Triplogs / Triplog#74
October 8 - Day 1 - The hike up Maple Creek
Every October long weekend (Thanksgiving), my good friend Sean organizes a trip somewhere in Algonquin Park. This year Sean picked Maple Lake, a lake in the northern section of The Park, the closest access point being Kisohkokwi Lake(Access#29) or "Kiosk" for short. Sean invited our friend Mike and myself to join him on Maple Lake.
Having been to Maple Lake many times before, I was to act as guide and I just couldn't wait to get up there. Neither could Mike, so we headed up together in Mike's van a day earlier than Sean, with the aim of finding and setting up a campsite for our stay on Maple Lake. We drove up in Mike's van early Thursday morning arriving at the permit office on Kioshkokwi Lake shortly before 9:00 a.m. It was a beautiful sunny morning with a temperature only a few degrees above zero Celsius.
The permit office at Access#29(Kiosk)
The lake was calm with only the slightest ripple here and there. Mike & I headed into the permit office, noticing there was only one other vehicle in the lot. Virtually deserted Kiosk was, just the way we liked it! We went inside and met a friendly young fellow, whose name slips my mind at the moment (sorry!). When I asked if anyone else would be in the area, I was greeted with an almost comical look, and a slight nod at the near empty parking lot. Ya I knew, but I had to ask, one never knows! We were told no one except a soloist would be on Maple Lake for one night. Fine by us! We thanked the fellow paid for our permit and was given our garbage bag, then headed over to unload Mike's van.
It was nearly 9:30 a.m. when we were finally loaded up and shoved off with Mike in the stern and me in the bow. I hadn't been in the bow in years and with the beautiful bent-shaft paddle Mike supplied me I felt weird and out of place. I had never used a bent-shaft paddle before, and it took some getting used to. We paddled across the lake to the South shore, then turned Southwest skirting past open bays, admiring the rocky shoreline and pine clad points.
Looking down Kisohkokwi Lake from the put-in(Access#29)
After about 45 minutes we paddled into the bay where Maple Creek empties into Kisohkokwi Lake, the sun full in our faces, nearly blinding us. Here the water looked more shallow than I had ever seen it. I had never been to this area of The Park in autumn and although I expected the lower levels, I was surprised at how much "mud-flats" we had to trudge through.
Instead of paddling up the right-hand shoreline into the creek, we had to paddle up-to a timber strewn mud-flat. Both of us had questioned each other on our choice of footwear for the trip beforehand. We both decided against sandals and chose to go with boots instead (summer was over after all!). Our choice appeared to be the correct one, for we landed about 10 meters from 'shore', and had to slog the rest of the way through deep mud, eventually reaching more stable mucky ground. It sure was nice to have warm dry feet. We unloaded the canoe, Mike moving his gear 10 meters inland, me another 20 meters at the confluence of the trail with the old landing, now unreachable by canoe.
This was to be a single carry trip. Mike carrying his canoe and pack(around 110 lbs or more), me with my pack and a cooler bag and other odds and ends (around 70 lbs or more..I had all the beverages!). We loaded up and started off, the first 80m of the trail being kinda rough and off-balance. Passing this first few minutes of awkwardness, the trail smoothes out and begins a long shallow climb. There are no steep climbs or descents along this trail just a long shallow climb with the odd flat section.
Mike prepares for the first portage of the day
up Maple Creek
About two-thirds of the way through the trail, I pointed out an old ranger cabin to Mike that sits right next to the trail. It is on your right as you ascend the creek, you can't miss it. Within 15 minutes we arrived at the end of the trail, and I was amazed at how much the landing had changed in just little over a year. Beavers had done some serious dam construction, and had flooded the landing, they had also removed many of the alders in the immediate vicinity, It looked to me that Park Staff also had to do some trimming to accommodate the altered state of the landing. The landing was much more rocky than it had been(exposed it was), and the raspberry patch I had been so fond of was now gone, courtesy of the beavers.
We piled the gear in the canoe and hopped in, then started to paddle up the longest unbroken stretch of the creek. Right away I noticed the creek was different, it had a flooded look to it. Where the water should have been shallow, it was deep, and there were new grasses that had grown in the past season, making in some places, the creek more narrow than it used to be. The beavers were definitely altering the topography of the creek and surrounding open wetland. At the south end of the 90m portage, Mike slipped on a mud covered rock, and his foot sank into mud covered grass, tripping him, and ending up with one foot soaked. Tricky put-in.
At the south end of the 190m portage - 2 hours into our journey
Once again we launched, except now the water seemed to be low, when it should have been high. I knew this because we kept striking rock after rock, it was hard to see with the sun in my eyes. Not only that, but according to Mike I had this annoying habit of pulling the paddle out of the water when I spotted a rock! What a rook I was. I just wasn't used to being in the bow. Slowly I remembered(after much complaining from Mike), to keep my paddle in the water and push off the rock with my paddle. I just didn't want to wreck the beautiful paddle, Mike only laughed at me. I longed for the stern, but felt uncomfortable taking Mike's offer of paddling in his stern. We paddled and scrapped our way onwards.
It was 12:04 p.m. when we reached the waterfalls and the trail head of the 630m portage, around two hours and forty minutes into our journey, time for lunch. We unloaded and prepped for the carry, then I prepared lunch. We had some village sausage (smoked), cheese, trisket crackers, and an apple I sliced up. A moderately healthy snack for the upcoming carry. We took some pictures of the falls then started our crossing, with me complaining beforehand how I hated this particular trail so much. It wasn't steep or long, just hard on the ankles. Lots of roots and rock to trip over, with a trail that wasn't very wide. We completed the trail, and launched back onto the creek at 12:57 p.m. with Mike agreeing that the trail was indeed 'lousy'. I also pointed out the storm damage at the end of the trail where a campsite is located. It was once a well treed campsite, but now was quite open with no shelter. I also pointed out across the marsh, where the approximate location of the beginning of the 805m portage was. If you know where to look you can see that, 'as the crow flies', it is not far. However, the intervening paddle is much longer than it appears for this section of the creek twists a lot and has several beaver dams. The water levels were both deep and shallow in spots where they were not a year ago, much had changed.
New grasses(left) along Maple Creek
Within 15 minutes we arrived at yet another rocky landing, the beginning of the 805m portage. I warned Mike that the trail wasn't too bad, just that about halfway through the trail was a nasty 45m climb with an additional 15m 'over the top' climb till we hit the 'green logs'. You can tell that the steep climb is nasty because of the fact that seven-tenths of the way up the hill is a canoe rest, right on the hill. It might look like a silly spot to put a canoe rest, but in the past I've been grateful that it was there. I pointed the canoe rest out to Mike, who at that point was trying to heave one leg up over a two foot drop..the climb was getting silly. Mike grunted with the effort, after all he was carrying over 110 lbs up the steep grade. "He Man" Mike ignored the canoe rest and carried on. I followed, grunting as well..those cold "beverages"(in plastic bottles), were getting heavy too!
Falls at the trail head of the 630m portage(North end)
It was 1:43 p.m. When we finally arrived at the end of the trail to a beautiful smooth rock landing(the best on the creek). Mike collapsed. The sweat pouring from his face and neck like rainwater, then Mike commenting that the 630m portage wasn't so bad after all. I guess so, that hill is brutal under a heavy load. We rested for only five minutes, I urged Mike that we should hurry on, for Maple Lake was very near, just one more painful portage. It wasn't the portage that was painful really, it was the landings. The last portage into Maple Lake was 130m, but the landings were brutal, the roughest anywhere along the creek. Rocky and hard to manoeuvre in and out of the canoe, making unloading/loading tricky.
The south end of the 630m portage
Mike collapses after single carrying 110 lbs along and up the 805m portage
Finally, just after 2:15 p.m. we launched onto Maple Lake, with the colours being mostly gold, for all the reds were gone now. We thought of a warm fire and cold beer as we paddled onto Maple Lake, figuring we had about 4 hours of sunlight left, we had plenty of time to set-up camp as I already had a campsite in mind, not too far away. In less than 20 minutes, we landed at a site on the West shore just a little south of an island campsite. This was the campsite I had in mind, having stayed there nine years earlier. It was sheltered from a west wind and mostly from a north wind as well, complete with morning sun, a good choice I figured. Mike wasn't too sure of it and wanted to scout out another. I recommended another site, not too far away, but commented that I had never stayed there. It was an island site but mentioned that it was close to shore, facing the North shore, where it might offer some protection. As we approached the main part of Maple Lake, we could see that it was much more exposed, with rolling waves and wind. We worked our way through even stronger winds towards the island. Eventually we arrived at the campsite. It wasn't much shielded from a north wind, and there was very little wind break from the West as the tree cover was very thin. There would also be no sunlight. It would be like camping in a freezer. We headed back, both Mike and myself suddenly liking our first choice much more.
Mike relaxes after recovering from the brutal carry
We set-up camp, put tarps up, with Mike constantly improving the tarp set-up. There was very little firewood, so we went out to the opposite shore and gathered some old cedar, brought it back and chopped it up. While gathering firewood, we searched for signs of a ranger cabin that was supposedly in the vicinity, but we never found anything. Soon we had a fire going with the coals building. As darkness neared, I cooked burgers over the fire and pulled the beer out of the lake. Beer and burgers after a long day, what a great way to end the evening. Both of us retired by 9:00 p.m. for we had been up since 3 a.m. Shortly after I went to bed, it started to rain for a few minutes then stopped, and that's all the rain there was that night.