May 12-13, 2018
# of portages: 4
Total portage distance: 1110m
Total distance: 10.6km
The annual Vanguard trip is upon us! Permits were being issued on the Friday, and we got in on the Saturday. All week Shane (friend), Gwyn (wife), Ginny (dog), and I were fretting over whether or not we`d all be able to head into Algonquin for a quick shoulder season trip and we were not disappointed. Forecasts of rain gave way to bright sunshine and mild temperatures. We set off from Shane`s house in Kearney early on Saturday, stopping only for a quick bite at the Rise and Grill cafe which stocks the best food for a hungry camper.
The drive in was actually really good. Low snowfall in the winter amounted a relatively smooth drive, no washouts or giant potholes to worry about. We were on Magnetewan shortly after 10am, with Gwyn/Ginny in the front of the Ewok and Shane soloing his red Kipawa. The lake was glassy, and it felt great to be out in the sun after a long spring melt. The going wasn’t silent though, as the woods were alive with avid campers eager to find their first campsite of the canoe season.
Our first surprise was at the portage between Magnetewan and Hambone lake. Normally barely a blip on the radar, this turned into the hardest portage of the trip due to ice in at the Hambone end. This meant hacking through muddy fescue off the trail in order to get some open water. The highlight was carrying the dog around the mud because she’s little and the mud was ice cold, only for her to jump directly into it when we put her down in the canoe for loading. Once out on Hambone, the going was easy.
On Daisy lake, we paddled past a few intrepid fishermen and made tracks towards the island sites at the east side of the lake. We wanted a protected site, and having an island would allow Ginny to rip around off lead. The nicer site, close to the south end of the island, was occupied but we were happy to see the other site was open. It’s a medium sized and well-used site, with 3 good tent pads and a thunderbox waaay up a hill, bvut within sight of the fire pit. There is next to no hardwood lying around either, even with a windstorm and few campers on the prowl.
As we had some coffee/tea and waited for the afternoon sun, we explored the island and slowly set up camp. There was no rush, it wasn’t even noon yet. Chasing the dog around the island was fun for a bit, but she started disturbing the other camps (sorry Sandy!), so we put her on a long lead for most of the afternoon. By mid-afternoon we’d had our KD lunch and Gwyn was content in the hammock with her book and the dog, so Shane and I went out fishing. It wasn’t the most productive trip, but Shane managed to pull a splake out. Pretty fish!
Back at camp the sun was quickly dipping below the treeline due to our proximity to the western shore, and the temperature followed it. As beautiful a day we could ask for was quickly turning to a mid-May night. We lit the fire and set about warming a coal bed for chicken dinner. Fun fact about cedar, it just disintegrates instead of turning to coal! This makes for a terrible heat supply for cooking, but we managed it despite the ashes (extra toppings). As the night got darker and the temps plummeted we turned in once our lumber started to dwindle, as we wanted to make sure there was plenty left over for the next morning.
Sure enough it was a cold night, with the mercury playing with 0c. The next morning was a brisk, but sunny awakening. I quickly got coffee/tea going and the fire stoked up, taking time to figure out that this was probably why there was no early morning fishing occuring around the lake. As we ate breakfast of eggs, bacon, and cheese on a wrap the wind started to pick up. By the time we had everything taken down, there were white caps rolling along the south eastern section of the lake. We decided it would be best to put Shane, Gwyn, and Ginny in Shane’s bigger boat while I took the Ewok up myself.
To be completely honest, aside from the first 300m which I had to set my jaw and just power through, it was a doddle. The breeze quickly became manageable and the whole way back was as nice a paddle as I’ve ever had. I even got recognized from my Youtube channel on the Hambone-Daisy portage! What’s even better, the wind and weather had thawed the ice on Hambone’s portage which made the out very easy.
Everything considered, the weather was the real star of the weekend. It was supposed to rain, but a pressure system kept that water over Toronto instead. The distance was perfect too. Not too far that it was draining to get to, and not too short that we may as well have car camped at Mew Lake. Hands down, this was one of the best Vanguard trips we’ve had.