First Algonquin Canoe Trip 1983

Canoe - Burnt Island - Big Trout -Perley - Petawawa River - Nipissing River - Burntroot - Trout - Canoe

Tuesday, August 2 – Day 1

Departed Canoe L. 11am.  Stopped to view memorial to Tom Thomson at end of Canoe.

Completed first portage (300m) one trip but only because it was our first.  Realize already we have brought unnecessary items and food.

Into Joe L.  Uneventful but did see three adult mergansers, then mother with young a while later.  Tried to get a picture but it was a matter of who would tire first – we did.

Easy going on Little Joe L.  Second portage (400m) we each carried a pack over then came back to tandem the canoe.  Chris felt uncomfortable – I guess because our different heights.

Last portage (200m) into Burnt Island we did in one trip.  Pack and canoe seemed dreadfully heavy.

Camped just into Burnt Island L. on first open campsite we came to since there were a lot of canoes on the lake today.
Cooking burgers, Burnt Island Lake campsite.
Did over 20km and pitched camp about 3:45pm.

Supper of hamburgers, juice, cookies and oranges.

After dishes were done we went for a swim and bath, then out on  the lake for some fishing – no luck.

20km tomorrow will take us to Big Trout Lake.

First portage is about 800m – what a way to start.  Six portages in all tomorrow.  Could be a tough day.

8:45 now.  Chris is fishing from the shore.  Sun has set behind the hills.  Time for a campfire.

Neck and arm muscles a bit sore.  A rest tonight will be more than welcomed.

Time: 4 ¾ hrs.

Wednesday, August 3 – Day 2

Game of crib last night before bed – Dad 121, Chris 112.

What a day!!

Up at 6:15am.  Washed, shaved and got bacon/eggs on.  Chris arrived on the scene at 7:20am.  Away at 8:40.

Weather ideal – partly cloudy with a slight breeze.
An hours paddle across Burnt Is. L. brought us to portage #1 (800m).  Doing all portages in two trips – packs first then Doug solos canoe while Chris navigates.

No excitement across Little Otterslide L. or Otterslide L.

Start of agony.  Portage #2 (500m) – 100m paddle, portage #3 (390m) – 200m paddle, portage #4 (300m) then into Otterslide Creek.
First portage into Otterslide Creek.
Otterslide Creek was very low – had to be very careful of rocks and logs – very windy.
Saw an otter.

Will never trip up a creek again because the water level is so unpredictable much like the Kennisis R. into Hall’s Lake.

Portage #5 (750) – not the best footing.  Very tired at this point.  100m paddle, then another unpack and lift over a beaver damming the creek.

Portage #6 (100m) and into Big Trout Lake.  In the river leading into B.T.L. we saw a moose grazing in the water lilies.  Approached within 20m and got good pics.  Worth our prior agonies.

½ hr. paddle and we’re on a beautiful campsite.  Too bad it’s overcast.

Very sore and tired after today.  Otterslide Creek really slowed us up.

Arrived at campsite at 5pm.

Total time 8 hrs. 20 min.

Didn’t seem that long but our bodies know it was.

Chris caught a small whitefish about 8-9”lond after supper.

7:30pm.  time for a swim to sooth the aching muscles.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, only 4 portages ( 300, 40, 70 and 150m) well spread out.  Looks to be a relaxing day, ending up on the Petawawa R.

Thursday, August 4 – Day 3

Won another game of crib.

Steady rain started about 9:30 last night until about 5:30 this morning.  Blowing E wind drove a little water into the tent.  While Chris slept soundly I was awake much of the night suspect of a new tent in a rain.  Up once at 5:00 to adjust the fly.  Too bad after our day yesterday up the Otterslides a good uninterrupted sleep was needed.

Seemed to catch a few winks after 5:30 but very restless.

Sky overcast.  Got up and went for a short walk along our peninsula while Chris slept and to contemplate whether we should sit or move.

Chris up at 9 o’clock – nothing seems to bother him.

Winds from east but sky lighter on all horizons.  Didn’t want to sit on a campsite all day so we decided to travel.

Bacon/eggs – then packed and away at 11:15 am.

½ hour paddle down Big Trout L. and into portage #1 (300m) – no problem now – we both know exactly what is our best and most relaxing way.

Good day for paddling.  Quite warm but still overcast.  No real threat of rain.  Very quiet on the water.  Either the rain has made people sit or else not many are going up as far as we are.

Uneventful paddle up Longer Lake.

Portage #2 (40m) amounted to a liftover and around some rapids.  Could have walked another type of canoe down.

A short paddle to the next portage - #3 (70m).  Spooked a beaver – or he us.  Able to track the canoe through these slow moving rapids.
Tracking the rapids.
Chris dropped his sunglasses in but shallow enough to retrieve.
Chris is a good paddler and a watchful bowsman for rocks and logs.  A treat to have on the trip.

With the water so black unexpected dead heads have managed to side swipe us once in a while, but for the most we have avoided them.  Several scrapes on the bottom, but expected.  No serious damaged canvass that a bit of paint won’t correct.  We’re handling the canoe very carefully.

Into Burntroot Lake.  Followed three otter along the water’s edge and got some good shots.  They surface every several seconds look at your and forcefully blow water out of their noses – almost inquisitive – or scolding.

Sky starting to break.  Lots of loons.  Sometimes 8 in a spot.  Heathcliffs and Gurtrudes (Herring Gulls) are all over the place, as well as more sightings of herons.

We are into what is called the wilderness zone now.  Lots of marshy areas, no cottages and fewer campsites on the lakes – relatively so.

Short stop for lunch in Burntroot L. on a real nice campsite – tall pines, peninsula – something like Red Pine L.
Finally lunch!
Off again.

Near end of B.R.L., saw a mink /weasel along the shoreline.

Last portage (155m) no problem.  Into Perley Lake and after a short paddle, into the Petawawa River (Barbara Wawa River).

Bypassed a beautiful campsite – peninsula, high pines – in favour of going closer to the end of the River.

Photographed another moose grazing.  Couldn’t get as close – 40m perhaps.  This one was more timid.
½ an hr. to the end of the river but could not find the campsite as marked on the map.

Getting late – 7pm.  Can’t waste time looking for it since the sun goes down at 9. 

Back the river we went, past the moose again to the first sight (site) we saw.  All in all it has been an extra hour of time.

Pitched camp, had sweet/sour pork (Chris) and chilli (Doug).  I washed the dishes and then Chris fished for a while.  Had one but lost it.  Mosquitoes force us in.
Perley Lake campsite.
10 pm.  Looking forward to a good rest tonight.

Total time 6hrs., 45min. (7 ¾ with back tracking).

Friday, August 5 – Day 4

Slept soundly through 6:30.  Awakened to a beautiful day.  Sun just over the tree line and the mist is rising from the river.

Chris heard thumping close by last nite.  Maybe a moose going through our site to get to the marsh area at the other side of the peninsula.  Seems unlikely though at 10pm.

Away at 8:30 am.  Back up the river we did last night.  Good pics of merganser and young near the portage.
Portage #1 (400m) no problem into Cedar Rapids.  A short paddle then we were able to track down the rapids very easily, thus avoiding a 90m portage.

Another ¼ mile paddle to portage #2 (300m) around a longer rapids.  Just before landing, took a picture of a merganser and 15 young.  I don’t think they all fit across the view.

Group of 3 canoes behind us tracked the rapids.  They made it just as we finished our two trips.

½ mile paddle to the Catfish Rapids.  Avoided a 365m portage by tracking.  It was low and fun. 

Very warm day now.  Enjoyed a dunking at the end of the rapids.

Along the last part of the river before entering Catfish Lake.

Three loons on lake’s centre about 20m from canoe.  Excellent pics of one doing it’s “stand up wing flapping”.

Up into N-E arm of Catfish Lake and stopped on a small island for lunch where the machinery from an Alligator boat still remain.

Hot day.  Making up lots of drink as we go.

To end of Catfish and over and 80m portage (#3), then shortly after to portage #4 (170m).  Across a small bay that you could spit over and our endurance was about to be tested – a 2300m portage.

By this time is was 2:45.  Travelling just over 6 hrs. by now but it doesn’t seem like it.  Time goes so quickly when on the go.

After water bottles were filled with mix we started on the first leg of this mile and a half portage with our packs.  Stopped half way by counting our paces. 

Finally reached end after 40 minutes then soaked in the bottom of the rapids.

Walked back again briskly taking a ½ an hour.  A good portage but LONG!

Water bottles filled again with mix and off again with the canoe and Chris carrying odds and ends.

About 1/3 the way over it was too much for me to solo so Chris helped me the rest of the way.  I couldn’t have made it without his help.  Forty minutes later and 1 hrs. 10 min. later we had completed this monster. 

Now 5pm.

Soaked for 10 minutes at the foot of the rapids.  Ever nice after that portage.

Long portage took a lot out of us so we will not go to Cedar Lake today as planned.  Find a campsite and relax.

Just before tomorrow’s first portage we camped, arriving about 5:50.

Total time was 9 hrs. 20 min. but a relaxing and enjoyable day apart from the last 2 hrs.

Pitched tent and set up camp while cabbage rolls cooked.

Went to top of the rapids after supper and bathed ourselves then soaked again in the rapids – ever nice.  8:30 now and still warm.

On our way back to our campsite Chris fished but no luck.
Won another game of crib then sacked out at 10.

Saturday, August 6 – Day 5

Off at 8am.  Short paddle across a small bay to the rapids where we bathed last night.

Portage #1 (250m). Took a shot of the falls looking back as we stood at the other end of the portage.

Into the last leg of the Petawawa River – a short distance ≈ 20 minutes.

Portage #2 (700m) into Cedar Lake.  Stopped ¼ way across portage to take shot of the falls.

Weather – hot with cloudy patches.

Decision whether we should go across Cedar Lake to Brent Store.  It will add at least 1 hr. on to today.
Need more juice crystals and a cold, cold pop would go nice.  With our long days and hot weather we decided cold cereal every morning – no hot stuff.  We want to be up and away A.S.A.P.

Over to Brent Store.  R.R. Station next door.  Wondered what the rumbling was last night.  Bought cold drinks, juice crystals, choco. bars and 6 pack – of cereal.

Off to Nipissing River.  Difficult time finding entrance to N. River as it wound all around a marshy area.
Once into N. River it reminded me much of the S. Kenisis.

Portage #3 (900m).  Met 2 men working for the M.N.R., cutting fallen trees on portages, scything grass, etc.
Wouldn’t you know it.  He spotted one of our pop cans and advised us that could be a $50 fine.  Chatted for a while, then off and ate lunch at end of portage.

Both Chris and I are feeling tired today.  Past 2 days must be catching up with us.

This is the river Chris wanted to get to in order to see moose, otter, etc.

Well – the first ¼ mile we were in and out of the canoe more than I wish to remember.  Not only was it low, but the current was against us.

Fortunately it deepened to some extent and we went on – and on then came across a cow moose and one young about 30 ft. from us.  The river is only about 60 ft. wide!  Excellent pictures.  Chris said he would take his after we were past them – to make a quick getaway I presume.

A long, windy paddle after that until portage #4 (180m). Over easily then relaxed once again at the top of the rapids.  Feels just like a whirlpool bath – and almost as warm.

Short paddle up the river and over #5 portage (180m).

Soaked again in the rapids.  Soothing relief to us, particularly today for some reason.

Around the bend was to be the start of portage #6, however, after that no sites until we are at the end of the river – another 2 hr. paddle.  Time is now 4:45pm and that is it for today.  Won’t reach our expected pt. on Ramona Lake.  Don’t know how this will affect our timing from now on.

Campsite at start of portage #6.  Only enough room for our tent and gear and not much more.  Berry patches around us on all but the river side.  Just suitable for a teddy bear’s picnic I told Chris.
Nipissing River campsite.
Dumped gear and soaked in the rapids again.

Total travel time 9 hrs.

Set up camp while supper cooking.  Doug (sweet/sour) and Chris (a La King) – both good.
Canoe up, dishes cleaned and just want to lie down and relax.

7pm in tent playing crib – won again – when a crackling of brush caught my attentions.  Peeking timidly from the rear window I could see, no more than 30-40 ft. away, a moose in the brushes.  A few bangs on the frying pan and off it went.

Well, we’re seeing moose alright, but this is ridiculous.  Better a moose in our back yard than a bear I guess.
8pm.  A few dark clouds and rumblings of thunder from 3 o’clock till now but the sky is now clear.

Chris is ravaging through the food pack as the sound of the rapids brings to a close the happenings of another day – I hope!

Sunday, August 7 – Day 6

Heard limbs breaking in the bushes nearby last night at 10:30.  Must have been the moose again.
Up early and away at 7:30.  A beautiful day – not a cloud in the sky.

What we anticipated to be a journey along the last ½ of the Nipissing River filled with wildlife, it was quite different.

It was a monotonous 3 ½ hr. paddle during which time we saw a heron and two otters.  A turn around a bend right then a turn around a bend left.  It was like this all the way.  Neither one of wants to see the Nipissing River again.

Because we pulled up short yesterday we knew today would be busy, long and demanding.

Portage #1 (1100m) in and arm of the Nipissing that continued westward then across to the other shore brought us to portage #2 (1900m) and into Ramona Lake. (Mona!!)

Since we are virtually doing each portage 3x now it really adds up in hrs.
eg. 1st trip over – packs; 2nd trip – walk back; 3rd trip – bring canoe over.

The 1900m portage, if done in one trip, would only have taken 25 min.  As it turned out it took 2 hrs. with rest stops at each end, then we tandemed the canoe on the last trip.  This is why our days are becoming so long – not so much because we are travelling so far.

Across Ramona Lake – a matter of 300m then portage #3 (500m) and into Whiskeyjack Lake.

We’ll both be glad when we’re out of this remote northern region.

A 25m lift over (#4) into Robinson Lake the a 20 min. paddle to its end left us with a 1300m portage, #5.
Most times today we finished portages with a refreshing swim – soaking in the lake.

Finally, at 6pm we entered Burntroot Lake.  To look at the map you wouldn’t have thought it would have taken all this time to reach our campsite, but the portages are the culprits.

Suggestions to avoid this next year will follow at the end of day 8.

We needed a ¾ hr. paddle across Burtroot Lake to reach our campsite.  We had stopped there several days before for lunch.  A beautiful spot – tall red pine, wide open and on a rounded peninsula.  It is the first really nice spot we have had all trip as for as spaciousness and aesthetics go.
A long day but finally at our site on Burntroot Lake.
Trip across Burntroot L. was tough going – just what we needed by now.  A very strong S-W wind played against us, at times splashing over the gunwales.

The wind however was really warm.  It reminded me of the balmy breeze we had at Kingston when we went on the ferry cruise.

At our campsite at 6:55.  Total time 11 ½ hrs. – far too long.

Immediately made an orange pot of drink then pitched camp.

Supper of chilli (Chris) mini cotti (Doug) followed by cup-o-soup.  Chris also had oatmeal.
Did nothing but relax for rest of evening – what was left of it.

Lights out at 9:30 tonight.  It’s been a tiring day.

Chris is working hard and not complaining one bit.  We know we have to work together and there is very little bickering considering the strain we are under at times.

It seems a shame to wake him in the a.m.  I usually arise about 6 and meander around getting breaky ready, waking Chris ¾ hr. later.

Very windy into the night – most unusual.  I am always suspect of this even though we had a beautiful red sky to end the evening.  Hope the pic turns out.

I don’t like winds in amongst tall pines anyway so my sleep will probably be minimal.

Monday, August 8 – Day 7

Winds continues very strongly all through the night.  Knowing this had to be bringing in clouds I kept checking the sky for stars and had a very restless and interrupted sleep.

At 2:30am it was so windy I got Chris up to batten down the hatches thinking it might start to rain.  No rain but winds remained unusually strong.  Some lightning off in the distance.

Awakened at 3 last night by a large coon trying to get our food pack.  No way though as it hung suspended 10 ft. from a limb of a large white pine.  Then it clambered around the canoe on the shore then went over to the fireplace and tipped over the pot which had water in it cooling for our breakfast milk.

Awakened to what seems to be a nice day, yet some rumblings of thunder persist quite some distance from us.

Let Chris sleep until 8 after our day yesterday.

Special treat this a.m. – toast and jam.  Don’t usually make a fire but I was up at 5:45.

Away at 9:15.  A late start for us.  Sky dark in the north but the S-W wind seemed to be pushing them away.  Not to be.

¾ hr. out and a couple of minutes from portage #1 (70m) it poured.  Had forethought to put rainsuits on but got soaked regardless.

Put canoe over two large boulders then equipment and selves underneath.  Sat there for 2 hrs..  Low cloud dispersing by noon so on we went through portage #2 (50m) then along Longer Lake.  Have done this part earlier in the week.

After portage #3 (300m) we had lunch.  Two p.m. now.  Too bad it rained.  We would have been here at noon.

Decided not to go to McIntosh Lake since it would be another seven o’clock evening when we pulled in.

Down Big Trout L. into Trout Lake.  At campsite at 3:15!!  This is what we needed to be doing all trip.

If we are going to make it home tomorrow it will be a long day.  Plan to leave at 7am.

Sky has cleared but some thunder rumbling to the south.  A funny day.

Swam, bathed and washed clothes before supper.  Couldn’t do this most other days because of late arrival at site.

Supper – soup, a La King (Doug), beef stew (Chris) and juice.

6:45 as I sit near fire and gaze across the lake.  Should be nice sunset.  Still a stiff but balmy breeze.

Forgot – 2 weasel or marten scampered by us at waters’ edge at noon as we had lunch.

Good thing it is our last fire.  Chris burned a hole in the end of the oven mitt.

Total time of travel today – 6 hrs. – 4 hrs., discounting our stay under the canoe.

After supper we went for a swim – Chris for his bath.  We kind of fell in together.
Sky was wide open and the lake very still as evening progressed.

Went down the bay to fish and saw two beaver and two loons, the latter with 2 young.  No luck at fishing.
Chris is about to light a campfire since it’s our last night – we think.  8:30pm.

Everything is so serene.  Only water lapping the shore, loons calling and other birds back in the forest can be heard.

Want to get away early tomorrow.  We have distance to make up if we want to make it to Canoe Lake at a reasonable hour.

A chill in the air now.  Might be nippy tonight.

Today is what our entire trip should have been like – 4 or 5 hrs. on the water then pitch camp so we can relax and swim, fish etc.

Learn from experience.  We’ll know better next year.

Tuesday, August 9 – Day 8

Campfire ended last then in bed at 9:30.

No ifs, ands or buts – up at 6am and away by 7.  Actually, it was the best sleep of the entire trip.  Didn’t wake once during the night.

Very cool night for sleeping.  Socks, sweats and sweatshirt.  Most other nights were sweats and T-shirt or no shirt.

Strong northerly wind and a beautiful morning took us across Trout Lake and into McIntosh Creek.  Easy paddling until about 100m from portage #1 (700m) where we encountered low water and parts of broken beaver dams or the start of such.

3 otter along Mac Creek.

Second part of Mac Creek between 1st and 2nd portage was not the best.  Two beaver dams.  Had to unload equipment and rest it on paddles in the marsh.

Met a group here who told us Potter Creek was very low and almost impossible. 
Had to reroute.

At end of portage #2 (500m) we entered McIntosh Lake where we were to camp last night.

Had lunch before crossing the lake.  Peanut butter and jam sandwiches.
Lunch on McIntosh Lake.
A beautiful lake with island or peninsula campsites.  Wish we had made it here yesterday although Trout L. was nice.

Looked at map and decided to avoid Potter Creek.  Instead will go into Ink Lake and then heaven forbid do another 2300m portage – we swore we would never do one again.  However we will only be doing one more portage into Canoe Lake instead of 9 shorter ones along our previous route.

Wind with us across McIntosh Lake.  Very high waves that we surfed along on – really neat.  Only once did we take in a bit of water.

Little creek into Ink from Mac was good and picturesque.

Ink Lake surrounded by reeds – no campsites here.

2300m portage started at 12:15.  Across in 35 min. but because of double tripping it was 2:15 when we finished.  Good portage – wide and all downhill.  Felt good – maybe knowing we were almost home was the difference.

At portage end while cleaning grunge off shoes Chris sat on some bees on the end of a long log.  Four bites and he passed one onto me as he ran back to shore.  Mud packs gave some relief.

Across Tom Thomson L. in no time.

Saw a young bull moose and a young cow just before entering Littldoe L.  Good pictures.
Had to lift over a beaver dam into Littledoe Lake.

Down Fawn Lake and into Tepee Lake.

20 colourful sailboats on Tepee from Camp Arowhon.  Wind still at back.  Traffic getting heavy to and from Canoe L.

Down Joe L., last portage (300m) and into Canoe Lake. 

Mom and Dad awaiting us at 5:15, 10 hrs. after we set out today.

Total trip time – 7 days 6 ¼ hrs. 163km (100 miles).  Recommendations and suggestions to follow.

Chris: “I never want to see Algonquin Park again.”


1.      portages 800m max.
2.      3 portages a day would do at most
3.      Avoid creeks
4.      Avoid camping on rivers
5.      Camp on lakes – don’t have to go into northern wilderness to see wildlife.
6.      10km/day is sufficient (not 20).
7.      frame packs look good

Don’t Need

1.      tripod or flashes
2.      axe
3.      jeans
4.      as many sweaters
5.      ladle
6.      measuring cups
7.      as many socks
8.      need only food pack line and one drying line
9.      no dish soap, scrub pads do for all
10.  * need tarp in case of rain
11.  spatula only if going to have pancakes – don’t need it for eggs.
12.  whet stone not needed
13.  coloured scrub pads not needed

No comments:

Post a Comment