Jim FitzSimmons' Web Pages

Algonquin Journal - 2006

Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

August 2006


Participants: Jim FitzSimmons in a red Folbot Yukon
Route: 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 access)
Distance Paddled: 39.5 km
Time Paddled: 9:00 hours
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 hours
Distance Hiked (including multiple portage trips and side trips): 24305 m

Wednesday, August 2, 2006:

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 around 11:30.


Thursday, August 3, 2006:

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 Buffalo 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 Cincinnati 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 Rock 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 at Rock Lake campground at midnight, I slept on my Thermarest in the back of my car.


Friday, August 4, 2006:
Route Paddled: Rock Lake access (Madawaska River) to Rock Lake to Pen Lake
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 Lake 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 Rock Lake access (which is actually north of Rock Lake on the Madawaska 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 down Rock Lake, I stopped to marvel at the impressive cliff at Picto Bay 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 most apparent).

cliff on Rock Lake
Ojibway pictograph (tally marks) on Rock Lake

I completed the 375 m portage from Rock Lake to Pen Lake 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 Pen Lake and Rock 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 Lake 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 other sites.

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: Pen Lake to the Galipo River to Welcome Lake
Distance Paddled: 8.5 km
Time Paddled: 2:30 hours
Distance Portaged: 295 m + 2170 m = 2465 m
Time Portaged: 1:00 + 2:30 = 3:30 hours
Distance Hiked: 7985 m
Weather: mostly sunny

After awakening at 6:30, I relaxed and watched the fog burn off Pen 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 River (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 over.  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 Galipo 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 Harry 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: Welcome Lake to Harry Lake to Rence Lake to Frank Lake
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; breezy; overcast

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 Harry Lake , 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 Rence Lake 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 Frank 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 sunset.  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: Frank Lake to Florence Lake to Lake Louisa
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 sunny; windy

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 Lake Louisa 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 happen.  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 Rock Lake 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 Lake 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: Lake Louisa to Rock Lake to Rock Lake access (Madawaska River)
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 Rock Lake 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 Lake 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 Rock Lake campground, and headed back to Ohio.  I ate supper at Harvey’s in Barrie 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 Buffalo 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 paddling.
·                 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.
·                 I saw 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 minds so.
Animals Observed in Algonquin Provincial Park:
·                 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:
·                 Folbot Yukon 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


[ My Other Trip Reports ]


Provided by website-hit-counters.com site.
Copyright © 2014 [James A. FitzSimmons].  All rights reserved.