeeters hovering over you!

Into Clear lake we went, making short work of the portage. It sure was clear! You could see down at least ten or fifteen feet. We passed two sites on the lake, one which looked good and exposed allowing a breeze to blow away the bugs. The other one, closer towards the portage to Blackcat Lake, seemed tucked away into the woods but looked like it had access to a really high cliff system. Maybe worth checking out if nobody is on that site and you`re passing through to Red Pine Lake. There were cottages and motorboats on this lake too though, so we pushed through to the site we had booked earlier at this website: https://secure.camis.com/HHWT/.

The 500m portage into Blackcat was uphill and a bit soggy because of the rain, but nothing that I haven`t had to deal with before. Because of my proper packing job and the fact that we only needed gear for one night, portaging was a absolute breeze, if not actually fun at points. It was definitely worth the slight slog to get to Blackcat, and our site was within a stone`s throw from the portage.

While the bugs were tough to get through on the portage (hooray for single carrying), at site 54 they weren`t too bad. We put up the tent so my canoe partner/sister could change into a shirt that had sleeves on it (silly girl), and then set up tarping the site a bit. With the tarp sitting pretty, we looked out at our neighbors who according to the internet weren’t supposed to be there. I didn’t mind it, but they were just standing there with no visible gear and getting drenched. Seems they had already loaded up there canoe and were waiting for a break in the weather before heading out home.

We spent the rest of the day puttering around the site, fishing from shore between rain spouts, reading, and bettering the site. I was disgusted with how much garbage there was just lying around. A shredded bag od bread, unmelted aluminum cans, a nearly-full and quite melted bottle of mustard…disgraceful. We probably came back with more weight than we came in with!

I was yet again impressed with my gear. The tent stayed dry and bug-tight, my stove boiled water in the blink of an eye, and the Outback Oven made me another tasty pizza. I did get to use a new piece of gear though, I have a collapsible 14L sink now and I don’t know how I got along without it. From hauling up water to wash yourself and the dishes with to properly putting out the fire at the end of the night, I adore this little bit of plastic. I used to scoff at them too, how wrong I was.

The night went well, but there were a pair of bullfrogs nearby that kept us up as we went to bed. The next morning we woke up fairly early to fog, lots and lots of fog. It was pretty cool really. Within a few minutes of snapping some pics, I got the water boiling for coffee and breakfast. I’d been gifted a “Mountain House Breakfast Skillet”, where you add boiling water to a foil bag and then put it all in a wrap. As someone who’d rather haul in eggs or dehydrate something, I can say that for the convenience…they’re pretty bad. The taste wasn’t too poor, but it sat in my gullet like a lead football. Not great for a portage-heavy day, I can tell you that.

We broke camp efficiently, and were on the water as the mist started to reveal the whole lake. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING was packed up tight, including the map. With the bugs the way they were, we didn’t want to waste any time milling around at portage heads. It allowed us to really fly through the short portages back to Big Hawk Lake. We took a look at the sites on Midway lake and Snowshoe lake. Maybe in the late fall those sites would be okay, but they’re awful right about now. I wouldn’t recommend this part of the park to anyone, but it was pretty much the only place on the trip that felt like proper wilderness. So there’s that I suppose…

It was a glorious paddle across the lake, and we made it back to the car at a leisurely pace. It was a great little trip, I’d take people new to the sport into that area. Quite pretty, but definitely not a very remote area.

What’s My Worst Camping Experience?

I’ve always said “camping isn’t for everyone.”  I often get strange looks when I say that I like to get way out into the bush, sometimes on my own, and just sit there for a day or two, then turn around and come back.  “Aren’t you afraid of bears?” they ask, “what if something goes wrong?” and I generally wave these concerns off.

A few days ago though, someone postulated a question: “What’s the worst camping experience you’ve ever had?”  It made me really think!  I had to furrow my brow and everything!  While I’d never say that any trip was without hardship (in fact, those hardships are what can make a trip great), I`d never say I hated any aspect of my recent trips.

Over the years though, one night had almost fallen into the darkest recesses of my mind.  This was the worst night I`d ever had on a camping trip:

I was a young buck then, no more than 10 or 11 years old, and I was on a 5-day trip around the French River with my summer camp.  It was one of those trips where I had little to do other than paddle and set up my tent.  There wasn`t much to portage, most of the rapids were run-able, and life was easy.  However, one of the last nights we spent there, camped near a very nice little river we set up our tent on what can only be described as `nest of mosquitoes`.

Never before or since have I ever felt the infamously unmitigated hatred of northern Ontario`s bug population.  There were 4 of us in the tent, and we were up the whole night due to the shoddy shape of the tent.  It had holes and tears everywhere, forcing us to constantly clean out our ears and snort out our noses.  It was awful.

Behold the anatomy of Satan!

Behold the anatomy of Satan!

Because we were camping though, we made the best of it and it turned into one of the most memorable nights I`ve ever had in the bush.  At what must have been 3 in the morning, we decided we`d had enough and made an exodus to the lake-front.  There, 4 young boys simply sat and revelled in the clear night air, waiting for the sun to come up so we could continue on our journey.

Also, taking the tent down sucked.  It was like kicking a hornet`s nest and then trying to put it into a stupid little bag.