2017 Lake Louisa Loop Part 6: Going Home

This is the final day of our 2017 fall trip to Lake Louisa in Algonquin Park, Ontario. We packed up camp on Rock Lake and paddled out in the rain through Galeairy Lake finishing in the town of Whitney where we started seven days earlier.

A Maiden Trip to Algonquin Park

A Maiden Trip to Algonquin Park

I often reminisce about our maiden trip into Algonquin Park, Ontario that September weekend in 1990. A lack of written trip notes makes it difficult to tell the story with the accuracy and color I would like. However, several scenes and events are indelibly etched into my memory and reviewing 28-year-old photographs from the trip sharpen those memories like the tuner on an old black and white TV. What motivated me to take our 4-year-old son on a backcountry canoe trip into the interior of Algonquin Park for a long Labor Day weekend? This would be the first of many canoe trips into ‘The Park’ and was the first camping trip of any significance including our first foray in a canoe. I had camped as a kid with my own family but never very far from the security of a car or building. I had an honest affinity for the outdoors growing up on a 25-acre woodlot and learning to fish for Brook Trout on a natural spring-fed stream. The solitude of the woods was the perfect salve for a young man with many emotional growing pains.

A favorite TV program during my youth was ‘The Red Fisher Show’. I dreamed of being like Red, telling fishing tales around the woodstove at Skuttlebutt Lodge with camera footage of spectacular fishing and delicious shore lunches. The librarian in our small home town knew of my piscatorial passion and would save me expired issues of Field & Stream magazine. I would practice fishing tips learned in those magazines on our small trout stream and dream of one day venturing out on a real wilderness trip. The stories of my birthplace in northern Quebec also held a mysterious allure. It is fascinating how we develop our passions. All of these experiences played roles in developing my love for the outdoors and motivation for this maiden canoe-camping trip.

May 1989, with a young family and a freshly minted Chemical Engineering degree from the University of Toronto, I started my career with DuPont Canada in Ajax, Ontario. I befriended two work colleagues who held extensive experiences canoe-tripping in Algonquin Park.  Ed was an intrepid trout fisherman and his tales of The Park sparked my imagination. Ed encouraged me to plan my own trip. My memory is vague on who suggested taking my 4-year-old son, Drew, on this maiden voyage. My other colleague, also named Ed, provided much practical advice for ensuring a safe and memorable trip.

The next Labor Day long weekend was chosen for the trip. We expected that the mosquito, deer fly and horse fly activity would be low in early September which was an important consideration. The Magnetewan Lake access point on the west side of The Park was chosen as the put-in site with Daisy Lake as the camping destination. The route seemed reasonable with 3 short portages separating Magnetewan, Hambone and Daisy Lakes. I possessed very little paddling experience and the Daisy Lake destination would avoid large open water. I was warned of the strong winds and waves that can be encountered in September and this has been proven true over the years. There was no World Wide Web or smart phones back then so research was conducted at the library and in discussions with my colleagues. I studied canoe paddling technique in a book by Bill Mason and have a vague recollection of watching one of his paddling videos on VHS.

We had essentially zero disposable income to buy any fancy camping equipment so we needed to be frugal and creative in the gear planning. My supervisor, Les, graciously offered to loan us his 16-foot fiberglass canoe. It was a beast of a vessel at over 60 pounds with a straight aluminum thwart for a yoke. Several key pieces of equipment were borrowed from my father-in-law including PFDs, sleeping bags, a large canvas 4-person barn tent, a briefcase-style 2-burner Coleman stove fueled with white gas (naptha), a Coleman propane lantern and about 25 feet of 3/8-inch yellow nylon rope from my brother-in-law. We purchased an aluminum pot set and coffee percolator at Canadian Tire and a small wooden paddle for Drew. Sleeping pads were conspicuously missing from our gear list. From the house we sequestered Corel coffee cups, bowls and plates, steel utensils, a carpenter’s hand saw, a soft-sided Molson Canadian cooler and cut a bailer from a 1-gallon plastic water jug. The gear was stuffed into large canvas duffels including an old Boston Bruins hockey bag. It would become apparent that I grossly underestimated the difficulty carrying this stuff across several ‘short’ portages. Cotton jeans, socks and shirts with leather sneakers formed our camp clothing. Not the ideal outerwear for a backcountry excursion. Meals were planned but I have little recollection of what we actually ate beyond granola bars and fruit roll-ups.

Our adventure began with a drive up Highway 11 to Kearney, Ontario followed by 40 minutes navigating a rocky logging road to the access parking lot. Rolling over washboards and around random boulders challenged the fully loaded 1985 Renault Alliance. The anticipation and excitement peaked as we pulled into the parking lot and glimpsed Magnetewan Lake for the first time. This feeling is relived every time I begin a new adventure into The Park. It is truly a magical place.

 The view of the Magnetewan Lake put-in from the parking lot

The view of the Magnetewan Lake put-in from the parking lot

 

We unloaded canoe and gear and were soon paddling across the first lake. Handling the canoe turned out to be much easier than anticipated perhaps because of the preparation done with the Bill Mason book and video. The portages proved to be a bigger challenge and confirmed I had grossly underestimated the task of carrying everything across the hilly and mucky paths. We had too much gear in too many pieces with inadequate packs and that beast of a canoe with metal thwart and over 60 pounds of resin and fiberglass. Up, down, up, down, around, over and back … And young Drew struggled to deliver the paddles and bailer. Remember he was a 4-year-old. I eventually lashed the paddles and bailer together so he could drag them across the portages while encouraging him with sugary snacks.

 Drew and I approaching one of the portages to Daisy Lake

Drew and I approaching one of the portages to Daisy Lake

 A challenging portage to Daisy Lake

A challenging portage to Daisy Lake

 Drew dragging his gear across the portage to Daisy Lake

Drew dragging his gear across the portage to Daisy Lake

 

We finished the last portage, reloaded the canoe and pushed off into Daisy Lake with its wild and eerie character. Fallen and decaying trees lay all along the water’s edge Awe and wonder accompanied each stroke of wooden blade through clear and cold water. I could sense that young Drew was making his own connection to this special place. We paddled towards an island campsite which was chosen to reduce the risk of encountering bears and other wild animals. This concern has disappeared over the years with the biggest nuisance proving to be voracious mice and chipmunks. The campsite had a steep and rocky shoreline with a large fire pit and plenty of flat ground to pitch a tent.

 The end of the last portage and walkway into the Daisy Lake put-in

The end of the last portage and walkway into the Daisy Lake put-in

 Paddling Daisy Lake towards a fallen tree on the shoreline

Paddling Daisy Lake towards a fallen tree on the shoreline

 Paddling up to the island campsite on Daisy Lake

Paddling up to the island campsite on Daisy Lake

 Drew securing the 'vessel' at camp

Drew securing the 'vessel' at camp

 

Drew ditched his shoes and started exploring while I set up camp. He was full of joy and wonder chasing and capturing multiple frogs by the shoreline and bringing specimens to me for inspection. We took a dip in the lake after setting camp and discovered why Algonquin lakes are such excellent trout habitat. Somehow in all of the planning and discussion we had missed the instructions on where to do our business. Campsites in Algonquin Park have roofless outhouses or ‘thunder boxes’ for going number two. Unaware that a thunder box was a short walk back into the woods, we dug small cat holes and learned to squat and relieve ourselves like some distant ancestors.

 The 4-man canvas barn tent set up on the island campsite

The 4-man canvas barn tent set up on the island campsite

 The fire pit

The fire pit

 Drew with one of his many amphibious specimens

Drew with one of his many amphibious specimens

The September evening brought cold Algonquin Highland air and laying on the hard ground without sleeping pads exacerbated our attempts at sleep. We huddled together in our sleeping bags and made the best of it. The next day was dedicated to playing and exploring Daisy Lake. We paddled up the lake to the mouth of the Petawawa River and ventured over log jams and a large beaver dam. We returned to camp as the sun started to set. The carpenter’s saw proved to be a poor tool for cutting firewood but we still managed to enjoy an evening campfire. The next day we broke camp, packed the canoe and began the challenging trek back to the parking lot and our car.

 Drew and dad playing in camp

Drew and dad playing in camp

 Drew practicing his Loon calls

Drew practicing his Loon calls

 Drew waiting for dad to go explore Daisy Lake

Drew waiting for dad to go explore Daisy Lake

 Drew 'navigating' on the exploration of Daisy Lake

Drew 'navigating' on the exploration of Daisy Lake

 Looking for the mouth of the Petawawa River

Looking for the mouth of the Petawawa River

 Log jam on the Petawawa River

Log jam on the Petawawa River

 Large beaver dam on the Petawawa River

Large beaver dam on the Petawawa River

This maiden adventure quickly became part of our family lore. My wife reminds me of the initial comments I made upon returning, “Kristine, do you realize a 4-year-old does nothing for them self?” The trip was also the genesis for many years of camping and canoeing together as a family in Algonquin Park and a special shared bond with my son and the outdoors. He likes to warn others to, “beware of allowing dad to plan the itinerary”.  Over the years our family acquired gear, honed skills and created many precious memories in spring, summer and fall trips to this special place.

 Sunset paddle back to camp.

Sunset paddle back to camp.

As I age, the details fade but the wonder and awe remain. The difficult and challenging experiences leave the deepest and most meaningful memories which is a common theme with my backcountry adventures. They are like the mile markers and anchors of life.  Challenges develop spiritual and emotional character. And all of the planning and preparation gets you only so far. Eventually we must overcome our fear and doubt and just go for it. It is the experience itself that teaches and shapes us. The decisions and actions we take today shape our lives in the future and form the memories and character that we carry with us in this journey called life.

Paddle In

Live Outside

 

2017 Lake Louisa Loop Part 5: Lake Louisa to Rock Lake

This is part 5 of a video series capturing our 8-day canoe trip to Lake Louisa in Algonquin Park, Ontario, Canada. We awoke to a spectacular clear blue sky and paddled east into a bright sunrise on Lake Louisa. Sunlight reflected from the shimmering lake surface through a rising mist creating hundreds of dancing 'spirits' across the water. The beautiful morning paddle was followed by a challenging 3 km portage into Rock Lake where we set up camp on Rose Island for our last night in the Park.

2017 Lake Louisa Loop Part 4: Hangin' on Lake Louisa

This 2017 August trip was planned around spending some quality time on Lake Louisa in Algonquin Park. Our loop through Galeairy, Penn and Welcome Lakes required several long days of paddling and 2 long portages to reach our desired destination. I had read lots of 5-star accounts of Lake Louisa and our maiden visit did not disappoint. Lake Louisa has a lot of character and beautiful scenery coupled with plenty of awesome campsites. We stayed 3 nights on the north shore about midway down the lake and saw very few other canoes until Friday as the Labor Day (Labour Day?) trekkers paddled in for the long weekend. Weather was mixed, as expected, with characteristically cold early-autumn north winds and sporadic rainfall. We had a spectacular warm and sunny day that nourished our bodies and souls and even made a quick swim enjoyable. Fishing was not a priority so I did not spend much time trolling the lake. Besides, the wind beckoned me to spend some quality time in camp with Kristine. Something to look forward to on the next visit to Lake Louisa.

Part 4 of our August 2017 back-country canoe trip to Lake Louisa in Algonquin Park, Ontario.

2017 Lake Louisa Loop Part 3: Welcome Lake to Lake Louisa

This is Part 3 of a video series covering our 2017 August 8-day Lake Louisa loop in Algonquin Park, Ontario, Canada. In Part 3 we travel from our campsite on Welcome Lake to our eventual destination on Lake Louisa. Our morning started with a misty paddle across a calm and quiet Welcome Lake. There were two portages and one beaver dam today. A short 320 meter portage from Rence Lake to Frank Lake then a longer 1725 meter hike from Florence Lake to Lake Louisa. The beaver dam was on the river between Harry Lake and Rence Lake. For the longer portage we used a leap-frog approach breaking the hike into manageable segments. I add 20% to the portage length in meters to estimate the total distance in steps. We then break up the portage into segments of 500 to 600 steps. This system worked well and kept us from getting too fatigued between each carry. The Lake Louisa portage was 1725 meters + 20% = approximately 2100 steps or 4 segments each about 550 steps.

2017 Lake Louisa Loop Part 2: Penn Lake to Welcome Lake

This is Part 2 of a video series covering our 2017 August 8-day Lake Louisa loop in Algonquin Park, Ontario, Canada. After camping for one night on Penn Lake, we headed for Welcome lake Monday morning with a challenging 2150 meter portage along the way.

2017 Lake Louisa Loop Part 1: Penn Lake

In August 2017 Kristine and I had an amazing 8-day and 7-night back country canoe trip in Algonquin Park, Ontario. This video is part 1 of our trip and covers the first day. We launched in Whitney Ontario at Access Point 13 and paddled up through Galeairy Lake, Rock Lake and into Penn Lake where we spent our first night.

2017 Ralph Bice Lake camping

Ed, my friend and coworker, introduced me to Algonquin Park, Ontario many years ago. We have since shared many great memories together in the Park. This past July we spent a glorious week on Ralph Bice Lake along with Ed's son-in-law Chris. Ralph Bice holds great memories of time spent with Ed and my family. As usual the Park offered a smorgasbord of weather, fishing and fun. We fished, played cards, told exaggerated tales and bad jokes, kayaked and snorkeled.  This is my video record of the trip. I have posted three additional videos of this trip of us fishing, kayaking and snorkeling.

Snorkeling in Ralph Bice Lake in Algonquin Park

This is a short video of me snorkeling in Ralph Bice Lake in Algonquin Park this past July 2017. My friend Ed and his son-in-law Chris and I spent a week camping, canoeing, fishing and kayaking. Ralph Bice is a cold lake even in July. The topography of the lake bottom is interesting with old logs, rocks and large boulders. There are no Bass or other warm-water fish in the lake but plenty of Lake Trout and Brook Trout. Almost impossible to catch trout on camera! Enjoy the video!

2017 Ralph Bice Lake Fishing

Fishing on Ralph Bice Lake in Algonquin Park, Ontario, Canada in August, 2017. This is glamping Ed-style with lots of gear and staying put on one campsite all week. 

2009 September Algonquin Park Solo

This was my first solo canoe trip in Algonquin Park, Ontario. Well almost solo as I had Ella our 4-month old Black Lab on the trip with me. We started at the Magnetewan put-in and camped on Ralph Bice Lake, Queer Lake, Misty Lake and the final night on Daisy Lake. This video was before my GoPro and was patched together from clips I took with my Fuji digital camera. I took way too much gear which you will notice in some of the footage and I was still camping in a tent instead of my newer hammock set-up. It rained like the Amazon the last two days. You will see one very wet puppy trying to stay dry by the campfire. The picture at the end of the video is a time-delayed photo I took of myself to capture the moment. It finally stopped raining and the sun was shining gloriously across Daisy Lake. I can still remember the feeling of peace and serenity. That was also the trip I met another camper on Daisy that commented he had never seen anyone catch fish there as we headed out to fish late in the afternoon. I made sure to lift up my two plump Lake Trout as Ella and I paddled by his campsite on our way back to camp later in the evening!

2013 Backpacking in the Scottish Highlands

In October 2013, My son Drew and I went to Scotland for a two-week vacation. My father, Grampie Joe, joined us the first week as we visited with Scottish family and explored Glasgow and the surrounding region. The second week Drew and I ventured into the Highlands of Scotland for some backpacking and 'hill walking'. This trip report covers several hikes during the visit. It is in presentation format and was prepared as a talk on how to prepare and then the actual experience of hiking in Scotland. 

click on the image below of Drew and I to open the trip report

 Click on the image to open the trip report.

Click on the image to open the trip report.

2016 Big Crow Lake Canoe Trip

Canoe trip with Kristine from September 5 to 9, 2016, on Big Crow Lake in Algonquin Park, Ontario, Canada. Includes side trips to a stand of old-growth white pine trees, a retired ranger cabin and a fire-watch tower no longer used.