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
trip was just the March family... Bryan, Tobias and Laurie.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
sunset wasn't as beautiful as the night before but the winds
had calmed and it was a nice evening. The moonrise was bright
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
needed a "time-out" so I sat out on a rock and took
a self-portrait. The light was great and added a softness.
again I woke up early. McGarvey Lake was misty and beautiful.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.