We had just gotten back from a 6 day down the more remote section of the Oxtongue River (very fun trip, I will blog about that on later) but now it was time to take off on another. Thats the Wendigo life!
Day 1- Familiar Territories.
Trip Route: Cache-Tanamakoon-Sheriffs Pond-Little Island-Kootchie-Smoke-Canoe-Joe-Lost Joe-Baby Joe-Burnt Island.
We went over to Northway to pick up our second guide (or counsellor) Wyatt, before taking off in the direction of Tanamakoon Lake. We made quick work of Tanamakoon and jogged the easy, flat 120 portage to Sheriffs Pond. After paddling Sherrifs Pond and Little Island Lake (2 easy portages) we were through to a permanently mucky Kootchie Lake. The landing for the 835m portage to Smoke Lake is a hassle to do anything at, let alone try and unload 3 canoes. We tippy toed on logs with packs on our backs and canoes overhead; trying to keep our boots dry for at least day 1 of the trip.
We all survived dry followed the rolling, mucky portage to Smoke Lake (watch out for a rock gardeny section in the middle portion) We paddled into a soft wind to reach the take out at Smoke and the cross-highway dash to Canoe Lake.
Ah Canoe Lake...tourist capital of Algonquin Park! Also, for the first time in a long time; a Snickers and a Sprite with lunch! We paddled through the sea of day visitors trying out canoeing, to the Joe Lake portage. Pretty much anyone who's been to the interior has done this portage, but if you haven't; its flat and easy, and the highlight is definitely the composting toilet stop midway across!
We continued our journey to the Joe cliffs where we stopped for a swim to cool off.
When storm clouds began to appear, we took off down the East Arm to the easy 165m to a creek that we quickly paddled. then we jogged a flat, slightly rolling 435 to Baby Joe. We regularly jog portages because it's quicker, it's kind of fun and it's a challenge.
After that it was a rocky 200 and home free to our destination for the night : Burnt Island Lake! I've stayed on Burnt Island 2 times in the past, but due to the amount of time we took at the Portage Store we arrived later than I had in the past, and it was a struggle to find a campsite.
We arrived at a vacancy; it was nothing to die for, a few tent sites at the bottom of a hill. It started to rain as we cooked dinner. So we hurried along, set up camp, ate and hit the tents early to try and stay semi-dry over night.
Day 2- Storming to Opeongo.
Trip Route: Burnt Island-Little Otterslide- Big Otterslide-Creek-Shiner-Happy Isle-Opeongo
I awoke to a wet campsite; it had rained quite hard overnight, but I had slept soundly as I always do after a day of tripping.
We cooked a breakfast of bacon & eggs before pushing off into a light rain.
After a lazy paddle across a calm Burnt Island, we jogged the rocky, but flat 790 into the Otterslides. There was a large group of canoes on the lake; and for the longest time it seemed like we'd be stuck in each others way all day; but they turned towards Otterslide Creek while we headed for the 540m to a small section of creek that leads to the portage to Shiner.
The 540 was not memorable, and we carried on to another average Algonquin portage (its long-ish but not difficult), a 1855 from the creek to Shiner. It has a lot of boardwalk. As we traveled over the final mucky 930m to Happy Isle the storm clouds grew more threatening and we reached one of the 3 sites on the island just in time to shelter from the storm and make some lunch..
The skys opened and the rain was very heavy but we had to get to Opeongo before the days end, so we pulled on our rain coats and went about collecting firewood while Wyatt and Nick struggled to get a fire going in the heavy rain.
They succeeded and the rain calmed down long enough to boil water and make some Mac & Cheese for lunch. But then the storm picked up once more; and it began to pour as we did dishes.
I sat under a canoe with my camp mate, Logan, and waited impatiently for the storm to die off. It was a weekend and we didn't want to find that there were no sites available late in the day on Opeongo.
Finally, the sun broke through and the rain ceased; we took off quickly for the 2180m to Opeongo.
We arrived at the vast beach landing on the Happy Isle side to a collection of barrels, canoe packs and more than one broken paddle. We wondered what kind of trip the owners of the gear were having.
We took off; the portage is fairly flat with a few rolling sections, but simple enough that I could jog the full portage with Wolf (not the animal; the nickname for the oldest guy in our group).
We met the owners of the gear; it was a camp from Pennsylvania that sends their counsellors in training (all male) to Algonquin. They were on the tail end of their trip and were getting picked up the next day at the Opeongo Store. They were quite a happy group; taking off just behind us singing Bon Jovi and Selena Gomez. They didn't share the story behind all the broken paddles.
As we paddled along we were suffering the same fate as yesterday;arriving late in the day on a popular lake.
We paddled out of the North Arm without seeing a single empty campsite. Nick sent my canoe off into the beginning of a bay with a cluster of island campsites in search of a home for the night. The other two other canoes would have a short break while we scouted.
The final island would serve as camp for the night and we returned far enough to signal the others to follow; there is a almost vertical hill before you get to the site; a breezy plateau (good for drying out our wet gear!) with plenty of room for tents and comfort. We cooked dinner and then hit the tents early; for tommorow we would have a long day.
Sunset on Opeongo.
Day 3- Bushwacking and Bear Poop.
Trip Route: Opeongo-Bush-Whitegull-Hiram
We all woke up and ate a quick breakfast before we hit the water; heading towards the back of the bay and Graham Creek. We weren't going to paddle Graham Creek; that is probably not feasible. We would bushwack almost 5 km to Whitegull Lake.
It was bushy; dirty and exhilarating. Partway through we hit a small logging road and saw a bear trap just off to the side. Speaking of bears; it seemed everywhere we walked there was some form of bear poop and even once a tree that had been climbed by one.
We finished the bushwack and arrived on Whitegull to find a disappointing low maintenance campsite. One of the worst I've seen. Completely bushed in and had signs of bear visits. We decided it wouldn't hurt to take a single black line off our day tomorrow, so we headed for Hiram.
This 1105m to Hiram Lake was not bad; it had some partially rotted stairs in the beginning and traveled along a logging road (also with lots of bear poop) for about half of the portage before turning back off the road for the final 50 m which hooked up with the campsite.
This site was not great either; with bear poop in the firepit and cramped space (though it wouldn't of been bad for 2 or 3 people) but we decided it was time to bunk down for the night.
We cooked dinner and even made and ate a tea biscuit dessert before going to bed.
P.S all my mentions of bear signs in this are because of my EXTREME bearphobia even though I have only seen one bear in my travels and that was with my Mom on the portage from Cache to Head Lake.
Looking back down the weed choked trail to Hiram Lake.
Day 4- The big one (HOLY CRAP 4.5 K BLACK LINE)
Trip Route: Hiram-Redfox-Blackfox-Lake of Two Rivers-Madawaska River-Portage
We awoke to more oatmeal for breakfast and took off towards our first portage of the day; a 710 m blackline. It was hard to locate due to no signage and being surrounded by marsh but was not memorable in any other ways.
The next; a 2080m has lack of good signage to the point where we got headed down the wrong road and had to backtrack (HINT: go straight at the intersection of roads)
At the end of the portage there was a full set of moose antlers; which Wyatt quickly called dibs on and strapped them to his backpack.
And then there it was.
The 4595m blackline.
For all that I've worked this up to be it is not really that bad of a portage; its just long. It is fairly flat with a small rolling section and some rockyness. The only problem is a 10m wide creek with no boardwalk that is fairly deep. (Us young uns were able to hop from log to log and managed to stay dry)
The portage ends at some sort of rock yard that connects to the highway; but really this was a 5.5k for us because we had to hike to Lake of Two Rivers campground to continue our trip.
After a flash rainstorm we prepared for the extemely windy Lake of Two Rivers. This is the second time in two years I've been on this lake and its blown up like this so I warn you.
It was like surfing; very slow surfing. We made it to the Madawaska fairly late in the day; and wondered if we would make it all the way to Head Lake in time.
The sun was beginning to fall and we could not safely travel further so were forced to make a no trace site along a portage.
After a late supper we crawled into our tents for a good nights rest.
Day 5- Back to Camp.
Trip Route: Portage-Cache
We awoke and made quick work of the rest of the portage and climbed a piece of the Track and Tower trail (the part from the dam on Cache up) and enjoyed the view from what Northway and Wendigo have dubbed Sky Mount.
We then made the quick paddle back to Wendigo.
For the guys who were only sent for the two week session (known as 3rd quarter) this would be their last night.
I felt bad for them. They had to leave this all.
While I would get a 10 day trip to Temagami in 2 days.