Algonquin Journal - 2005
Therese, Stephen, Billy, and I left our farm in
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,
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
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
After a slow 40 km drive on the washboard dirt
Brent Road, we arrived at the boat ramp on
Then the race to the campsite on Aura Lee
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
Once out of the tunnel, we came to the first campsite on Aura
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
Saturday, July 30, 2005:
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).
All of us paddled the length of Aura
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
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.
Sunday, July 31, 2005:
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.
Dave, Olivia, Sarah, and I decided to hike the 820 m
portage trail to
After descending back to Little Cedar Lake, we paddled back
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:
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
After lunch, Therese and the boys took the Folbot Super
We portaged back to
Tuesday, August 2, 2005:
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
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
As we headed back toward home, we had supper at the Subway
in Mattawa and arrived at the Best Western in
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
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
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.
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
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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