October 19 - Day 1
Soaked to the skin

This was a quick two night stay on Owl Lake through access#7 Source Lake, during a wet and warm late October weekend. For the trip, I had partnered up with a co-worker of mine "Andrew". We drove up to the permit office and picked up a permit, then driving to the parking lot at Source Lake. As we began to unload the vehicle, my friend "Mike B" pulled up.

Mike was to be joined by another friend of ours, "Stainless". The weekend trip was organized by Stainless, as a sort of weekend gathering by members of the online Algonquin Adventures forum. Many canoeists find the use of the forum a great resource as well as an opportunity to gather 'virtually' to plan actual trips. It certainly saves a lot on gas and time spent travelling to and fro for club meetings (like back in the old days), when the telephone just wouldn't do.

Stainless hadn't arrived yet, so Andrew and I decided to go on ahead and scout for & set-up camp. Our destination was Owl Lake. It was 9:45am and we launched under a dark and stormy looking sky. The temperature felt fairly warm for late October. I had been warned by my friend "Barry" (Operator of Algonquin Adventures)
of the winds that can kick up from time to time on Source Lake.

Source Lake launch
Access#7 - Source Lake: Mike’s canoe on the dock, nearly ready to go

Paddling across the lake along the East shore, one gets the full brunt of the winds coming across the lake from the West. This didn't seem to be the case at all, as the lake was near calm..Until the last 5 minutes. Within sight of the portage to Bruce Lake(540m), the wind suddenly roared to life, big rolling waves nearly 2 feet in height swelled around us. I steered us accordingly with respects to the waves and made landfall a few minutes later. It had been tense out there for a few minutes, Barry wasn't kidding!

There is not much I remember about the first trail of the day. The short carry into Bruce Lake does not stand out in my mind, so I figure there was no elevation change to speak of. Crossing Bruce Lake was a short uneventful paddle. Next came the 920m carry into Raven Lake. What I do remember about this trail was that about halfway through the portage it started to rain.

A few minutes later there seemed to be a bit of a descent and then a somewhat steep climb for a few minutes. This was made all the more difficult as we were single carrying. I had a canoe and pack, dealing with wet slippery leaves covering a rock studded trail. Andrew was carrying a pack and a chair that we would share. At the top of the hill, I caught up to Andrew who excitedly exclaimed he had seen a moose in the forest ahead. It was a bull moose that was standing under a tree and had heard Andrew's approach. Before Andrew could dig out his camera though, the moose had moved off. Me, with the rain, heavy pack and canoe, I never saw the moose.

By the time we reached Raven Lake the rain had stopped. We loaded up the canoe and set off onto a calm lake. Not five minutes into our paddle the heavens opened up and it just poured rain. We continued to paddle up Raven Lake amid the downpour and as a consequence didn't see either campsite very well. I do remember thinking that I would like to return to the lake someday, as it looked like a nice small lake to camp and paddle on.

Source Lake parking lot
The deserted parking lot at Source Lake access point

Next came the 400m carryover into Owl. The rain had subsided and the short walk was pleasant through the open forest. A sign at the Owl Lake end of the portage proclaimed re-routing of the trail had recently taken place. As a consequence, we had apparently been spared a walk through much mud and the trail now being very level to cross. Thank You APP staff!

We launched onto Owl Lake and almost immediately it started to pour rain again. We paddled over to the North shore. We ignored the South shore site, with it being late October we wanted to be sheltered from the North wind. It was around 1:00 pm when we arrived at the first campsite along the North shore.

Algonquin Park portage singage
The recently maintained portage to Owl Lake

We got out and looked around. The campsite wasn't spectacular by any means, but it was large enough to support a few tents and hammocks. The rain had stopped for the moment and we spied the nearby campsite and thought better of it. Neither of us wanted to waste precious time searching more campsites, it would be dark in about 4 hours or so, plus we were soaking wet, soaked to the skin actually.

Andrew and I unloaded the canoe and I went about the process of setting up our tent. I set my tent up underneath a bare yellow birch tree. It had quite a large trunk and provided enough shelter from some of the rain. Not soon after we were in the process of establishing camp, Stainless and Mike B showed up. Then Dave Harman showed up in his beautiful solo cedar stripper canoe.

Owl Lake rainbow
Late in the afternoon, a partial rainbow over Owl Lake shone through

With several of us in camp, we began the process of cutting and gathering firewood. It was a wet affair. However, we managed to accumulate a large stack to keep us warm and dry through-out the weekend. We also managed to string up a few tarps and while trying to get a fire going Dave showed me how to speed things up a bit. Pulling out a knife, Dave peeled off several layers of dry wood shavings from a wet log. Awesome! In no time we had a fire crackling to life. Thanks Dave!

Next came "Tomek" , a fellow Algonquinite, who preferred to trip by kayak and in my opinion is an excellent photographer. Dave & Jeanine also arrived not too long after. We had a large group of eight people. As darkness crept in we made ourselves comfy around the fire-pit, the rain was done for the day and although it was damp out, the temperatures remained warm.

Before 8pm, "Racoon" showed up, paddling though the dark of an October night, our firelight guiding him to our campsite. It was quite the surprise to see Racoon appear out of the darkness and it was a welcome sight, as we seldom get a chance to see this elusive fella. I was one of the first to retire that night, heading into bed just before 10:00pm. I was very tired with almost no sleep the night before.

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