Triplogs / Triplog#7
My First Solo Trip: Access#10 - Sunday Creek: A Success!
Day 1 - Spruce Bog Parking lot to Fork Lake
This trip, indeed this triplog, would not have been possible without the generous information given to me by the many members of the Algonquin Adventures Forum. It is with many thanks that I dedicate this triplog to Barry, and all the folks on Barry Bridgeford's site. Everything to tying down a canoe on a car to solo safety precautions in early May weather, etc, was given to me by the good folk at AA. This was the very first time I had ever did a solo canoe trip. I was both very excited and jittery as hell!
It was a sunny and warm early May morning. I had already picked up my permit from the west gate, and drove to the Spruce Bog parking lot and proceeded to portage my gear to Sunday Creek. Following the end of the trail, it ran parallel to hwy#60, where it crosses the creek and a culvert the creek runs thru under the highway. As I later discovered, there is an easier way to launch on Sunday Creek;
Pulling your vehicle over on Hwy#60 at the bridge, you can unload there, and then park your vehicle in The Spruce Bog parking lot, for the duration of your trip. Unloading on the South side of the highway seems to be the best option, as well as the fact that sometimes there is a beaver damn inside the culvert, making passage difficult. East or west of the bridge is fine for launching, although on later inspection in the following years, west of the creek on the south side of the highway seemed best. Scout it out before launching, as conditions change year to year. UPDATED: Launching EAST of the bridge on the south side is the best option, there is a well worn trail and mucky landing upon which to launch from. This is the shortest and easiest route to launch from Sunday creek @ hwy#60.
The mainland site on the north shore of Fork Lake
I launched and passed thru the culvert with no problems and proceeded to paddle down a very narrow and twisty creek. After about 10 minutes of this, the creek widened, I looked up and to the east, knowing that the visitor's centre was nearby. I couldn't see it yet, but instead spotted something completely unexpected and very annoying! Just before the Visitors centre comes into view..I spotted one of the newly installed UGLY Cellphone towers...yup...you can see it as you paddle down Sunday Creek, probably be able to make a cellphone call too, from your canoe... although I warn you now, not to do it while I'm around! Soon after this, the centre came into view. I had seen the view from the centre, and I imagined what I looked like from way up there. The view from creek level is much different and much quieter too. The personnel at the west gate told me that Sunday creek should be high(time of the year). It was still pretty shallow in some areas...I don't think I'd want to paddle down the creek in August. The Cell Tower ugliness and shallow conditions of the creek aside, I had a great paddle, and was drunk with excitement as I emerged onto Norway Lake. It had taken me barely 25 min. to get there. There were no beaver dams for me to cross, although I did have to get out and push the canoe thru a shallow gravel section a few minutes before reaching Norway Lake. I have since then spotted several beaver dams on the Creek very close to the highway....so be prepared to deal with them.
Arriving on Norway Lake, I saw a campsite on my left(At the point). It's worth stopping and looking this campsite over, a very nice view to be had, high and commanding. Be wary though of 'Wet' rock as you ascend to the campsite. The site also has an awesome firepit!! Maybe I'll camp here some year. As I proceeded down Norway Lake(following the east shoreline), there was some large rock hiding just beneath the surface...be careful, if your canoe is loaded down. As I continued down Norway Lake, there was a small rock Island 'bout 10 m from shore, and not far from the east site. I think there was a pair of Loons nesting here, I tried not to startle them and did not get a chance to get close enough to investigate if it was in fact a Loon nest. Looked like it to me, as the loons voiced their displeasure at me as I approached and so I kept going. As I continued on, I saw a head of land ahead of me...go left of the point not right(Dead end).
Going left, I came upon the 'narrows' as it were..between Norway and Fork Lakes. Going thru the narrows, there was the remnants of an old beaver damn(very old), this one was of no consequence though. If ya got enough momentum you'll go right thru...there was no difference in water level here. Arriving on Fork Lake, I kept to the right and followed the shoreline. A few minutes after emerging from the narrows, I looked behind me and I was able to spot the Visitor Centre again. The water on Fork Lake was just as calm as it had been on Norway, great weather for my first solo! Arriving on the Campsites on Fork Lake; Do not stay on the Mainland Site! Although sheltered from the north wind, it is a very tiny site. There is no sunset view from there either, and will only get sun exposure late in the morning and onwards.
Closeup of the island with campsite on far side on Fork Lake
I paddled over to the island site, and as I approached it, noticed a blue tarp flapping in the wind. I didn't see anyone, and continued to approach, hoping it had just been left behind. The wind picked up suddenly and started to blow me off course. At this point a figure rose up on the island and moved towards the shoreline. Damn! Occupied. Struggling in the wind, I managed to turn around, and paddled against an ever increasing wind to the north site. Just as I landed, the wind out on the lake died(go figure), and a Canadian Forces Hercules plane, buzzed my campsite, as I stepped on shore. It was really cool, I turned and watched the plane ascend and head over to Jean Lake. If you do get stuck on the mainland site(Like I did), you might have a hard time finding the Thunderbox, as I could not find a trail marker for it; Follow to the left and behind the firepit..up a short hill and look ahead or to the right for a large fallen and partially cut up Birch tree...follow the path past there and up the hill, and you'll find it there.
Island campsite with mainland peninsula on the left
I set up my tent on an inclined ridge, away from the firepit area. There really was no where else to put a tent, except too close for my liking near the firepit, next to a very large pine tree. Later in the evening, I cooked a steak over the fire and then went for an evening paddle with my cheap $30 rod & reel setup. The water was dead calm, and I am glad it was, as I realized that paddling solo in a tandem canoe with no gear in the front, to weigh the craft down, was like paddling a feather. This example made me quite aware of how important it is to add weight to the front of the canoe, as had been suggested by fellow online trippers. As I drifted around in the near darkness, the folks from the other site were out fishing as well. I had no luck, and to be honest wasn't prepared to fish anyways...I really didn't have any experience at this point in time. In almost total darkness, I landed my canoe back at the campsite, and prepared a fire to sit around for a bit, before heading off to bed.
The only real tenting area, on the trail to the thunderbox, away from the firepit area
This was my first night solo ever. One that I will always remember. Not just because of how good it was, but also how fearful I was. I laid down in my sleeping bag, decked out in long underwear and hand and foot warmers, with a hat to cover my head. Even with all the gear and extras I had, it was not sufficient to protect me from the cold. It became very cold that night, as the temperature dipped below zero celsius. My greatest fear as I started to drift off to sleep, was animals moving around at night. Sure enough, after about 30 min. or so of trying to fall asleep with a fast heartbeat, I suddenly heard a 'ker-splash'. Something was in the water, nearby! Fearing my breathing would give me away, I held my breath, my heartbeat sounding as loud as a drum. I was too scared to move. I waited...not five minutes later, it came again, "KEP -SPLASH". Much louder, and closer. What in God's name was it? I imagined a bear in the freezing cold water..fishing. After another 15 min. or so of trying to relax, no new sounds reached me, and I started the process of trying to calm myself down. I put on a light and read a book for awhile, eventually I calmed down enough, the surge of adrenaline drained from me, I drifted off to sleep.