Magnetawan L(IN) - Hambone L - Ralph Bice L - Hambone L - Magnetawan L(OUT)
This was a three night solo trip to Ralph Bice Lake, through Magnetawan Lake, access#3. It was also Canada Day weekend, a long weekend. With Friday being the actual holiday, I knew I had to get up to The Park early, if I wanted my choice of campsites. I don't remember when exactly I started up the highway, but I do remember it was sometime around 4:00 am. On my journey up the highway, I witnessed thunderstorms lighting up the sky ahead of me, eventually moving off to the east. Another one was brewing in the west, but I managed to out run it as it passed again to the east, behind me as I pushed northward. Sometime after 7:00am, I arrived at the permit office in Kearny. Mentioning that this was the first time being to this access point, I found the staff to be not only friendly, but quite informative and helpful to my questions and interests I sought. There was mostly cloudy conditions, but two-thirds of the way upto the access point, the sun broke through the cloud cover and I was treated to a beautiful, damp summer morning. As I came around a bend in the road, I saw a turtle crossing the road. I pulled over, and with camera in hand, got out of my car, watched and waited for several minutes, as I observed the critter go about it's morning routine. I grew anxious for a bit, as the turtle seem to just stop in the middle of the road. It occurred to me then that it was soaking up the sun, and I was concerned the fellow would get run over by the next vehicle that would be coming down the road. I approached the turtle and stood in the path of his warming rays. That got a reaction, as the turtle started to move to the side of the road. I moved with the turtle, it was like a slow-motion chase. I'd move one step, and the turtle would crawl two or three..and so on. Eventually, the turtle crawled off the road and down into the ditch. Satisfied, I got back in my car and continued on to the access point. Normally, I wouldn't harass such wildlife, but I felt it was necessary to protect the turtle against possible danger from my fellow outdoor enthusiasts. All it would take is the blink of an eye or a sneeze, and any well intentioned driver, could kill that turtle. At the time of writing this trip-log, there had been online discussions on the Algonquin Adventures forum, as to whether such action was appropriate or not. Some agreed what I did was o.k. Others incurred that it was better to pick up the turtle and simply place it out of harms way..the act of moving instead of 'stalking' the turtle, being less harmful. Others agreed that to do nothing at all was the best approach. To this day I'm still not sure what is the correct method(if there is in fact any correct method at all), to intervening in a turtle's life.
Snapping turtle sunning itself on the road to Magnetwan access
Continuing on, I was slowed down by the conditions of the road. I've have heard and experienced the roughness of the road on the way into Cedar Lake access point, imagine my surprise though, when driving the last 10km or so of the road into the access point on Magnetawan Lake. It was just plain rough. I have never heard anyone complain about the road there. It was rough to say the least. I like to compare it to driving on the surface of the planet Mars(well, what I imagine it would be like driving on the surface of Mars!), it looked that bad! For such a popular access point, I was surprised by the conditon. It is a well kept secret, so if you have a vehicle in really poor condition you might want to think twice before driving it up there. Despite the road conditions though, it is a really nice drive upto Magnetawan Lake.
A polypore in the forest behind my campsite - I went crazy with my new camera
A makeshift table was my kitchen near the water's edge
Just before 8:30 am, I arrived at the access point and began loading up for the trip. The sky was racing..clouds coming out of the west, I could see scattered blue here and there, looked like it was going to clear up! By 9:00am I was on the water, just as another vehicle pulled up, and people began un-loading. I paddled out onto Magnetawan Lake, a gust of wind from the east blew into me, and for a few moments, I was going the wrong way. This was only my second time paddling solo, and I still had a lot to learn. Once the wind died down, I kneeled in the canoe, and set about the business of paddling towards the first portage, a 135m trail that takes barely 5 min to paddle from the launch point. The trail itself is well worn, short and easy. Launching onto Hambone Lake for the first time, I became unsure of where the portage to Ralph Bice Lake was. It's one of the portages that remain pretty much hidden till you are almost upon it. Thus causing me to wonder, did I miss the portage? Is the signage missing? Am I even in the right part of the lake? Heading across the open expanse of Hambone Lake, you have to head pretty much to the farthest visible point east of when you emerge onto the lake proper. The winds on Hambone, were gusty, but didn't seem as strong as they were on Magnetawan Lake. The waves were mere ripples. The sky was lifting..gray clouds, with lots of blue patches. Arriving at the 295m portage, I climbed out and started off. This portage was a little longer, and slightly more rugged, but like the first one, was relatively easy. In 20 minutes(I was double carrying), I launched onto Ralph Bice Lake. As I paddled across the small bay, I couldn't help but notice how clear the water was. It had a green caste to it, and so, so clear. As I emerged onto the lake proper, I was exposed to the winds and waves that were coming down the lake form the east end. I had been warned beforehand by many people, that this lake could in fact get quite windy. At the time, this was only my second time soloing in a canoe, and I decided to stick very close to shore. I did not like the look of the shoreline to the left of me, as it travelled north, it was somewhat rocky, with rocks poking up from he surface of the water, as waves crashed over them. I decided to cross a bay of open water to the south of me, and track along the south shoreline. This proved to be a little daunting, as the waters were even more rough along the south shoreline,as I was dealing with the 'backsplash' waves from shore. I had very choppy waters, with waves coming at me from several directions, it was here that I had a very good idea what a cork feels like bobbing up and down, being tossed around. I had to move off, further out into the lake(at least 30 meters) to find less hazardous water to paddle in.
Fellow canoeists, seeking solitude on Ralph Bice Lake(Canada Day)
Ahead to the left, is where my campsite was - the water was warm,
shallow and had a sandy bottom
In about 25 minutes, I came upon the first campsite. As a general rule, I like to pass up the first campsite I come upon on, on any lake I intend to camp on. Not this time. The wind and waves were creeping me out, and so I called it a 'day'. If I recall correctly, it was around 11:30am when I landed on the site, and what a marvellous site it was! A small stretch of land extended from shore, thereby, giving the site two bays, both fairly sheltered and with shallow sandy water. The land then elongates into two peninsulas, with rock and pine. Think of an inverted letter "T" extending from the shoreline. That is how the campsite is laid out. By 1:00pm, I had camp set up, then proceeded to the important business of the rest of the day; being lazy. I had set up a chair on one of the rock peninsulas, and proceeded to relax and drink several mixed drinks and watch the rest of the day go by. Hour after hour, the wind and waves continued, as I watched many canoes come onto the lake...each filled with fellow canoeists looking for their own slice of solitude. The day was very warm and it grew humid into the latter part of the afternoon. I even went in the water a couple of times to cool off, the water was fantastic, and the day just kept getting better and better. By 6:00pm, the sky grew overcast and the wind started to die down. I had dinner at 7:pm(can't remember what I ate), and by 8:00pm I was out, still shooting pictures. I had just bought my first digital camera(it was just a small point and shoot model), and was hooked on the time-saving features of a digital camera(versus film based cameras). I spent a quiet evening onshore listening to the loons, while I sat by my campfire. It was around 10:00pm that I finally went to bed.
There wasn't much of a sunset on the first nite,
much better though than looking at smog back home!