Triplog – Civic Holiday 2014

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

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
Magenetewan, Hambone, Ralph Bice Lakes
Total Distance: 7 km
Number of Portages: 4
Total Portage Distance: 860m
Video Log:

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!

Airplane contrails blown into an interesting formation by the wind

I spent some time gathering 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

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.