An Algonquin Loop Sept 2011

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A Walk in the Park
In 2011 my wife M and I chose a popular paddling route through Algonquin Provincial Park. The route would take us on a loop north from Canoe L., through the Otterslides to Big Trout L., and back south through McIntosh L., T Thompson L to Canoe L. again. Aside from some favourite lakes to be revisited, there was a portage trail we’d avoided because of its length. This was the year we’d decided to travel the 2.3km Ink L. portage, and go for a long walk in the Park.
And so on a mid September morning we pushed out onto Canoe Lake. Like several lakes here, Canoe has a storied past. The iconic modern impressionist painter Tom Thompson passed from this world on this lake, and into the hearts of art lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. We didn’t stop to visit his grave near Mowat Village, nor did we revisit his memorial cairn. http://tomthomsonart.ca/biography/memorial-canoe-lake-1917 Instead we continued on over a short carry and through the three Joes; Joe L., Little Joe L., and Baby Joe L. By early afternoon we picked a campsite on Burnt Island L., and settled in for a relaxing evening in front of a low fire. It had been an easy day. The stars were shuttered by low cloud. Putting rain gear close at hand, we called it an early night.

We made an early start, and soon reached our first carry. The take out for the portage into the Otterslides is a good swimming spot, but the leaden skies kept us hustling along our way. We met and chatted with a family from Belgium and their lovable Golden Retriever, before continuing north. True to its name, as we left the channel taking us from Little Otterslide L. to Otterslide L., we were met by a trio of otters. They escorted and scolded us for a while, before vanishing. By the time we started the series of short carries and stream sections of Otterslide Creek, a gentle shower had become a steady rain, and we reminded ourselves, not for the last time, that this was also why we’d come, to enjoy every moment. There were moments. At a slippery put in, some Girl Guides and leader swept up in their canoes. As we quietly loaded up, they noisily clambered out onto the trail, and chatted and laughed. Their enthusiasm in the rain was infectious, and so welcome. One of them bounded forward and insisted she help me with my last pack. Lightened by their mood and youthful exuberance, we continued downstream. Around the very next bend we ran aground on a lurking rock Screeech. After many tries, I asked M to crawl back towards me in the stern, to lighten the bow. It worked, but M was too nervous of an upset, to try to crawl back to her bow seat. I gently headed to shore, with M splayed out across our gear, looking unladylike and uncomfortable. Safely ashore, as M was trying to step back in, she slipped and went for a full immersion in the creek. This little wet diversion didn’t matter, as soon enough we were wading hip deep, to guide our canoe through a boulder field section. My turn to test my rain gear came when I stepped out into what I thought was clear and shallow water. My inseam was no match, and so I wound up going arse over teakettle, kitchen pack and all. The rains had stopped, so we quickly changed into warm dry clothes, and covered the last portage to Big Trout L.
Emerging from the first protective bay, we found the winds picked up faster than our pace across Big Trout. The chop unnerved us, so quartering into the wind, we made our way to a point on the nearest island. Clambering up the rocky shore was fun, and just as I was opening the kitchen pack, to wait out the wind with a hot soup, two men approached us from the center of this island. They were a father and son-in-law from England, and offered us their fire for preparing our meal, and to warm up. Despite the blue skies, the air was chilling. M and I cooked our dinner at their site, while they finished setting up camp. Eventually the winds calmed, and after 2-3 hours spent with this pleasant company, we headed out to find a site of our own. A spot with sandy shallow waters proved ideal. The temperatures climbed, and so an afternoon swim under blue skies, followed by an early fire felt great. The wine, cheese and crackers didn’t hurt either.
After nightfall, I heard whispers down by the shore. Sure enough, I came across a British couple with their two teens in canoes, searching for a campsite in the dark. I ushered them in, and retreated to our fire, while they set up and cooked a quick meal for their tired girls. After some final evening preparations, and seeing their girls off to bed, the couple joined us for some wine, and shared family stories. Eventually, with the fire extinguished, we all tumbled into our tents for a good night’s sleep.
The sun was well up, when M and I departed. It felt wonderful, wading through the warm shallows before stepping into our canoe. I was already regretting not staying longer on Big Trout L., but there were still miles to go, and we had a rest day planned for the next destination, McIntosh L. It was a beautiful paddle through Big Trout, and around southward through the adjoining White Trout L. M hates the confining closeness of creeks, and so wasn’t impressed by our route into the Grassy Bay delta, and up the winding McIntosh Creek towards it’s headwaters. Several beaver dams broke my reverie (her monotony), and at one point we needed to pull ashore at another route’s take out to recharge our drinking water. Replenished, we continued through the afternoon heat. M was relieved when we reached the top of this valley, and the first carry to McIntosh. She was eager to stretch her legs, and walk in the Park. When I looked back down the pretty valley, I spied two canoes crawling up the creek. We set a fast pace across the two portages and single stream section, in hopes of a favourable campsite on McIntosh. We chose the first agreeable rocky point site we found, and relaxed before setting up camp. It had been a good day.

I found some blueberries to save for breakfast, and stood with M gazing out onto a quiet lake, watching the sun slide below the horizon. Our dreamy moment was broken, when two weasels tore past our feet, and started a furious fight! It lasted only seconds, and ended with the victor disappearing back into the woods, and the loser jumping into the lake! It was lost from view as it swam across to an island. Well, that was weird! With this commotion over, we went through our evening ritual of sitting round a low fire and sipping wine. A layover day was welcome, as we swam and lounged around our quiet little corner of Algonquin.

Soon enough, one morning we were packing for our long walk in the Park. A sinuous channel leads from McIntosh to Ink L. The marsh grasses along Ink Creek were filled with flowers and birdcall, and it was so wildly beautiful. We took it slowly, and enjoyed the easy cadence. It’s obvious where these waters got their name, as the tannin stained lake and creek looked like black tea under our hull (or should I say, ink). Before long we were unloading our gear at the foot of a steep staircase at the take out for the Ink L. portage. Assembled at the top, M and I started our long walk in the Park.
I never take a watch with me, and I don’t much care how slowly we travel, so long as we reach our destination before nightfall. Keeping our days and distances fairly short, means we’re pulling ashore early afternoon most days. That suits our unhurried selves. I lost track of time along this portage, and enjoyed its varied scenery. We crossed a marshy boardwalk section, woodland glades, and open bedrock faces. We weren’t alone either. I stepped aside on the narrow boardwalk, as a young Austrian couple single carried past, and we encountered young girls out on camp trips. Their leaders sweated as they lugged 16’ aluminum canoes while the 10ish year olds carried gear. I passed a small group who were hearing a pep talk from their leader, while drinks and snacks were passed around “Come on girls! Not far now. We’re gonna do this!” Later, I remember approaching two young girls from behind. Camper #1 had free hands with which to talk, as she carried nothing. Camper # 2 bore a huge pack, with paddles sticking up from it like antennae, with PFDs looped over them. They were lost in conversation, and paid little attention to me as I passed. Camper # 2 had a funny sounding gait as she marched along “Step, STUMP, step, STUMP…” Her right foot was in a walking cast! Suitably humbled, I carried on. Our 3L of drinking water ran out as we completed the carry. Despite loving every step of this walk, M and I were looking forward to another layover day.

The breeze was cooling and refreshing as we cruised down Tom Thompson L. A very pretty site was chosen on a rocky point, with a tent pad clearing and fire ring up high overlooking the lake. T Thompson L. is an easy paddle from the Canoe L. access, and with no portages, it’s a popular lake with canoe campers. It boasts many great sites for swimming, relaxing, and camping. That was all we had in mind, over our final two days. Time almost stood still for us, but as always, the dawn light softly swept away the forest shadows, and we knew it was time to pack our gear one last time.
The morning mist was slowly burning off, when M and I eased over the last beaver dam. After a final short carry, we slow motion paddled down Canoe L., with thoughts of cold beer and hot burgers & fries waiting for us somewhere.

The crowded parking lot came into view all too soon, and we set our own methodical steady pace as we loaded up for the ride out. This trip had given us a mixture of landscapes and weather, short rain soaked trails and long sunny scenic walks. We’d enjoyed our walks in the Park.
 
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Joined
Jun 12, 2012
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Appleton, Maine
Nice, looks like Algonquin gets alot of international visitors. I should keep quiet about gas prices when you compare plane tickets nowadays. M sounds like a good tripping partner, I envy you, my wife actually enjoys my absence, she uses the time to change something around the homestead which she knows I would have an "issue" with where I here. I would enjoy seeing my wife climb over the packs while stuck on a rock....that would be fun to relive later at the campfire.
Thanks, Good read.
 
Joined
Sep 2, 2011
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Raymond, ME
I love that loop and have done it three times solo. Ink Lake is a particular favorite of mine even with the forty odd steps at the end. I love the creek that comes into it from McIntosh ..winding through the tamaracks and bogs.

I have seen virtually no people sometimes except for Tepee and the Joes which accumulate lots of novices being they are only one easy portage away from the livery. On weekends its fun to have a burger at Canoe Lake and watch for the landings launchings and upsets.

Never had any company on Big Trout or the Otterslides.. What did M think of the several beaver dams that have to be crossed even as you can see the portage is so close on Otterslide Creek?
 
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Sep 8, 2012
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Toronto
Thanks Brad. I love your choice of pictures. I'm Planning on doing this route this summer, so this was inspiring, as we wait for ice out.
 
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Robin, years ago we took a break from canoeing with the kids, and car camped around for a few summer holidays. We walked all but two of the APP nature trails, and enjoyed them in our own ways (I read the brochures and learned, kids played and explored, she hummed and relaxed). Sign in books at trail heads were interesting, as they were filled with visitors' comments from every corner of the world...France, Australia, Uruguay, Japan etc. I'd never thought of my "backyard" being a destination for anyone else, but hoards of us city folk trying to get outta town. Go figure.
Nearly all photos from this trip were lost, so I scoured old folders for some. It seems I was smart enough not to take a snap of M splayed out over our gear, facing me with a look on her face scowling "Don't you even think about reaching for that camera!" Dammit, all I've got left from that moment is my memory. It'll have to do for now.
I love her company, but she's happy with only one trip a year now, and isn't perturbed with me going solo. We'll see.
memequay, when we first started canoeing APP in October, we had lakes all to ourselves for days on end. As you know, the fall colours and bug-less days are the upside; frosty nights and cold winds are the downside. Our older (not old) bones yearned for warmer months, so Aug and Sept became prime time for M and I in recent years. And then we started noticing crowds (even in October). Despite that, it's still hit and miss. We start and end our trips weekdays. There are many days where we'll have even busy routes and lakes all to ourselves. Ya just never know.
Yellowcanoe, that Ink Creek is the only stream M likes. The flowers probably worked for her. I wanted to turn around and paddle the creek again, but we had a long trail walk waiting for us. It's funny how the throngs of people come and go. We watched many canoes streaming past us on McIntosh the first evening, and then it was quiet all next day. On one trip to and from Otterslide L. in Sept, and saw one single canoe for the whole week! That was a spooky canoe holiday; not a breath of wind for days, the whole place to ourselves, and complete silence. Only us and the loons. Ha! There were few people to be seen on Big Trout on this trip. I wish we'd stayed an extra day or three. Decisions, decisions.
My wife M actually likes dams, as do I. She doesn't like me saying "Don't fall in. The bottom looks kinda mucky." I've gone for unscheduled beaver dam swims, but she hasn't...yet. Those sticks can be slippery! The tall cattail corridor paddling bothers her though.
 
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Thanks Brad. I love your choice of pictures. I'm Planning on doing this route this summer, so this was inspiring, as we wait for ice out.
Thanks neighbour, I enjoyed re-reading your trips before posting this. We both love the same place! I might consider doing this route in the opposite direction some time. I chose this way to juggle favourite lake destinations and portages, but I needn't have fussed about it. It's all good.
 
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