Early August 2006 - Algonquin Park
Time: 9 nights (we ended up staying 8 nights)
Access Point: Smoke Lake
Route: Big Porcupine, Kirkwood, Louisa, Louisa, North Grace, McGarvey, McGarvey, Big Porcupine

This trip was just the March family... Bryan, Tobias and Laurie.

The plan was to stay at Cannisbay Lake Campground for one night. On Saturday we would start out from Smoke Lake and spend one night on each lake in our route with an extra night at Lake Louisa and an extra night at McGarvey.

Day 1

We arrived early at Canoe Lake and got our permits early so that we could start out at first light the next morning. The computers were still down from the previous week's storm so the staff had to write everything out by hand. We proceeded to Cannisbay Lake where we car camped for the night.

Day 2

The morning weather was very nice. We were on the water by 7:30 am and the water was unusually calm compared to our other experiences with Smoke Lake. We got to the first portage into Ragged Lake quickly and lost a water bottle on the trail (we never did find it). Then we paddled Ragged Lake to the portage that would take us into Big Porcupine Lake. The portage was 590 m but has a good hill at the beginning. When we finished the portage we canoed down the narrow section of Big Porcupine and camped on the south peninsula.

The site didn't look like much from the canoe but once we explored it we found it to be a very nice site. There was a plethora of mushrooms on the site.


We had a Moroccan stew and French bread for dinner and then enjoyed hot chocolate on the shore. The sunset wasn't anything to write home about but the trees on the island in the channel had some nice reflections.






Day 3

We awoke early to another nice morning. It was to be a fairly short day with a paddle through Bonnechere and eventually into Kirkwood Lake. There were only two sites on Kirkwood and with the island already occupied we took the site at the far end of the lake. We lunched on coleslaw and had a supper of pork with a chipotle pepper sauce.


There were some neat cloud formations and some wildflowers at the edge of the rocky shore. Tobias was a bit grumpy but got over it once he got to go swimming. He went sliding down a rock at the front of the site. I decided to join him until I saw the rock crawling with leeches.



Day 4

This was the day we were heading to Lake Louisa, a place I've always wanted to go. I had been told that the sites there were very pretty. The day's portages were easy so we made our way through Lawrence and Rod & Gun Lakes quickly and were at camp by 1 pm.


When we arrived at Lake Louisa the winds were picking up and the lake was getting wavey. The canoe seat blew out of the boat so we had to turn around and get it. We decided to stay at one of the closer sites which was an island. The site didn't look like much when we approached it but as we cruised around to the other side of the island we saw a perfect little lagoon for swimming. There was a sand beach and many flat rocks. When we got onto the site we realized that it was a gem with a terrific view of some little islands. The site was laden with blueberries. There were birds nesting high in one of the huge pines. We could hear the babies squaking a lot. They were obviously some sort of raptor, maybe Osprey, but we weren't exactly sure.


We were treated to the most beautiful sunset of the trip. The opposite sky was very dark and ominous looking. For dinner we had a seafood Linguini. We stayed up late by the fire because we could sleep in the next morning.


Day 5

This was our layover day on Lake Louisa. I awoke early because of the baby birds squaking for their breakfast. It was another gorgeous day and I took some time to explore the campsite. I found a really neat fungus growing on one of the big trees.


The sunset wasn't as beautiful as the night before but the winds had calmed and it was a nice evening. The moonrise was bright and interesting.



Day 6

The day was sunny and bright and we headed from Lake Louisa to North Grace Lake. At the portage from Louisa we saw a flock of Mergansers who would dive and swim as a group. Tobias was fascinated with them. We spent the night on North Grace. The site wasn't bad but the other 3 sites on the lake weren't great. There were a ton of blow-downs on the lake. We were completely alone and didn't see anyone until the next day, leading us to believe that this was not a very well travelled route.


Day 7

It rained for most of the morning so we hung out in the tent until about 10:30 am. Then we packed up and headed to McGarvey Lake. On the way we saw a loon with his wings spread.

The portages were easy but the first one had a very muddy take out. If you stepped in the water you'd probably sink in the smelly ooze. The portage took us to Lemon Lake where we could look back up the channel and see all of the fallen trees.

It only took a few minutes to paddle Lemon Lake and then we were at the next portage. There were cut logs placed so that you could get through the mud to the grassy area.


We took the island site at McGarvey Lake because it had a nice spot for swimming. It was still windy and the breeze was quite cool so we didn't end up swimming. The site was full of birch trees but many of them had fallen. Most of the trees on the site were punky. Again there were many blueberries and we watched the little birds eating them.

Day 8

Another layover day. We slept in and then woke up to a breakfast of smoked salmon, potatoes and oranges. It was still windy but not as bad as the day before. Bryan set up a small tarp as a wind break which helped a great deal. Later in the day I decided to go down to the shore and get wet so I could wash up. There I was standing in all my naked glory when a helicopter happened by. Oh well... see what you see while you can. We did a little laundry which dried quickly in the breeze. Later in the afternoon I made yogurt that would be for the next day.

I needed a "time-out" so I sat out on a rock and took a self-portrait. The light was great and added a softness.

Day 9

Once again I woke up early. McGarvey Lake was misty and beautiful.



We were to head to Big Porcupine Lake for our final night but we made a family decision to paddle right out and come home. There were two reasons. First of all it was Saturday and we imagined that Big Porcupine would be quite busy. The second reason was because Tobias and I had plans to car camp during the week with family and there was much to do in order to prepare for the second trip.

We left the island site at McGarvey and saw an unusual sight. There were about 10 loons on the lake and they were very vocal. We continued on to the end of the lake where I took some photos of McGarvey Lake and the canoe from the portage.


We travelled via What-not and Little Coon Lakes. There is a portage between What-not and Little Coon called the Devil's Staircase. Now I was expecting 930 m of horrendously difficult portage after everything I had been told. It wasn't bad at all. Yes there is a steep staircase but I actually think that the portage between Ragged and Big Porcupine Lake is more difficult. The Devil's Staircase was highly exaggerated.

Let me tell you that the Big Porcupine end of the Little Coon to Big Porcupine portage was interesting. We decided to take the grassy section to the water. No big deal... except that we both ended up sinking to the knees. Bryan and Tobias had the sandals sucked right off their feet and I got turtled in the mud with a full pack. Not one of my more graceful moments. Thankfully the Pelican case, which I was carrying, protects against mud too. One of Tobias' sandals (Keens) got lost in the mud so I went digging for it. After 20 minutes of soupy mud up past my elbows I found it. Then I noticed I still had my watch on. It was fine - Timex - takes a licking and keeps on ticking. On the way back for the rest of the gear we found a mud and sand peninsula of sorts that was less gooey. This spit is on the left of the portage if your back is facing Big Porcupine Lake and goes into the creek a little. Much better to wade the sandy creek bottom than try to walk on the grass.

When we were paddling (finally) on Big Porcupine, Tobias informed me that there were leeches on his sandals. He wasn't wearing them at the time so I rinsed them in the lake.

We continued our way out and were on Smoke Lake by 4 pm. There were 17 loons in a group on the lake. I've travelled Algonquin Park extensively and this was only the second time I had seen such a group of loons. Anyway, we made it to the car by 5 pm, then had a wonderful shower (much appreciated after my mud bath) and a delicious burger at Canoe Lake.

It was a great trip. Lake Louisa was everything I thought it would be and more. It was great to get out as a family and enjoy a canoe trip together.