Algonquin Park – Cedar Lake

The plan was to car-camp at Driftwood Provincial Park on Friday night and continue onto Algonquin on Saturday morning. Putting in on Cedar Lake and finding a nice campsite to use as a base-camp and then doing a couple of day trips. Well, thanks to some overtime at work, the car-camping plan was scrapped. This was actually a blessing in disguise as the area was hit with a pretty hard with a storm – which included a tornado watch.

We pushed off mid Saturday afternoon from access point 27 (Cedar Lake), the water looked pretty calm so, I told Margarita that we were going to go across the lake to the adjacent shore and follow the shoreline to one of the islands sites. We exited the bay and instantly we were instantly hammered with huge waves with whitecaps and strong wind gusts. I don’t think I’ve ever paddled in conditions like this – it was extremely nerve-wracking.

By the time I had a chance to think about turning around and heading back towards the shore, it was to late. Our only option was to go with the waves and eventually reach the other shore.  We finally crossed the lake and paddled into a small bay where the waters were much calmer. After clearing the bay, we came to an island. Since we just wanted to get off the water, we decided that this would be our camp for the night.

What a nice two-tier site. The lower level had a fire pit, lots of space for our tent and logs that looked like stools, but the strong wind blew right through.  The upper level had another fire pit and a large rock wall that blocked a lot of the wind, but it didn’t have any space for a tent. We pitched our tent on the first side and used the second fire pit – it had a nice view of the lake and at night, we had a great view of the moon.

On Sunday morning we decided that our island site was just to windy. So, after an easy breakfast of toasted bagels and peanut butter and a discussion of how this will be our last trip drinking instant coffee, we loaded up our stuff and continued paddling around Cedar Lake. Since the water away from the shore was still quite rough, we decided to continue to follow the shoreline. We headed south along the west shore of the lake to Bonanza Bay – a provincially significant marsh and deciduous swamp forest.

We rounded the most southern end of the lake and began heading north. After a short lunch on a small island, we continued and came to the Cedar Rapids. Our original plan was to take our canoe over the portage and check out the Surprise Rapids but we were behind schedule so we just hiked across the short 960m portage and came back.

Finally, we came to the most eastern point of Cedar Lake – where we found the perfect campsite. It was a beautiful sandy beach with a fire-pit just a few feet from the water’s edge.

After pitching our tent right on the beach, we swam and then lit our campfire. It was awesome, with all the driftwood, we had an endless supply of firewood. Unfortunately, we were tired that night so we climbed into the tent just after the sunset – and what a sunset it was. The whole sky was a beautiful shade of red. It seemed to last forever. 

As the saying goes, “Red sky at night…”

We woke just praying that we wouldn’t have to battle the waves all the way back to the parking lot. And our prayers were answered, the water was calm – just a few ripples.

After a healthy breakfast of bacon and eggs, we kicked a few canoe spiders to the curb, loaded our gear into the canoe and started heading back to the access point.

Since we were almost right at the most eastern point of the lake, we just crossed to the north shore and headed west. We passed a few other nice looking sandy beach sites. In no time we were almost back. Perfect! We had lots of time to cross the lake and check out part of the Petawawa River Falls (two sets of waterfalls that combine to be the tallest in Algonquin Park).

We followed the 715m portage along the falls/rapids and WHAT A VIEW!

We got back to the parking lot and off the water just as the clouds rolled in. We could hear thunder off in the distance. On our way out of the park, we stopped at the Algonquin Outfitters (where we overheard that there have been bear sightings at the furthest campsite on Cedar Lake – our beach site!!! We left and went to the Brent Crater lookout. It’s hard to believe that we were looking at the crater made by a meteor that hit nearly 400 million years ago.

Just after we got back into our car, the skies opened up and it began to pour. So much for stopping off at Driftwood for a swim. Oh well.

All in all, this was an interesting trip. We enjoyed some great views, we loved both of our campsites and we enjoyed each other’s company. We will definitely be back – only next time, I’ll be smarter and I’ll stick close to shore…getting caught in the waves was rather scary.

One final note, the trip kind of had an eerily feel, with the exception of a few seagulls and a lonely loon, we didn’t see or hear any wildlife, including bugs.

Sunrise – Day 2

Birthday Backpacking In Frontenac Park

Surprisingly, it didn’t take much convincing to get my loving wife to agree to an overnight backpacking trip in Frontenac Park for my birthday. Her only stipulation was that we had to keep an eye on the forecast, and if it was going to rain then we wouldn’t go.

On Wednesday, we made our final decision: our trip was a go. The only issue now was the route. You cannot pre-book campsites in April. We had three or four preferred campsites, but ultimately it would come down to whatever was available when we showed up.

When we arrived at the park office, we were advised that the park was quite full. However, cluster 13 was still completely free. The park officer recommended site 13A, as it is set away from the other sites, giving you a bit more privacy.

Just before we set out, I noticed that the office sells bug nets. We purchased two – and boy, were we glad we did. At times the Mayflies were awful.

We headed northeast from the Big Salmon Lake parking lot along the Big Salmon Lake loop trail – quickly realizing how much dryer the ground was than the previous weekend, when we did a day hike. We reached cluster 3 in just under an hour. Not knowing how long it would take to get to 13, we stopped for lunch (wraps with pepperettes, cheese, cucumbers, peppers and carrots) on 3C.

Shortly after you leave cluster 3, the trail turns into an access road, which we found to be a rather boring hike. Other than an old collapsed homestead and a rusted-out old truck, there really wasn’t much to see. That said, we were able to cover some distance quite quickly. This was good as the Mayflies decided to make their presence known. If you slowed down or stopped for a drink, they were swarming around, trying to get in your eyes or mouth.

Shortly after clearing Black Lake, we turned south and arrived at the tip of Big Clear Lake. This is my favourite lake in the park. The beautiful teal waters and large overhanging cliffs make for some awesome views. Despite the annoying Mayflies, we stopped for a few minutes to marvel.

We arrived at our site – I was hot and dripping wet from sweat so I instantly stripped down to my boxers, prepared to dive into Big Clear Lake, then I touched the water – ice cold. Ok, not gonna happen. Chickened out, I just soaked my feet and cupped water to cool myself off.

What a beautiful site! Large, no nearby neighbours, a great swimming area with gentle sloping rocks. It was perfect.

We quickly set up our tent and started a fire. Thankfully, by dusk the Mayflies were gone, which meant we could start dinner. Veggies (zucchini, peppers, cherry tomatoes and mushrooms) in foil and cooked in the coals and grilled sausages – as for the freezing cold water, we made great use of it.

The temperature dropped quickly so we decided to call it a night pretty early. First, we went down to the shoreline and enjoyed the thousands of stars in the clear night sky.

It was around 7:30 when I climbed out of our (Marmott Traillight 2P) tent it was windy, cold and drizzling. I started a fire and breakfast (English muffins, eggs and Smokies).

We took our time packing and, wearing toques and gloves, were back on the trail (towards the south side of the Big Salmon loop) at 11 a.m. We moved a bit slower that day because the ground was wet and because this portion of the loop is more rugged. It was also more scenic. Unfortunately, we couldn’t really enjoy it because of the unpleasant weather.

We tried to make the best of the situation when we stopped at cluster 4 for lunch by starting a fire and huddling around it. Unfortunately, stepping away from the fire was an instant freeze. We had the same lunch as the previous day, accompanied by roasted Smokies since we really needed something hot to warm us up.

We arrived back at the Big Salmon Lake parking lot and drove to the park office with just enough time to change into clean clothes before closing (5:00pm). Considering we spent roughly two hours trying to get warm over lunch, I’d say we made descent time.

In total, we hiked around 20 km. Despite having to deal with Mayflies the first day and cold, rainy weather the second, both Margarita and I enjoyed our trip. We experienced beautiful views and lookouts, sat by cozy campfires, ate delicious food, spent time outdoors and just enjoyed each other’s company – which is what it is all about.

Click Here to see a short video with clips from our trip.

 

3 Day Backpacking Trip In The Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Park

We had a few days that worked out for our schedules so we decided to take a quick backpacking trip to Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Park following a portioni of the the Ganaraska trail.IMG_6981

We didn’t even get to the park until well past sun down, so hiking through the woods in the dark was a bit tricky.

With the fall colors blooming and the temperature dropping, it made for a great trip!

below is a video from our trip. Check it out!

Marmot Traillight 2P Tent

Description
The Marmot Traillight is a two person, three season tent. When dry, it weighs 4 lbs 14 oz. It is 224 cm (88”) long, 137 cm (54”) wide and 107 cm (42”) high. The tent walls are made of No-See-Um netting and the floor is made of 70-denier ripstop polyester, while the fly is made of 68-denier ripstop polyester. Ripstop is a fabric that is woven in a way that makes it stronger and more resistant to tearing.Summer 125

 

According to Marmot the tent features, “’Easy Pitch’ Clips and Poles, DAC Press-Fit Poles, Free-Standing Design, Jingle-Free Nylon Zipper Pulls, Light-Reflective Points, Seam Taped Catenary Cut Floor, Seam Taped Full Coverage Fly with Vents, Two Doors / Two Vestibules”

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The Traillight 2P is a great product for the price (under $200). It is durable, lightweight, spacious, extremely easy to put up and it looks great. The only disadvantage to this tent is that air doesn’t flow as well as I would’ve liked. If you don’t have $400 to spend but you want a quality product that’s lightweight, go with the Marmot Traillight 2 person / 3 season tent. You won’t be disappointed!A27660_9412_traillight_2p 0024

Pros
Roomy: I would even say that if you really had to you could cram a third person into this tent – though it wouldn’t be too comfortable.

Lightweight: Right around 5 lbs. For under $200, it would be hard to find something better.

Easy to put up: The ‘Easy Pitch’ clips work like a charm. I have never seen a tent this easy to set up. It is literally just putting clips around the poles. I can put the tent up by myself in less than 3 minutes.

Doors on both sides: If it’s raining, two people can get into the tent at the same time. Plus, night-time bathroom breaks can be done without climbing over your tent-mate.

Vestibules on both sides: You can keep more gear dry.

Dry: We used this tent on a very wet trip. It was really windy and it poured and nothing in the tent got wet.

Looks: The tent looks great. To me, the orange and grey looks really sharp. It also has reflectors on it which helps make the tent stand out on those really dark nights.

Cons
Lack of airflow: The sides of the tent are mesh and there is a vent at the top of the fly that you can open and close but we found that unless the vestibules are open, the air doesn’t really flow through the tent. This can make the tent warm and stuffy in the summer.

Vestibule space: It’s great that there’s a vestibule on either side but the space is quite small. You could only put shoes and maybe a daypack in them. However, the tent is large enough that you could comfortably bring a bag or two into the tent.

Verdict
8/10
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Three Day Algonquin Park Canoe Trip

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At 8 a.m. we began our journey by climbing aboard Parkbus for the first of its three trial runs from Ottawa to Algonquin Park. I have to applaud Alex Berlyand and Boris Issaev for all of their hard work as Parkbus is truly a great service. Since this was the pilot run, we left Mountain Equipment Co-op a bit late because there were a few presentations and interviews – the usual stuff.

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Once we arrived at The Portage Store in Algonquin Park, we met up with the rest of our group (who came via Parkbus from Toronto). After we rented our canoes and loaded our gear, we were on our way.IMG_5014

When we originally planned our trip, we were going to have around 12 portages. Unfortunately, two weeks ago I was hit by a car and I’ve been having some problems with my foot. So we reduced the number of portages to 6 to make things easier on me. I couldn’t get my foot comfortably into shoes, so I had to wear sandals. I don’t recommend sandals for portaging.IMG_4983

Before the trip I kept telling my wife, “Canoe Lake is a big lake and we’ll have to work really hard because it’ll be really choppy and windy.” It was as smooth as glass – made me look like a liar. That was how the water was for most of the weekend. Most of the time paddling was easy, with very little effort required. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t work and that we weren’t tired by the end of the trip, but, for the most part, the wind and currents were in our favour.IMG_4985

Mosquitoes were another story. They were terrible. By the end of my trip, I had roughly fifteen bites just on my left hand. We stopped for lunch on Saturday on Tepee Lake and we were practically chased off of the campsite, where we stopped. I think we made and ate our lunch in less than five minutes because they were just that bad. One of my trip mates had 100% DEET bug repellant and even that wasn’t slowing the pesky buggers down. Thankfully the black flies and deerflies were practically non-existent.IMG_4966

I guess I got a little off track talking about the mosquitoes. Like I said, to make things easier on my ankle, we made the portages a lot simpler. Anyways, we started on Canoe Lake, then did the 260 m portage to get around the dam. Then continued on to Joe Lake, then to Little Joe and did the 435 m mosquito-filled portage to Baby Joe. Then we took Baby Joe to Burnt Island Lake. That’s where we found our first campsite. It was a nice campsite with lots of space for canoes and tents.IMG_5049

Saturday it was kind of rainy and drizzly but it felt rather refreshing. Originally, we were supposed to have eight portages but we cut that down to two to be nice to me. So we backtracked from Burnt Island to Baby Joe (200 m portage), then to Little Joe (435 m portage) and again to Joe Lake. We continued to Tepee Lake, then we went on to Little Oxtongue River, then to Little Doe Lake and finally ended at Tom Thomson Lake and that’s where we made camp for the night. This site was on a point and it had a really nice view overlooking the lake. It also had one of the nicest fire pits that I have ever seen. The pit was in a semicircle against a large rock wall.  It was really neat. The site also had two levels. The first level had the fire pit and enough room for one (maybe two) tents and then if you went up on top of the rock wall, there were some trails and space for more tents. We all loved this site. The only downfall that it had was the lack of firewood.

IMG_5029Sunday was sunny and hot. It was nice to have some sun on the trip. We said, “Goodbye” to our site and pushed off. We took Tom Thomson to Little Doe, then followed Little Oxtongue River to Tepee Lake. Back to Joe Lake and again we did the 260 m dam portage at Canoe Lake and made our way back to The Portage Store. It was a little windier and choppier on Canoe Lake, so I didn’t feel like a liar anymore. It wasn’t rough enough that we had to worry but we did hit a hidden stump that was under the water. I thought that we were going over, but we didn’t.

IMG_5096The trip was short but overall it was a good trip. We saw five moose. The first moose we saw was a cow and she had her calf with her. We got about 25 to 30 metres away and then we thought that it was close enough. It was pretty exciting.

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Thanksgiving Weekend Hiking Trip In Frontenac Park

A couple of our past trips helped us decide to go on our Thanksgiving weekend hiking trip. The first was our Frontenac Park canoe trip. The route that we had taken was a lot more portaging and than paddling – except for the last day which was from one end of Big Salmon Lake to the other. This made us think that Frontenac Park would be a great choice for a hiking trip. Secondly, (except for the hordes of bugs) we really enjoyed our hike into our backcountry site in Bon Echo. It was challenging but very rewarding. Lastly, that time of year is always so colourful and beautiful. So, we decided that over the Thanksgiving long weekend, we would go on a hiking trip in Frontenac Provincial Park.

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On Friday, we took part of the afternoon off work. We hoped to be at the site before dark but when we actually began our trek from the Big Salmon Lake parking lot to site 3-D, the sun was setting. After about 10 minutes into the hike, we pulled out our headlamps. 10 minutes later, we were in total darkness and we were struggling to stay on the trail. The only thing that was keeping us on track was trail markers – they were a Godsend!

When we finally arrived at the site, we quickly set up our tents and began warming up our Thanksgiving feast. My wife and I warmed up our turkey and stuffing that we prepared on Thursday (we kept the bones at home so that no animals would choke on splintered bones) and the others made potatoes and veggies. Jon brought a pie for dessert (he had fun carrying from the parking lot). It was a great dinner – we were stuffed.

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Saturday morning we took our time eating breakfast so we had to try to pack up kind of quickly so that we could hit the trail. I restuffed my stuff-sac and put it down while I went to pack up my tent. I heard a noise behind me, so I turned around. My stuff-sac was barrelling down the hill towards the lake. I gave chase but I was too slow – splash! (Word of advice, never go cheap on your stuff-sac). Everything was soaked. Even after wringing everything out, the stuff-sac still weighed around 20 lbs. This may not be a lot but when you’re hiking for five or six hours, it’s definitely noticeable.

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When my stuff-sac hit the water, the momentum that it gained from rolling down the hill carried it out of arms reach. So, Newman (The boxer) jumped into the water and was trying to paw my stuff-sac back to shore – this was incredible to see. Unfortunately, the weight of the bag and it being round proved to be too difficult – Though he did put in a very noble effort. So, as I was standing there dumbfounded, Ron stripped down to his boxers, jumped into the water and saved my bag. The whole scene was just like something you’d see in a bad comedy and the people who were on the neighbouring campsite couldn’t stop laughing – not that I could blame them as looking back, neither can I.

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Eventually, we did hit the trail and they were pretty easy conditions – not too many rocks or roots. There were some hills and narrow paths but most of the time it was pretty easy going.

We stopped for lunch on one of the Lynch Lake camp sites (cluster 12). They were nice sites, big, with a great view of the lake, they weren’t too close together and there were rock walls that kind of created a natural privacy fence between the sites.

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As we were getting ready to leave, we were approached by an older man. He said that he had camped there the previous weekend. He said that he came back in the hopes of finding his dentures because new ones are expensive. Unfortunately, we didn’t see them – I can only imagine a turtle walking around with a huge smile and showing his pearly whites.

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So, on we went, heading towards site 11-A, which would be our camp for the night. This section we found to be quite a bit more challenging. There were a lot of rocks, narrow sections (kind of like narrow dikes) with very steep hills on either side. There were also a few spots where we had to climb up or down 3 – 4 foot ledges.

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We reached our site and what a site it was. It was huge and at least 100m from B, C and D. The only downside to the site is that the outhouse and lake are a bit of a walk but that’s not really an issue. After we set up camp, I set up a clothesline and hung up as many things as possible – in the hopes that something would dry. Nothing was drying so I placed camping chairs by the fire and hung some clothes on the backs of them and any free time that I had, I spent standing by the fire holding socks and underwear. Thankfully, I had a pair of dry/clean underwear and socks for bed.10530898_10152818705858653_4244110950979162194_n

Sunday morning we loaded up our equipment, looked at the map (thought it would be a short an easy day) and hit the trail.

We hiked for about 1.5 hours – was mostly flat and easy. Then we stopped for lunch on a big hill that overlooked the multi-coloured treetops and a lake. The view was amazing.

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Then we continued on our way. My wife and I were enjoying the views, while the other two in our party took off. They were out of site within minutes. The terrain after lunch changed a lot. It started out flat and easy, then it became quite damp and mushy, then rugged and rocky, then we had to cross little streams. It was fun but quite challenging.

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Eventually we came across a lookout that overlooked Birch Lake (I think). It wasn’t on the map so I’m not exactly sure. It was a nice view. You could see the whole lake.

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After about 2 hours of hiking, Margarita and I were starting to wonder if we had somehow passed campsite #7. We continued for about another half hour and stopped for about 15 minutes to examine the map and to hopefully figure out how much further we had to go. We weren’t tired or anything but we thought that we should’ve arrived at the site. We decided to continue in the hopes that our companions would at least be waiting somewhere for us. After about 50 metres from where we were standing, we saw the sign for site #7 (behind a tree). After about 5 more minutes of walking, we arrived at the site.

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Our site (7-A) was a decent site. However, I would recommend B, C or D over A. A didn’t have water access and the ground was pretty rugged. Plus, A, B and C were all pretty close to each other, which can be good if you’re travelling with others. The other downside to all of the sites was that there was no firewood. We found enough to manage for the night but we probably spent about an hour looking for it.

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Monday morning hit the trail early to head back to the Big Salmon Lake parking lot. The hike back was awesome. It was a pretty easy hike. There were some easy hills and bridges and we passed some dams but other than that it was a pretty easy hike back to the parking lot. However, the last 1.5 km back to the parking lot, was pretty boring.

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With the exception of the stuff-sac incident, this trip was perfect. The temperature was great, the colours were beautiful and I had a great time. I would recommend Frontenac Park to everyone. Whether you are new to hiking or canoeing or you’re an experienced outdoorsman, it has something for everyone.

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Labour Day Weekend Canoe Trip in Algonquin Park

Due to me having a knee injury, we decided that our Labour Day Weekend canoe trip would have more paddling and less portaging. This type of trip worked out well for Ron, as he had just picked up his new 9-week-old Boxer pup “Vicka” the previous weekend.IMG_0885

Our trip only consisted of four portages and Vicka made friends at each one. Everyone who met her, said that she was the highlight of their trip. They thought she was super adorable.IMG_0898

Just like our Bon Echo trip, we car camped the first night. We stayed at the Lake of Two Rivers campground – site #209. It was a decent site, flat and as far as car camping goes, pretty private. Since we were just there to sleep and then leave in the morning, its location was great. However, if you are there for a few days and you’d like to swim, I’d recommend somewhere else because you really can’t get much further away from the beach.

That night we had shish kebabs and corn cooked on the grill. After dinner we just sat around the fire and chatted until the coyotes started going nuts. Then, we just sat there listening to their barks and howls.

Since the Portage Store doesn’t deliver canoes to Rock Lake until noon, Saturday morning we took our time getting up and getting to access point #9.IMG_3116

When we got on the water, the conditions were not in our favour. The wind and waves were going north, while we were trying to paddle south. As we approached the fork in the route, our navigator looked at Jeff’s Map on his phone and said that we need to go to the right (west). After about 20 – 25 minutes of paddling, he looked at his phone again and realized that we were going the wrong way. So back in the opposite direction we went.IMG_0837

When we finally reached the simple 100 metre portage that goes from Echo Bay around the dam and into Aubrey Lake, Vicka met her first group of friends.IMG_3126

After the dam, it was just a short paddle from Aubrey Lake to Galeairy Lake. The only problem was finding a campsite. Since it was a long weekend and we got started relatively late, most of the sites were taken. To make matters worse, the sky was clouding over and we could hear rumbles of thunder off in the distance. We finally found a site, across the lake from a campsite with a dog named Maggie – she and Vicka seemed to hit it off and they had a lot to say to each other that evening from their respective campsites.IMG_3123

We set up camp and had just enough time to go for a swim and get a fire going before rain started to fall. So under the tarp shelter we went for the rest of the night. For dinner, our fire-grilled pita pizzas turned into pita wraps with pizza sauce. Since it was a rather big thunderstorm, we stayed under the tarp – playing cards and drinking boxed wine, until we headed to our tents.IMG_3130

The rain continued through the night and into Sunday morning. Then it was just spitting off and on until just around noon. Once we hit the water, it was only a 4 to 5 km paddle to an easy 80 metre portage – which for the life of me, I can’t remember… After the portage we paddled through Night Lake and went on to do an easy but fun and scenic 1680 metre portage to Pen Lake. Here, Vicka was a trooper and she did the portage journey twice – she was carried about half of the time.IMG_3144

Once we hit Pen Lake, it was time to find our campsite for the night. We decided to head south on Pen Lake because we figured that most of the sites to the north would be taken, since they are closer to the Rock Lake portage and the access point. We were in luck, a site right on the southeastern shore was free. It was a huge site that had lots of shade except for by the lake, where the rocks gently sloped down into the water – perfect for swimming.IMG_0905

That night when the clouds finally dispersed, we were able to stargaze. It was awe-inspiring. The sky was so clear that you could see thousands of stars. Then when the sky clouded over again, we went to bed.

In typical Algonquin Park fashion, on Monday (our last day) the sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It was a great day for paddling – calm waters, sunny and the little breeze that we did have was with us.IMG_3190

We paddled north from our site and up Pen Lake to the 375 metre portage that goes around the Pen Falls. We went through the portage and then on our way back, we took the trail that goes to the falls and took some pictures. I really recommend checking it out if you’re there. The falls are really cool. It’s strong, has different levels and it’s just looked awesome to look at. Plus, if you’re careful, you can walk up the side of the falls from one end of the portage, to the other. On this portage you can also find petroglyphs and a spring (just look for the little black pipe).IMG_3216

After the easy portage it was just an easy 6 – 7 km paddle back to access point #9 but before we reached the river, we noticed the Rock Lake campground – we had to stop for a quick dip. It was the perfect way to say goodbye to my favourite place in Ontario.IMG_3243

If you’re looking for an easy trip or you’re introducing someone to canoe tripping, then I would highly recommend this route. With the exception of some larger lakes (Rock Lake and Pen Lake), where the water can get choppy, this route is quite easy,the portages are pretty flat and there are some great side elements (aboriginal pictographs, waterfalls, natural spring, etc.). This route may be easy but it will definitely remind you why you fell in love with Algonquin Park.IMG_3179

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Four Day Frontenac Park Canoe Trip

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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Backcountry Camping In Bon Echo Provincial Park

We began our backcountry camping weekend at Bon Echo Provincial Park by spending Friday night on site 440 in the Hardwood Hills section of the park. It was a great site – big, reasonably private and lots of space for two tents and a car.Summer 014

We setup our tents and began cooking dinner: steak and grilled potatoes. We planned to cook the potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil in the coals, but as we began to prepare them we discovered that we forgot to bring the foil. So we improvised. We cut the potatoes into thick slices and placed them on the grill. Some were cooked perfectly, others – not so much.Summer 003

After dinner, we sat around the fire enjoying a few “pops,” while Newman (four-year-old boxer) decided he wanted to go to bed. Since we were sitting only about 10 feet from the picnic table, we were lax about putting things away. Around 10 pm or so, we heard what sounded like a bag being crumpled and then it being dragged away. We got up and looked around only to discover our huge Ziploc bag of trail mix had been stolen.

Armed with headlamps and a knife, we set out in search of the culprit and our trail mix. About 30 feet from our site we spotted a set of eyes. Creeping closer, we also noticed our trail mix. As we moved forward, the creature moved back. By the time we reached the Ziploc bag, we could tell that the thief was a racoon. We had recovered our stolen goods but, unfortunately, the racoon had ripped a hole in the bag. So we had no choice but to throw our bag of at least 3 lb of trail mix.

Saturday morning around 10 am we set out on our 10 – 12 km hike to our backcountry campsite on Abes Lake (#529). This moderate to difficult trail (though I would say more moderate with just a few difficult spots) was beautiful. It had great views of creeks, lakes, dams, fields and just nice trails.Summer 015

Unfortunately, most of the time the beauty of the hike was overshadowed by the hordes of mosquitoes and black flies.  That’s how most of this trip was. I don’t think I have ever seen this many bloodsucking insects in my life – and the number of bites that we all received was just ridiculous.Summer 034

Around 1 pm we crossed this beautiful little waterfall. We were about 3 feet above the little river on these large boulders that had about a two-foot gap that we had to step over. It was a beautiful view. At the bottom of the waterfall, the river opened up into a small lake that had lily pads and fallen trees.Summer 027

After about another one and a half hours we reached our camp site. It was big, open and flat, with big rocks that had a gentle slope to a great swimming area. We couldn’t have asked for a better site.Summer 043

Sunday, we decided to explore the area and maybe walk back to Little Rock Lake and take a swim but as soon as we stepped off the site and into the woods, we were swarmed. Even with bug repellent with DEET and long sleeves, it was nearly unbearable. So, our exploration time ended up being considerably shorter than planned.

Sunday evening, we drenched ourselves in DEET, covered up and huddled near the fire in an attempt to escape the waves of bloodsucking invaders – to some avail. Once the bugs thinned out a little, we sat on the rocks and were blessed by two awesome light shows. The first were hundreds of fireflies and the second was a crazy lightning storm that was off in the distance – both were just spectacular.Summer 032

Monday morning we packed up our camp, put on our bug jackets and soaked ourselves in DEET again and set out for the trailhead. Unlike the previous day, Monday was HOT and sunny but we couldn’t take off our jackets or change into shorts because of all of the bugs. So, we had to sweat it out. By the time we reached our vehicles, I was so wet that I looked like I had just stepped out of a pool. So, the first thing that we did was head for the beach and take a dip.Summer 183

While I had never seen mosquitoes and black flies that bad, the trip itself was great. The trails, rock-faces and views at Bon Echo are just amazing. Whether you’re car camping or staying in the backcountry, you will be treated to great scenery – especially if you go up the staircase at Mazinaw Rock, where you’ll find lookouts and native pictographs.IMG_0035IMG_0012

 

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Canoe History

ORIGIN
The word “canoe” comes from the Carib people’s word “kenu” (dugout). The Carib tribes would use hollowed out tree logs to travel between the Caribbean islands.

EARLY YEARS
Early North American canoes were generally made with a cedar frame and ribs, which was then covered by a birch bark shell. The frame and ribs were created by soaking the cedar planks in water and then bending them into shape. Birch bark was used as the shell because it was light-weight, durable and waterproof. The joints of the canoes were held together by white pine roots and then covered with hot pine or spruce resin.

Old Canoe Trip

In colder climates like northern North America and Siberia kayaks were used rather than the traditional canoe. These were created by stretching animal skins over the tops of the wooden frames. The skins, which were waterproof, would help keep the cold water out of the boat as well as keep the warmth in. Generally, kayaks would carry only one person.

RECREATIONAL CANOEING
The Scottish explorer John MacGregor (1825-1892) is often considered to be the pioneer of recreational canoeing. He was first introduced to canoes during a trip to North America. Upon his return home, he began building canoes and paddling them all over Europe and the Middle East. In 1866, he founded the British Royal Canoe Club, and in 1874 they held the first canoeing competition (The Paddling Challenge Cup).

Canoeing became an Olympic sport in 1938 in Berlin.