August 18 - Day 1
The trek to Polly Lake

My girlfriend Joan and I headed up to Algonquin Park for a four night stay. Work was very slow and by 12:30pm I was given permission to leave. Having prepared for the possibility that we might leave a day early, I raced home and helped Joan complete our packing. Four nights was better than three as far as we were concerned. We had booked Linda Lake for three nights and I hoped we could get there in time for a four night stay. You can get to Linda Lake through Access#7 Source Lake, however with time against us, we decided to launch from Canisbay Lake, bypassing the campground, and launching from a separate beach set-aside for interior paddlers.

We arrived at the Canoe Lake permit office around 3:30pm and noting the lateness of the day, I asked if Polly Lake was empty? It was! No one was scheduled to camp on Polly Lake and I quickly went over my plan with Joan; citing the lateness of the day and not wanting to arrive at Linda Lake at dusk and possibly stumbling around in the dark, I felt Polly Lake was the safe option. We could reach Linda Lake the next day and still get our three nights there. Joan agreed to the plan and we secured our permit and drove to the put-in on Canisbay Lake.

By 4:40pm we launched onto a calm and sunny Canisbay Lake, several canoes were out and about on the lake as we paddled North along the West shoreline. As we came onto the expanse of the lake, a south wind pushed us along helping to speed up our crossing. Half an hour after our departure we arrived at the bay were the portage was located.

I wasted fifteen minutes trying to locate the landing. As far as I was concerned, it should've been right where I had thought it to be and wasn't. My efforts were hampered by the fact that we had the sun blinding us as we looked along the Western shoreline. Finally, Joan suggested we travel further up the bay and there it was. Nice one Joan!

canisbay lake
Gorgeous afternoon: Ready to launch onto Canisbay Lake

According to the map though it should've been where I was searching, in reality it was much further north. Dare I say which map I was going by? Ha Ha.

5:45pm and we were loaded up and I set off with Joan in the lead; single-carry. Oh what a load! I was carrying perhaps a 45lbs pack plus a 65lbs canoe. 110lbs of crushing weight pushing onto my shoulders. I don't single carry often, as I typically tire easily with excessive weight and a bad back doesn’t make it any easier, but I was determined to make the carry in a single pass, the sun was well into its descent and I wanted us to get to Polly Lake sooner rather than later. With us traversing a 2600m trail, I didn't like the idea of having to go back and get a second load then carry over it again.

I started up the trail and was immediately set upon by gravelly mud, mixed with stones and rocks, this was further mixed with occasional grasses. The trail itself wasn't too bad, it was the ascent; I was slowly climbing in elevation. That coupled with a bad back, was making my ascent a painful one, soon the trail started to climb some more, my misery was heightened by the fact that the trail was becoming more rough, roots and more mud and rocks plagued my feet as I sought to work my way around the obstacle course. About 15 minutes of this hell I reached a large boardwalk. It was the Minnesing Bike trail. It crossed a creek where the portage joined the bike trail. I turned onto the new trail and relief flooded my body. The trail was smooth and wide and it ascended at a much more shallow rate.

Ten minutes more and I could no longer stand the pain in my shoulders. I lowered the canoe, then removed my camera bag and the canoe pack. Whew! What a load off my back! We rested perhaps five minutes but no more. It was 6:15pm. The rapidly sinking sun played beautifully through the forest canopy. The forest itself was still, no wind and no bugs! There wasn't a single mosquito that had buzzed around me or bit me while I sweated my way up the trail. Nice!

The smooth and easy to navigate 2600m portage to Polly Lake

After a re-fuel of water and some gorp(Good old raisins and peanuts), we loaded up again and continued along the smooth trail. I might have really hated the crushing weight I was carrying but the portage really was a blessing. It made the going very quick and 25 minutes later I got to that point again where I couldn't stand the pain anymore and had to put the canoe down. As I did so, Joan exclaimed excitedly she had heard the sound of an Algonquin Wolf calling. I looked ahead to a fork in the trail and beyond was a bridge. Joan let out her own howl and almost immediately she was rewarded with a howl and several yips from pups. It was 6:37pm.

The wolves were very close and Joan howled once more but received no reply, it was over. Back to work I figured. I prepared to haul my canoe onto my shoulders when Joan said the lake was just mere meters ahead! Oh man, what an unexpected surprise and treat. Indeed, I had put the canoe down within 15 meters of the landing, which was in the water as the trailhead descended steeply into the lake. Joan helped me carry the canoe and together we lowered the canoe into the smooth rock water covered landing. Working together we loaded up the canoe and set off onto a calm Polly Lake. It was 6:50pm.

Mere meters from the landing at Polly Lake - This is where we heard wolves calling!

We paddled up the lower half of Polly Lake passing by the first campsite from a distance. It was vacant and bushy looking. We decided to push on and take the next and only remaining site on the lake. We passed through a narrows in the lake where it opened up into the second and larger half of the lake. As we emerged, a loon greeted us as it swam past, letting out a 'tremolo' call. A minute later we arrived at the beautiful campsite that sat upon a rocky point. This was definitely the better of the two sites on the lake. It was 7:00pm.

Polly Lake campsite
Arrival at our campsite for the night on Polly Lake

We busied ourselves setting up camp and by 7:45pm, we were sitting by a small fire eating a hot dish of Indian curry cheese with rice. The night was calm, no bugs, no people, and a loon. However, we could hear the distant sound of truck traffic along highway#60! I was very annoyed with this, yet as evening fell traffic along the highway diminished.

At one point while sitting on smooth rock by the shore that I sensed or rather felt a low frequency vibration. Sort of like the distant rumble of thunder that you can sometimes feel in the ground around you. I suspect that what I felt was actually a minor earthquake but could find no data online afterwards to support this theory. It is the first time in all my years in Algonquin that I thought I felt an earthquake, however minor it was.

Polly Lake
The view up Polly Lake from our campsite fire-pit

We sat on the rock by the water some more after dinner and enjoyed watching the stars for a short time before turning into bed. The campsite was kind of small but it had a real cozy feeling to it and that night we had a peaceful and well rested sleep on Polly Lake.

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