Our Return to Algonquin Park

Through my 'tween' and 'teen' years my brother and I participated in a number of canoe trips with our father and several other families, most often into Algonquin Park. Joshua and I have many fond memories of those trips, and we speak often about them when our family gathers. As my own son passed ten years old talk of starting new trips began in earnest. We have real interest to visit places that helped form those memories. We wanted to visit new places as well, adding to those experiences and memories, and introduce my son to canoe-tripping.

The 'old' trips were typically a week long event where we would travel to a base-camp using a day or two of travel and enjoy that spot for the remainder of the week, relaxing, swimming, fishing, and exploring the immediate area. Our discussions focussed on a more restless approach, finding 'loop' routes that would enable us to see more by moving every day (or as near to it as we could muster). We decided to try the approach out by planning a two night trip out of access point #3 to see how these ideas might play out in reality, how my son James would take to canoe tripping, and how sleeping on the ground might agree with my older body...

Our plan had us staying on the lone campsite on Little Misty the first night, and Ralph Bice the second. We would start at the Magnetewan access point, travel south into Daisy Lake, then east down the Petawawa into Little Misty. The second day we would head north into Queer Lake, then back west into Little Trout, and Ralph Bice. On our last day we would head out, back to the Magnetewan access point.

Day 1: Where I am Reminded That I Sit at a Desk for a Living...

The morning started sunny and bright. We picked up our rented canoe from "Canoe Algonquin" early in the morning, having stayed at a nearby cabin in the woods that we have access to. The drive into the Magnetwan access point felt like it took an eternity. When we arrived the parking lot was quite full, but the area was quiet. We dropped off our gear near the dock and shoe-horned the car into a remaining space. We spent a little more time preparing the canoe with paddle tie-downs and did some last minute gear organization and figuring how everything would fit in the canoe with us. We hadn't camped in years, so our gear was a mish-mash of things we had laying around that we would make due with, a fair amount of it tied to the outside of our old packs which made the packs somewhat difficult to handle.

Magnetewan Access Point Dock

Almost ready to head out!

The first two portages were a cinch. Well warn wide paths that were quite level helped ease me into things. The portage into Daisy Lake reminded me, though, that portaging was physical work, and I had to watch where I was stepping on the uneven ground. I had to set the canoe down once over the rather short portage wondering what I had gotten myself into, which was a bit concerning. James and Joshua crossed it like champions.

Paddling into Daisy we saw a huge turtle swim under the canoe, our first wildlife sighting! We stopped at a campsite to filter some water and inspect a huge sawblade. Joshua and I had stayed on this lake on our previous trips, and seemed to remember that this sawblade (or perhaps another) was on another site, closer to the Petawawa River.

Entering Daisy Lake

About to enter Daisy Lake

Grassy Stump

Daisy Lake getting 'Hairy'

Petawawa River Portage

We took our time exploring Daisy Lake, pointing out some spots Joshua and I had visited on previous trips to James. We eventually entered the Petawawa, stopping to play around a bit in some waterfalls after one of the portages. Our bright day was beginning to cloud over, so we decided to try to move a bit quicker onto Little Misty, where we were scheduled to make camp for the night.

Petawawa River Portage

Portage Completed

Petawawa Paddling

Paddling down the Petawawa

Petawawa Beaver Dam

I seem to remember this beaver dam was here 25 years ago...

We experienced a few spots of rain for an hour or so. As we arrived on the Little Misty campsite it began to rain in earnest. The campsite itself felt desolate and very exposed to the wind and rain. We set up a tarp to make lunch under, and think about what we might want to do. We were not keen on the idea of staying at the Little Misty site. We cooked up a hot lunch in the rain trying to figure out how to protect ourselves from the wind, and eventually decided we should push on.

It was still quite early in the day, and a single portage separated us from Queer Lake. The lake had a number of sites, and the night before we left the booking website showed no one had a reservation to stay on the lake. Betting that there wasn't a mad rush over the past day we cleaned up lunch, took down our tarp, and headed over to the Queer Lake portage to start what would be the longest carry-over we had ever attempted. We changed our shoes (we were wearing sandals for the shorter portages) tightened our loads, and headed off down the path.

The portage, thankfully, proved to be an easy carry. The path was wide, smooth, and level. We rested once somewhere along the way when the rain became heavy, standing under the canoe propped up in the crotch of a tree for shelter. It soon let up and the rain stayed away for the rest of the day. We reached Queer Lake with overcast skies, and calm conditions. We visited a couple of campsites before settling for one along the east shore, about halfway 'up' the lake.

We made camp, changed into dry clothes and made a fire, readying to settle in for the night. We enjoyed an over-the-fire cooked dinner, which went over well. Our bellies full, we sat out on a rock overlooking the lake and watched the light fade.

Queer Lake Shores

We found Queer Lake!

Queer Lake Shores

Queer Lake sunset

Queer Lake Paddling

Paddling Queer Lake

Queer Lake Sunset

Day 2: Wind and Rain

The morning woke us with strong winds, though thankfully temperatures were quite warm. As we were stirring it began to rain, so we quickly put a tarp over the tent to try to keep it somewhat dry for the day's portages and began preparing breakfast. We slowly cleaned up and packed up under the shelter of the tarp, and readied ourselves to head out to our next destination.
On our way to seeking the portage out of Queer Lake and into Little Trout we spotted a Cow Moose and two little ones being 'followed/harassed' by a 'bull'. We watched for some time before they disappeared into the woods. The two portages into Ralph Bice proved quite easy, and we entered what appeared to be calm waters on the lake.

Algonquin Park Moose

By the time we 'turned the corner' to enter the main section of the lake we realized it was nothing of the sort. We were almost overwhelmed by the large waves and wind. Progress was very difficult. We managed to make it to one of the first sites on the lake just as it started to rain once again, this time quite heavily.

We used the canoe and tarp to set up a lean-to to seek shelter, which proved cozy for a short while before bordem set in. Since it was still quite warm we decided to go for a swim to kill some time, and wait for the weather to give us a hint on what to do. The rain continued into the afternoon. The site we were on looked lightly used, and had some redeaming qualities, but several large tree branches came down with a crash where we were thinking about setting up the tent, which we took as a sign to move on.

The rain eventually subsided, so we packed up an pushed on. We had a very difficult time making any progress. No matter which way we faced the waves they crashed in over whatever side of the canoe was facing the wind. In hindsight, we probably should have stayed at the first campsite. However, we managed to scoot over to an island that sheltered us from the waves, and emptied the canoe of built up water. We eventually reached an island site that was far from ideal, but we were as far as we could go facing the wind and waves.

We set up the tarp as a wind-break for the old tent, the tent stood no chance against the wind by itself. We gathered what little wood we could to have a small fire, cooked our dinner, and headed for bed. James was concerned what would happen if the wind persisted. Joshua and I used the opportunity to talk about contingency plans, and why we had carried that bit of extra food with us 'all this way'. Over the cracking of the tarp in the wind we fell asleep.

Ralph Bice Lake

Our sheltered outlook while being windbound

Ralph Bice Lake

Day 3: Heading Home

Sometime during the night the wind blew itself out. We awoke to the warmth of the sun on the tent, and stillness. We slowly emerged from the tent and warmed ourselves in the sun. I set up the hammock for the first time all trip, and James swung in it. We went for a swim, had breakfast, and began to clean and pack up not wanting to wait too long in case the wind decided to return.

Just a couple of short portages and we were at the access point, loading up our car and getting ready to drive out. The weather didn't exactly co-operate for James first introduction to canoe tripping, but he reluctantly agreed to try it again one more time 'next year', which I was pleased with.

Sunny Ralph Bice

Sun for our last morning