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Algonquin Journal - 2002

Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

July/August 2002

Participants: Jim and Dave FitzSimmons in a red Folbot Greenland II
Route: Kioshkokwi Lake access (#29) to Little Mink Lake, Mink Lake, Whitebirch Lake, Waterclear Lake, Club Lake, Mink Lake and back out through Little Mink Lake and Kioshkokwi Lake; side trip to Cauchon Lake
Distance Paddled: 42.5 km
Time Paddled: 18 hrs
Distance Portaged: 730 m + 450 m +1450 m + 320 m + 240 m + 1190 m + 450 m + 730 m = 5560 m
Time Portaged: 1:15 + 1 + 2:30 + 1 + 1 + 2:30 + 1 + 1:15 = 11:30 hrs
Distance Hiked (including multiple portage trips and side trips): 17560 m


Wednesday, July 31, 2002:

Weather: sunny

I drove to Lucas, Ohio, visited Mom and Dad and then had supper with Dave and his wife, Olivia. Then Dave and I packed up and drove to our brother (Tom) and his wife's (Leslie) house in Cleveland where we spent the night.


Thursday, August 1, 2002:

Weather: sunny; cloudy; rain

We had breakfast at Tom’s and then stopped in Cleveland to get new tires for Dave’s car. We had lunch at Bob Evans while we waited and left Cleveland by 12:30 p.m. On the way to the park, we had supper at Harvey’s/Swiss Chalet in Barrie, Ontario. Near Huntsville, we saw a trailer carrying huge war canoes, which I surmised were from one of the summer camps in the Park. It started raining pretty heavily south of North Bay. We arrived at Kiosk Campground at 11:00 p.m. and set up in our reserved site (#16). It was a total of 790 miles from my farm in Pleasant Plain, Ohio, to the Kiosk campground. It rained most of the evening and night. Loons called during the night and reminded me of how much I had missed them since our last trip to Algonquin two years ago.


Friday, August 2, 2002:

Route Paddled: Kioshkokwi Lake Access (#29), Little Mink Lake, to Mink Lake
Distance Paddled: 8 km
Time Paddled: 4 hrs
Distance Portaged: 730 m + 450 m = 1180 m
Time Portaged: 1:15 + 1 = 2:15 hrs
Distance Hiked: 3540 m
Weather: partly cloudy; sunny

We awoke to discover how beautiful our campsite on Kioshkokwi Lake was. We packed up to start our interior trip and had brunch of Natural High "Honey-Lime Chicken," granola bars, and beef jerky.

We were on the water by 11:30 a.m. Kioshkokwi Lake was beautiful, and we saw very few motor boats (which were allowed on this lake). Our path took us under an interesting old railroad bridge. The bridge was not level side-to-side because that part of the railbed was curved, so the railroad bed and bridge are banked.

We took the 730 m portage to Little Mink Lake which crossed the same railbed that we had gone under on Kioshkokwi Lake. We easily double-carried the portage and completed it in about an hour and fifteen minutes. This was a triumph for Dave and me because on our previous trip we always had to triple-carry our portages. We cut down our gear so much this year that we were able to easily double-carry the portages. What a difference that made! On this portage, we met other campers from Washington state and Michigan. The put-in at Little Mink Lake was very picturesque with granite walls and brown water (from tannic acid).

take-out for Kioshkokwi Lake to Little Mink Lake portage

After a short paddle on Little Mink Lake we came to the 450 m portage to Mink Lake which we made in one hour. We then paddled a short distance and made camp at the northwestern-most campsite on Mink Lake around 4:30 p.m. The site was very nice, sitting high on a point with 180+° of water views and wind to keep the mosquitoes at bay.

After relaxing for a bit, Dave and I swam and then had supper of Mountain House "Chili Mac with Beef" (very good) and Richmoor green beans. While we were eating, we witnessed a woman in a passing canoe stand on the seat of the canoe and then jump into the water to swim. It was an impressive display of balance.

After dinner, we went paddling around the island near our campsite and came upon a huge bull moose. We watched and photographed him for a while. He was eating pickerelweed, water lilies, and water shield. There were hordes of flies on him, and every time he would sink into the water, a cloud of them would rise from his hide.

moose in Mink Lake

There were lots of clams in this lake and many broken shells on the shore by our campsite. We wondered what had eaten them. {I later read that muskrats are responsible for these piles of clam shells}. We went to bed around 9:30 p.m. and observed the stars on this wonderfully clear night. During the night, the lake’s resident pair of loons called.


Saturday, August 3, 2002:

Route Paddled: Mink Lake to Whitebirch Lake
Distance Paddled: 5 km
Time Paddled: 3:30 hrs
Distance Portaged: 1450 m
Time Portaged: 2:30 hrs
Distance Hiked: 435 0m
Weather: sunny; clouded over

I awoke early and went for a morning paddle as the fog lifted off Mink Lake. I saw two bull moose (quite close to each other, about 200 m), common mergansers, and yellow-rumped and Nashville warblers. As I returned to the campsite, Dave came down to the water and we paddled around to find the moose again. We finally found one of them swimming across Mink Lake! We had never seen a moose swim before (only wade in to eat plants), and it swam rather quickly. It was an awesome sight!

mist rising off Mink Lake

After a breakfast of oatmeal and granola bars, we packed up the camp and were headed back up Mink Lake by 10:30 a.m. Across the lake from our campsite was a waterfall, which we could hear during the night. We bushwhacked up to see the waterfall and found that it was on a creek coming down through a pond from Whitebirch Lake.

The portage from Mink Lake to Whitebirch Lake consisted of about 150 m of the Mink Lake to Little Mink Lake portage and then 1300 m on a trail that goes off that portage trail. At the beginning of the portage, as I was changing from sandals to hiking boots, I found that a small leech had attached to the bottom of my foot. After I killed it with salt, it dropped off. I realized that it had just attached itself, but had not yet made it to my blood supply! Entering Mink Lake from the portage were three canoes with three people each. I figured that they must be from a camp, and, sure enough, they were from the Pathfinder Camp on Source Lake. Much of the portage was an uphill climb over Canadian Shield granite. It was a very nice trail. During the first trip across the portage, we took a break, and when I set the boat up against a ‘V’ in a tree, it slipped down and bent one of the aluminum frame pieces (oh, well; my boat has other battle scars, too). After the first trip, we made lunch of Alpine Aire "Almond Chicken" (good). Then we completed the second trip across the portage and swam in Whitebirch Lake. After all of that, the portage took us about two and a half hours.


Dave portaging over Canadian Shield granite

Many mica crystals sparkled from the bottom of this lake, where there were also many clams. We paddled down the northeast shore of Whitebirch Lake looking at the campsites. We decided on the second one down from the portage. The "Canoe Routes of Algonquin Provincial Park" map has this site marked slightly incorrectly. It shows it being north of the creek that runs to Mink Lake, but it is actually south of that creek. It must have been my day for leeches, because, as I carried our gear up to the campsite, I found another leech crawling among my toes, evidently looking for a good spot to attach. We set up camp and feasted on Alpine Aire "Shrimp Alfredo" (very good), peas, and oatmeal. At this campsite, there was no easy branch from which to suspend our food and dishes, so we did quite a rigging job with one rope lashed high between two trees and another rope (with the bag attached) thrown over it.


campsite on Whitebirch Lake (Dave taking a photo)

After supper, we paddled around and saw a pair of loons quite close, Dave took pictures, we swam, and then we read in the tent. We turned in around 10:00 p.m.

loons on Whitebirch Lake

Sunday, August 4, 2002:

Route Paddled: Whitebirch Lake, Waterclear Lake, to Club Lake
Distance Paddled: 6.5 km
Time Paddled: 3 hrs
Distance Portaged: 320 m + 240 m = 560 m
Time Portaged: 1 + 1 = 2 hrs
Distance Hiked: 1680 m
Weather: cloudy; showers

This morning we were up at 7:00 a.m., breakfasted on oatmeal and granola bars, and were out of camp by 9:45 a.m. On the way down Whitebirch Lake, we saw two common mergansers and a beaver lodge, and Dave talked to two loons. We did the 320 m portage to Waterclear Lake in one hour (most of it was uphill, but the portage was short).


Jim portaging the Folbot

We filtered water on Waterclear Lake (the lake’s name did seem to speak to the clarity of the water, much clearer than the many tannic-acid brown ones on which we have been). On the lake, we saw two beaver lodges and a huge boulder sticking up in the middle of the lake. We stopped at a campsite (the only one on the northeast side of the lake) and had lunch of Mountain House "Chicken a la King" (very good-excellent). I swam from the campsite and Dave took some pictures of flowers and mushrooms (Dave is a professional photographer who publishes, among other things, a calendar of mushroom photos).


Dave on Waterclear Lake

We took the 240 m portage to Club Lake (about an hour). In the middle of the portage was a short stretch of water to walk through and then the trail continued. The put-in to Club Lake was very boggy. Along the shore we found many carnivorous sundew plants (very interesting).

sundew plant on Club Lake

Dave and I decided on the campsite nearest the portage (the only campsite on this arm of Club Lake). We set up camp about 3:45 p.m. and explored the remains of an old lumber camp that were scattered all around the campsite in the woods. We found several old fallen cabins, metal bunkbed frames, campstoves, and an old automobile by the campsite’s thunder hole. According to Donald Lloyd, in Canoeing Algonquin Park, the mill was run by the Richie Brothers of Ottawa before World War II, and some of the buildings were later used to house tourists.

Dave "driving" the old automobile at our Club Lake campsite

After setting up camp, we headed back to the portage trail to get some pictures of the sundew and other marsh plants. On the way back to camp, Dave taught me how to call like a loon and we both talked with one for several minutes (it called and then we called, over and over). We had Alpine Aire "Tuna with Noodles and Cheese" (excellent), Backpacker’s Pantry "Green Beans Almondine" (very good) and Backpacker’s Pantry freeze-dried ice cream (excellent). Before retiring around 9:45 p.m., Dave saw five loons on the lake, and we heard them calling throughout the night.


Monday, August 5, 2002:

Route Paddled: Club Lake to Mink Lake; side trip to Cauchon Lake
Distance Paddled: 7 km
Time Paddled: 4 hr
Distance Portaged: 1190 m
Time Portaged: 2:30 hrs
Distance Hiked: 4450 m
Weather: cloudy; partly sunny; mostly cloudy

Dave and I arose around 7:30 a.m. and were out of camp by 9:00 a.m. after another breakfast of oatmeal and granola bars. There were many mink frogs along the shore of our campsite. We paddled part of the marsh toward the other end of Club Lake, but low water caused us to run into rocks and to have to walk the Folbot. We turned around and went back to the 1190 m portage to Mink Lake. We saw numerous green frogs and bullfrogs in the marsh. As we took out for the portage, we caught a small red-bellied snake just off the portage trail.


red-bellied snake

Beside the portage is an old cement building that housed the Richie Brothers lumber mill (according to Lloyd's book). The portage trail was beautiful, going through birches, a meadow, and ferns and passing a huge, old white pine. The trail was relatively easy, flat and then a gradual downhill. Dave took some pictures of an interesting fungus, the orange crust (Hypomyces lactifluorum), which parasitizes other mushrooms. We had lunch of cheese, pitas, and summer sausage at the end of the portage. We took about two and a half hours for the portage, photos, and lunch.


old white pine and birches along Club Lake to Mink Lake portage

The portage ended at a creek that ran into Mink Lake (the creek had lots of mica in its bed). The low water caused us to walk the boat through the stream and then over a sandbar entrance to Mink Lake. There was a good wind coming down the lake toward us forcing up one foot waves. We paddled over to the 440 m portage to Cauchon Lake and hiked over it. Cauchon Lake had some beautiful cliffs along the water. The portage trail crossed the old rail bed running along the northeast side of Mink Lake. The Cauchon Lake end of the portage trail looked like it had been cut out of the granite long ago to provide a path down to the lake. The path was about wide enough for two horses side-by-side, and we thought that the path might have been cut out to allow horses to drag logs down to the lake. On the way back across the portage, we ran into some people using the same Knu-Pac portage frame that I use for my Folbot touring kayak. They were using it with two river kayaks and a canoe. These are the only other kayaks that I have seen on my trips in Algonquin. We saw many mink frogs at the Mink Lake end of this portage.

fully-loaded Folbot at put-in from Club Lake to Mink Lake portage

We then paddled up Mink Lake through the wind and one foot waves (it was kind of fun), talked to some loons (both of us), and selected the northwestern-most of the group of five campsites at the southeast end of the lake. We made camp at 4:00 p.m. and went swimming (it was a hot afternoon). Just before supper, we saw another kayak on Mink Lake (three on this trip, when we had seen none before). Supper consisted of Alpine Aire "Mashed Potatoes with Cheddar" and Natural High "Barbecue Beef with Mashed Potatoes."

After supper, we relaxed around camp, I went paddling in the waves, and Dave got set up for sunset pictures. The sunset started out as nothing much, but brightened and turned colorful at the end.


Tuesday, August 6, 2002:

Route Paddled: Mink Lake, Little Mink Lake, to Kioshkokwi Lake Access (#29)
Distance Paddled: 16 km
Time Paddled: 3:30 hrs
Distance Portaged: 450 m + 730 m = 1180 m
Time Portaged: 1 + 1:15 = 2:15 hrs
Distance Hiked: 3540 m
Weather: cloudy; mostly cloudy

With lots of paddling expected against a headwind, we arose at 6:15 a.m. and were out of camp by 7:30 a.m. (after the usual breakfast of granola bars and oatmeal). We made it to the first portage at 8:20 a.m., covering a distance of 5 km in under an hour despite a headwind and one foot waves. We covered the 450 m portage to Little Mink Lake in an hour, and then after taking some photos on Little Mink Lake, covered the 730 m portage to Kioshkokwi Lake in an hour and fifteen minutes, including cooking lunch.

Jim on Little Mink Lake

We headed for the portage to Lauder Lake (carrying our hot lunch with us to eat there). The wind had shifted some so that we faced a headwind again. We had been told that there were the remains of an old alligator (a steam-powered tug that hauled log booms across lakes and was able to winch itself overland to move from lake to lake) near the Lauder Lake portage (where the white ‘H’ is on the "Canoe Routes" map). Low water made getting to the portage very difficult. We had to pole through with our paddles the last bit of the marsh (it was so mucky that we could not get out to walk the boat along). At the portage, we ate our lunch of Backpacker’s Pantry "Curry Chicken with Pasta" (good). We had no luck finding the alligator, but did find the remains of an old cabin.

As we headed back across Kioshkokwi Lake to the access point, the wind had again shifted and we battled a stiff crosswind. We made it to the access point by 1:45 p.m., loaded up, and called our wives, Therese and Olivia. As we drove out of the park, we stopped for a snack and were treated to one of our favorite drinks that can be found in Canada, but not in the U.S., Lime Crush. We then drove on to Callendar for pizza and subs for supper. There we took apart the Folbot and packed it up since it had dried out during the drive. We continued on to the Royal Oak Inn Best Western in Barrie and got in at 8:00 p.m.


Wednesday, August 7, 2002:

Weather: partly sunny

Dave and I had a continental breakfast at the motel and were out by 7:00 a.m. We had an uneventful drive to Dave’s house in Lucas (including buying peaches near St. Catherine’s, lunching at McDonalds, snacking on a pint of huge blackberries, and stopping at Tom’s in Cleveland). We made it to Dave’s by 3:30 p.m., then I went on to Mom and Dad’s and then back home to our farm in Pleasant Plain by 7:30 p.m. where I was greeted by Therese and my two sons, Stephen (3 years old) and Billy (1½ years old), who claimed to have missed me!


Miscellaneous Thoughts, Observations, and Reflections:

  • We saw at least a pair of loons on every lake that we visited.
  • It’s always wonderful to get away from everything and get to enjoy nature and solitude.
  • What a difference it made to be able to double carry (instead of triple carry, as in the past) our portages.
  • It’s fun to be self-sufficient and to paddle and carry everything that you need for a week (including your mode of transportation).
  • We saw very few blueberries this trip. Maybe we were here at the very end of the season.
  • The Knu-Pac frame for portaging the Folbot and the MSR "Dragonfly" stove both worked well again.
  • As we did on our last trip, we had a lake (the northwestern arm of Club Lake) to ourselves for a night. Where else can you have that?!
  • Many of the lakes had piles (deposited by muskrats) of clam shells on the shores.
  • This was our first trip where we changed lakes and campsites every night. It worked well for us because we did not have any overly long days where we did not get into camp until late. Most of the days we were into camp sometime in the afternoon and had time to set up camp, relax, and enjoy and explore the lake and campsite.
  • The new Sweetwater "Guardian" water filter worked well. It was especially easy to use from the boat with the intake hose hanging over the side. It connected easily to our Nalgene bottle and to the 2L Platypus bottle that came with it.
  • Finally, here is Dave's eloquent summary of our trip. "Jim and I felt blessed to have time to spend together and to pass it in such a peaceful, diverse, and beautiful place.  Much of the world outside Algonquin Park distracts us - with haste and desires - from our inner spirituality.  Wilderness experiences help us to regain perspective as they turn us inward, in looking outward: at the rolling granite hills, the aromatic stands of pine, and the cool-feeling and life-sustaining waters.  Ontario's back country relieved us from the hustle of automation, the pressures of commerce, the din of industry, and the throes of self-absorption.  At Algonquin, in our quieted selves and our fraternal company, we were uplifted."


Animals Identified in Algonquin Provincial Park:

  • Amphibians (4): American Toad, Bullfrog, Green Frog, Mink Frog
  • Reptiles (2): Red-bellied Snake, Common Garter Snake
  • Birds (21): Common Loon, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Mallard, Common Merganser, American Kestrel, Herring Gull, Belted Kingfisher, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Wood Thrush, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Cedar Waxwing, Red-eyed Vireo, Nashville Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, White-throated Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird
  • Mammals (3): Eastern Chipmunk, American Red Squirrel, Moose


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