Total km: 22
Number of portages: 8
Total Portage distance: 3571m
I awoke to find the same idyllic scene I had fallen asleep to, not a ripple on the water or cloud in the sky. I eagerly got some food on the go, knowing I’d need some calories to burn. I had decided to go as light as I could comfortably go this trip, so I didn’t have a frying pan to cook my eggs opting to hard boil them. I did however splurge by bringing along my new plastic french press coffee maker (from MRI). It’s now my go-to means of making proper coffee out in the woods, and I didn’t want to bring instant. With breakfast in my belly, I packed up what I hadn’t been able to the night before (food, tent, etc.) and kicked off as early as I could.
For this trip I brought two paddles. One was a large “voyageur” style paddle that I could j-stroke with and just cruise, while confident that I could push off the bottom with it. The other was a bent-shaft paddle, famous for being great at pushing a lot of water efficiently, while being garbage at j-stroking or steering in general. The reason I brought this duo is so that if I dropped one, I wouldn’t be up the creek and if the wind got rough I’d be able to at least move forwards right into it. Seems to have worked so far!
The portage through Cherry to Turtle was easy, a bit weedy at the Cherry end, but as long as there’s no traffic I don’t see too much cause for getting muddy. Turtle lake is amongst the most remote lakes in Kawartha Highlands, and to be honest, it’s not really worth the trip. It’s reedy and a mosquito breeding ground from what I saw, and there are prettier lakes which at least seem more remote. Bass fishing was great though, and I managed to pick a couple bigger ones out of the channel leading to the longest portage of the trip, a 993m walk to Stoplog Lake.
I have to say, I love this portage. Everything was clicking for me that morning, and after a short bout of video-taking at the portage head I was off. This path didn’t seem as well used as others this trip, and while there were a few branches slapping me in the face, I made short work of it. I am genuinely proud of the fact that I made it in one trip, no stopping (see the attached video for my jubilation). I took a bit of time to rest my shoulders before being pushed onto the lake by industrious mosquitos, and I headed across Stoplog.
Stoplog reminded me of Smoke Lake in Algonquin for no other reason than it looks vaguely like it on a map. I’ve never even been to Smoke Lake, and I kept calling it that in both my head and the outakes of my videos. It is a pretty lake for sure, with large stone structure in the south. I took the time to admire it as I saw a canoe take off towards Mountain lake down the portage and didn’t want to run into traffic with a canoe on my head. After a lazy 5 minute paddle I was on the hard ground again, using a new portage. It was so new I had to mark it on my map in pink, and was the first to use a newly built bridge over a creek (more on this later). This portage was a bastard, genuinely tough. A lot of ups and downs, including one big up. The path is exposed on top, making it very hot as you bake in the sun. I was tired from the previous journey and 1.5 carried, dropping the canoe about halfway through.
At the end I took a bit of time to rest and refuel with some GORP and water. Mountain lake is relatively new as a signed canoe route, with only one site on it. Being new, it’s a bit more overgrown than most people would like, and it seemed a bit buggy in June. It was isolated though, worth it to get to if you’re in a pinch for privacy. The lake itself is very lovely, with large cliffs adorning the northern side. These speak very well of the trout fishing I’ve heard to happen here.
I caught up to the people in front of me at the eastern portage from Mountain to Buzzard lake, lo and behold it was the friendly MNR rangers again. They had been working tirelessly for the past 24 hours trying to clean up more sites. It was they who told me I was the very first person to use their bridge between Stoplog and Mountain, and I gave a lavish review of its sturdiness and elegance. A quick conversation was more than enough human interaction for the day though, as it started raining at the end of the flat and easy portage just as I set out to find my site.
Site #426 on Buzzard lake is a very “used” site. The whole lake is always popular as I’ve learned in subsequent trips, and I can see why. It’s very close to the put in and the portage is very easy. It’s a perfect lake to introduce people people to canoeing and the basics of camping. That being said, I was at a loss for firewood. I gathered a little bit at the end of the portage, but only managed a quick little bit more before calling it quits. The rain was heavy enough to merit a tarp, and I knew that the next day was a rest day, so I set about making the camp as comfy as I could.
With the tarp hung, I spent the day fishing from shore, putting up the tent, reading, and just busying myself. Dinner was rehydrated spaghetti (one of my favorites!) and life was as good as a lazy camper can have. A quick/small fire was all I could afford that night, and I went to bed wary of a beaver munching on a large downed pine not far from my camp.