Mark's Algonquin Park Sampler - Triplog#20 - Access#11 - Lake Opeongo - Day 1

Triplogs / Triplog#20

Lake Opeongo(IN) - Dickson Lake - White Partridge Lake - Dickson Lake - Lake Opeongo(East Arm)(OUT)

Day 1 - Lake Opeongo to Dickson Lake

This was a 6 nite semi-solo trip over to White Partridge Lake and back. I was to meet up with some personalities, that I had corresponded with online. I was supposed to link up with 'Racoon' & 'Bo Knows', brothers they be. Racoon having many years of experience in Algonquin Park, and Bo knows, with 40+ years in the park! I lept at the chance to meet such people. People with countless stories and wisdom of The Park. Another online personality was supposed to join me for the trip, but fell ill days before the trip, thus my trip was solo mainly thru the tough parts of the trip.

I arrived at the permit office on Lake Opeongo at 1:20pm. This was trip#2, of 2 trips back to back that I had planned. Triplog#19 was the first part of my trip, if you have not read it, you can click here access that log now.

The weather here was even more wild than on Lake Louisa or Rock Lake, Two lakes I had paddled on, earlier in the day, as I had completed a 5 day loop for the first trip.
The wind and waves were wild and cold rain showers came down every 20 min.
I stopped by Algonquin Outfitters, and arranged a shuttle to take me up. My shuttle wasn't scheduled to leave until 4pm. So with some time, I went thru my pre-packed backpack, and started tossing out items. I had the Dickson-Bonfield portage to do, and didn't want to bring too much weight.

I tossed away my tripod, water filter, extra cloths, extra toilet paper, an extra can of fuel, exchanged a towel for a dish towel. I trimmed off many pounds, but my pack was still a killer. I estimated it to be over 60lbs. One day...ONE DAY, I will learn to pack lite!
The re-packing done, I headed off to the showers. Ahh man...the water was soooo good. Clean cloths to boot too! By 3:15PM I was ready with my gear at the docks, and was surprised to see my canoe already loaded on the shuttle.

Luck would have it, that I paid $25 to be shuttled upto the portage to Wright Lake, on Opeongo's east arm. I was supposed to go up with another group of people. With the foul weather they had arrived early and were taken up, while I was showering. So I got a solo trip upto my launch point 30 mins earlier. It was the most wild and wettest boat ride I've ever been on! The only experience I can compare it to, was being in the locomotive of a freight train. The boat plowed over the waves, *BANG-BANGBANG--BANNNG!*. The big waves caused such a ruckus, that I thought the boat would surely be split in two, also the being tossed around bit, reminded me of my ride when I was a kid in the engine of a freight train. I was wearing shorts, and I was frozen and soaked from head to toe! I didn't mind, I laughed and enjoyed the experience, though I was blind for most of the journey! The driver apologized for me being soaked thru and thru, I chuckled, by the time I get to Dickson Lake, I'll be thawed out and bone dry. I had quite a ways to go.

It was just after 4pm, when we arrived at the portage to Wright Lake. The driver unloaded my canoe, and my gear, and he was off. I was all alone again. I was not concerned about bugs or bears, but wondered, when would I arrive on Dickson Lake?

shuttle image

            Dropped off at the east arm portage to Wright Lake,
     the shuttle heads back - It's 4pm & I've a long way to go yet

I did the portage and launched on Wright Lake, it was easy to follow, and noticed the lone campsite there was occupied. Next came the portage to Bonfield Lake. Again, it was easy to follow, you can see the next portage no problem. Bonfield is a small lake, ringed with very young tree growth. I pulled up and saddled up for the long trek to Dickson Lake, 5305m!

It was 5:30pm, with a partly cloudy sky, and the temperature was mild, but no wind stirred. I'd have to guess it was around 12°C. I set out with my pack first, leaving the sandy beach landing behind, I encountered the longest boardwalk to date in the park. I was glad I was doing the portage this early in the year, for there were quite a few more boardwalks at the beginning, and they were all there for a good reason. They avoided thousands of tepid pools of skeeter breeding water. I can't imagine doing this portage in June or July. Surely, loss of blood here, could probably be measured in liters! I plowed on. There were many areas of muck that had to be circumvented, and lots of rocky ground, but for the most part, the portage is flat. It is heavily forested though, and it wasn't till I came to a road, that I took a break. Just after the road, is one of those halfway points, a place to rest your canoe elevated, so as to make rest stops easier.

sign image

            Yes this portage really does exist
                 and it really is 5.3km long!


boardwalk image

  Long boardwalks snake their way thru the beginning of the portage

Well, there just isn't enough of them on this portage! But then again, if too many were put out, it would take forever to cross it. I had seen a another halfway point earlier on, figuring on such a long one, that they are spaced apart every kilometer. So I dropped my pack, just after the road, and headed back for the canoe, thinking I was 2km in. Arriving back with my canoe, I took a break. I think it was around 7pm. I decided to leave my canoe perched on the halfway point, and pick it up in the morning, if need be.
I picked up my pack and continued on. After this point(The road), the trail becomes more open, not crowded in by a pine forest anymore. The trail also seemed less rocky. After a while I came to a point where the cart trail joins the portage. I took a break and moved on with renewed vigor. I arrived at the end of the portage at 8pm. There was a party of 2 men camped at the end of the portage, they had a big tent and were hanging out around their firepit. My heart sank. I was too late to go back and get the canoe. I'd get back to the canoe by 9pm, and with the sun gone, I didn't like the idea of stumbling around in the dark with a canoe.

relic image

      Along the Dickson-Bonfield Portage: A relic from a bygone era


halway image

     I parked my canoe just past the logging road

I greeted the 2 guys at the site. Well...they had never seen anyone come down that portage so late in the day. I asked if I could stay on their site, and they said 'sure', 'where's your canoe?' 'Back at the logging road', I said. 'Ahh, that's about 2/3rd's of the way', one guy said. I wasn't sure if he meant I was 2/3'rd's of the way in, or had that much more to go. I was tired though. It was a long day, my morning started off on Lake Louisa, in foolish canoe mode in rough water, then a long 2895m portage and paddle up Rock Lake, and then this monster portage. The guys introduced themselves. Dan and Rick, out of Waterdown, Ontario. They had been in the park for a week, trout fishing, coming in on the cart trail, with a cart. What is interesting to note here, is that they told me that the cart trail is much longer than the portage, some 8-10km in length. yikes! So much for thinking of taking that route on the way out! Some of the cart trail was really rough and they had a load of almost 600lbs coming in, and that Dan and Rick had to winch their cart over some of the rocks.

ladder image

               The steepest hill on the portage:
       just before the 6 stair boardwalk...easy hill


sign image

                The portage widens here, to accommodate carts

I noticed on the site, a tree with a piece of paper and a business card stuck in it. It was addressed to me! It was from Racoon, telling me he was on an island site in Cisco Bay, in the lower south east end of the lake. The msg was dated that day at 6:30pm. Too late to go back for the canoe now, fer sure. It was getting late, so I decided to set up my tent, as I did so, Rick and Dan were getting about making their dinner. The guys asked me if I would have dinner with them. I was surprised and thankful at the offer, I was just exhausted. They guys had an excellent dinner prepared. Carrots with rice, and Rick gave me his last piece of speckled trout. I had never had trout in my life before, and this was a real treat. This is why I had come all this way, to link up with some online friends, who were experts in the trout department. I wanted to learn and experience the world of trout fishing. The piece of fish Rick gave me was exquisite!
No fishy taste at all, not a bone in sight, and it was pan fried in butter. It had a taste that I can only say was pleasing to my taste buds. I thanked Rick and Dan for their hospitality and their company. Later on the guys were showing me their set-up, as I asked various questions 'bout fishing.

wide bridge image

                        After the cart trail joins the portage,
                the portage widens to accommodate larger traffic

Rick and Dan pulled out a really neat piece of equipment. It was a smoker. They were smoking their trout, so that they could take home their catch. The smoker resembled a ammunition box in size and shape. On top was a removable glass panel, and below this was two small metal grills that could slide in and out. That is where the fillets went, and below the grills, was a drawer, with holes on top. In the drawer went the wood chips. The box was then placed on a Colemen stove, and the chips would then smoke the fish. An intriguing set-up. The guys were pretty successful on their trip, and had alot of smoked fish to take home with them, even without reaching their catch limits. They showed me some of their fish, and I saw that each fish had a piece of skin on it for identifying purposes, should Rangers come around to inspect catches. I'm not very good with fishing, but the size of some of the fillets suggest 3 to 4lbs trout. I'm guessing though, and if Rick or Dan reads this, I hope you're not upset with my quoted weights of yer fish!

dan image

                                     Dan packing up for the trip out


rick image

  An out of focus shot of Rick, my very first
taste of trout came from him. Note the large
  pine behind Rick, It was a very large pine,
one of many big trees in that area of the park


It was later learned that neither of us was camped on the official campsite at the portage. The actual site was closer to the lake, and buried in the bush. It looked dreary and buggy as hell. But there was a privy there, that's how we discovered it, looking for the privy. The site on the portage is not an official site, but it did have tenting areas and a nice firepit. I guess with the length of the portage, there really should be more than one site at this end of the trail. Thus this un-official site exists. It was getting late, and I headed off to bed. I wanted to be up extra early to meet Racoon & friends before they headed to White Partridge Lake.


                   >Next Page - Day 2

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