2012 Kingscote - Scorch - York River

Wednesday, June 13 – Day 1

Each year the Naturalist Staff at the Algonquin Park Visitor Centre (affectionately known as Geeks) partake in a canoe trip in June before programming for the busy summer season gets underway.  This is an opportunity for the staff to get out and experience and explore a part of the Park apart from the Highway 60 corridor where we spend a good deal of our time.

Left the Visitor Centre just before 9am.  Stopped at Opeongo to pick up gear and canoes from the outfitter, then stopped at the East Gate to gas up the vehicles and get the satellite phone.

Got to Bancroft around 11am to get groceries and have a bite to eat.  Backtracked to just south of Maynooth then headed west to the Kingscote access point.

Arrived at Kingscote after 12:30.  Lev, Ian, Sonje and I packed up the equipment and food while Peter and Justin dropped the one truck at the High Falls Trail parking lot and picked up the permit at Pine Grove Point Lodge.

Arriving back at the access point just before 1:30 we were just about to head out when we realized we had only five paddles.  The sixth one must have gotten left in the other truck.  Rather than drive back to the truck, Peter and Justin drove back to the lodge and rented a paddle.  So far that was the first thing we forgot or lost and the trip hadn’t even started.  What would be next!?

We finally got on the water just after 2pm.  It was an easy half hour paddle up the lake.  The first of our three portages was a 1300m regular maintenance.  I don’t like this portage because of the terrain.  I’ve done better low maintenance portages than this one.  Over in twenty minutes I headed back to see who needed help.  Sonje had taken a big pack and a canoe and had abandoned the canoe about 200m from the end of the portage.
Finishing off the Kingscote to Big Rock Lake portage.
Ian, Peter, Sonje & Lev loading up on Big Rock Lake.
We loaded back up and headed across the top part of Big Rock Lake.  Sonje didn’t have her life jacket in her canoe and just assumed it had gotten put in one of the other canoes.  Lev also realized that he didn’t have his butterfly net and must have left it back at the access point.  So far that was two things we had lost and possibly a third and we were less than two hours into the trip!

The portage out of Big Rock Lake was a 660m into Byers Lake.  The start of the portage was a steep downhill and then leveled out.  Once we were all on Byers Lake Sonje realized that she didn’t have her lifejacket at all!  It must have gotten left behind at the start of the 1300m portage.
Justin Heading off on the Big Rock to Byers Lake portage.

The end of the Big Rock to Byers Lake portage.
From the portage we headed across the top of Byers Lake and into a wide stretch of the York River.  A half hour paddle upstream brought us to the southern end of Branch Lake and to our last portage of the day, a 900m into Scorch Lake.  Over the portage in about fifteen minutes we checked out a large log jam down at the outlet of the lake.  At the bottom of the dam was a huge snapping turtle.  After taking a few pictures we headed off up the lake, our destination for the day.

There are four sites on Scorch.  The three on the north shore are not very good and only have room for one tent.  The site at the east end of the lake is good so we took it.  It’s elevated and long and has a long rocky beach.
Approaching the western most site on Scorch Lake.
Scorch Lake campsite
We set up camp and then decided to have a much needed swim.  The water was beautiful.  We got a good fire going before we went swimming as we needed some good coals for cooking supper.  Unfortunately we had no grill at the site.  We relaxed for a bit after the swim then Peter and I paddled to the other sites to look for a grill.  Finding one at the second site we checked we headed back to camp to get supper going.  I roasted the corn while Ian took care of the rice and Justin did the peppers and steaks.

We dined on a great meal just after 8pm.  As we went to do the dishes we realized that we had forgotten dish soap.  So that was four things!  We ended up scrubbing the dishes for the rest of the trip with gravel from the beach.  After the supper dishes were done we relaxed around the fire.  Around 10pm Ian and a few others heard a bird that was out of place for the Park.  After listening intensely it called several more times.  It was a Paraque, a bird found only in northern Mexico!  This was brand new for the Park and we all discovered it!  We actually got a recording of it calling on Justin’s IPhone for proof.  Why he brought his IPhone on a canoe trip I have no Idea but at that point in time it was a good thing to have.  We then headed into the bush to get a better listen but it seemed to be further away so we headed back towards the fire to the little marshy area on the other side of the site.  Peter and I headed down to the water where the canoes were and the others headed back from the fire.  I called again and from where Peter and I were it sounded like it was right where the others should be.  It was at that point we heard the others give out a collective shout “LEV!” followed by a bunch of threats and cursing.  It turned out that there was no new bird.  Lev had a recording of a Paraque call on his phone (again not sure why Lev brought a phone on a canoe trip) and had set the timer and then put his phone back in the bush.  It was a great practical joke but we were all pissed at Lev and swore our revenge.

A half hour later we called it a night as it had been a long day for all of us.

Thursday, June 14 – Day 2

We all slept in today getting up just before 9am.  As we started to get breakfast ready we realized we had also forgotten to get cooking oil.  So for all our meals anything that needed to be fried or sautéed was done in either bacon grease or butter.  We had breakfast of bacon, eggs and hashbrowns.  The day was clear with a comfortable temperature in the mid-twenties.

After breakfast we cleaned up and organized our day packs for the outing ahead of us.  We left camp just after 11am heading for the Bruton Farm/Scorch Lake Lookout trailhead.

The trail to the old Bruton Farm was just over 2Km and took a little over an hour to walk.  It’s an easy trail but had not been maintained in some time.  Near the trails end we came to an old stone fence marking the boundary of the farm.  From there we crossed a logging road and had difficulty in locating where the trail continued on as the entrance on the other side of the road had become over grown.  After finally finding it we headed into the old farm site.  Despite there supposedly being several remains of buildings and that of the old ranger cabin and fire tower, we had trouble finding any of it.  We searched the overgrown, forested site for about an hour and all we could find were two stone foundations and an old well.  Disappointed with the site we headed back to do the Scorch Lake Trail.
Old stone fence on the Bruton Farm Trail.

Stone foundation at the old Bruton Farm site.
The trail up to the lookout over Scorch is a steady uphill climb for most of the way.  At the top of the hill you need to take a right as things flatten out and open up instead of heading straight as instinct would dictate.
The spot of the lookout is small but it gives a great view out over Scorch Lake.  We enjoyed the scene for a while, took some pictures, then headed back down to the canoes.
Well worth the climb to the Scorch Lake Lookout.

View of Scorch Lake from the Lookout.  Our campsite on the very left point in the center.
We arrived back at the site around 4pm.  Not having had lunch yet we had a quick meal of sandwiches.  After our late lunch we spent the rest of the afternoon swimming and relaxing.

Relaxing around the fire after a good day of hiking.
We had a late dinner of pasta followed by a good campfire.  During the evening a Saw-whet Owl was calling close to our site so we called it in closer.  After searching for about a half hour we finally spotted the little guy.  While often hearing Saw-whets, it had been years since I have actually seen one.

After another busy day we packed it in around 11pm.

Friday, June 15 – Day 3

Awoke at 7am.  Had breakfast of pancakes, sausages and hashbrowns.  Packed up and on the water by 9am.  It is another hot sunny day.  Over the 900m portage and back into Branch Lake in good time.  An uneventful paddle down into Byers Lake.  The campsite at the eastern end of Byers Lake at the mouth of the York River is located incorrectly on the Canoe Route Map, showing it on the left of the river mouth when it’s actually on the right.
Heading south on the York River between Branch and Byers lakes.
A short paddle down the river brought us to an easy 145m portage.  Several more minutes brought us to a 150m portage.  A short distance later we came to the 330m portage around the Gut Rapids.  The top part of the Gut Rapids is a narrow little canyon that the river flows quickly through.  You cannot see the canyon from the start of the portage but have to canoe past the portage around the bend in the river.

After the Gut Rapids we had about a half hour paddle passing through High Falls Pond and encountering our only beaver dam on the river, before coming to the portage around High Falls itself.  We explored the river above the falls for a while before heading off over the 445m portage, our second to last of the day.
Exploring at the start of the High Falls portage.

Rapids above High Falls.
Once all our gear was over we headed to the top of the falls to swim for a while.  After about a half hour we headed back to the canoes and loaded up.  A short 20m paddle across the river brought us to our last portage of the day, a 280m one that followed part of the High Falls Trail.

End of the High Falls portage.  Next portage straight across the river.

Justin, Ian & Lev swimming at the top of High Falls.
Looking down from the top of High Falls.
Back in the water we had about a half hour paddle until we reached the Park boundary and the highway.  We carried our gear up the embankment and portaged it across the road to the parking area for the High Falls Trail where the other vehicle was parked

Passing the Park Boundary sign on the York River.
 It was 3pm and another Geek Trip was done for another year.  All-in-all it was a good one.

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