After being up packing until 12:30am I slept until 4:30 and resumed some last minute packing. I was not as prepared for this trip as many of my previous ones. I had intended to be on the road at 5am but it was just after 6 when I started up the car. After filling up my gas tank and stopping for a coffee and a breakfast sandwhich from Timmies, I realized something I had forgotten and quickly dashed home. It was 7am by the time I was on the road again and bound for Algonquin Provincial Park.
After what could only be described as a long dry and hot summer I found myself driving in heavy rain the entire way there. In addition to the two accidents caused by the rain that I had to crawl passed there was the typical Toronto rush hour traffic I had hoped to avoid. Growing more and moe frustrated, I pulled over for a quick nap. After a 45 min snooze I pulled on the highway again and continued the crawl. I had told Opeongo Outfitters to meet me at the Rock Lake access point at 10am, instead I was calling them at 9:40 to tell them I was only just past Toronto. I told them it was looking closer to 12:30 before I entered the park.
All of my hinderances paid off when I finally got to the park, I spotted my first Moose on Highway 60, about 10 minutes past the Canoe Lake access points. It was a brief viewing, accompanied by about 20 other drivers who had abandoned their cars on the side of their road to Instagram everyone their pictures of the moose. Oh well. I can't blame the moose for moving on to greener pastures so quickly.
Shortly after that I found myself on a very bumpy mud road to the Rock Lake campgrounds and access point. I picked up my permit shortly after and there was no sign of my canoe or Opeongo Outfitters at the lake. So I ventured back to the permit house to attempt to call the girlfriend, but had no luck getting a signal or getting their payphones to take my credit card. I saw the Opeongo Outfitters truck drive by so I started head back to the Access Point, and caught him on his way out. He had left the canoe for me put not the paddle or the bailing kit. I signed the paperwork at the side of the path and he handed them over, and I went back to the lake to put them by the canoe.
But I still had to make a call so I had to drive back out to Highway 60 to say goodbye to the girlfriend. But of course I got the machine. By that point I was extremely frustrated as I just couldn't get ahold of her, and left her a message bidding her farewell. I went back to the access point, loaded the canoe and started off. At 3:30pm it was a far cry from the 10am I had planned on departing.
The stress of that melted away quickly enough. Rock Lake was beautiful, despite the numerous cottages and the campground occupying it. There were several large bluffs to admire and the wind was tame enough. I eyed a beautiful looking site by one bluff near the east end, thinking I may snag it on my last night. Then I head down the narrow river to the dam and portage. There was a rather rocky section that I struggled to get past, getting stuck on one rock, but finally made it to the portage. I think the rocks would normally be no bother but the water was so low everything was just under the surface. The portage had an extra few feet of coastline and there was what looked like some sort of dock that wasn't even in the water.
It was then that I realized I had no portaging yoke. What the ... ! You could see where it attached, but Opeongo Outfitters had neglected to supply the yoke or inform me that it was missing one. Suddenly the light weight solo canoe wasn't looking so light! I managed to adjust the seat to the middle position and rest that on my head, which was enough to get me over the 100m portage, but it wore out my core muscles and my neck, so taking the 2k portage on the way out was no longer an option. Looks like I'd be coming out the easy way. Since it was such a short portage I did three carries and had a snack at put-in.
It was looking stormy again but I didn't stop to put on my pack cover, though I thankfully put on the rain jacket. Despite the sudden downpour I was still quite happy, the lake was beautiful and full of bays, and I meandered across the northern shore for some time and then crossed to the southern when it narrowed. The first site I saw was not bad but had no decent trees for haning my hammock, so I sniped some of the prime pieces of firewood it had laying about and moved on.
The next two or three sites didn't look worth stopping at, and I finally settled on an island site that looked gorgeous. There was a large rock face to sit upon and view the lake, a clam and foggy bay to the south east and a smaller island to look at. I landed at the site and found a nice fire pit and a table near it, then a decent hanging spot further up the hill. There was plenty of forest on the island and I could see no way to the other side where the second site was.
I had only 40 min to set up before it got dark so I went straight to work. I had the tarp up in no time but I couldn't get my hammock up, the loop on the whoopie slings had pulled through. Doh! I knew I should've put a bead or something on there. As I trie to pick at it with my pocket knife the mosquitos came in harder than I have ever seen in my life. I was running laps around the island so they couldn't land on me, eventually I suited up in my rain suit, hat, bug net and fire glove. But they all went for the exposed hand, and I was killing several with each swat.
Since I wasn't sure what to do about the hammock, I set up my bear line, tied up the canoe and continued to pace about the island. Finally, the bugs let off and I toyed with the whoopie slings some more. Eventually I decided I could only tie it up with a regular knot and would have to make a new whoopie sling when I got home. Thankfully the knots held all weekend and I was not forced to go to ground.
My new Under Quilt from Wilderness Logics kept me warm that night, and I fell asleep fairly quick. I didn't end up having dinner or a fire that night thanks to the late arrival and the confusion that accompanied it. I figured tomorrow was a new day and I'd figure things out in the morning.
Day two was a peaceful day. It rained a whole lot and I hardly left my island but for a small paddle around it. But I enjoyed the day immensely. When I wasn't hiding under my tarp, reading in my hammock, I was buzzing around the site either making up some tasty treat, filming video, or doing some other task that quickly needed doing before the rain returned.
I had plenty of visitors that day, there were many red squirrels on the island and even more wood peckers. I dont think I'd seen a woodpecker first hand before this weekend but I saw a dozen before the day was out. Between them pounding on the trees and the squirrels sounding out in distress whenever I neared their tree, it actually wasn't that quiet there. But I still found that to be far more peaceful than my typical day.
Dinner that night was shepherd's pie, which this time I made with lamb. The dehydrated lamb was far tastier than the beef and made for an even more impressive shepherd's pie. I'm still drooling over it. I fore went the campfire a second night, not wanting to get wet or deal with the mosquitos again, and fell asleep around 9:30pm.
I had high hopes of being up at 6am and being on the move by 8am. But I allowed myself a sleep-in after a restless night, and got up at 8. After a quick breakfast of oatmeal down by the lake, I packed up everything but my tarp and was just making some final arrangements to leave when it started to pour. So I found myself hiding under the tarp for another hour and a half before I was able to take it down and make a run for it.
I had a wonderful paddle for the first hour, I followed the north shore of Galeairy for a while and then crossed to the other about half way, allowing me to see the opposite shores of what I viewed on my way into Galeairy. The lake was rather flat and peaceful, except for one motorboat that insisted on tearing by full throttle, and the wind on one of the more open areas of the lake.
While crossing the large bay I pulled out the double blade and had some fun trying to master it. My legs got rather wet and I wore out my shoulder muscles rather quickly but I crossed the lake in no time at all. Before long I was arriving at the portage around the dam into Rock Lake. As I was finishing the portage 2 canoes with 3 each showed up and started to unload. Unfortunately such situations always force me to rush and I didn't have some things in the back as easy to access, I had figured after I passed this narrow rocky area I'd stop at the first site for lunch. Of course just as I was navigating around the rocks the sky opened up and I got drenched. I wedged myself on a rock and put my rain jacket on, not realizing at the time it was what was covering my boots and socks. I was already soaked so I should have just left it covering them. My pack cover was at least on so my bag didn't get drenched.
Somewhat frazzled and frustrated I ended up paddling past that first site in hopes of something more permanent. I knew that if I stopped I would end up sticking around long enough to dry out and eat, and wouldn't want to move after that. The next site was also taken, but I had a quick chat with the couple occupying it as they sat by the lake. They informed me that the site by the big rock wall was free, having just passed it up themselves. I thanked them and raced my way to it before anyone else had the chance to scoop it. It turned out to be an unimpressive site, despite it's spectacular view. I continued on my way across Rock Lake, passing several undesirable sites and several occupied ones. After investigating a couple more sites and not being happy I finally decided on one in a small bay. It turned out to be an amazing site.
This time i found myself at the site around 4:30 and had plenty of time to set up, make dinner and collect firewood. I had a big fire that night and dried out my boots, socks and jacket. I stayed up until around 1am before retiring ot my hammock.
The last morning was certainly the most memorable. The sun was shining and the animals were out in full force. Some of my visitors include a hummingbird, a fearless chipmunk, an almost as brave red squirrel, a large bass at the waters edge, yet another woodpecker and several other unfamiliar birds. I couldn't bring myself to leave.
I was on the water around noon, and had a gorgeous day to warm me as I paddled out -- a rare treat! Usually Algonquin gives me a swift kick in the behind to see me out but for once it was co-operative. I followed the north shore of Rock Lake, only venturing further out when I neared the camp ground, I had no interest in seeing it. At that point I once again used the double blade to cross a bit faster. I kept a good pace for some time, but eventually was tired and switched back to my single blade, and took my time paddling the last bit and up the small river to the access point.
The access point was very busy and I was not interested in dwindling there. Within 5 minutes of landing on shore I had the car packed and I moved on to the shower house for a quick shower and change of clothes. I was out of the park and on Highway 60 within a half hour and began my long drive home.
The calmness that I had experienced the last few days quickly faded as I got stuck in two traffic jams on the way home, and got a nice nickle sized chip in my windshield from a rock a semi launched at me. But for once I was home at a reasonable time and had a few hours to unpack and relax before bed, and was back to work at 9am the next day.