Opeongo(IN) - Proulx L - Opeongo(South Arm) - Opeongo(OUT)
Day 1 - Lake Opeongo to Proulx Lake
This was a 7 nite trip thru Opeongo Access, with my friend and Trout fishing mentor, Ken Born. Otherwise known as "Bo Knows", to those familiar with the Algonquin Adventures online forum. It was just the two of us, 4 nights on Proulx Lake, and 3 on Opeongo Lake.
We had arranged to meet at the docks on Opeongo Lake, by 7:30am. I arrived less than 5 minutes after the appointed time, and Bo was already there, having arrived mere minutes ahead of me. It was a beautiful sunny September morning! Perfect weather for launching onto Lake Opeongo. Having acquired our permits and loaded the canoe up, we set off at around 8:20am.
The docks, permit office and Algonquin Outfitters buildings on Opeongo
The sun was still shining, and wave action was almost non-existent. We had discussed earlier, in our planning stages, of taking the taxi at least one way. This day though, I wanted to paddle the Big "O". Master Bo, seemed a bit reluctant, not knowing the lake conditions around the first bend, but eventually agreed...we would paddle all the way up to the portage to Proulx Lake. Within 25 min, we reached the bend with a small island in the middle. The waves so far had been good, however the sky took on a gray overcast colour. Ten minutes later we passed Bates Island, the usual discussion about past tragedies came up as we continued on. I was in the stern, Bo in bow. As we past Bates, we came upon the expanse of Opeongo. Again light wave action, nothing that could be handled or worried about. I suggested that we follow the west shoreline, and as we approach the entrance to the north arm, break east across open water to the opposing shoreline. We would have to do this at one time or another, and Bo agreed, adding that I was in the stern, and was in charge here.
After the first bend, wave action picked up, but was quite manageable
Rugged Beauty: A typical campsite on Opeongo
HUH? Me, in charge? This took me by surprise. Master Bo was after all an Algonquinite of 40+ years experience, me merely 7 years or so accumulated, and this was Opeongo after, one damn huge lake! I was a bit taken aback this, but quickly re-asserted myself and lead the way up the shoreline. Nevertheless within 10 minutes or so, Bo reeled me in a bit & warned we were too far from shore. He was right, we were about 50 meters or so, and the waves had started to build a little bit.
Just after 10am, we reached the mouth of the north arm, having crossed over from the west shoreline, before the chain of islands that guards the north arm. Chaos ruled the waters here, as waves from many directions clashed with each other, and made paddling difficult and spotting of submerged rocks tricky to spot. As we came onto the north arm proper, we were propelled into 2 foot rolling waves. Not the kind of stuff either master Bo or myself wanted to see. We broke right following the shoreline, and spotting a campsite, I thought it best to try and land, and take a break and to re-verify our position. The site we spotted was occupied, but we managed to paddle to an island near the site, and pulled up to the leeward side.
Taking a break: Bo verifying our location
Flock of Loons: we counted twenty-one of them!
Finally out of the wind and waves, we pulled up and I jumped out and lit a smoke, glad to stretch my legs and toxify my lungs(ok, just kidding). It was 10:30am. Bo examined the map, and I got the impression he had never paddled Opeongo before, not like this. Usually a water taxi or his own motorboat, was what he told me. I think in this case, Bo respected Opeongo far more than I did, which is why he was hesitant to paddle the lake. We continued on, up the east shoreline, the sky starting to clear and paddling in calmer waters. We both relaxed and began to enjoy the paddle, as far as Bo was concerned we had made it past the danger point on this lake. after almost an hour we came upon a large flock of loons, twenty-one in all(it was 11:40am). Master Bo had never seen such a large gathering of loons, neither had I, and it was a pleasure to encounter so many. Moving on up to the east side, we spotted a water taxi, heading for the Proulx lake portage. "Watch the boat, see where it goes", Bo said. We watched. The boat was going fast, and was approaching(from our vantage point) land very fast! Then as the boat was about to collide with the shoreline, it disappeared. "There, that's where we go", Bo pointed, and we paddled onwards. Almost 20 minutes later we past thru a narrows and landed in a small bay at the portage to Proulx Lake. It was 11:56am. It had taken us approximately 3.5 hours to paddle here. Not bad, for first timers, weather conditions had been favorable too!
As we neared the Proulx L portage, the sky began to clear
One of many islands in Opeongo's north arm
Bo recommended we take the short portage to a pond, thereby bypassing a hill on the 310m portage. The pond at both ends is very mucky, but in our minds worth it, I figure loading, un-loading, and paddling across, is about the same(time-wise) as carrying over, except no hill to deal with. The rest of the portage(900m+), is virtually flat and wide, and for me was a real treat as it was loaded with many different types of fungi, to photograph and identify. The last 60m or so, is a long downward slope to Proulx lake. We doubled the portage, took some time time to relax and launched onto Proulx Lake around 1:45pm. By 2:15pm we arrived on a site, halfway down the lake, that was on a point of land facing south. It was a most excellent site; a nice gravel landing, flat open spaces, populated with lots of red pine, with the addition of the site sitting high above the water, some 4 or 5 meters. There was a collection of books(wrapped in a zip lock bag) left behind on the 'table', a large flat rock, situated near the firepit, which instantly became our kitchen. Bo warned me of his snoring abilities, and I erected my tent a good 30m from his. I could still hear him at night, but it wasn't a deafening roar. After camp was established we made dinner(can't remember what is was), and we sat around the fire for a bit, before heading of to bed around 10pm.
The landing at the portage to Proulx Lake,
looking west back towards Opeongo
Getting ready to launch onto Proulx Lake