Mark's Algonquin Park Sampler - Triplog#4 - Access#11 - Lake Opeongo

Triplogs / Triplog#4

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Day 1

This was a quick 2 niter on Lake Opeongo. This was my first time to Opeongo, and was a little worried about paddling such a large lake. I went up with 2 of my friends, Bill & Steve. Together the three of us rented a 3 seater Goldenglass canoe. Our canoe was carried to the dock, by the staff @ Algonquin Outfitters(conveniently located next to the permit office and the water). We loaded our canoe with way too much gear, and then loaded ourselves in. I had loaded 3 people in a canoe before, and although it was a little tricky, I was very worried about the seating arrangement this time. First off, I'm 6'2", Steve is 6'4" or 5", and Bill about 6'0" Yeah, so our weight combined was something on the order of 700+lbs...then there was the gear! As it was, the seating arrangement was purposely wrong, for Steve had no paddling experience, and sat in the middle, and Bill wanted the bow. This was not good..the lightest in the stern and the heaviest guy in the middle, What was I thinking?

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 White Admiral

We launched, riding low in the water. I was thinking & hoping that Opeongo would be a calm lady. As we approached the first bend in the shoreline, we came upon a small lone island with a sandy beach. It had only been about a 15 min journey so far, and the water and wind had been favorable. We decided to land at the island for a brief rest. Several more canoes pulled up from behind us. A large party of Japanese folk, enjoying the Canadian 'North' as it were. Soon more canoes pulled up and the tiny island became 'over-crowded', we piled back into our canoe and proceeded to head up Opeongo. As we headed towards Bates Island, A few motorboats passed us by, most of which didn't bother to 'watch their wake', which was annoying. We reached Bates Island, and decided to go behind the island going east. An OPP boat passed us by, The driver staring at us with interest. probably the rookie looking overloaded canoe, wondering what besides us, was overloading the canoe! The OPP guy driving the boat was courteous though, as he slowed down, to almost a canoe like speed as he passed close to us. We didn't bring any beer on our trip, so I was not worried, just worried about tipping actually.


Mergansers & a kayak pass our site

As we passed Bates Island, I was relating the tragic story of what occurred there in the early 90's. Bill had heard something of it, and unanimously, we decided to keep going. We came out of the shadow of Bates island, and upon some of the expanse of Opeongo. Luckily, the lake was flat as glass, not a drop of wind. Foolishly, we headed up the middle. I had wanted to see if we could get a site on the chain of islands along the eastern shore, about halfway up the south arm. Each site on the islands we passed were occupied. What marvelous sites though, all were spacious and had great sight-lines of the sky and lake. The last island with four sites on it, was really nice...high up on rocks with an amazing view of the expanse of Opeongo facing north. Behind one of the sites, was a small bay, where a motorboat was tied up, perfect little cove for the boat. That's the only thing I really regret about being in competition with a motorboat on Opeongo. The motorboat wins hands down every-time. It is so easy and convenient to look many sites over, and basically gives you the freedom to take your pick, while being in a canoe, if the first site is ok, grab it while ya can.

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Bill, barely unpacked, and all fired up to fish!

We headed over to the last site on the island, the one on the east side. It was unoccupied. Bill and Steve were anxious to get out of the canoe. We examined the site. Both Bill and Steve liked it. I did not. With a groan Bill was wondering where we were gonna camp. Anywhere but here, I said. "What's wrong with it?", Bill asked. "Well, this site is unoccupied, while all the other ones are not. Which means that this site had been passed up, probably by several parties", I said. With good reason too it seemed. The site had a wide clearing, but was grassy, and had ferns everywhere. Too bushy. It was end of June, and I feared camping here we'd be eaten alive. Not only that, we were close to the eastern shore, almost in a channel like.
There was no breeze here, to blow away the skeeters. The guys agreed, we piled back into the canoe, and headed up and east. There were three more sites to check out. The first one, I didn't like, too much rocks at the landing, and bushy again.

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Later on the bugs got to Bill

The second one, the second last one going into Jones Bay, was unoccupied as well. We pulled up. It had a nice clearing, bushy in the back of course, however there was a strong breeze here, and a great view of the setting sun. We decided to stay. As I was hauling gear out, Bill ran off, fishing rod in hand! Within a minute, Bill was calling out, "I got one!". Steve and I ran over, There Bill has pulling almost a 1lb Smallmouth Bass. "First cast", Bill said. "I love this place!". Bill cast again, another hit. Sheesh, I couldn't believe it. I left Bill in heaven and began setting up the tent. We had undercooked steak that night, as at this point in my Algonquin travels, I was not experienced enough to cook properly over a fire.
We survived, as did my ego, over the complaints I had suffered, 'cause of the steak.

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Late afternoon on Opeongo

Day 2

I have a Tarn 3 tent, and although the tent is rated as a 3 person tent, it is really meant for 2 people. Yet if you remember at the beginning of this story, we are 3 big guys. Oh man, it was an uncomfortable night trying to sleep. Steve snored, Bill kept tossing, and I'm a very light sleeper. It was a nice day again, Bill & I decided to head out for a little paddle. Fishing the top priority for Bill. He considers fishing from a canoe, silly. Bill was more interested in the fishing than the canoeing. Each to their own. I didn't have a rod, so Bill lent me his, and he used his bait casting rod. I'm not sure what that meant, and he just showed me that it really wasn't meant for casting and retrieving the line to fish for Bass. I thought it weird since it was named bait 'casting'..but I don't know anything about fishing really. We moved west of our site, in which there was a bay, and a creek emptying into Opeongo.


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After the storm, I went for a swim, note canoe/dinner table in background

Despite Bill's bait rod, he was able to catch a few more Bass, and I caught 2 more as well. We didn't stay out too long, for the wind started to pick up, and hunder could be heard behind us. He headed in and watched as a storm that was behind us, come across from the north west and headed towards us. The rain only lasted 15 min. or so, and after that the sun came out again.
Located where we were on Opeongo, was an idea spot, as far as traffic is concerned. Not one motorboat came our way, yet we were able to see them going up and down Opeongo, along the heavily traveled corridor if you will, to both the north and east arms. A few canoes and a kayak passed by, as well as a family of mergansers. Not much else happened that day, and it was a chance to relax and forget about the 'real' world for a few days.

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Looking for solitude, I sat by the water, lost in a good book
Jones Bay pictured in background

Day 3

It was mid-morning when we piled into the canoe and left. The winds were awake that morning, and so were the waves. It wasn't much of a problem, till we reached the channel. Here the waves were really choppy, and having the weight in the canoe being un-evenly distributed, made steering very difficult. Things got progressively worse. Bill had tennis elbow, and could only paddle on one side. The wind was pushing on the starboard side, where Bill was paddling, I was paddling to port. The overloaded canoe reacted so slowly and ineffectively to my steering paddles , coupled with the wind, that I asked time and again for Bill to switch sides, he was forcing us into the shoreline, into the back splash waves. Bill refused, his tennis elbow wouldn't permit him to. Fuming at our situation, with impatience, I started to drag the lake up, putting all my strength into powerful if not energy wasting strokes. You know the kind, I'm talking about. The "I'm pissed off" paddle strokes. Then another problem developed, a few waves splashed over the gunnels. Normally this wouldn't be a problem and wasn't for me or Bill, however Steve reacted differently. He started to panic. Grabbing the thwart that was behind him, he started to lift his body from the bottom of the canoe. Now I started to panic. "What are you doing Steve?". "The water, getting soaked". he said. "Sit down, or we'll all be soaked, at the bottom of the lake". Steve sat down, problem solved. Nope, a few minutes later more waves crashed into the canoe. Steve started to lift himself up again. I patiently explained to Steve that he was altering the centre of gravity, and as a result, we could upset the canoe. I asked him what his problem was, it was just water. "I'm afraid of boats", Steve says. Oh man...not exactly the best time to tell me. If I had known this in the first place, I would've parked ourselves at the first site, right across from the outfitters. Well great, I thought, A crippled bowman, a panicky 3rd person, and an ineffective leader. I wasn't about to give up yet. We're pulling in. Stop for a smoke.

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A sunset on Opeongo, looking towards the mouth of the North Arm

Bill was pissed, Steve didn't seem to care, a bad sign, and well, I had to regain my patience, and plan what to do next. I thought a rest might do us all some good. I tired to talk Bill into switching places, but he wasn't interested, nor would he cooperate in switching sides. He was obviously tired of this trip and didn't care how he got home, as long as he just did, and he was going to do it his way. Well, I can never stay mad for long at my friends, and soon, threw some humor their way to try and lighten the mood. Then I did the old civilization and greasy food and beer trick. It worked, Bill paddled more strongly, as if he was paddling straight to a brewery, on a hot summer day. The wind seemed to have pity on us as we passed Bates Island, finally we came upon the lone island, at the last bend in our journey, the outfitters was in sight! We were paddling a good rhythm now, waves were more agreeable here, and Steve was more relaxed, if not a bit wet. Just as we were about 5 minutes, from the docks, a boat zoomed out of the wake area from the Docks, and gave us a nasty set of waves to deal with. Too busy trying to keep us steady to shake my fist, we kept going.

At last we made it. We unloaded, and Bill & Steve shook hands, vowing never to return to Algonquin.
I have since gone on another trip with Bill, however Steve has not, and most likely never will, his fear of boats, keeping him on solid ground.

Overall it was a great trip I think. Hey, no one got hurt or worse, and it was only on the last day that we ran into problems. The deal about Steve's fear, kinda annoyed me, not because of it, but because it was not mentioned to me. I really didn't think we had traveled to far, and did want hem to experience some of the park, without having motorboats zooming by all the time. The bugs were bad at times, but felt our choice was considerably better than a few other sites I had turned down. As we were loading up the car, Steve complained that his cell phone was soaked and didn't work. I had told him before the trip, not to bring it, as it would not work in the Park(at that time). So the lunkhead brings one, and it gets ruined. Not my fault. What was my fault though, was piling such 3 large guys into a canoe. Stupid. Never again!

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Bill & Steve - The handshake: A vow to never return


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