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PostPosted: September 30th, 2016, 12:47 am 
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Massasauga Provincial Park and the Fall Equinox:
How We Learned to Love a Headwind

A friend and I do a yearly trip somewhere in the province for a couple of nights however this would be his first tripping overnight in a canoe. We had decided on the Massasauga based on some information from trusted friends and coworkers who suggested it as a great place to take someone for the first time. I must admit they were spot on; clean lakes, excellent portages, and great water with matching scenery. We went over the fall equinox unintentionally however we had hoped to be greeted with autumn colours, alas it was our only major disappointment.

Day One:

We left my house at 8 A.M. Wednesday morning to head north across Hwy 12 to catch the 400 and Oastler Park. The sun cresting over the horizon as we took to the road and some fresh coffee in our hands we were excited to get to the water. A quick two hour drive and we were at the Oastler Park Office, a quick engagement and we were off.

The sun was growing in the sky, water with a light wave, and a steady 10kmh headwind we put in at Three Legged Lake. I just bought a new Swift Keewaydin 17 and was excited to see how it was on a trip, as expected it tracked well with the winds and I had little issue with keeping it in line. Adjustment strokes seemed overly effective and I was just as happy as could be with it. Three Legged Lake was pretty, a nice place for a cottage I thought. The portage was empty however shoes, flip-flops, and a bundle of tarps greeted us along the way. Really sad that all this gear was left behind but I didn’t have the room to bring it along and I was hoping the owners would return for them. The portage to Spider Lake was excellent; a wide trail with a bridge makes some of the portages in Algonquin look like bushwhacking! We decided being young and ignorant that we’d make one trip every portage, I with the 115L Drybag and canoe, and my friend with the food barrel and his pack. We put into Spider Lake and off to a 90m portage into Frog Pond.

What is there to say about Spider Lake? It’s a gorgeous lake with some excellent campsites, beautiful scenery, and enough variation in the lake to keep me looking at the map. Again 90% of this lake we were paddling into a headwind, nothing crazy but just enough to let you know. We cruised through without issue and I had a fishing line out the back hoping for a late season lake trout or bass would latch on! Sure enough just as we made the final turn to the Frog Lake portage a 3lb small mouth, while at the portage I filleted the bass, and put it in with the steaks I had thawing! Again the portage up into Frog Pond was a dream compared to some of the disastrous trails I’ve seen. That said Frog Pond really lives up to its title. As soon as we got to the top of the portage the frogs were flying all over the place and you could smell the mud. Water levels were low and boy were we glad we brought the rubber boots with us! Through Frog Pond and the muddy entrance to Clear Lake we were on our way to our site, #34. We really enjoyed Clear Lake.

Clear Lake was awesome, the islands and the few shallow rocky shoals made for a nice change in scenery and a quick paddle to our site we began to set up. Someone left a half bag of charcoal and a handful of bungee cords. We had our shelter set up, and quickly got the fire going with the charcoal left behind. Let me tell you what a huge difference it made in cooking having that charcoal, I’ll be bringing some along on our shorter trips next year. The fire remained red hot and the steak, bass, and potatoes were spectacular. We brought a couple of tetra packs of wine too; we really roughed it that night. A few good laughs and we were off to bed.

Day Two:

Day two we woke up to cooler weather, clouds covering the sky, and the sun trying to break through. We meandered through the morning tasks of pumping water, getting the oatmeal ready, and just packing up for the next leg. The amount of geese flying overhead made me envious of fellow hunters who lived in the area. I’d love for flocks of that size to fly where I am. Cleaning the site, breakfast in our stomachs and a few liters of fresh water and we were off to site 111. We paddled to the northwestern portage on Clear Lake into Georgian Bay. The winds were up and the weather channels warned of wind and rain with waves ½m to 1m. This made me nervous as I hadn’t really been out in these waves with the new canoe and I had an inexperienced paddler up front. That’s not a slight against him, he paddled hard and nonstop the entire trip making wave management that much easier.

Into Georgian Bay we had zero issues, the waves were there but the power boats were a larger hazard to us than Mother Nature. We worked out way to the portage into the Goose Neck Bay, really lovely little area with a small swift which was fun to slide through. It started to drizzle during this portion of the trip however we were wearing quick dry shirts and working so we remained dry. Up into Goose Neck Bay we began to feel the fatigue from the weight of the gear, being damp, and paddling into the wind.

As we settled into Goose Neck Bay I tossed another line into the water to be greeted with a 30” pike. I’m not a fan of the fish and he was released. We literally watched fish jumping as we paddled through the water; really cool. We turned from the bay to head to site 111 in hopes of setting up shelter before the weather took a turn for the worst. When the site description says one tent pad I really think they were being generous.

Site 111 would be awesome on a beautiful august night with a light wind and clear skies, we however were not so lucky. The ground was wet, winds picking up, and we wanted a dry placed to hang out. Thank heavens I brought three tarps. We set up two as a lean to on the west and south side of the tent and strung a large one overtop the tent to mitigate the rainfall on the tent. My tent has a rather large design flaw, the fly is less than a centimeter from the inside shelter and wind and rain makes for a wet night. With that said the company is rectifying the issue so I won’t go any further. We set up, struggled for an hour to get wet wood on fire, and I managed to get the chili hot. Boy hot chili on a cold damp day really brought our spirits back! I won’t hesitant to bring it again though I think a dehydrated option might fare better in the future. We went for a swim in the gorgeous water, rain be damned that was such a nice swim. We checked out a blast site across the bay and the skies opened up so we returned to the shelter finally to wet to dry off. That night we tied the canoe to the trees, retired early, and hoped for a dry night.

Day Three:

We woke up to a dry shelter however to say we slept terribly would be generous at best. Winds, mice, and rain kept us up all night. Tired, cold, and cranky we prepped for the day with some warm oatmeal and coconut for breakfast. Again a hot meal goes a long way. Renewed spirits, dry clothing, and a toque lead to us taking off earlier than expected. We headed back to Spider Lake and were met with a 20km/h headwind with 1/2m waves coming up. This seems to have been the theme of the trip. No matter our direction we watched groups go by with tailwinds while we paddled almost entirely into a headwind.

We left early, headed to the portage into Spider Lake due east of us and quickly put into Spider Lake. The initial landing of the portage was pretty swampy with a bit of poison ivy off to the sides so be aware if you’re stomping through the area. Into Spider Lake we paddled and paddled watching herons, ducks, and song birds fly with ease. I could tell my partner up front was getting tired but he pushed through. We made it to the portage into three legged lake, and found the usual gear left behind. No one had returned to pick up the tarps or flip-flops. As we were getting set to leave to the finish point we noticed another bag with lifejackets and a tripod poking out. Being a bit of a camera gear fanatic I instantly knew this was not a cheap tripod and somebody would be sorely disappointed when they realized it was gone. We took the bag in case we ran into the person or group and if not we would return it to the Oastler Lake office for lost and found. Paddling out we passed a whole bunch of groups heading into the park for the weekend, we wished them well and paddled to the exit. A group of men had blocked off all the parking at the bottom of the launch with a trailer and were getting their gear at a leisurely pace so we decided that at this point we may as well do a last portage up the hill to the parking and unpack in the parking lot. We were just getting the canoe on the truck when a gentlemen came up asking if we had found a bag with the gear in it! Sure enough we returned the gear back to the owner, slapped the canoe onto the truck, drove to town for a hot coffee and then returned to home.

I’ll be returning to the park next year however I don’t think I will be taking site 111 again unless I know the weather will be clear, without moon, and spectacular. Clear Lake was a treat and I anticipate that will be where we head again.


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PostPosted: September 30th, 2016, 10:48 am 
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Joined: June 5th, 2003, 2:50 pm
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Location: Halfmoon Bay BC
Nice job Cullt!..Hey we are all amateurs here!..

and great that you were able to return lost property, which doesnt happen too often.
Great story and engaging writing.


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PostPosted: October 16th, 2016, 1:29 pm 
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Joined: August 19th, 2011, 8:28 am
Posts: 435
Nice report, and yeah stories like that are always nice. One time in Algonquin a group overtook mine and gave us a shoe one of us had left on a portage. Later the same day we passed them at their lunch stop and gave them a machete they had left on another portage. I've also had a lost camera returned on trail. But yeah, I wouldn't expect fall colours in the Mass that early, more like early to mid October. Last year (though it was a late fall) I was there the first weekend of October and got just the first blush of the silver maples, with the sugar maples still green.

Cullt wrote:
We decided being young and ignorant that we’d make one trip every portage, I with the 115L Drybag and canoe, and my friend with the food barrel and his pack.


I'm not sure I understand this comment... the single-trip portage is preferred by most experienced trippers, and saves a lot of time.


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PostPosted: October 17th, 2016, 8:56 pm 
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Location: Woodstock, Ontario Canada
Well Dan when these experienced turned 55+, two trips on a portage became the norm espicallly on week long or more trips.
Cult nice report and Clear lake is my favorite lake in the park.

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Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise. Prov. 19:20


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PostPosted: October 20th, 2016, 8:28 pm 
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Joined: May 9th, 2013, 6:28 pm
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Quote:
I'm not sure I understand this comment... the single-trip portage is preferred by most experienced trippers, and saves a lot of time.


That is not my experience. Of all the people I've tripped with, single-trippers are a minority, regardless of age or experience level.


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PostPosted: October 20th, 2016, 8:52 pm 
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Hmm... well I suppose it would depend on trip length and type too, like if you're spending a week or two running a river in ABS canoes with barrels of food and few or short portages around the odd unrunnable set, probably not going to be single-carrying... but for a trip like the OP's (which many of my trips are comparable to) I'd encourage anyone to try for single carries if they're physically up for it. Sure, some might make other tradeoffs deliberately, like cast iron cooking gear if that's what you're into, but other than that I'm for shooting for the single carry.

Anyway, maybe I shouldn't have said "most" but my point is, I don't see what single carrying has to do with "being young and ignorant".


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PostPosted: October 21st, 2016, 8:18 pm 
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Dan M wrote:
Anyway, maybe I shouldn't have said "most" but my point is, I don't see what single carrying has to do with "being young and ignorant".

I agree. It's more a matter of personal preference than an indication of a paddler's experience level.


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