August 23, 2011 - Day 12
Carcajou Creek

I woke up in the middle of the night to go pee and walked through a thick fog. Even with my headlamp on I couldn't see very far, so I finished my business quickly and headed back to my hammock. Pity, I would've love to have stayed up but I didn't want to risk tripping over something and breaking a leg.

I woke up at 7:00am after yet another night of unsatisfying sleep. I was getting tired of all this blah weather. It was day 12 and so far I had had rain on seven of those 12 days. I only really had three nice days. I wanted my summer back. I think the problem was my attitude; I was spoiled by a 15 day trip the month before (In July) and the weather had been fantastic, hardly any rain through-out the whole trip.

morning mist
Waking up to morning mist on Greenleaf Lake


As I ate my breakfast of oatmeal and coffee (Finishing the last of my Bailey's), two grey jays flew into the campsite. I had no gorp nearby to feed them with and as I got up to retrieve the gorp they flew away. Not hungry enough I suppose. Too bad, I like grey jays, nice quiet friendly birds. Not like blue jays, squawky noisy birds they can be.

I broke camp by 8:30am, today was a travel day as I was to make my way down Carcajou creek, camping on Upper Spectacle Lake. As I paddled down the lake to the first portage e of the day, the last remnants of morning mist melted away. It was a still morning but with clouds that threatened, you guessed it… More rain.

I landed at the take-out at 9:00am and started the "Three-point" portage. The portion that went to the hydro line road (Intersecting another trail headed eastwards, 5km to Grand Lake), then along the road up a hill and towards a point where the trail turns off the hydro right-of-way and renters the forest, the last leg ending at Carcajou Creek. I single-carried the entire length, taking a break as I reached the third segment of the portage. The uphill climb up the road into the hydro field was a tiring one.

The segments measured 440m, 530m (GPS 585m) and 485m (GPS 535m) respectively, for a total carry of 1,560m.

It should be noted that these GPS readings are not mine. I do not carry a GPS device (Besides my "Spot" tracker). The GPS readings are contributions by several fellow canoeists providing their data to Jeffrey McMurtrie who correlates the data, adding that data to his free algonquin map, which I used on this trip.

portage signage
The second segment of the three trail crossing to Carcajou Creek

 

Hydro field near Greenleaf Lake
Emerging from the forest and a short climb I arrived onto the hydro field proper


There was some sun as I took my break to drink some water and take a few photos along the hydro line. It looked though that it might rain (Weird east side weather patterns again!) and so I hurried onwards into the forest, completing my carry-over and launching onto the creek at 10:00am under a completely covered and grey sky.

Hydro field near Greenleaf Lake
Taking a break, this view looks back at the direction I had come from

 

Hydro field portage signage
The third and final portage (480m) to Carcajou Creek

I paddled through a large marsh which was very low in water, many times I struck mounds of marshy earth, having to pole my way out of shallow mud and vegetation clogged waters. I think if I had a partner, the extra weight would've had us touching bottom, forcing us to drag the canoe. This was not the case with me being solo, but it came awfully close. To say the creek was low was an understatement.

As I exited the marsh, the forest closed in as I passed through picturesque narrows as I arrived at the first portage on the creek. The work had been tiring for so little gain; It had taken me thirty minutes to paddle the short stretch to the 285m portage. It was 10:30am.

Carcajou Creek

Paddling a very low but beautiful Carcajou Creek


Single-carrying the relatively easy but somewhat rocky trail I reached a fallen tree which re-directed me away from the trail and the intervening rock and the drop in elevation made it difficult to navigate around. Turning around was impossible so I had to bushwhack a little and finally got back onto the trail at the put-in.

I launched onto Carcajou Lake under calm conditions. As I paddled down the lake, I passed by numerous rock outcroppings, topped with jack and red pine.
Very pretty.

As I continued down the lake, I noticed another canoe on the lake that was heading my way. As we met-up with each other, I discovered the other canoe was two wardens on their way to check-out the portage I had just carried over, they were camped on Carcajou Lake, carrying out portage maintenance operations in the area. I have never been more envious in my life… Can you say, "Dream job?"

I recognized the lead warden as he was a fellow I had met in The Park on previous occasions. We talked for several minutes, also exchanging information about the portage I had just traversed, namely the fallen tree that proved a bit tricky to get around and the work the wardens had covered so far in the area.

From the description the wardens gave me I'd be facing some real challenges in about two days time. As much of the route I wanted to paddle was dried up. It sounded… Interesting. We chatted for a few minutes more before departing; The wardens heading west up the lake and me, east.

Paddling on, I passed by three campsites along the North shore, one site in particular looked ok, the other two I ignored. What really drew my attention was the fourth campsite on the South shore. It was a work of art! Perched on a rock cliff face was a tent, along with a fire-pit that could be seen as the campsite was set in among a scattered stand of pine. The site was gorgeous (From the water)… Something that you might see in a painting.

carcajou lake
Paddling down Carcajou Lake

 

carcajou lake campsite
The pine and rock peninsula campsite on CarCajou Lake


I arrived at the 220m portage along the creek as I exited Carcajou Lake at 11:40am. Nothing remarkable about the portage except that it was rough, being loaded with rock.

carcajou creek

A narrow and rocky section of Carcajou Creek


After paddling a somewhat narrow, shallow and very rocky section of the creek, I landed at the 85m portage (GPS 145m). The take-out was weedy, laced with mud and rock located next to a beaver dam. One could carry-over the dam and continue on I suppose, but there was a reason for the portage; The water after the dam was studded with rock, impossible to paddle, at least in the low water. It was 12:10pm

The other end of the portage was a bit of a surprise. The map showed a small lake. What I saw was a thin sliver of a waterway draining through a lake-bed. I think this was the area those canoeists I met on Greenleaf were referring to as being a pain. I launched from the shallow muddy put-in at 12:25pm, at the same time spying in the distance my next portage. The question was how difficult would it be to get there?

portage signage
Arrival at the short but necessary 85m portage

 

portage along carcajou creek
The muddy and rocky landing at the 85m portage


As it turned out, staying exactly in the middle of the small shallow waterway made my passage fairly easy. I was aided by the fact that the bottom was mud and grass, no rock… Whew! There was two shallow spots where I did have to get out and push the canoe but other then that the shallow waterway wasn't as bad as I had thought it would be. I would also like to think my silent urgings of transforming myself into being much lighter in weight helped too!

Click here to view a panoramic image at the end of the 85m portage:
"Left" side of image is looking back up the creek & "Right" is where I put-in.



It was 12:38pm when I arrived at the next take-out. The rock lined creek next to a pine forest struck me as being quite pretty. The portage was signed as 110m and was GPS'd as being 55m. The rocky take-out was an ankle breaker, continuing right up to where the trail started and entered some forest.

I took a short break, fuelling up with water and gorp, then launched onto the creek again at 12:55pm. My course ahead did not look promising; A narrowing waterway (Again), while the creek became clogged with aquatic plants. I paddled onwards, keeping an eye out for rocks.

At 1:01pm I arrived (Or tried to) at the 80m (GPS 50m) portage. I was roughly 20 feet from the shore proper when I encountered a mine-field of rocks in the creek. The water was hip deep but the rocks were only ankle deep. So I had to find a nice rock to land next to, step out on it and hop-scotch my way on the rocks (In the water) to shore. This was not made easy by the fact that the rocks were covered with ooze that made the rocks somewhat slippery.

I fell into the water just as I stepped onto the last rock at the shoreline. I landed on my back, my pack half submerged in the water. Picking myself up, I managed to get onshore and dumped my pack. Turning around I headed back to the canoe and tried to pick it up without success.

Next, I simply climbed into the water…sank down to my waist, picked up the canoe and tossed it over my head, then slowly I made my way over to the shore, walking around and on top of some of the rocks. The whole process took ten minutes. It really was quite a messy take-out.

Emerging onto shore, my lower legs were coated with mud and ooze and amazingly no leeches. I did the short trail double-carrying and launched onto the creek once again at 1:16pm, the put-in being an easy grass and mud mixture. Again, the creek level was quite low, but I was able to negotiate the creek without so much as striking a rock.

carcajou creek
Arrival at yet another portage

 

carcajou creek portage take-out
The very tricky & rocky take-out at the 80m trail (GPS 50m)


Eight minutes later I arrived at the 180m portage (GPS 215m) into Wenda Lake. The take-out was yet another rock laden landing but with deeper water pooled behind a beaver dam. That made getting out and stepping onto a rock nearby easy. There was one fallen tree on the trail, a small one that when I stepped on it to get pass it (It was waist high), it sprang back up and whacked me in the ass, shoving me forward.

The portage was grown in with lots of underbrush, as well as a few old cut logs lining the trail, possibly from an old blowdown that when stepped on, were quite slick. The canoe got hung-up in overhead bush as I tried to cross the intervening logs… This caused me to slip and the back end of the canoe was forced into the ground with the tip emitting a loud bang as it struck the ground. Aye aye-eee.. I hope Jeff would understand!

portage signage
Last portage into Wenda Lake

 

carcajou creek portage
The rocky escape from Carcajou Creek at the 180m trail into Wenda Lake


I arrived and put-in to the marshy beginnings of Wenda Lake at 1:48pm. Inspecting the canoe for damage, I found a minor scuff mark on the tip of the where the two gunnels came together. No damage.. Whew!

A few minutes of paddling and I emerged onto the weedy expanse of Wenda Lake. Following the North shoreline I passed the first of two campsites. The first one did not show much promise. I think I would've preferred to camp across the lake to where there was a point populated with an open red pine stand sited on Canadian Shield Rock. However, it was not an official campsite and it had a marshy look to it. Actually, The whole lake had a marshy feeling to it and I got the impression the lake didn't see much traffic; I couldn't have been more wrong!

portage into wenda lake
The seldom used portage into Wenda Lake's West end.

 

wenda lake
The marshy beginnings of Wenda Lake


There is a backcountry cabin for rent on Wenda Lake and as I approached the cabin, I could see and hear several teenagers there. They were a party of about eight or nine of them. The group had all their gear spread outside around the cabin and their canoes stacked against one wall. No one entered the cabin though and I suspected they were not staying at the cabin; They were going to camp next to it?

There is signage for both a portage and a campsite right next to the cabin. So it seems that the cabin also has a campsite on it. Rather odd I thought. The cabin itself was rather small looking and I asked if I could take a picture of it as I paddled by. The group agreed, even offering to step out of the picture. I took my pictures and thanked the group, paddling onwards. The sun came out as the weather improved, shining on me as I made my way southeast.

wenda lake cabin
The Wenda Lake cabin

 

wenda lake large forest clearing
The unknown clearing south of the cabin on Wenda Lake


Past the cabin towards the end of the lake is a large clearing and I wondered why it had been cleared? I never did bother to get out and inspect the area to see if it had been an old camp or not. I have since not been able to find anything (Researching online) that refers to the area.

At 2:10pm I came to the end of the lake, where Carcajou Creek continued. There was not one but two beaver dams in quick succession that had to be overcome. What was unusual about the dams is that they had rocks stacked on top of the dam.

This was not the first time I had encountered rocks in beaver dams, yet the size and weight of some of the rocks was enough to require considerable effort for a human to pick-up and move but for a beaver? I was left scratching my head. Why on earth would a beaver go to such effort to move heavy rocks onto a dam? Actually seeing a beaver do this would be something I would like to witness. Maybe they were evolving, getting smarter? Now all they needed was some mortar!

Five minutes later I paddled up to the easy sandy and grass landing, I had reached the take-out for the 380m portage to Little Carcajou Lake. The time was 2:20pm. It was well past my lunchtime and I decided I needed to eat something before doing the carry-over. I cleared the landing and moved my gear a few meters up the trail, placing both my packs and canoe off to the side.

rocky beaver dam
Evolution? The rock studded beaver dam south of Wenda Lake

 

Carcajou creek portage take-out
The take-out for the portage into Little Carcajou Lake


Here comes the "I feel like an idiot" part; No viable place to sit back and have a lunch, I sat in the sun right in the middle of the trail with my day-pack as I broke out my tuna in foil, cheddar cheese, mayo and wrapping it all into pita wraps. As I began eating, a canoe emerged from the forest about 20 meters ahead of me. A young woman hauling the canoe approached. I apologized, offering to move although everything was spread out in my lap. The young woman told me not worry and continued on, I was glad that I had at least cleared the landing.

I hadn't seen anyone all day on the portages and thought I wouldn't see anyone, so when the young woman came out of the forest I was quite surprised. As I was into my second and final tuna wrap, a mess of three more canoes came by with more people hauling their sweaty packs and canoes by me, as I remained planted right in their path. I was in shock. Suddenly, I was in the way of a multitude of people.

For such a short trail they were huffing a lot and I thought that perhaps I had a heck of a walk ahead of me. It seems the whole group was going to camp on Wenda Lake, I guessed to join the other group already there. I finished my lunch and gathered my packs and canoe, putting my embarrassment aside and headed down the trail. I felt like such a rookie… Eating my lunch in the middle of the trail…What was I thinking?

I double carried the trail as I was tired. I do not remember anything about the trail, so that is a good sign, Thirty minutes later I put into Little Carcajou Lake via a muddy put-in with the assistance of a nearby log. It was shallow to say the least. Little Carcajou Lake had a unique character about it. Almost as if it was still in the mountain building stage or something.

little carcajou lake
Putting into Little Carcajou Lake

There's no mountains of course, just lots of rock everywhere. The lake had an unfinished look to it. As if nature had given-up halfway through its project and moved on to better things. This is not to say that Little Carcajou Lake is displeasing to the eye, quite the country. It had a raw, wild look to it. Just an unfinished one if you will.

By 3:00pm, I paddled by the lone campsite along the lake's northern shore. Unlike the rest of the lake with its rocky shoreline, The campsite had a grassy shoreline and pine needle-covered ground. The campsite with its fire-pit next to the water's edge was over-shadowed by tall pines. The site was open to the lake and was a small one.

I did not get out to inspect the site, but from what I was able to see from the canoe, the campsite looked like it might be suitable for only one tent. I would like to camp here one day, exploring "Stone Chute" further down the lake.

By 3:20pm, I had arrived at the take-out to Upper Spectacle Lake. The trailhead is up an incline, several meters up from the lakeshore. Once everything was carried up to the portage proper, I had a commanding view of Little Carcajou Lake. The view wasn't awesome or mind-blowing, it was just perfect: A nice quiet lake in the middle of nowhere.

little carcajou lake campsite
Passing by the lone campsite on Little Carcajou Lake

 

little carcajou lake
The wild looking side of Little Carcajou Lake


I began the trail single-carrying. The portage was rock and lots of it with lots of up and downs and short rocky climbs and dips. Pretty soon the jarring aspect of the carry forced me to slow my pace then eventually dropping my canoe and carrying on with the packs. This had to have been one of the most rugged trails of the trip so far.

little carcajou lake
From the take-out for Upper Spectacle Lake: Looking up Little Carcajou Lake

By 3:50pm, I heard voices and as I came upon a rocky drop-down, I saw people standing at a put-in. I was momentarily confused for the portage length was 1,790m (GPS 2,110m) and knew I was nowhere near completing the length of the trail.

Talking with the people, I learned they were a family, where a father was introducing his boys to The Park. The man's father (The children's grandfather) was there also. The grandfather having introduced his son many decades earlier to The Park. What surprised me was their last names were 'Robitaille', exactly the same name and spelling of Robitaille Lake that I had stayed on eleven nights earlier.

Upper Spectacle portage marsh
Arrival at he marsh along the portage to Upper Spectacle Lake

 

marsh take-out sign
Behind me at the marsh put-in was a sign indicating the continuation of the trail


We both wondered if there was any relation to their name and the Lake name. I asked about the landing I was at and was informed that I had arrived at a marsh that could be paddled, thereby avoiding approximately 300m of carrying. Suited me fine. I was also told that the 300m I was avoiding was particularly rocky and rough. So It was a good thing the marsh was there!

I doubled back to grab the canoe then headed back to the marsh, loading up and paddling length of the waterway in short order. As I arrived at the take-out, the family passed me by as they were heading back to their campsite. They were camped on Upper spectacle. I was scheduled to camp on Upper spectacle as well and ended up single-carrying a few minutes behind the family to the lake.

Seconds before I arrived at the put-in, I passed through a thin stand of red pine that was mixed in with ferns. As I arrived at the lake, the opposite shore was nothing but black spruce. I finally put-in to Upper Spectacle Lake at 5:05pm.

red pine stand

The winding trail through a red pine stand

Paddling through very shallow and very stinky ooze that was stirred up with my passing, I gagged at the stench. The smell was most unpleasant. Two minutes later, I thankfully arrived at the lake proper, paddling down the lily pad infested lake under a heavy overcast sky. It looked like it was going to rain. Pretty much the entire lake was a giant lily pad pond.

I tried to find open water to filter some water. Eventually, I gave up and just filtered water where I was. Minutes later I arrived at the second campsite on the lake - The first one being occupied by the family.

Upped Spectacle Lake
Putting into Upper Spectacle Lake - Note the dense spruce on the opposite shore


Immediately I was struck by the contrast of the campsite and the opposing shoreline. Here the campsite was a red pine forest mixed with ferns and low-lying bush. Most if not all the red pines had scorch marks on their trunks. On each side of the fire-pit were two red pine tree trunks cut to 5 foot lengths standing on tree roots. The tree trunks stood there like sentries or torch stands if you will.

Upper Spectacle Lake campsite
My campsite on Upper Spectacle Lake

 

scorched red pine stand
Much of the red pine stand had scorch marks as if having been razed by fire


Across the lake the entire shoreline was a carpet of black spruce. I couldn't get over the contrast in forests. I had never seen such an occurrence in my travels in Algonquin Park. Obviously, some fire had razed the North shore of the lake but only about one hundred meters from the shore. After this the forest grew thick and the scorch marks on tree trunks no longer occurred. Almost as if the fire had suddenly stopped.

scorched red pine tree
A close-up of a scorched red pine tree on Upper Spectacle Lake


By 6:10pm I had camp set-up and set about making dinner. I rehydrated some chill then heated it up on my stove. Yes, my stove was working again and worked quite well actually. Imagine that! After dinner I strolled over to the neighbouring campsite as I had been invited by for a drink. As I did this, the sun peeked out from behind the cloud cover as it began to set. The lake turned molten gold and silver, the sun sparkling on the water… The name "Heaven" passed through my thoughts as I smiled at the natural phenomena.

gold and silver colours
Shimmering spectacle: Gold and silver reflections on Upper Spectacle Lake


I stayed perhaps an hour, chatting a lot about the park with the two adults. One drink and I felt pretty good so I decided to call it a night. I thanked my hosts for their hospitality and made my way back to camp. Sometimes its nice to keep the drinks and chat to a minimum. After all the family was there for the same thing I was: Some peace and quiet.

Back at camp I prepared for rain but this time it never did rain and so I had a fairly quiet and somewhat comfortable sleep, electing to skip a campfire and just head to bed around 9pm. I had a long day ahead of me tomorrow.



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