Triplog – Civic Holiday 2014

Aug 2-4
Rain/Islet/Casey Lake
Total Distance: 19km
Number of Portages: 6
Total Portage Distance: 4970m

Video Log: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVF_FOWz7OI

Me, my pal Shane, and our other friend Harry all headed up to Shane’s Kearney cabin Friday night so that we could sort our gear and get an early jump on the weekend.  We managed to get up and out at a fairly decent time, not encountering the zoo we expected at the #4 put-in.

The #4 Access: Rain Lake

The #4 Access: Rain Lake

This was Harry’s first real canoe trip, and while we had been car camping many times before together, it was usually accompanied by a cooler full of rope and a truck-bed full of tarps.  It was definitely a little different this time.  We had some long portages ahead of us, and were going lightweight.  That being said, it was an absolutely gorgeous day, and we took our time down the length of Rain.

None of us had been to this lake before, and it was better than I had expected.  There were the usual yahoos hauling a giant cooler and 2 tonnes of fishing gear, but nothing that got my blood boiling like I have seen on other “close to the access point” trips.

Rain was a kind and gentle host.

Rain was a kind and gentle host.

We eventually made it to the only portage of the day, and once we had hashed out who was carrying what we went up the path.  Up indeed, the whole portage is uphill!  If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say there’s about a 40m difference over 1300-odd meters.  But our legs were fresh, so the promise of a cool swim and trout fishing enticed us along our merry way.  Before noon, we had reached Casey Lake and were setting about setting up camp.

Before lunch we headed out for a quick exploratory fish, as the locals in Kearney had pointed out Casey as a good trout spot.  It wasn’t long until we were hungry though, and we headed in for a parlay and some food.  We agreed that with almost the whole afternoon at our disposal to fish this tiny lake, that would be our objective.  We also thought it would be fun to try and get to Salvelinus Lake via a bushwhack.  Unfortunately neither panned out to our satisfaction.

We fished, and fished, and fished until we could fish no more.

We fished, and fished, and fished until we could fish no more.

Fishing turned out to be a bust.  Perhaps it was too late in the summer, or the reports were wrong, but even 50-60′ down the fish couldn’t be enticed to eat our bait.  The bushwhack too was a bust.  We found some small pond, but were unable to find the lake named after the genus of fish we were seeking.  It would have been disheartening had the day not been so damn nice.  There’s nothing better than a warm summer day with your buds in the park.

The sun sets on our well-used canoes near Casey Lake

The sun sets on our well-used canoes near Casey Lake

Dinner was chicken and rice as we watched the sun set and laughed as Harry complained about the lack of ice for some whiskey, but it was undoubtedly a really great night as we dozed off.

Morning: Day 2 on Casey Lake

Morning: Day 2 on Casey Lake

We awoke to another glorious day in Algonquin, and I was very glad I had bought a toque from our outfitter (Canoe Algonquin, they’re awesome).  Others were not as lucky, or smart depending on who you ask.  A quick breakfast of oatmeal and coffee prepped us for our ‘long day’.  Because I had booked the trip so close to the date, I was unable to secure two sequential nights on Casey.  Being the case, we had to walk to Islet lake, 3 portages to the south.  Luckily the first portage back to Rain lake was entirely downhill and much nicer than when we had to go up it.

The stairs up to the railbed on the way to Hot lake seem intimidating, but it levels out quickly.

The stairs up to the railbed on the way to Hot lake seem intimidating, but it levels out quickly.

Unfortunately for us Rain lake is a glorified gully, and the other side was also uphill.  It wasn’t too bad though, the portages were shorter, and once you get over the initial shock of the steps to Hot lake it isn’t too bad.  These paths are all well-worn and well maintained.  We were the first people of the day to arrive on Islet lake, as we had been on Casey, and had our pick of sites.  The southernmost site seemed promising as it was a multi-tiered one, but we settled on the island site.  We had met its previous occupants on the portages and knew it was well-stocked with some wood and had soft tent pads.

Shane finally finds a good use for his yellow paddle on Islet Lake

Shane finally finds a good use for his yellow paddle on Islet Lake

We settled in for a night and rigged our fishing gear while our Kraft Dinner lunch cooked.  The portaging had taken it out of all of us, and we needed a bit of rest before heading out fishing again.  It was that dangerous “rubbery-legged” type of tired which signaled overheating and dehydration, so we were taking it easy.  A quick trip out beach combing for lumber loaded us up for the night and beyond, then we set out fishing in earnest.  Being much shallower and warmer Islet is a haven for bass, and we caught our fair share.  None were too big, but it was just nice to have a tight line after the disappointing afternoon before.

The real treat of Islet was the fishing and calm waters.

The real treat of Islet was the fishing and calm waters.

Once again, there wasn’t a breath of wind to churn up the large-ish lake, and we paddled around our area fishing the many little bays and creek run-outs.  It was one of the best weekends weather-wise I’ve had in the park, truly remarkable.  That night we spent some time around the campfire, but turned in relatively early to get on the road at a reasonable time.  There were some long drives the next day, and we wanted to beat the craziness of the afternoon takeout.

Slow shutter-speed + fire poking = neat photo!

Slow shutter-speed + fire poking = neat photo!

The next morning was just as nice as the rest of the weekend, albeit with a itsy bitsy bit of clouds.  The portages back were the easiest yet, as tends to happen.  No stops, not even for that giant staircase into Rain lake!  We got out without too much trouble, happy to head into town for some grub.  The one bit of bad luck was that the notoriously slow chip truck we usually head to was packed like Webers, so I had to wait until later in the day (shout out to Pizza on Earth, the best pizza in Ontario.  Just outside of Dorset http://www.mypizzaonearth.com/).

One of the better sunsets of 2014

One of the better sunsets of 2014

All things considered, it wasn’t a great fishing trip, but damn if it was a great long weekend!

Triplog – Solo to Ralph Bice Lake

June 19-21
Ralph Bice Lake
Total Distance: 7 km
Number of Portages: 4
Total Portage Distance: 860m

Video log: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XVNJ_vh0tg

I started out of the city at about 5:30 on Thursday June 19 in order to beat the traffic heading into Toronto. I was wide awake and alert as I hurdled up the 400/11 corridor towards Algonquin, excited to be on my way again. This was my third solo trip, the first solo trip in Algonquin, and would be the first that I was able to do across multiple nights so I was more excited than usual.

I got to Kearney in record time, even allowing for a coffee stop and seperate bathroom break, and had my permits in no time. The weather report said that the sun would be shining for the next three days and that the nights wouldn’t get too cold, everything was starting to line up. 45 minutes later I was in the parking lot of Access #3 again laughing at the bouncy trip down the access road.

I was met with a nice and sheltered bay on Ralph Bice.

I was met with a nice and sheltered bay on Ralph Bice.

Unloading my car took minimal time because I only had one pack this trip, stowed in such a way as to maximize efficiency along the portage routes. I had absolutely everything I would need…right? I’m beginning to think I’m going to be the eventual king of forgetting important things, because I had left my lifejacket sitting safely on the shelf at home!

This was extremely disconcerning for me, as I love my lifejacket dearly and didn’t want to venture out onto Ralph Bice Lake without it. Compound that with the fact that earlier in the year 2 people had already died tragically because they didn’t have lifejackets in cold and windy water, and you had one slightly nervous tripper. But! I wasn’t going let that get me down or keep me off the water. My pack is waterproof and floats, which gave me a good sense of security if the need should arise. There also wasn’t much in the way of wind and I’m a strong swimmer, so I felt capable of handling an emergency in a cool-water environment.

So, mentally kicking myself for forgetting another piece of important gear, I set off onto Magnetewan Lake around 10 o’clock heading for the first portage of the day.

Not pictured, the army of mosquitos lying in wait.

Not pictured, the army of mosquitoes lying in wait.

I was using the little bungie cords I had bought for my last solo trip to secure my two paddles and fishing rod to the seat/yoke for portaging, and it once again worked perfectly. I bring two paddles so that if I drop one, or one breaks, I’ll still have the means to propel myself at hand. The portages were short on this trip, but I am confident that with the lightweight setup I had on would be a great means of moving overland. Magnetewan and Hambone Lakes went by quickly, with little in the way of touring around as I had been here just a year earlier, and little had changed.

When I got to Ralph Bice, the wind was channeling across the whole lake into the bay where the portage spat me out. I was glad I brought a paddle other than my rather elegant ottertail paddle, which is more suited for calm soloing than strong paddling demanded by paddling into the wind.

What my slice of heaven looked like

What my slice of heaven looked like

As I rounded the first bay, I faced a decision regarding whether or not to press on to the northern island site, grab a site along Ralph Bice’s northern shore, or to rest when needed on sites and wait for the wind to die down. The wind was getting worse as the day went on, and pretty soon the decision was made for me by the call of nature. I sidled up to the site closest to the portage, secured my gear, and waddled my way to the well-appointed thunderbox.

Looking around the site I regarded the large lake in front of me. I took into consideration:
-The wind, blowing at about 10-15 kmph
-How nice the site was that I was currently on
-The mediocre reviews of the island site I was shooting for
-My lack of a lifejacket

After pondering over a lunch of gorp and water, I decided that I would set up camp here for the day, and maybe relocate the next day. I set up my food up a tree (I get paranoid when I’m solo), and assembled my tent before going about the usual chores of living in the woods.

If anyone knows what these clouds signify, please let me know!

If anyone knows what these clouds signify, please let me know!

I spent some time gethering wood, nothing beats a fire for a sense of purpose and security when you’re alone in the woods. It gives you something to constantly tend to and takes your mind off of the things around you making noise. A storm had blown through the area earlier in the week, and while felled wood was abundant directly on the site it was mostly green. For the first night I had enough dry stuff to work with, but I would need to go out beachcombing the next day.

I tried some fishing too, but it was entirely from the site. The wind was too heavy to troll from an unleaden boat like mine, which tends to buoy around. When you have a pack in the front of my boat you can dance a jig on Georgian Bay with a salmon on your line, but with just yourself in it the Ewok rolls around like a piece of styrofoam. Also…no lifejacket.

Chicken and rice is my favorite "first night" meal!

Chicken and rice is my favorite “first night” meal!

I started my fire well before dinner needed cooking over it (chicken and rice! Yum!) because the previous tenants had left some trash in there and I wanted my chicken cooked in a perfect bed of coals. Once it was ready, I had a drink as I carefully cooked my dinner and waited for the sun to go down. To be perfectly honest, I probably had one drink too many that night, but everything that needed to be done had been and I was on vacation. I slept like a log that night, despite it being a bit on the cold side for June.

I awoke to my tent flapping around me, much to my dismay. The wind hadn’t died during the night and was still blowing hard enough to keep me on my site. Despite this, one of the first things on my to-do list was beachcombing. My firewood supply had dwindled, but I had enough to get the fire going from embers left over from the night before.

Sunset, night 1

Sunset, night 1

I set out directly south from my site, across a narrower part of the lake. I had spotted a downed tree which had become sun-bleached and looked ripe for harvesting. When I got to the tree, I had quite a job trying to steady the canoe, saw the lumber, and keep the boat from drifting along the tree, but I managed to get at least one good nights worth of wood in the boat and secured for my journey back. The wind was at its highest point yet of the day, and whitecaps lapped against my hull, but it was a short jaunt and I made it back without incident.

I spent the rest of the day reading, making videos, exploring the area, taking photos, and generally lazzing about. The wind eventually died down and I tried my hand at deep-water fishing. It was a disaster. The weight I brought along to get the lure down to trout-level was FAR too heavy, and acted as an anchor more than a sinker. My braided line turned out to be garbage too, regularly falling apart at the slightest tug (seriously, I pulled it apart by hand, lost a lure casting, lost another to a snag, and once the line snapped as I was hooking the lure to the rod for storage). What’s more, the wind picked up once I rounded the point, sticking me in the worst place in the lake to be in a lightweight canoe.

The wind kept me to shore, not ideal for trout!

The wind kept me to shore, not ideal for trout!

As I was setting about making dinner and hanging my food, I discovered that a giant dead pine tree had lost a large sliver of its trunk which had fallen near my food bags hanging spot. This plank was bone dry, 3 inches thick, and about the rough size of a large snowboard. When combined with my pile of bleached driftwood, I managed to feed this sliver into my fire all night. It had clouded over enough to block out the stars, but it was still one of those magical nights where you’re warm and entertained around the campfire.

On the morning I was to leave my little slice of heaven, I finally got what I had been waiting for all trip. The lake was like glass, not a breath of wind to be found. This made for a great morning view. Unfortunately, I soon wished the wind would pick up immediately, as the reprieve allowed the full might of the June bug population to descend upon me. Up until this point I had recieved remarkably few bug bites, but not anymore. I packed up quicker than I wanted to and was on the water heading out around 8am.

I leave this flag so people can see from a while away that the site is occupied

I leave this flag so people can see from a while away that the site is occupied

I fished a little on Ralph Bice as I meandered towards the first portage, not really wanting to give up the mirrored surface that I was paddling on for the bumpy road out, but my weak line continued to give me trouble. I got everything ready for the portage while I was still well away from shore, then paddled onto the beachy shore between Hambone and Ralph Bice.

I was expecting bugs, and I was surprised at the lack of them until I set the canoe down 295m later. The battle of Hambone Lake was on! A teeming swarm of needle-nosed invaders took to the skies as I flopped into my seat and tried to turn my craft towards the open water, but it was too late. Already bitten and spitting out my little foes, my canoe became a buzzing island as it moved across the still waters. I managed to kill many of them, but they had a good portion of my blood when they eventually flew off.

Ralph Bice on day 3

Ralph Bice on day 3

I sang portaging songs as I pulled into the last portage of the trip, and repeated the fight against bugs all the way to the take-out. I quickly got my gear in/on the car, washed off some of the grime I had accumlated over the past few days, and set off down the road again in search of what I like to call “The Big Dirty”, which is my first meal after a canoe trip. It’s usually the biggest and greasest meal I can find, and I look forwards to it the whole trip.

This time, it was the “Lumberjack Stack” at the local Kearney chip truck (they take forever to get you food, but it’s pretty good). I had to eat it like an apple.

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.

DSC01730

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.

DSC01439

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!

DSC01474

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.

DSC01426

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.

DSC01436

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.