Booth Lake – Labour Day 2016

Sept 3-5, 2016
Farm, Kitty, Booth Lakes
# of portages: 4
Total portage distance: 1470m
Total distance: 12km
Videolog:

Do you believe in karma?  Karma is the idea that any one action will lead to subsequent reactions, usually in a balancing act.  This year has been nothing but rain and cold, with occasional cloud.  This trip was the ying to those trips yang.

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Heading out into the fog

This year, because of math and traffic, it made all sorts of sense for me to forego heading north the Friday night and instead push all the way from Oakville to Shall Lake access point Saturday morning.  Waking up at 2:30am wasn’t fun, but the drive was a breeze!  Honestly, I’m probably going to go this way for many of the next long weekend trips.  I met Shane 3/4 of the way there at a Hortons in Huntsville and we managed to pull into the proper park office at almost exactly 7am.

What greeted us was a thick fog and chilling cold.  I marked the temperature at 3 degrees near the East gate.  Seeing some bass playing in the water near the bridge between Shall and Farm lake I threw in lure and lo!  A little bass.  Good tidings.  We went into the fog, hoping our past experience would let us navigate it fairly easily.  As we rounded the point into the lake, we were treated to wolves howling.  It started as just one lone drone, then built into a cacophonous roar.  From our vantage point in the fog on glass, it was really something special.

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Back on Booth Lake

The portages in were exactly as we remembered them, but with our new perspective on the terms “long” and “heavy”, they were a doddle.  Didn’t hurt that we were pretty much jogging from excitement as the sun started to warm things up.  Getting back onto Booth, glassy and inviting, was like catching up with an old friend.  We were hoping to get the site we were at last time (third from the portage on the eastern side of the lake) mostly for the view and to see if the table we built was still there (seriously, we’d still like to know).  We were disappointed to see we were one of the last groups there, most had come up earlier in the week to stake a claim.

We definitely wanted a westward view of the sunset, so we plugged along to the far end of the lake before checking out the island sites.  It was there that we came on the best damn site we could have hoped for.  Nestled away from every other site, just south of the two sites by the portage to Chipmunk lake, was a grand ol’ site.  This baby had a beach, multiple tables, drying racks, nails to hang stuff, a hill behind it, and a unmarred view from the campfire across  the northern basin of Booth lake.  Sure, if there wind was blowing cold right up main street you’d freeze, but the lake was still and the shade was nice.

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Our hovel.

We took a few minutes to marvel at our luck, then set to work around the camp.  Shane has gotten into the habit of bringing a few hand tools and screws with him to fix up benches and tables, so he went about making the table sturdy.  I tried to make a fire blower.  It’s basically a split stick tied back together with a large opening at one end and a small hole at the other (imagine a large wooden straw).  You blow in the big hole, and the breath is condensed through the pipe to a needle which gets a fire really popping!  Unfortunately, mine didn’t work very well, I definitely need to refine the technique.

The blower came from something I saw on the show Alone, a survival show that I adore.  Another little tidbit from Alone was how effective a Paiute deadfall was at trapping mice.  I figured it might not be a bad idea to see if I could get a proof-of-concept one constructed.  I won’t go into detail about how to put one together, but again I was unable to replicate the effect I wanted.  I was disheartened, but overnight I remembered exactly how it looked on the show.  Within minutes the next day I had it all set up, and I’m a bit more confident now in my ability to gather food without a supermarket.

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Exploring the lake

We did a little exploring later, just to gather firewood and do a bit of fishing.  There was a ton of driftwood dotting the eastern shore, so we didn’t kill ourselves.  We did find a sizable pike in the shallows waters by our site, but couldn’t manage to catch the guy.  I had been up since 2:30am though, and Shane not much later, so it was an early night.  Shane brought a great meal of beans, meat, and potatoes which stuck to our ribs and knocked us both out.

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Waiting for the stars to come out

The next morning we woke up on our own accord to a very foggy lake.  Once again, the cool temperatures mixed with the warm lake to produce an impenetrable curtain over the far side of the water.  We were hoping to go fishing, but it wouldn’t happen until this burned off so we had some coffee and watched the world go by.  Soon enough we were on the water heading south aimlessly.  We had no luck around the closest island to our site, and on a whim started towards “driftwood bay” near the second site from the portage.  The whole way, past the close grouping of sites on the eastern shore, we saw no structure on the floor and it was pretty shallow.  No bites, but the scenery was lovely.  At driftwood bay though, the fishing was marvelous.  there’s a large ridge right off the site there where it drops off and the minnows were thick.  Both Shane and I got our fill and headed back for breakfast.

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Success in driftwood bay

Shane hadn’t slept too well due to a sinus infection of some sort, so he decided to take a nap.  Meanwhile, I played around with making a bowdrill to try and get a friction fire going.  I knew it was going to be a slog and probably wouldn’t work (it didn’t), but I was interested in trying the technique.  You can understand the concept as much as you want, but trying things like this out in the real world are usually the best preparation for the worst-case scenario.  The hottest part of the day was spent idly passing time at the site, swimming, collecting lumber, and taking photos.  After a small lunch, we decided to explore the north basin of Booth Lake.

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Many miles put on the canoe that day

Our original idea was to paddle all the way down to the Tattler cabin and fish the mouth of the river there, but about halfway there we started hooking into bass hiding in the shade of the tall hills.  Enjoying the shade ourselves we decided to slowly fish our way back.  Time flew by and before we knew it we were heading back to the site for dinner.  Tonight was pizza on the Outback Oven, which takes time and care to prepare so we wanted to make sure there would be sunlight to use.  The evening was as sublime as the rest of the weekend and we spent a good amount of time watching the sky rotate as we searched for satellites.

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Not a bad dinner spot

Monday morning came too quickly for my liking.  It meant I had to start taking things down as coffee boiled and we slowly got packed up.  Breakfast was brief, but we dragged our feet putting things into our bags.  We noticed everyone else had the same idea, because when it finally came time to push off there was a sudden influx of boats on the lake.  We stayed near the back of the pack, no need to rush to the portage where there’d be a backup anyways.

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Saying goodbye to Booth lake

At the portage, as expected, there were piles of gear on each side.  We had the benefit of youth and preparation which allowed us to pass just about everyone ahead of us by single carrying.  By the time we were on Farm lake, we had left everyone we saw on Booth behind us.  Seems our increasingly usual long weekend plan of going 20km in a day meant we had increased our average travel speed.  We arrived at the take out and then headed down the road, content that this had been the best canoe trip of 2016 (so far).

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Rain – McCraney lake

August 13-14
# of portages: 2
Total portage distance: 3390m
Total distance: 7.2km

Rain…2016 will go down in my books as the year of rainy camping.  Had it been any other weekend, I probably wouldn’t have gone, but the best man at my wedding just accepted a new job in Korea which will keep him busy for years and we hadn’t been on a canoe trip yet.  So despite the rain, we packed up and headed out with Shane for a quick taste of the park.

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Ready to move out

Rain lake lived up to its name.  We got there around 8:30, with just enough precipitation falling to be annoying.  Luckily we’re all amateur meteorologists and knew there was a gap in the rain coming up on the radar.  We unloaded what we could, leaving the packs in the car and took up residence under a tree.  We chatted with a friendly MNR employee who was putting up signs raising awareness over the fire ban.  That’s right, despite the rain there was a fire ban on park-wide!  A large 60-hectare fire was burning on the east side, and it was just coming under control.  He did suggest some fishing spots though, great guy.

Around 9:30, the rain started to subside and we started out.  The lake was calm and the company good.  Before long we came upon the only portage of the trip, a long but easy 1600-odd meter cart path.  It was great!  Wide, clear, and level.  Near the end, you divert from the cart path into Little McCraney.  We caught our breath, changed footwear to sandals, and pushed off from the sandy beach towards our destination.

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Ed getting ready to carry Shane and his pack at the same time, tank mode!

Heading south through a relatively spacious creek, Ed was impressed with the beaver dam we had to lift over.  A helpful couple we passed warned us of low water levels, but at this point in the season it was very passable.  It is a controlled environment though, so I could see trouble with the creek if the system lost 30-odd centimetres.

As we pulled out to McCraney lake, the rain began spitting again.  We decided to take the first available site and make the best of whatever we had.  Turns out, this meant the northernmost site on the west.  It was a small site, with a big root system running through most of it, but there were some dilapidated benches and plenty of trees to strap down a tarp or two.

Making the most of a rainy situation

Making the most of a rainy situation

First thing we did was put up a tarp, so that the gear would be dry, then we could worry about things like food and where to put the tents.  We put all our eggs in one basket with this tarp, using all the rope we had to tie it up, down, and sideways.  By the time we were done lunch, it had started to rain steadily again.

As we busied ourselves around the camp fishing, building/improving benches and rock tables, the rain really came down.  We dug moats to keep the drainage up, but it was a losing battle.  Eventually we were ankle deep even right under the middle of the tarp!  The rain came and went all day, but there are worse places to be warm and (mostly) dry.

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The rain really hampered any plans to explore the lake, which was large and has many features to visit.  Dinner was undercooked.  We left the same way we came.  In almost every way this was a write off weekend, but I’m so glad to introduce Algonquin’s interior to Ed before he left.  He claims to have had a good time, so next time we’re on the same continent I’ll have to bring a portaging pack.