Triplogs / Triplog#73
September 17 - Day 1 - A lovely September day
Access#3: A beautiful September morning
as we loaded up for our journey
This was a 10 day trip through access#3 with my girlfriend Joan. This was her first tine through access#3, this was my fourth. We drove up , and arrived at the permit office in Kearney just after 7:00 am. There already were two fishermen there, waiting for the office to open. It wasn't scheduled to open till 8:00 am. While waiting, fellow Algonquinites "Canoeguy" & "Karior" from the algonquin adventures.com forum, stopped by to chat with us for a few minutes. They had just come out from a base camping trip on Tim Lake via access#2 (Tim River). They both told me that the star viewing had been fantastic, that not one moose had been spied, and that their fishing luck had also suffered. Besides the lack of expected wildlife sightings, they had thoroughly enjoyed the area, citing excellent weather and the lack of traffic. It had been a solitude filled trip for both of them.
Looking back onto Ralph Bice Lake from the East end of the lake
At the end of our third carry-over of the day - Nice trail!
I think they got up around 4:00am so that they could break camp, paddle out (In the dark mind you!), and drive to the access point to meet us before 8:00 am! The staff showed up right on time, and we acquired our permit, chatted a few more minutes with the boys, who wished us a good trip and then we headed on our way. The drive unto the access point is a long one, and the last few kilometres of dirt road to the parking lot was a rough one. I cringed everytime at the odd pothole and rock that I failed to avoid. My car is on it's last legs and I feared it would die on that road!
We finally arrived, and it was a beautiful sunny fall morning. We unloaded the car, and loaded up at the dock. We had no problems loading up and had a another couple show up just as we were about to launch onto the lake. We exchanged greetings and headed out. It was 9:30 am.
The smooth trail leading to Little Trout Lake
Little Trout Lake put-in
The winds were very light and the going was quite easy. After only a few minutes, we arrived at the 135m potage into Hambone Lake. For the entire trip we would be double carrying the portages and this the first one was pretty straight-forward. In a short time we launched onto Hambone Lake, exchanging greetings and comments with another couple that were coming out from a short trip. Relating to us that they had recently relocated to Huntsville, it made forays into The Park much easier for them and much more frequent. Already in the Park, you would think one could get not get more envious, but suddenly I was. Their relative closeness to such a heavenly place, made my heart yearn for more.
As we crossed Hambone, Joan marvelled at the fall colours already emerging, and the colour of the lake's water. As we closed in on the portage to Ralph Bice Lake, we passed by a treasured moment; A loon feeding a late season chick; a minnow it had caught. I still wonder to this day if that chick made it out before the lake froze up, and if the parent stayed with the chick or fled knowing that it was too late for it's offspring to make flight. It was scenes like the one that we saw that make us appreciate the mystery of nature; even with the odds stacked against the young loon, the parent was not giving up so easily.
Shortly thereafter we arrived at the 295m portage into Ralph Bice Lake. Although the trail was just a little more than twice the distance of the first one, it was just as easy to traverse as the former. I noticed as we put into the lake, that the water levels were quite low, it was September after all.
We launched and I soon pointed out to Joan the exceptional clarity of the lake water, that and the blue-green shade to the lake as well. I've heard that the lake is spring-fed and it certainly looked that way too.
Little Trout Lake from the put-in
As we emerged onto the lake proper, I held my breath, and we were both rewarded with a near dead calm lake. As far as we could tell, the expanse of the lake was totally calm. We paddled down the lake following close to the south shoreline, with the exception of the bay that opens up leading to the portage to Daisy Lake, where we skirted across the mouth of the bay. Soon we passed by a campsite I had stayed on five years earlier. It seemed like a lifetime had passed, and as we paddled by I got a really good look at the campsite. Much had changed, the small sandy beach was caked with black debris washed up from the lake and many rocks in the water that were submerged before now stood exposed above the water. There seemed to be less trees than I remember too, and to the my memory of the campsite, it looked dismal, not the sunny and very swimmable campsite I had experienced five years previously.
We continued on, with the winds starting to wake up as we approached the islands in the East end of the lake. No one was camped at the first two campsites at the head of the island, so we decided to cross over and get a closer look. Indeed one of the campsites had a real rugged look to it, with windswept pines standing out among the sloping rock covered shoreline. We paddled on and came to a stop at a campsite further along the island, a campsite I had stopped by for a quick inspection a few years back, while camped at another campsite on the lake.
Islets on Little Trout Lake
It was 11:35 am, and we decided to have a quick lunch break of sandwiches that Joan prepared there, apples and water. Sometimes the simplest food is the best. Much had changed on the campsite. A large pine had fallen and been attacked by a great many saws for it's branches of firewood. Other improvements that were there previously had disappeared only to be replaced with new ones. We finished our light lunch and got back in the canoe and shoved off, paddling to the end of Ralph Bice Lake. It was 12:35 pm when we arrived at the 435m portage into Little Trout Lake. I was just as excited as Joan was, for I was paddling into new territory too, I had never been this way before.
Looking back at Little Trout Lake from the take-out to Queer Lake
The take-out was fabulous, a small sand beach, with a nice view looking back onto Ralph Bice Lake. It's too bad there isn't a campsite nearby, this would be a nice location for one I think. Right away the trail climbs up sandy soil for a few meters then levels off into one of the nicest trails I've come upon in Algonquin in a long time. It is a hard packed smooth trail, with no rock or root underfoot, well for at least most of the trek across. We completed our double-carry and launched onto Little Trout Lake by 1:20pm. What are marvellous lake Little Trout Lake is, I wished we had decided to stay one night on the lake, and there was no one around either, the lake was completely empty. By 1:47pm we arrived at the 175m portage into Queer Lake. Once the carry-over was complete, we took at break at the put-in. The day was just getting better and better, it felt summer like except there was no people and no bugs, autumn was a great time to trip!
Campsite on Queer Lake
Paddling Queer Lake as we near the take-out to the Tim River
2:13 pm and we were on the water again and we paddled over to and landed at a campsite across the bay, next to the beginnings of a narrows that leads to the lake proper. I couldn't find the portage anywhere, and realized I had mis-read the map (or my surroundings), we turned around and headed back out to the open water of the bay and followed the East shoreline, eventually finding Little Trout creek nestled behind a point and a bend in the landscape. We paddled down the glass like surface a short distance, eventually arriving at the 1330m portage to the Tim River, it was 2:40pm.
Joan was first to head down the trail (to say "Up" would be more appropriate), as I prepped the canoe for the carry over. Only a minute into her carry, Joan exclaimed, "Wow, this just keeps climbing and climbing, look!" I looked up, and through the foliage I could barely make out Joan, she was quite a distance above me, for the land rose quite a height. This didn't appear to be one of those shoulder friendly trails. I sighed, hauled the canoe onto my shoulders and made my way up the never-ending hill.
The Tim River (Upstream from the put-in) at the end
of the 1330m+280m carry-over
The climb to level ground was perhaps 50m, it was just the sudden steep climb right from the beginning of the take-out that can seem discouraging. The portage is signed as 1330m, but I'd swear it was over 2km long, as the trail itself is very rugged, near constant up and down, the trail had much more hill to it then I had anticipated. At one point I arrived at canoe rest (Halfway I presume), and gratefully started to lower my canoe to it, only to realize it was cracked in the middle, and would likely give way under the weight of my canoe(Approx. 65 lbs). I was getting shaky, the hills were taking their toll on me, so I did a standing rest, lowering one end of the canoe to the ground, standing there with the canoe resting on my shoulders while I caught my breath. In the heat of summer, this would be a very sweaty portage.
The put-in at the Tim River
Paddling the Tim River moments after putting-in
At one point the trail crosses a logging road, and it was at this point in time that I thought perhaps we were halfway through the trail, but it just seemed to go on and on. Eventually the terrain began to descend at a steady rate, again the trail was hard packed, but I wouldn't want to be descending that hill again if it was pouring rain, it would be very slippery for sure. Soon the trail bottomed out, it was now on much more level ground, with more bush and grasses than trees. shortly thereafter, I came upon the joining of another portage, where another canoe route intersected the one I was on. I joined the continuation of the second portage, turning right. The remaining distance was not signed, but I estimated it to be 280m, so tack that onto your 1330m trail if you come in via Queer Lake.
By 4:58 pm we were all set, the canoe was loaded and we were ready to hop in the canoe after a 10 minute rest and refuelling with water and fruits. It took us just over two hours to do the double carry. Slow for sure, and if anyone follows my double carry reporting times, you can gauge them as being among the slowest, so use my times as the bottom end of a scale for estimating carry-over times. 5:05 pm and we were on the water, paddling down a beautiful and welcoming looking Tim River. Looks can be deceiving and the Tim deceived us well. The "Mighty Tim"? Pah! It was a mighty pain in the back side, what looked to us to be a short jaunt down the river to the first campsite on the river (where we planned to camp for the night), took us exactly 55 minutes to reach. We had to overcome two fallen trees, and a few beaver dams, it had been a long day, we were tired, and the added physical activity of hauling the fully loaded canoe over river obstructions was tiring, both of us started to get cranky. We needed be at camp; have solid food in our bellies and a warm fire at our feet.
Joan give a 'thumbs-down' at an obstruction across the Tim River
We pitched our tent next to the campsite landing
Finally at 6:00 pm we arrived at the campsite, and to our tired bodies the unloading of the canoe was another exhausting task; having to haul everything up a sandy embankment. By 7:20pm, we had camp set up, fire going with our food cooking on the fire (Tandori wings with a side dish of peppers & Asiago dip), and enough fire wood to last for the next morning and even a supply of uncut wood left over. The site itself wasn't much, there was level ground for the tent and fire-pit, the surrounding forest was mainly spruce. Nevertheless it was great; We had made our planned destination, it had been a beautiful September day, and there was no one around, not even any bugs, we were all alone. After dinner we stayed up for perhaps an hour finally retiring to bed by 9:00 pm. During the evening, we heard moose calling, as it was rutting season, and we knew the moose were busy looking for mates.
The fire-pit with the marsh of Tim River beyond