September 23 - Day 1
Making camp - then getting lost!

A friend of mine, "Bo Knows" of the Algonquin Adventures forum wanted to have a sort of 'end of season' get together. Bo's choice was Crotch Lake via access#17. Before I get into the trip-log I feel it might be important to clear up a mis-conception with regard to access point#17 Shall Lake.

The permit office is actually located next to the Opeongo River as it enters Crotch Lake from Farm Lake. Years ago, the permit office and launch were in fact on Shall Lake and then it was moved to its present location. So now, there is actually two launch points at the access point; One on Farm Lake and one on Crotch Lake, next to the permit office. The outdated name of "Shall Lake" remains when mentioning access point#17. I don't know why this is so.

We arrived at 8:10am, with a pickup truck hot on our tail as we turned into the parking spot at the launching point onto Crotch Lake next to the permit office. It was in fact the guy running the permit office, he was a few minutes late and he hurried to open up before we came looking for our permit. It wasn't us that was in a hurry though. Two guys who were launching from the Farm Lake side hurried in, practically at a run to get their permit. While this was going on, Joan & I unpacked our vehicle and loaded up the canoe.

By 8:45am we had secured our permit and launched onto Crotch Lake, we could see much further down the lake the two guys that were in a hurry, hurrying down the lake. We paddled across the water first paddling unto as lone campsite further up the shoreline. It was nice, sitting high above the water on an eroding sandy bank, but it was too far from the rest of the campsites.

Master Bo had wanted us to be all grouped together, grabbing three sites so that we could mingle amongst our group. As much a twenty people
were expected so we had to cover three campsites. Next we paddled past a group of five campsites, the last one being occupied by the two guys. Too bad. It looked to be the nicest site…with access to the narrows between Crotch and Shall Lakes.

public launch at crotch lake

With mostly overcast conditions we prepared to launch onto a calm Crotch Lake

We also spied a lone campsite with a long beach on the other side of the lake and paddled over to investigate. It was nice but we could hear everything the two guys said and did on their site. It was going to be a loud weekend. We felt that camping away from everyone was being antisocial anyway, so we headed back and grabbed the first site, furthest from the two guys camped next to the narrows. Much quieter on this side of the lake!

By 11:00am "Stainless" arrived and with his own permit grabbed the campsite next to us. Now we had two campsites. We set-up our fire-pit with several tarps overhead as it was expected to be a rainy weekend. Next, I went off into the bush to look for firewood, bringing my collapsable saw with me. There was quite a bit of thick bush and trees to bushwhack through to get to a suitable area to cut up fallen trees. After about an hour of cutting trees, moving around and cutting more trees, I decided it was time to head back to camp starting with the furthest load.

stainless arrives
Stainless paddles the calm waters of Crotch Lake as he arrives just after 11:00am

After walking around for a few minutes, the logs I were carrying grew heavy and I had to stop. It was at this point that I had no idea where I was. I turned around and around. I was throughly confused! The sky was overcast, I could not tell where the sun was, the landscape was fairly flat and I strained to hear for I had left Stainless and Joan talking back at camp. I heard nothing. I began to worry. I was lost. I couldn't believe it! Only minutes from camp and I was lost. This had never happened before, not like this.

I considered climbing a tree to get a look, but first decided to call out both Joan and Stainless, to see if they could here me. I yelled several times for many minutes and stood waiting, expecting an answer. There was none. Oh boy! I decided to pick a direction and head off, hoping that I was heading back to the lake. After about 10 minutes I stumbled upon an old two litre fuel can, then another and another, then I spied an old culvert; crushed, and rusting in the bush.

I looked around and noticed an old road and followed it for about 20 meters before I found myself at the back of the campsite where the two guys had camped. I had travelled parallel to the lake and headed towards Shall Lake, stumbling upon the last of 5 campsites. There was a back trail that skirted the last campsite and I followed it to the next campsite where there was a common trail joint all five sites together. Within minutes I was back at camp coming from the opposite direction whence I had departed.

I related my story to both Joan & Stainless. Joan had a great idea, next time I go wandering off into the bush, take my canoe whistle with me. Stainless agreed that the bush was indeed thick, though I think he was surprised to hear I had gotten 'lost'. I went back into the bush and retrieved my cut up wood..some of if it was some really good maple. Most was balsam though which burns rather poorly. Still after an hour of retrieving all my cut-up wood, I still had trouble finding one particular pile of wood and more then once had trouble locating paths back to camp. There was much fallen birch everywhere and it made the scene look the same everywhere I looked.

Shortly after 3:00pm "SmedleyCo" arrived paddling solo with a double blade. Scott (SmedleyCo's real name) had bought a permit attaching his to mine so he couldn't take an empty campsite and so camped with Stainless. I never paddled with a double blade and asked Scott of his experience using one. Much more efficient was what Scott was able to tell me, very quick his paddle had been. I will have to give it a try someday.

Once Scott got settled in, with the efforts of all four of us plus a huge tarp Scott had brought along, we managed to produce a well tarped kitchen and fire-pit area.

ā€¯SmedleyCo" arrives shortly after 3:00pm escaping the oncoming rain

It rained a few times in the afternoon and by early evening we were huddled comfortably under our tarps enjoying a warm fire and cool drinks as the rain fell. It was great to be outdoors again! This was living! Around 6:30pm the rain became a downpour and in the dim light of twilight we could see a lone canoe paddling towards us in the pouring rain. Poor fella! As the solo canoeist approached our landing it stopped raining and within a few minutes Phil with his mascot "Kermit" arrived…all the way from Baltimore, Maryland!

Phil arrives
Stainless greets Phil and his mascot Kermit as they paddled through a downpour

Phil had arrived after the permit office had closed and so had to go back in the morning and get his own permit. With this in mind, we Set Phil up on the site next to Stainless, now having the third campsite occupied. The site next to that one was occupied by a large group who had arrived that afternoon as well. It began to rain again and as it intensified, Scott & I helped Phil get his tent up before etchings got to wet. Once this was done, I joined Joan for dinner as everyone else settled in around the fire. Joan had prepared a tasty pasta dish which went down very well.

A tasty dinner prepared by Joan: Rigatoni and sausage with parmesan cheese

I don't know what temperatures were that evening, but it was fairly mild with light winds. We were fairly protected under the tarps and the evening around the fire was a warm one.

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