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Algonquin Journal - 2003

Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

July 2003

Participants: Jim, Therese, Stephen (3˝ years old), and Billy (2 years old) FitzSimmons in a red Folbot Greenland II and a red Folbot Yukon and Charles Emigh and Lisa Lieber in a red fiberglass canoe
Route: Kingscote Lake access (#15); side trip to Lower Minnow Lake
Distance Paddled: 20 km
Time Paddled: 7.5 hours
Distance Hiked: 5084 m


Tuesday, July 1, 2003:

Therese, Stephen, Billy, and I left our farm in Pleasant Plain, Ohio, at 6 p.m. and drove to Charles and Lisa’s house in Cleveland by 10 p.m. After visiting and planning last minute details, we made it to bed by midnight.


Wednesday, July 2, 2003:

Therese, Stephen, Billy, and I left Cleveland after having breakfast with Charles and Lisa. We decided to take two days to make the drive to Algonquin (because of the ages of the kids), and Charles and Lisa were going to make the drive in one day (starting tomorrow) and meet us there. We got to Niagara Falls at 1:15 p.m., ate lunch at the Top of the Falls restaurant on Goat Island, and then walked around to look at the Falls. The boys were entranced by the Falls and the mist rising from them. We then drove on to the Best Western at Barrie, Ontario, by 6 p.m. We had a great supper at Swiss Chalet and were in bed by 11 p.m.


Thursday, July 3, 2003:

Route Paddled: Kingscote Lake
Distance Paddled: 5.5 km
Time Paddled: 2.5 hours

After quickly eating a continental breakfast at the hotel, we left by 8 a.m. The drive to the Kingscote Lake access point was through beautiful country filled with lakes and cottages. We arrived at the Kingscote Lake drive-in/walk-in campsites by 11 a.m. This was a set of six campsites that you could walk to (about 100-200 m) from the access point parking lot. We had decided to stay in one of these sites because of the many items necessary for young children and the difficulty that would pose for paddle-in sites and portaging. We figured that it would be a good introduction for them to camping on a lake and that in years to come, we could progress to paddle-in sites and portaging.

Among these sites, #s 1-4 are in the woods and sites #5 and #6 are waterfront sites with their own floating wooden docks. Sites #2 and #6 were taken, so we opted for site #5. It was a beautiful site, sitting up from the water among hemlock trees and affording a great view of the lake. Upon talking to the couple in site #6, we found out that they would be leaving in the morning and that Charles and Lisa could have their site when they left. What a bonus for us to be able to have the two waterfront sites.

Kingscote Lake walk-in site #5

We noticed immediately that the insect situation was not what we had expected. At this time of the year, we expected the blackflies to be gone. That was not the case. As we took our stuff to the campsite, we were surrounded by blackflies and mosquitoes. We found out later, that a cool, wet spring had pushed back the normal insect seasons. We put on insect dope (non-DEET for the kids), but it only helped a little bit.

We set up camp by 1 p.m. and went for a paddle out to a nearby island. We all crammed into the Greenland II (a double kayak) with me in the stern, Stephen in front of me, Therese in the front seat, and Billy in front of her. It was cramped, but we were still able to paddle. The boys loved it; they didn’t want to go back to camp. We had experienced this before on lakes in Ohio, that the boys loved being out in the boats and rarely wanted to come back in to shore.

While the boys took a nap, Therese and I relaxed and organized camp. When the boys awoke, we had supper of hot dogs, apples, and angel hair pasta, which we had cooked over our 2-burner Coleman stove (ah, the luxuries of a walk-in site and no portaging).

After supper we went out paddling again with both boats. I took the Greenland II with Stephen in the front seat, and Therese took the Yukon (a single kayak with a large cockpit) with Billy in the front. While on the lake, we saw four loons and talked to them. We noticed that Kingscote Lake’s water is relatively clear.

Therese observing a loon on Kingscote Lake

Charles and Lisa arrived around 9 p.m. We helped them set up camp on our site so that they could move over to the one to be vacated in the morning. After the boys went to bed, Charles and I went for a short night paddle. We were in bed by 10:15 p.m.


Friday, July 4, 2003:

Route Paddled: Kingscote Lake
Distance Paddled: 5 km
Time Paddled: 2 hours

It rained a lot during the night, but that did not stop the loons from calling their eerie wails all night long. We got up at 7:30 a.m. and cooked up breakfast of bacon and eggs on our Coleman stove (that would be the last time that the stove worked flawlessly). Again, there were mosquitoes and blackflies everywhere. We were starting to get welts from the mosquito bites and dripping blood from the blackfly bites.

We hung everything that was wet out to dry and moved Charles and Lisa’s tent to the vacated waterfront site. While Charles and Lisa went to pick up their rental canoe from Pine Grove Point Lodge, the four of us headed out to paddle around the lake. We were joined by Charles and Lisa when they returned.

Billy and Stephen at our site on Kingscote Lake

When we returned to camp, Charles taught Stephen how to fish.  Stephen was enthralled.  He stood mesmerized on the end of the floating dock with Charles, watched him cast, and got so excited when Charles would reel in a fish.

After lunch we went swimming/playing around in the water with the boys. They would have stayed in the lake all afternoon if we had let them. We let both of them swim around while buoyed up by their lifejackets so that they could see what that was like. They loved it! After all of this, everyone took naps.

After supper, we went for a paddle out to an island that had a leaseholder’s cabin on it. We have seen several other cabins on the lake that must belong to people whose leases with Ontario have not yet expired. We also saw a cabin that had been burned to ground recently. We surmised that it was probably a lease that had expired and that the park service had razed it. Later, we met a lake leaseholder who confirmed our theory. When we got back to camp, we had a campfire and then were in bed by 10:30 p.m.


Saturday, July 5, 2003:

Route Paddled: Kingscote Lake
Distance Paddled: 9.5 km
Time Paddled: 3 hours
Distance Hiked: 1200 m

We were awake at 6:15 a.m., but played around in the tent with the boys until we got up at 7:30 a.m. Charles and Lisa cooked breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon over a fire.

All of us decided to paddle the length of the lake today. Along the way, Billy fell asleep in the front of Therese’s boat. Stephen had fun using a small fishing/insect net to retrieve foam balls that I threw into the water. He also fished out leaves, sticks, and other things that interested him. We called to some loons along the way and Charles fished with no luck other than small rock bass. We faced a headwind the entire way.


Charles and Lisa on Kingscote Lake

At the other end of the lake, we hiked the 600 m portage to Lower Minnow Lake (~200 m of the Kingscote to Big Rock portage plus the 400 m of portage to Lower Minnow). It was a buggy portage, but we did see some mushrooms and a tannic-acid-stained Lower Minnow Lake. When we got back to our boats, we broke out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and dried fruit for lunch. As we headed back toward camp, we stopped at a cottage site and swam for awhile. By then, the wind had turned against us, and we faced a headwind with one-foot waves on the way back to camp. Charles fished again, but with no more luck than earlier (he thought that he just kept catching the same small rock bass over and over again with a small perch thrown in once).

mushroom on Kingscote Lake to Lower Minnow Lake portage
Stephen in front of me and Therese and Billy in front of us

After we all took afternoon naps, we drove in to Harcourt for supper when the Coleman stove refused to stay lit. I had brought a spare pump assembly, but not a spare generator, and unfortunately, it needed the generator. We could have used the small MSR Dragonfly backpacking stove, which we had brought, but with all of the black flies and mosquitoes, we decided to take advantage of our proximity to civilization. We enjoyed an excellent supper at the South Algonquin Cookhouse Restaurant. We relaxed there for a little while and then went back to camp and were in bed by 10 p.m.


Sunday, July 6, 2003:

Distance Hiked: 3884 m

This morning we got up at 7:00 a.m. and decided to head home today. The boys, who had not been bothered much by the blackflies and mosquitoes when we first arrived, were really being bedeviled by them now. All of us had welts from the mosquito bites and scabs from the blackfly bites, and the boys were becoming quite testy about the "bugs". We decided to strike camp, hike to High Falls, and then head home.

After eating breakfast, packing up, and returning Charles and Lisa’s canoe, we took the 1942 m trail to High Falls. The blackflies and mosquitoes were so thick along the trail that you could see a cloud of them around the person in front of you. We covered our heads with towels as we walked. The falls were beautiful. Charles and Lisa swam in them, but the water was too fast for our boys. We took them back downstream to a quiet pool and they played in the water there.

High Falls of the York River

We all had lunch at the South Algonquin Cookhouse Restaurant in Harcourt and then left for home. We got to Barrie by 5 p.m. and booked a Holiday Inn there. Charles and Lisa continued home to Cleveland. The boys played in the pool and played on the playground at the hotel both before and after supper at Harvey’s (which, by the way, is our favorite fast food restaurant in either Canada or the U.S.). We made it to bed by 10:30 p.m.


Monday, July 7, 2003:

We were up at 8 a.m., and after a complimentary hot breakfast buffet, we continued our trip home. We had lunch along the way at McDonald’s in New York and supper at my brother and sister-in-law’s (Dave and Olivia’s) house in Lucas, Ohio. After visiting for a while with them, we crashed at my parent’s house in Lucas while they were away on vacation.


Tuesday, July 8, 2003:

In the morning, we took the boys to visit their great-grandmother, Velma FitzSimmons, in Mansfield, Ohio, and then took them to the Carrousel Park there. After lunch, we drove back to Pleasant Plain by 5 p.m.


Miscellaneous Thoughts, Observations, and Reflections:

  • The boys loved being out in the boats! They would stay out for two or three hours and still not want to go back to camp. Stopping along the way for swimming/playing in the water and hiking probably helped them want to stay out longer. That is not to say, however, that they would have enjoyed an entire day of paddling. I think that they would have eventually wanted to get off the water. I definitely do not think that they were ready yet for portaging.
  • The boys loved swimming/playing around in the lake. Stephen has always loved the water and continued to enjoy it, but this was Billy’s first time really having fun in the water. They have both become water fiends.
  • The boys (Billy especially) loved talking to the loons. They would mimic my calls to the loons and be ecstatic if a loon would answer us. Billy kept saying "Daddy, call the loons!" They were also excited (Stephen especially) if they heard their own echo come back from the far shore. 
  • This was our first trip to Algonquin that we did not see a moose.
  • This was the worst that we have seen insects in Algonquin during July or August. The adults on the trip used DEET bug dope and the kids used citronella type. We found that the DEET worked well for the mosquitoes, but not for the blackflies, and the citronella was the opposite.
  • With young kids, the simple meals without cooking (e.g., peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, dried fruit, etc.) were much easier on all involved than the ones that required cooking. There were enough other things to take care of with kids in a semi-rustic campsite that simple foods were the easiest.
  • Toys for the kids to play with were very helpful. We took along things like balls, an Etch-a-Sketch, coloring books with special markers that only draw in that coloring book, etc. for the campsite. We also had floating foam balls and a small kid’s fishing/insect net for in the boat.
  • It was a total of 725 miles from our farm in Pleasant Plain, Ohio to the Kingscote Lake access point.
  • We saw very few motorboats on this lake, even though they were permitted.


Animals Identified in Algonquin Provincial Park:

  • Amphibians (6): American Toad, Spring Peeper, Eastern Gray Treefrog, Bullfrog, Green Frog, Leopard Frog
  • Reptiles (1): Common Garter Snake
  • Birds (19): Common Loon, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Turkey Vulture, American Kestrel, Herring Gull, Belted Kingfisher, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Northern Flicker, Eastern Phoebe, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Veery, Wood Thrush, American Robin, Cedar Waxwing, Red-eyed Vireo, American Goldfinch
  • Mammals (3): Eastern Chipmunk, American Red Squirrel, Raccoon


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