Triplogs / Triplog#6
Cedar Lake - 2 Nights
This was a quick two nite trip to Cedar Lake, in Algonquin Park's north end. Some might think it's quite the distance to travel for such a short time, but "Hey, It's Algonquin, Man!" Besides, we were planning to visit a side of the park that I'm not sure I'd had been to before. I might have been here when I was a young kid, but don't remember much, fleeting fragments of images. I came up with my sister Michelle and friend Marylyn.
Yup 3 of us in a canoe. Why do I keep doing this? 3 in a canoe is just not stable. Not to mention the fact that Cedar is big and with big, comes BIG WAVES!
It took us about 6 hrs to get to Brent from Brantford, Ontario, and upon arrival, we stopped in to Algonquin Outfitters. I Met Jake, for the first time. I've heard stories about this man, and have read about him too.
He has been there for decades, running the AO shop at Brent. He has a very white beard, with a pleasant weathered face. The weathering of a man who has spent all of his life outdoors. Brent is the name of the village on Cedar Lake.
Back in the days of logging, Brent was a very busy place, but now it is a shadow of it's former self. I found this lack of activity in Brent appealing. It was very quiet, and it was a beautiful day. We loaded up our canoe, and headed out onto the lake. Our destination, was the second site down on the eastern shore of the lake, past the 3 cottages, on an island, that looks like a semi-detached island on the map. Barely 30 minutes into the trip, we had come into a bay, where the first campsite was located. The wind decided then to wake up, it was about 1pm. Soon, big rolling swells started to wreck havoc with the canoe. I had given Michelle the stern, while I took the bow, Marylyn was in the middle. Michelle had done some paddling with my dad, and I had tripped with Michelle before(she was bow person at the time), I had quite wrongly assumed, that Michelle knew what she was doing. Pretty soon, I grew worried, she was not keeping our bow point in the right direction. Michelle, we are going off course! Straighten us out. "I can't", she said...damn. "Do you know how to steer?" "No." Oops. Guess I should've asked beforehand. That's it, we are heading to shore.
We paddled as best we could, with the waves coming at us around 45° angles. After about 10 harrowing minutes, we landed on a long sandy beach where there are 3 cottages are located. A few canoes and a kayak coming up from the south had landed here too, for safety sake I assumed. The waves and wind continued to pick up and we sat down to enjoy the sun and breeze, as we decided what to do. There was plenty of beach to camp out on, between the cottage properties, but felt that this was not a good idea, nor what the cottagers wanted either. We decided to wait out the wind, I surmised that by about 6pm, the waves would start to die down. We lounged for a few hours, until I came up with an idea.
Looking at the map, I decided to walk the abandoned rail line to a point nearest to the campsite we wanted to stay at. Marylyn had brought those two way radios, good for about a km or two. I took one and walked upto the last cottage and snuck by the property there and onto the rail bed, as that's all there is left of the rail line, nothing but an endless trail of oil soaked rubble. I walked for what seemed like an hour, when I came upon what seemed like the only place to launch. Here the rail bed, was more like a causeway, Cedar lake on one side, and a swamp on the other. There was some erosion here, that provided a trail down to the water. The water here was much calmer, as was the wind. It was perfect, except for the grade of the descent to the water. It was much too steep. There was no hospitals here, so I had to play it safe and walked back to report my failure. Occasionally the two-way radio crackled to life. The reception was poor, and I couldn't understand Marylyn that well, and she couldn't understand me either. What's really weird was that I thought I kept hearing someone else cutting into our conversation. I eventually returned and told the ladies, we would have to wait it out. Marylyn, seemed to expect this, and told me that she thinks one of the cottagers had a two way, as she could clearly hear them over our attempted communications. ahhh...locals having fun with us. Yeah well, they didn't stop there. After a while some folks from another cottage came by to check up on us. We were fine, just waiting out the wind and waves. "Ahh...could be days before the wind dies down..you could be here all weekend son", was what the guy said to me. He had me fooled for he saw the look of worry in my face, and I saw the smile and chuckle as he walked away. "He's kidding, RIGHT? ", this I asked his son, a smile, and a nod...nothing more. Oh boy...was I green or what?
6pm rolled around, the canoes south of us had taken off up north, towards Brent an hour earlier, and I said to the girls that we had about two hours of sunlight left. We should decide if we are gonna stay stranded on the beach or move. We agreed to move on, but wait a little longer. At 6:30pm, we launched, and there still was big waves, but only as they rolled into the beach. Once we were passed them, we reached more manageable waters. I was at the stern this time. No more messing around. I made for a bay behind an island, where I had walked to along the rail bed. Finally we reached calm waters and paddled around to our island.
My tent on the rocks: Cedar Lake
The scenery here was stunning..a few islands, some shallow water, and lots of trees, and no one in sight, except a canoe at OUR island. Damn, we couldn't camp there, after all the wind and waves, we had to keep going. We decided to move west to the next island campsite. It was occupied too. I pulled out the binoculars and spied a small island to the west of the second occupied island. Looked empty to me. We headed over. Here, was our most dangerous part of the trip. The wind and waves here, were just nuts! We were in a channel, actually more like a funnel..the wind was just pouring down Cedar lake, and we were in the middle part of it down in the south end. Fortunately the crossing wasn't long, and we landed on the south side of the island, out of the wind. There isn't much of a landing, and we had to pull the canoe up and put it into the bush and partly on the trail...quite rugged it was. There was a few fallen trees we had to walk under on the way to the site. It is a bit of walk from the landing to the campsite. At first a steep climb, and then a fairly level trail. Probably about a 25m walk till ya get to the site. The site itself is picture perfect, but not practical. It sits upon a huge chunk of Canadian shield with pines scattered around, and there aren't many of them. The is only one soft area for a tent to be set up. I let the ladies have it, sandwiched between two red pines. I took to sleeping on the rocks, on a bit of a slope, my body constantly wanting to slide down and to my left all night long. After our dinner of dogs and burgers, the wind picked up even more. We watched the sun go down, and the ladies went to bed. I stayed up for a bit, and eventually went to bed myself. I left the fly off, and slept almost under the stars.
The wind never did die down during the night, and waking up in the morning, I was greeted to a pure blue sky with a strong north wind, that whipped up whitecaps on Cedar Lake. No going anywhere that day! Under the clear sky, I realized that this site sucked. There was no shade from the sun! The red pines were tall and provided little shelter from the sun. Going to the other side of the island, wasn't too bad, except when the bugs came out, and the bush got thick real fast too. So we were stranded.
Growing bored and hot, I started jumping off rocks, and went swimming in the leeward side of the island. There is great swimming here, and you can see quite aways down into the water. Marylyn warned me to be careful, and I thru caution to the wind(which was howling even more that afternoon), and jumped like a fool into the water. It was about a 20 foot jump. Luckily, the God of fools was on my side that day, and I emerged safely from the water. After that I decided to dive from the rocks at water level. I even tried fishing, and was rewarded with a small fry, which I put back. By late afternoon, we spotted two canoes coming up the lake from the Petawawa, I guessed. I had spied them earlier, but they had turned around and sought refuge behind an island. Now they were going full at it. Progress was slow, those people fought for every inch. They had good direction, straight into the wind and waves, but their battle must've been an exhausting one!
While watching them, I noticed a motorboat come down the lake towards them, and keep on going. The motorboat turned and came toward us. I pulled my binoculars, and scanned the vessel(ok... boat). It was two wardens. Coming to check up on us. I don't see wardens too often, and was surprised to see them now. After all, we were in a dead end of The Park, if you will. They landed and came onto our site, greeted us, and asked to see our permit. We handed over our permit, and I asked if they could help the struggling canoes. They said 'no', as the lake was too rough for them to have more folks in their boat, and to tow the canoes. The warden said this with an expert eye on the canoes out on the lake. Obviously he was an experienced guy, and saw with learned observation, that the canoes were holding their track well, if not at a snails pace. I was asked about my luck, and told of my small fry, but was not asked for my fishing license.
I guess those expert eyes picked out I was not an expert at fishing! The wardens wished us well, and departed saying they had other sites to check out.
After dinner, of which I can't remember what was eaten. We settled down around a well concealed fire on another windy night. we stayed up quite late, and by 10pm the wind died down and the waves went on holiday. The night grew serene. The planet Mars made it's appearance in they sky. In 2003 Mars was at it's closet approach in something on the order of 50,000 years. I must say that, that night, is a night I'll long remember. It was like all of nature knew that Mars was here, and hushed itself to witness the event along with us. It was quite the scene. Mars was very bright and big, and I had never seen a star(planet actually) reflect so well on water, that coupled with other stars and the call of loons in the still night turned the evening into magic. Not only that I had the best cup of hot chocolate I had ever had. It was given to me, in an Xmas stocking the year before and I had waited 8 months for a special moment like this. Since then I've not been able to find anything that comes close to it, nor do I remember the brand. I do remember the flavor though. It was Amaretto with white chocolate. Quite the hot chocolate I'll say. If anyone out there has come across such a flavor, please, I'd like to know where it can be found. It was that good!
We also witnessed the faintest and briefest of northern lights looking towards Brent. it lasted barely 15 minutes. and was gone. Off to Bed, and for the second night I slept an never-ending battle with gravity.
I got up just after 7am. Marylyn was already up, making coffee. I looked around. What an awesome sight! The sun was just coming up over the horizon of trees and a heavy fog surrounded our island. I did not have a camera on this trip, but I did have a camcorder with a tripod. I set it up and took lots of shots of the fog, while watching the sun rise. Late August mornings rule. Plenty of Loon calls to go around, fog in the air, and warm sunshine to shake off the night chills.
After about an hour we finished out breakfasts..oatmeal, cleaned up and packed. We headed out early, back towards Brent. We passed by the campsite we had wanted to stay on, and it was still occupied. We wanted to visit it, Marylyn, telling me that Moose came thru the site every morning, as she had stayed there years earlier on a 2 week stint. We could come back next year I suggested. I wanted us to continue on, as I didn't know how long our luck would hold on the lake.
Overlooking Cedar Lake as the morning fog burned off
More Heavenly Algonquin goodness
As it was we had the most pleasant paddle on Cedar Lake that morning. Probably took us an hour or a little more, to get to Brent. The lake was like glass, all the way to Jake's hangout. We returned our canoe, loaded up our car, and proceeded back to civilization via the washboard Brent road to highway 17. I've once heard that someone complained to Jake that the road was too bumpy. He in turn said something like, "good, keeps people away". Still to this day, Brent sees little of crowds, unlike the highway#60 corridor of Algonquin.
The colours off the fog reflecting water were surreal