Journal - 2006
Jim FitzSimmons in a red Folbot
Rock Lake access (Madawaska River) to Rock Lake, Pen Lake, the Galipo
River, Welcome Lake, Harry Lake, Rence Lake, Frank Lake, Florence Lake, Lake
Louisa, and back out through Rock Lake and the Madawaska River (Rock Lake
- Distance Paddled:
- Time Paddled:
- Distance Portaged:
375 m + 295 m + 2170 m + 320 m + 1725 m + 2895 m = 7780 m
- Time Portaged:
1:00 + 1:00 + 2:30 + 1:00 + 2:15 + 3:15 = 11:00
- Distance Hiked (including multiple portage trips and side trips): 24305 m
- Wednesday, August
I left our farm in
Pleasant Plain, Ohio, at noon and drove to my brother Tom’s house in Cleveland.
After playing a round of golf with
Tom, we met his wife, Leslie, and their infant daughter, Kate, for supper at
Longhorn Steakhouse. I got to bed
- Thursday, August
Eager to get started on a long day of driving, I got up at
5 a.m. and was out of the house at 5:15. I
crossed the Canadian border in
at 9 a.m. and headed for Cambridge,
Ontario, home of Grey Owl paddles. I had
made arrangements to purchase a 250 cm Grey Owl Tempest kayak paddle from them
because I could find no retailers who stocked a paddle that long (necessary for
my beamy Folbot). I had tried one
out at a paddle festival in
and had fallen in love with the beautiful, light, wooden paddle.
At the Grey Owl office, several of the paddles were brought out from the
manufacturing plant, and I chose the one that had the nicest wood grain and the
best feel. It is a beauty, with a
blade of eleven
laminations of ash, basswood, butternut, and walnut and a laminated shaft of
cedar and ash. I couldn’t wait to see how it performed on its maiden voyage in Algonquin.
After lunch at
Harvey’s in Innisfil, I continued up to Algonquin, checking in at site #80 at the
Lake campground. Upon checking in, I
found that a wolf howl was to be held that night at 8:45.
After putting my Folbot together, I left for supper in Whitney, took a
drive out to see Lake
Opeongo, and visited the Visitors Center.
At 7:45, I made my way to the amphitheater at East
Beach. After an interesting presentation
on wolves, we headed to our cars to proceed to where wolves had been
heard the night before. Around 1700
people in 420 cars drove to the spot, with half parked on each side of the road!
After everyone became quiet, park naturalists tried many times to call
the wolves, but to no avail. Statistically,
90% of the previous 94 wolf howls since 1963 had been successful, but
unfortunately, ours was not. It was
still an interesting evening, and I was amazed by the way that the park staff
handled the logistical nightmare. Back
campground at midnight, I slept on my Thermarest in the back of my car.
- Friday, August 4,
- Route Paddled: Rock
- Distance Paddled: 11 km
- Time Paddled: 2:30 hours
- Distance Portaged: 375 m
- Time Portaged: 1:00 hours
- Distance Hiked: 1500 m
- Weather: mostly sunny
A fog-covered Rock
greeted me as I arose at 6:30, excited to head out on my first-ever solo trip.
I have made many trips in Algonquin but decided to try a solo trip this
year to see what it would be like. I
packed up and readied everything for leaving the
access (which is actually north of
River) when the park office opened at 8:30. I
downed a breakfast of Pop Tarts and carrots (the breakfast of champions!) while
I packed up. The computers were down
when the park office opened, so I didn’t get my permit until 9:00 and wasn't on
the water until 9:30.
- setting off from the Rock Lake access (Madawaska River)
What a gorgeous day, sunny with beautiful cumulus clouds
and a 5- to 10-knot tailwind. On my way
Lake, I stopped to marvel at the impressive cliff at
and to look for the ochre-colored pictographs drawn by the Ojibway people in
the 16th century. After
searching for awhile, I finally found a few of them (the tally marks were the
- cliff on Rock Lake
- Ojibway pictograph (tally marks) on Rock Lake
I completed the 375 m portage from Rock
in just under an hour; most
importantly to me, however, was that I did it in two trips.
At home, I had packed to be able to double-carry the portages, because I
had three portages on this trip that are longer than 1700 m (the last one is
2895 m). I was able to double-carry
the portage solo, but trimming some more weight would have made the carries
easier. I thought that I had cut out
lots of weight, but I found that packing to double-carry solo is much different
than to double-carry with others along. The
trail was short but rocky and muddy. At
the end of the portage, I cooked and ate FBC* “Cheesy Chicken Veggie
Rice” (good) for lunch. After
lunch, I hiked to the impressive falls between
Lake. Some families were there enjoying
the natural water slide.
- cooking lunch at the put-in of the
- Rock Lake to Pen Lake portage
- salmon nolanea (Nolanea quadrata)
- along the Rock Lake to Pen Lake portage
- waterslide on the lower falls between Pen Lake and Rock Lake
- upper falls between
- Pen Lake and Rock Lake
The tailwind continued to push me down Pen
as I examined the campsites on the eastern side.
There was a site that would be perfect for my kids (it has a large, sandy
beach) on the point about half to two-thirds of the way down the lake.
I continued to the southernmost of the four sites on that peninsula (NNW
of the big island in the southern half of the lake).
I found it to be one of the top sites that I have ever stayed at in
Algonquin. It sits up a little bit
from the water, is surrounded by mature white pines, and has more than a
180-degree panoramic view of the lake. There
are nice, sloping rocks down into the water, a wide open, huge tent area, and
several excellent food-bag-hanging trees. Later
I realized that I was lucky to have gotten the site.
I arrived at 2:15 p.m., and starting at 2:30, a string of canoe parties paddled to the site, realized that it was taken, and then took off for
- campsite on Pen Lake
During the afternoon, the breeze picked up while I set up
camp, read, wrote in my journal, and snoozed.
Due to the breeze, there were no mosquitoes all day.
I prepared and devoured FBC “Cheesy Couscous with Chicken” (very good) for supper.
After cleaning up the site and hanging the food bag, I took a short
evening paddle, soaking up the beautiful sunset and bright, first-quarter
moon. Then it was into the tent for
more reading and journal writing and then bed to bed around 10:30.
What a fantastic evening! Loons
serenaded me all night long with their haunting, mournful calls.
- sunset colors and the moon from the campsite on Pen Lake
* FBC: recipes from “Freezer Bag Cooking”
book by Sarah Svien
- Saturday, August 5, 2006:
- Route Paddled:
- Distance Paddled: 8.5 km
- Time Paddled: 2:30 hours
- Distance Portaged: 295 m +
2170 m = 2465 m
- Time Portaged: 1:00 + 2:30 =
- Distance Hiked: 7985 m
- Weather: mostly sunny
After awakening at 6:30, I relaxed and watched the fog burn
Lake. It looked
like another beautiful
day! I got up at 7:00 and ate
oatmeal for breakfast while I packed up. I
left at 8:15 for a short paddle over to the Galipo
(filtering water along the way). I
had the 295 m portage to myself (except for some fishermen on the river).
The takeout is full of large rocks that all your gear must be carried
The trail is short but steep, gaining 18 m in elevation.
On my way back for the second load, I stopped to enjoy some delicious wild
blueberries. After the double carry
I went back to the beginning of the trail to get some photographs of the superb
Falls. There are multiple drops on the
falls with a chasm in between. While
photographing, I was stung twice (on the left thigh and ankle) by what I surmise
were yellow jackets. I must have
disturbed their home while taking the pictures. Those
stings were painful and itchy for the rest of the trip!
- morning fog on Pen Lake
- portaging the boat and backpack (1st trip)
- lower falls along the Pen Lake to Galipo River portage
- portaging everything else (2nd trip)
After a short winding paddle on the Galipo River (including
two beaver dam pullovers), I came to the main challenge of the day, the 2170 m
portage to Welcome Lake. Before
beginning the portage I had lunch of FBC “Rainrunner’s Cheesy Chicken Rice
Soup” (very good). While the meal
was rehydrating, I took the opportunity to lie down and soak up the Algonquin
atmosphere. The portage took me two
and a half hours to complete. It was
long but with a gentle upslope, gaining 19 m in elevation.
The trail was in great shape, with only a tricky section over a rickety log
bridge at a small lake about halfway through the portage.
Interestingly the 295 m portage was through mainly coniferous forest,
while the 2170 m portage was through mainly deciduous forest.
A gorgeous, picturesque beach welcomed me to Welcome
Lake. In fact, the roundish lake is
nearly ringed with sandy beaches! Upon
the recommendation of a couple coming out, I chose the campsite just west of the
channel to Harry
Lake. It is a nice, secluded spot with a
sandy beach. The couple warned me of
leeches, but I only saw one. I
arrived at 2:45 and set up camp. My
water supply was running low (I drank a lot on the portage), so I headed out in
the boat to filter some water. While
I was out there, a loon popped up about ten meters away.
I stopped, watched it, and filtered water, but it never moved away.
It dove once in a while but always came back up near me.
What an inspirational experience!
- campsite beach on Welcome Lake
- rooted wood coral (Ramaria stricta)
- at the Welcome Lake campsite
Back in camp, I relaxed, read, and wrote in my journal.
After supper of FBC “Creamy Carbonara Rice”, I paddled out into the
marshy channel to
Lake. I hoped to see a moose or other
wildlife as dusk descended, but I succeeded only in scaring several hundred
frogs! My campsite had many cedar
waxwings, which flew out over the water to catch insects and then returned to a tree
perch. It's funny that I never realized
until this day that they
were insect-eaters. At home, all I
ever see them eat are berries. [At
home, I looked up cedar waxwings in a field guide and found that they eat fruit,
tree buds, flowers, and insects]. I
got to sleep early at 9:30.
- Sunday, August 6, 2006:
- Route Paddled:
- Distance Paddled: 6 km
- Time Paddled: 1:30 hours
- Distance Portaged: 320 m
- Time Portaged: 1:00 hour
- Distance Hiked: 960 m
- Weather: mostly sunny;
After arising at 8:15, I ate some oatmeal, packed up, and headed out of camp by 9:30. Partway up the
winding, marshy channel to
, I encountered a small beaver dam which I had to pull the Folbot over.
A stiff headwind and one-foot waves greeted me on Harry
Lake. It was fun but
tiring paddling into them. At the other end of Harry
Lake, I saw a Folbot pulled up among some canoes at a campsite.
That was the first Folbot (other than my own of course) that I have ever seen in Algonquin.
I stopped and chatted with Jon (from Ottawa) about his 2001 Folbot Aleut
and then headed
up the channel to Rence
Lake. Along this
waterway I came to the
highest beaver dam that I had ever seen (about one meter difference between
water levels). I had to unload the
Folbot before I could wrestle it up and over.
- beaver dam between Welcome Lake and Harry Lake
- another Folboter in Algonquin
A short paddle through the end of
and a small pond (I saw several carnivorous pitcher plants here) brought me to
a very muddy and rocky take-out for the 320 m portage to Frank
Lake. The first third of the up-and-over
portage was steep and rocky, and the rest was gently sloping with only a few rocks.
- carnivorous pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea)
- baby toad on a portage trail
Shortly after putting in on
Lake, I arrived at the only campsite on the lake, quite a nice one.
The site is on a granite island and features beautiful swimming rocks, a
300-degree view of the lake (including cliffs to the east), wild blueberries
everywhere, two nice tent sites (I chose the one out on the point), and twin
mature white pines (with intertwined roots) that serve as a landmark for the
site. This site made it into my top
five Algonquin sites.
- Frank Lake campsite
- wild blueberries
- rock tripe lichen (Umbilicaria mammulata) on Frank Lake
- supper on the intertwined white pines
After a lunch/snack of dried apricots, I set up camp and
then read, relaxed, and wrote in my journal while enjoying the
panoramic view of the lake out the tent door and windows.
Later in the afternoon, I went for a swim, filtered some water from the
boat, and circumnavigated my small island. For
supper I made Mountain House “Lasagna with Meat Sauce” (excellent).
It looked as if rain might be on the way, so tonight I put
the rainfly on the tent. Just as the
sun sank beneath the horizon, the clouds parted a little bit to make for a gorgeous
What a great view from my campsite! I
went to bed around 10:00 with a great big smile on my face.
I had been looking forward to this site since I made the reservation in
March. How often do you get to stay
in a campsite where you are the only person on the lake?!
- sunset on Frank Lake
- Monday, August 7, 2006:
- Route Paddled:
- Distance Paddled: 9 km
- Time Paddled: 1:30 hours
- Distance Portaged: 1725 m
- Time Portaged: 2:15 hours
- Distance Hiked: 5175 m
- Weather: overcast; mostly
There was no rain during the night (which was guaranteed by
me putting on the rainfly!). I was up
at 7:30, had oatmeal for breakfast, and was out of camp by 8:45.
I filtered water on the way across Florence Lake to the 1725 m portage to Lake
Louisa. This portage has few rocks and
roots and has a bunch of gentle ups and downs.
It ends at a bay of
with a nice rock cliff opposite.
Here’s a cautionary solo portaging tale (or for any portaging
for that matter). I have always been
careful of footing when portaging and was even more so on this solo trip.
I didn’t want to twist or break an ankle.
Well, it seems to be that the unforeseen things are often the ones that
At the end of the first trip across the portage, my boat got caught in
some branches in the front. When I
tried to back up, I caught something else behind. This
caused the boat yoke to come off the portage frame I was using.
The boat fell sideways and took me, the frame, and the full backpack with
it. I landed inside the boat, like a
turtle on its back! I unbuckled
myself and began a bodily injury check. Luckily,
I only had a bloody gash on my arm and a scraped knee.
It could have been much worse! I
then hiked back over for the second trip (spotting a ruffed grouse crossing the
trail) and cleaned my wounds when I got back to my first aid kit (which, of
course, was back at the beginning of the portage).
At the end of the portage, I had lunch of Mountain House
“Pasta Primavera” (excellent). During
the portage, the overcast skies had cleared, and a strong west wind had kicked
up. This provided a quartering
headwind on my way out of the bay and then a quartering tailwind followed by a
full tailwind as I headed down Lake
Louisa. The quartering tailwind with
confused 1- to 2-foot whitecaps made for quite an exciting, spray-filled, roller
coaster ride down the lake. Very few of the sites on the lake were occupied, so I
decided to ride the tailwind (kicking back and coasting partway) to the site on
a point on the south shore nearest to the portage to Rock
Lake. As I neared the site, a pair of
canoes that had come from the
portage seemed to be headed right for the same campsite. Luckily
for me they continued past the site. I
was not looking forward to going back upwind for a campsite if they had taken the
one I was hoping for.
By the time I got to the site, I noticed a good amount of
water in the bottom of the boat. Folbots
are made with drain holes at the top of the bow and stern so that you can tip
the boat up to drain out any water. Well,
all the way down
Louisa, I had been in following seas that often came up over the bow and stern.
Each time, a little more water had leaked in through the drain holes.
I made it to the site at 1:45 and promptly unloaded and
drained the boat.
I had arrived at a beautiful, quite-secluded site surrounded by
stately hemlock and white cedar trees. After
setting up camp, I explored the surrounding forest and found a large variety of
mushrooms and several clumps of Indian pipe flowers. I also saw a great
example of a nurse tree. (A nurse tree is a dead tree stump or log upon which
other trees' seeds land and start to grow. The roots of the
new tree grow down the sides of the stump and into the
ground. Eventually, the stump rots away, leaving a tree with a web of
roots above ground). I spent some time photographing and then relaxed, wrote in my journal,
and read. After paddling out to
filter some water, I made Mountain House “Beef Stroganoff with Noodles”
(very good) for supper.
- Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora)
- at the Lake Louisa campsite
- scrambled-egg slime (Fuligo septica)
- at the Lake Louisa campsite
- common mergansers on Lake Louisa
- yellow birch tree on nurse tree stump
- at the Lake Louisa campsite
After a beautiful day it again looked like it might rain,
as some dark, alto-cumulus and cumulus-congestus clouds moved in.
After putting the rainfly on, I stepped out onto some rocks to watch the
storm approach. As I stood there, I
glanced around and happened to notice a female moose grazing in the marshy area near the portage to Rock
Lake. All trip long I had been looking
for a moose, and I found one when I wasn’t even looking for one!
It began to clear off some as I went to bed at 9:30.
- clouds moving in over Lake Louisa
- sunset light on Lake Louisa (moose in lower right)
- Tuesday, August 8, 2006:
- Route Paddled:
- Distance Paddled: 5 km
- Time Paddled: 1:00 hour
- Distance Portaged: 2895 m
- Time Portaged: 3:20 hours
- Distance Hiked: 8685 m
- Weather: sunny
Again, there was no rain during the night, and I awoke at
7:00 to a clear sky and fog. After
the customary oatmeal breakfast and packing up of camp, I was on my way at 8:15
and to the portage to
before 8:30. This was the biggie
for me. My longest portage
previously had been 2435 m, and this one was 2895 m. I
paced myself, pausing for 1- to 3-minute breaks every quarter hour, which helped to make it seem more
manageable. I ended up double
carrying it in under three and a half hours.
The portage really wasn’t too bad, just long and relatively flat.
What a feeling of accomplishment I felt when I had completed it!
- what a beautiful sight! - the end the Lake Louisa to Rock Lake portage
After lunch of dried apricots and Mountain House “Beef
Stew” at the end of the portage, I headed up Rock
toward the access point. A stiff
headwind opposed me with one-foot waves, but I still made it back to the access
point around 1:30. What a great
adventure this solo trip had been!
- end of the journey at the Rock Lake access
I packed up, called my wife and sons, took a much-needed shower at the
campground, and headed back to Ohio. I ate
supper at Harvey’s in
and stayed the night at a Motel 6 in Burlington, Ontario.
- Wednesday, August 9, 2006:
I was up and on the road by 7:00 and had breakfast at
McDonald’s in St. Catherine’s, Ontario. I crossed the border in
at 8:30, stopped at my brother Tom’s house in Cleveland, and met my
parents for lunch in
Lucas, Ohio. Then it was on home to Therese,
Stephen, and Billy in time for supper. What
a great trip!
- Miscellaneous Thoughts,
Observations, and Reflections:
I enjoyed solo tripping, but I missed having someone to
share everything with.
My beautiful new Grey Owl Tempest paddle felt great while I was
I was barely able to double carry the portages.
Next time I should cut back even more on weight.
As with every trip that I have taken to Algonquin, there were
loons on every lake. I always look
forward to hearing their extraordinary calls.
While in Algonquin, I try to be in “backcountry mode,” where
nothing needs to be rushed. I try to
live in the moment and enjoy every part of the experience.
Whether it is paddling, making or breaking camp, cooking, or portaging, I
try to do each thing unhurriedly and purposefully.
It is a great contrast to the way the rest of life seems to go.
I think that traveling solo heightened my sense of hearing.
Because I rarely talked during the day (short of a greeting to other
travelers), I became more sensitive to the sounds of nature.
I saw many baby toads on all of the portage trails.
groups of campers from Tanamakoon, Tamakwa, and Pathfinder camps.
Traveling solo gave me lots of time for self-reflection,
contemplation, and quiet enjoyment of nature.
Rarely in today’s world do we get such uninterrupted time to engage our
- Animals Observed in Algonquin
Amphibians (5): Fowler’s Toad, Eastern Gray Treefrog, Bullfrog,
Green Frog, Mink Frog
Reptiles (2): Painted Turtle, Common Garter Snake
Birds (28): Common Loon, Great Blue Heron, American Black Duck,
Common Merganser, Turkey Vulture, Broad-winged Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Ruffed
Grouse, Herring Gull, Chimney Swift, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Northern
Flicker, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Tree Swallow, Blue Jay, American Crow, Common
Raven, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper,
Swainson’s Thrush, American Robin, Cedar Waxwing, Red-eyed Vireo, Pine
Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Chipping Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow
Mammals (3): Eastern Chipmunk, American Red Squirrel, Moose
- Major Equipment Used:
folding touring kayak
Grey Owl Tempest paddle
Knu-pac portage backpack frame
Walrus Tri-Star tent
MSR Whisperlite Internationale 600 stove
Sweetwater Guardian water filter
Thermarest CampRest sleeping pad
Mountain Hardwear Two Bit sleeping bag
Olympus C-8080 digital camera
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