30th Anniversary Canoe Trip 2013 Canoe - Otterslide - Burntroot - Nipissing River - Catfish - Big Trout- McIntosh - Canoe

Sunday, August 18 - Day 1
 
This year’s trip marks the 30th anniversary of our first Algonquin Park canoe trip.  Dad and I are retracting the route we did 30 years ago but doing it in seven instead of eight days.  We arrived at the Canoe Lake access point just after 10am and after obtaining our permits we were loaded up and on the water by 10:40.  It was a good paddle up Canoe Lake with a nice tail wind.  The 295m portage into Joe Lake was a zoo.  I can’t remember the last time I saw so many people on a portage.  We were over, loaded up quickly and onto Joe Lake.  Joe was busy with everyone coming out from the weekend.  We probably saw more people in the first two hours of this trip than all trips combined in the past ten years.
Loaded up and ready to go.
Paddling out of Joe we continued across Little Joe and up the creek.  Since the last time I had been up this way they had put in a 165m low water portage which we didn’t need to do.  Shortly after we came to the 435m portage to Baby Joe Lake.  There was a set of stairs there since the last time I did the portage.  There were a couple of other parties at the landing, one going and one coming.  We loaded up and were on our way with the other party just in front of us.  Part way down the trail it split.  One way went to Lost Joe Lake, which was new to me, and the other trail continued on to Baby Joe.  The party in front of us went to Lost Joe and we continued on to Baby Joe and were quickly at the end of the portage.  There was a camp group from Wapomeo there having lunch and we loaded up and headed out.  As we were leaving another party was coming onto the lake from Lost Joe but it wasn’t the party that had been in front of us.  It looks like the portage is faster than paddling an extra lake.
What's next, escalators?!
We passed more parties as we headed up Baby Joe.  The other group arrived just after us but we were quickly loaded up and on our way over the 200m portage to Burnt Island Lake.  Loaded up on the Burnt Island side we headed out to the main body of the lake to have lunch.  We floated while we had lunch and after our fifteen minute break we continued we continued on up the lake.
Along the trail.
An hour and a quarter later we were at the 790m portage to Little Otterslide Lake.  While Burnt Island had been relatively quiet we ran into a big group from Salisbury State University on the portage. 
 
Little Otterslide Lake had some activity on it with at least three campsites occupied.  A short paddle across the lake and up the creek brought us to Otterslide Lake, our destination for the day.

As we came into the main section of the lake I could see there were three sites occupied but the one I wanted, across from the 250m portage to Otterslide Creek, was available.  We took it and quickly had camp set up.  After camp was established we relaxed for a while by the water and went for a swim.  The water was chilly for the time of year but for the last week night time temperatures had been in the single digits which would have cooled down the lakes.  None-the-less it was refreshing and enjoyable.  After the swim we relaxed with a glass of wine and enjoyed the sunshine.

After a while we decided to get dinner going.  Tonight we had chicken stir fry with brown rice and crème brulé for dessert.  Once the dishes were cleaned and the food hung we headed out for an evening paddle around the lake.  Otterslide is a nice lake and you don’t realize how big it is if you’re just paddling it between Otterslide Creek and Little Otterslide.  Of the eleven sites on the lake six were occupied.  In the few times I’ve camped here I’ve never seen the lake that busy.
Preparing dinner, Otterslide Lake.
We saw some Common Mergansers on the paddle, a loon and on the backside of the big island there were three Otter who huffed and sniffed at us as they went by.  We returned to camp around 8:45, the paddle had taken about an hour, and we soon had a good fire going.  We enjoyed the fire and some wine with the nearly full moon rising over the lake.  After an hour we headed off to bed hopefully for a good sleep.

Monday, August 19 – Day 2

Slept not too badly last night.  Awoke at 7:45am, a little later than I hoped.  It was a grey day despite the forecast calling for sun.  I put water on for coffee while I got the rest of the things needed for breakfast while Dad started to pack things up in the tent.  About 8:45 a group of ten canoes that had been camped on three sites passed out site headed for the Otterslide Creek portage.  They looked to be either Scout or camp group.

Camp was pretty much packed up by the time breakfast was ready.  Once we were done we cleaned up and packed up the rest of the gear and were on our way by 9:15.  A short paddle brought us to the 250m portage into Otterslide Creek.  It was a good portage and was definitely shorter than 250 metres.  The water level on the creek looked low but was passable.  A short couple minute paddle brought us to a 390m portage.  Again it was good but felt a lot shorter than what was signed.
Gearing up for the portage into Otterslide Creek.
Gearing up for the portage into Otterslide Creek 30 years ago.
Low water at the start of the Otterslides.
A ten minute paddle brought us to a 265m portage.  At the end we caught up with the Scout group who were just heading off.  We caught up to them quickly on the water.  We were now on the long stretch of the creek.  Following them I could tell from their conversation that they were a Scout group from the States.

Part way up the creek we came across another large party heading the opposite way.  We continued to follow the Scouts who knew we were there but didn’t seem to have the common courtesy to let us by as we were travelling faster than they were.  At a large beaver dam we were able to get through and pass about half the group.  A little further ahead we got behind another one of their canoes who couldn’t seem to navigate the turns in the creek at all and were also ignorant to letting us pass, even at a beaver dam where we both got over at the same time but he didn’t even offer to let us go ahead.
Catching up to the Scouts.
Thankfully we arrived at the 730m portage which had a wide landing.  Quickly we unloaded and were on our way ahead of the rest of the group.  A short paddle brought us to the 105m portage into Big Trout Lake.  A few minutes later we were on our way out into the lake.  There was a bit of a head wind on the lake but it didn’t hinder us and an hour and a quarter later we were at the 300m portage to Longer Lake. 
Another party had arrived just ahead of us which we had caught up to on the lake.  The continued on and we stayed behind and had lunch.  After our brief break we were on our way to the other side.
Quaint waterfall at the last portage on Otterslide Creek.
Heading up Longer Lake the party ahead of us had taken the first campsite by the set of rapids.  We continued on up the lake and about an hour later we were at the 40m portage around a set of rapids.  We tracked down the rapids and did the same at the 75m portage.  That brought us into Red Pine Bay where there was a party just setting up camp on the island site.

Tracking down the rapids at the top of Longer Lake.
Tracking down the rapids at the top of Longer Lake 30 years ago.
Soon we were out on the main body of Burntroot Lake and facing a good headwind.  We headed for the site on the finger island on the west side of the lake.  I hoped it was free as you can’t see the site coming from the south until you’re right at it.  As we approached the site we spotted an Otter swimming along shore but it didn’t stick around to check us out.

The site was free and we quickly went to setting up camp.  I noticed while scouting the site that the big anchor from an alligator tug was not on the site anymore.  I couldn’t imagine where it could have gone!*
Once camp was camp was set up we headed out to get some firewood.  In no time we had a full load.  We broke it up then went for a much needed swim.  We did some cliff jumping like we did when we were here 26 years ago.  After a good swim we retired to the rocks to enjoy the sunshine, relax and have a glass of wine before dinner.
Awesome site on Burntroot Lake.
There's some machinery but where's the anchor?
The missing anchor circa 1990's
Woo hoo!
 Close to 7pm we got dinner of Chicken Saigon Noodles cooked up followed by peaches and cream pie and coffee.  After dinner we decided not to go for a paddle as it was still quite windy.  Instead we sat on the high rocks overlooking the lake and relaxed and read for a while before it was time for a campfire.  Luckily the fire pit is located in a hollow and is also built up and thus fairly sheltered from the wind which was still going strong by the time we got the fire going.  We enjoyed a good roaring fire and headed off to bed around 10pm.

*After the trip I asked my manager, the Chief Park Naturalist for Algonquin, and the Operations South Manager if they knew what happened to the anchor.  They said a few years earlier a party of Americans tried to take it out of the Park by canoe but were caught.  Unfortunately no charges were laid.  The anchor now sites at the White Trout Cabin waiting to be moved back to Burntroot Lake.

Tuesday, August 20 – Day 3

I was up just after 7am and got things ready for a coffee before Dad rose but he quickly followed suit.  It was a beautiful morning with a clear blue sky and a slight wind coming from the southwest so we should have a good tail wind going up the lake.
Beautiful morning on Burntroot Lake.
Breakfast was blueberry pancakes with sausage which we enjoyed with a coffee.  Afterwards we cleaned up and broke camp and were on the water by 9am.
Preparing for the day, Burntroot Lake.
With a nice tailwind we were at the 1310m portage to Robinson Lake 45 minutes later.  The portage is a fairly good one and took about 20 minutes to do.  That nice tailwind on Burntroot turned into a nasty headwind on Robinson.

There was one party camped on Robinson on the nice island site.  We ran into another party just as we finished the 45m portage into Whiskey Jack Lake.  Normally the portage is 25m but the water was low so we had to do the extra bit.
Low water on Whiskey Jack Lake.
A few minutes across Whiskey Jack brought us to the 480m portage to Remona Lake.  Over the portage it was then just a short paddle across Remona to our longest portage of the day, a 1930m to the Nipissing River.  Thirty years ago I remember this portage being nothing but hot, buggy and all uphill.  I have done it a couple of times since then and today we would be going the opposite direction so it would be all downhill.  It was a good trail and 25 minutes later we were at the Nipissing River.
Reaching the Nipissing River.
Heading out on the Nipissing.
It was just after 12pm so we did the short paddle to the 850m portage and had lunch on the downstream side of it at the end of picturesque rapids and rock garden.
Lunch on the Nipissing.
After lunch we headed off down a good stretch of the river.  I set the GPS to measure the distance as we went.  It was about 4Km and 45 minutes to the Nadine Lake portage.  To the lone campsite on the river it was 14 Km and just a little over two hours and to the 365m portage it was 16.2Km and about three hours travel time.

The river after the 850m portage was wide but shallow but it was passable and we didn’t have to get out at any time.  After the Nadine portage it was deeper and a much easier paddle.

About a half hour from the Nadine portage we came across two parties heading upriver.  Just before the lone campsite on the river there was a nice Bull Moose feeding in the river.  We took a moment to take some photos and a video then he moved on and so did we.
Swamp Donkey.
This whole stretch of the Nipissing is a really nice section of river; wide, gently winding with marshland on either side.
The beauty of the Nipissing.
Less than 35 minutes after passing the campsite we came to the 365m portage.  It was a good trail with a site at the end.  We decided not to take it and pressed on to check out the others.  The next one was on the river about 20 metres past the portage and looked terrible.  We continued on and did the 110m portage and on the way we saw a Black Bear on the shore.  This was exciting as in the 30 years I’ve been canoeing Algonquin this is only the third bear I’ve seen in the backcountry.

The 180m portage was our last of the day and our camp was one of the two sites at the end of the trail provided they both weren’t occupied.  It turned out the one at the river was taken so we took the other site which has an elevated view of the river.  After dumping our gear we headed down to check out the landing at the river and talked with the other party briefly.  Camp was then quickly set up and firewood gathered.  Once that was done we went down to the river to swim below the rapids and gather some water.  The swim was refreshing after a long, hot day on the river and I soaked in the rapids for a while.
The Upper Site.
The Lower Site.
A refreshing swim in the rapids below the sites.
Back at camp we relaxed with a glass of wine before getting dinner ready.  We ate late, about 8:15.  Tonight we had Lasagne followed by dark chocolate cheesecake and coffee for dessert.

By the time we cleaned up and got the food barrel hung it was well past 8:30.  We had a good fire and called it a day just after 10pm.

Wednesday, August 21 – Day 4

I had a poor sleep last night.  I realized after I woke that I slept with my head downstream instead of my feet.  Up just before 6:30am I got a coffee then headed down to the river.  Our neighbours were already up and half packed.  Looks like we weren’t the only ones wanting to get an early start on the river today.

When I got back to camp Dad was up.  Breakfast consisted of oatmeal and coffee as we wanted to be away in good time.  We were packed up and on the water by 7:45am, our neighbours having left a half hour earlier than us.

It was a beautiful morning on the river.  We saw two beaver not far from camp but they didn’t stick around for pictures.  A kilometre and a half from camp we came to the 2835m portage to Luckless Lake, another kilometre after that we were at the campsite west of Moose Lake.   Not long after that we were at Moose Lake which is just a widening of the Nipissing.  We reached our first portage, a 230m one, about 6Km from our start.  It was an easy trail and in high water you probably could have tracked or run the rapids.
A beautiful early morning paddle down the Nipissing.
Paddling across Moose Lake.
 We paddled for another couple of kilometres before coming to the 915m portage that would take us to our last stretch of river leading into Cedar Lake.  It was a good trail and we were over in good time and soon back on our way.  About a half hour later we were out onto Cedar Lake with a good tail wind pushing us towards the 695m portage up to a small section of the Petawawa River.  From our camp to the start of the portage it took two hours and fifteen minutes.
Heading out into Cedar Lake.
Quick rest at the portage out of Cedar Lake.
Along the portage I took the side trail to look at the falls and took some pictures.  I quickly caught up with Dad and we were on our way again passing another party heading out.  Ten minutes later we were at the 300m portage.  We walked up the rapids to below the falls to take some pictures then returned to the canoe and headed back to the portage. 
 
Falls off of the 695m portage.
Falls at the 300m portage.
On the other side of the portage there was a large group camped at the site there.  A twenty minute paddle brought us to the start of the 2345m portage.  There was a group of Scouts at the landing who had just finished and were cooking up lunch.

We headed out at 12:15 and twenty minutes later we reached the top of the big hill and the rest station.  After a brief break we were on our way again and fifteen minutes later we were at the end where there was another party that had just finished as well.  As it was just after 1pm we decided to have lunch.  The other party headed out but soon returned as they had forgotten something.  This allowed us to catch up to them at the 170m portage into Narrowbag Lake and then out before them on the lake.
Much needed refueling.
There was a very strong headwind as we paddled up the lake but it only took us twenty-five minutes to get to the 80m portage into Catfish.  Having done so before we just tracked up the short set of rapids and in some places we were up to our chests in the river but it felt great on this hot and humid day.
Tracking past the remains of an old log chute out of Narrowbag Lake.
The "Guardian" watching those coming into Catfish.
 Back in the canoe we faced more headwinds as we traversed the top section of Catfish.  There was one group camped on the island at the top section.  I was hoping the sit on the big island in the southern section was free as that is a really nice site.  As luck would have it the site was available.  We pulled into camp around 2:45pm, seven hours after leaving camp on the Nipissing this morning.

We went to work setting up camp then relaxed for a while down on the rocks.  After a while we went for a swim which felt great on such a hot day.  As we finished our swim five canoes came into the lake from the south.  Through the binoculars it looked like half the Scout group we encountered on Otterslide Creek two days ago.  Despite there being a number of nice sites available on the lake they decided to take the crappy site on the western shore which at this point in the day was already in shade.
Relaxing at my favorite site on Catfish.
We continued to relax, read and enjoyed a glass of wine in the sunshine until we decided to get dinner going just after 6pm.  Tonight we had Sheppard’s Pie and crème brulé for dessert.  After dinner we went for a short paddle to collect a bit of firewood.  We also headed to the campsite just up the way from us to check it out.  It looks good from the water and has a nice little beach but the site is up high and it’s quite a climb and there’s only one possible spot for a tent.

After checking out the site we headed back to ours and unloaded and broke up the wood.  Once that was done we sat down on the rocks and watched the sun set and the full moon rise which was large and orange.
End to another great day.
Just after 9pm we got a fire going and enjoyed it until just after 10pm.  We left the fly off the tent as the low tonight was suppose to be 19°C.

Thursday, August 22 – Day 5

The wind grew stronger as the night progressed and actually woke us up at 1am.  It was also starting to thunder and lightning to the north so we got up and put the fly on the tent.  About a half hour later a light rain started and it continued on and off through the night until about 5am.

I was up again just before 6:30am and got water for coffee and oatmeal going.  I had breakfast and let Dad sleep as we were in no hurry to get away today.  I enjoyed a second coffee down on the rocks then headed back up to the fire pit when I heard Dad get up.

The day was grey and humid and looked like it could rain again.  The wind had been coming from the west when I awoke but they the time we were ready to leave it had switched coming from the north.  This would mean a tail wind going down the big lakes today.
Still morning on Catfish.
We were on the water by 8:30 and the party on the site behind us was just ahead of us.  We caught up to them at the Catfish Rapids but they stayed ahead of us until the end of Perley Lake.  The 360m portage around the rapids is good but the mosquitoes weren’t.  A little paddle brought us to the Snowshoe Rapids which on the map is marked as 455m but it is signed as 320m which felt like the correct length.  A short paddle around the corner brought us to the 80m portage which we bypassed by pulling the canoe up the small set of rapids.  Shortly after that was the 360m portage around the Cedar Rapids which is actually signed 420m.  Here we met two other parties heading in the opposite direction.

The paddle up Perley Lake was pleasant but uneventful except for seeing Osprey and passing another party with two canoes.  Once over the 155m portage into Burntroot we had a snack and talked with the couple we had been following since leaving Catfish and gave them some advice on nice sites on the lake.

It was 11:30am when we headed off down Burntroot.  There was a nice tailwind helping us down the lake and the sky had cleared off and the humidity had broken.  We arrived at the 75m portage at 12:45 and pulled up the rapids.  When we reached the next set of rapids we had lunch below them and I went for a quick swim before pulling up that set as well thus avoiding the 40m portage.  At the top a large group from Outward Bound had arrived and they were off tracking down them as soon as we were on our way.
Nothing like tracking up a rapids on a hot summer day.
Lunch before tracking our last set of rapids.
Another nice tailwind helped us down Longer Lake and by 2:15 we were over the 300m portage to Big Trout, our destination for the day.  From the portage I could see where I wanted to stay and looking through the binoculars it looked like it was free.  As we paddled to the site we passed two other sites that were occupied.

The site was indeed free so we took it and quickly set up camp.  It’s a nice site on the end of an island leading into the narrows to White Trout.
Big Trout island site.
Big Trout island site.
Just after setting up camp a Warden and Canoe Route Technician stopped by to check the outhouse and our permits.  We chatted with them for a bit before they headed off.

The wind had increased in intensity since we arrived making it feel quite cool.  It’s odd how strong the wind had been for so many days and always seems to last well into the evening.

We took our seats down to the water and relaxed and read for the rest of the afternoon.  I think at one point both Dad and I dozed off for a bit.  Close to 6pm we had a glass of wine and continued to relax until it was time to get things ready for dinner.  On the menu tonight was chicken curry with rice and peaches and cream pie for dessert.

Dad broke up some firewood while I prepared the meal.  From what was left on the site it looked like we would have enough for tonight’s fire and wouldn’t have to go looking for any extra.

After dinner we just relaxed and read and watched the sunset.  The wind had calmed down a bit but was still strong for the time of night.  We got a fire going just before 9pm and by that point the wind had shifted and was coming from the north and had picked up intensity.  The wind made it a bit cool around the fire and I had to put on my fleece jacket to keep my back warm.  We called it a night shortly after 10 under the light of the moon.
End to another great day.
Friday, August 23 – Day 6

The wind was still blowing good out of the north when we awoke around 7:30am.  I got breakfast going while Dad packed up a bit.  After breakfast we enjoyed a coffee in the morning sunshine out of the wind on the leeward side of the site.  We finished packing and were on the water at 9am.  The north wind gave us a good tailwind going into and down White Trout.  We saw a juvenile Bald Eagle flying around the lake.  Probably the same one we saw on Big Trout four days earlier.
McLachlin Bros. depot farm on White Trout.
We passed the interior guys working on a campsite cutting up a big pine with a chainsaw.  An hour paddle brought us to the mouth of Grassy Bay.  The paddle through the bay was good.  McIntosh Creek really didn’t become overgrown with water plants until past the portage to Hawkins Lake.  As we approached our first portage the creek narrowed considerably and we had to get out several times at shallow, sandy spots.
Entering Grassy Bay.
 Two and a half hours after leaving the site we were at the 745m portage.  There were two parties coming off the portage as we arrived.  They informed us that the next section of the creek was low and we’d have to walk most of it with mud up to the knees at spots.  I’m not sure what they were talking about but we didn’t have to do that.  At a couple of shallow , rocky spots we had to get out but we were never up to our knees or sunk into the mud at all and the rest of it we just had to pole through.
At least we weren't up to our knees in muck!
About ten minutes on that section brought us to the 510m portage that would take us to McIntosh Lake, our destination for the day.  The trail was good and we met another party going the opposite direction.  We arrived at McIntosh at 12:30.  It’s a beautiful lake with lots of sites.  I had one in mind so we paddled towards it.  Part way there we detoured to check out another site but it wasn’t to our liking so we headed to the big site on the point on the south shore.
Great site on McIntosh.
McIntosh Site.
 We set up camp then sat down on the rocks and had lunch.  After lunch we relaxed on the rocks and read for a bit.  I went for a swim and found a good high rock for jumping off.  We spent some more time lying in the sun then Dad and I went for a swim and did some cliff jumping.  After drying off and warming up we had a glass of wine and had a bit of a snooze in the late afternoon sun.
Cliff jumping part deux.
Pretty soon it was time to get dinner going.  For our last supper we had beef stew and crème brulé.  Afterwards we enjoyed a coffee on the rocks in the sunshine and read for a bit.  We then headed out in the canoe for a short paddle and to gather some firewood.  Back at camp we cut up the wood then sat on the rocks and watched the sunset.
Prelude to another great day.
Just when you think it can't get any more beautiful.
Once things got dark we started a good roaring fire and enjoyed it and the last of our wine on our last night.

Saturday, August 24 – Day 7

After a good night’s sleep we awoke around 6:30 to a beautiful clear day.  It was a little cool this morning so while water boiled for coffee I got a fire going.  With coffee in hand I prepared huevos rancheros for breakfast while Dad packed up a bit.
The final breakfast.
We enjoyed our last breakfast in front of the fire as we watched little wisps of mist float across the lake.
After one last coffee we cleaned up, doused the fire and finished packing up.  Loaded up we set out across the lake towards Ink Creek.
Another beautiful morning.
The paddle down the creek was beautiful with the stillness of the morning, the clear blue sky and spider webs covered in dew.  Eventually we emerged onto Ink Lake which was like glass.  Halfway across the lake a pack of wolves began to howl.  It went on for close to a minute then that was the last we heard of them.  I surmised they must have returned to the rendezvous site after a night on the hunt and were vocalizing at being back together.
Early morning on Ink Creek.
Listening to the wolves, Ink Lake.
 A few dozen paddle strokes later had us at the 2370m portage to Tom Thomson Lake.  I had always not liked this portage and hadn’t done it in years and I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it.  The first part was up a steep staircase then after that it levelled off.  Having fresh legs it turned out to be an enjoyable walk and I was over to the other side in 35 minutes with Dad only a few minutes behind.
And up we go.
As we paddled out into the lake it became evident that we were back into the busy area of the Park.  From what I could tell it looked like every campsite on the lake was occupied.

Soon we were at the end of the lake pulling over the beaver dam that separated Tom Thomson from Little Doe Lake.  From the looks of it Little Doe was just as busy.  Farm and Joe lakes were also busy.  We passed more canoes heading in and I began to wonder where everyone was going to stay.

Around noon we reached the portage back into Canoe Lake.  It wasn’t as busy as when we started but there were still a good number of people coming and going.  My favorite group was a party of six big burly guys who loaded there canoes on land then with everything they had dragged and pushed the canoes across the gravel into the lake.

After a quick snack at the Canoe Lake end we pushed off on our final leg of the journey.  Forty-five minutes later we landed on the beach where we started our trip six days prior and had finished 30 years ago.  After that first trip 30 years ago where we brought everything but the kitchen sink and often put in 10-12 hour days I said I never wanted to see Algonquin Park again as long as I lived.  I’m glad I didn’t stay true to my word and have had the opportunity and pleasure to work in and explore this amazing Park over the years.

Thanks for another great canoe trip Dad!  I’m already looking forward to next year’s trip wherever it may take us.
Thanks Dad!

2 comments: