Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Algonquin Park - Day 9

Proulx Lake to Lake Opeongo - 1.3km portage, 13km paddle.

Went to bed at 630pm after dinner was cleaned up. Slept fairly soundly. We were hoping to get to Lake Opeongo and get a ride out of the bushes if we could find cell phone coverage.

M and I had both heard that Opeongo could be nasty - South West winds cause choppy water and the waves can be pretty rough. On top of that, the water taxis and motor boats are all out in the water. Needless to say, I was nervous about the crossing so we left early in the morning to get as far as we could before the water got too rough.

The portage from Proulx Lake to Opeongo was surprisingly short - 45 minutes. The bugs were terrible, though. The repellent that we got touted 5 hour coverage. Really, though, it lasted 500m in the heat. All good, we survived. Came out on the other side. Water was calm. We both started paddling with vigor.

It took us the better part of the morning to paddle 12 of the 16 km that Opeongo stretches for. We stopped on a peninsula for coffee and M said, so casually, that we had reception. I, of course, didn't believe him, so I basically ignored his comment. This is because we had been checking for it every 30 minutes or so and his tone of voice suggested he was bored.

Naturally there was coverage. We called our ride - who was 400 km away at the Big Nickel. Were told to wait until the next day.

We took a nap for the afternoon - on the peninsula, in a wind tunnel. Had to wait until the wind died down to start a fire. It held our interest for all of 20 minutes, then we put it out and went to bed.

UPDATE: I lie. The picture above, I realized, is actually NOT of Lake Opeongo. It was a second image of the fire tower on Big Crow Lake. Apologies.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Algonquin Park - Day 8

Hogan Lake to Proulx Lake - 3.75km portage, 12-ish km paddle

Got up bright and early - before it was bright, even, because the sky was overcast and rain threatened. (Surprise ;)

We decided to break camp and head to Proulx Lake while the weather held.

Arrived at the portage entrance, tied some gear to our packs and headed out. I carried the pack, M carried the canoe and the lighter pack that held a sleeping bag and tarp.

3.75km took us around 2.5 hours on the way back - no doubling this time. We hit Big Crow Lake - the weather still held. Took a picture of the tower on the hill.

If you look REALLY close, you can see the tower in the middle.

Stopped at Little Crow Lake to apply sunscreen and then entered the marsh. Of course, the sun went to hide behind a storm cloud right after. It didn't rain but I was holding my breath the entire time we were in the marsh - there was no where for us to pull off if the sky opened up.

We met a family paddling towards Little Crow with 4 children under the age of 5. The littlest - about 6 months - was screaming. Mom did not look happy. Dad was stoked as he told us that he was heading to Hogan Lake. We mentioned that it was a tough haul. He wasn't at all concerned. We could hear baby screaming as we rounded some more corners.

I was thinking - and probably voiced my thoughts to M - that the screaming infant was probably scaring all the wildlife away. Not the case. We got some great footage of a great blue heron so focused on the marsh that it wanted nothing to do with us.

We came around the last bend and a great brown butt was pointing in our direction. "That's a moose!" I hissed. M grabbed the camera and starting recording. We slowly inched forward. The cow moose looked at us before going back to her grass. As we paddled around the final bend - still filming - we heard the next paddlers entering the marsh. They quieted down when we told them what was in store.

The rain held for the rest of our paddle. We arrived at a site on Proulx lake and set up the tent. I was still puzzled over what had caused our tent pole to snap, and then M pointed out the bag of tent poles that someone had left behind. We were so glad that we didn't do it!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Algonquin Park - Day 7

Hogan Lake

I woke up to the sound of something hitting our tarp and rolling down the side. When I mentioned this to M later, he said it was flying lessons with a safety net ;) Probably just M's favorite kind of chipmunk - a drunk ;)

The sun lazily made it's way to the west. Our site was on the eastern shore and there was too much forest for us to see the sun rise. That, and also, it had done nothing but rain, really...

I watched a daddy long legs spider take a short cut through the fire pit. I watched him clean his long legs off afterwards.

M has gotten plenty of video footage of the American Red Squirrel - which seems to enjoy following him around and posing for the camera. He has been trying to get footage of the chipmunk as well but that one seems content to stand in the trees and heckle him - running off as soon as he reaches for the camera.

Leave it to me to find a bone yard - in the camp site. Since the weather has been nice I spent some time looking around (at the ground), and stumbled across the spot where some poor bird had turned into a pile of bones. M took the following picture:

RIP bird

We also saw a dozen Common Mergansers noisily leave the bushes. They perched on a log by the shore line and later, when the thunder started, they moved slowly across the water.

Common Mergansers

Froggy in the lake in front of our site.

Hogan Lake before a thunder storm.

A bird demonstrated the circle of life for us in the afternoon. We listened to a fluff ball tweet for 8 hours. The sound got quieter and quieter. We went to look and the chick had fallen off the branch and was lying on the ground. We figured a snake or something would eat it. An hour later it was still there, but it had finally stopped breathing.

We watched storm clouds roll over the west side of the lake and sat to try and get pictures of the fork lightning. We saw some, but weren't quick enough to catch it on film. I had really hoped that M would see a real thunder and lightning storm over a lake while we were in Algonquin. 2 more days left of the trip so there is hope yet.

We head back to Proulx Lake tomorrow - a day early. Hopefully the weather holds.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Algonquin Park - Day 6

Hogan Lake

M got up first and started the fire to get coffee going. It was a beautiful sunny morning. We did some laundry in the lake, aired out the bedding and tent, collected firewood, and tried to feel human again.

It was still too windy and cold to swim. My hair by this time looks like a Medusa put her finger in the light socket. Was really hoping I could do something about it. Alas.. Weather refuses to accommodate my needs.

Another glorious sunset.

Common Loon on Hogan Lake
Another glorious sunset!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Algonquin Park - Day 5

Hogan Lake

Slept alright in that I don't recall waking up too often except for when the rain started - again.

Woke up to find the tent pole had snapped at the top moved the fly. We moved the fly and the pole went through it o.O (my fault for not being delicate...). Duct tape does marvellous things, though. We used two pieces of rope to pull the sides lacking pole out and get a crude tent shape again. Moved the blasted thing so it was completely under the tarp.

Poured rain the entire day but the gods of the park were nice enough to hold their fire long enough for us to watch the sun set. My back got the brunt of the cold winds that whipped through the site and spent the evening complaining.

Sunset over Hogan Lake

Slimey - Oscar the Grouch's inch worm pet ;)

Rainbow at sundown.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Algonquin Park - Day 4

Slept like a zombie would if they actually slept. Woke up once when the rain was hammering against the tent. Rolled over and fell back to sleep pretty quickly. I think I may have mumbled something in my sleep - something that was supposed to be a reply to M, even. But I was tired and I have no idea.

We took off at first light for a far more superior camp site. Having skipped dinner the night before, and breakfast AND coffee (trust me, I can't believe it either), we were both very happy to find a decent site that had plenty of fire wood.

Common Loons on Hogan Lake

Weather was still wet and cold. We set up tarps over the tent and the fire place to keep everything dry. Found a branch to hang the food from with relative ease. We sat around the fire for most of the day; leaving on occasion to wash dishes, gather firewood and check the cloud formations across the lake.

Camp fire - with our gear drying out beside it.

Lophocampa Maculata on the tent.
The view from our site at about 440pm.

Went to bed in the dark, listening to the sounds of the loons calling.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Algonquin Park - Day 3

Big Crow Lake to Hogan Lake - 7-ish km paddle, 3.75km portage

When in the *&^% is it going to be morning? My body screamed sometime in the middle of the night. Back aching, burned knees swelling, shoulders and arms (particularly around the elbow region) demanding amputation... I tossed and turned all night - in agony - and every time I moved, M was rudely awakened. Thankfully he is a good sport, and was also in pain and waking me up.

Daylight was an opportunity to get out and stretch and couldn't come fast enough. It hardly arrived, though; the skies were overcast and the threat of rain loomed.

A quick breakfast and pack up and we were on our way for the day. This time the rain refused to hold. We got within 500m of the portage trail from Big Crow Lake into Hogan Lake and the rain was falling. We pulled off on the last campsite on the lake to wait it out.

Big Crow Lake - waiting for the rain to stop.

Eventually it had slowed enough for us to continue - without the hassle of soaking wet gear.

We met three camp counsellors with six 10 to 12 year old boys on the trail opening. They wished us luck, telling us that the hill was bad, the rest was fine.

The blasted hill! was almost the entire trail. Just when we thought that the hill was ending, we would start up the next.

We decided to double for most of the trail - we would both take our packs to one point, M would go back and get the canoe, I would carry on to a further point, then go back to get the other pack. Doing this we managed to complete the trail without incident (like killing ourselves or each other).

There was one point that had me question safety. A boardwalk had been placed over a boggy (and since it had been raining, a muddy) portion of the trail. The boardwalk consisted of logs that had been cut in half and placed on top of stumps. Which made them rickety and two tree trunks wide.

The map showed that we would hit a cart trail and then, 750m or so later, the end of the trail. Not the case! I was so stoked to get to that cart trail. Only to learn that it was an unmarked road.

Eventually... Not soon enough... To the tune of 3.5-ish hours later... We arrived at Hogan Lake. We paddled in exhausted silence and set camp on an island site - the first we came to.

Our first view of Hogan Lake

The end of the portage trail. Finally downhill, but we need to go back up it to get home.

We aimed for this island, hoping it was the one with sites on it. Of course, it wasn't.

The site was on a hill with what appeared to be a 90 degree incline. There was no firewood. We ended up pitching the tent at the bottom of the hill just off the beach and decided that we would leave first thing in the morning, without having to unpack our gear or go back up that blasted hill.

I can't say what time we went to bed. We did so without dinner and without the aid of the sunlight - which was still playing hide and go seek with the clouds.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Algonquin Park - Day 2

Proulx Lake to Big Crow Lake - 12km paddle

We spent the night freezing in the tent (it leaks). I listened to M hiss randomly through the night at the critters trying to seek shelter from the rain.

Sometime through the night it sounded like a bear had ripped into our food supply. I fully believed that we would have nothing left when we woke up.

We both kept waking up - cold and sore - asking each other when in the heck the sun would rise so we could get on with our lives.

0610 rolled around and I was stoked to see the sun. The rain had stopped after midnight. Everything was cold. The mists were rising off the lake as the sun hit it.

Coffee and oats by 0700 and we were soon packed and on our way.

It was windy on the lake and the last vestiges of night were drifting off the water as we made our way through the five kilometer marsh that wound it's way into Little Crow Lake.

Water Lily

We lunched on the first site we came to at Little Crow Lake. Coffee and Mr. Noodles. The sun was blazing and the boil water advisory was something we were taking seriously, which prevented us from getting as much fluids as we required. Saw some paddlers by the shore, one of them pointing out the site that we were in had been burned out a few years before. I couldn't say that I noticed any burned stumps or scars on the trees.

Back in the canoe we paddled through another river. The Horse Flies were immensely happy indulging in the fresh flesh on my ankles. I sent them ahead to M so he could fend them off. We paddled under the tower on the hill and were spit out onto Big Crow Lake.

Originally we had planned to camp next to the opening of a river that leads to a dam - from there you can view the virgin white pine stand. One of the trees is over 35m tall.

Instead we set camp on a wonderful site - complete with beach and a small cairn previous campers had set up before us.

The first thing that we saw when we arrived was a red bellied leech winding through the water. Towards my feet. Neither of us had any idea what it was, but M was sure that it wasn't a parasitic worm. Meanwhile, he is standing on the shore and the 15cm long THING is swimming towards ME!

View overlooking Big Crow Lake.
We set up, happy to be able to dry out our clothes and sleeping bags.

Swimming after some land exploration and coffee yielded a live clam (fresh water mussel).

Land exploration yielded two piles of scat - deer and moose, an Asian long horned beetle, and some chipmunks. We also spent some time identifying some of the flora and fauna that we had come across in the marsh.

Yellow Pond Lily (Bullhead Lily)

We did some laundry, observed the ridiculous burns on our knees (mine was so much worse - curse my skin tone o.O) and lit the fire.

Dinner was surprise freeze-dried (lasagna with meat sauce) - which turned out to be soupy. We had packed bowls and plates but still hadn't found a use for them, content with just sharing the pot.

Went to bed early so we could get a head start on the next day.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Algonquin Park - Day 1

Lake Opeongo to Proulx Lake.

Arrived at Lake Opeongo at 1210 on Sunday, August 7th 2011. M checked in with the park rangers and the outfitting company. Meanwhile; I stayed at the car and finished stuffing our gear into our packs randomly.

We had done a final last minute shop at a Canadian Tire in Lindsey, Ontario, at about 0800hrs that morning for things like bug repellent and a cook stove (we were prepared), and I had trouble fitting all the last minute gear into the packs (which were already stuffed to capacity).

The water taxi was scheduled to take us to the North Arm of Lake Opeongo at 1300hrs and drop us at the portage route into Proulx Lake.

The scenery was remarkable but we were both too busy scrambling to get the bags packed and more gear from the outfitters to notice.

And then it started to pour.

We finally leave at 1400hrs and get to the Proulx Lake portage entrance by 1500hrs. The skies are clear-ish as we struggle through the 1.3km of bug infested forest - uphill most way.

We finally figure out how to go more than 30m at a time without me stopping (what? Canoe's are freaking heavy). Poor M carries the 17 foot long, 75lb canoe on his shoulders. With his full pack. I eventually figure out that all his mumbling is his asking me to balance the back of the canoe for him. So I balance - until the saw falls, that is. Then I let go with no warning and he struggles to put the beast on the ground. Thankfully we are at the mouth of Proulx Lake.

Looking at Proulx Lake from the end of the portage trail.

Proulx Lake is gorgeous, but we can't dawdle there - the thunder is rolling overhead and we are noobs - we need to get to the first campsite before the rain comes down.

We paddle as fast as two noobs can to beat the storm to camp. We win. Tent is set up. Rain starts. Quickly we toss the remaining gear and some fire wood under a make shift lean-to that we created by lashing a tarp to some trees.

By this time EVERYTHING we have is soaked - sleeping bags, clothes, tent... We waterproofed (sorta) but obviously our skills were lacking and no match for mother nature.

Dinner and coffee under the tarp followed by a half dozen rather unsuccessful attempts at securing our packs in the trees (this is bear country, people. Food and gear need to be hung at least 12m above ground). My pack snaps the branch. M tries to catch it on the way down and realizes - as the branch hits him - that the pack isn't the only thing falling from the sky. My mug breaks but we decide to worry about that in the morning.

We take out the food and put it all in a bag and hang the bag from the tree - but only 4m up. Our packs would sleep under the canoe. If a bear ate everything, well... at least we hadn't blistered ourselves paddling. Yet.

Night 1- Proulx Lake campsite.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Home Again

I can't give away all the secrets of how the trip went - but I can tell you that we survived ;) (I can't say the same for some of the wildlife that we encountered, but more on that at a later date.)

Having never been in the interior of Algonquin Park before in my life, I am thrilled that I finally got to get in there and explore it the way it is meant to be done. In a canoe, in the rain, with a wonderful fellow who was even more excited than I was to wake up every single morning.

For now - as it is getting late - I will say that anyone who is even considering going into the interior of Algonquin needs to pick up the book that we read, halfway through the trip. It taught us both so much about the park, the wildlife and the intelligent ways of doing things.

You can check it out here:

I wrote every day while on the trip and will begin posting details sometime this week.