Rock, Penn, Galipo River, Welcome, Harry Lake
Total km: 40km
Number of portages: 6
Total Portage distance: 5640m
Canada day weekend meant 3 days off for both Shane and I, so we decided to take a jaunt to a part of Algonquin park we haven’t been near. Insofar we’ve barely scratched the southern half of the park, and picked Harry Lake based on trout fishability.
We got on the go early and were at Rock lake getting permits at 8:05am. This was the first time we had been to the Rock lake campground and I was impressed by the relatively remote area. We didn’t take time to look around though and before long we were paddling down Rock river at the put in to the lake proper.
Rock lake is similar to Cache. Lots of islands, cottages, and some big water. There are great high rock points and high cliffs all around the picturesque body of water, very appealing to every kind of outdoorsman. I got us mixed up because I didn’t look at the map and headed for the first portage I saw, winding up with the canoe on my shoulders before realizing the sign said Rock-Louisa. Lucky we didn’t go down!
A few minutes later we arrived at the actual first portage of the trip, into Penn lake. The theme of today was uphill, and this delivered a good taste around a waterfall. For some reason I thought it was only 200-odd meters, but it’s clearly marked 375 and fairly well used. The opposite side is wide open, complete with a dock.
Launching southward onto Penn we faced light winds in our faces and had to head east around the two northern islands. There were large rocks between them and a bog on the west. Even taking the safe route, we had to be careful of large rocks just below the surface. The rest of Penn was just a pleasant paddle in the park. We had beaten the weekend warriors with coolers and heavy plastic canoes, so the lake was quiet and we had the water to ourselves for the most part. Before we knew it, we were looking for the outlet of the Galipo river and really started our adventure.
Using Jeff’s map and MarkinthePark’s triplog of the area, we knew to look for moving water in the south end of the bay by a little island/peninsula. We found it right away, but we’re dismayed to discover it was only an inch and a half deep. We had to line our way up about 20m of water before we could paddle again. Before long we were at our second set of falls to go around.
This portage looked very lovely, hosting three falls, but we were in no mood to slow down and take pictures. Seems like every mosquito absent in the past two months had come to greet us at the rocky take out at the bottom of the portage. They didn’t let up as we sunk up to our knees in the soupy entrance to the Galipo river either. We bounded over 4 or 5 beaver dams as we tried to get away from the flying menace. Within 15 minutes we were on the last portage of the day, heading to Welcome lake.
Just as we pulled up to the trail, the grey skies that had been overhead all day began to throw down some rain. Didn’t bother me because I had a canoe-shaped hat protecting me, and Shane had the leafy canopy offering what protection it could. Single-carrying went very well and we were through the 2.1km in about an hour. There’s a broken canoe stand about halfway through and a little boardwalk across an old stick bridge 2/3 of the way along. The end of the trail dumps you down a steep hill onto a beach, where Welcome lake lapped gently and the rain abated long enough for us to enjoy lunch.
After restoring our energy and throwing on some rain gear, we set off northwest to the creek leading to Harry lake. This creek was longer and easier to navigate than the Galipo, but very buggy. Despite heavy winds heard on the portage, they were light on Welcome and non-existent here. We were very glad to see Harry lake unveil itself around the last bend. With the way the wind was blowing and a general consensus online that the northern sites were in good nick, we beelined to the northwest most site and set up camp.
First thing to go up was the tarp so that no matter how hard it rained we would have at least one dry area for ourselves and our gear. The rain was light or on and off all day except for a deluge in the evening. The site was wonderful, with plenty of room, lots of tarpablity in the rain, and a nice waterfront of rock which gathered warm sun. We set about the chores of camping, eventually lighting a fire for dinner. Tonight was shishkebabs, from a local butcher in Oakville. We had been up early and retired to sleep not long after sunset around 10.
We slept in as long as we wanted the Saturday morning. I got up and started a warming fire to drive away the chill from the night before then got coffee going. The allure of coffee roused Shane and we eventually had a pancake breakfast while looking at the glorious morning sun and blue sky. Before long, we got to doing some projects to make our lives a bit better on the site. Things like bench repair, table engineering, and firewood collection all got done before noon, and we realized how early we had gotten up in the morning. I guess we weren’t used to these long July days.
We spent the day puttering around the site, touring the other sites of the lake, and lounging on the warm and protective granite on the southern coast. We had no luck fishing from shore and it was very windy on the lake. Word on the street is that there are brook trout in there, but all we saw were baitfish. We fired up the Outback Oven for pizza and fresh baked cookies for dinner, and as we munched away we began to hear the unmistakable boom of thunder.
“Crap”, we collectively thought. All we need is more rain after the deluge the night before. Amazingly enough, we must have been just a few km from anything and a giant black-blue cloud floated lazily by us occasionally letting more thunder roll out. What followed was a lovely calm evening spent around the campfire piled high with premium sunbleached lumber.
We woke early on Sunday, knowing full well that we had a slog in front of us. We had packed up as much as possible the night before, but we got on the water a little after 8am. The wind was at our back across Harry and the first creek was less buggy than we remembered, but Welcome had started to blow up. After a little navigational error, our canoe ground into the foamy beach next to the longest portage of the day.
This time the portage was a doddle, although very much warm. The bugs were out, but the breeze along Galipo Creek kept them at bay. By the time we were lining through the mouth of the creek in Penn Lake, it was mid-morning. As we made our way north, we wound up joining into a large convoy heading out. Aside from the some headwind, it was a lazy and enjoyable out.
I would wholly suggest going to Harry Lake, it was a wonderful place to camp and a lovely part of the park. Every site seemed well maintained and frequented by people who really care for them. However, the route we took was a bit brutal at this time of year. In higher water with fewer bugs it would be manageable in a day or two, or alternatively coming in from Louisa.