Each time my husband and I go camping in the backcountry of Algonquin Provincial Park, he tries to very hard to streamline what we he will be carrying. This trip will have has traveling about four hours by van, then canoeing and portaging another four and a half hours, with our final destination being Burnt Island Lake.
Since we are going so far into the backcountry, are supplies are divided into two categories: items deemed to be necessary by both of us, and those items deemed necessary by me. The must have items are:
fishing rods & equipment
first aid kit
some sort of pillows (hubby had blow up spiderman inflatables for pillows, I had boring red squares)
fork, knife, spoon, tongs,
very sharp knife
Coleman stove or burner
plate, bowl, cups
reusable coffee mug
something to hold water (folding plastic jug)
pot with lid
kettle, coffee filter, paper filters
baggies, small and large
shamwow’s, clothes pegs
dish soap (biodegradable)
underwear, bra (I can go braless, but that depends on my mood)
tooth-brush & toothpaste
two walking sticks for me
Now this is by no means a complete list, but a start. Remember we have to pack all of this in two barrels, two knapsacks, and the canoe. For food, because we are going into the interior of the park, bringing a cooler is just crazy, it would just add another thing to carry, so we eat dried food where you just need to add boiled water (lake water we have boiled for five minutes).
Now I can understand his point, but really I need cream for my coffee.
Last Thursday, my husband and I left for our annual spring camping trip to Algonquin Provincial Park. I always pick a route that only involves one portage since it is my husband who has to carry all of our gear and we usually err on the side of caution, bringing far too many supplies. Then again, we will not go without a good air mattress that fits the both of us.
We left home around eight o’clock in the morning and arrived in Algonquin at noon, where it was raining cats and dogs. We unpacked the van, loaded up the canoe and went on our way. With a raincoat under my life-jacket, I believed I would be protected from the rain, but that didn’t work out. As we paddled our way on Smoke Lake, the rain came down harder, the wind picked up, we had foot and a half whitecaps, and waves were pushing water into the back of the canoe (I learned about that later).
Thanks to the blustery wind, we were able to paddle all 5¼ kilometres of Smoke Lake in an hour and a half. We were now at the portage, the rain had eased off to a fine mist/spray. The portage between Smoke Lake and Ragged Lake is only .25 kilometres but the first 100 metres is rocky and uphill, then downhill for the rest. It is not a well maintained portage. It took my husband six trips to bring all of our gear to the other side.
Once all our gear was back in the canoe, we set off in Ragged Lake looking for a site. Luckily we were familiar with it, having been there eight years ago with our children (they were aged 14, 11, and 9 years at that time). We actually had the entire lake to ourselves that night, no one else had booked a site, so we had our pick, even so, it still took us about 45 minutes to decide. The site we chose was fabulous, a nice sandy beach to park the canoe, two levels, one where there was the fire-pit, and the second for our tent.
After unpacking and setting our tent up, I am shivering because I’m sopping wet, which is what happens when you buy a cheap $2.00 rain poncho (if you can afford it and will be paddling in rain, buy the expensive waterproof clothing). Hubby started a fire so we could warm up, dry my running shoes and his work boots. We changed into warm clothes, I went for 5 layers! One tank top, one t-shirt, one long-sleeved shirt, one kangaroo sweater (hoodie), and hubby’s fleece sweater since my coat was beyond wet.
It was now time for supper, so we took the very easy route where you have a pre-dried package of something called Teriyaki Beef, add two cups of boiling water, and let sit for 10 minutes. Not very tasty, but warm and filling. After supper, I actually went to bed at 6 p.m., and hubby joined me at 6:30 p.m. I slept in my 5 layers of shirts & sweaters, jogging pants, homemade very warm knitted socks and my winter hat. Naturally I woke twice during the night having to go pee. The second time we got up to do our business, it was lightly snowing outside! Luckily we are in a 4-season tent, and by the middle of the night, were toasty warm. We both slept until 8 a.m. the next morning.
Friday was another blustery day, with the sun finally making an appearance late afternoon. Just before supper, I took a bad tumble. I did a lovely 2 1/2 rotations, while trying desperately to grab the wooden bench, only to fail, and fall down the hill. I twisted my back, lightly sprained my ankle, and scraped my left hand, thankfully though supper made up for my soreness! For dinner, I roasted six cloves of garlic and mushrooms on the fire, then added them to a cream sauce made up of cream, skim milk powder and butter. The cream sauce was then mixed with rotini pasta and lots of shrimp. I will definitely be making this at home. After dinner, while trying to clean my coffee mug, I burnt my hand. Never a dull moment when camping with me!
Saturday was lovely. I was able to peel off numerous layers of clothing, and apply sunblock. For nature excitement, we saw a loon eat a fish. Later, two canoers from Buffalo stopped by asking for directions, otherwise we didn’t see anyone else on the lake. It was very peaceful.
Sunday turned out to be even nicer than Saturday, lots of sun, plus the water was somewhat calm so we went canoeing. We paddled about a kilometre and a half to an island in the West Bay, where we found a group of high school students, and their teachers from Sarnia to be camping. After chatting with the one teacher, we found out that they had started canoeing Thursday night on Canoe Lake (north of highway 60, whereas Ragged is south of the highway) but had to turn back after two of their canoe’s were swamped. After our chat, we started canoeing back to our site, which was now a lot harder, since the wind had reappeared and was against us. Once back on our site, we were visited by four canoers from Pennsylvania, who were also looking for directions to the same bay as the boys from Buffalo.
Monday was our last day and we woke to a beautiful sight. The morning fog, the mist coming off the water, then a flotilla of canoes. The group of high-school students were leaving, one canoe after another coming out of the mist. It was breathtaking.
Middle child decided that her dad and I needed to get away, and knowing how much I love camping, she booked a last-minute trip to the interior of Algonquin Provincial Park, Burnt Island Lake. Normally we would not book Burnt Island Lake since it involves four portages and with me not being able to carry anything heavy, it is a lot of work for my husband, but it was the only spot left with available sites. There are three creeks that run along side the portages, and middle child was betting we would be able to take them.
We arrived at Access point 5, Canoe Lake around 12:30 p.m. this past Thursday. While I picked up our interior permits and maps, Matt loaded up the canoe. We made it across Canoe Lake and the first portage (190 metres, this portage is unavoidable) and into Joe Lake in a little over an hour. We then paddled up Joe Lake, making a right into the East Arm, passing by the very first site we had camped on with the kids years ago and then as luck would have it, we saw our first Moose of the trip. After the East Arm, you enter into Little Joe Lake, then the second portage at a length of 120 metres but as luck would have us, we were able to take the creek. It was a beautiful zigzagging creek before we came across the third portage of 430 metres. This time we were only able to canoe part of the creek, the second half I walked and Matt pulled the canoe over the extremely slippery rocks. He said pulling the canoe was still far easier than unloading, carrying, walking back, carrying some more gear, walking back, putting our 17ft canoe on his shoulders and carrying it, then reloading everything!
The second creek led us into Lost Joe Lake, where yes, you could say we became lost. We had accidentally paddled to the end of the lake, just missing the opening to the third creek. Matt had seen something in the corner of his eye, not realizing it was the creek we needed to take. Using the compass on my phone, we reoriented ourselves, just to double-check we hadn’t really screwed up as we doubled back and followed the creek into Baby Joe Lake. We were only able to walk up half of the last creek, it became far too rocky with very little water. As Matt walked ahead to take a better look at the rest of the creek, I waited by the canoe. Being the curious type and thinking he was taking too long, I started walking and of course I fell, regardless of the fact I had two walking sticks for balance, lol. More bruises added! We couldn’t go further up the creek, but there happened to be an opening taking us up to the portage, now we only had half of the 90 metres left. We were finally entering Burnt Island Lake.
Burnt Island Lake is very large and has fifty-one camp sites. I am never worried about finding a camp site since we had reserved one but I certainly didn’t want to have to paddle the entire lake. We paddled along the left side of the lake, and we were lucky to find the sixth site available. It was a lovely site in a small bay, completely isolated. We arrived on the site around 5:30 p.m., it had been a long day of travel, we set up our tent, cooked some food, hoisted the barrel up into a tree (hanging your food is the only way to keep bears away from your site, there was a bear warning out for where we were).
Friday morning. We awoke to a beautiful calm morning and a blazing sun. We spent most of the day resting, exploring our camp site, playing scrabble, then later we went for a swim. Actually, I ran into the water, lost my breath because the water was so cold and high-tailed it as fast as I could out of the water! Around 7 p.m we were preparing out meal, which meant boil water, add two and a quarter cups of water, wait 13 minutes, then eat. (Taking dried food into the bush is easier and can be quite good.) Well we were waiting the 13 minutes, all of a sudden heard there was this very loud sloshing sound. We ran to the edge of the water, just in time to see a cow with her calf climbing up onto the shore behind our site. It was amazing.
On Saturday we saw one mink swim in front of our camp site, then another swim to a tree stump in the lake, crawl all over it, swim to the next tree stump, crawl all over it, then swim to the last tree stump, doing the same thing, crawling all over it. I have no idea what it was looking for, possible food. We spent this day fishing but not catching anything, playing scrabble, and canoeing. We stayed up late Saturday to look at the stars in the sky. We took the canoe out on the lake around 11:30 p.m. making sure we knew exactly where our camp site was (under the big dipper and the largest pine tree). As we looked at the stars, we saw a number of meteors streak by.
Sunday morning. We packed up and started the long trip home. When in the East Arm we saw another moose and a loon with her chicks (once they are able to swim they are also called loons), so we actually saw 3 loons swimming in front of our canoe. I was exhausted by the time we entered Canoe lake, and trusting my husband with my life, I fell asleep in the canoe, leaving him to paddle the lake.