Triplogs / Triplog#5
Day 1 - Canoe, Joe, Tom Thomson, McIntosh Lake
This was a five day loop thru Canoe Lake Access#5. It was the August Long weekend, Civic Holiday, otherwise known as Simcoe Day in Ontario. My friend Sean picked me up and we headed up early to Canoe Lake. We arrived at around 9am, picked up our permits, and rented a canoe from The Portage Store. It was BUSY! There had to have been at least 80 people around the docks there that morning. Long weekends on the Highway#60 corridor...crazy!
Sean had never been to Algonquin before, and was really looking forward to this trip. He was a little disappointed however, when he saw all the people milling about. I told him not to worry, we were after all at the busiest access point in the whole Park, and a long weekend to boot, and we were going deeper into the interior than most people would. We loaded as fast as possible, glad to put some distance from the crowds and civilization. It was a fine August morning. The lake was smooth like glass and black. We paddled up towards Joe lake, occasionally I pointed out various locales of interest; Camp Wapomeo, Camp Ahmek, the totem pole marking the location of a cairn to Tom Thomson. We had a fine paddle and soon reached the bottleneck at the portage to Joe Lake. I like to keep the drudgery of portages as quick and orderly as possible. Not possible here, with the disorder of so many canoes and people crowding the landing. Within 20 min. we launched onto Joe Lake, and passed under the old rail trestle, and came upon the expanse of Joe Lake.
Paddling along the creek that leads to McIntosh Lake,
loaded with spruce trees
Our Destination for the night was Mcintosh Lake. I had never been there, and wanted to take Sean somewhere I'd never been, thus the exploration factor would be more enjoyable for both of us. Actually this trip was a quick tour of The Park for Sean. I wanted him to experience as much as could be done in 5 days. We continued to paddle, passing a regatta by the looks of things, on Tepee lake, the kids of Camp Arowhon, were all over the place, in canoes and sailboats. We made our way past, and after what seemed like hours, came upon Little Doe Lake. I had been this way before, and had no trouble finding our way to the beaver dam which would take us over into Tom Thomson Lake. Sean's first impression of the beaver dam was, "kool, smells organic, better than the city!". Heh heh, that's the spirit, dude! We pushed on, the wind here picking up slightly, and a nice breeze keep the heat of the sun off our brows. As we crossed, the smell of wood fire, mixed with pine, tempted us to slow down and enjoy the view. As much as I wanted to take a break, I urged Sean on. We still had a long way to go, and had only gone halfway, and the hard stuff was yet to come. After over 4 hrs from our launch, we reached the 2320m portage to Ink Lake. Well, I tried the He-man thing here. Sean was in rough shape. He had taken up landscaping, a few weeks earlier, and he had sun blistered shoulders, a screwed up back(Sciatic nerve), and had sprained his ankle the week before. Hey, it's not my fault he got himself all messed up before the long portage! As it was Sean rented a pretty light canoe...a 43lb'er. We had a canoe and 2 packs. Sean carried one pack and I loaded up the other and then the canoe. Oh my! I got about 10 steps then had to put the canoe down. If I didn't, my back would've been screwed too. I left the canoe behind, and we made our way along the portage. Again this portage was busy too, people going both directions, but the traffic was no where near as bad back at Canoe Lake.
Another image of the creek from Ink to McIntosh,
The 2320m portage isn't too bad, it pretty flat, with a few lumpy sections. Other than that, the portage just seems to drag on forever. It just goes on and on. About 45 min. later we arrived alone, at a long set of descending steps to Ink Lake. Sean was sore as hell, and wanted to stay. No problem, I headed back and grabbed the canoe. It was about 90 min. or so before I came back with the canoe. Sean had moved the gear right next to a good launching location(He was learning fast), and we quickly loaded up and were on our way. The creek going to in McIntosh is unnamed, yet we called it Ink creek anyways. Ink lake itself, is reddish in colour, so I can see why it is named Ink Lake. I'm not sure I'd want to filter water here. We paddled Ink 'creek' and it was a nice paddle. A strong breeze kicked up, and we broke out the camcorders. Each of us had brought one along. Neither of us had a camera. The land between Ink Lake and McIntosh Lake, is boggy looking, filled with Spruce trees, and bugs, fortunately they weren't too bad 'cause of the strong breeze. After what seemed like 45 min. we suddenly came around a bend, and we saw the coolest sight yet. The creek emptied into McIntosh, as we came upon the expanse of the lake. The view was awesome, beautiful blue waters, sparkling with the late afternoon sun, dotted with islands, and a cow moose browsing in the swampy shallows on the fringe of the lake. "How close can we get?", Sean asked. hmmm...August, cow moose, no calf or bull in sight, she was feeding. 30 Feet, I figured. we never came closer than 2 canoe lengths as we passed the moose, and she'd look up at us occasionally, I reminded Sean, not to say a word, we paddled as softly as possible, while I pulled out the camcorder. It was a perfect encounter, both the moose and us, watching each other, as we passed then going on about their business.
We came onto McIntosh proper. I almost had tears in my eyes as a really nice warm feeling overcame me.
The Arrival: McIntosh Lake with cow moose feeding in the shallows
A closer view of the moose on the fringe of McIntosh Lake
What a marvelous lake! We headed to the chain of islands on the east side of the lake. As we did so, we passed by some sites on the south shore. one of them looked particularly inviting. It was occupied, and the residents there, were letting everyone know, just how good it was. It was high up upon large flat rock, kids jumping off and into the water. Huge open area, with a setting of pines behind, and a perfect view of the setting sun. Paradise. We paddled on, anxious now, to get to our own slice of heaven. We came upon the islands and all the sites were occupied. We paddled around and located a site to the north of the portage to McIntosh creek. It had a very bushy and buggy look to it, it was also shielded from the stiff breeze which was on the lake. We paddled farther north, to the next site. It was empty and we landed. It was a forested site, with no huge open areas, but with a nice breeze from the lake. I stood on shore for a while drinking in the view, soaking my feet. Sean was really sore, his back and ankle killing him. Pain killers soon had him feeling better, and he gathered some firewood, as I set up the tent. It was about 7pm, by the time we had our camp set up and dinner going. Cannot remember what we ate at all during this trip, except it was a mix of fresh food, junk food, and dehydrated food.
Day 2 - McIntosh Creek, Grassy Bay, White Trout, Big Trout Lake
We got up early, made breakfast, oatmeal and coffee(can't forget that), and were on our way by 8am. It was another fine morning in Algonquin, and as we approached the 510m portage to McIntosh creek, we noticed the water riddled with boulders, than stones...hippo rocks some people call'em. You have to tippy-toe your way thru them to get to the portage. Going towards the creek, the portage is mostly downhill. Soon we launched onto a small pond like creek and within a few minutes, it started to look more like a creek, as it twisted it's way thru the forest. We came upon the 745m portage and here the bugs were ready for us. This portage has up and down sections and crosses the creek twice via wooden foot bridges. Upon reaching the second foot bridge, we saw a Blue Heron standing in the middle of it. As we approached, it took flight, and flew down the creek. Another Heron, appeared and followed the first. It was really neat to see such 'heavy' birds fly gracefully thru a forest filled creek. Twice more as we snaked along the portage beside the creek, we caught up to the Herons, and again they'd fly off. We arrived at the end of the portage, next thing I knew, I'm waiting for Sean, snorting in irritation at the delay(I was getting eaten alive), I told Sean to hurry up. He was busy switching from hiking boots to sneakers, and while doing this, the skeeters were eating him alive too. I wear sandals thru and thru. no switching required, Wet, dry, doesn't matter sandals are the way to go.
McIntosh creek...yes that's two canoes coming our way
Once the footwear was swapped, Sean proceeded to delay even more, by slathering(gotta love that word...there's no other, that expresses it so well!),slathering himself with bug repellant. The bugs were really having a field day with him standing there. Maybe he wasn't learning so fast after all. "Want some?" Sean offered his bug juice to me. "No", I smirked, we'll be on the water soon, less bugs there. No juice needed. Well, Sean let me have it there. "look, I'm not experienced like you at this, so give me a break, the least you could do is remember that I've kept up so far and have tried my best to keep up".Oh man, I felt my smirk melt away. Sean and I had been very good friends for more than 20 years. He was right too. Sean hadn't really complained at all, he was keeping up and I knew he was in pain, he had performed admirably, and I have had to deal with people with even less injuries who complained way too much.Like good friends we are, I apologized, and said, "I'm sorry, I'm not used to waiting on people, especially while getting eaten alive". "Now let's get out of here, before we run out of blood!". Amazing what skeeters can drive people to.
We launched and paddled onto the shallow creek, after a few bends the creek deepened and the banks moved further away. Another bend and we came upon the expanse of McIntosh creek and Grassy Bay far in the distance. Neither of us had ever been in a Marsh so large, and it was quite the nice paddle. We never did see any moose, and only encountered a few Herons and some canoes laden with girls going in the opposite direction. The sun drenched us as we paddled down the creek, marveling at the forest and lilies...the creek itself was infested with a purple flower, which I later learned was the Pickerel Plant.
After what seemed like hours we emerged onto Grassy Bay. More Marsh, and the water opened up, lots of boggy land, surrounded with forest and the creek, with lots of little boggy islets surrounding us. It became overcast and humid, Thunder rumbled, and we kept paddling. Sean became worried. "What do we do?", he asked. "Keep paddling, it'll pass, don't worry", I said. Sure enough the clouds broke up as quickly as they came. I just knew it wasn't gonna rain, and they only thing we could do anyways was to keep paddling. We paddled onto White Trout Lake, shallow & weedy at first, then deepening. There were many Loons here, and a few island campsites. Once past the islands, we called out, testing the ambiance of the landscape. We were rewarded with multiple echoes up and down and around the lake. It was awesome. Unlike the island sites, the campsites on the east shore as we paddled up the lake, looked rugged and closed in, as the land rose up behind them. The shape of the lake took us on a north east track as we came around a bend and saw tall cliffs looming above us, and ahead of us in the distance, the narrows leading to Big Trout Lake.
The rock strewn shoreline below the cliffs, at the extreme left in
the image, the narrows to Big Trout is visible
Looking up to the cliffs on White Trout Lake
Here the shoreline was littered with fallen rock, and as Sean and I were remarking on the landscape, an odd sound reached our ears. It was an animal, calling out in annoyance at our presence. It was above us in the rocky cliff. To this day I do not know what it was, we surmised it was a bear. Don't know. The sound is hard to describe, except that it had alot of oscillation in the sound. like someone saying a loud 'woooooaaaaa-aa-aa-aa-aa'.
Soon we reached Big Trout Lake. It certainly is a big lake. Since passing the girls on McIntosh creek, we hadn't seen another soul, and held our breath as we came upon the first site. Here there was a small island, with a "No Camping" sign on it, and behind it, a much larger island, signed as a campsite. It looked empty.
Paddling furiously, though no one was around, we landed at a small sandy beach just before 2pm. Here we climbed a steep eroding bank, about 2.5 meters, and came upon a nice flat and open campsite. A massive firepit, with a bench arrangement enough for 10 guys. We scored! This place was ours for the night.
An island(no camping on it), in front of our island on Big Trout Lake
Cute, but annoying at times!
After setting up camp and eating lunch, we explored the island. That age old tradition where Man stakes out his territory. Down by the west end of the island, was a dead tree, or the remnants of one, basically a pole only about 2 meters tall. It was covered with claw marks, and on the ground around it, lots of big scat.
"Oh NO!" Sean says, "Bear been here". Sean wanted to leave and go somewhere else. Not me, I like this island. The scratches and particularly the scat looked old. The scratches looked Bearish in nature that was for certain. "Naw, Moose", I lied. "Moose crap, and mammal scratches..not sure what mammal, but it's long gone". We looked around some more and didn't find any more scratches or scat, or any mammals. Except squirrels. The little guys were all over our packs when we came back. I set up the hammock and proceeded to relax, while Sean made a fire. Enough relaxing, I grabbed my hatchet, and went over to a tree, that had died, broke at about a meter high, and fell over. I then took my hatchet and started hacking at the free 'planks' that can be had from such fallen trees. I turned to get a better angle, standing parallel with the length of the tree. Swinging my hatchet at the planks, I missed on one swing, and the follow thru went right between my legs, and just missed my ankle. Whoa! I put the hatchet down, and counted myself very lucky. Now, ever since that day, I use a hacksaw. Much safer, less chance of endangering myself.
The fire pit area on our island campsite
another view of our site..wide open spaces
By early evening, It had clouded over and a few raindrops started to fall. We climbed into the tent and played a few rounds of Rummy One Million. The game has been going on and off now for a couple of years, and for some reason, Sean proceeded to kick my ass. I'm usually quite good at cards, but for some reason whenever I play Sean, he wipes me out. After 15 minutes of this, it stopped raining, and I stopped losing, out of the tent I went. There was lots of lightning to the south of us and warm breezes blew across the lake. It never did rain anymore that night, and we both retired early, as we had another long day ahead of us.
Thunder threatened, but no storm came our way