Farm L - Kitty L - Booth L
This was a seven day trip through access#17 Shall Lake, my destination was Booth Lake for six nights. I was not alone either, as I lucky to have my all time favourite Algonquinite "Bo Knows" partner up with me, he had invited me along on this trip, that was planned almost 5 months in advance. It was shortly before 9 am when I arrived at the parking lot. As I stepped out of my vehicle, Bo drove up, the timing couldn't have been better! We exchanged greetings and headed over to the permit office. At the office we explained that a number of people were coming in throughout the week to join us, some with separate permits, and others who would join us on our permit. This was deemed "ok" by the staff member that was present, and we were reminded about the maximum number of persons per site, as well as the most important regulations concerning back country camping; You would be surprised as to how many people still do not realize that cans and bottles are not allowed in Algonquin Park's interior. Bo & I were aware of this fact and had been for many years, thus all of our foodstuffs were packed in plastic.
We proceeded to load up my canoe, then Bo posed for me as I took a shot of him and the loaded canoe. "Loaded" is not the correct word here, "Overloaded" is more proper. It was embarrassing to say the least, for two experienced campers we were sure starting out like a couple of "green-horns". The canoe was overloaded with gear, too many packs, a barrel, a guitar, chairs, etc. If we were going to spend a week in the back country, we wanted to spend it in luxury! What made all that gear worthwhile though, is we were base-camping this trip, not tripping through several lakes and rivers. We would be setting up camp on Booth Lake and staying put for six nights.
Any room for paddlers? How my canoe looked, as we prepared to depart
We carefully got into the canoe and paddled away. "Holy Cow!!", we were low in the water! It just after 10am, and as we headed out of the first bay, we could see that the wind was already awake, Farm Lake being the first lake we had to traverse was busy with whitecaps everywhere. Passing by a campsite on the right, I longed already to land as the lake was not welcome looking, to our overloaded canoe. The campsite was actually inviting looking, on a bit of a sandy point, and level, just the kind of campsite anyone might want to try out. Too close to the access point for our comfort, we paddled on, after all we were going to Booth Lake for a week, we just had to get there first. We came across the lone island campsite, following it's shoreline, we could see rocks just beneath the surface, as we passed the island, Bo commented, "Stay close to shore, but not too close". Yup, I could see the danger, and unbelievably, we did not tip. We were so well balanced (both of us were making constant micro-changes in our balance), that we made it all the way to the portage to Kitty Lake, passing thru the narrows and the Kitty Lake cabin along the way. It was exhausting work, having to re-adjust your balance continuously, to prevent your overloaded canoe and it's precious cargo of modern conveniences and foodstuffs from becoming part of Park history.
Clear blue skies and an inviting beach greeted us
upon landing at our new home for seven days
Looking out over Booth Lake from our beach campsite
The good thing about all this wind and waves was that they were with us, not against us, thus our journey up to the portage was much shorter than usual, even with the heavy load. We traversed the short 90m portage and loaded up the canoe again for the paddle across Kitty Lake. It was around noon when the portage to Booth Lake came into view. As we approached the landing, we became stuck in the fast moving current as it was quite strong there, where the river that runs from Booth Lake empties into Kitty Lake. We were in danger of tipping the canoe in the fast moving shallow waters, so I jumped out of the canoe; I was prepared to to get wet, as I was wearing my water sandals. I guided the canoe(along with Bo), to the landing, and once there Bo got out and we proceeded to unload the canoe. Once that was done, the 500+ metre carry was what was required to get to Booth Lake, and we had to do it twice. The trail itself is very well worn and an easy walk with a few exceptions; There was a short steep climb of about 3m about a third of the way along the trail, as well the put-in on Booth Lake was a little awkard, especially in high water, and can be crowded if more than a few canoes show up at once.
Master Bo goes for a stroll on the beach at our campsite
Bo & I took a break once we returned for our second carry-over. If Farm Lake was crazy with wind and waves, Booth Lake looked insane. We guesstimated that the wind speed was about 30 to 40km/hr. Given the overloaded status of our canoe, we both had reservations about conditions. We decided to give it a try, the wind was still with us. As we paddled out onto Booth Lake, it became a question of not 'if', but 'when' we would tip the canoe. I seemed convinced that this was going to happen, even Bo seemed resigned to the fact that we were going to tip sooner or later. As we headed up the north shoreline, the winds shifted a little bit relative to our position along the shoreline. Now as we neared our destination, the wind and waves began to hit us broadside. Waves started to splash over the gunnels, and pretty soon I had a small swimming pool back in the stern with me. We almost bottomed out a few times too, on rocks. This was getting silly, any minute now I was sure we were going to tip. A campsite, the last one before our destination came into view, I steered us over to it, jumping out the last few meters, and sloshing thru hip deep water, guiding the canoe to shore. Bo & I both agreed the water was too crazy to paddle with the load we had. I mentioned that the next site was our destination and that there was a path to it, from the one that we were currently standing on. I suggested that we walk over to the campsite to see if it was vacant, else our precarious paddle would've been all for nothing.
Our first sunset on Booth Lake
cooking chicken over a campfire
After a five minute walk through the forest we passed a thunder-box, and a side trail, following this, we came upon the most beautiful campsite; Large open spaces and level, with lots of grass and sand. There was a large fire-pit with a suitable bench system. There was also a kitchen; tables built around trees in which to cook upon, behind the kitchen was more flat ground, suitable for additional tenting. That area was partially treed, well protected from the winds off the lake. The campsite itself opened up to the Lake, via a sandy shallow decline to a gorgeous beach that ran perhaps 50m one way, and 10m the other way, It was a dream campsite. Dream? Damn! The reality was I had to go back and get our gear. I told Bo to stay with the campsite, I was going to go back and paddle the canoe solo over to us. With me in the canoe, I would be better able to handle the shifts in balance in the canoe, with respects to the heavy winds and waves. I was right and as I came around a rocky point, our beach came into view, I eagerly hopped out, onto shore, and lined the canoe the rest of the way, the canoe had lots of water in it. We made it, home for the next six nights, and it was a dandy home indeed! Bo was shaking his head, he couldn't believe that we didn't tip. I too shared his skepticism at our luck, no matter, we broke out some special beverages, and saluted our fortune and proceeded to set-up camp...ahhh, the great outdoors of Algonquin. It was great to be home again! In the evening the wind died down, the sunset was peaceful, and the food was tasty. I had brought in chicken and rice for our first dinner, cooked it over the campfire, and we had a great evening, relaxing and enjoying the solitude that Algonquin is famous for.
"Bo Knows" relaxes in camp after dinner