From the beginning our trip sounded like it was going to be a disaster because we had a group of six and when we called to book the canoes from the Frontenac Outfitters, they only had two canoes and a kayak left. We booked the canoes and the kayak in the hopes that there would be a canoe cancellation. We kept calling the Outfitters and we kept getting the same answer, “Try back in a few days and see if there’s a cancellation”. Finally four days before our trip we decided to contact Trailhead in Kingston and rent a canoe from there and then just pick it up on the way to the park. Two days before the trip, the Outfitters called and said that there was a canoe cancellation. We were lucky because it turns out that the Outfitters have a minimum of 3 canoes for delivery.
Our party of six and one 75 lb. lapdog named Newman, pushed off on Big Salmon Lake and within 10 minutes we were at our first and longest (planned) portage. It was a 977 m, easy to moderate portage to Little Salmon Lake. Since it had some rough patches and a hill, it was a good introduction for the people who hadn’t been on a trip in a while. After a short paddle to the end of the lake, we arrived at our campsite. We set up camp and then jumped in the lake to cool off. After the swim, my wife and I decided to do a bit more paddling so we did a tour around the lake and we were glad that we did because we found this beautiful little waterfall on the northwest corner of the lake. Once we returned to the site, Newman greeted us at the shore, with a stick in his mouth. He dropped the stick at my feet, expecting me to throw it. I quickly learned of his favourite game.
On Saturday, our first portage (Little Salmon Lake to Little Clear Lake) was right beside our campsite so, once we were all packed up, we just started our portage right from our site. The 856 m portage was rated as a moderate difficulty but I found it to be easier than some of the other moderately rated portages. After another short paddle, we came to the portage that would take us to Black lake. It was an easy 503 m portage. It was flat and had a couple of boardwalks in it. We decided to eat lunch. the next portage point on Black Lake to Bear Lake was so close that we could’ve literally thrown a rock to it, but there was a deep marsh in our way. We decided to take another look at the map and see if the turnoff we saw on our previous portage would take us to Bear Lake. It did! On the map, it didn’t look like it would be much of a portage – just a little longer than what we just did. So, that’s what we did. It turns out, that it’s actually 977 m with two hills. It felt pretty long and we were starting to get a bit tired at this point. That said, it was a really fun and scenic portage. Now all that was left was a short paddle across the tiny Bear Lake and an easy 572 m portage right to our campsite on Devil Lake. I really enjoyed this portage. It was easy and scenic and I found myself looking around when I was carrying a canoe and a pack. This was a silly idea, as I didn’t see a hole and down I went. I was alright though.
On Sunday I woke up and sat on the shore and watched the fog rolling over the lake. I love mornings like this. After breakfast, we paddled to our first portage, which was from Devil Lake to Big Clear Lake. It was 898 metres and rated as moderate to difficult. Right as soon as you start, you go up a rock hill/stream. I was the first to start the portage. I grabbed a canoe and started my way up the hill. Like always, Newman trailed right behind me, just under the stern of the upside-down canoe. At the top, it was all mud. I thought that it was a muddy patch and began crossing it. Two steps in and down I went, right up to my knees in wet, swampy mud. It turns out that you have to stick to the edge of the mud. As I was climbing out of the mud, I could hear the usual snorting of the 75 lb. boxer right behind me. It seemed like he was laughing at me. This portage was fun though. It had a few steep hills and different terrain. Big Clear Lake was really nice. The rock faces were awesome to look at. When we arrived at the next portage, we stopped for lunch. After lunch a few of us jumped in the lake. After the swim we began the 666 m portage to Black Lake. This was the lake that we had skipped the previous day – only now we were going in the opposite direction. We paddled across Black Lake and came to our last portage of the day – an easy 503 m portage. Now that was left was a 25 minute paddle to our site. Our site was so-so, it was a good distance from the neighbouring sites but it wasn’t very nice for swimming because there was a lot of grass floating in the water and there were logs right near shore. The water conditions didn’t stop my wife and I from jumping in.
That night, when we went to bed, something in the air seemed a bit off – kind of eerie but we didn’t know why. Part way through the night, we heard something sniffing around outside the tents. That in itself was a bit unnerving. We ended up falling asleep again, only to be woken up but a fisher screaming. I don’t know if you have ever heard a fisher’s scream but it is one of the most bone-chilling sounds. (Here’s a fisher sound that I found on Youtube).
We had to be up early on Monday morning because one of our party members had to be back to Hamilton by 3 p.m. for work. Thankfully, we only had one simple 923 m moderately difficult portage and an hour long paddle – she didn’t make it to work on time though. I think that this portage may have been my favourite portage of the trip as it had a little bit of everything. There were huge boulders, boardwalks, long grass, muddy patches, hills, etc. I loved it.
We loved the park but we found that there was a lot more portaging than paddling. I think that if you go around the perimeter of the park, there would be more paddling and less portaging. Frontenac Park is beautiful, with it’s rough terrain and rocky cliffs, this park in the Canadian Shield is a must see.