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PostPosted: January 16th, 2020, 5:16 pm 
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Joined: November 6th, 2009, 9:37 am
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Location: Kingston, ON
THE SHUTTLE

I drove from Kingston. Crazy Old Coot drove from Owen Sound. We met at Pine Grove Point campground on Benoir Lake just below the Algonquin Panhandle.

Here we picked up a no charge vehicle permit to leave in one of our cars. You need a no charge permit because you get your interior camping and vehicle permit at your starting point. In our case, this was Kiosk, 325km away. We decided to park one of our vehicles at the bottom of Algonquin Park at the High Falls Trail parking lot. The other alternative is to leave it at Pine Grove Point. You would have to pay a daily parking fee but your car would be more secure.

From there, we drove counter clockwise around the park. Passing east through Maynooth, Combermere, and Petawawa where we picked up HWY 17 and continued around the park. The drive over the top of Algonquin along the Ottawa river is beautiful.

We ended our day at the Valois Motel in Mattawa. The dining room has a great view of the Ottawa River. My Club sandwich and beer really hit the spot. We wandered around town and had a couple more beers while sitting beside the river watching the sun go down. The hotel room was passable at best. But at least it allowed us to get a quick fresh start in the morning.

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DAY 1 - KIOSK TO LITTLE OSLER

I woke up at 5:00am after a crappy sleep and felt awful. I had a sore throat, stuffed up head and a bad feeling this wasn't just a morning thing. We did at pit stop at Tim Hortons for breakfast and I picked up some Halls to help sooth my throat.

It was a 40 minute drive from the Valois hotel to the Kiosk Access Point. We launched from the beach at 8:30. The morning was beautiful and calm. Other than a sore throat I was starting to feel OK. It wasn't until we were nearly at our first portage going up Maple Creek that I realized I didn't have a water bottle. Shit I must have left it in my car or on the beach at the access point. Rather than paddle 2km back to the car I decided we could just share Scott's bottle for the trip. Why wouldn't you share a water bottle with a sick guy as you set off on a punishing trip across Algonquin Park. The trip we planned was 175 km and included 43km in portages in 7 days. I am sure Scott was in complete agreement about sharing a water bottle.

The trip up Maple Creek to Maple lake was pretty, a few blow downs on the trails and lots of mud. The 805 metre portage has a good steep bit but the other portages are all OK. Maple is a nice lake and Erables is even nicer. We stopped for a late lunch and a snooze at the south end of Erables. The portages started to get a bit more real once we left Maple Creek. From then on it's all hills for the next two days. I've never heard or read any mention of the portage between Skuce and Little Nadine but it had me sucking wind and I wasn't carrying the boat. You never hear about that portage because the very next one is god awful. It starts after a measly 5 minute paddle across a pond and it is one of the steepest and most challenging portages in Algonquin. It was the only port on the trip that we didn't single carry.

By the time we drifted into camp on the north shore of Little Osler Lake it was 6pm and I was feeling like a wreck. It was a very physically challenging day and it was clear that I was sick. Feverish, raw throat and head that wanted to explode. But at least we were at camp. Our site was very rough and dark but in a beautiful way. It felt remote and wild and we hadn't seen anyone all day. Despite feeling under the weather the song of a Hermit Thrush, the crackling fire and a few belts of Whisky made for a beautiful evening.

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DAY 2 - LITTLE OSLER TO ROBINSON

I did not sleep well. Woke up at 5:30 sick as a dog. Got out of bed so that my hacking wouldn't wake Scott up. Popped some drugs for my head and my back and sucked on a Halls. As the sun came up Scott showed no sign of waking so I decided to paddle around the lake. Caught 2 nice Brook Trout and kept one for breakfast.

We were going the right way for the portage between Little Osler and Osler. After a short uphill climb it is all down hill towards Osler. Osler is a beautiful lake that I would like to return to for a few days. The portage between Osler and Nadine pretty much killed me. I puked half way through it. Scott really picked up the slack and carried the boat for most of the day. If he didn't we would have had to come up with a Plan B. Turn round, or maybe put in a rest day and end the trip at Lake Opeongo. Even with Scott doing most of the heavy lifting it was still a brutal day with 7+km of hilly portaging. Pretty sure he was feeling bushed too.

We camped for the night on an Island on Robinson Lake. I had no appetite for dinner. But it was shaping up to be a beautiful evening. We sat out on the rocks and had a few cocktails before the sun went down. Scott found some 5 year old Sudafed in his 1st Aid kit. That combined with some Robaxacet and the whisky had me in a fine and somewhat delirious state.

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DAY 3 - ROBINSON TO HAPPY ISLE

Woke up to a cold rain and north wind. Miserable outside like I felt inside. Actually that's not true I was feeling better but sounded worse. I had a hoarse voice and barking cough but no fever, nausea or headache.

Not wanting to face the wretched looking morning we decided to have breakfast in bed. Coffee and morning rounds with peanut butter. They say never to store food or eat food inside your tent in bear country. Luckily it wasn't my tent, it was Scott's, so I felt I should be fine. I'm not sure Scott was in complete agreement.

6 portages and 33km to go today, Yippee! Scott singled the first Kilometre of the portage out of Robinson. Swapped over to me for the last 300 metres. I was back! I was feeling better and started pulling my weight on the portages. We would split up the canoe carry trading the boat off every 750 metres or so. The portages were all much easier than those along the route from Erables to Robinson.

Our first portage of the day ended with a beautiful expansive view of Burntroot Lake. Yay no more hills! Water, water everywhere! Unfortunately, there was wind to accompany the wide open spaces. This made for some pretty scary moments over the next 8 hours or so as we paddled and portaged through Burntroot, Red Pine Bay, Longer, Big Trout, Merchant and Happy Isle lakes. The wind was frequently quartering from behind. We tried to paddle in the wind shadow of shorelines where we could and island hop across the lakes for protection. In the open fetches we found ourselves surfing waves with the canoe occasionally trying to turn into the wind and broach in the troughs between wave crests. This would coincide with me shouting no No NO! followed by a long stream of expletives. For the most part Scott just hunkered down and paddled. Not much bothers Scott.

We saw one moose on Burntroot, two more on Longer Lake and a fourth on Big Trout. Also a Bald Eagle on Big Trout. We set up camp on a point on the north shore of Happy Isle. Had an awesome fire and witnessed a beautiful sunset light up the sky in crimson red.

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Day 4 - Happy Isle to Sproule

I had a really good deep sleep. I can only imagine what my snoring was like. We had a quick breakfast (not inside the tent this time!) and got on the water by 8:30. It was a beautiful calm start to the day. Our first portage was 2km into Lake Opeongo. This is one of the easiest long ports in the park and didn't take us much time. We also crossed paths with the first person we had seen all trip. A lone young man wandering along the portage, carrying nothing. I said a quick hello, which he acknowledged in another language. A very out of place looking dude.

Opeongo was a struggle. Scott sterned for the long paddle to the south end of the lake. The wind again picked up from the north west. We found our selves hugging shorelines in bays and seeking refuge behind islands before turning down wind to surf big waves on long fetches. Scott thought it was a hoot, like riding a roller coaster. I did not like it at all and continued my cursing! By the time we reached Windy Point the sky had turned grey and a steady rain set in for the next 24 hours.
We crossed the long rough 3.3km portage between Opeongo and Sproule in the rain. That portage does not get a lot of traffic. There were countless blowdowns to navigate and the trail gets confused in a few spots. I got a boost of energy and carried the canoe for most of that portage. It felt good to be pulling my weight again.

We arrived on Sproule to see the only good site on the lake was occupied by a couple of fisherman. Booo what the heck were they doing on a Splake Lake when it is prime time for Brookies and Lakers. Grumble grumble, Stupid, easy access, curse, wine, blah blah.. I was disappointed. Even though it was pretty early in the afternoon, we had had enough of the rain and we were booked on this lake so we decided to stay. We took a shitty site on the south shore. This might just be the worst campsite I have ever stayed on. A miserable, uneven, wet, mosquito infested hollow in the woods. We sat around all afternoon sore, bored and wishing we had carried on to the next lake.

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Day 5 - Sproule to Clydegale

Woke up with everything soaked at the worst site in Canada. Today's breakfast was Coffee with Date and Chia morning rounds lightly fried in Olive Oil and smothered in Nutella, finished off with a Carnation Instant Breakfast. Sorta junk food but completely awesome!

The route from Opeongo through to Kearney is tough. We took care of the long climb from Opeongo to Sproule yesterday. The remaining 4 portages are much shorter but they are very rough. The route doesn't see much traffic or maintenance. The last trail between Pond Lake and Kearney Lake is terrible with thigh deep muck, dozens of downed trees and missing boardwalks .

After successfully crossing HWY 60 without getting hit by a logging truck or campervan we arrived at the put-in to Whitefish Lake just before lunch. We had an inReach device tracking our progress on this trip. Friends and family can see where we are and come to our rescue if needed. One of those friends was Rick from Huntsville. He saw where we were this morning and decided to go for a morning paddle on Whitefish Lake and meet up with us. We stopped for a while and had lunch with Rick. It was great to catch up and nice to know that Rick would help us out if we ran into trouble.

During the remainder of the afternoon we paddle 22km through Whitefish, Rock, Pen and Clydgale Lakes. I caught some Bass at the foot of rapids along the way. We didn't see any other paddlers but we did see another moose across the bay from an awesome campsite on Clydegale.

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Day 6 - Clydegale to Little Hay

The day dawned beautifully calm with not a cloud in the sky. Today was a short day. We only faced 19km and 3 portages. Unfortunately one of those portage was nearly 7k (not a typo). It was also the start of the really bad bugs.

The route south from here is rarely travelled. It starts where the South Madawaska enters Clydegale Lake. There are only 2 possible wrong turns you can make on the South Madawaska. We took them both. If you find yourself on this river and it comes to an impossibly narrow trickle in an impossibly buggy wet land, don't worry you do not have to find/force a way through. You took a wrong turn. Go back and find the right way.

After we found the right way, the South Madawaska is a beautiful paddle. We paddled part way up the rapids at the 1055m portage because we missed the sign (was there even a sign?). The portage is full of blowdown but is flat and pretty easy to follow. We lined our way up the next short 180m portage. The 1440m portage between the South Madawaska and Cauliflower Creek is along a very old road. Easy peasy (except for the blow downs) and it's missing a sign. Sort of a trend for portages in the panhandle.

The 1440m portage ends at a modern logging road adjacent to Cauliflower Creek. Cauliflower Creek looks like paddling hell. An impossible number of switchbacks and beaver dam lift overs. We elected to portage along the logging road instead. We called it the Hay Creek Death March. All told 6.9km to a spot where the logging road crosses Hay Creek.

Hay Creek is where the trip went from Buggy to Bugpocalypse. I've never seen so many flies. You would easily kill a dozen each time you clapped your hands. I was so glad we had a bug tent. We camped for the night on a decent site on Little Hay Lake. I had a total melt down while trying to untangle our bear hang rope. It took me 15 minutes to undo a maddening tangle of knots. All the while my hands were becoming pin cushions for a swarm of hungry mosquitos. I'm glad there is no recording of this moment because I completely lost my shit. Yelling and cursing at a rope. Scott kept his distance.

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Day 7 - Little Hay Lake to High Falls

Over night the bugs infiltrated our sanctuary! I woke up looking like I had been in a fight. Or maybe Scott punched me in the face while I slept. Payback for choosing this route perhaps? Factoid of the day. Scott brought 6 pairs of pants and 4 bottles of Coke on this trip! Did I forget to mention there was 43km in portages?

Today we were going down through the headwaters of the York river. There were lots of unmaintained portages in our path. The first portage out of Little Hay starts by climbing a short hill beside a creek. 150 metres later we lost the trail. After a scrambling around in a mucky stream bed for a while we rejoined the trail. We lost it a few more times before finishing the 1.2km portage. It was a rough trail but not as bad as the next one. That one might as well not exist. For the most part we just crashed through tangled bush for 3/4 of a kilometre.

Disappearing trails on portages were not the only problem. The York River also disappears a couple of times. It just ends at a beaver dam and wall of alder. When this happened we saw no signs of portages around the alder so we just forced our way through until the narrow trickles of water opened up into a river again.

South of Little Branch Lake the portages get much better. They are long but for the most part they follow old logging roads. Very enjoyable walks through open hard wood forest. We saw three moose today. Two on portages and one just before High Falls. Once we got to Branch Lake we were back on a maintained canoe route. We ran or lined most of the rapids along the river. Only portaging once before getting to High Falls.

The campsite on the portage around High Falls is the southern most campsite in Algonquin Park. It was about a half our paddle from here to Scott's truck. Knowing we would have a huge drive tomorrow we stopped and camped for one last night in the park. The campsite and the bugs were awful but the evening and the falls were beautiful.

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The End

After an uneventful 40 minute paddle to Scott's truck we were done our north to south trip across Algonquin park. 175km, including 43km along 48 portages. As anyone will tell you it's the challenges in life that stay with you. The memories will stay with me for a long time and serve as fuel for the next trip where ever it may take me.

Route Map - https://caltopo.com/m/3K9M
Video - https://youtu.be/pBU2_cqoxzQ


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PostPosted: January 16th, 2020, 9:57 pm 
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Joined: April 21st, 2004, 10:52 am
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Location: Near Ottawa ON
A good read. Thanks.


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PostPosted: January 17th, 2020, 7:01 am 
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Awesome trip and thanks for the report!


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PostPosted: January 17th, 2020, 8:40 am 
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Thanks for sharing!


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PostPosted: January 23rd, 2020, 4:54 pm 
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Location: Kingston, ON
Thanks you!


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PostPosted: January 23rd, 2020, 8:25 pm 
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175km, including 43km along 48 portages!

Yikes!

You had me looking at a bunch of Jeff's maps to check out the route. Congrats on taking on the challenge! Some serious character-building going on here!

It'll make the trips the rest of us are planning for this summer seem that much less daunting!

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PostPosted: January 24th, 2020, 11:23 am 
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I'm very impressed with the length and difficulty of many of the portages. Well done and thanks for posting.


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PostPosted: January 24th, 2020, 5:00 pm 
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Thanks! The trip was 'top-to-bottom' all the ports were easy since they were down hill!! :lol: :lol: :lol:


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PostPosted: January 25th, 2020, 2:16 pm 
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Interesting report of a challenging trip, thank you. Some long days! You might have felt differently, but it's nice to see some deadfall on usually manicured AP portages. When did it happen? I found no time references, but for 5 year old sudafed. Looks late mayish, except for skeeters: I crossed you itinerary between Big Trout and Red Pine bay around last weekend in last May and have seen none.


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PostPosted: January 25th, 2020, 3:34 pm 
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@EddyTurn Thanks! We started on June 1. I think the bugs were a little late this year. They didn't get bad until we were down in the pan handle. It was nice to travel in the lesser used routes in the park.


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PostPosted: January 25th, 2020, 7:40 pm 
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A good read in the middle of hard water season! What was the date for the trip again?


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PostPosted: January 28th, 2020, 1:09 pm 
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open_side_up wrote:
A good read in the middle of hard water season! What was the date for the trip again?


Thanks! We started June 1.


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