May 24 Algonquin Triplog! Pt. 4

Day 4 Misty to Magnetawan

That night it seemed that every single person slept like a baby, the loons which had been waking us around 4 AM every night were silent, and nothing was rustling around.  We woke up early and broke camp as quickly as we could.  One of our group was in such a hurry, he poured his oatmeal into his coffee and named it a “Cafe Mocha Oatmeal Somethingorother”.  Apparently it was edible because he fired it down with gusto.  Because we were heading out that afternoon and didn’t have to break out the dishes for lunch, we made great time getting organized and were on the water just after 8.

 

Heading back up the Petawawa, where we ate lunch 3 days ago.

Heading back up the Petawawa, where we ate lunch 3 days ago.

This whole trip was a mirrored version of our first day, but now we were well rested, full of caloric energy, and mentally knew what to expect in terms of distance and landmarks.  We hit the 935m portage running and although I had to 1.5 portage, we were through in probably half an hour.  I was really jealous of the folks who were switching off canoe carrying along the trail, but by this point I had gotten used to it.  It became a point of pride later in the day, as I realized I was the only one who carried his boat the whole time, and I could be proud of the distance I put on it.

A brave face for the last portage of the trip.

A brave face for the last portage of the trip.

I was shocked, and still am, at how few people we saw.  It wasn’t until Daisy that we saw other people on the water, and even at the take-out, there were only two or three groups milling around.  Based on what I was told in the Algonquin Adventure forums, it was supposed to be a bit of a wait at at least the Access point.  But this was not the case it seems.

A beauty trip with a great crew.

A beauty trip with a great crew.

This part of the trip really highlighted for me how far we had come as campers.  Not three days before, I had a group that didn`t want to get their feet wet pulling through a beaver dam and double carrying 450m portages, and now they were a battle-hardened camping unit!  I was like a proud father watching this guys get on with the trip.  With a bit of wind at our backs, and the knowledge that greasy food was waiting for us back in civilization, we managed some great time and were back at Magnetawan around noon.  We snapped a group photo and were on our way home.

May 24 Algonquin Triplog! Pt. 3

Day 3 Grassy Bay to Misty

We woke up fairly late on this day, knowing that today would be our easiest day of the trip. We only had 4 portages, and none of them were too long. Breakfast was pancakes and after fueling up for the morning we were finally about to take on the labyrinth of Grassy Bay. That’s when the rain started…

 

Loons on a dreary day.

Loons on a dreary day.

 

It was a cold, wet, and relatively miserable morning meandering through the Bay. We managed to cut a lot of time off our travel due to squeaking through some high water shortcuts, or that I’m sure. But I would have definitely liked to have seen this place in a more positive day. It seems like a great place to observe wildlife. We had seen some moose the day before, and one of our boats got pretty close to one while they were waiting for the portage to clear a bit.

Portaging isn't easy, but it sure is effective!

Portaging isn’t easy, but it sure is effective!

Our portaging machine was in top gear this time around. The other two boats were managing to do 1.5 portages or single carries, often switching carriers halfway down the trail, it was a great system. We eventually popped out onto McIntosh Lake and we took in the sights. It’s a very impressive lake, and we decided to stop for lunch on the northern-most island site. Being as we were sopping wet, we put up a wind-breaking tarp and brewed up some KD. That site was extremely cool. It was had multiple levels, an open area for eatting and looking around the lake, while a thick forest of trees provided healthy stringing and wind protection. I’d definitely stay there if I ever went back.

We then turned north for the first time in our trip and headed into Timberwolf Lake. The portage wasn’t too bad, but I nearly wiped out in a pile of mud (there was a lot of that now), and my styofoam portaging pad spun right around my yoke. Now, my shoulders were aready pretty sore, but without the pad, it was basically a guillotine. Safe to say, it made me really appreciate how much the pad was worth.

We're back on Misty, but on a different site now.

We’re back on Misty, but on a different site now.

Past the final, and I would say quite muddy portage, we wound up back in Misty Lake again. The lake was a bit more busy than before, but still pretty empty for a long weekend. Our first site was taken, but the island site closest to the 935m portage was available and pretty good when the wind kept the bugs away. Plenty of firewood was there already, we rebuilt a bench and arranged a sweet kitchen table out of some rocks from the beach. We definitely did some good on that island, leaving it better than we found it.

The lumber yard has turned into the carpentry shop.

The lumber yard has turned into the carpentry shop.  Note the giant kiln-like fire pit with drying rack.

Something strange happened that night though. As we sat around the roaring fire, reflecting on and celebrating the trip we were almost done, when we heard a engine coming around the lake. We’d heard the Algonquin float plane earlier in the day, but this time he was coming close. Although the sun was going down, he came into our lake! Right in! We couldn’t believe it. The red light on top alerted us to the fact that it was probably an emergency lift-out, and sure enough about 20 minutes later he took off into the night sky. It was kinda neat, but we all hoped the emergency was resolved. The night was absolutely perfect though, and we all slept like logs, ready for our next day.

Plane landing to help out a camper.  Sorry about the focus, but it was pretty dark and very far away.

Plane landing to help out a camper. Sorry about the focus, but it was pretty dark and very far away.

May 24 Algonquin Triplog! Pt. 2

Day Two – Misty Lake to White Trout Lake

The intrepid author, surveying his first night in Algonquin

The intrepid author, surveying his first night in Algonquin

I brought my summer sleeping bag with me because it takes up so little room, but this night was cold and I woke up shivering.  Coffee helped get me moving though, and soon breakfast was on.  I love the first day’s breakfast, you buy those 500mL milk cartons full of eggs, freeze it until the morning you head out, and cook them up with a mess of microwave bacon.  Then you throw ’em in a wrap with cheese and some tomato (if you’ve got it), and you’re sitting pretty.  We got on the lake fairly quickly after that, all full of energy and ready for the day.

Morning paddle down Misty Lake, heading to the eastern portage out.

Morning paddle down Misty Lake, heading to the eastern portage out.

On our way east out of Misty, we came across our first wildlife of the trip, a moose!  It was grazing in the narrow part of the lake in a grassy bay before trundling off to the woods.  I managed to get a great look at him through binoculars, but he was too far away for a picture.  We did a proper double portage to start our day and see how we’d do timewise, and were disappointed in 40-odd minuted for a 850m portage.  We’d have to kick it up a notch if we were going to make the kind of time we wanted!  Luckily though, that was the longest of the 5 portages we’d have to do that day, and the rest were a breeze. 

We saw a lot of these signs today...

We saw a lot of these signs today…

We took our time at the bottom of rapids, casting a line into the deeper pools in search of brook trout.  My cousin managed to catch a few, including a absolutely gorgeous one at the Taylor Chute before Grassy Bay/ White Trout Lake.  Because of the high water level May is known for, we managed to get through the Petawawa River fairly quickly compared to the first day, and were relieved to find the site directly south of the mouth of the river to be of outstanding quality.

The lumber industry is in full swing in Algonquin!

The lumber industry is in full swing in Algonquin!

We took a quick look at the island site more close to White Trout Lake proper, but it wasn’t as nice as the one closer to Grassy Bay (which is where we were going the next day), so we headed back to the first site we looked at, grabbing firewood along the way.  Camp went up quickly, the saws came out and the lumber yard started up.  Within an hour, we were either fishing or sitting around the fire, contemplating starting our dinner of spaghetti and dehydrated sauce, turkey, and red pepper.  I have to say, my dehydrator is a thing of beauty.  This is my first time really using it to it’s full potential, and as someone who’s carted in cans and jars before, it was just so amazing to have meals like this.  They came back perfectly, and we were eatting pounds of food a day!

A great way to end a great day!

A great way to end a great day!

May 24 Algonquin Triplog! Pt. 1

Victoria Day Long Weekend, 2013
Trip length: 60-odd kilometers
Number of portages: 20
Portage Distance 8.25km

Day 1 – Magnetawan to Misty

We started the day fairly well, although we had been celebrating the night before until the wee hours.  In general, everyone had 3-4 hours of sleep to run on.  We got in the cars, fueled up at Horton’s, and were on the road by 5:30AM.  There was little in the way of traffic and we made it to the bustling metropolis of Kearney to pick up our permits by 10.  After getting permits and heading over to Canoe Algonquin to get some rental equipment, we headed into Access Point #3 for Algonquin Park, Magnetawan Lake.

Off to get permits in Kearney

Off to get permits in Kearney

The road was in great shape considering the flooding they had up there in recent weeks, and we were on the water by 11.  Not a stellar time to begin, but this was an ambitious trip with some newcomers to the camping life.  The packs were squared away nicely, the canoes were more or less going the way we were supposed to, and my 4-month planning process was beginning to pay off.

Magnetawan Lake, looking inviting

Magnetawan Lake, looking inviting

The short portage into Hambone lake was a great shake-off of winter rust for some, rekindling of sores for others, and a new experience for half my group.  But it was a great way to introduce the hardest parts of portaging, getting into and out of the boats with your gear in a timely manner.  It was here that you see the benefits of light packing and proper food dehydration as groups going out for shorter trips struggled with coolers and leaden packs while we breezed by barely huffing.

Our first "real" portage of the trip

Our first “real” portage of the trip

A nice paddle through Hambone and high water meant spirits were high as we sqeaked past a portage into Acme pond, and spirits were lifted as we single-carried the 420m portage into Daisy Lake, passing a group in the process.  It was really morale-boosting to pass people, it validated my insistance in single carrying on these shorter portages.  Daisy was a great paddle, it gave us fish, a bit of wind, and gave us our first light crack at navigation in a bigger lake.  We were starting to come together as a team while working out the kinks in our own boats.  When we came to the mouth of the Petawawa River, we had settled in for the long haul.

A quick lunch on the end of a portage, next to the rapids near the Petawawa River.

A quick lunch on the end of a portage, next to the rapids near the Petawawa River.

After a short and easy portage into the Pet, we had a quick lunch and headed into the meandering river/bog.  I was bringing up the rear, when I saw that the boat with two greenhorn canoeists was hung up trying to portage 10 feet around a beaver dam.  I gave both of the boats which portaged around the dam heck, and showed them how easy to was to simply step on the top of the dam and pull yourself over it without emptying the canoe.  It was a technique they quickly mastered.

Hauling over beaver dams is a great break from paddling

Hauling over beaver dams is a great break from paddling

The next portage though, we were getting very tired.  We hadn’t eatten a breakfast like we would in the coming days, the fact that our long-distance paddling arms weren’t all there, and the few hours of sleep we got were heavy on our sore shoulders.  The 450m portage from the Petawaw to Little Misty was a real ball-breaker.  It’s got a lot of up and down that just saps your strength, but we made it regardless.  Another low beaver dam in high water and we were on Little Misty Lake, paddling towards our last portage of the day, a 935m haul into Misty Lake.

We were all tired, so we hauled the canoes a few hundred meters up the trail and dumped them where they wouldn’t get in the way if someone was coming up behind or in front of us, then double carried from there.  Coming back to get the canoes after dropping off the packs gave our shoulders a much-needed rest and the last few hundred meters were surprisingly happy for me.  Although touted as getting “extremely muddy” in the spring, it was fairly passable and showed signs of life along it.  I saw some moose scat and a small garter snake slithered by my foot.  Once in Misty we had a bit of a time getting over the soft bottom weeds that lurk shallow enough to stop your boat, but deep enough to not be seen (we got to hollering at each other, “look out for the Loon-shit bottom!”), but were soon and earnestly on our way to a suggested campsite on the north side of the island.

Dinner on Misty Lake.

Dinner on Misty Lake.

We started putting up camp and establishing the roles that would dominate the rest of the trip.  One person would start getting firewood together, we’d all get into dry shoes, start setting up tents together, etc.  Soon we had a much-needed meal of dehyrated turkey mixed into Hambuger Helper and started to feel a bit like ourselves again.  It was an early night, and we all went to sleep nice as soon as the sun was down.

Portaging and You! A Guide.

It’s been a very, very long spring.  This year has been one of the hardest for me to wait through, being as I’ve found an almost spiritual appreciation for canoeing Ontario.  But life is good again, the ice is out and the sun is shining.  Time to head into the bush!

As of tomorrow, I’m getting my first taste of 2013.  I’m heading into the Kawartha Highlands, a very easy place to camp.  Most of the sites have picnic table, and the routes are well-worn.  That being said, I’m taking the second-longest portage in the park to get to my campsite, and I’m almost crazy enough to be looking forwards to it.

With that being noted, it’s made me look at the finer points or long-distance portaging that I can remember (it’s been years since I’ve had to go over 400m on a portage):

Know your job – Whether you’re in a large group or just flying solo, you’ve got to set up a routine as soon as you can for portaging.  Assign people roles, who carries what, and the order of people going down the path.  This will save you a lot of time as you get to more portages in the trip. 
Be courteous – Regardless of if you’re making a single carry or multiple trips, make sure you know your ediquette on the trail.  Always, and I can’t stress this enough, ALWAYS give the person with the canoe right of way.  They’re more tired and cranky than you are, and have a boat on their head.  If you’re unloading or making multiple carries, make sure your gear is off to the side of the path so that other people can get through as best as possible.

Make sure everything is squared away – There’s nothing worse than following behind a hiker who’s dropping things or getting snagged constantly.  It slows the process unnecessarily, and that’ll piss you off.  Or consider coming to the end of a portage only to find a small group’s living room spread over the put-in.  Taking a extra minute or two for planned packing, and stowing small items like waterbottles and fishing tackle beforehand can make portaging much more efficient and less tedious.

Lashing big things – In a similar vein to the notes above, particularly if you’re going on a solo trip, lashing things to you canoe for the portage can be supremely handy.  Last time I went, I simply used electrical tape to hold my paddle and fishing rod in place (it looked stupid but it worked for the short portage).  This year, since I plan on making many more kilometers per trip over land, I’ve upgrades to lashing elastics.  They’re from Canadian Tire’s bungee cord section, and there’s a ball attached for self-tightening holding power!  (It’s hard to describe).  But the point is that you can use bungees, tape, magic ball things, or eleastic bands to hold bulky items.  Great for going hand’s free.

Go at your own pace – Make sure you’ve got plenty of energy and proper nutition before going out on the portage.  It’s hot, heavy, often painful work.  So make sure you don’t hurt yourself too badly, and try to keep your mind occupied.  Sing under your breath to the beat of your steps, play mind games, talk to someone you’re travelling with, just keep your mind off that terrible weight.  Stop if you need to, enjoy where you are.

Ontario’s got the best backyard in the world, I truly believe that.  There is a growing problem with this human infestation we’ve got, but you can get away from them with a little courage and some steely resolve to make it to the next lake.  I’ve got a laundry list of places to go this year a mile long, and most of them have little portages, or long ones depending on your point of view.  I welcome the challenge, and hope to see you on the trails!

Just stay away from my lakes though.  THey’re MY lakes. 😡