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Algonquin Journal - 1998

Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

July 1998

Participants: Jim and Therese FitzSimmons in a red Folbot Greenland II and Charles Emigh and Samantha Erich in a yellow Scott Elite 16 (kevlar) rented from Algonquin Bound in Madawaska, Ontario (this was the first kayak-tripping experience for all of us)
Route: Shall Lake access (#17) to Farm Lake, Kitty Lake, and Booth Lake; base camp on Booth Lake; side trips to Mole, Godda, Tattler, and Ryegrass Lakes and the Opeongo River; then back through Kitty Lake and Farm Lake to the Shall Lake access
Distance Paddled: 74 km
Time Paddled: 33 hrs
Distance Portaged: 550 m + 550 m = 1100 m
Time Portaged: 1:30 + 1:30 = 3 hrs
Distance Hiked (including multiple portage trips and side trips): 8900 m


Friday, July 10, 1998:

Weather: sunny

Therese and I left our farm in Pleasant Plain, Ohio, at 3:45 p.m. and dropped off Claude (my iguana) at my parents’ farm in Lucas, Ohio. We arrived at Charles and Samantha’s, in Cleveland, by 8:00 p.m., organized our gear and food, and made it to bed by 1 a.m.


Saturday, July 11, 1998:

Route Paddled: trip to waterfall from our cabin
Distance Paddled: 2 km
Time Paddled: 1 hr
Weather: sunny

The four of us left by 6:45 a.m. and went by way of Buffalo to Toronto where we had lunch at Pizza Hut. We made it to Algonquin by 5 p.m., looked around the visitor’s center and bought a few books, and then went on to our cabin at Red Deer Lodge in Madawaska. We had dinner of burgers and fries at the Snack Place in Madawaska and after dinner we paddled to a waterfall not far from the cabin. We were in bed by 11 p.m.


Sunday, July 12, 1998:

Route Paddled: Shall Lake access (#17), Farm Lake, Kitty Lake, to Booth Lake
Distance Paddled: 10 km
Time Paddled: 5 hrs
Distance Portaged: 550 m
Time Portaged: 1:30 hrs
Distance Hiked: 2750 m
Weather: sunny

We got up by 5:45 a.m. to get showers before the water was shut off for maintenance on the water lines. We had not intended to get up that early, but it enabled us to get an earlier start on the water. We picked up Charles and Samantha’s canoe and had breakfast at Riverland Camp Bed and Breakfast in Madawaska. Then we drove the long road to the Shall Lake access and saw a moose on the road along the way.

Charles and Therese loading up the boats

After we checked in, we loaded up our boats and were on the water by 10:30 a.m., headed for Booth Lake. As we crossed Farm Lake, Charles fished a little. We passed some canoe trippers coming from Kitty Lake and they said that we could walk the canoe and Folbot through the rapids at the 90 m portage. We did so with little difficulty. In Kitty Lake, Charles fished and caught a few small fish and threw them back. Next came the 550 m portage to Booth Lake. None of the four of us had ever portaged before, but we managed to get everything over in three trips. On the other side of the portage, we had lunch of pita with cheese and salami which we downed with Gatorade from powder.

As we headed across Booth Lake, the wind started to pick up. At first, we wanted to try to get the lone campsite on one of the islands, but it was taken. We ended up finding a beautiful campsite high above the entrance to McCarthy Creek. It was on top of what would be an island during a flood (it was at the end of a peninsula now) and commanded an awesome view of Booth Lake and the marshes surrounding McCarthy Creek. We hauled all of our supplies up to the site and began to set up camp. While setting up the dome tent, I noticed that my foot was bleeding a lot. Upon removing my sandals, I found a leech as big as my thumb, which had been hidden under the strap of my sandal. After we had carried all of the supplies up to the campsite, I had checked my feet and legs for leeches, but had forgotten to check under my sandal strap. Samantha killed the leech with a salt packet and the wound bled profusely for several hours.

leech wound

For dinner, we had sushi and Japanese soup with apple brown betty freeze-dried dessert. Therese and I paddled out at sunset to fill the 5-gallon water jug and got covered with mosquitoes. They were so thick that I could barely see my hand. Luckily there was a good breeze through our campsite so we did not have a problem with them there. We got to bed around 10 p.m. We heard loon calls a little during the evening. It rained during the night.


Monday, July 13, 1998:

Route Paddled: McCarthy Creek to Mole Lake
Distance Paddled: 17 km
Time Paddled: 6 hrs
Distance Portaged: pulled boat over two beaver dams and a deadfall dam
Time Portaged: nearly none
Distance Hiked: 1440 m
Weather: sunny

After awakening to a beautiful, clear morning, Samantha cooked us blueberry pancakes using wild blueberries from our campsite! We downed them with coffee and hot chocolate.

Charles wanted to try fishing Mole Lake so we decided to explore McCarthy Creek and end up at Mole Lake. The creek was a small, water lily-lined path meandering back and forth across the bog, so it seemed to take forever to cover the short distance (as a crow flies) to Mole Lake. We saw three abandoned beaver lodges, many frogs (probably green frogs) leaping among the lily pads, and three colors of lily flowers (white, yellow, and red). Interestingly, they were all closed when we came back past in the afternoon.  We had to pull our boats over two beaver dams and a deadfall dam to get into Mole Lake. Therese got two leeches on her during the pullovers, but removed them immediately.

Therese and I enter McCarthy Creek
Charles and Samantha pull over an old beaver dam
white water-lily

Charles and Samantha fished on Mole Lake while Therese relaxed on shore and I paddled to the other end of the lake to explore. On the way back, I filtered some more water, but the filter started to clog because of the mucky water. We decided to start boiling water and using iodine pills. Lunch consisted of Triskets, salami, cheese, peanut butter, and apples. Charles and Samantha went fishing while Therese and I hiked the 720 m portage to Godda Lake. Charles and Samantha caught a smallmouth bass and a brook trout which we cooked for dinner when we got back. The brook trout was the first that I had ever seen and it earned its nickname of "speckled trout" with its brilliant pattern of spots.

On the way back to our campsite, we got quite close to a deer in the marsh. What a dinner, fresh fish and mashed potatoes cooked over an open fire and marshmallows for dessert! The brook trout was especially delicious. We saw two canoes looking for moose in the marsh. The canoeists said that a bull was seen yesterday in the marsh (just before we got to our campsite). We haven’t seen one yet and we can see a good bit of the marsh from our campsite.

smallmouth bass and brook trout
canoeists at sunset on Booth Lake

We stayed up a little to see some stars and then headed to bed. We heard loons throughout the night; what an awesome, eerie sound. It rained a little during the night.


Tuesday, July 14, 1998:

Route Paddled: McCarthy Creek
Distance Paddled: 8 km
Time Paddled: 3 hrs
Weather: sunny

We awoke to another cloudless day with many birds (most noticeable were wood thrushes and a woodpecker). This was a day around camp. We had cereal, pop tarts, and a smallmouth bass for breakfast (Charles caught it from the shore of our peninsula) and spinach tortellini and summer sausage for lunch.

Charles fished, we all read and relaxed, and we swam. Around 5 p.m., I took a solo paddle up McCarthy Creek. I saw a muskrat eating water lilies, feeding them into its mouth with its feet. I watched it for about a half hour. I also saw a red-tailed hawk being chased by crows. On the way out of the marsh, I met two canoes. The paddlers asked if I had seen any moose. When I replied that I had not, they asked about the bugs. I told them that as the sun had gone lower, the deer flies had come out in force. The canoeists decided to turn around and follow me out of the marsh.

We had spicy Thai chicken and chocolate mousse for dinner. After dinner, we played rummy and Samantha beat us. Charles and Samantha slept in the hammock until about 3 a.m. so they could see the stars.


Wednesday, July 15, 1998:

Route Paddled: Booth Lake to Tattler Lake and the Opeongo River; Booth Lake (evening)
Distance Paddled: 16 km
Time Paddled: 7 hrs
Distance Hiked: 1200 m
Weather: sunny

We were awakened by ravens this morning. After having cereal for breakfast, we headed up Booth Lake to Tattler Lake. Along the way we spotted an osprey. Also, a loon dove near the Folbot and swam underneath. I could see all the patterning on its back through the water. It was very impressive. Stopped at Tattler Lake Ranger Cabin to fill our water jug at the spring behind the cabin. Continued on up the Opeongo River to the 600 m portage. Therese and I hiked the portage (part of it an old logging road). Charles and Samantha caught three smallmouth bass and a yellow perch, but when he filleted them, he found hard black particles (like shot) in them and a few worms. We decided to have Ramen noodles, apples, and Triskets for lunch. We all swam in the river and Samantha caught crayfish for bait.

common loon on Booth Lake

Headed back to camp with Charles fishing along the way. On the way back, we stopped for a swim break. When we got back, Charles slept and Therese, Samantha, and I went swimming and bathing. Samantha brought her raft and we brought the Folbot so we pulled each other around on the raft. It was a blast! We had Garden Cheddar pasta for dinner.

When Samantha and Charles went to bed, Therese and I went for a late evening boat ride. We loaded up with bug repellant and went out for about an hour. We watched the stars come out and spotted satellites. I even saw a meteor. It was wonderfully peaceful and relaxing. There were mosquitoes buzzing all around, but not biting us. Therese used a bugnet for her head for a little while. While out, we heard distinctly many times, the call of the barred owl, "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?"


Thursday, July 16, 1998:

Route Paddled: Booth Lake
Distance Paddled: 6.5 km
Time Paddled: 4 hrs
Distance Hiked: 760 m
Weather: afternoon rain

I got up at 5:45 a.m. to go for an early morning paddle. It was quite beautiful. There was still mist on the lake. I spent some time with some loons, including a mother and two babies. There were loons calling all around the lake. One popped up about thirty feet from the Folbot, looked around at the boat and me, let out a scream call, and then dove. I also saw a red fox along the shore. I paddled around many inlets and islands. It was great! Back near our campsite I saw a beaver slap and a hairy woodpecker. There were nearly no mosquitoes or deerflies on the water. I got back at 8:15 a.m. and no one was up so I went back to bed.

misty morning on Booth Lake
loon ahead

At 10 a.m., I was awakened by the others telling me that a thunderstorm was on the way. We cleaned up the site and stowed the boats, but only a little sprinkle came. We had cereal, coffee, and hot chocolate for breakfast. Samantha found a muskrat in the marsh. It continued to thunder for awhile. Then we had a slow rain from noon until 3 p.m. Charles and Samantha played Rummy while Therese and I read. Then we had lunch of pepperoni pizza on pita bread. We all took the portage trail 380 m to Ryegrass Lake. The trail was insect-infested and the lake uninspiring. We did see a fresh moose track and a hemlock that had fallen across the trail. We went swimming and bathing near the campsite off the Folbot.

Just as Charles and I were getting ready to go out fly fishing in the marsh, Therese spotted a bull moose in the marsh. We took off in our boats and watched it and took pictures of it. It came within about 100 feet of us at one point. It was spectacular! Once in awhile it would snort. Charles fished from the front of the Folbot while I watched the moose. We watched it for almost an hour and never did it seem scared of us.

moose in McCarthy Creek marsh

On the way back to the campsite, all four of us saw a beaver. Therese and Samantha almost ran over it in the canoe. They told us which direction it had headed and Charles and I took off in the Folbot to try to see it. In the dusk lighting, we first saw the ripples from where it was swimming and then saw it swimming with its head piercing the surface of the water. As soon as it sensed us, it took a dive and slapped its tail on the water on the way down.

We had freeze-dried spaghetti which was quite good and freeze-dried apple brown betty which was equally good. We finished the evening with a fire and star gazing from the tip of the peninsula. It rained again during the night.


Friday, July 17, 1998:

Route Paddled: Booth Lake (morning); Booth, Kitty, and Farm Lakes to Shall Lake access (#17)
Distance Paddled: 14.5 km
Time Paddled: 7 hrs
Distance Portaged: 550 m
Time Portaged: 1:30 hrs
Distance Hiked: 2750 m
Weather: breezy; thunderstorm

I got up at six this morning to go boating early again. There were clouds rolling in from the north and very little wildlife was out. I saw and heard a few loons, but not as many as yesterday morning. It was a very peaceful, but breezy paddle. I saw a red squirrel when I got back to camp.

We had leftovers for breakfast and then packed up to leave. Out of camp by 10 a.m. The clouds coming in from the north were impressive. Charles fished as we made our way down Booth Lake. At the 550 m portage to Kitty Lake, Therese and I carried the Folbot over. When we came back, I wanted to try the 51-pound Kevlar canoe that Charles and Samantha had, so I carried it all the way across the portage using the yoke. It was quite easy, but heavy by the end. At the end of the portage, we had lunch of hummus, salami, pita, and other leftovers. As we were getting ready to leave, a group of young (probably high school) campers and their counselors came across the portage. They had to get to the Shall Lake access in twenty minutes. They took off down the lake.

Therese and Jim on Booth Lake
fly agaric mushroom beside the
Booth Lake to Kitty Lake portage trail

Charles fished in Kitty Lake and then we walked the boats through the rapids at the 90 m portage into Farm Lake. By then the clouds were looking ominous. In the middle of Farm Lake we heard thunder and it began to pour. We headed for the shore and followed it to the access point with Charles and Samantha doing the same. We were soaked and it was still coming down.

We loaded up and headed back to our cabin at Madawaska (Red Deer Lodge). Along the way we saw an American Bittern fly up and across the road and drop into a marsh. We celebrated our trip with Cokes and a hot shower. We all agreed that it had been quite a trip! We had dinner of spaghetti and salad at Riverland Camp Bed and Breakfast.


Saturday, July 18, 1998:

Weather: sunny

We had breakfast in Whitney and then stopped at the visitors center and at the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail to take apart the now dry Folbot.  At the backpacking trail, we saw a cedar waxwing, white-throated sparrow, and evening grosbeaks. We brought home wild blueberries from near Huntsville. We had lunch between Barrie and Toronto and supper at Rio Bravo in Cleveland. Then we pushed on to my parents’ house in Lucas to see Mom, Dad, and Dave and to pick up Claude.


Sunday, July 19, 1998:

Weather: sunny

Therese and I left Lucas by 11:30 a.m. and stopped by to see my grandmother in Mansfield, Ohio. We made it home to Pleasant Plain by 3:00 p.m.


Miscellaneous Thoughts, Observations, and Reflections:

  • The calls of the loons were awesome. I looked forward to them like I did the nightly bugling of the elk in Yellowstone in 1994.
  • It was interesting the way the water lily flowers were open in the morning but closed as the day progressed.
  • The mosquitoes and deer flies weren’t bad during the day, but just before sundown, they came out in force.
  • Our campsite overlooking the lake from high up was wonderful.
  • Morning is preferable to evening for wildlife paddling because the insects are less prevalent, no one else is out, and the animals seem to be out more.
  • I have noticed that this area looks a lot like Acadia National Park in Maine except for freshwater in place of seawater.
  • On the drive up to Algonquin, it looked a lot like Maine and also like northern Michigan.
  • We were lucky to be able to cook on our choice of open fire or the Coleman Peak 1 stove that we borrowed from Dad. When we entered the park, there was no fire ban in effect, but at the 550m portage on the way out, a group of canoeists told us that a fire ban had been put into effect that day (Friday).
  • After portaging the canoe by using the yoke, I will have to find some way to do that with the Folbot. It was much easier than the two-person carry we used.
  • It was great to be so alone in the wilderness. There were days when we saw no other people or just a few others.
  • It was a good feeling to be self-sufficient; to know that we were carrying everything that we needed.


Animals Identified in Algonquin Provincial Park:

  • Amphibians (4): American Toad, Bullfrog, Green Frog, Mink Frog
  • Reptiles (0): none
  • Birds (24): Common Loon, Great Blue Heron, American Black Duck, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk, Herring Gull, Barred Owl, Belted Kingfisher, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Barn Swallow, Blue Jay, American Crow, Common Raven, Black-capped Chickadee, Wood Thrush, Cedar Waxwing, Chipping Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Red-winged Blackbird, Evening Grosbeak
  • Mammals (7): Eastern Chipmunk, American Red Squirrel, American Beaver, Muskrat, Red Fox, White-tailed Deer, Moose


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