Maple Leaf Lake – Western Uplands Trail

Nov 5-6, 2016
Total distance: 8.8km
Video log:

Earlier this year, Shane and I witnessed exactly how dangerous water can be in the extreme shoulder seasons, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t spook me a little bit.  Definitely influenced our decision to try a hiking trip into Algonquins backcountry.  Since it’s November we decided to hike to a lake with a known fish population and hunker down for a long night at Maple Leaf lake, the closest lake to the trailhead at Highway 60.

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Trailhead of the Western Uplands trail at Highway 60

I’m green when it comes to hiking.  I know I don’t have the right gear and mindset to take on something crazy long like the Appalachian Trail in the winter.  With that in mind, let’s review my gear and food for the 1 night trip:

  • 1 giant sleeping bag, a Marmot Trestles 0 (good for -20c)
  • 1 four man tent
  • 1 very full gear bag (Whisperlite and fuel, coffee, full pot and kettle, multple stirring utensils, cutting board,  first aid kit, flag, sink, etc. etc. etc.)
  • Hatchet
  • Saw (didn’t use, Shane brought a better one)
  • Toiletries kit
  • Extra clothes (actually, this was the only thing I brought that I used all of)
  • Food bag (with a GIANT box of soup stock!  Why didn’t I just bring a bullion cube?!?!?  I’m dumb)
  • Extra cooler bag with a few odds and sods plus the frozen bean dish for dinner.  This was also needlessly heavy.
  • Fishing gear
  • 1 MEC Scout tarp
  • Much paracord

Why go into such detail?  Because this was the Western UPlands Trail.  Up, and up, and up.  Watching fellow hikers breeze by with traditionally minimal gear was embarrassing.

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Exploring an old dam

The trail was lovely though.  The sun was shining and the wind low.  We walked and admired the few oak and maples that still bore leaves, stopping every few minutes to look at a beaver dam or stream.  We got lost once bypassing a fallen tree as leaves had fallen across the path and we didn’t realize we were wandering.   Before we had become the target of a provincial search though, we found the blazes and were back on our way.

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A nice place to rest along the trail

After about an hour and a half we had made it to the signage leading to Maple Leaf Lake.  Based on videos and photos we decided to stay on the south-central side.  From the main trail, we took a left down-hill, then a right at the next fork (along a boardwalk).  There were two nearly conjoined sites, with an outhouse in the middle extolling the benefits of packing garbage out rather than cramming it down a shitter-hole.  We  settled on the more eastern site as hit had a better cliff-face for fishing.

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Maple leaf lake, nary a canoeist to be seen…

Now that we were there, the toil of packing half of an MEC catalog in became apparent.  The wind was there, and if it turned really biting in the evening we could set up a wind tarp.  The tent was secure, water resistant, and spacious.  The food would be hearty and easily prepared.  Life was a bit more normal.  We set about the usual rigors of camping, then got a drink and started fishing.

We had no luck fishing, and what’s more we knew we’d be searching longer than usual for firewood without a boat.  We explored our little peninsula before heading back up the path in search of lumber.  With many of the leaves down, it didn’t take too long to find good dry lumber with which to keep warm.

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A creek near our site with no real movement, can’t imagine it near bug season.

Lunch was soup, and having warmth in our bellies allowed us to keep fishing and cutting lumber.  Lunch was late though, not finished until around 2:30pm.  It didn’t hurt that we hadn’t gotten hiking until around 10am.  This meant that if we were going to have to have dinner at 6 or so, we would be making it in the dark.  This is not something we’ve ever had to contend with, as we usually eat dinner in the twilight hours of 7:30-8pm.  It was weird.

We had no luck fishing, despite the good spot.  It wasn’t long until we were starting to lament that fact that we didn’t have a canoe.  To get to the other side of the lake would be a mere 10 minute paddle, tops.  On land it would take at least twice as long, with no guarantee it would be any better.  We needed deep water wit ha current to get to the splake we were targeting, and there was no way for us to get there from shore.  Oh well, at least the coffee was hot and we weren’t at work.

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Fishing in vain, as the sun begins setting (at like, 4pm)

The sun set, and were fired up the stove for dinner.  Once again we had a pile of pre-made bean and beef goo.  It was great, but by the time we got seconds, it was already very cool in the November night.  We tended the fire, and by the time it felt late it was only 10pm.  This was a loooonnngggg night.  What made it worse was that the clocks fell back an hour that night due to daylight savings.  It was nice and warm in my sleeping bag though, so I had a lovely time waiting for the sun to come up.

Eggs and bacon were for breakfast, along with with yet more coffee.  We packed up slowly, relishing the strong sun and light winds.  We also were about to learn a hard lesson about hiking.  There’s no such thing as phoning in an out.  We have become complacent with the last day, just throwing everything haphazardly in the bag, knowing that at worst we`d have to lug it over a few portages before it goes back in the bottom of the boat.  This is not the case hiking.  Everything must be folded, packed, and hauled as efficiently as possible.  While we backtracked down the trail, amicably downhill this time, it was still a haul.  In the morning.  Bleh.

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It was truly beautiful weather though, we definitely lucked out.  No bugs, light wind, just a nice walk in the select hardwood section at Home Depot really.  I missed my canoe deeply, this trip added some much-needed perspective regarding how important it is to the enjoyment of my trips.  Not just a means of transport, the canoe is a cargo ship, lumber truck, deep-sea fishing station, and magic carpet.

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Few hours left until dinner

It`s going to be a long winter…