Friday, October 30, 2009

Trip #11 Rock Lake - October 2009

   This was the latest I had ever been into the interior. The last week of October brings with it short days and very cool nights. Dad was a little reluctant to head into the interior this late in the year given the short days and normally rainy weather you chance having this time of year. Dad asked his brother uncle Pete (2004 Trip attendee) to join in the trip and in was determined that a short trip would be the best thing this time around. We planned on staying on Rock lake and I had done some site investigation in years past that had me wanting to stay on one of the mainland sites along the east shore of the lake. Dad and uncle Pete decided to take a small steel boat on this trip and though reluctant to agree with their choice I figured why not, at least they where going to go in with me. I on the other hand chose my dad's square back fiberglass canoe. I loaded up my gear and paddled solo to the site from the access point. I am not in favour of any motor boats in the park but I knew that if I pushed the issue too much dad and uncle Pete wouldn't be coming along and I would be going solo. 
  
 The site we chose had a large rock face running along the East side. This was kind of neat because our camp fire tended to reflect off the rock and light up the entire site in the evening. As in the past, tent placement is key when camping with snoreres!! I thought I had the right spot for my tent but after the first night it bacame very clear that the rock face that reflected the fire light so well also echoed the bear like snoring coming from both dad and Uncle Pete's tents right into mine. Lesson learned from this is to take along a cheap pair of foam ear plugs when camping with two old men that snore like nothing I have ever heard before in my life!
George Castanza eat your heart out!!

The weather for most of the trip was overcast but we did have a couple clear sunsets to take some nice pictures. The temperature was -1 deg C by day and -3 deg C by night fall. We all had enough clothes and mostly just enjoyed each others company for the weekend around the camp fire. Dad and Uncle Pete talked about old times and I just sat back and listened to stories of their lives growing up and camping as kids. I know I got the camping bug from my parents and my love for Algonquin Park came from memories of my very first trip into the interior back when I was 8 years old. We talked about our first trip into Pen Lake with mom, dad brother Blake and myself. Though we didn't make a habbit of interior camping right away after that first trip I believe the seed was truly planted.

View of site from rock ledge along the east side of the site.

   I took some time to enjoy the lake by myself this trip. The lake was empty of campers and I had never paddled down towards the dam into Galeairy Lake so I headed out one morning and just paddled the East shore meandering in and out of all the little bays and coves hugging the shoreline. I stopped and checked out three or four sites along the way for future trips. I got within about 200' of the dam and the light rain I had endured thus far became a heavy down pour so I decided to return to the camp site. One cool feature in this end of Rock Lake is a rock face protruding out of the water and rising up about 100' or so. I took one good picture of this and posted it below.
   I find it amazing how each trip into the park fuels my desire to return. I found myself sitting around the fire drinking a hot coffee after dinner and looking at my Chrismar map trying to plan my our next trip into the park.
   I find nothing helps pass the Winter months faster than sitting around the kitchen table talking with my brother Blake about a trip to embark on come ice out in May year after year. It is really great to have other peoples trip logs available online to help plan future trips.  
We decided that an interior campsite on Rock lake would be the best choice for this trip.
Our Rock Lake site was S/W facing but the prevailing winds held off so it turned out to be a good choice this time around.

The shoreline had a great flat rock landing for putting in and out.



The rock wall down the shoreline from our site.


The three of us at the access point when we were heading home.


A great shot down the east shoreline from the put in at our site.


A picture of a site further South along the East shoreline.

Thumbs up to the great sunset!!

My favourite picture of this trip, to me it kinda just says it all!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Trip #10 Pen Lake - September 2009

In September of 2009 I went on a trip to the park with my friend Matt.  Grant was not able to join us this trip so just Matt and I went.  Ever since Grant and I's visit to Fork lake and it's great island site I have wanted to return there.  As this was to be Matt's first trip to Algonquin, I thought that that lake and site in particular would be a great introduction.  As we were going into the park in late September and Fork lake is rather off the beaten path I figured we would have no problem getting the island site, and in fact would likely have the whole lake to ourselves anyways.


Due to the fact that there are no portages on the way to Fork lake and most of the paddle is along a small creek speckled with beaver dams, combined with the fact that water levels were expected to be fairly low, I decided to not bring my dad's expensive Ultralight Kevlar canoe and instead take the old "rubber" Coleman canoe that we have had for a few years.  The Coleman is heavy, slow, pushes water like a barge, has no yoke, and is not something you want to portage with.  It is however very durrable, and can survive any rocks, scrapes, ramping off beaver dams etc. that you throw at it.  Seemed like the perfect choice to take to Fork Lake.


Driving into the park it rained on us as usual, but by the time we reached the access point at Sunday Creek the weather had subsided and was a overcast, but dry day.  Maybe too dry actually.  In fact it had not really rained for weeks in our parts of Ontario, and when we got to the put-in for the canoe, I was shocked to see that the water level was a good foot and a half lower than when Grant and I had come there in August the previous year.  Looking at the mostly dry culvert we had paddled through just a year ago I realized that there was a chance Sunday creek was going to be very hard to paddle up without constantly getting out of the canoe to drag it.  We decided to put the canoe in and cross under the highway via the culvert to start our journey on the other side.
Well we bottomed out the canoe in the culvert and had to get out and drag the canoe through it to the other side.

Where did all the water go?


On the other side of the culvert I got my first good look at Sunday Creek and I remembered as a 10 foot wide river was nothing more than a muddy ravine with some puddles periodically dispersed every few feet.  We could not canoe up this, it could take hours upon hours to literally travel a single kilometer.  Not yet willing to give up, Matt and I left the canoe in the culvert and entered the marsh on foot to see if the creek opened up after the next few bends.

Ever try to walk through a marshland?  Well its so overgrown that you can't see where you are stepping and every few feet there is a hidden hole that sucks your leg up to the groin.  Each bend we came to showed us the same bleak picture, a muddy creek bed with no chance of canoeing down it.  After about 200 metres of hellish treking we decided that it was no use, we would not be reaching Fork Lake.  We would not be staying on my favorite site in the park.  We turned around, hiked back to the canoe, caried it back to the van, strapped it on, and though: Now what?

Well the closest access from Sunday Creek was Rock lake, and I know it and Pen very well from the last few years of tripping.  Matt had never seen any of the park so why try not for a site on Rock or Pen and show him the cool places?  I just hoped that there was still a site open on one of the lakes for us...

We were lucky, of the 18 sites availible on Pen Lake, all but two were left availible.  As it was getting late in the morning already we happlily changed our reservation to Pen lake, put in the canoe and gear, and made our way across Rock Lake towards the Pen portage.

Making our way across rock in record time with a strong wind at our backs


What had seemed like a great canoe for creek running, the Coleman canoe was not designed as a lake crosser, and it was painful to see most of our paddling effort wasted on the huge bow-wake the Coleman was pushing.  On the bright side we were helped along by the strongest back wind I have ever experienced canoeing in the park.  the wind literally pushed us across Rock lake in record time.  I can only dream about the speed we would have attained in my dad's sleek kevlar canoe with that wind.

Here is Matt making his way over the old logs that have been piled up here over the years


My favorite shot from this trip


After two tripping the portage, Matt and I spent a good while exploring the rapids that fall from Pen to Rock Lake.  It was very interesting to see this familiar site so dried up, in fact everything looked different to me about the area as the water was so much lower than I was used to.


The park has all you need, including running water

We considered taking the site on Pen right beside the rapids, but Matt wanted to stay on the one of the islands instead so we made our short paddle over there.  We first stopped on the Eastern island, which is technically the only island, as the other one is ususually connected to the mainland with a narrow strip of beach.  I have stayed on this island before, and it is quite exposed to the North wind which was blowing like crazy still.  We left our canoe on the beach and walked to the back of the island, and hopped across the rocks to the other island to see how it looked.
I have also stayed on this island before, on the Southern site which is really nice.  It was however occupied, but we found the North site was open and it had a few more trees on it compared to the other island to block the North wind.  We decided we wanted it so we had to run back over the rocks to get our canoe and claim our site.  We knew that this lake was to be all but full for the night, so this site would not be free for long.  This assumption was true, as for the rest of the day we saw many dissapointed campers veer towards our site only to see that it was occupied and turn away.

The wind was cold that first day, but it warmed up quite a bit the next day


Relaxing eh?


We started a small fire and had some food but the wind was cold on our backs so we went to bed fairly early.  The first night the wind never let up, but Matt and I were smart enough to bring tarps with us which we positioned over our tents as wind blocks.  Inside out tents we could not feel the cold wind at all.


These tarps made all the difference that first night blocking the strong North wind



Something new this trip, I brought a small hatchet. I don't usually bring one when portaging, but then I never planned on portaging did I?

 

The next morning we woke up to a clear blue warm sunny day.  We set out to do some hiking, and paddled to the portage to Gem Lake, left the canoe and hiked up to the rock lookout that I had been to before on previous trips.

Here is Matt taking in the view


Living on the edge




After climbing down from the cliffs we hiked the portage to and from Gem Lake, and decided to gather some driftwood from the shore near the portage to take back to our site for firewood.  We loaded a couple hundred pounds of wood into the caone, something I would not have done with my dad's Ultralight canoe, but was easily handled by the bargelike Coleman.  We took our time paddling back to our site as the wind had totally stopped, the sun was hot and was nice to just feel the sun warming us up on the lake.

Like I said, it was nice to feel the sun on our backs the second day


On the way back we saw a huge snapping turtle sunning himself on a rock, he dropped into the water and I watched him swim away under our canoe.  The lake was so flat that day that I could clearly see the bottom of the lake the whole span between both islands, even though it was at least 15 feet deep.  Would have been great for snorkeling with that sun shinning through the water.


Turtle, likely older than both of us combined


We spent most of the rest of the afternoon relaxing around the campsite, but as it got later we decided to paddle to the end of Pen lake and maybe explore the falls that connect Clydegale Lake to Pen.
We did not anticipate just how slow the Coleman canoe would be crossing the lake, and by the time we reached the end we found the sun was only a few degrees above the horizon, it was turning to night and we would still have a long paddle to get back to our site.  We decided to turn around and make our way back rather than risk going any further.
As we paddled the sun set over the horizon and the stars started to come out.  It was fully night by the time we were near our camp and at this point we were basically guiding ourselves by the stars, the stars were very bright that night (and I know them very, very well), so it was easy to keep our bearings.
We finally approached our island and had quite a time finding the small gap in the rocks to squeeze our canoe through, I'm sure fellow campers where a little concerned to see us on the lake after dark, the temperature had fallen quite a bit and the air was cold.  We soon however made it to our site, fumbled in the dark to find some warmer clothes, and spent the rest of the night sitting by the fire.

The next morning we paddled out in a thick fog.



Friday, May 29, 2009

Trip #9 Clydegale Lake - May 2009

Trip #9 was full of firsts as you will soon read in this Blog.

This site had a bit of everything including a great canoe access pictured on the left of the above photo. The sand made for easy access and is also great for washing dishes (natures S.O.S. pad).


Dad entertained every evening with some tunes of the harmonica.

We set up a small shelter utilizing a tarp and some thin rope. This small shelter was great because we could position it close enough to the fire to feel the warmth but not to close that we smoked ourselves out.

This picture shows how calm the lake was on the way into the interior.

Prior to this trip I read in a persons blog that fishing is pretty good in the waters near the Pen to Clydegale portage. I only caught a large rock and some water logged trees. The park was conducting a fish survey and they gave me a package upon entering the park. The package included a lure. Leave it up to Ontario Parks to buy American made lures and put them in a Canadian fish survey care package. This lure now rests at the bottom of the lake at the brink of the falls leading into Pen Lake from Clydegale.

Dad didn't want to get caught in the rain without his rain gear so he pushed on and bared the heat of these heavy duty pants.

Dad acquired a canoe pack a few years ago and he to agrees that this is the only way to enter the interior.

I made a brief attempt at fishing near the bottom of the South Madawaska River portage into Clydegale. This picture looks better then the fishing that is for sure.

This picture shows the sleek Alchemist 16' Ultra Lite at the sandy entrance to our island site.

Once again a reminder that winter hasn't been gone for very long. You don't have to look too hard to find signs winter.

We purchased a new canoe an Alchemist 16' constructed of Kevlar and Carbon Fiber. This canoe is extremely lite and a dream to portage. We discovered that it was less stable than any other canoe we had tripped with in the past but what is lost in stability it gained in speed and maneuverability. With this trip being just Blake Dad and myself it was a tight fit for people and gear in this canoe but we managed.
We endured all sorts of weather this trip. Sometimes calm and sunny and other times very windy with rain or snow. The sun sets pretty early still in May.

The location we picked for camp was an island site down in the S/W end of the lake. The island was well protected for most sides and was very private.

Blake took an opportunity to take a swim in the frigid water. The island had a small neighbouring island to the south that was home to some nesting birds. Blake found this discovery out the hard way and was chased off the rocks by a very unhappy mother bird. I always knew Blake was a natural around water but running on water was a surprise to me!!

The coolest geeks in Algonquin or at least that is what Dad called us when he snapped this picture. We planned a day trip to Little Canoe Lake located South of Clydegale Lake once you walk the 1990 m portage.

Blake programmed his GPS and I packed my fishing gear and we were off. The weather was great when we headed out.

We also took an afternoon trip with Dad up the South Madawaska River to the portage. We all took our fishing gear but not much time was spent fishing this time as you will soon see. The sun was out when we left and other than some snacks we didn't really pack too much extra stuff since this was to be a short trek. Shortly after paddling to the start of the portage was heard a very load crack of thunder and within minutes the temperature dropped by about 12 deg. C. The wind turned around 180 deg. and the clouds rolled in. We walked the length of the portage and then once we reached the end the rain started. We made our way back to the canoe and I started to get in my seat in the stern of the canoe. I had asked Blake to steady the canoe while I got in but I guess he didn't hear me as he was talking to Dad about something. Just then I lost my footing and made a back flip into the river in about 3' of water. I looked up and both Blake and Dad looked on in amazement at my acrobatic maneuver. I had no change of clothes with me and no extra boots or socks left back at camp. The weather was now -1 deg. C and we had a good 40 min. paddle back to camp. With the rain coming down we all got wet just I was wet every wear even in my boots. We made it to camp and each of us went in our tents to get warm.

This picture shows how crowded the canoe was on the journey in and out of the park.

This is Dad's new tent from M.E.C (Mountain Equipment Co-Op). This is a three season tent that Dad bought for this trip. He had one complaint and that was that it has very little venting and therefore tended to contain lots of condensation from your breath. A tent candle could be used to eliminate this phenomenon but for this trip Dad didn't have one. A tent candle is a long burning collapsible candle that can hang inside the tent and believe it or not keep condensation in check. Care must be taken when utilizing one of these for obvious reasons so I would recommend talking to an outdoor supply company about the best one for your tent.

This shot was taken during one of the moments when the sun did shine. Like I said before we experienced all types of weather and on the way out we paddled the length of Pen Lake through blizzard like conditions. In all the trip was fun and Dad had a good time as well. It is important to select a route that is realistic for all participants. Too long a trip or too rushed a trip can take the fun out of it if not everyone is able to keep up with the required pace. This trip is just the right distance for a four day trip. The two portages are short and relatively easy to complete.