Shall Lake(IN) - Shirley L - Shirley L - Shall Lake(OUT)
This was a 2 nite trip to Shirley Lake, through Access#17, (Shall Lake), with my friend JL. The canoe access and the permit office itself, is located at the narrows between Crotch and Farm Lakes. This was my first time to this access point, and I can only speculate that the permit office/access point had once been on Shall Lake, but the Access Point name had never been updated. I arrived with my friend JL, shortly before 9 am, to a cloudy and humid August Algonquin morning. On the way in on the access road, we had to pull over more than once, to clear fallen trees. I guessed at the time a storm had rolled through the night before, and we were the first ones to show up, that morning. The road was paved for about half the distance to the permit office, and the gravel section was in fairly good shape. We acquired our permits from the office, stationed by a very knowledgeable and helpful fellow by the name of "Jim".
I had brought along my own canoe, and soon we had it on the small gravel landing, loaded with food and gear.
There were other people there, heading out as well. It was a Friday morning, so along with us, the week-ender onslaught was about to be underway. The other people that were heading out, went left or up the lake(Farm Lake), heading for Booth Lake I guess. We turned right and went under the bridge. This was the way to Shirley Lake, via Crotch lake and a 1050m portage. A few minutes into our paddle, we emerged from the narrows onto Crotch Lake proper. Crotch Lake is interesting in that it is like two lakes in one. The distinction is made by narrows that must be passed through as you paddle up the lake. Personally, I prefer the 'upper' part of the lake. It has a few islands, a more varied shoreline, and no high voltage transmission lines marring the beauty of the forest. That is exactly what one sees upon first entering Crotch Lake from the access point.
I noticed that there are several paddle in campsites on Crotch Lake, and can't help but wonder why that section(The lower section) of Crotch Lake was designated for paddle in campsites. Sure there is a nice view of the lake, if you don't mind towering columns of steel and wire cutting through the landscape. JL & I continued up to the 'upper' part of Crotch lake. I noticed a change in the soil here, compared to other areas of Algonquin Park. The soil has a distinctive red colour to it. Perhaps there was clay in the soil? We paddled by a beautiful island in the middle of the lake with a campsite up off the water among young pines, a campsite suitable for hot sunny July days. We reached the north end of the lake and paddled around the small bay on the left, looking for the portage. It had started to rain a light drizzle, and I started to examine my map more closely, for the portage that we couldn't find. After almost 15 minutes of searching, we noticed the slightest break in vegetation on the waters surface, for this end of the lake had lots of water lilies, weeds and other types of aquatic vegetation. Following this 'break', not five minutes later, we were in the mouth of a creek and the landing of the portage to Shirley Lake.
View from our campsite: Looking down the length of Shirley Lake
Crossing the portage took quite awhile, as we came upon a family, that was coming out, and JL just couldn't resist striking up a conversation. We learned the family was from central Ontario and that they had spent approx. 5 days in the interior. I carried one pack over the trail, while JL stayed behind to converse with fellow Algonquinites. I returned, and met up with JL, as the family departed and a group of 6 guys landed at the portage. I was dismayed to see this group, as it always seems my luck to lose a desired site to the very same folks that would pass me by on a portage. With the gang of six already traversing the trail ahead of us, I picked up the canoe, and headed down the trail for our 2nd run. JL grabbed her pack and followed. Along the way JL wanted to try carrying the canoe. I warned her that although it was 'light'(52lbs), it would seem heavy to her, as I don't think she had ever carried a canoe before. Sure enough, we swapped positions and JL tried carrying the canoe, for about 50 feet and gave up. JL was a tall woman and not a weakling either, she was just un-accustomed to canoe carrying, yet I was, and gladly took my canoe back onto my shoulders. Ok, well maybe not 'gladly'. Like other 'sports', portaging takes alot of patience and discipline, I explained. For me it was a matter of balance & stamina, not so much strength in carrying a canoe. JL didn't envy my position as canoe carrier, and we continued down the trail.
We arrived at Shirley Lake, where the gang of six had deposited some of their gear in with ours. A few of their canoes were at the landing ready to go, but were just sitting there, taking a break I guess. I managed to maneuver my canoe into a free spot at the landing and picked our gear out from among the group of six's packs', and we loaded up. By the time we settled into our canoe and set off onto Shirley Lake, It had started to drizzle again. As JL and I paddled onto Shirley lake, we came around a bend, and saw the expanse of Shirley lake before us. It was huge! The lake was very long, and looking at the map one could never guess just how big it really was. As we paddled up the lake, I decided that we should cross the lake, heading over to the east shore. I had asked online about the quality of the campsites on Shirley lake. Much to my amazement, some folks voiced their displeasure at knowing in advance what site was good and what site was bad. Normally I wouldn't care, as I travelled alone most of the time, and being by myself, I enjoyed the exploration factor. However I was bringing someone new to The Park, to an area that I was also new to. So to avoid endless hours of paddling around(On JL's account), I had sought the advice of fellow trippers on the forum at "algonquinadventures.com". The advice proved to be quite sound...and I'll get to that in a moment.
Looking towards the entrance to Ancona Bay
As we crossed the lake, The sound of thunder echoed behind us. We were about halfway across the lake, when the squall hit us. More thunder, but no lightning could be seen(Thank God!), the rain came down in a torrent. I was not prepared for the rain, at least the amount that was coming down. We finally landed on the east shore, soaked to our skin, standing there in the pouring rain. I pulled out a tarp and covered our gear, at least it wouldn't be swimming in water. Within 10 minutes of landing on the shore, the sun came out and the humidity level shot up. I looked around us...The shoreline was quite nice to walk around on, as it was all beach, with the same red soil I had mentioned eariler...just more of it....Shirely Lake's shoreline seemed to be nothing but red soil. We had landed on the shore north of the portage to Ryan Lake, between the first and 2nd campsite. We had spied the portage landing from a distance and it appeared to be a large eroding sandy bank, during the deluge of water upon us, we managed to keep track of where we were, and skipped the first campsite, as I had been told that the really good ones were farther up the lake. We paddled up the shoreline, and came upon the 2nd site, it was occupied, and we noticed this long before we arrived, for the blue tarp system the occupants had set up was quite visible from a distance. The site itself seemed spacious, with long beach front property. We paddled on for quite awhile, passing the large island with it's lone campsite. JL having not really paddled before, surprised me with her excellent paddling ability, some come by it naturally I guess, to top it off, she was happy to be seated in the bow, not wanting to switch seats, which suited me just fine! Being my canoe, I have a tendancy to be a stern hog.
Some of the huge clearing and tall pines behind our tenting area
I was warned to avoid the island campsite, as it being not a great spot. Passing the island we finally spied the next site on the east shore, just behind the large island. This is the site I was hoping for, and as we landed, we realized we got it. It was unoccupied, and was a dandy of a site. As I had mentioned earlier the advice I had been given was sound. I was directed to this site by a fellow Algonquinte, whom I had never met, but had many thanks to give. It almost seemed criminal for JL & I to occupy the site, for it's size could easily accomidate15 tents or more. There was lots of clear space, the site was surrounded as well by very tall pines. Both red and white pines, mainly red though. The landing was a sandy eroding bank of that red soil again. The fire-pit was quite large and accommodating with a good log bench setup. The views were excellent, with the length of the lake laid out to the south of us, and the island straight out in front of us, with a bay off to our right. We set-up camp, and spent a great deal of time getting a fire going, as the wood was all wet; everything was wet, as it appeared to have rained on and off the past several days. As the afternoon progressed, the group of six guys passed us by, my earlier fears towards them were replaced by a grin, finally I was having and eating my cake too. We got the better site...as far as we were concerned. The group passed us by and paddled into the bay beside us. I knew by observing my map, that there was no campsites in that bay and almost 30 minutes later the group came back out, and started to go back the way they came. The folks were obviously new to this, and had no idea where they were going. Soon, though the group headed in another direction; towards Ancona Bay, where there supposedly was two campsites, they weren't completely helpless after all. We settled in for steak over the fire, as we warmed ourselves by the fire's heat and watched the sun go down under clearing skies.
The large island with lone campsite(Not visible), as seen from our campsite