2016 Late Summer Trip
Last year (2015) my brother Joshua and I took my son James on his first canoe trip. James' canoe trip initiation was a three day, two night loop from the Magnetawan access point (3) through Little Misty via the Petawawa, up to Queer, and back out through Ralph Bice. That trip was also a re-introduction for myself as I hadn't been on a canoe trip for many (25ish?!) years and it definitely re-ignited my interest despite less than perfect weather. James wasn't completely sold, but said he would be OK participating in "only one trip per year".
Joshua and I interpreted that as an invitation to plan a more elaborate trip for 2016. This is a log of the resulting seven day, six night loop from the same access point number 3 while trying to visit areas that were new to all of us such the Tim River, McIntosh, Timberwolf, and Misty through to Rain Lake.
Day 1: Shah Lake
Magnetwan, Hambone, Acme Pond, Daisy, Petawawa, Little Misty, Misty, Pandion Pond, Shah Lake
My family has access to a cabin in the woods not too far from the Magnetawan access point, so we made use of that and drove up the night before. This allowed us to consolidate and organize our gear and food since Joshua and I live a few hours drive away from one another, and our gear is a mishmash of older bits and pieces collected over the years. Our rented canoe, the largest we've ever paddled at eighteen and a half feet long, was supplied by Algonquin Basecamp and was waiting for us at the access point with its roomy interior. With a seat for each of us and the promise of plenty of room for our gear, could we have rented the stretched limo of Algonquin? Memories of years ago with three of us in the 14' "green machine" made me rent it. The meandering nature of the Tim River made me fear it a little.
We took a bit of time in the morning with breakfast, clean up, and making a few more adjustments to our equipment. It had been raining all morning, so we weren't in a terrible hurry, especially considering the rain was supposed to let up. We launched the canoe into light showers, calm winds, and comfortable temperatures sometime around eleven.
We crossed paths with a few canoes early on, all moving the opposite direction out of the park as it was a Sunday. The short 420m portage from Acme Pond to Daisy Lake gave me some difficulty once again, reminding me there is some work involved in canoe tripping. Lunch was taken at the end of the 450m portage on the Petawawa sitting on the now sun-warmmed rocks. While pausing we watched another canoe pass through on their way to Big Misty with far more haste than we were exercising.
The early part of this trip was a repeat from last year up until Little Misty. Thus far, just about everything was in the same place since our last visit including the beaver dam after the 450m portage on the Petawawa. We stopped for an attempt to re-create last year's "James conquering the beaver dam" photo for James' bragging rights when returning to school the following week.
The wind was kind enough to blow us across Little Misty and Misty Lakes in the direction we required, and we began exploring new territory for Joshua and I beginning with the portage from Misty into Pandion Pond. Somewhere along the day's travels Josh's backpack was named "Moby", because it turned out to be a whale. James was also struggling, his troubles centred around finding a suitable adjustment on his pack as he hasn't yet grown hips! Even with their struggles I was beginning to lag behind with the canoe and a small pack. The backcountry booking website advised I had planned to cover too much distance the first day, but I figured we would be OK. I guess the desk job and a milestone birthday this year weren't sufficient training to keep up. However, with only a couple of portages left before our destination, we made Shah Lake with enough time to explore the lake a little while attempting to choose a site.
We ended up choosing Shah Lake's PCI site #2. Site number one looked better from a distance, but was taken and its occupants displayed their good fortune sitting in the water looking out over the lake watching us as we examined the remaining sites. Our chosen site featured a fire pit near the water's edge complete with benches that allowed us to overlook the lake. The tent pad was up a hill at the back of the site a bit, which was also quite nice once you made the climb. Dusk came calmly, and as it was late summer no bugs bothered us as we sat by the shore eating our only fresh meal planned for the week while watching the sun go down. We turned in early, planning to strategically consume weight out of Josh's pack, and hope for a clear day for our paddle on the Tim River.
James carrying over to Daisy Lake
Moby the whale. Requires canoe for scale.
Campsite on Shah
Water-side fire pit on Shah
Day 2: Our First Foray on the Tim River
Tim River, Shippagew
I didn't record time in my notes, but recall that it "felt" early when we awoke looking forward to our first attempt at the Tim River. First up was a 1125m portage to the river which was quite flat, if a bit overgrown. The split-log boardwalk was rotten in parts, which made for interesting progress through the "boggy-ness" in a couple of sections.
When the Tim River was attained all was quiet. The put-in at the end of the portage meets the river at a sandy bend that showed no evidence that anyone had been present for some time. There was little wind, and during our carry the morning sun had burned off the clouds to reveal a bright, clear, sunny day, with very comfortable temperatures, and low humidity. The river and its surroundings were tranquil and very picturesque. With its meandering, changing scenery there was always something to look at, and that line of trees in the distance gets ever closer with every paddle stroke, only to find the river slips through them, and off you must paddle to the next line of trees in the distance. There was lots of sign of moose near the waters edge, but none were seen.
We managed to rig things up so that James could filter water as we moved down the river to keep hydrated, and lots of snacks were consumed along the way, the "heaviest" going first. The portages along this secton appear to have far lower traffic on them. Either there aren't as many people that come this way, or they successfully bypass the portages on the river. We all found the paddle to be very enjoyable, and were glad to have made it part of this year's trip.
Nonetheless, we cheered when Shippagew came into view. Camp was made quickly for an afternoon of swimming, relaxing, and recharging on PCI site number two. There was a stack of firewood left behind, but it was still quite green. Perhaps it was left because the previous occupants had trouble burning it? In any case, we cut up plenty of deadfall available around the site to fill our needs, and likely the site's next occupants. We were treated to a fabulous sunset, and the star-gazing was out of this world. The new moon, dark skies, and still night allowed an almost perfect reflection of the stars onto the water making it difficult to find the horizon through the sparkle of stars everywhere!
Moving on to the Tim River
Our first view of the Tim River
First paddle strokes on the Tim River
Tim River Ruins
A Different Perspective
The 'dock' on Shippagew
Sunset on Shippagew
Sunset on Shippagew
Day 3: Taking it Easy to Big Trout Lake
Longer, Big Trout
Knowing our third day of travels would be much shorter than the previous two we moved slowly this morning, reorganizing, planning, and lazing around in the morning sun. We decided to take the single 1465m portage into Longer Lake, rather than going through Blue Lake and Spatterdock Pond. We found that portage's entrance a bit difficult to navigate with numerous large, round boulders, but we managed to get unloaded with some careful movements. The trail itself liked to take us up, and down, here, and there until the end. A few of the turns on the trail were a bit tight, requiring a little negotiating with the extra long canoe, which marked the first time its length caused difficulty. The map indicates the portage runs along some rapids, but I didn't hear too much moving and we didn't bother to vear off the trail.
Just as we reached the end of the trail we were hit with about five minutes of torrential downpour. We managed to get the tarp out and hold it above us and the packs while we contemplated what to do next. That question was answered for us when the rain abruptly stopped just as quickly as it started and we continued on our way.
We didn't explore much of Longer Lake except for some small rapids just up the shore from the portage into Big Trout. The 300m carry into Big Trout was a cinch, and the put in was level and sandy, which we used to celebrate for reaching this milestone. Josh and I were excited to reach this point, as this lake was the furthest we had ever made it into Algonquin park during our trips with our father. During that trip, our visit here was brief before we needed to head back home. This time we would have some time to explore.
Explore we did around many of the islands, and checking out campsites including the one we had stayed on previously. That site seems to have been a popular one over the years as it looked far more worn than I remember it. We eventually settled on a site near where we entered the lake on "Birch Point", PCI site number 31. It rained off and on for the remainder of the day. Day three tought us that my old tent is no longer waterproof, and that tarp came in handy yet again. Recommendations for a tent that would fit the three of us for next year are welcome! (Four person? We enjoy the extra space!)
Early morning on Shippagew
The 'limo' parked on Birch Point, Big Trout Lake
Joshua headed out for some drinking water
James watching the scenery
A friend stopping by to tell us the weather will be better tomorrow
Day 4: Marsh Paddling
White Trout, Grassy Bay, McIntosh Marsh, McIntosh Creek, McIntosh
Day four represented a change in direction to take us back to the start, albeit using a different route than the one we used to get here. The rain clouds had moved on that night to give us another nice day for paddling, and the wind had shifted to push us in the right direction again, a rare occurance if memories of past trips serve me well. We had our earliest start to the day so far, pushing off a little before nine o'clock.
We paddled through the narrows and took a look at the McLaughlin Depot, a clearing that looks far more overgrown than the last time I saw it. There was quick stop at the island site near the ranger cabin to see what Joshua and I could remember from our visit there years ago on our way to Big Trout. This site also looks much more worn than I remember, though we hadn't seen much of anyone since our first day on the Petawawa. Perhaps a bit of nostalgia was colouring our memories. We took yet another stop at the ranger cabin to see if we could find the spring marked on "Jeff's Map". We found it easily, but then became unsure whether it was OK to use the water as is, or if it should be treated in some way. How safe are these springs marked on the map? Do people filter it? Boil it? Treat it in any other way? I'd like to find out before our next trip!
The paddle through Grassy Bay and McIntosh Marsh was a great experience, one of my favourites of this trip. Day four brought us a big sky, and slight winds to help us paddle our way through the area taking it all in. Navigation became a little difficult nearer the portage into McIntosh Creek.
Near the portage into McIntosh Creek the waterway splits at a grand old tree with a yellow diamond sign on it that points what we thought was left. If you interpret this sign as we did (take the left fork), the waterway ends at what appeared to us to be an obvious take out with one exception - there was no portage sign!
We had a similar experience on the Tim River, where the same type of diamond sign directed us to a portage sign well up the trail, so we figured we were on the right path. I scouted out the trail which appeared to be obvious, but in very poor condition, and no portage sign could be found further up the trail. We stood at the take out in the mud contemplating our next move when the first people we had seen in days came down the right fork in the opposite direction of our travels. I think we all knew immediately where they had come from but we asked anyways, and their response confirmed we would have made a rather large mistake if we had tried that path. Thank you strangers of the backcountry in your red canoe! Back in our canoe, up the right fork, and over a few blockages landed us on the take out for the portage to McIntosh Creek. We sat in the sun resting for a moment, and basked in our good fortune.
The 745m portage into McIntosh Creek has to be the nicest portage I've ever carried, with elaborately crafted bridges allowing the trail to criss-cross over the creek to the destination. A few more tight turns on the portage trail, but I was getting fairly adept at threading the 18.5' needle through portages. The creek to the next portage featured a number of beaver dam lifts that formed an almost "lock-like" system that made the waterway passable up to the last portage of the day. We selected PCI site number 22, on the west side of the lake, near the portage for some early gains the next morning. We enjoyed some afternoon sun on the lightly sloping rocky shore while we used the now windy conditions to dry out what had become wet the night before. The wind persistent all night and into the morning, which made the protected tent area of the site very handy. The marsh behind the site might make earlier summer visits buggy.
More Grassy Bay
Algonquin Basecamp equipment glamour shot?
A bridge over water
On to McIntosh Lake
Hats, resting on McIntosh Lake
Day 5: Lake Hopping
Timberwolf, Misty, Muslim, Wenona, Bandit, Moccasin, Juan, Jubilee
Day five was a whirlwind tour of a number of lakes. Perhaps we were becoming conditioned by the backcountry scenery, and beautiful was becoming "normal", because we noted very little on the day's travels. There was a fresh blowdown on the portage from Timberwolf to Misty which was easy enough to navigate. We stopped for a quick, quiet, and easy lunch on the lone Wenona Lake campsite.
Along the way there were a couple of instances where we could almost read the next portage sign from the put-in of the previous carry-over. At the end of the portage that landed us on Juan we met a canoe of three with all new, very expensive looking equipment heading to Misty Lake for the night.
We ended the day at PCI site number two on Jubilee Lake. A quick survey once we had settled made us believe we had the best of the lake, which was still poor compared to any of the locations we had stayed on thus far. I believe that means we had been spoiled! This site also had a stack of green logs that appeared as though someone had unsuccessfully tried to burn them.
This was our first trip through this area of the park, and we all agreed we preferred the Petawawa route to Misty Lake over this one.
A short walk with a canoe
One portage finished. Oh look, another one.
Disorganized campsite on Jubilee
Day 6: Nearing the End
Sawyers, Rain, Casey's
We hastily packed up to get to our next and last stay on Casey's Lake and into still more new territory. The three of us all thought Sawyer's Lake looked nicer than any along the Misty to Rain Lake stretch so far, and may be an option to bring "Mom" into the park for her first interior trip if she is agreeable. As we carried into Rain Lake the weather began to clear, and warm again. The light breeze on Rain Lake marked the first time we had to paddle against it all trip!
The 1330m carry from Rain Lake into Casey's was wide, level, and well groomed. Our lighter packs were also giving us (or at least me!) the perception of ease that wasn't available at the beginning of the trip. We knew the lake was fully booked, so we were eager to get onto the lake quickly hoping to have a choice of site for our last night. However, two of the sites were already occupied when we arrived and appeared to have been occupied for some time, leaving us on PCI site number two.
This site featured a steep rocky slope that served as seating around the firepit, and a single level tentpad at the back. While the site seemed to be "second best" at first, the afternoon sun warmed the rocky slope which made our last afternoon very relaxing with time spent in the water, laying on the rock, and short naps in the hammock. We took a short paddle near dusk to examine what was happening around the lake, then returned to the site to lay out on the still-warm rocky slope for our last night of stargazing.
Joshua contemplating the morning
A calm Jubilee Lake
Arrival at the last campsite available on Casey's Lake
Day 7: Going Home
Daisy, Acme Pond, Hambone, Magnetwan
We packed up quickly and efficiently on or last morning, eager to join our family on the dock staying at a learby lakeside cottage, have a hot shower, and rest up for the drive home on Sunday. The morning was cool, sunny, and very, very still. It did not appear as though anyone had stirred on the other two campsites on Casey's as we found our way out. The 1235m portage into Daisy Lake was flat, well maintained, and seemed to go very quickly. Dasiy was also earily quiet, and very still despite the number of canoes that could be spotted along the shore around the lake. It seems the September long weekend is a popular one, and the morning was going to be a fantastic one for those that had made, or were making their way in.
There was another fresh blowdown across the portage from Daisy to Acme Pond that was more difficult to navigate than any encountered previously. The last two portages were jammed with traffic. There were crowds of people requiring queues to be able to get in and out. I suspect many of them weren't heading far judging by the amount of gear with them. I wonder how one hangs large coolers or otherwise protects their contents from the wildlife?
We managed to get a few minutes of dock time at the access point where we quickly unloaded, locked the canoe back in place, and loaded up the car. The "Souris River Quetico 18.5" proved to be a good decision. It was easy to load and unload with plenty of room for the three of us, and seemed much easier to manage than I was expecting on both rivers and more open water. At least some of that success is surely attributed to Josh, who is a beast of a paddler! The only difficulty I encountered were some tight turns on a few of the portage trails that required a bit of negotiating. We will definitely have to try booking one again for next year's trip, for which planning has already begun! The drive out was somewhat eventful, the incoming traffic that seemed a little too eager to get to the access point.
All in all, it was a great trip. My son enjoyed the 2015 trip, but told me he'd rather it be limited to "once a year". He seemed trepidatious over the first couple of days while we were having troubles with his pack, but by day five was asking when we could go again. I think Joshua and I have sold him on canoe-tripping, which suits us fine, as we're eager for more!
Early morning rays
Heading out of Casey's Lake
Our re-introduction to Dasiy Lake
A calm Daisy Lake