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Algonquin Journal - 2005

Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

July/August 2005

 

Participants: Jim and Stephen (5½ years old) FitzSimmons in a red Folbot Greenland II, Therese and Billy (4 years old) FitzSimmons in a red Folbot Yukon, and Dave, Olivia, and Sarah (1 year old) FitzSimmons in a yellow Folbot Super
Route: Cedar Lake access (#27) to Little Cedar Lake and Aura Lee Lake and back out through Little Cedar Lake and Cedar Lake; side trips to Bug Lake, Laurel Lake, and Little Cauchon Lake
Distance Paddled: 31 km
Time Paddled: 10.5 hours
Distance Portaged: 275 m + 275 m = 550 m
Time Portaged: 1:00 + 1:00 = 2:00
Distance Hiked (including multiple portage trips and side trips): 5200 m
Stephen and Jim in the Folbot Greenland II
Billy and Therese in the Folbot Yukon
Dave, Olivia, and Sarah in the Folbot Super

 

Wednesday, July 27, 2005:

Therese, Stephen, Billy, and I left our farm in Pleasant Plain, Ohio, around 8 p.m. and drove to Dave and Olivia’s house in Lucas, Ohio, where we spent the night.

   

Thursday, July 28, 2005:

We had breakfast, stopped by to see Dave’s and my parents (who live nearby), and then got on the road by 10 a.m.  Along the way we had lunch at McDonald’s in Cleveland and supper at Wendy’s in Toronto.  Finally, we arrived at the Best Western in Barrie, where we spent the night.

 

Friday, July 29, 2005:

Route Paddled: Cedar Lake Access (#27) to Little Cedar Lake and Aura Lee Lake
Distance Paddled: 9.5 km
Time Paddled: 2.5 hours
Weather: sunny

After a continental breakfast at the hotel, we headed out at 9 a.m.  Along Route 11 north of Huntsville, we bought some excellent yellow plums.  These would prove to be the preferred snack later in the day as we raced for our campsite.

After encountering heavy traffic entering North Bay (there was a city festival), we had an excellent lunch at my favorite fast-food restaurant, Harvey’s.  I had their chicken sandwich and also tried their new salmonburger sandwich (top-notch) and a French-Canadian dish, poutine, consisting of french fries covered with cheese curds and gravy (very tasty).

As we headed east on Route 17, we visited the Maxwell Pottery on the Kiosk access road.  Dave and I had visited this pottery during our trip to Kiosk in 2002, and he and his wife (collectors of ceramics) were excited about a return trip.  Dave and Olivia purchased a beautiful canoe-shaped butter dish, while Stephen and Billy were enthralled watching the potter at work in his shop.

Upon entering the Brent Road, we picked up our backcountry camping permit at the new permit office (only 1 km from Route 17 instead of the old office that was about halfway in the 40 km road).  At the permit office we asked about the North River Lake access (#26) and were told that the water was low but passable (with some probable walking of boats and pushing through creekside brush).  Earlier in the spring we had planned for this trip to enter at the North River Lake access and to camp on North River Lake.  As the summer wore on and rainfall amounts were below normal, we switched our plans to the current trip.  Upon hearing the comments of the permit office personnel and later seeing the water levels at the North River Lake access, we were quite happy that we had changed our plans.

After a slow 40 km drive on the washboard dirt Brent Road, we arrived at the boat ramp on Cedar Lake.  It had been a total of 815 miles from our farm in Pleasant Plain, Ohio to Cedar Lake.  After loading up what seemed like too much gear (it did, however, fit) we were on the water at 6 p.m.

Then the race to the campsite on Aura Lee Lake commenced.  We had a 9.5 km paddle to our campsite, and each boat had only one paddler: Jim in one, Therese in another, and Dave in the other (Olivia was kept busy with Sarah).  We had planned the trip with no portages between the access and the campsite (because of the young children), but we still needed to get there, set up camp, and have supper before it became too dark.  Luckily, there was only a slight headwind as we headed west across Cedar Lake, but the sinking sun was directly in our eyes.  We encountered many loons on Cedar Lake, including four of them together in, evidently, a family group.  This put me in a great mood, as I always look forward to seeing and hearing loons when I come to Algonquin.

We all bent to our paddles and snacked on the yellow plums as we progressed across the lake to Little Cedar Lake.  From what we could see (which was little because of the sun), this looked like a beautiful lake (narrow with many small, granite islands), and we determined to spend some time on it later in the trip.  As we traversed Little Cedar Lake, we watched a beaver swim nearby and then dive with its distinctive tail slap, and then, near the end of the lake, we encountered an osprey searching for fish.  In the dying light, as we approached the west end of the lake, it looked as if there was no place to continue paddling.  When we got to the end of the lake, however, we found a narrow connecting passage that eventually led to a tunnel under an abandoned railroad bridge.  I was in the lead at this point and came to the first of two tunnels under the bridge.  I stared unbelievingly at the huge pack of driftwood blocking the other end of the tunnel.  It was already getting dark and I didn't relish having to portage up and over the railroad bed at this point!  Luckily, I found that the end of the second tunnel had been cleared, and it was open paddling through to Aura Lee Lake.

Once out of the tunnel, we came to the first campsite on Aura Lee Lake.  After finding that the other campsite on the lake was taken, we started to unload and set up camp.  It was quite an ordeal setting up camp and cooking and eating supper (Mountain House “Chili Mac with Beef" (very good)) in near darkness.  It helped that we had headlamps, but it still took longer than it should have.  Hanging the food bags for the night was also an experience.  There was only one tree that we could find nearby with an appropriate branch.  By the time we had done a poor job of hanging the food, we named our job the “bear punching bags,” because the bags were only hanging about head height.  As it was already 10:30 p.m., we decided that it would have to do for tonight and that we could engineer a better solution tomorrow.  Between about 10 p.m. and when we went to bed at 11 p.m., we heard near our campsite what Dave and Olivia (an Ohio state park naturalist) identified as a short-eared owl (actually two of them calling to each other at one point).  {After consulting the “Checklist and Seasonal Status of Birds of Algonquin Provincial Park” guide, we found that the short-eared owl is considered very rare in Algonquin.  We believe that it was a short-eared owl that we heard, but any report of a very rare bird must be considered skeptically unless it is later confirmed by another observer; therefore, we have listed it as an asterisked bird in the list at the end of this journal}.

campsite on Aura Lee Lake

 

Saturday, July 30, 2005:

Route Paddled: Aura Lee Lake; side trip to Laurel Lake
Distance Paddled: 3 km
Time Paddled: 2 hours
Distance Hiked: 550 m
Weather: sunny

During the night we heard loons, mostly flying overhead.  It was interesting how loud the wing beats of the loons were.  We awoke to all four of us occupying the downhill half of the tent floor.  As we were to discover during the week, this campsite has very little level ground, including the tent sites.  Even the benches around the fire pit are sloped!  It does, however, sit up off the lake and affords a nice view down the lake to the west.

During breakfast of oatmeal and granola bars, we saw a beaver swimming right in front of our campsite.  After setting up more of the campsite that we didn’t get to last night (including rigging a new system for hoisting the food bags between two trees), we had lunch of Hamburger Helper “Enchilada” with foil, vacuum-packed chicken (excellent).

Stephen and Billy enjoying lunch

All of us paddled the length of Aura Lee Lake looking for good swimming spots for the boys.  At the eastern end of the lake is a pretty, boulder-strewn stream coming in from Laurel Lake.  Next to it, we tied up our boats, and Dave, Olivia, Sarah, and I hiked the portage trail to Laurel Lake while Therese and the boys swam.  It is a short (275 m), flat trail, but is very rocky. Laurel Lake looked like a beautiful lake with high hills surrounding it.  Upon our return across the trail, we collected driftwood (for firewood), which we loaded into Dave’s boat.

boulder-strewn stream coming into
Aura Lee Lake from Laurel Lake
Dave, Olivia, and Sarah in the
"firewood barge"

On the way back down the lake, we stopped to swim at an island just off the shore of the other campsite on the lake.  The boys named the island “Stephen’s Island” (and they named the island just off our campsite “Billy’s Island”).  Stephen’s Island has a shore made up of small pieces of granite and slopes gently out into the water until it hits a drop-off.  This made for a great place for the boys to wade out (in their life jackets) and then swim, if they wished, by jumping off the drop-off.

Upon returning to our campsite, we had supper of Zatarain’s “Red Beans and Rice” with chunked summer sausage (great).  After supper, we enjoyed a beautiful sunset and then a fantastic, roaring campfire over which we toasted marshmallows.  As we prepared for bed, we went to hang the food bags.  Our system failed, and the heavy bags came crashing down, nearly on Olivia’s head!  We have never had difficulty before with hanging food bags in a site, but this time we failed on two consecutive nights.  We quickly set up a better system which subsequently worked for the remainder of the trip.

sunset from our campsite
Billy and Stephen enjoying the roaring campfire

 

Sunday, July 31, 2005:

Route Paddled: Aura Lee Lake to Little Cedar Lake and back; side trip to Bug Lake
Distance Paddled: 2.5 km
Time Paddled: 1 hour
Distance Hiked: 1640 m
Weather: partly cloudy; sprinkles; partly sunny

We arose at 8 a.m. to a breakfast of oatmeal and cereal with powdered milk.  After breakfast, Therese, Stephen, Billy, and I played cards, and I set up the hammock.  (After which there was a constant battle - not just among the boys - about who would get the hammock next)!  Dave, Olivia, and Sarah read and slept.  During this time, it sprinkled off and on.  When Sarah awoke, we had lunch of Tuna Helper with foil, vacuum-packed tuna (very good).

On our way in to our campsite on Friday, we had been impressed with Little Cedar Lake but had not enough time to explore it then.  We decided that today would be a nice day to return to the lake.  At the marshy, western end of Little Cedar Lake, we spotted a painted turtle sunning itself on a mostly submerged log.  (This was the first turtle that we had seen in five trips to Algonquin).  Unlike the skittish painted turtles in Ohio, this one allowed us to approach it within about three feet before it slid off the log and into the water.  The water here is so clear that the boys and I watched the turtle swim under our boat and disappear.  They were enthralled.

railroad bridge tunnel between
Little Cedar Lake and Aura Lee Lake
painted turtle on Little Cedar Lake
 
Billy and Stephen examining pickerelweed
in Little Cedar Lake

Dave, Olivia, Sarah, and I decided to hike the 820 m portage trail to Bug Lake while Therese and the boys decided to return to Stephen’s Island on Aura Lee Lake and swim.  On the paddle to the portage we found a seemingly abandoned beaver lodge beside the shore near the portage trail.  Most Algonquin portages seem to be either flat or up and then down as the trail crosses a ridge between watersheds, but this one climbed continuously up to Bug Lake, gaining 116 m in elevation between the two lakes.  Along the way it passed large yellow birches and red maples, all of which led us to a picturesque lake with a sandy bottom, which sparkled with mica specks reflecting the sunlight in a dazzling array of pinpoints of light.

After descending back to Little Cedar Lake, we paddled back to Aura Lee Lake and met Therese and the boys returning from Stephen’s Island.  I then took the boys over to rocky Billy’s Island (directly across from our campsite) to swim.  Both Stephen and Billy are fish; they had just finished playing in the water for over an hour, but they wanted to continue swimming when I got back.  When Stephen, Billy, and I arrived back at camp, we found that all three of us had tiny black leeches on our feet.  Both Billy and I had two bleeding spots from them.  No more swimming there!

Stephen, Jim, and Billy playing in Aura Lee Lake
bullfrog on Aura Lee Lake

Zatarain’s “Black Beans and Rice” with foil, vacuum-packed salmon made for a very good supper.  After supper the boys and I played cards until it became dark enough to start the campfire.  Again, the boys (and the adults) enjoyed toasting marshmallows.  We headed to bed around 10:30 p.m.

 

Monday, August 1, 2005:

Route Paddled: Aura Lee Lake to Laurel Lake and back; side trip to Little Cauchon Lake
Distance Paddled: 6.5 km
Time Paddled: 2 hours
Distance Portaged: 275 m + 275 m = 550 m
Time Portaged: 1:00 + 1:00 = 2:00
Distance Hiked: 3010 m
Weather: cloudy; partly cloudy; sunny; partly cloudy

This morning, before anyone else had arisen, Dave took his boat out and paddled the length of Aura Lee Lake.  He enjoyed the quietude, the smooth, mirror-like water, and the early-morning fog.

It sprinkled several times during the night, but it was never heavy or lasting.  We got up around 7:30 a.m. and had granola bars, oatmeal, cheese, and fried summer sausage for breakfast.

All of us paddled down to the east end of Aura Lee Lake and portaged two of the boats (the Greenland II and the Yukon, the two lightest) and our gear over to Laurel Lake.  As we had seen on our previous hike of this portage trail, it is flat but rocky, and we had to watch our steps.  At the other end of the portage, we cooked up Alpine Aire “Pasta Alfredo with Shrimp” (very good) and Mountain House “Polynesian Chicken” (very good) and ate them with slices of Swiss cheese.

beautiful Laurel Lake

After lunch, Therese and the boys took the Folbot Super back down Aura Lee Lake to the campsite, where they swam, played cards, read, and wrote stories.  Dave, Olivia, Sarah, and I paddled the portaged boats down to the falls at the east end of the lake beside the Little Cauchon Lake portage.  The falls is a beautiful moss-covered cascade and should not be missed!  We then hiked the 130 m portage to Little Cauchon Lake, another portage that continuously ascends a steep trail, making use of rock and root steps.  While paddling back down Laurel Lake, we agreed that this is quite a lake.  It has an island campsite, some sheer granite cliff walls, and high, surrounding hills.  Add those features to the waterfall and you have a spectacular Algonquin lake!

waterfall on Laurel Lake
next to the Little Cauchon Lake portage
Dave, Sarah, and Olivia on the
steep portage trail to Little Cauchon Lake

We portaged back to Aura Lee Lake and headed to our campsite, where we found Billy napping and Stephen and Therese playing.  Dave and I took a swim off our campsite, and was it refreshing!  When we came in, however, Dave found seven little black leeches on himself.  Supper consisted of Mountain House “Turkey Tetrazzini” (excellent), Mountain House “Cajun Salmon Inferno” (excellent, but very spicy), and peanut butter on wheat flatbread (a big hit with the boys).  We had our last campfire tonight while toasting the last of our marshmallows.  We were in bed around 10 p.m.

 

Tuesday, August 2, 2005:

Route Paddled: Aura Lee Lake to Little Cedar Lake and Cedar Lake Access (#27)
Distance Paddled: 9.5 km
Time Paddled: 3 hours
Weather: sunny

On this, our last day in the park, we arose at 7:30 a.m., had breakfast of oatmeal, packed everything up, and were out by 10:30 a.m.  We paddled through picturesque Little Cedar Lake and stopped for lunch at the Cedar Lake campsite on the point of land west of Gilmour Island.  We chose this spot because of the nice sand beach for the boys to play on but soon found that it also contained the remains of a large building and other artifacts scattered around the large, spacious site.  Lunch consisted of pita bread, summer sausage, and cheddar cheese.  Both before and after lunch, Stephen and Billy enjoyed playing in the sand and wading in the water.

Therese and Billy skirt a granite island
on Little Cedar Lake
Stephen and Jim paddle among the islands
of picturesque Little Cedar Lake
 
remains of Kish-Kaduk Lodge
Billy and Therese on the wide expanse
of Cedar Lake

A nice tailwind continued to help propel us toward our takeout spot at the Brent campground.  We arrived at 2:15 p.m. and were packed up and out by 3:30 p.m.  A pilgrimage to the Brent Store was in order, so we headed there for ice cream and pop.  While there, we met Jake Pigeon, the proprietor, who told us that the site on which we had eaten lunch was formerly the site of the Kish-Kaduk Lodge from the 1920s until the 1970s.  He explained that “kish-kaduk” is a Native American word that means “drop off,” which in this case refers to the fact that the sandy bottom soon drops off to a great depth there.

After feeding our faces at the Brent Store, we drove out to see the Brent Ranger Cabin, which occupies a beautiful point sticking out into Cedar Lake and commands a panoramic view.  On the way back out the access road, the boys got to see their first moose as we came upon a mother and two calves in the middle of the road.  Shortly afterward, a ruffed grouse crossed the road in front of us.  We stopped at the Brent Crater viewing platform, from which we could view the remnants of a crater formed approximately 450 million years ago by a giant meteorite.  Dave, Olivia, and Sarah decided to take the hiking trail, and Therese, Stephen, Billy, and I drove back to the permit office to call Dave’s and my parents and purchase some souvenirs.  There was quite a bit of current logging going on along the access road, but, luckily, we both came in and left on the road after working hours, so we did not have to avoid the logging trucks on the blind curves in the road.

As we headed back toward home, we had supper at the Subway in Mattawa and arrived at the Best Western in Barrie at 11:15 p.m.  Much needed showers were in order, and then we sank gratefully into the soft, comfortable beds.

 

Wednesday, August 3, 2005:

We were up at 7:30 a.m. and out at 9 a.m. after a continental breakfast at the hotel.  We had lunch at Harvey’s on the south side of Lake Ontario, my last chance until my next trip to Canada to have their delicious chicken and salmonburger sandwiches.  My parents met us at the Arby’s at the Mansfield, Ohio, exit for supper, and then we continued to our farm, arriving around 9:30 p.m.

What a great trip!  Stephen and Billy had their first exposure to kayak-camping.  They loved it and didn’t want to leave!  We can’t wait to go back!

 

Miscellaneous Thoughts, Observations, and Reflections:

  • It was really fun backcountry tripping with Therese, Stephen, and Billy.  It has always been fun sharing wilderness camping with my wife, and the boys are becoming great campers as they get older.  They really liked to help in camp and their wide-eyed observation of nature made us all feel like kids again.

  • Likewise, it was great traveling with Dave, Olivia, and Sarah.  We all have similar interests and get along extremely well.  In addition, we each have complementary camp skills.  Lastly, each couple having children allowed us to understand and make accommodations for the challenges of camping with kids.

  • The boys had a great time.  They helped to paddle with their own wooden canoe paddles which they got for Christmas last December.  They swam and played in the dirt and sand and swam and played in the dirt and sand, over and over.  They played games and cards, threw rocks in the lake, collected clams, played with toys, read books, and wrote stories and drew maps of the lake.

  • Many shallow places in these lakes have freshwater clams.  The local muskrats must really like them, because there were clamshell middens on many shores.  Stephen and Billy liked them, too.  They would scoop them up with their nets and put them in water-filled buckets before returning them to the lake.

  • On every other trip that we have been on, each night’s campsite lake has had at least one pair of loons.  On this trip, our campsite lake, Aura Lee, did not seem to have any resident loons.  We heard many loons calling from other lakes and as they flew overhead, but we saw and heard none on the lake itself.

  • There were quite a few chipmunks and chattering red squirrels at our campsite.

  • We saw very few blueberries this trip.  It looked like we were at the very end of the season.

  • Little Cedar Lake, with its many granite islands, and Laurel Lake, with its waterfall, high hills, and granite cliffs, are two of the most beautiful lakes that we have visited.

  • Just before the trip, Therese and I bought two beautiful, wooden, Grey Owl kayak paddles from fellow Folbot owners, Dick and Marianne Candelmo.  The paddles were pure pleasure to use.  They had a light swing through the air and an efficient glide through the water.  They looked great and worked superbly.

  • Because we had no portages to cross before coming to our campsite, we filled two 5-gallon water bags (and our other smaller containers) with potable water at the Brent Campground.  This allowed us to not have to filter water until Monday, the fourth day of our trip.

 

Animals Observed in Algonquin Provincial Park:

  • Amphibians (6): Fowler’s Toad, Bullfrog, Green Frog, Mink Frog, Wood Frog, Leopard Frog

  • Reptiles (1): Painted Turtle

  • Birds (20*): Common Loon, Pied-billed Grebe, Great Blue Heron, Common Merganser, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Ruffed Grouse, Herring Gull, Barred Owl, Short-eared Owl* (unconfirmed observation of a very rare Algonquin bird), Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Flicker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Common Raven, Black-capped Chickadee, Winter Wren, Red-eyed Vireo, White-throated Sparrow

  • Mammals (4): Eastern Chipmunk, American Red Squirrel, American Beaver, Moose

 

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