Mark's Algonquin Park Sampler - Triplog#2 - Access#5 - Canoe Lake - Days 1&2

Triplogs / Triplog#2

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Canoe Lake (IN) - Tom Thomson L - Little Doe L - Burnt Island L - Joe L - Canoe Lake(OUT)

Day 1 - Canoe L to Tom Thomson L

This was a 5 nite interior trip, with my sister Michelle and my friend JP. We also stayed for 2 nites at Canisbay Campground after our interior trip. The week leading upto our trip, there was the constant threat of a fire ban in Algonquin Park. On the eve of our trip at midnight a fireban was called..a mere five hours before we headed upto Algonquin. For those who don't remember, this was the year that a 'Level 1' drought was declared in the province of Ontario. It was an extremely dry year, the spring and particularly the summer, most areas suffered through lots of heat and little to no rain for months at a time. We arrived at the Canoe Lake permit office around 8:30am on Friday morning. It was already very busy, as it was the August long weekend(Simcoe Day). Launching onto Canoe Lake under fantastic conditions we paddled the glass like lake upto the portage to Joe Lake. We passed by both Camp Wapomeo & Camp Ahmek, as well as the cairn to Tom Thomson..which can be seen from a distance, marked by a Totem pole looming over the shoreline of the point that it is situated on. Even this close to civilization(Canoe Lake is a busy Place), I felt a sense of 'History' well up in my being, as we paddled up Canoe Lake. This lake has a lot of history behind it, both fare and tragic.

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At the Docks of The Portage Store: Canoes Galore!

It took us almost 45 min. to reach the portage to Joe Lake, and it has to be one of the easiest portages in the park. A Flat sandy trail is all there is, with a chemical outhouse along the trail...the last bastion of civilized convenience as we tripped into the interior. Both ends of the portage, particularly the Joe Lake end, were choked with canoes...I counted 16 at the Joe Lake end, with many more on the Canoe Lake end. It was rush hour, and It felt like I was on the "401" of Algonquin!

Within 15 minutes, we were launched onto Joe Lake, and leaving the chaos of the portage behind us, we paddled under the bridge that was Camp Arowhon road, and finally reached quiet waters. Passing thru Teepee Lake, we came upon a mulitude of sailboats and canoes, as children from Camp Arowhon sailed around the bay. As we continued on, we saw a Cow Moose in the shadows of some shallows along the east shoreline. By noon we had arrived on Little Doe lake, and making a left turn, we paddled to the beaver dam, leading to Tom Thomson Lake. It is an easy dam to cross, and the three of us were under way again in a few minutes. it was 12:30pm by the time we entered into Tom Thomson lake proper. Every site we passed along the way, was occupied. It seemed no matter how early and eager we were to get to the lake, it wasn't early enough. Paddiling over to the north east corner of the lake, we passed one very nice site, with folks there jumping off of cliffs and into the water, by the yells of joy that could be heard, it seemed to be an awesome site. We landed at the last site east of the portage to Ink L onto McIntosh Lake.

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Jp watches as Mark carries a canoe across a portage

The site itself was small, and bushy, but had a nice rock landing, great for swimming. We set up camp and lazed the afternoon away. It was a beautiful Sunny August afternoon and it was hot. By late afternoon, we heard a motorboat on the lake! What was going on? There wasn't supposed to be motorboats on this lake. Watching the motorboat, we noticed it was going from site to site. Sure enough, after almost 30 min. or so, the boat headed our way. It was a warden. We greeted him, and we were asked for our permit. The warden examined our permit, and pointed out that our permit had "Fireban" written all over it. Warning us not to have any campfires. We knew this and were disappointed, we had no intention of starting a fire, but for some reason we had secretly hoped he was gonna say it was "OK" to have a fire. Not so. I asked the warden, what the criteria for calling a fireban was. Explaining to us in the simplest of terms, the warden described an index, where a fireban had been called in the surrounding townships, where the index was 300, and that the index in Algonquin was 500..much higher! To prove his point, the warden kicked at the earth, and clouds of dust rose, "See how dry the ground is?", he asked. "Yeah", we answered. "Imagine how dry the wood is. All it could take is for a breeze to catch a few embers from a campfire and whoosh, up goes the forest". We thanked the warden for his info, and he set off to the next site.

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The Beaver dam sepreating Little Doe Lake from Tom Thomson Lake

Early in the evening we sat around an empty firepit, it just seemed weird not being able to have a fire. This was the first time we had ever experienced a fireban, and although I have camped and not had a fire sometimes, it felt different in that the choice of having a fire was taken away from us. Well, a campfire isn't everything, so without further ado, I went for a swim. It was at around 7:30pm, that we heard a single mosquito appear. The next moment my sister got bit, but failed to kill the skeeter. It was like the little devil was a scout or something, for within a few minutes of the first bite, a horde of skeeters showed up massing for the slaughter. After about 4 or 5 bites we ran for the tent. With no campfire to produce a smoke screen, we became prisoners in our own tent.

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A view of Tom Thomson Lake from our bushy site


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Once the tent was up, Mark got busy relaxing in a hammock

Day 2 - Tom Thomson L to Little Doe L

The next day we headed over to Little Doe Lake. It was another fine August day, It was hot again, but being on the water it wasn't noticeable. Meanwhile in Toronto, people were dying. Something on the order of 11 people had died from the heat. The temperatures were 37°C, with humidexes of 45°C. It certainly was a dry hot summer, but being in The Park surrounded by water, made for a comfortable ride thru the heat wave. Like Tom Thomson Lake, Little Doe was packed, and we settled on the last site before the 1140m portage to Burnt Island Lake. This site was amazing, it had a very wide clearing, enough to put 20 or more tents down. There was nice rocks to sit upon and jump off of, by the waters edge. The swimming turned out to be excellent. All three of us dove gleefully into the water. We spent the whole afternoon in the water, enjoying the water's temperature and sun. It was truly a magnificent day to remember. One thing to tarnish that memory though was the unexpected arrival of an unwanted guest. JP noticed something floating in the water near me. I turned around, and swam up to it. It was a feminine napkin! How disappointing and disgusted we were. I glanced down the shoreline to the the site that it seemed to have come from. Well, there wasn't much I could do, after all I had no proof it was the people next to me. So I leapt out of the water and grabbed a stick and steered the offending object away from our location, then we all went back to swimming. The girls laughed at me, a ludicrous sight I must have been. Scared by a foreign object floating in the water, myself poking at it and steering it around the perimeter of our sight with a stick.I realize now in hindsight, that I should've at least made an attempt to pack it out, now I would, as I do with most garbage I find, but not back in those days. I was naive, I didn't litter, but I didn't help either, now I know better. It's just unfortunate that over the years the amount and variety of garbage I've found in the bush, is quite astounding at times. I find it more disturbing than a motorboat on an Algonquin Lake.

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The girls watching the sun set on Little Doe Lake

That evening, without the benefit of a campfire we sat on the rocks by the water. It was a beautiful sunset that night and we stayed as long as the skeeters permitted us to. Before climbing into the tent, I was telling the girls Bear stories, when all of a sudden, behind our tent, there came a crash followed by two quick 'plop' sounds. We all paused, the hair rising on the back of my neck, the girls looking truly alarmed. We held our breath for a moment, and I continued on with my bear story, which by now was having the most unnerving affect on the girls, to the point that both of them told me to "Shut-Up!!!". I grabbed a flashlight and stuck out my chest and boldly walked into the bush..returning a few minutes later, I announced that nothing was found, and suspected it was just a tree or tree limb that had fallen. That night I don't think any of us slept to deeply. The site also had lots of scat all over the place, piles of it here and there.
At the time I didn't know what it was, but now I do, it was deer scat, and I guess it must be a favorite stop for deer on their journeys. Thank God it wasn't Bear scat, although I wouldn't have known the difference at the time!

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Later in the evening, after the sun had set, the colours deepened

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