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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.