Although I knew my body wasn’t in the best shape for a 5 day portage trip, I booked it anyways. I would just have to get in shape as I went along. I had researched quite a few routes in Algonquin for this trip, but opted for one in a completely new area (to me) consisting of 13 portages, just over 7500 metres and paddling on some bigger lakes (for me).
As a practice for this trip, I went on a trip the weekend before with 3 portages. LOL. I know, not much practice. In addition, the 3 portages I did on that trip were 200, 300 and 400 metres, totalling only 900 metres, but it was the best I could do to prepare for this trip on such short notice.
The plan for day 1 was to start out at Access #1 Round Lake or Kawawaymog. I would cross Round Lake and do 2 portages, one 135m and one 255m and then paddle across North Tea West and camp on the furthest site I could get to for North Tea West and I would spend night one there.
For further trip preparation I spent the night before departure preparing the canoe. At this time, I have the canoe I had used last summer while I am anxiously awaiting the creation of my new canoe. Since the yoke is latched in and mine, I drilled two holes in either side and put a piece of bungee cord in so that I could easily and quickly attach my kayak paddle. I also tied a long string in the bow to create a spider web type effect so the paddle could be weaved into it and would hold securely. Once in place, I put 2 bungees in the loop of the permanent cord under where I drilled the holes. These would affix the neck pillow to the yoke. Yes, I know it’s a bit princessy but I had a lot of portaging to do and I didn’t want to be in pain. What I was aiming for with all these revisions was to be able to quickly get out of the canoe, break apart my kayak paddle, pop it into the bungees and webbing, pop the pillow on and off I go. I have never been super quick at this and it is something I would like to revise so hopefully this will help.
I got off work at 3pm on Thursday and took off for Round Lake, arriving just after 5pm. The road into Round Lake is a bit rough but not as rough as the road into the Tim or Cedar. Once I arrived I got my permit and then went to unload the car. In addition to the wish of being quicker at the portages, I also wanted very badly to do some single carries. For this reason, I had purchased a canoe pack from Algonquin Outfitters and had it all packed and ready to go. While looking in the mirror with on my back last night however, I had serious reservations that it would work. It was not much lower than my current pack which I loved and have been using for 17 years so I didn’t know if it would do the job.
My plan was to take the canoe off the car at the put in, put the pack on and then put the canoe up on my head and make sure it worked. I would’ve attempted this last night but I had put the canoe on the car before the pack was packed and wasn’t up for taking it back down to test it out. So I did just that and the same thing happened with the canoe pack as it does with my backpack. It was still too high and it technically wasn’t the canoe pack at all, it is the seat in the solo canoe that is up high and interferes with the pack. My new canoe will have a lower seat and hopefully this issue will be eliminated but for now….
Single carries once again, were out. I quickly unpacked the canoe pack and put everything into my old pack. There was no point in purchasing a canoe pack if the pack I had was doing the same job. Maybe I would get another one in the future, but for now, I was totally happy with my 16 year old pack and was delighted it would be once again with me on this trip. If it ain’t broke and all that. LOL
I locked up my car, put my pack in the canoe and off I went, totally forgetting about putting weight in the back. Round Lake reminded me very quickly that I had forgotten this and gave me quite the battle the entire way across the lake.
I went through a large mix of emotions crossing Round Lake and was regretting being out on trip, felt like I was going to dump at any moment and felt incredibly inexperienced and unstable. The wind was playing with me the whole way across trying to push me over and I had to paddle very hard in order to keep on the right path. It was a big struggle and I honestly thought, what am I doing here? I need to go home now and cut this trip short. Then I made it to the creek….
and everything changed. There was next to no wind in the creek and I just coasted along enjoying beautiful mirror and relieved I could finally stop paddling like a crazy person. The views were spectacular and I finally felt the stress and fear begin to fade away.
I saw some ducks, heard loons and frogs and even a big beaver slapping it’s tail and was reminded very quickly of the reason I was here and that it was worth overcoming any winds, instability, uneasiness or fear.
After a while paddling through the winding creek, I eventually came to the first portage. It was only 135 metres and after a bit of a steep hill, fairly simple.
My revisions to the canoe seemed to be helping already and I was in and out of the portage fairly quickly.
I hit the water and found myself still paddling the winding creek. I continued on as the sun began to drop and produce some lovely colours on the water.
I arrived at the 255m portage shortly after and thought it was pretty neat. It had stairs at both the beginning and end of the portage and I again, quickly made my way through and onto North Tea Lake, dreading to be on big water again after the issues I experienced on Round.
There was a nice little waterfall on either side of the portage. There was also a memorial there for two park rangers, Frank Robichaud and Tom Wattie. Frank was caught in a blizzard and died in a cabin on Three Mile Lake. I could not confirm how Tom Wattie died unfortunately. I said a quick little prayer for both, thanked them for their service and headed to the canoe to continue on as it was now starting to get dark out.
I put a few big rocks in the back of the canoe, just in case the wind hit me, and headed into North Tea.
Dark clouds were passing by me and I occasionally received a drop or two of rain, but nothing serious. I saw a site not too far into the lake and seriously contemplated taking it, but as the water was so calm, almost glasslike, I decided to paddle as far as I could get on North Tea West, just in case tomorrow was windier and the weather wasn’t as good.
I looked over my shoulder a few times to check out the pretty sunset occurring behind me as I paddled as quickly as I could across the lake. I began seeing sights that were closer to the narrows of North Tea, but they were all occupied. I began to get a bit worried, as it was starting to get dark and I couldn’t find an open site.
Just before 9pm, I found one that was open. I thought about looking to the next one, just to see, but then thought better of it and paddled towards the sand beach to give myself a rest, finally eat some dinner, as I was starving, and set up camp before it became fully dark.
I quickly set up my tent, then went into the forest to set up my rope to hang my food. I always found this a difficult task in the dark and wanted it done before that happened. As soon as those tasks were completed I got the stove out and cooked up my dinner for the night, a smokie sausage on a bun that I had pre spread mustard on. As I was too tired to hand pump water with my Xstream straw with pump, I scooped up a nalgene full and put some Purinize drops in and set my timer for an hour. I had just enough water left in my bottle from paddling in to fill a cup and would drink that until the Purinize water was ready.
Dinner was delicious and I was so hungry, it tasted even better. I set up my Luci light in the centre of the fire pit and it slightly illuminated the area around the firepit so I could see. I loved my Luci light and in addition to all the things I used it for, I could now add, faux campfire, as we had a fireban on and no fires were permitted. The light it gave off was just enough to see without my flashlight and provided a nice ambiance. I almost felt like I had a fire, without all the work.
I sat and listened to the loons for quite some time before heading into the forest to find my rope and hang my food. I used the privy, got changed and headed to bed. It was around 1130 by then and I was very tired. I had put in around 6pm at Round Lake and paddled/portaged 3 hours. Tomorrow would bring much more so I knew I had to get to sleep and get some rest.
DAY 1 STATS
Paddling – 10 km’s
Portaging – 390 metres (double carried – walked 1170m)
I woke up at 5:30am to use the privy and took a few photos. I went to my tent and slowly began tearing down as my water boiled for my breakfast, oatmeal with rehydrated apples and strawberries.
I always cooked first so that by the time I was done packing up my tent and gear, it was cool enough for me to eat. As I was cooking and eating from the same metal cup, the oatmeal took quite a while to cool down enough for me to eat, so cooking it first kept me from sitting and waiting to eat afterwards when all packed up and ready to go.
It didn’t take me long to eat, clean up and pack up my stuff.
By 7am, the campsite was cleared, the boat was ready to be packed and I was ready to make my way across North Tea Lake, hopefully before any big winds came through and disturbed the beautiful mirror lake that was before me at the time.
As I left my site I began seeing something on the far side of the lake. It looked to me like 2 people paddling sups. I wasn’t sure, of course, and I’d never seen sups in the backcountry, but I’d heard that people do backcountry camp via sup, so I guess it was possible I took photos and the closer I got, the more I knew something big was in the water, that I could see from way across the lake.
As I got closer and closer, I could see a bit more, but it was still difficult to see. The sun was shining straight into my eyes and the area where I saw something was shaded and hard to see into. I could see that there were rings in the water surrounding the 2 things in the water, and I slowly began to believe they might be moose. I have been wrong so many times before, however, I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but I continued staring and staring as I got closer and closer.
Then I knew for sure what I was looking at. Two moose. A male and a female, by now they had walked out of the water and were walking along the beach. They were loud as their feet crunched along the sandy/pebbly shore and they didn’t seem bothered by me in the least. They would walk a bit, stop and eat some leaves from the trees, walk a bit more, look around, repeat.
I took some videos and sat watching them for about 15 minutes, just beaming. I was so excited and happy and amazed that what I thought were people on SUP’s from all the way across the lake were these two moose. How big they were that I could see them from so far away. I knew I needed to continue on my way, so I said goodbye, thanked the beautiful massive creatures for letting me see them, and slowly tore myself away, paddling into the stunning sunrise, looking back every few minutes until I could no longer see the area the moose had been in, or the moose.
I continued on my way through North Tea East until it turned into Mangotasi and beamed the entire way.
After quite a lot of paddling I was finally getting closer to my first portage of the day.
At first I had some trouble finding it, but I kept on paddling and finally saw it hiding around a corner. The first portage of the day was only 240 metres and a really nice portage, flat and easy to walk on, although very buggy.
I was on the other side in no time and right across the lake was the next one, a short 90m portage.
After the 90m portage I was in a lovely little area. I heard something swimming and grabbed my phone to be ready to take a video or a photo.
I heard something that sounded like barking and then saw an otter, then another and another. I tried to get a photo but as soon as I attempted one, they popped under the water.
Right across from where my canoe was, was where they decided to escape and I did get a small video clip of several otters, climbing out of the water and through a small opening into the forest. I counted 4 but saw several others while on the lake. They were so cute.
Once I started paddling through the lake, I immediately saw the portage sign, but couldn’t see the actual portage. I did see a big heron on the far side of the lake so I went to check him out and try and get a photo of it.
I also saw a nice waterfall in the corner of the lake so I paddled over to check it out and took some video footage of that. It looked like the other side of the waterfalls was Biggar lake and the portage should be right there, but there was no sign, so after taking the photos, I paddled back to where the sign was.
I looked and looked for the portage but couldn’t find it. I went right up to the sign and saw that the sign had an arrow on the bottom of it pointing to the right. I paddled that way realizing finally that it was directing people to the portage I just came from. OMG! I really disliked when they posted portage signs and they weren’t actually at a portage. I realized then that the portage was by the waterfalls and paddled back to them, taking the small path to Biggar Lake. But first, I thought I’d dropped my selfie stick at the previous portage so had to paddle back again. Oh dear! It ended up being under my seat. EVENTUALLY, i made it over the portage into Biggar Lake and it was only 11am, even after all that! Sweet!
I paddled through Biggar Lake. The water was fairly calm but the wind was picking up. I wanted to get as far into the lake as possible so I would be close to the first portage of my day tomorrow. Tomorrow I would have 4 portages totalling 3100 metres and didn’t want to also paddle through this lake if I could do it today in good conditions, so off I went.
After checking out all the sites on the left side of the lake near the portage, I saw one across the water on the right side. It looked lovely, far away from the others and had a front side open to the water, and also a small beach to dock my boat on another side. It was windy and sunny and absolutely perfect! It was only noon and I was at my site already. How awesome! I was thrilled. I sat and ate my lunch, a salami wrap with laughing cow cheese and relaxed.
After lunch I set up my site and checked out the area. The privy was way up on a high hill with a full view of the lake. It sat there like a giant throne and gave me a good laugh. I put up my food bag rope and then headed back to change into my bathing suit and go for a swim. It had been so hot pretty much since I woke up and I was dying to get in the water.
I enjoyed the swim immensely and took advantage of being on site super early and washed my shorts and my bug shirt. I had lots of time for them to hang on the line and dry before heading out tomorrow.
After my swim I listened to an audio book and spent the afternoon relaxing. I even had a wee nap in the tent as I had only gotten 5 hours of sleep the night before and was pretty tired. Around 5ish, I poured some water into my bag of dehydrated veggies for my pizza toppings to get them rehydrated and then began making dinner.
Tonight’s dinner was camp pizza and even though we had a fire ban on and I couldn’t cook it on the fire, I thought it was worth bringing a pan for. I had brought mushrooms, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, bacon, pesto and mozzarella cheese to top the pita with using pesto for the sauce. It was amazing!
I ended up having to eat it with a fork and knife because it was so heavy and messy but it worked out well in the end and I kept everything mostly in the pan or my mouth and off the ground.
As soon as I finished eating, I cleaned up and set up the tarp I’d brought. The thunder showers expected today were finally starting to roll in and I needed to get some shelter up, or I would end up sitting in the tent for the next 12 hours.
I got my tarp up and then hung my food bag. I put a big plastic bag around it as last year It had gotten soaked during a storm and the material weighed so much more with the water weight. I didn’t want to do that again, especially with 3100 m of portaging to do tomorrow, so a simple plastic bag over it should eliminate the issue.
As soon as I finished all my chores, the rain started to come down, accompanied by thunder, lots of thunder and some lightning. I sat under the tarp waiting, bored and listened to an audio book but the ones on my ipad weren’t very good and I kept loosing interest. I played some music and goofed around making videos of my playing different artists and lip syncing to their songs, anything to keep me entertained. It made quite a funny clip which you can see on the youtube video on this part of the trip.
The sun was shining brightly even though it was still pouring, thundering, and lightening. I knew this might lead to a rainbow so I put my raincoat on and went to check out the scene. It seemed to be my lucky day, because on the beach side of my site, there it was and it was gorgeous!
A huge, completely full, double rainbow shone brightly. I have to tell you , in this instance, the photographs don’t do it justice. It was so vivid and brightly coloured but no matter how hard I tried, I could not capture the entire rainbow in the photo (even using panoramic) or the colors it displayed in real life. It was one of those things you had to be there for, and I was, so gratefully there.
Since I had eaten early, I decided it was a good time to have the dark chocolate cheesecake freeze dried dessert I’d brought with me. I had brought it on a few trips previously and had not gotten to eat it, but this wasn’t going to be the case today. I decided to split it in half though, then mixed it up, waited the time noted on the package and dug in. It was pretty good, not amazing but for the weight and ease it took to make, pretty good.
I sat eating my cheesecake enjoying the dessert. It was only 8pm and I couldn’t believe how much had happened today. I saw 2 moose, 7 otters, a crane, a double rainbow, a thunder/lightening storm and now a gorgeous sunset. I was amazed at how long my day had been and how full of awesome things. I felt truly blessed.
As the sky turned pink I went down to the lake to get some water and fill up my bottle for the night. I felt something watching me and noticed a frog just bobbing up and down in the water, looking up at me.
I took out my map to check out my route for tomorrow. 3100m of portages starting right across from my site, four of them in total and then I would be on Three Mile Lake, hopefully another awesome day.
As the sky turned pink, I took a few photos of the canoe, the amazing vessel that allowed me to do these trips.
Then I changed into my sleeping clothes, got into my tent and said goodnight to Biggar Lake, thankful for all I had done and seen since my arrival Thursday night. I was exhausted and sore and happy to be in bed, even though it was just after 9pm. I had a big day tomorrow to prepare for.
DAY 2 – STATS
Paddling – 10 km’s
Portaging – 470m (double carried 1410m)
Please check back next week for Part 2 of this 5 day solo canoe trip where I will write about days 3, 4 and 5 of my journey.
If you have any questions, comments or just want to say hi, please leave a message. If you prefer to see the video version of this trip, please check out my youtube channel where Days 1 and 2 will be posted on Thursday, Days, 3, 4 and 5 will be up next week after the blog post covering the same days.