A calm lake and ominous looking sky greeted us as we arrived at Cedar Lake
This was a four nite Stay on Cedar Lake in Algonquin's north region of the park. I had decided to go up during the middle of the week, knowing that this was the only way for me to get a specific campsite. Attempting this on a Friday, I'm sure I would've been disappointed , as I had been in the previous year. With my friend Sean, we headed up early in the morning, sometime around 3:30 am. Shortly after 7am, on Hwy#11. I decided to take a shortcut, via Hwy#94, to Hwy#17, thus avoiding going into the outskirts of North Bay. This shortcut proved to be a waste of time, literally, for it was a school day, and we got stuck behind a school bus, and many a time it had stopped to pick up school children. Nearing the connection with Hwy#17, the school bus pulled over to let us pass, but by then we had lost almost 20min. travel time. We finally arrived at the permit office, shortly after 9am, acquired our permits and headed into Brent.
By 10 am we were loaded up and ready to go, as we looked out upon a eerily calm and dark looking Cedar Lake, under a heavy overcast sky. Sean & I donned our PFD's, and climbed in and were about to shove off, when it started to rain! We halted our launch, while I dug out a blue tarp, and covered our gear in the canoe as best we could. That accomplished, we proceeded to climb in and launch...finally! The time was 10:15 am. We paddled out onto Cedar Lake, and oddly there was no wind, just rain. As we paddled down the lake, the rain slackened off, a light wind picked up and small ripples appeared in the water. Minutes later the sun emerged from behind the clouds. As we continued to paddle we both became over-heated in our rain-gear, as we were now drenched in the heat of the sunlight. Stripping off the then unnecessary gear, we continued on and in just over an hour hour, we arrived at our campsite.
This campsite was my father's favorite in The Park. Though it is not my favorite, I could see why it was his. It was an excellent campsite. A white sand beach greeted us as we landed at the site. Walking along the beach, we came upon a sandy bank which led up to the tenting area. The tenting area was a charmer. Enough space for 3 or 4 tents, with an average size fire-pit in good condition, the area was well treed, and the ground was sandy as well. The ground rose up behind the campsite with rock outcropping, and a path leading off to the southeast in elevation to the privy. The view of the lake was just great from anywhere on the campsite. Facing west, lots of afternoon sun was available as well as shade. Walking along the beach we came to another beach area to the north of the campsite. Although park regulations don't permit you to have more than a few tents, the expanse of the sandy area, could easily accommodate 20 tents, that's how big it was. Lots of moose prints were visible in the muddy fringes where bush grew near the shoreline. Once our campsite was setup, we went about exploring, eating and relaxing at our new home for the next 4 nights. During the afternoon, it became humid, and clouds rolled in. Thunder could be heard in the west, and that's where it stayed. Cloud cover was scattered and we enjoyed a great sunset our first night on the lake.
Rain and thunder in the distance threatened, but never came close to us
Sunset, our first night on Cedar Lake
It was a calm, sunny and beautiful morning. Although I had no thermometer for the trip, it had been warm overnight, and crawling out of the sleeping bag that morning wasn't tough at all. Crawling out of the tent was another matter. I was halted in my tracks by the sight of moose coming down the trail from the privy. It was a cow and a yearling calf. Too late the cow spotted me, and the moose moved off, turning and heading back the way they came. Sean emerged from the tent, missing what I had just been privileged to witness. I had been told by my father that virtually every morning, moose came thru the campsite to feed on the plants by the water's edge. I felt a moment's dissatisfaction, for being responsible for interrupting their daily feeding. There wasn't much we could do about this. The damage had been done. We decided we would go exploring in the canoe. Perhaps during that time, the moose would take the opportunity to feed in our absence. Sean & I had a quick breakfast of coffee and oatmeal, and set off in the canoe. Paddling counter-clockwise around our island we paddled along the shoreline and into the full view of morning sunshine. Calm waters like glass greeted us as we paddled down the expanse of the lower third of Cedar Lake. We landed on a pebble beach, the landing at a campsite, which also doubled as a landing for a portage. The portage, a 960m trail crosses thru the campsite, and follows along the shoreline.
Like glass: We paddled around our island before
heading down to the Petawawa river
My friend Sean pictured here at the portage landing,
with Cedar Lake in the Background
Bushwhacking a little towards the south shoreline, many trails can be discovered, as well as the dam, that holds back Cedar Lake, as it empties into the mighty Petawawa river. We were not able to walk on the dam, with the spring melt, the water levels were high, and the river swollen. There are many artifacts in the bush, mainly old pieces of rusted, twisted metal. We hiked down the trail, and encountered many blowdowns. One large blowdown was of almost a dozen trees. Not one branch was cut or thrown aside. Looked to us like not a soul had yet come down the river yet so far that spring. Near the end of the portage, the trail became almost like a goat path. A small narrow path, among eroded and crumbling rock and red pines. It was a bit scary, and neither of us was carrying a canoe. At the time, I thought such an action would be foolish, however that time had yet to come in another trip-log. We lounged for a bit at the end of the trail, where the landing dropped off quite literally into the high waters. After 20 minutes or so, we headed back to our canoe, I had brought my video camera along for the hike and stopped a few times, to film the raging river . Getting close to the 'action' was lots of fun..the smell of spring, birds chattering, and the amount of water surging was incredible.
Blowdown: Sean climbing around fallen trees
One of many blowdowns that blocked the portage along the Petawawa river
Upon our arrival at our canoe back art the landing, we noticed that the winds were quite awake and there were lots of waves. It was a beautiful day, it's just that we now had a fun task of paddling freezing cold waters in strong winds and waves, and we were a little worried. We paddled northwest, passing west of the double islands with campsites located there. We also sighted a lone motorboat on the lake. On and on we paddled for what seemed like hours, into strong winds and waves...it was really only 20 min. I told Sean to get ready...we were at a point where we were almost in line with the western tip of the long island. There was a break in the wind and waves, "Now!". We switched sides as Sean paddled furiously and I steered with the quick strokes in-between, we made it..now we were heading northeast, with the wind behind us and 45° waves coming at us from behind. We tried to paddle closer to the island, but the angle was to shallow and any increase turned the waves broadside onto us. We tacked once more to the west , then again to the east. Finally after over an hour...we were in the wind shadow of the island. With a great sigh of relief, we flopped back into the canoe. Crunch! We were nearing a tiny shoal of an island, and I thought we were far enough from it, but struck a shoal that extended west of it for well over 10 meters. We got up and paddled on till we hit our campsite. Lunch..hot dogs and juice. Whew! Cedar Lake can be a real workout..and we were just on the lower third of the lake! We had another perfect Algonquin evening that night. Quiet, no bugs, a few loons, a beach to lounge on, and a great sunset.
The Petawawa river in spring
Looking down the mighty Petawawa river in spring
The portage landing at the Petawawa end of the 960m trail,
Note the loose soil and narrow trail winding up the slope
>Next Page - Day 3