I waffled back and forth between doing two nights on one lake or the first on Ralph Bice, then a second night on Little Trout Lake, but in the end, decided to just relax for the day. When I went to book it, on the day before we intended to go, I was greeted with an error message saying the reservation didn't meet the required window? I was confused, but a little digging into the regulations revealed that Algonquin's interior requires you book by 9pm two days before your intended arrival. I'd had no idea!
So I had to regroup again. We had thought we would go to the Frost Centre on the way back and do an easy night on a little lake, so Chris suggested we just flip it. Do a night at the Frost centre, then head up to Magnetawan Access. I went back to the maps, now actually kind of excited because doing it this way meant we were already part way up to the Algonquin Access which should give us a head start for getting to a good site. Since we would book a Frost Centre site, based on a specific site rather than a lake, there was less rush to get out the door (which turned out to be a good thing, since we were still not fully packed, despite having the whole previous day to find and prepare things.)
I had picked out a few sites that were easy to get to. No big lakes to cross, no long portages. I had originally thought about a couple of the sites right on St. Nora Lake, but Chris vetoed those, saying he wanted to get at least off the access lake.
|The kids tent at Three Island Lake, Frost Centre|
We didn't get much of an early start, but the paddle across Margaret Lake was quick and we pulled up to the portage ready to go.
The first issue was the mud. After a short but easy climb we got to a section of the trail where the mud was thick, deep and swarming with mosquitoes. We managed to bushwhack around without much trouble but the bugs followed us along the trail. After another minute or two, we reached a logging road. It was at this point that Chris set down the one canoe, in a clearing just off the road and went back to get the yellow pack. (We quickly realized I couldn't even lift the bigger of our two packs...some rethinking on how we distribute items will have to be done.) Also, we met up with two men who were coming out of Three Island, and Chris wanted to make sure we hadn't blocked off the put in for them.
Shortly after we crossed the road, we came to a stand still. With mosquitoes and black flies (and deer flies probably) like a cloud around us, the kids and I stared at a whole lot of recently downed trees. So recent, in fact, the leaves hadn't even started to wilt. The whole area looked like a tornado had gone through in the past, but there were a lot of really recent, really big trees blocking the trail. We dropped our packs and scouted around for a sign of where others had went. Finally, we scooted around a wall made by a trees roots, ducked under a fallen tree, and then climbed over a few...and we were home free...except then the trail went through more mud, a lot of raspberry bushes and a nice big patch of ferns, all of which were havens for even more mosquitoes. As the lake came into view, the underbrush thinned out and we got a bit of breeze to keep them away but that only thinned them out a little. Chris came back a minute later with the pack, then headed back for the canoe he'd brought part way in. We ended up launching it with the kids gear and letting them paddle out onto the lake so they were at least out of the bugs while Chris and I went back for the last items (the second canoe and the food bag)
|Biscuit contemplating a swim to escape the bugs|
Chris was dripping sweat and blood by the time we got everything into the canoes on Three Island. He was also cursing a bit. Nobody was happy, knowing we would be enduring that portage again the next day. Even the sight of the cute little island site we would be camping on, didn't cheered us up.
Chris and Squatch went for a swim. Bubbie was going to but then we spotted a leech, so she changed her mind. I got started on supper. On a previous trip I had taken a box of Beef Taco hamburger helper and instead of adding hamburger, added peppers, beans, lentils and corn. This time, I didn't even bother adding the seasoning packet since I'd dried a can of Chili spiced diced tomatoes. I did add a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast to give it a cheesy texture, but don't tell them! So basically I bought a box of Hamburger Helper...just for the pasta...might have to rethink that one for future trips...anyway the meal was really good...though there wasn't quite enough since I sort of spilled a little bit on the ground.
|Early morning on Three Island Lake|
I woke early. I'm not sure what time exactly, but Biscuit figured it was time to get up, so I crawled out of the tent with him, taking along the cameras. The lake was glass and there was a little bit of wispy fog dancing along it's surface. I love mornings like this, and it kind of bums be out that everyone else sleeps through this beautiful time of day. I'm pretty much always alone, waiting for everyone else to pop their heads out of the tents.
I watched a few loons circle the island, and a few birds flit around the trees above me. It was relaxing, and yet I was anxious too. I knew once everyone else got up, we'd be heading back to that portage, and it was already getting hot.
|This is the third island, where a campsite used to be|
So we packed up and headed back onto the water. The trip back was just as miserable as the trip in had been. Poor Chris had to make three trips, I made two. After the first trip, I loaded the kids and a few of the packs into the canoe and told them to paddle out a bit like they had on the way in. This kept them out of the bugs but it also left them sitting in the hot sun. Chris had thought it would be a good idea to put one of the rain coats on, since the sleeves are elastic, and bugs wouldn't be crawling up his arms. It worked, but by the time he got back with his third load, he was sweating so much it literally looked like he'd just poured a bottle of water down his shirt. It was kind of scary and I was a bit worried about him. We loaded up quickly and headed for the car where there were two bottles of sports drink (which were miraculously cold...)
We all agreed the site was cool but we wouldn't be coming back again until the portage was cleared and the bugs had died off.
The following week, Chris and I were driving back from Dorset and noticed a great deal of fresh blowdown in the area just north of Margaret Lake. My parents had told us that a few days after this trip, they got a really bad storm, so we weren't sure when these trees feel, in the same storm that knocked trees across the portage, or the storm a few days later. Either way, the area got hit pretty good with wind lately, so hopefully the people responsible for maintaining the routes will be out clearing the trails soon.