Access 5 - November, 2019

CanadaOntarioAlgonquin
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Neil Miller
Trip Date : 
11/3/2019 to 11/5/2019
Route Author: 
Spiderman
Additional Route Information
Distance: 
22 km
Duration: 
3 days
Loop Trip: 
Yes
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
5
Total Portage Distance: 
2330 m
Longest Portage: 
1140 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Not applicable
Lake Travel: 
Intermediate
Portaging: 
Moderate
Remoteness: 
Intermediate
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
High
Route Description
Access to Put-In Information: 

Our original plan was to put in at Access #3 but the snow on the access road reached the bottom of my car and there had been no other traffic on the road.  Fearing we could get trapped back on that long access road, we changed plans and put in at Access #5 which was right off of Highway 60.

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Algonquin Park Fall 2019

November 3 – November 5, 2019

 

Attempted Route: (Put-in) Access #5, Canoe Lake – Joe Lake – Little Joe Lake – Baby Joe Lake – Littledoe Lake – Tom Thomson Lake – Fawn Lake – Tepee Lake – Joe Lake – Canoe Lake, Access #5 (Take-out)

 

Actual Route: (Put-in) Access #5, Canoe Lake – Joe Lake – Little Joe Lake – Baby Joe Lake – Littledoe Lake – Fawn Lake – Tepee Lake – Joe Lake – Canoe Lake, Access #5 (Take-out)

 

Camps:

 

  • Camp One, 11/3/2019, Little Joe Lake
  • Camp Two, 11/4/2019, Littledoe Lake
  • Total kilometers (miles) this route (est.): 22 Km (13.6 Mi)

 

Weather: (Sunday) Wind – light at put-in / -1°C dropping to 0°C in the afternoon and hovering there through the night/ mostly cloudy by day and completely overcast in the evening / snow squalls with white-out conditions through-out the day and actually through the entire trip. Rain began at about 9:00 pm in the night and rained all night.

(Monday) Wind - light / temperature 0°C in the morning to 1°C by late afternoon / completely overcast / Rain continuous.

(Tuesday) Wind sustained / temperature hovering between 0°C and 1°C / rain continuous / snow squalls with white-out conditions paddling down Canoe Lake – wind on the nose.

 

Snow/Ice Conditions: 2.5 cm (1 in) snow on the ground in the shadow areas but clear in areas that got sunlight. Snow squalls on all 3 paddling days – generally one per hour. The squalls created white-out conditions for the 15 minutes they lasted.

 

Canoe: Two solo Swift Ospreys – 15 ft. length; 50 Lb. wt.

 

Paddlers: One 71 year old male (Neil) and one 53 year old male (Brian).

 

Timing: 11/2/19: Departed Westchester County, New York at 5:30 am. . Arrived at Rainbow Inn Huntsville at 6:00 pm (Brian departed Dexter, Michigan at 1:00 pm and arrived Huntsville at 7:00 pm) 11/3/19: Drove to Access #3 .. Road to Access #3 was in rough shape and my car squirreled around a lot .. At the fork in the road to Access #3 there had been no traffic and the road was snow covered. .. Because my car was struggling we decided to change plans and go someplace where our cars would not get stuck .. We chose Canoe Lake Access #5 and registered in at the APP Western Gate .. Departed into Canoe Lake at 12:00 Noon. 11/4/19: Out of tent at 8:00 am .. On the trail at 10:30 am .. Lunch stop at the Littledoe Lake end of the 1140 meter portage .. Long, tough portage and when we paddled out onto Littledoe Lake it was near dark .. We selected the second campsite we checked out and it was after 5:00 pm when we set up camp. 11/5/19: The rain stopped at about 4:00 am, then started up again by 5:30 am .. Stayed in the tent until about 10:00 am and then broke camp in the rain .. paddled back to the Canoe Lake beach arriving about 3:00 pm .. Another night at the Rainbow Inn. 11/6/19: Up early, breakfast at The Local and on the road by 10:00 am .. I was in Albany by 6:00 pm where I took a hotel for business (Brian was back in Dexter, Michigan by 4:00 pm).

 

Distance covered: Total canoeing and portaging: 22.00 Km (13.6 Mi)

 

Detail (Saturday, 11/2/19): Larchmont (Westchester County, NY) at 5:45 am. Encountered no weather of any kind on the drive. Crossed the Queenston/Lewiston Bridge with no delay but with the usual skepticism on behalf of Canadian Customs when said I was going canoeing. Arrived in Huntsville at 6:00 pm and checked into the Rainbow Inn then drinks at the Mill on Main. Our usual place, On-The-Docks-Pub was closed for renovations. One small word of advice if you are a (Kentucky) Bourbon lover as I am. The closest thing you will get to bourbon in your average bar or restaurant in Canada is Jack Daniels (which is Tennessee whiskey.) Brian showed up about 7:00 pm and we could not get a table at our favorite, The Artisan House, so we went to Three Guys and a Stove. Just like the year before, they poured the shortest martinis I have ever had. For us, that’s it. We’re done with this restaurant.

 

Detail (Sunday, 11/3/19); 8.25 km-canoe and 295 m-portage: I set the alarm for 6:30 am and we were on our way by 8:00. We had packed everything the night before so this allowed for a hasty departure from the Rainbow Inn. Aside from always staying in the Rainbow Inn, an absolutely non-descript, ragged and meager establishment, we always stop at the Highway 60 Tim Hortons for coffee and breakfast sandwiches to go.

I need to put in a plug for the folks who work at this Tim Hortons. They are pleasant bordering on chipper regardless of the fact that they have been working since 5:00 am in the morning. I believe this is a Canadian thing since I have rarely (if ever) encountered it in the states. We ate in, instead of on the road, and we were on our way to the west side of the park and Access #3 by 9:15 am.

We drove the 36 km (20.4 mi) to Kearney and another roughly 25 km to the fork between Tim River Access #2 and Magnetawan, Access #3. My car, a Toyota Prius, had been struggling a lot climbing the hills and there was one steep hill that I really didn’t think I would make. The problem was my very low ground clearance vs. the snow covered road. When we got to the fork in the road, there had been no traffic down the road to Access #3.

 

We decided to regroup and retable. If one of us got stuck back in here we would spend the rest of our trip hiking out to civilization. We decided to go to Access #5, Canoe Lake because this is right off the main highway and the parking lot is maintained.

It took us a while to get back to the West Gate of Algonquin and we registered in to camp at Joe Lake, Tom Thomson Lake and Teepee Lake. By the time we got unloaded and put in to Canoe Lake the time was Noon.

 

The wind was fairly calm until we were approaching the cluster of islands which houses Camp Wapomeo for girls and then we could see this cobalt gray front approaching and within minutes the snow squall was upon us. In the height of the squall it was a total white-out and I could barely see 10 feet beyond the front of my canoe. More significantly the wind was on the nose and maintaining my course took a lot of physical effort. Fortunately within 10 to 15 minutes it passed and the wind was calm again.

We passed through the cluster of islands and as we approached the peninsula with the cairn to Tom Thomson, the deep gray front approached and again the squall was upon us. This one had more power than the one before and both Brian and I had to run for shelter along the shore. We sat it out and then it passed so we took off again for Joe Lake.

 

My glove system of thin poly-pro liners covered by Sealskinz® water proof outer gloves was working very well. My hands were warm even after fighting through two squalls. Cold hands are always a real struggle for me in late season paddling.

We came to the only portage on this leg, the 295 m around a dam. There were a male and female grouse going through some sort of mating ritual and they never spooked. We walked right by them with our packs. On the way back it looked like we could cut the canoe-carry in half by sneaking around the rocks in the channel and this is what we did for the takeout.

After put-in, we passed under Joe Island and entered Joe Lake. We were making good time so we decided to carry on. One more snow squall enveloped us but we were into their rhythm so we knew what to expect. We checked out one campsite but the only tent possibility was very exposed to the elements so we decided against it. However, someone had left a perfectly good axe behind and so Brian snatched it up. We took the last campsite on the north shore of Little Joe Lake and put in at 3:33 pm.

In camp it wasn’t snowing (or raining) and this for us was what late season paddling was all about. We ranged out into the forest and found a downed tree that looked seasoned enough for a fire. Brian cut off a section that we could drag back to camp. Then Brian sawed off sections and then split them with his new axe and we had an amazing fire.

 

We drank Scotch from a flask Brian had brought, ate our FD meals and drank a bottle of ‘Cs’ – a cabernet sauvignon from the Columbia Valley in Washington State. Temps were holding at about 1°C and it was a perfect night for late season camping.

I filled my water bag squeeze system (Katadyn BeFree) and with quite a bit of force I was only able to get a trickle of water. It took a long time to fill the reservoir in the MSR Windburner stove and even longer to fill our water bottles. In retrospect, I wonder if the filters were still damp from an earlier trip and they possibly froze up slightly. In future cold-weather camping I will remove the filter from the bag and carry it on my person.

Then the rains came. Just a misty drizzle at first but it grew steadier and we cleaned up and retired to the tent. By 10:00 pm it was raining pretty hard. This continued into the night although it would let up occasionally.

 

Detail (Monday, 11/4/19); 4.73 km-canoe and 1,740 m-portage: We both woke up early – it was still dark and it was still raining. With the temperature still hovering around freezing everything inside the tent seemed damp. We began the process of stowing gear, deflating mattresses and stuffing sleeping bags. My down sleeping bag stuffed easier than usual into its compression sack because it was damp.

Around 9:15 we got a break from the weather and it was only drizzle and mist. We took advantage of this to make coffee while stowing gear into our dry bags. We used Brian’s squeeze system – the same as mine – and it was even worse in terms of water flow so we went back to mine which still at least gave us a trickle.

What we should have done is drop and stow the tent because we were still stowing our gear when the rain came back. During this escapade, my inner (liner) gloves got wet and this is in turn got the inside of my Sealskins wet and that was the end of warm hands for me. I had a waterproof neoprene backup but I never found those to keep my hands warm.

Brian was having similar cold-hand issues. He was using a different system that he thought would work well but it just wasn’t working to his expectations. Our NEOS Adventurer over-boots were still keeping our feet warm, however.

We took down the tent as fast as we could but once we removed the rainfly, the rain just poured into the tent through the netting. Tent, rainfly and ground cloth were all packed into 4 mil plastic bags completely wet.

We departed Camp One at 10:30 in the morning. There were two portages into Baby Joe Lake. The first was only 165 meters and with the high water from all the rain we were able to sneak through the rocks and avoid the carry. The next portage was 435 meters and we got a little turned around on the tight bends in the stream and missed the cutoff. We quickly discovered our error and backtracked into the proper stream channel and found the takeout. Here again, however, it looked like we might be able to sneak around the portage and we did, in fact cover about two-thirds of the distance when we ran into brush and log jams. There was a well-traveled unofficial takeout at this spot which took us up to what was left of the portage trail and the put-in to Baby Joe Lake. It was about a 600 meter paddle up Baby Joe to the takeout for the 1,140 meter portage over to Littledoe Lake.

I had been worried about this portage ever since we selected this route. I have no problem carrying my pack. The pack probably weighed about 35 pounds and then add in another 5 pounds for added moisture and dampness. Still, I had no issues. The canoe, however, at 50 pounds plus the weight of the wet painters was going to be a problem for me.

This port was muddy, full of puddles, had numerous two-plank bridges over the marsh areas, several steep hills – both up and down – and finally two large deadfalls across the trail. A relatively typical trail in Algonquin. In the spring, the back-country rangers would come through and cut out the deadfall.

The rain continued to fall as we set out on our first trip over with our packs. As I went, I scouted possible places to rest the canoe so that I could easily get it back on my shoulders. There weren’t many good possibilities but I marked the ones that looked possible.

The major impediments on this port were a very steep ravine-like hill and the two deadfalls over the trail. The ravine descended steeply and the rocks and wet leaves added to its treachery. We both had to take careful baby steps to safely go down this part of the trail. As for the two deadfalls, there was no easy way around them and we just had to bash through the brush and thorns.

We arrived on the shore of Littledoe Lake at about 1:00 and had lunch. We were joined by a male and a female Grey Jay. They were begging for treats and we gave them pretzels, cheese and pepper sausage. Apparently birds have no taste for pepper, or so we’ve been told. They took all this to some hoarding place somewhere always returning for more. They were taking the pretzels right out of our hands.

After this 20 minute break, we went back for the canoes. The time was after 2:00 pm when we returned to Baby Joe to portage the boats. Brian assisted me with a two-man lift to get my boat onto my shoulders. Then, he lifted his and set out in the lead. On the first two-plank bridge he slipped on the snow and stepped into the creek. He managed to keep both his balance and his boat intact on his shoulders; however, he went in over the top of his Neos over-boots and they took on water.

I never slipped or fell but I had another problem. I had left my 22 foot painters attached bow and stern and they were high quality nylon rope but they were not water-proof. This added at least five pounds to my load and maybe more. To me the canoe felt like it was made of Royalex instead of Expedition Kevlar. Along the trail I spotted some of the possible rest stops but the very first one was a stump that turned out to be too low and I had to squat down almost to my knees to lift the boat and so I just took it off and did a normal lift to get it back on my shoulders. This defeated the whole purpose of the rest stop so after that I made sure the other spots were high enough up that I could easily lift the boat again. Unfortunately most of them were not, so this concept basically abandoned me.

On that very steep downhill gully I decided to lay the boat down and, holding the rear painter, I let it bobsled down to the bottom. Of course then I had to do a one-man lift to get it back onto my shoulders. I was moving real slow by this time. I made it most of one kilometer out of the total 1140 meters but three-quarters across the last two-plank bridge, I hit the wall. I dropped the boat onto the bridge and sat down in it. After about 5 minutes, I picked up the bow painter and began to drag it over the end of the bridge and up the trail. I had just run out of steam.

Brian had completed his port and came back up the trail to find me dragging the canoe. I asked him if we could just double carry it because we were near the end but he picked it up and put it on his shoulders and immediately complained about the added weight of the wet painters. He bashed his way through the last deadfall and then shortly after, we reached the end of the trail at Littledoe Lake.

We loaded up rapidly and shoved off. The time was just past 4:30, it was still raining and visibility was becoming increasingly dark. We paddled to the first campsite on the lake but its tent site was poor so we pushed on to the next campsite. By now night had come and we were operating more on instinct than anything else, but we found the site. We had no choices left but to take it regardless of condition. The time was after 5:00 pm.

We hastily set up the tent in the never ending rain so the already wet tent just took on even more water. I used a backpack towel to try sopping all the water up and it worked okay – not great but okay. Everything was wet or damp even clothes inside my stuff sacks that had been in my water proof pack. There was just that much rain and moisture in the air.

In the dark and rain, there was no possibility of finding wood and building a fire. It was also just too miserable to try and boil water for dinner; therefore, dinner became snack mix and Clif bars in the damp tent. I changed into all my driest clothes since my sleeping bag and pad were both damp. Actually it worked out alright.

 

Detail (Tuesday, 11/5/19); 4.51 km-canoe and 295 m-portage: At about 4:00 am, the rain stopped. I crawled out of my sleeping bag and went outside and I could see stars. This was a good omen – or at least that’s what I thought. Brian was awake and agreed that it looked like we were finally going to get a break. At around 5:30 am the rains returned. The temperature was unchanged at about 2°C (34°F)

Once again, we packed up everything inside the tent to get ready to stow. We were out of the tent in the rain making coffee at 9:00 am and trying to get our gear from the tent to our packs with minimal amount of wetness. But then the rain stopped again momentarily and the sky actually cleared. This lasted for all of 15 minutes before the rain returned.

 

We dropped the tent, once again as the rain fell and packed it into the plastic bags. Not that it really mattered because by now everything was either wet or damp. I had removed my dry clothes and packed them away in case I needed them again and put all the wet stuff back on except for fresh dry socks.

My shoes had become damp in the night under the rainfly so now everything, more or less, was wet. My biggest problem was that I was wearing my warmest glove combination – the liners inside the Sealskinz but they wet throughout. I had a backup pair of waterproof neoprene gloves but they always failed to keep my hands warm. Almost immediately after put-in, my hands began to freeze up.

We departed Camp Two at 11:00 am. In the rain, sometimes mixed with snow, we went down a false bay that we thought was the entrance to Fawn Lake. We backtracked out and went around the proper peninsula and into what really was Fawn Lake. We had made the decision to end the trip and were heading back to where we began. We had paid to camp one more night but with everything wet, we knew that would be a big mistake. Plus, it was still raining.

We made fairly good time through Fawn Lake into Teepee Lake and just as Teepee opened up into Joe Lake the first snow squall hit us. We ran for cover along Joe Island and it helped a little but just like three days before the squall and the wind in general was on our nose. This was slightly perplexing because three days before we were going north and now we were going south.

Just like before, the squall only lasted about 15 minutes and we cleared Joe Lake and entered the channel for Canoe Lake and the 295 meter portage around the dam. We double carried the boats and put in at the shortcut about halfway down the trail.

Almost as soon as we entered the head of the lake another snow squall hit us. We hugged the east shore until it passed and then set out again. As we passed through the cluster of islands that make up Camp Wapomeo for girls the third snow squall ran over us. The islands offered a little protection so we kept going and within 15 minutes the squall had passed.

My hands were now completely without feeling. Canoe Lake took a gradual bend to the left and it wasn’t until I cleared this turn that the beach in front of the ranger’s station came into view. This time of year this particular station is closed as is everything else at this base. There is a restaurant and outfitter store but they are all seasonal. In the summer, this access is possibly the heaviest traveled of anywhere in the park.

Once in, I took off the wet Sealskinz and had to use my teeth to remove the snug (and wet) inner gloves and when I bit down on my finger it felt like I was biting on a stick. My hands were completely numb. I changed into spare gloves I had in the car and set about unloading from the boat and into the car. I also turned on the car’s heater full blast. Periodically I put my hands in front of the heater vents and they began to feel life once more.

As I was fastening my canoe onto the racks, Brian said, “Look.” He was pointing out to the lake and I could see the gray wall of another squall rolling in. This was real motivation to finish the tie-downs which I completed just before the squall hit.

We drove into Huntsville through intermittent snowfalls and checked in, once again, to the Rainbow Inn. All they had left was a suite with two bedrooms, a kitchen and a living room. All-in-all it was pretty shoddy but they gave us a reduced rate. During the week they have contracts with many out-of-town contractors who are working in the Huntsville area.

We went back to the Mill on Main for our celebratory drink and a snack of nachos. We settled on Jameson’s since they didn’t have any bourbon. There was another guy at the bar and we struck up a conversation. He had been on a work crew doing some kind of telecommunications job outside and his boss finally called it and let them all go early. We told him of our experience and he asked somewhat incredulously, “You mean you were out there by choice?!” This got a good laugh from everyone at the bar including the two bartenders.

The Artisan House was closed on Tuesdays and we were not going back to Three Guys and a Stove so we settled on the Huntsville Brewhouse. They had at least 30 different beers they brewed themselves and the food was basic pub fare. Still, it was comfortable and the bartender was very cordial.

 

Detail (Wednesday, 11/6/19); In Huntsville in am and drive to New York in pm: In the morning our cars were covered in a couple inches of wet snow and we had to start them up and put on the defrosters. Neither of us had dug out our snow brushes, yet. We went to breakfast at The Local which is always a good breakfast experience.

After breakfast, we parted ways and I drove toward New York while Brian drove to Michigan. I crossed once again at the Queenston/Lewiston border crossing and there was no traffic at all. The US Customs guy asked me where I had been and I told him and he asked, “How was it?” I said, “Wet.” He laughed and said, “I bet,” and then I was in the states.

 

Miscellaneous:

Trip Cost (Neil): Total spent: $440USD (568 CAD)

  1. $63USD spent on lodging (1 night – Brian paid 2nd night) (81 CAD)

$377USD spent on all other trip expense (food, fuel, tolls, etc.) (487 CAD)

($55.22USD for back-country fees, 3 nights – Brian paid) (71.31 CAD)

 

Other Misc:

Park registration: Due to adverse road conditions on the west side of the park, we canceled that route and went to Canoe Lake, Access #5, stopping at the West Gate to pay our back-country fees. The fee for 3 nights was $55.22 USD (71.31 CAD).

 

Water levels: Higher than normal amount of rainfall for November so the creeks were up and the trails were wet and muddy and in many cases no way around but through the standing water.

 

Weather: In our trips into Algonquin in November, we have had heavy snow, squalls, blizzards, temperatures as cold as -13ºC and as warm as 21ºC, heavy rain, light rain, cloudy days, clear days and once we almost got caught in ice-up. On this trip it was cloudy on Sunday with intermittent snow fall and bands of snow squalls on the lakes. The morning temperature was 0°C (32°F) to a high of 2°C (34°F) on Sunday. On Sunday night it began a rain/sleet mixture and continued with only short breaks all night. On Monday the temperature remained in the 0°C (32°F) range and the rains continued. Tuesday saw the same conditions and temperatures but by now everything that wasn’t wet, was at least damp. We canceled our third night and headed back to the Canoe Lake docks. On the paddle back we encountered 3 more snow squalls and a fourth hit us just as we finished tying down the boats on our cars.

 

Gear: We both carried waterproof 115L portage packs and fully loaded with warm weather gear and wine - mine weighed about 40 pounds. Four pounds of that weight was two containers of wine but we drank Brian’s on our first night and never drank anymore so I carried this weight the whole trip.

I had brought cut-down construction refuse bags in case the tent was wet, which it was, and we packed the tent away in these bags each night.

The NEOS Adventurer over-boots made all the difference as they always do in wet or snow late season forays. I really can’t speak highly enough of these over-boots for snow or wet conditions. They also provide some additional insulation in cold weather.

As always, we used Brian’s MSR WindBurner canister stove as our primary, but (also as always) I brought my MSR Whisperlite with a full white gas bottle as back-up. When your source of food is freeze-dried meals, you can’t be without a heat source to boil the water. I also had my stainless steel pan which was full of fire starter materials but available if I had to boil water.

Our Katadyn BeFree squeeze-bag filters performed poorly. Mine came out in a trickle but Brian’s flow was worse than that. I want to believe that perhaps the filters had partially frozen up and the next time I take this system into near or below freezing temperatures, I will carry the filter part close to my body.

Our respective glove systems did not function up to our expectations, either. My system was a synthetic liner and a water-proof Sealskinz® outer shell. This system worked for me on the first day paddling in to Camp One. However, once the liners got wet the system failed and my hands froze up. I had spare liners but now the Sealskinz were wet inside and the system no longer performed as intended. Brian had a different single glove system but this also failed to keep his hands warm and he switched to a neoprene glove on the return paddle and this also failed to keep his hands warm.

 

Wine:

The wine we carry on these trips is a very important part of our camping ritual. As for the wines on this trip:

Drank: 2017 Cs Cabernet – Columbia Valley, Washington

Never drank: 2016 Broadside Cabernet – Paso Robles, California

Never drank: 2016 Hess Select Cabernet – North Coast, California

 

Final thoughts: Contrary to the weather drama of this trip report, there are no bad canoe trips. We had one perfect night – our first night on Little Joe Lake. After this the weather became an over-bearing issue. Rain and freezing temperatures are a dangerous combination and we had to react accordingly. In hindsight, I should have put on my back-up Neoprene gloves at the last 295 meter portage. They would not have solved my problem but it would have helped.

There is a certain test of endurance with trips like this. Though many would question the enjoyment factor, I know of no better way to understand the strength of personal endurance. This includes not only physical endurance but mental. When I dumped the boat about 150 meters from the end of the 1,140 meter portage, I had “hit the wall” physically. However, five minutes later I was dragging the canoe because I had not been defeated mentally. I was going to finish the final meters of that portage one way or the other. Of course, as stated in the narrative, Brian returned and relieved me of that last stretch.

There is a real beauty to the peace and quiet of the northern forest in late fall. The large mammals are holing up somewhere in the marshes and the water birds have all migrated. Only the Gray Jays, Spruce Grouse, Boreal Chickadees and Black-backed Woodpeckers remain year round. We saw the Jays and the Grouse and on our last November trip we saw the Chickadees and heard the Woodpeckers.

Neil Miller November 16, 2019 <millerne5@yahoo.com

Maps Required
Other Maps: 
Friends of Algonquin park map
Photo Gallery

Comments

Post date: Sun, 03/15/2020 - 08:57

Comments: 

An early November canoe trip out of Access #5, Canoe Lake, with low tempertures and considerable precipitation.

Post date: Sun, 03/15/2020 - 08:55

Comments: 

An early November Canoe Trip out of Access #5, Canoe Lake with low temperatures and considerable precipitation.

Post date: Sun, 03/15/2020 - 08:30

Comments: 

A 3-day loop trip in near freezing temperatures and considerable precipitation.