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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.