Friday, September 2, 2016

Trip Log: Algonquin Provincial Park: Cache Lake to Little Island Lake, August 24-25, 2016

I have to ask, are there any other campers out there who are as bad at planning a trip as us?  The morning of this trip, we had packed up our Boler from 2 nights at Oastler Lake Provincial Park, and then taken the kids to my parents house.  The plan (if you can call it that) was for Chris and I to head out for one or two nights of canoe camping.

Now, the problem with not planning ahead for a canoe trip in the summer in Algonquin is that you end up with very few lakes that you can get to with a late start, that still have sites available.  At first we'd thought maybe we'd put in at Canoe Lake and head up to Little Doe, but when we got to my parents to recheck availability, Little Doe was booked up.

So we set out, having decided to skip Algonquin and head to the Frost Centre.  It would be a shorter drive, and we could pick a site and be assured we were getting something decent (or as sure as you can be from the pictures on the reservations website.)

The whole drive up, I was reevaluating, and as we pulled into the office for the Haliburton Water Trails, I suddenly decided I'd much rather go to Algonquin.  My reasons were mostly due to our planned destination in the Frost Centre, Nunikani Lake.  My Mum had paddled there in high school as part of the school's outer's club, and had loved it.  It had always been on my list of places to go, but with Biscuit being so nutty in the canoe, and knowing we'd have to cross Big Hawk Lake, which was a pretty big lake but also well populated with cottages, the idea of struggling on a long paddle, on a windy day...with didn't appeal to me at all.  We were already getting a late start, and forecast of rain, I think we made the right call.

So we settled on Little Island Lake, via Cache Lake.  We set out under gloomy skies, at about 5pm.

The paddle in was nice.  There was a bit of wind but nothing we couldn't handle.  I take the brunt of Biscuit's enthusiasm as he likes to put his front paws up on my seat and peer over my shoulder.  When the wind is in his face, it's like he's going for a ride in a really slow car.  Of course this hinders my paddling a bit, and when he bites at the water I end up with a soaked back, but we haven't been able to get him to just sit calmly in the canoe.  For a while, we thought if we took him out enough he'd get more calm but after 3 years of car rides, he still goes crazy every time, so I'm not holding out hope things will change on their own in the canoe either.

Paddling past the island campsite on Tanamakoon, we saw a father and three young girls fishing.  All the other sites on this end of the lake looked to be taken, but we were headed further in, and so kept on, past Camp Tanamakoon, through the narrows and around the corner to our first portage.  It was a short one, only 120m, and had a nice sandy landing with only a few rocks to watch out for.  There was a short hill then the rest of the trail was level.  Chris carried the canoe while I carried the lighter pack and all the loose items (paddles, camera stuff, solar panel) then he came back for the bigger pack.  I admit I felt bad about that.  The plan was for him to carry the canoe and the light pack while I carried the big one so we wouldn't have to do multiple trips.  I'll have to get into better shape over the winter, because I could barely lift the big pack out of the canoe!

At the end of the trail, Chris got a little concerned.  "This is the lake?"  I forget sometimes that he doesn't spend as much time looking over maps as I do.  Not only that, he was driving and listening to me rattle off possibilities and so it would be easy for him to jumble up all the "portage into this lake" stuff I was saying.

At the portage - Sheriff Pond to Little Island Lake
After I assured him that Sheriff Pond wasn't our destination for the night, we loaded up and headed out for the very short crossing.  The next portage was directly across the pond, and it was easy to find given the trail cut through lily pads.  Unfortunately the take out was not fun.  First you paddle around a fallen log, presenting you with two possible places to put the canoe, separated by another fallen log.  Both are riddled with rocks, and surrounded by black, stinky mud.  Biscuit tried to hop onto the log and ended up getting muddy right away.  As Chris and I were trying to figure out the best way to get to dry land without sinking to our knees in muck, Biscuit kept hopping in and out of the canoe and got absolutely everything we owned streaked with black.

Chris finally got him to shore and tied him to a tree, so we could unload the canoe.

The trail wasn't tougher than the first portage.  It wasn't bad, but it starts with a fairly steep hill, then keeps going at a lower grade.  For someone who isn't in great shape, it involved a fair few stops to catch my breath, where as Chris just powered through it without so much as a gasp.

Little Island Lake has two options for putting your canoe back in the water.  When the trail branches, if you go straight, you'll come to the official put in (where the sign is.)  This is a nice sandy beach, but there are several big rocks to watch for.  The unofficial put in, takes the short trail to the left and has a sandy area next to an old log jam.  The climb down is a little big steeper, but there are no rocks to contend with.

Being at our destination lake, with the sun quickly setting and the skies looking like they might open up at any minute, we were pretty eager to make camp.  The mainland site was taken, so we paddled around the island, knowing there should be at least 2 sites available.  From the put in we went to the right, and the first island site we came to was available but involved climbing up an incredibly steep hill.  I wouldn't even call it a hill, it was an almost perfectly vertical climb up a pine needle covered dirt wall.  We couldn't see the site itself very well, though it looked like there was a decent clearing.  We moved on, and saw that the next site looked nice, but was already taken.

The third site was empty, and we decided to take it.  It was a nice site, with a large open area and a few nice sheltered spots for the tent.  It even had a table which had seen better days.  If it had been better weather, we probably would have swam.  Chris did consider it but it was getting dark, and we had to get camp set up and start dinner.

We set up the tent beneath the cover of two big cedar trees.  Biscuit is getting better at not walking all over the tent as we try and set it up, but it still has a few muddy paw prints on it.  We were actually hoping it would rain a bit so we could see how well the new MEC Camper 4 holds up in bad weather.

Stew rehydrating
With darkness closing in, and not wanting to clean up in pitch black, I didn't let the food sit as long as it should have.  I'd made a stew with beans, butternut squash and corn, and it was still fine, but a few of the squash pieces were a little chewy.  I'll be honest though, I couldn't taste a darn thing.  As much as I really wanted to be canoe camping, there was a part of me that wished Chris had agreed to just set up at a campground for a night or two because I really felt like crap.  Summer colds are such a pain.

After cleaning up, Chris got a bear rope hung and secured our food and then scouted for wood  Surprisingly, for an island campsite, he was able to find a decent number of small branches on the ground and using 2 of my precious tissues as starter, we enjoyed a brief fire before turning in.

I didn't sleep much.  Part of this was because of my cold.  By the time we went to bed, I was down to 3 tissues and I was trying to conserve them.  The toilet paper we'd brought had been a small, partial roll, so it wouldn't last long either, and I didn't want to use it up incase we needed it for it's normal purpose.  So between not being able to breath, and listening for night life, I mostly tossed and turned all night.  On the plus side, Biscuit was refreshingly calm.  Usually he paces and sucks on our sleeping bags until they are a slobbery mess, but he slept quite well on the bed of clothes Chris made for him, though at some point he got up and flopped across our feet.

It was a warm night.  I spent most of it on top of my sleeping bag, especially once I had a furry foot warmer.

By morning, we hadn't had the expected rain or storms.  Part of me was grateful we weren't packing up a wet tent, and part of me was a little sad we hadn't really put the it more fully to the test.

Chris got up and retrieved the food bag.  Poor Biscuit went with him and ended up stepping on a sand wasp nest.  He got stung a few times and ran right back to the tent where he licked his wounds.  I put on water for coffee and we ended up eating just apples and some fig bars rather than making up oatmeal.  It didn't take us long to break camp and head back out on the water.

As we rounded the island, we decided to check out the last island site and were surprised it was empty.  It didn't look bad, but we liked ours better.  We could see people at both parts of the portage, and decided to hold back and let them get on the water before we got too close.  One group looked to be day trippers in three canoes, possibly from the lodge on Cache Lake.  The other was a family with two canoes and 3 or 4 little girls.

Before we left, I had decided to use the day pack I'd brought along to carry all the little items, leaving us with a much easy portage.  During our packing, we had thought we'd do two nights and spend a day exploring, so I'd brought my new little MEC day pack.  I stowed the goPro and the solar panel in it and that made a huge difference.  Now we had three packs, the paddles and a Pelican case.  I was able to carry the two smaller packs and the camera, Chris carried the big pack and then went back for the canoe where he'd lashed the paddles.  Not only was it much easier not having my hands full of little items, it meant less to worry about losing at the start or end of a portage.  Now if only we could get the weight of the big pack down...

We also got smart about loading and unloading the boat.  At the muddy end of the trail at Sheriff Pond, Chris got the canoe in place, then I brought him the packs.  Since Biscuit follows Chris like a shadow, he stayed in the canoe and didn't once jump out.  This made the process so much less stressful and we were quickly on our way again.

We didn't run into anyone on the way out, and after a brief tour of the back part of Tanamakoon, we headed back to the car. Both of us were tired and starving, and Chris really wanted to swim so we went east and stopped at the Two River's Store for snacks and cold drinks (which weren't really cold at all) and then to the Two River's Picnic Area to swim.

All in all, a good, albeit brief trip.  We learned a few things and came up with some ideas for lightening our load a bit more.  We'd brought our cold weather sleeping bags, which aren't any bigger than our normal bags, but they are a bit heavier.  I just didn't want to risk being wet and cold all night again like on our trip to Tanamakoon, and since it was calling for rain...

We plan to make a smaller mess kit for when it's just the two of us as well.  Also, we took far too much food, again because we had originally thought we'd be going for two nights.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Trip Log: Oastler Lake Provincial Park - August 22-24, 2016

Sunday night before our vacation started, we still hadn't decided what we were going to do.  I wanted to do a longer back country trip, the kids suddenly decided they were afraid of canoe camping, and wanted to just relax in the Boler, and Chris seemed to have no opinion on the subject at all.

After scoping out all the possible trips we could do in Algonquin where we could stay on an access lake, or only one portage in, we quickly realized there weren't a lot of sites available that met those requirements, or the portage would be a long one, at which the kids again put their foot down.

Finally we decided to do two nights of Boler camping, then leave the kids to visit my parents, and Chris and I would do two nights of canoe camping...again, not having an actual destination in mind.  At about midnight, we decided to check out Oastler Lake Provincial Park, since there was one waterfront site available and it wasn't ridiculously far to drive (read previous trip logs to hear more about our misadventures towing the Boler over longer distances.)

Packing for two trips, with radically different needs was a bit of a struggle but we were out of the driveway by about 1:30pm, surprisingly in good spirits.  This whole last minute packing for a trip always makes me crabby but I managed to stay up beat this time.  We weren't in a big rush, we had a site booked, and we would be exploring a new park.  All good things.

There was a few minutes of concern as we went through Bala.  There is a place where you turn left and immediately go over some railroad tracks.  In the gap between the tracks, the road has sunk and the trailer hitch bottomed out and sounded like it might have been damaged.  Chris got out and checked it out and all was fine.  This, coincidently, is where the whole hitch ripped off the frame on one side on our aborted trip to Grundy Lake last year.  Once we made it past the little park by the police station, where we'd stopped before and realized the state of the hitch, we all relaxed a little bit.

table with a view: Oastler Lake Provincial Park
We arrived at the site just before dinner time.  Our first impression was that the site was very small and not very private, but what it lacked in those areas, it made up for in scenic views.  We parked the Boler just at the edge of a meter high cliff where a picnic table was perched.  Down the hill was our own little slice of waterfront, where we could launch a canoe or go swimming.  Unfortunately, the whole time we were there is was extremely windy, so we didn't even take the canoe off the roof of the car.

Dinner that night was veggie burgers and salad, which we ate on our table with a view.  The sunset wasn't spectacular, but the stars were bright and many.  After the kids went to bed, Chris and I went down and just enjoyed the peace...I saw a shooting star.

Unfortunately, peace at Oastler Lake is a fleeting thing.  While the campground was surprisingly quiet given how close together the sites were, the trains going by all day and night was anything but tranquil.  For Chris, who had lived for a few months in a town where trains went by that frequently, it was extremely annoying.  For me and the kids, it was kind of a novelty...that made it hard to get a good night's sleep.

Oastler lake has no hiking trails, and with the wind up, we didn't feel like canoeing so we pretty much just relaxed all the next day.  Chris took a nap, played ukulele, and the kids read and drew.  I woke up that morning with a doozy of a cold, so I was quite content to lay in a chair with my feet up and just do nothing.  That worked for a while, but we somehow are down to only two chairs...and guess who also really likes to sit in them and relax...

Can you tell who has pull in this family?
We did walk around the campground and checked out the park.  I took Squatch to the beach, then shortly after we got back, Chris took both kids down for a swim. We saw a water snake sunning itself on the rocks at our site.  I tried to take a picture but it got into the water and then kept poking it's head up at us before swimming away.  It was just one of those trips where you don't do anything...and it was awesome.  In fact, we were so lazy, we ended up driving into Parry Sound for dinner rather than cook.  Okay, part of the reason for this was that in our frenzy of packing, I didn't realized I'd brought pasta for both lunch and dinner.
water snake just off shore at our site

 We actually contemplated staying for another day, but in the end, Chris and I decided we did want to go canoe camping, and so the next morning, after coffee and bagels, we packed up and headed to my parents house to drop off the kids and the Boler.

Our feelings on this trip were a bit mixed.  The park itself was nice, though the sites were small and lacking in privacy.  The trains kept everyone from sleeping, but then again, so did Biscuit.  The comfort stations were great, and there really isn't anywhere that you aren't close to them (maybe the river side lots?)

Some of the river side lots were better for privacy, but calling the little creek a river was stretching it a bit.

I think, over all it was a good trip.  And I think I could convince Chris to go back again, provided he got some ear plugs.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Day Trip: High Falls Trail - Southern Algonquin Park, July 4, 2016

There's a lot of information out there on Algonquin's hiking trails, most of which covers the interpretive trails along the Highway 60 Corridore.  We've done a good chunk of those trails, but not many of the others...come to think of it, we hadn't done any of them before now.  Our trip to Achray a few years back had been too buggy for Mum who has bad reactions to all types of bug bites so we ended up not doing any trails.

My brother, Jeremy's visit had to include some kind of trip to Algonquin.  While he wasn't all that keen on camping, a day trip with good photography opportunities was okay.

The plan was to do the High Falls Trail, near the Kingscote Lake access because neither he, nor my parents had been there before.  The trail is fairly short (about 2km each way) and we hoped it wouldn't be very busy.  We packed a picnic and headed out.

Chris and I had taken the kids to Kingscote for a few nights of camping, so we knew generally where we were going, and finding the parking area for the trail head was pretty easy.  With several pounds of camera gear weighing us down, we got started.

High Falls in Southern Algonquin
The majority of the trail is very easy.  It's flat, not many rocks or roots to trip you up, and is pretty shady.  Once you get to where the trail approaches the river though, things change.  Watch your footing for sure.

There's lots of odd rock formations to photograph, as well as the falls.  Jeremy's new model of iPhone lets you do slow motion video, then set it as your lock screen.  When he holds his finger on the screen, it plays the video.  Mine doesn't do that, but it does let me take slow motion video.
High Falls itself is lovely but stopping to take pictures ended up being very buggy, so we didn't stay as long as we would have liked.  Once back at the cars, we headed to the Kingscote Lake access and had a picnic.  There were no other cars in the parking lot, and nobody at any of the walk in sites.  It being so close to Canada Day we had expected at least some people to be around.

After lunch, we stopped at the Pine Grove Point Campground for ice cream and cold drinks.  Just a nice relaxing day in Algonquin.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Trip Log: Six Mile Lake Provincial Park, August 12-14, 2015

I can't believe I didn't write up this trip log when we first got back!  This was a doozy, not because the actual trip was memorable, but because of the chaos that led to us going here rather than to Grundy Lake as we had planned.

As I recall now (a year later) we had planned to spend 3 nights at Grundy Lake.  We loaded up the boler and headed out.  Just past Bala, we noticed the Boler was bouncing a little more than usual so we pulled into a little park (right beside a police station) and Chris looked under the car.  The passenger side of the trailer hitch had snapped off of the frame.  There was no way we could continue like this, so we called my parents, and got them to meet us in Gravenhurst.  Chris tied the hitch to the frame with an extra tie down strap.  He was convinced it was good to go and we could keep going.

We made it to the Canadian Tire in Gravenhurst with no problems.  Mum and dad were going to lend us their tent.  We took the extra foam mattress that we put on our bed, then picked up a few pool floats that are full length for the kids to sleep on.  After an hour or so, Mum and Dad showed up, and we ended up having to pick up an adaptor or something so the trailer could be hooked up to the truck's electrical (I think his maybe wasn't long enough?)

And out we go, expecting to get there late but still planning to head to Grundy Lake.

At EXACTLY the same spot where we pulled over to check out the problem, the phone rang.  The Boler had blown a tire and Mum and Dad were stranded on the side of the road (between Bracebridge and Carnarvon...not exactly anywhere with help nearby.) so we turned back around, stopped in Gravenhurst again to pick up a spare tire as well as a pump incase the spare could be used...then we could take the new tire back.  I called Grundy Lake and cancelled the reservation (losing 90% of the fee I think)

We find them and begin the task of changing the tire.  We got the old spare from the back of the Boler on, and everyone is sure it's ok (except me, cause I can hear it hissing) and we head out, stopping 2 more times to put more air in the tire.  We ended up camping that night in the driveway at Mum and Dad's house.  The next morning, we headed to Six Mile Lake.  (BTW, the trip ended up costing us about $1000 between new tires (both tires were really bad and had to be replaced) a new trailer hitch, lost fees, and the fees for the two nights at Six Mile.  And that doesn't include gas and groceries.

It should also be noted that had we kept going with the hitch tied to the frame, the tire likely would have blown when we were on Highway 69 and going at much higher speeds than Dad would have been driving down a dark country road.

After all that, the two nights at Six Mile Lake seemed pretty tame.  We went out for a paddle on the lake, checked out some cool cottages and just relaxed.  There are a few nice beaches as Six Mile Lake.  At the day use area we saw a very large garter snake at the waters edge as we were landing the canoe.  We left it alone but there were two boys who were determined to catch it in a bucket and take it back to camp.  They managed to catch it, much to their parents horror, and were made to release it right away.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Trip Log: Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Park: July 8-9, 2015

I'll admit, I was kind of dreading this trip.  The kids and Chris love the site we had before on Fishog Lake but the paddle across Head Lake can be a pain, and the portage is hard on the knees.  We were also terribly disorganized, it being our first canoe trip of the year, and I was already cranky before we left home after having so much trouble finding things.

Head Lake was calm and we made good time.  We didn't even get dive bombed by gulls.  We did, however, have an issue once we got onto the river.  Biscuit was surprisingly calm after the first few minutes, then all of a sudden Chris asks why the dog has a third testicle.  Before I could say what?  he yells that the dog has poop hanging from his butt that he's trying not to release.  Unfortunately, he couldn't quite hold it and ended up pooping a little in the canoe.  I could already tell it was going to be an interesting trip.

Just realized how this could look bad...
We didn't arrive on Fishog until probably 5pm, and saw quickly that the site across the lake from the one we wanted had a tent on it.  I also saw a canoe rounding the point and thought we were going to lose our site.  I was dreading dealing with the others being upset and getting blamed for it because it had taken so long to get ready.   The other canoe had moved on and our site was empty, much to everyone's relief.

As I was unloading the canoe, I heard a big splash and realized Chris had just jumped in the lake.  Squatch quickly followed.

Still kind of grumpy from earlier, I set about getting organized.  We were too late for the lunch I'd planned, we decided to snack and make dinner.   Bubbie and I went out in the canoe to pump water, and paddled to the next point where we saw a father and son setting up.  I  guessed that they were the canoe I saw rounding the point as we first arrived.

 I started cooking while Chris and Squatch set up the tent.  As I was cooking, I couldn't shake my bad mood.  I think it had to do with the fact we had another trip planned for right after we got back and then the kids would be at my parents for a week, while Chris and I stopped on the way home to do another canoe trip.  All I kept thinking about was all the stuff I had to get ready for the second trip, third trip and the kids stay, and Chris mentioning he'd rather work and us skip our night of camping alone.

I mentioned to Bubbie and she agreed us staying 2 nights here was going to mean a huge hassle and as we ate, spaghetti with Italian seasoned bannock, we talked Chris into cutting it to one night.  I felt a bit better after that.

As I was cleaning up, Chris went to hang the rope for the food barrel, and Squatch fished from shore.  He caught a good sized small mouth bass.  I didn't get a picture, unfortunately.  After that he kept snagging on rocks so Bubbie and I would have to go out and rescue his lure.  This happened about every 5 minutes so finally Chris took him and Bridie and the dog out to fish in the canoe.  They didn't catch anything.

Biscuit doesn't like the water, but he loves the canoe. The kids kept throwing a tennis ball for him, just far enough into the water that he'd have to go to his belly to get it.  He managed it sometimes, but sometimes it went to far and he refused to get it.  But Bubbie took the canoe out once and he ran out to chest depth and jumped in with her.  At some point, Chris tried to toss Biscuit into water a little deeper than his chest and after that, if Chris went near the water, Biscuit hid under the little table where we were cooking.  He also tried to get under the tent fly like he had at Kingscote last year but the fly on the bigger tent wasn't really effective for him to use as cover.

Chris got a fire going, but there wasn't much wood around.  He found a few dead, fallen trees but they were punky and damp from all the rain we'd been getting.  The fire was just enough to roast  a few marshmallows then the bugs came out in swarms so we doused it and headed into the tent.  Squatch and I spent a while playing a game on my phone while we all listened to a loon, some bull frogs and a whipporwhil.

The mosquitoes buzzing around the outside of the tent was overwhelming, and I think we all felt a little trapped knowing if we went out we'd be attacked.  Biscuit wasn't happy at all, and paced most of the night.  After a while the buzzing faded and the night was very quiet.  The frogs, loon and whipporwil only made noise every little while, but there were no other night sounds, no crickets, no small animals rustling in the bushes.  It was a little unnerving.  I occasionally heard voices across the lake, but for the most part it reminded me of a horror movie where there's a terrifying monster and all the natural sounds of the forest stop because nature knows there is a dangerous predator near by.

As usual, the kids talked in their sleep and both managed to get themselves turned around in the tent.  At one point, Bubbie was sideways with her head near my butt.  I was just about to wake her up and get her back on her sleep pad when she nudged me then started punching my bum as hard as she could.  Between that and Squatch flopping around and smacking me with his arms, I didn't get much sleep.

Biscuit got me up shortly before sun rise so he could pee.  Then we all went back to sleep.  I finally got up around 9 and the kids and Chris soon followed.  Bubbie and I paddled out to pump some water and decided to go across the lake to see if there really was someone at the site there.  It had looked like the top of a tent was visible as we arrived the previous day but sometimes shadows can play tricks on you.  There was someone there, and from the other side of the point we could clearly see the tent, screen tent, canoe and a man sitting safe from the bugs drinking his morning coffee.

Sunset on Fishog Lake
We had oatmeal and coffee, cleaned up and went for a paddle to see the next lake in.  Biscuit again made a nuisance of himself, but settled down after a few minutes.  We crossed Fishog and went through a bit of marshy area before coming to the 40m portage into Round Lake.  The plan was to go to the campsite there and have a picnic lunch.  The site was dismal.  It was just a small clearing with a fire pit, I don't even know where you'd put a tent.  There were a half dozen or so fishing boats cached there, and a good pile of fish remains.  We sat at the dock, ate, checked out the waterfall, then headed back to pack up.
The kids enjoying the sunset

Chris started getting all the gear in the tent packed up while I made lunch.  I figured the more food we ate the lighter the barrel would be so the kids had Mr. Noodles with beef jerky and vegetables and I rehydrated some hummus to eat with crackers for Chris and I.  Somehow, the barrel ended up being just as full as it had been and just as heavy.

It was about 4:30 by the time we left and a bit of a breeze had picked up.  We pushed off from shore, hoping we wouldn't be dealing with a rough Head Lake.

Cottagers were out on Fishog, tubing and having a good time.  Its a nice area to have a cottage, the kind of area I'd want for a cottage.  Don't get me wrong, there are a lot more beautiful lakes but most of them are lined with cottage after cottage and the lakes can get noisy with all the boat traffic.  I'd much rather have a cottage on a quiet lake.

The paddle back across Head Lake was a little rough.  Not nearly as bad as last year's trip, but there were still some good sized waves to contend with.  We made it back in decent time and headed home to reorganize our gear for a car camping trip in Algonquin Park.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Trip Log: Algonquin Park: Rock Lake, May 4-6, 2015

May the Force Be With You!  I guess the Force was with us, because things fell into place for us on this trip.  We thought we were going to be delayed on departure day (May 4th) because Bubbie's school concert band was supposed to have an event all day and she couldn't miss it.  Luckily for us, something got messed up and at the last minute, it got delayed 2 weeks!  Yay!

We'd planned to eat lunch at the campsite but we were all hungry, so when we stopped at Two Rivers Store for drinks, we handed out the sandwiches/pizza buns and ate on the way.  The weather was a bit grim looking, with grey skies and the odd sprinkle of rain but we were hopeful we'd get set up before it got really wet.

We managed to get up to our campsite at around 1pm, and it was just starting to spit rain.  We put the tent trailer up by throwing a tarp over it so we could then stay dry while we raised the roof and pulled out the ends.  At one point after everything was raised, Dad realized he couldn't find the keys so he could get into the little storage area so he could get the two support bars he'd forgotten to get out at the start.  We searched everywhere and eventually started to wonder if they'd been on the roof of the trailer before we cranked it up.  Turned out they were in his back pocket the whole time.

We retreated inside to play Star Wars games to celebrate.  Mum had bought the kids Star War's Day gifts…Bubbie made a comment about not understanding the big deal, because it wasn't like Christmas.  I nearly kicked her out into the rain.

Biscuit was so excited to be there, he was driving us nuts with his need to get out and explore.  We ended up walking him around in the rain (a steady moderately heavy rain now) so we could see how many other sites were in use.  There weren't many, maybe a dozen, if that, at least in the electrical section.  Everyone was spread out, so even though Rock Lake doesn't offer the best privacy, we didn't feel crowded at all.

Mum and I started supper around 4:30.  In honour of this special day we had Bobba Fett-agetti, Endor Salad (caesar salad,) Sarlacc Bread (garlic bread) and Yoda Soda (Mountain Dew.)  For dessert we had Wookie Cookies,  and Exploding Deathstar Cookies.  Mum and Dad offered to do the dishes while Chris and I took the kids out for a paddle.

Now, this is our first time really paddling so early after the ice is out.  The lake was mostly calm, and the wind was minimal, but I still had horrible thoughts of us tipping, and kept trying to get Chris to take us closer to shore.  Chris kept us going straight down the middle of the lake.  And here's where Chris and I have our only canoe difference.  We work really well together in the canoe.  He prefers to paddle on the left, I prefer the right.  We share the load pretty evenly on portages.  We just canoe well together, but he is very much about getting to the end destination and therefore it's straight down the middle of the lake, every time.  Where as I like to go fairly close to the shore.  Not only can we maybe see wildlife, but you actually feel like you're moving, where as out in the middle of the lake it can often feel like you're expending a lot of effort for very little reward.  When we were coming back from High Falls, trying to get back to our site at Achray, paddling into the wind, it might have felt less like we were standing still if we were twenty feet closer to shore.  Just saying.    I know there are times when you are trying to make your distances, or there's a limited amount of time, but when there isn't (like this time) why can't we just explore?  Ugh!

Anyway, when we turned around, we realized the wind had picked up a bit and was now in our faces.  Not bad, but the waves were just at the point where the tops collapse, not quite white caps though.  We made it home without incident and then decided to drive West on Highway 60 and look for moose.  It was about 7:30.  We saw 2 before we even got off Rock Lake Road, and a total of 8 more that night (for a total of 10 that day.  We saw 2 just before we got to the West gate on our way into the park)  After a quick stop at Fisherman's Point for pictures, we headed back to camp.

Since the campground office closed at 4:30 we didn't get any wood, but everyone was pretty tired anyway so we just went to bed.  Our only fairly close neighbours stayed up late talking but it was pretty quiet.  Lots of spring peepers could be heard as well as the odd loon call.  Just a relaxing night in Algonquin Park.

Day 2

Breakfast time at Rock Lake
I was up pretty early, but I didn't check my phone to see the actual time.  I'd been up to go to the bathroom at around 4 and the moon was brilliant, shining on the water.  By the time it got light out, there was lots of fog on the lake.  Biscuit and I walked…a lot.  All around the camp ground, to the boat launch (a quick detour to the garbages to dispose of his morning business) then down to the non-electrical sites.  There were hardly any people there, maybe 3 sites in use?  We got back and still nobody was up, so we walked some more.  I don't think the others got up until 9:30.

Coffee was the first priority, then breakfast.  One-Eyed Buffalos, bacon, potato and pepper hash and maple baked beans (we forgot to cook the beans…again.  That can has been in my mum's camp food bin for like 3 years now.)  After cleaning up, we headed to the East gate looking for moose.  We only saw one.  Chris and I had planned to hike the portage trail into Pinetree Lake but he also wanted to do the Booth's Rock Trail again, and we wanted to go canoeing.  We opted to wait on the portage trail.  Actually we were all originally supposed to hike to Pinetree, but mum had hurt her ankle and was having enough trouble walking around the campground.

Chris and Biscuit on top of Booth's Rock
While the kids went with my parents looking for more moose, Chris and I headed back to Rock Lake to hike Booth's Rock.  There was a tour bus at the office and we thought we should get on the trail quick before a load of people headed out on it too.  Biscuit is a little unpredictable in his desire to protect us, and having to stay ahead of a bunch of people when there's that much tough up hill would have killed me.  As it was, I thought I was going to have a stroke trying to keep up with Chris.  I finally let him carry my camera bag (which he later claimed to barely notice he was carrying…it weighs like 30lbs!  Jerk.)

Time for a rest - Booth's Rock Trail
As it turned out, we only saw 2 other people on the trail, two men at the very top.  We explored the remains of the estate, and ventured a little further along the shore to check out the back country canoe campsite near the ruins.  It doesn't look like a bad site, a big fairly level spot near the fire pit, but the landing looked quite rocky.  That being said, it would probably be a good site for those very late season trips where you might wake up to an iced over lake and have to hike out.
Very glad we were going down these

Biscuit was pretty good about not dragging Chris along, until we got within sight of the car then he nearly decapitated himself pulling so hard on the leash.  He loves the car, if you couldn't guess.

We got back to camp, had a quick lunch of crackers, cheese, meat, apples, a fruit tray and leftover cookies. Mum offered to take the kids out for a little paddle, to check out the river.  While Chris was helping push them off, Biscuit, who hates water, ran right in trying to get into the canoe!  I guess he likes canoeing more than he hates being wet.

I walked the garbage down, taking Biscuit with me, and we detoured to the boat launch.  I figured we could wait for mum and the kids then drop off the bag.  When they pulled up to the little dock, Biscuit again tried to get in the boat, and when I kept him back, he retaliated by peeing on the garbage bag.  I almost got caught with it too but I managed to jump up quickly.

When we got back to camp, we relaxed while waiting for mum to return.  They'd headed out with Squatch in the middle, mum in stern and Bubbie in the bow.  I kind a figured the kids would tire easily and mum would be left paddling alone, but when they came into view we realized Bubbie was in the stern, Squatch was in the bow and Mum was in the middle getting a free ride!

Mum getting a free ride
After that we didn't leave camp until it was time to go home.  The kids pretty much just paddled on their own.  Mum had showed them how to j-stroke and do some other things.  They stayed close to shore but they were out there almost all night except for a break for dinner  and to let Chris take biscuit for a little paddle.

Dinner tonight was in honour of Cinqo de Mayo.  Tacos, quesadillas, southwest salad, and two types of tex-mex rice.  We were all stuffed afterward…okay, the kids still had room in their dessert stomach (kids have a second stomach like cows do…but kids use theirs for desserts)  We had a fire going so they toasted marshmallows, and tried toasting strawberries dipped in marshmallow fluff.  It worked out okay, not as pretty as the pictures online, but they tasted good.

As we made dinner, we kept seeing this odd group of canoes.  Two people would paddle from the non-electrical section, to the river and then return a few minutes later with 2 canoes each pulling another canoe, so four in total.  This happened 3 or 4 times.  We finally realized that when Chris and I came back from our hike earlier and saw lots and lots of tents in the non-electrical section, it was probably a school group and they would likely be departing from there for a canoe trip, hence bringing the canoes to the campground rather than hauling all the group with their gear (and no cars) to the boat launch.  They were a bit rowdy, but not bad.  We heard a few excited shouts as we sat around the fire that night but if it was a school group, I'm actually glad to know they were so excited to be there.  And I admit, I was really jealous.  Why didn't our high school have an outers club or wilderness skills class when I was a teen?  My mum did in high school, and the school our kids will be going to has things like that.  Ugh!

Mum had brought the game Ultimate Werewolf: One Night.  The kids love this game, and were really excited to play, so after the fire was put out, everyone else played while I lay down with Biscuit.  He was pretty wiped out from all the hiking and walking around the camp ground he'd done.  Squatch had also run around the campground roads with him quite a bit, and while we'd gone looking for moose, he ran from side to side in the back seat, popping his head out the window on each side for a minute. (As I'm typing this, he's passed out on the couch.)

While mum and the kids were waiting for us to go in to play Werewolf, mum gave the kids each a scratch ticket.  We always play a "how many moose do you think we'll see" game when we go to Algonquin, and Bubbie won the first day's game. The ticket was her prize.  She won $75!  While Chris and I had been hiking, they'd stopped at Tea Lake Dam for snacks, and a bird had pooped on her hand…you know how people say that's supposed to be good luck?  Apparently it's true.  Squatch was not impressed.

We all slept better the second night, and yet again I got up before everyone else.  Biscuit and I walked some more, but this time, he put is paw down after an hour or so and just sat in the middle of the road, so we headed back to camp and sat for a while.  He desperately wanted back in the trailer to sleep but I didn't want to wake everyone up.  Mum got up shortly after that so I let Biscuit have his way, and mum and I took the canoe out for a paddle.  We checked out some of the cottages on Rock Lake, went up the river but detoured off to where the river passed right by the campground near the outhouses.  We tried to go further but there was a beaver dam and neither of us felt like getting our feet wet when the water was so cold, so we headed back.

Dad had the coffee on by then, and Chris, Biscuit and the kids had walked down to the boat launch hoping to see us but we hadn't gone that far.  We kept breakfast simple, just bagels and coffee/hot chocolate.

While me and mum and dad were packing up, The kids took Biscuit for a little paddle, then brought him back and went out alone again.  Chris took the GoPro and filmed them, when they explored the river section mum and I had gone to earlier.

Nobody wanted to leave.  Other than a bit of rain the first day, we'd had a great trip, but as always it was far too short.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Day Trip: Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands - September 9, 2014

Head River, QEII Wildlands Provincial Park
Since it was such a nice day, Chris and I decided to head out for a paddle and take a picnic lunch.  Our destination was Head Lake, near Norland, where we'd launched for our trip to Fishog about a month ago.  This time, we headed to the northern shore and headed up the Head River towards Smudge Lake.

The paddle on the lake is shorter and as it was a bit windy, we didn't want to make that crossing in rough water again.    We planned to paddle to the first campsite and eat, then get home in time to get the kids off the bus.

odd little campsite on Head River
The paddle to the site took about an hour (wind at our backs on the lake and going with the current)  The Head River goes through a lot of wet lands and the banks are lined with alders and small hard wood trees.

This guy stayed ahead of us all day
The campsite was very small, and we had a hard time figuring out where someone would pitch their tent.  A very large pine had fallen recently (probably in the storm on friday) so maybe it was blocking a good tent pad...not sure.  Also, I couldn't find a trail leading to a thunder box, so I'm not sure if there was one.

It was a nice little paddle.  The wind was pretty strong at times, and you really had to be careful of rock shelves under water!  Once, crossing the lake (a little north of the treed island) and twice on the river, there were shelves of rock about a foot or so below the surface.  With the wind ruffling the water, it was hard to see them, and we could easily have damaged our paddles.  With it being so windy, it was especially an issue on the lake where we were almost blindly digging deep with each stroke.

Our snack was just some apples, dehydrated red pepper hummus and crackers.  Nothing fancy.