IN via Cart Trail - White Partridge L - Little Dickson L - Dickson L - Little Dickson L - White Partridge L - Out via Cart Trail
Prologue: Getting there
This was a seven night trip deep into Algonquin Park. Myself, along with three others; David(Preacher), Mike Burns, and Derek Specht(Dogbyte), considered ourselves lucky to be invited to attend the "White P Xpress", an annual event, born long ago, by the "Born" family. Ken Born, aka "Bo Knows", along with his wife, "Mrs. Bo Knows", were leading our expedition, on our quest for Algonquin Speckled Trout.
On Friday May 5th, shortly before 11am, Mike B(My partner for the trip), arrived from Windsor, Ontario, to link up with me in Toronto. After almost an hour of gear packing, arranging and all the chaos that goes with tripping preparations, we loaded Mike's Swift Kipawa onto my vehicle, and headed out, and hit the highway at exactly 12 noon. 445 km's later, we arrived in Pembroke at 4:44 p.m. Mike & I booked into our motel room. Not 15 minutes later Master Bo, and his wife, showed up. While greetings were exchanged and dinner plans made, Derek made his appearance, and by 6 p.m. we headed across the street for dinner and talk of anticipation of all things Algonquin. While eating dinner David showed up, through his intuition, he surmised we had decided to dine across from the hotel. Everyone made it! All 6 of us, were there, ready to go. That night in connecting motel rooms, many brews were consumed and stories exchanged, while hockey on TV was the main feature of the evening, after all it was the playoffs. Closing in on mid-night we decided it was time for bed, David was already out like a light next door, snoring away on Bo's couch.
Day 1(May 6th)
Morning came, gray,damp, and cold, with a light dusting of snow visible on the roads. We loaded up, and headed out, with Bo leading us to the Sand Lake gate. We arrived at a time that I can't remember, before 9am I believe. The Sand Lake gate was powered, surprisingly by a generator. I was already starting to feel like I was going into the back woods. Our permits acquired we headed up Barron Canyon road. It is important to note here, that you gas up before heading up this road. If you're going to say Lake Traverse, it's 70+ km to get there(140+km and more, return). We arrived after 10a.m. at the "Spur", where the cart trail begins off Barron Canyon Rd. Some 69 or 70 km from the Sand Lake Gate. We began to unload, when Derek showed up. He had taken off ahead of us, anxious to be there first, and missed the 'spur'. Not 15 minutes go by, and the man of the day showed up, Stewart Hammel. Stewart came with his horses(Kryszan & Kipper)and wagon in tow. Under Stewart's and Bo's guidance we quickly began the process of loading the wagon up. It was at this juncture that my partner for the trip(Mike), became very anxious. He had brought along his brand new shiny Swift Kipawa, not a scratch marred the surface of his beautiful craft, and with the amount of jostling his and the other canoes were experiencing, during this 'loading' phase of the trip, Mike voiced his concerns about the trip to come, down the trail. Stewart, gave Mike a scare, when his reply was merely laughter. The kind of laughter that makes the owner of a brand new and shiny canoe, gulp!
Taking a break along the cart trail to White Partridge Lake
Derek & Stewart riding up ride front,
Kryszan & Kipper pulled us along the cart trail
Mike grew increasingly alarmed when it came time to tie down the canoes, as the straps were cinched over the canoes, Mike could be seen going over every angle to make sure his beast of burden would live during the trip to White Partridge Lake(hence known as "WP" or "White P" ). We loaded up and climbed aboard. I hadn't been on a wagon since I was a wee child, so for me this was a treat. Even Bo, who had done this route in the same manner many times over the years, was jubilant. We were all in for an adventure fer sure. Five minutes in, I could tell this was going to be a rough ride. Stewart driving the horses(Kryszan & Kipper), sat up front, on a bail of hay. Seated on either side of Stewart were Bo and Mrs.Bo, again on hay. As for the rest of us, Derek and I were on one side of the wagon, David and Mike on the other...all standing. There were no seats for us. We had to stand, and standing room was all there was, and there wasn't much of it either! All four of us, were standing almost right on the edge of the wagon. Perched as we were, no one fell off.
Master Bo: Friend, Guide, and the laziest sonofabitch in Algonquin!
Mrs. Bo Knows(Sheila)
At times the ride was rough, and when the wagon went through a pothole or over a bump, I could see Mike wincing, imagining the damage being done, to his beloved craft. The ride was quite a thrill, and a very unique way to trip into The Park. There are no outfitters, no rentals, it's who you know, and in our case, we were lucky to be invited, as Bo Knows knew it all! Bo had commented on people falling off the wagon, on previous trips. We were quite fortunate that no one was injured, but it came close, for merely standing on the wagon is not good enough. You had to pay attention, or a tree just might come along and knock you flying! A few times the horses came to an area along the trail, and would stop and rest for a few minutes...this gave us a chance to jump off and stretch our legs, and to switch places...so everyone had a chance to ride up front. There were slow sections, fast ones too, the horses a team of two, galloping along at rates that made my heart leap, especially when trees and potholes threatened above and below. I was bewildered at times, I think we all were. Sometimes I didn't know if I should duck when I should be bracing myself for a bump. It was crazy, wild fun, and after almost two and half hours of it, we arrived at the "Meadow" on WP. The weather was crazy too, damp,cold, cloudy, sleet, snow, and then sun, and then warmth, and blue skies..all in the same day...May sure can be a month of un-predictability.
We arrived sometime around 1pm...under mostly cloudy skies. The "Meadow", a clearing along the lake-shore of WP, where the cart trail terminates, really is a meadow...lots of grass with some jack pines along the sandy shore, and birch behind the meadow, guarding the forest beyond. The canoe routes map indicates only one campsite at the meadow. There is in fact 5 sites, or is it 4? There were firepits everywhere, a few outhouses, and makeshift stables too, for the horses. This area of The Park, is one of the oldest, and there is alot of history there unknown to us, but Bo and Stewart never tired of answering our endless questions about that region of The Park. We set up camp. Mr. & Mrs. Bo Knows, set up under a hand built shelter of cut up logs, that was then covered over with tarps, a somewhat effective method of protection against rain(It leaked precariously in spots). Mike setup his tent, where I had set-up mine, the year before, when I met up with the WP Xpress, the hard way(see triplog#20). Derek set up his tent for himself and David, opposite us, thereby completing a very spacious triangle around the fire-pit. By 3 p.m. we were all settled in. The sun came out, and the coats came off, firewood was gathered, and leisure time began. Bo gathered us together, and welcomed us with a speech..which I might add, I don't remember much. The speech was festive and funny, and Bo welcomed us to the lazy son of a bitch club; lazy we were, cause we rode in on a wagon! Bo being the laziest of all, cause he had done the wagon ride many, many times. We all felt highly honored and humbled to be in the presence of the laziest person(In Algonquin) alive.
Mike, Derek & David gather around Stewart, giving a talk about White P history
Derek standing by the un-loaded wagon, prepping his camp stove
Just before 7pm, I was itchy to paddle somewhere. The other guys were too. We looked to Bo, no help there, sitting by the fire he was with Stewart and Mrs. Bo, maintaining his monarch of laziness. The guys looked at me. I don't know this lake that well, I just know it's huge. Someone asked me,"Where's the portage, we have to tackle tomorrow?" Great idea I thought, let's paddle over to the portage and scout it out. We were planning to head to Little Dickson Lake for 4 nites, and it could do us a world of good if we scouted the trail for deadfall, and cleared any major obstructions. Thinking that perhaps we might be the first ones of the season to traverse the trail, the four of us,(Mike, David, Derek, and myself), piled into two canoes, and headed over, Mrs. Bo knows(Sheila) objected, her motherly instincts warning us not to stay out late, she had a point though. If weather became rough we could be stranded on the other side of the lake, with no food or shelter. We considered her warning, and all of us being quite sober, and filled with adventure headed out any-ways, assuring Sheila, we'd be careful.
It is at this point(about halfway across), that I realized just how wide WP really is. It is perhaps a good 25 min paddle to get to the other side, and getting halfway there, you realize you really are only halfway there, it is very mis-leading, and one will understand what I mean, once they try it for themselves. It would take hours to get to the other side if we paddled along the shore. The landing is steep, about 2.5 meters high, and tricky. We landed, clambered up, and started up the tail.
The day grew sunny and warm at the "Meadow" on White Partridge Lake
Mike, easing into the role of lazy sonofabitch!
By 8:30pm we had arrived at Sundassa Lake. There were some small trees and one or two medium sized ones that had to be cleared, but overall the trail was in good shape, Derek was the vigorous one with his saw in hand. We were surprised though to notice that someone else had passed though recently, as indicated by fresh cut branches on some of the larger fallen trees. I gazed across Sundassa Lake, squinting past the setting sun, looking for my nemesis; the portage to Little Dickson Lake, even though it is not possible to see that portage from the trail head we were on, as it is around a bend. With the sun setting, we headed back. The way being easier, with the trees cleared and the fact that the trail is more downhill when you head towards WP. Mike & I threw out our lines, hoping to catch something on our return to camp, as we crossed White P. We arrived back at camp under near darkness, to a warm and roaring fire, fishless..they weren't biting that night. Beers(Plastic bottles mind you), were broken out and we settled down to relax and enjoy the evening around the fire as we attempted to overthrow King Bo on his throne of ultimate laziness. We were all in a good mood that night, especially Bo, who I've seen usually only at his happiest, when he is fishing. I think he was just happy to be there, back in The Park again, although I do remember seeing him rubbing his hands together once in anticipation of the fishing to come. Derek broke out his telescope, and a powerful one at that. With it perched on a tripod, Derek spent several minutes calibrating it, then called us over to have a look. Well, we were all blown away. Derek had the telescope pointed at the moon, a section of the moon, that was slowly becoming drenched with shadows. It was amazing to see the shadows on the moon's surface that were cast by the mountians. The telescope was that good, a really neat and un-expected treat, Bravo Derek, and thank ye! We retired pretty late, regardless of the consequences the late night and many brews would have would have on us the next day.
Mike's tent & canoe, with White Partridge Lake in the background
Derek chopping away at some deadfall
Removing the obstruction from the trail