Rock Lake (IN) - Pen L - Harry L - Lake Louisa - Rock Lake(OUT)
Day 1 - Rock Lake To Pen L
This trip was a solo 4 nite/5 day loop. Starting at Rock Lake, down to Pen Lake, up the Galipo River(a short run, more portaging then paddling) to Welcome Lake. Then onto Harry Lake, and upto Lake Louisa, and back to Rock Lake. I had intended to have a partner on this trip, but the fellow had twisted his knee during the winter, and was still in rough shape, a week before I set out on the trip. No matter...all that portaging, he wouldn't have made it anyways. I barely did myself. This trip was fraught with bad luck and just a comedy of errors.
I hit the 400 at 4:01 am on Thursday Morning, and headed up.
With an hour detour to pick up my canoe, I arrived at the west gate shortly before 8am.
The office was still closed, and seconds later I was on my way to the Canoe Lake permit office to pick up my permit there. The Canoe Lake office opens at 7:00am, so by the time I got there several parties had already checked in, getting early starts on their respective trips.
The Launch Point at Access#9
Access#9: A Close up of the Motorboat launch
Once I had the permit, I drove to Rock lake and the launch point there. Upon arrival, there was 2 parties or a party of 2 canoes, gearing up for a trip. I unloaded my gear and canoe and prepared to set off, I took a few pictures and noted the time and temperature. It was time to head out, it was 9:05 am, on a crisp and cool sunny morning. The temperature was -2°C. Upon launching, there is a sign on the opposite shore, noting Whitefish lake to the right, and Rock lake to the left. If you've never been here before, look for this sign to guide you in the correct direction. Steering to the left, I canoed down a channel, and quickly came upon a cottage lying along the east shore. Ahhh...to own such a residence in the park! Paddling on, I passed a few ducks, and noted the wind picking up as the channel widened, as I approached Rock Lake.
Emerging from the channel on to Rock Lake
Frigid Waters: Paddling Down Rock Lake, Close to the Shoreline
What would the conditions on the lake be like today? I held my breath.
I came upon the lake, which was dazzling in my eyes. The sun shone brightly, in a clear blue sky, upon clear blue frigid waters. There was a cold stiff wind behind me and small waves to accompany my journey down Rock Lake. I paddled down the west shoreline and stayed very close to shore. Luck was with me that morning, as I never strayed more than 10m from shore, and the cold wind did not try to push me ashore, but pushed me down the lake. I passed many cottages along the way. Some in good condition, while others in various states of decay and disrepair. Nevertheless a interesting site to see along the way. No life occupied the cottages I passed, most still had the docks up on land. Passing the last cottage before the west shoreline turns west, is some sort of historical site.
Paddling the West Shore: A Splendid Display of Canadian Shield
Another view of the Canadian Shield rock face
I did not get out to investigate here, as the wind and waves were swirling here and the back splash waves from the shore, didn't make an ideal landing for me. What I could see, looked like a fallen chimney and 3 poured concrete foundation pillars. One of them crumbling and ready to keel over. As I paddled on, the shore opened up into a bay, with a nice rock face, to my right and stern. Here the water became choppy, with winds coming from different directions. Still I managed to take several shots of the rock face.
To the south and east of this point are many pine clad Islands, some with interior sites, and some with cottages. Oh to be on this lake on a quiet August evening. What a sight it must be! I passed the bay and rounded a point and continued down the lake(along the east shore)where it narrows..here the wind picked up and continued to help me along my way. By 10:30am I landed at the portage to Pen Lake. I was rewarded with a soaker in my left shoe for trying to balance myself on wet rock, while exiting the canoe. 15 Minutes later I arrived at the landing into Pen Lake.
The landing at the portage to Pen Lake
Beginning the short trek to Pen Lake
Looking back to the portage beginning at Rock Lake
The water was indeed high, as I saw a dock a few meters offshore, from which to launch in the summertime I presumed. I spent 45 minutes going back to Rock lake to pick up my canoe, doing a photo-op along the way. Following old trails and climbing down rocks. I spent a great deal of time hanging around the falls that flowed from Pen Lake into Rock Lake. It was a nice sight to behold. Climbing back up to the portage was tricky..the land here was very muddy, so was the portage. The lack of spring bloom helped me as I moved thru the bush though. I met some other folks heading into Pen for the weekend. Lots of fishing gear and suds to pass the time. Portaging coolers sure looked awkward, but thankfully for them, the portage itself was a short 375m. There were many muddy sections, and a boardwalk to bypass the most severe of them, as well one point in the trail where it becomes steep and rocky, but the trail is generally flat and of no consequence. The approach to the landing at Pen Lake is a downward slope.
Getting ready for the weekend: Friends, fishing & firewater!
Mud? No problem...Follow the boardwalk
By 11:30am I launched onto Pen Lake. As the lake opened up, I became momentarily confused as to which way to go. I spotted the island and the accompanying point of land jutting out to the Island, to my right and adjusted my course. The wind here was cold and steady still, as it pushed me onwards. Noticing many rocks between the point and island, I steered to the left of the island, and passed over shallow water filled with rocks.
Once passed the island the lake opened up, and the wind became even stronger, though the waves didn't show any signs of threatening my progress. All was well behaved today.
Careful where you walk: No boardwalks here
The Falls: Pen L draining into Rock L
Another shot of the torrent flowing from Pen to Rock.
Logjam on Pen L, preceding the falls
High Water: Preparing to launch onto Pen Lake
Traveling down the east shoreline, I had to stay at least 20m offshore, for there was a great deal of large boulders littering the water. Even that far offshore, there was still the odd one that loomed out in front of me. This lake deserved the name 'Rock' Lake, better than the previous lake. Passing the portage to night lake and the following 2 campsites, I came to a bay, that was choppy. I passed by a mini-island here, and tried to skirt across the bay, to the point where the 3rd campsite sits. The paddling here was difficult and tiring. The wind and waves were now coming broadside and I kept getting closer to shore as the wind and waves pushed me into the oncoming rock studded shoreline. The water here, combined with the back splash from shore was very choppy. As I was bobbing up and down and to and fro, like a cork in an ocean, I noticed some of the rock, was ringed with ice, as well as some low hanging branches.
Like Rock Lake, Pen Lake has a sandy bottom in some places
Looking from the Head of Pen L: Island on the left, point on the right
Finally I landed right on the point; a very nice and long sandy beach. Completely exposed to the wind it was. A fantastic summer site I imagined, but a frosty one in the spring! I got out and looked the campsite over. I was not going to stay here, but needed a rest and time to refuel myself. It was 12:45pm. Going over to the firepit area, which was separated from the beach by a up and down hill, I nearly froze my butt off there. It was even more windy there as the wind pushing into the bay washed up over the site and around the point. The sun was warm, but the breeze was colder. Time to move on.
The next 3 sites were occupied, and on the 3rd one, everyone was fishing from shore or just offshore in their canoes. I had inquired about the sites farther down, was told all the sites on the west shore were scooped up, but the next 2 on the east were empty. Figures.
Taking a break: third site down on the east shore
I moved on and the next site, was empty, but didn't look promising. too exposed I thought. Then I rounded a point and came upon the last site on the east shore. A nice site! A nice summer site that is. It was completely exposed to the west. Making up my mind, I landed and began to look the site over. It was 1:20pm I was sure that if the wind didn't die down or heaven forbid, picked up during the night hours, I was gonna freeze due to wind exposure. The site sat high up on rocks. The rocks offered many nooks and crannies to sit in and lounge under a sun drenched or star filled sky. There was a scent of charred wood that hung around the site. I came upon a collapsed firepit, that had the ground open up underneath it. There was another firepit, farther up the site, which I supplemented with rock from the collapsed firepit. There was a great deal of tenting opportunities, and decided to tent between two massive pines, and hoped to string up a tarp, to protect myself from any wind.
By 5:50pm I was settled in, and eating dinner. Mushrooms and onions(done in the coals with butter), over a massive Eye of Round Steak. To wash it down, some Rye and Iced tea, and chocolate Mousse for desert. The wind had died off completely and I decided to forget about setting up my wind tarp. Instead I went fishing, There were some fish poking up to the surface feeding on flies. I pulled out my rod and reel and set up for some bobber fishing from the high rocks. My last stint with fishing met with bird nest after bird nest of fishing line. I'm terribly inexperienced when it comes to fishing and I realized my mistake then; I had not wound the line tightly around the spool when I first used it.
Last Stop: My site for the nite on Pen Lake
My fishing skills & luck still in the dumps, steak was a great backup!
This time around, the spool had a line wound around it snugly. This would work, this time there were possibilities. After several casts, I got a tug, started to reel in and the fish was gone. I had used a simple bobber with a barbed hook( I know, I know), and a gold spinner(Williams wabler).
Several more casts and nothing...A few more I thought and I'd pack it up for the night. I took another cast...harder and farther. *fling!*, I watched the bobber and hook land in the water, as something else landed in the water beside it. The piece of plastic that sits on top of the reel(For adjusting the tension), had come off. Hmmm...I thought about going out to retrieve it, but noticed that it was gone, and now residing at the bottom of Pen Lake. So... luck with fishing would continue to go the wrong way for me. I tried a few soft experimental casts, and noticed that a few times the whole reel assembly started to separate. I also thought, that with the way my luck was going, that I just might get a fish on the end of the line, and there lose the reel completely. I quickly reeled in and put the gear away. Oh well, another fishing trip attempt gone wonky, live and learn...except the learning part, was beginning to get expensive!
A view of a red pine hanging over the rocks
Fellow trippers fishing for trout
Exposed as my tent was, not a breath of wind came that nite
Dusk on Pen Lake
That evening I hung out on the rocks, sipping on rye and enjoying the silence and the sights. I watched several canoes out trolling for trout. By 8:30pm, the lake was almost like glass and I watched the sky as the stars came out. Not a cloud in the sky. It was going to be a crisp cold night. At least there was no wind. I strung up my pack in the trees and went to my tent around 10:30pm. There I read for about 20 minutes by flashlight and then retired for the night.