Trip #14 McIntosh, Misty, White Trout, Little Doe May 4th to 8th 2011
In Spring of 2011 Grant and I, along with our friend Mike, embarked on a 4-day trip to the North side of Highway 60 in Algonquin Park.
Our trip actually began the evening of Tuesday May 3rd as we decided to drive up to Huntsville after work and staying in a hotel that night to allow us to be on the water on Canoe Lake as early as possible the next day. We also knew that this trip was going to be physically demanding and we wanted to be sure we were well rested when we set off.
We stayed at the Comfort inn Huntsville, not much exicting to report on but the hotel room was spotless and the continental breakfast was fantastic. We all ate more than our share, as we knew it would be the last really heavy meal for the next 4 days.
At 8:00 am we were pushing off from the sandy beach of Canoe Lake, paddling on towards our eventual first campsite on McIntosh Lake. This leg would be the longest leg in our trip and would also include the longest single portage of the trip.
I should point out that the weather was perfect. Dry weather is never guaranteed in spring, but unlike almost every other trip we have made into this park, this trip did not start out with us paddling out into the rain. The sun was shining and there was not a hint of cloud in the sky.
This was our first time paddling Canoe lake and it was interesting to see areas we have not seen before in the park. Like it or hate it, there are cottages on Canoe Lake, and we were happy to reach the portage into Joe Lake as we were ready to start leaving signs of the civilized world behind us.
As we approached our take-out to the Joe Lake portage we spotted a large Brook Trout just under the canoe. Maybe he was trying to go upstream into Joe, but good luck as there is a 12 foot dam between him and his destination.
The portage from Canoe to Joe is an easy one, it's short, it's flat and wide like a dirt road, and looks like some people have even used kayak carts on it which would make it one of the few portages where those carts could be used with benefit. The man made dam is interesting and worth taking a bit of time to have a look at. Built in the 1960's it is holding back a considerable mass of water in Algonquin Park. I would have loved to take an HDR photo of that dam but I couldn't, as you see Grant had my pack on his back and he missed the end of the portage. He took a left and continued to walk 400m (nearly twice the distance of the actual portage) down a maintenance road. Mike and I yelled at him to stop but I guess he couldn't hear us under the canoe as he just kept trudging on in the wrong direction. Mike and I took this opportunity to have a snack and wait for Grant to return. He did not. We reluctantly grabbed our packs and added another 400m of portaging to the trip as we tracked down Grant at the end of the road by a small dock.
For having 3 guys in one canoe, plus all the gear and food for 4 days, we were pushing that canoe along at a great pace considering. As we glided past Camp Arowhon (the last buildings we would see till our return) the day grew warmer with the bright sun. We stopped for a quick snack on a small site on the Little Oxtongue River. Here is a photo from out rest:
Back on our way we passed thru the beautiful Littledoe Lake, there are some fantastic sites on this little lake. A little ways up the channel between Littledoe and Tom Thomson there is a large beaver dam.
As we canoed through Tom Thomson Lake we saw many nice looking sites. The paddle across was Tom Thomson was not an easy one, the wind was starting to really pick up and it is not an easy lake to cross by sticking to the shores. At times we were forced to cross large openings. So soon after ice-out the water temperature is so cold that an accidental swamping of the canoe would be very dangerous. We reached our destination; the start of the 2,390m portage into Ink Lake. We were not looking forward to this portage as it was the longest on our trip.
What can I say about the portage into Ink? It was not fun. Uphill, downhill, and many freshly fallen trees blocking our way. Mike had an especially hard time on the portage, later on we discovered why: Along with his regular gear and food he was also carrying 5 one litre tetra packs of wine in his pack. The wine was his own little surprise and though he was secretly cursing it on that portage, we all agreed was worth the weight in the end.
Video of the boardwalk on portage from Tom Thomson to Ink:
We were all very happy when we were back in the canoe paddling Ink Lake. Ink is a strange lake which reminds me of the Spruce Bog. Maybe it is a spruce bog, or the start of one? We pondered this as we paddle thru its dark red waters.
connecting Ink to McIntosh is a meandering stream. Half way down this stream we came across a strange site: A dead moose, half submerged in the stream. Grant figures it fell through the ice in late winter and drown. We will probably never know.
At last, we turned a bend and reached McIntosh lake. What we were greated with was the strongest headwind Grant and I have ever experience in Algonquin. Worse still, Mcintosh was filled with swelling white caps, and were a loaded canoe that was riding low enough in the water already. although we had wanted to pick ou the best site we could find on McIntosh, this was not going to happen. We were forced to stick to the shore and take the closest site avaliable. The closest site happened to be the first site on the left. It was relatively close, but even paddling to it was a touch-and-go experience. I was in the front and had to brace myself every large wave. I could feel the splash on my face as we broke through large waves and though the day was a sunny 22 degrees, the water was a deadly 1 degree. We eventually reached our site in one piece.
Our site on McIntosh was not all that bad. Begger's can't be chooser's, and I have seen far worse sites in the park.
I will point out here that I was trying something new this trip. I did not bring my tent, instead I brought a lightweight nylon hammock to sleep in. The hammock was one I made myself before the trip following instuctions from Hammock Forums. While Grant and Mike looked for spots on the ground for their tents, I looked for two nicely spaced trees to string up my hammock. With only a tarp overhead and no bug net, I was looking forward to sleeping with nothing between me and the night air.
The first night was the usual camp routine, start a fire (with a firesteel as we like to do), cook our dinner, have a beverage, sit by fire, go to sleep.
We woke the next morning to a mirror flat lake.
Thankfully this also meant that the vicous wind of the previous day was no longer present. Grant took a few minutes to cast off the rocky outcrops in hopes of landing a fish, but to no avail. After a lite breakfast (Backpacker's Pantry's - ??? Museli - awesome by the way) we were soon packed up and back on the water as we paddled towards the portage into Timberwolf Lake. Upon reaching the portage take-out, \mike pulled another surprise out of his pack: two fresh oranges. A quick bite later we were walking the portage to Timberwolf. This portage marks the part of the trip where we started seeing large sections of forest completely decidioudous rather than coniferous. Something we have not seen much of on our previous trips to the park. This portage was a quick up and down and we quickly found ourselves at the put-in to timberwolf.
After Grant took a quick look at the map we navigated straight acrooss timberwolf to our next portage. Upon approaching the portage we realized that Grant had navigated us to the incorrect portage. Here we faced a decision: Do we take the 780m incorrect portage into \misty, or turn aound and backtrack somewhat to our inteded portage of 120m into misty. We quickly decided to backtrack and take the shorter portage.
Mike trolled for trout as we paddled our way to the little river that lead to the portage into \misty. Turns out we chose wisely as we had our first (living) moose encounter on this little river on Timberwolf. This moose saw us coming and as such we did not have great luck photographing it. Strangely, we also stumbled upon our second dead animal sighting of the trip as we glided past a submerged dead beaver.
We portaged into Misty. The downfall of the portage we took is that it placed us at the end of the lake which logically eliminated most of the sites that we could otherwise have chosen. The first site we looked at was very nice, and in hindsight we probably should have taken it as the remining sites on the lake were anywhere from rough to mostly abandoned. \one site we stopped at had had its sign ripped off and it appeared from the way it was grown in that it had not been used for years. We ended up staying on the last sight on the lake before the \petawawa river. This site was small but somewhat unique. first off, it was located in a large section of decidious forest. Being so early in the spring with no leaves yet sprout the forest allowed a great deal of sunlight onto the campsite. There was also a nice grassy spot for tents. I setup my hammock deeper in the forest.
Beign our shortest travel day, we had the oportunity to relax a bit on this day 2 of the trip. The sun was shining and it was hot enough for tshits and shorts. We even though about taking a swim but the water was way too cold. Grant took some time to fish, \mike took a nap and I relaxed in my hammock.
At this point \mike brought the next supprise out of his pack. He produced a large pork tenderloin and a few potatoes. We all ate a good meal.
Later on, Grant fished and Mike and I opened another tetra pack by the fire. Before long it was dark and we were watching the stars wheeling overhead. Just before \i turned to walk into the woods to my hammock I heard something loud walking through the woods behind me. I do not know what animal made that sound but as I lay in my hammock I pondered that sound for a long time before falling asleep.
The next morning we discovered that our site was built over an old logging camp. In fact, my hammock was setup within the boundaries of the old foundation for some sort of logging building. judging by the size of the trees growing out of the foundation, it was safe to say that logging camp was abandoned a long long time ago. it is also worth mentioning that the whole area of the site was scattered with various rusted old tools and machine parts.
Once packed back up we continued our journey down to the end of Misty and down the Petawawa River towards our next destination of White Trout Lake. This 3rd day of the trip was the only day with poorer weather. Overcast skies and just a few patches of drizzle overhead as we paddled down the river. The trip from Misty to White Trout is decievingly longer than expected. There are also quite a few short portages along the way. One one portage we say what we believed to be wolf droppings, full of hair.
video under water
This photo was taken at the start of the 418m portage.
Upon reaching White Trout we were all pretty worn out and decided to take the closest site to us which happened to be the one directly across from the put-in in Grassy Bay. This site ended up being the nicest site of the trip, large open areas with a thick bed of conifer needles on the ground everywhere. The site is on a point and is covered almost exclusivly with Douglas Fir trees. The douglas firs are very straight and some falled dead wood made a great frame for the buck saw.
The overcast skys stayed with us untill after dark but we never had to deal with any real rain, just a few drizzles. We all took well deserved naps that afternoon.
None of us stayed up late any of the nights on this trip. I was last to turn in that night and I sat by the fire by myself for a bit before going to my hammock to read some Carl Sagan before sleep.
The next morning we awoke to grant yelling at us that he caught a fish and we all had to get up and see. He had caught a Fall fish, right off the shore, and they were biting so well he was pulling them out of the water as soon as he cast out. Mike joined in the fishing and him and Grant debated whether they should fillet one up and eat it. We had had zero luck with trout the whole trip and really wanted to have some fish to eat before the trips end. In the end they decided that they would and Grant prepared one as Mike continued to catch and release.
Meanwhile I had noticed that the lake was pefectly flat and the sky was reflecting its clouds perfectly. It was a photo-op I was not going to let pass.
After a quick breakfast of whatever we had left (Grant and I shared our food bag, we pack light, and at this point we were getting to the dregs of the bag) we set off towards the last nights destination of Littledoe Lake. This last day was going to be hard and we knew it. Much of the distance between White Trout and Littledoe would be on foot portaging. The only benefit was that our packs were now considerably lighter as our food was low.
Before our first portage as we paddled through McIntosh Marsh, Grant spotted two moose on the far shore, a male and female. We were quite a ways away but I got out my 70-200 lens and we started slowly paddling towareds the pair. I thought for sure we would spook the moose into running before we got close enough for a really good shot, but in the end they let us as close to them as we were willing to risk. A moose enconter like this is the main reason I lugged that 70-200mm lens with me all along.
Here is a video of the moose encounter: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4SNYkWKN-o
After the moose encounter we continued on to our first of many portages for the day.
We made an error on the 1400m portage and ended up putting our canoe into Three Ponds lake, thinking we were at Canada Jay Lake. We soon realized out mistake, but it was still a bit of a pain having to load and unload the canoe more than required.
We had decided ahead of time that we would take a rest stop on one of the islands on Sunbeam Lake. What a beatiful lake Sunbeam is. The island we chose to stop at is the one on the south end of the lake, the one with a designated site on it. The site is hands-down one of the nicest and most interesting I have ever seen in the park. The dominant feature is a huge rock face which seperates the site into two sides. The campire is located just by the face of this rock, offering a huge wind-block as well as a great surface to reflect the fire heat from. This site is definitely one I hope to stay overnight one someday.
Grant and Mike fooling around on the Sunbeam island site:
We took our time relaxing on Sunbeam island, I even set up my hammock for lunch. After we ate Grant dared me to wade from our island to to a little island just off shore. I did it but the water was bone chillingly cold. Mike would soon find out how cold the water was as well.
I was the last to enter the canoe as we put in to the lake. I was taking the middle seat on the floor with Grant in the rear and Mike in the front. I guess I leaned left when I should have leaned right because I got that canoe rocking and next thing I new I was sitting down and Mike was swimming wildly towards shore. he had gotten thrown clean out of the canoe and into the chilly water. Luckily we were only a few feet from the shore and he was back on land with in 2 or 3 seconds. Unluckily he was wet from his chest down. Mike had dry clothes in his pack and decided he would paddle to the first portage before changing. We spent the rest of the paddle to Little Doe with Mike's clothes spread out over the pack in the sun and by night time they were all dry, even his shoes.
Our last night we stayed on an OK site on Little Doe. All 3 of us setup on a flat ledge very close to the lake. We were all within a few feet of the water. Which made for a great view of the sunset, but also made for the coldest night of sleeping yet.
Before we turned in for the night we gathered around the fire and ate what was left of our food. I myself was completely out of food after this last small meal, with the exception of a Cliff bar for the morning.
The following morning was a chilly one to wake up to. There was a fine layer of ice on the canoe, so we knew it had gotten down below zero that night. I had decided I wanted to sleep without my tarp over my hammock as I wanted to be able to see the stars as I fell asleep. This turned out to be a bad decision as the tarp actually really helps to keep the heat in, and I woke pretty cold in the early morning.
The paddle back to the car was pretty uneventful. We did let a large group of a dozen or so canoes get in front of us.
Canoe Lake is a fairly long lake to be crossing on the last journey to the car. It was nice to finally reach the end and set foot on that beach by the permit office. So far this trip has been the longest distance covered for us in one trip.