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.


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.


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.


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.


Canada Day: Rock-Harry Lake

Jul 1-3
Rock, Penn, Galipo River, Welcome, Harry Lake
Total km: 40km
Number of portages: 6
Total Portage distance: 5640m
Video log:

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.

Ready to head out

Ready to head out

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!

Picto Bay

Picto Bay

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.

Dock on the Penn Lake side of the portage

Dock on the Penn Lake side of the portage

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.

A very boggy takeout leads into the Galipo river from Penn Lake.

A very boggy takeout leads into the Galipo river from Penn Lake.

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.

After a lot of walking, we were finally done portaging for the day

After a lot of walking, we were finally done portaging for the day

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.

Wildlife along the way.

Wildlife along the way.

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.

Finally on site, and with a bit of sun!

Finally on site, and with a bit of sun!

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.

Dinner on the first night

Dinner on the first night

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.

All day looked like this!

All day looked like this!

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.

Warm sun baked these rocks, making them great for surveying the lake

Warm sun baked these rocks, making them great for surveying the lake

“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.

Thunderclouds fade into the distance.

Thunderclouds fade into the distance.

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.

Getting ready to portage again

Getting ready to portage again

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.

Traffic on the way out.

Traffic on the way 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.

Ice Out 2016 – Little Eagle Lake

May 7-8
Magnetawan, Little Eagle Lake
Total km: 4.4km
Number of portages: 2
Total Portage distance: 680m
Video Log:

Shane and I started the weekend at Shane’s cabin in Kearney.  The permit office had only been open for a few days, even less when you consider road conditions blocking Rain Lake access, but it was already hopping.  The lovely ladies behind the counter had said the Friday was busy, and we figured it was because of all the people whose permits had been for earlier this year getting in on the good weather.  Armed with our papers, we bounced down the dirt road to Magnetawan lake.


Magnetawan Lake looking back from the portage

We were astounded by the amount of cars at the access point!  It was pretty much standing room only, something I haven’t seen at that spot previously.  We decided to make the most of the sunshine while it was out and set out south towards the coveted Little Eagle Lake at 10:30.


All set for the first portage of the year!

The wind was light and the sun was shining as we came up to the only portage of the day.  It is only a short jaunt, a mere 340m, but climbs around 30m from Magnetawan.  We emerged from the portage sucking wind, but happy to be outdoors after a long winter.

Little Eagle Lake is a small lake, similar to many in the area.  It feeds many other rivers and water systems from its high perch, but is surrounded by gentle foothills.  The foliage wasn’t out yet, but in the fall this would be a beautiful slice of the interior.  The lake isn’t deep either, the anglers bible we consulted put it at around 18′ at the deepest point.  Jeff’s map says there’s splake in there, and we wanted to find them.


Dinner prep table on site, a nice touch.

But first we had to set up camp.  We knew a cold front was moving in, and rain was on the way.  You can imagine our disappointment when we started to see smoke gently wafting from the point where our site was supposed to be.  We came around to see a group of guys  leisurely packing up, telling us to come back in 45 minutes.  Being as there is only one site on the lake, we were forced to spend an hour or so paddling around the perimeter of the lake, investigating potential fishing spots and exploring the area.  It was still nice out, but we were muttering about the delay.


Local bushcraft found around the site

Once our fruitless fishing expedition had circumnavigated the lake, the two boats left our site laden high with coolers and assorted gear.  We quickly looked around before unpacking the bags from the boat, excited to discover pre-cut lumber and some bushcraft additions like a table.  As I was about to lift my pack from the canoe, I glanced across the lake and to my horror I saw one of the  departing canoes had flipped!


Dinner of kebabs and rice, really hits the spot.


Shane and I kinda froze and watched as they floundered for a minute, unpacking the canoe and watching the scene unfold.  We thought we heard laughing, but quickly realized that it was cries of distress.  Instead of putting the flooded canoe over the righted one, the crew was towing it to shore about 100 feet away and the people in the water were swimming for it in their boots and lifejackets.  By this time, we had ditched all our gear except for the food (we didn’t have time to hang it), and we were furiously paddling towards the splashing victims and floating debris.

When we arrived at the scene we didn’t quite know where to go first.  There were two people in the water and the other canoe had towed the boats to shore and were getting ready to start their own rescue.  We didn’t know whether it was prudent to gather gear with potentially crucial supplies or help get the people to shore.  Perhaps sensing our hesitation, one of the people in the water screamed to us “Please, help us!”  I’ve never before heard someone in such distress.  We siddled up to him, instructing him to hold on as we didn’t want him to swamp the boat (his motor control was fairly shot by this time).  I could see he was in shock, just barely holding on, so I just kept talking to him.  His name was Tyler (or Taylor, I was excited at this point).  They had been in for 3 days.  We got him to shore and directed him to get out of his clothes and warm, and one of his comrades helped get him to his feet.  We turned and went to help out the other person in the water.  By this time, the second boat has already reached the last victim and was dragging him in.  We got to the boat, and the bearded man paddling told us to hold his gunnels and he dragged the poor lad into the boat as they both cursed but managed.  In total, the guy was in the water maybe 15 minutes.  It took them two hours of warming up on the rocks before they resumed there 3km journey and 340m portage to the access point.


The flipped crews dries off and warms up across the lake.

If these people hadn’t been wearing lifejackets, they would be dead.

If I hadn’t looked up at that time they might have died.

If they were on a bigger lake, they might not be alive.

I cannot over-emphasize this enough.


The rest of the weekend passed as these weekends do.  We couldn’t go out fishing because of the wind and rain that blew in.  We discovered that a high-quality shishkabob is a great protein for your first or second night.  It went below zero overnight and my new sleeping bag performed supremely.  Shane built a little table out of some junk rope he had brought along for the purpose.


How many tarps can I fit on my pack?  3 at least.

While I do not consider what happened a tragedy, this was a very scary event that could have gone way worse.  It was a cold, wet, and tarp-heavy weekend.  I loved it.

Fall 2015 – Sucker Lake

September 18-20
Sucker, Bottle Lakes
Total km: 8km
Number of portages: 4
Total Portage distance: 518m
Video Log:

I headed north after work on Friday well aware that it was late in the season and I might have an issue with the light falling, but was undeterred. I knew the area very well having been there twice already and there was rain in the forecast for Saturday. I wanted to get on the site and set up before the rain came down, so that no matter what we’d at least have some dry spots and a bit of firewood. I had two tarps with me, a large green Canadian Tire tarp I use for car camping, and a smaller MEC-brand Scout tarp. I was missing all my ropes though, as they were in the back of Shane’s truck and he wasn’t going to be coming in until early Saturday morning.


As I pulled into the put-in I was a bit nervous. The sun was already down, and dusk was on it’s way into night. I unpacked the car and headed down the familiar path to the water, and pushed out into a clear and calm night. Knowing which bay to dip east into was a huge help on this trip, and unlike last time there were few campfires to alert me to where I was. Luckily there were few clouds, and the moonlight was wonderful. The portage was quick and painless, even though I was double portaging (it’s only a 90m portage, why not bring all my toys?). Within an hour, it was night, and I was just pulling into site #125.


Tarp city, Ontario. We used every rope I have.

Lighting my lantern cast a warm, calm light on the site. It looked very much like I remembered, large and roomy without being open. I chose to pitch my tent at the highest point on the site, with the idea being no water would run under it when the rain came and not river would form underneathe. I threw the tarp up over the picnic table (using some rope I used to fix a chainsaw pullcord at home) knowing very well that it would be moved, and got a fire going so I could conserve lantern gas. I went to bed early, knowing that Shane would be coming in early, and if there was rain he’d probably want coffee.


Shane inspects previous storm damage for mineral-rich earth.

I actually set an alarm, a rare occurrence for sure. But I got up to a gloriously warm and calm morning and set about surveying my little fiefdom. There was some trash that needed burning (sad), and firewood that needed cutting (happy), but the site I stayed at a year prior was intact. I like that there is a small wall of trees blocking wind from the west, and enough trees to retard it from the north/east, a very cozy place in the shoulder seasons, yet the water frontage allows for great vistas of what’s around. I had barely put the kettle on to boil when I saw a familiar yellow flash round the island which site #127 is on.

Shane had left his cabin early in the morning choosing to paddle in as the sun rose rather than set, definitely a more agreeable strategy (to be fair, I toyed with the idea of sleeping in my car). I was glad to see him, a fact punctuated when he brought out my carabinered-together collection of paracord. At last we could set about properly tarping the crap out of the place. But first, coffee. We also wound up making a paddle holder out of an ill-concieved attempt at a table. Bushcraft is usually born of trying to make life at least a little easier.


A multi-purpose holder of things that need holding.

Once we had set up our three tarps (two large ones over the picnic/living area, a smaller one over the tent as a covered ‘porch’), we decided to try out fishing. The past two times we had come the lake yielded great trout, and we were fresh from our trip to McIntosh so we were set up for it. A few passes in our favorite spot only produced one nice bass, and the wind picked up, so we headed back to the site. I was warm and went for a little dip in the cooling waters of Sucker Lake, relishing the late-season novelty of swimming. As I mucked around on the rocks, we saw a duo paddle to the island site we stayed at last year. That was when the clouds rolled in.

To this day, me and Shane have never seen rain in the bush like we did that afternoon. Even though our site was protected and we had set up bullet-proof tarps, we got soaked. It wasn’t unpleasant by any means, but we were glad we had invested money into supremely water-proof gear like our packs and the tent. As we stood under the tarp pushing against it to keep water from pooling and to take some strain off the grommets we came to a realization. “Those people on the island barely had enough time to erect a tent, let alone a tarp before this rain came down.” I’m almost ashamed to admit that we laughed hysterically at this thought. There was no aid we could have offered to those poor people at the time, and we were half-drowned ourselves, but the idea of huddling in a wet tent justified our over-preparation for the rain.

As is the way of things, the rain stopped its assault against our tarps in an hour, and soon we were able to walk around the site without having to avoid pools (the ground was remarkably quick to drain actually). By this time, the sun was starting its retreat and we settled down to dinner and a fire. Another couple canoes came into our lake, including reinforcements on the island (who had come down and started a drying rack). It would have been idyllic, but the wind was still up and blowing cold in the September night. Even with a roaring fire and many layers we couldn’t get warm and decided to turn in early after a full day. Once out of the wind and in our respective sleeping bags, we warmed quickly and slept soundly as the tarp fluttered outside.


The last morning I would have in the bush for 2015

Our morning motto was “up and at them”, we needed to be on the road early unfortunately. As we paddled back across the calm and familiar waterways, we smirked as people put whole tents out to dry in the morning sun, rivulets of water streaming out of the flies. We were glad that out tent had held fast against the onslaught of the rain. The morning was beautiful, too beautiful. I was emotional, reflecting on all the great times I had this year both solo and with friends, old and new. I didn’t want to admit this might be the last time I was out in the trees, floating on my fibreglass magic carpet. But alas, all great things must end eh?  We packed up the car and wished each other well as we finished our last trip of 2015.

It took me 2 days until I had planned the first few trips of 2016.

Labour Day 2015 – McIntosh Lake, Day 2 & 3

September 05-07
Canoe/Joe/Tepee/Little Oxtongue River, Tom Thomson, Ink,
McIntosh Lakes
Total km: 38.4km
Number of portages: 4
Total Portage distance: 5300m
Video log:

The next morning we slept in a bit, knowing that this was our vacation day. We had logged many hours yesterday so that today there was nothing to do. It was unusually hot for September, and we wanted to take full advantage of summer’s late exit.


A misty morning gave way to a beautiful day

But first, our site, at first I wasn’t sold on it. It has easy water access and a wonderful view, but the tent pads are a little closed in by the woods. There is also a large amount of rocks and roots waiting to be tripped over. But by gum if I didn’t grow to love that site! Any more than four people would find it cramped, but for us it was luxuriously expansive.


Our site as per Jeff’s map

With breakfast and more importantly coffee in our gullets, we set about getting geared up for trout as we enjoyed the morning. Just before noon, we paddled westwardly into the wind and used the wind as a trolling motor. We were set up to go deep, bouncing off the bottom as close as we dared and were rewarded quickly. In an hour, both Shane and I had fish up to the boat, but in a twist of fate both trout spat the hook out just as we could see how big they were (2-3lbs, I swear!). Heartbroken, we headed in for lunch.

Shane is an industrious guy, he likes to build or improve things he sees are lacking. I’ve seen him fashion drying racks, tables, fishing rods, and many other useful things out of sticks, rocks, and twine. This time though, he decided we needed…a chimney? To this day I look at it with a cocked eyebrow and a shake of my head (see below).


This…didn’t really work.

The day was spent in a wonderfully pointless manner. We went back out fishing, actually getting one IN the boat this time. I went for a refreshing swim in McIntoshs’ clean blue waters, and our fire was a roaring/crackling mess when the “chimney” caught fire. Couldn’t have asked for a better day.

It was with heavy hearts that we packed up the next morning, both of us agreeing that we could easily spend 4-5 days at that site without becoming bored. We had looked at other sites, and even the northern island we adored from 2 years ago couldn’t keep up with the charm of our site this time. We hopped out early to try and beat the rush from the easy-access sites with clear heads and bellies full of oatmeal and GORP.


Did not want to leave.

Coming back, the portage was a breeze. We basically jogged it, stopping only 3 times to rest our shoulders (last time we didn’t even take the packs off). It’s amazing what not having a hangover can do to your energy levels! The wind was in our faces, making some parts of the return trip a bit less leisurely than we had enjoyed two days earlier, but nothing we will remember too well.

It wasn’t until “The 401” portage that we realized it was a long weekend in a popular holiday spot. Up until then, besides a few small groups and the occasional soloist there was nobody to be seen on the waterways. Now there was a backup of coolers and Coleman branded gear to contend with. We just blew through the portage ASAP, getting out boots wet for the first time on the trip and got out of there quick as can be.


Last morning, done all artsy-like.

Canoe lake was a zoo, an absolute gong-show. In my trip video I caught 11 other boats on the water from the Potter/Joe fork and that was just the tip of the iceberg. As we rounded into Portage Bay, we had to dodge motorboats, kayaks, inexperienced daytrippers in rentals, and long distance trippers trying to get to Smoke lake. Oh, and the wind was picking up.

But we had made it, aboput 20km before lunch and ready to go another 20 (maybe not). I was just about the best trip I could have hoped for, and renewed my enthusiasm for long portaging as a means to find great camping spots.

Labour Day 2015 – McIntosh Lake, Day 1

September 05-07
Canoe/Joe/Tepee/Little Oxtongue River, Tom Thomson, Ink,
McIntosh Lakes
Total km: 38.4km
Number of portages: 4
Total Portage distance: 5300m
Video log:

Labour Day means one thing, fishing trip! Shane and I decided to buckle down and take a paddle back to McIntosh lake, which we had quickly poked our heads into during a May
24th trip a few years back. It meant about 20km of paddling and a 2.4km portage, but we were more than game for the long haul.


Getting ready for a long paddle.

Spending the night at Shane’s cabin in Kearney meant we were on the lake early, but it also encouraged certain amounts of beer to be consumed. We shipped onto Canoe lake at 8:30, and I was VERY hung over. Don’t drink kids, it’ll make you feel like crap. We were very lucky to see a congregation of loons on Canoe Lake, about 20 or so of them just shipping around. As far as researchers can tell, this is usually a social interaction to re-inforce cooperative feeding habits and to show off their little spot in the world. It was really neat!

We got to the first portage to discover we were the only ones there, a first for the Canoe-Joe portage which I affectionately call “the 401”. It was warm and calm on the water, so we made haste to get into Joe. As we made a left at the fork and into Tepee Lake, we started to explore a part of the park we had never been to while still nursing some nausea from the night before. The sites along the Little Oxtongue seemed geared towards first timers, party-seekers, and families with young children. These are usually spots with bear issues and bad litter strewn around them, but such is the plight of easy-access sites.


Oxtongue River, about to turn north into Tom Thompson.

After filling up on water, we turned north from Littledoe (really it felt like part of the river still) and into the creek providing water from Tom Thomson lake. A very well-used pull-over and we were basically there. T.T. Lake is quite large, and has tonnes of sites on it. We marveled at the rolling hills and picturesque islands that dotted the site, no doubt inspiring at least some of the famous painters work. The sites here were well used, but seemed mostly in good condition. A lot were fairly steep with tough water access, but all seemed comfortable at the very least.

We paddled into the northern bay and stuck a bit to the left (behind the western campsite on the point) to find a shallow takeout to the long walk of our trip, a 2390m portage to Ink Lake. We had a bit of a break here, having completed most of the paddling for the day and made final preparations for the single carry. The first third of this portage was the hardest as it follows a creek and goes up and down a bit. In my hungover state I nearly wept at the sight of a large hill after a small boardwalk. Little did I know that this hill was the end on our hardships. We had decided that no matter how many breaks we took, every step forwards was a good one. At the top of the hill, everything flattened out and the going was easy.

We started to get our legs beneath us and even began passing people who were having a VERY hard go of it. One poor group must have been on the trail for at least an hour by the time me and Shane passed them about 2/3rds of the way down the path. We didn’t see them emerge from Ink lake until well after we had set up camp (~3 hours later). The end of the portage dumps you down a nice set of stairs and onto the sandy shores of Ink Lake, a small pond which gets its name from the tannin-rich colour of the water. We refueled and set out as quick as we could to secure a site in front of the other people resting on the beach.


Home at last!

Ink creek feeds into McIntosh, and it was a great paddle after the portage. The water pushed us along and the technical turns were a welcome change from the long slog of the morning. My hangover was even gone! We soaked in McIntosh as we rounded the last turn and headed east in search of a site. We didn’t have a particular site in mind, but a west-facing one would give a nice sunset, and who knew if an island site might be nice for a change? Eventually we settled on the third site from the south on the eastern side.


The main reason we searched for a site on the east side of the lake.

Tired but with a feeling of accomplishment we set up camp at a leisurely pace, taking time to put up things we normally wouldn’t, such as a clothesline, preemptively.  We fished a bit from shore, but were in no mood to paddle around the large blue lake any more that day. I was a teetotaler that night, and we turned in fairly early.

Vixen Lake – August 2015

August 15-16
Long/Buzzard/Vixen Lakes
Total km: 15km
Number of portages: 4
Total Portage distance: 1098m
Having missed out on a trip farther south than Buzzard Lake, I decided to throw out an easy one amongst my friends and see if anyone was interested in going to Vixen Lake in the Kawartha Highlands. Unfortunately I didn’t sell it well enough and decided I would just make this a short August jaunt to re-charge my batteries with a solo trip. I set out from Long Lake at a leisurely pace, confident in my gear and genuinely happy simply to be outside.


The portage from Long Lake to Buzzard, easy as pie.

I found the portage south where I had left it, about four kilometers from the Long Lake access point, and loaded up for the easy carry. This path is nice and wide, having seen many feet and a few wheels over the years. It’s easy to see how people with an ATV or just good ol’ fashion elbow grease manage to get their pontoon boats over the 342m trail and to the small dock on Buzzard Lake. The blue, clear water beckoned as I set out in the mid-morning sun.


Grabbing lumber for later that night.

The northern section of Buzzard Lake is largely open and wind can make paddling it a bit of a hassle when you’re solo so I headed south after taking just enough time to appreciate the view and wave to little kids camping with their parents on the northern sites. I took my time to fish the northern bottleneck where I had been successful in June, not being disappointed with a few small bass. Just enough to wet my appetite for things to come! As I passed the site I had occupied for two days earlier this year I gave the usual courteous hello to a lovely lady in a fishing kayak. Her reply floored me.


The rounded hilltop on my island.

“Your voice sounds familiar, do you have a Youtube channel?” she asked after replying to my hail. I swear they could see my smile from the International Space Station! Genuinely I was astonished that someone had taken the time. Tina, if you’re out there I STILL tell people about meeting you! We talked for almost an hour (seemed only a few minutes) as the wind pushed us around, trading fishing tips around the lake, discussing the new routes around Kawartha Highlands, and admiring her new-fangled fishing kayak (a Hobie Pro Angler kayak for those who are interested, its catamaran triple hull provided stability and pedal propulsion meant you could pretty much fish all day without taking hands off our rod). It was one of the (read “only”) high points in my life as a internet entertainment producer. Once again, Tina, you made my 2015.


All day these guys will jump into your boat.

But life had to go on, and I left Tina to try for some trout while I headed down a little path next to the creek which feeds Vixen Lake. It was a little rough actually, but well trodden and short. I put the canoe down by a beaver dam and took some time to gather up some of the abundant lumber around the end of the portage. I was staying on an island, and knowing that this was a well-used part of the park figured it would be better to gather wood while it was just lying around. Pushing out through the weeds down the creek into the lake, I looked at the sheltered bay awaiting me and though “Hey, that looks like prime bass territory.” I had cut my chops fishing just on the edge of weeds like these and was hopeful. One cast was all it took before I was rewarded with a fishy compatriot. Pleased with myself, I headed straight for my site to set up camp.


A beautiful evening.

The little archipelago upon which site #440 is located is scenic, if not a little busy. My neighbors to the east were there in a motorboat, but effectively hidden from view unless we were both in boats or exploring the proper parts of our respective islands at the same time. I found next to no lumber on my site, which I had expected. The site itself is wonderful though, with tonnes of living space, no fewer than three separate places to drag up a boat, and two great swimming areas. I had a little rock to the western side of the picnic table that I called “The Dock”. It was about a 3 foot deep pool next to a point of rock which was wonderful for fishing, swimming, and reading. As I was about to dive off though, I spotted one of the bigger snapping turtles I’ve ever seen meandering the waters, which put a damper on that activity.


An idyllic morning.

The most wonderful part of the trip was the mid-afternoon weather and fishing. It was one of those lazy afternoons that only Mark Twain could properly describe. Also, if you’re looking for 1-2lb bass without even trying, the northern islands of Vixen lake in August are your jam. There was a good smattering of rain at dusk, but other than that this was as great a one-night trip as one could ask for.