Farm – Round Island – Dickson – Animoosh – Hidden – Ryan Trip Loop May 2005

My cousins and I have been partaking in an annual fishing/camping trip to Algonquin Park for the last 4 years and some of the things that have happened to us should have been written down but never were. So in one of our meetings to organize this trip I suggested that we should do a trip log. Since I suggested it, I was unanimously selected to do it. Keep in mind while you're reading this that this was the first year we actually decided to log the events of our trip and the first time I actually wrote a trip log.

So here we go….

We left Hamilton on Sunday, May 8, 2005 at 3:00 a.m. on our journey to Algonquin Park. We saw our first deer standing on the side of the road (Highway #60) at 5:55 a.m. Just up the road we saw our first moose (a male, I think) at 6:30 a.m. standing on the side of Highway #60 and then he crossed the road behind us. Oh yea, my name is Frank Massacci (a.k.a. Chesney) and I was the one chosen to write this log during our trip. The other campers are the Spidalieri brothers .. Tony (a.k.a. Laker), Frank (a.k.a. Vince) and Angelo (a.k.a. Spec). Ok lets get ready to portage!!!!!

DAY 1 (Round Island)

We arrived at Algonquin Bound Outfitters at 6:50 a.m. We did all our registrations and finally departed from Farm Lake at 8:30 a.m. and got to our first portage. It was a 90m that took 10 minutes to do. We left Kitty Lake at 9:25 a.m. and arrived at our 2nd portage. This one was a 550m and it took about 20 minutes to complete. We were now in Booth Lake which was the biggest lake we had to paddle that day. We arrived at 11:00 a.m. at our 3rd portage of the day, a 1975m that took us an hour and 20 minutes to do. This portage was tough but once we completed it, we stopped for lunch.

Picture: from left to right - Vince, Spec, Laker, & Chesney. We're all smiles as we're getting ready to start our journey.

We started Chipmunk Lake at 1:00 p.m. and in 15 minutes we started our 4th portage .. a 610m. This portage was short but the worst one so far. We started on Presto Lake at 2:00 p.m. and it was almost impossible to launch the canoe because the launch area was not cleared. We finally got going and started our 5th portage .. a 730m. Having to cross a section of swamp up to our knees made it the worst portage of the day by far. It was now 3:00 p.m. and that portage took us 45 minutes to do. We paddled Marshy Lake in about 10 minutes. We decided that this 620m portage into Mountain Lake was going to be a two tripper. Go figure that this was the easiest one of the day. However, there was a twist. As we were loading the canoes I noticed that Laker and Vince had left their paddles behind. We decided that Vince and Spec would go ahead and Laker and I went back for the forgotten paddles. Mountain Lake was a 10 minute paddle and we started our final portage of this long day .. a 680m. Again, we decided to make it a two-tripper. we were way too tired and sore to attempt it in one.

We finally got into Round Island Lake at 5:20 p.m., went to the campsite located on the rock point and docked our conoes at 5:45 p.m. At first it didn’t seem like the best site to pick but it turned out to be a pretty good campsite.

Our long day was not yet over. Laker and Vince started setting up the tent and the camp area, while Spec and I went looking for firewood and back into Round Island for water. Spec couldn’t wait to start fishing and caught the first trout of the trip .. a laker at 8:00 p.m. It was almost 8:30 p.m. and it was time for dinner. The first day was a tremendous 9 hours to complete but the steak dinner made up for a long and very, very hard day.

DAY 2 (Dickson Lake)

".. Laker had already caught the 2nd lake trout of the weekend .."

By the time I woke up, Laker had already caught the 2nd lake trout of the weekend at 8:00 a.m. The weather was sunny and hot again today. We had breakfast, packed up and left our site. We got to our only portage of the day at 11:15 a.m. This portage was dubbed the "mother-in-law" by the locals, 4895 meters of unknown proportions.

We made it to the first logging road that we needed to cross. At the logging road we meet up with four park rangers that had just finished cutting-back the rest of the portage. We asked them about Dickson Lake, which we would be considering home for the next couple of nights. They said the fishing was excellent on this particular lake and that was all we needed to hear. We started off again and made it to the second logging road. At this point we stopped for lunch. During our break, we discussed how surprisingly easy this portage was considering all the talk about it.

At 1:30 p.m. we started the 3rd leg of our portage. Here was where we found out the reasons why this portage was given the name "mother-in-law". To put it in layman’s terms IT BROKE US. The 3rd leg took three and a half hours to complete and the surprises along the way were .. crossing 3 streams, a huge mud puddle and endless hills. We finally got to Dickson Lake. We paddled to our island site near Cisco Bay and set up camp. By this time it was 5:30 p.m. and we took it easy after another grueling day.

DAY 3 (Dickson Lake)

We woke up to a hot and sunny, but a little windy, third day. Spec and Laker went fishing first thing in the morning and caught four specs. We kept two for breakfast. Two park rangers came by to do some site work. One of the rangers was a guy we met on the "mother-in-law" portage.

Spec cleaned up the site while Laker and I went to gather firewood. We had some time to kill so Laker and I went out for about an hour to get water and cast a few in the process. We didn’t catch anything though. But while out, we did noticed some baby black flies starting to come out. We got a surprise when we got back to camp. Spec finally decided to bathe himself and in the process caught his slippers on fire .. haha!

It was windy all day but still very warm out. Around 3:30 p.m., Spec and Laker went to do some late afternoon fishing. Vince was lying down, again, and I was writing in this log. Looking into the sky, we could see the dark clouds rolling in and it looked like we could get our first drop of rain of the trip? Well, I'd just finished thinking it and it started spitting. Then, it got increasingly heavier. Spec and Laker hurried back in but the late afternoon excursion was not a waste because they caught a perch and a spec.

Picture: Spec caught two more specs off the shore of Dickson Lake

The rain didn’t stop us from doing what we came out here to do .. fish!!! Two more specs were caught by no other than Spec himself. The bigger spec in the picture was a tagged fish. We caught a few fish that day. They made a pleasant addition to our evening meal. Around 8:15 p.m., Laker and Spec took the canoe out for a late night cast. Vince was getting a good fire going but it was a little challenging because everything got soaked so I thought I would give him some encouraging words .. "Looking pretty good there bud. At least it’s not smoking anymore."

Vince was trying to catch a radio station clearly and he finally did .. 96.7 FM, a country station. We were able to get a weather report. It called for a 60% chance of rain through the night and for the next couple of days. By 9:30 p.m. and we were all chilling by the fire and discussing tomorrow itinerary. A short portage and rest for two days. It was music to my ears.

DAY 4 (Animoosh Lake)

We woke up to a cloudy, drizzly and cold day, which was a little different than the last 3 days. Well, we packed up our site on Dickson and headed to Animoosh. The 1220m portage was one of the easiest of the 9 completed so far. We got to the landing on Animoosh at 10:45 a.m.. However, Spec and I had some technical difficulties. While we were loading the packs onto the canoe .. hum .. how can I put this lightly? "I fell in the #$%^&*! water." It seems that Spec wasn’t straddling the canoe all that well and I was trying to hold on for dear life like a surfer hanging 10. But, I finally couldn’t do it anymore and fell in back-first. So with the fear of hyperthermia rushing through my head, I jumped out of the water. I think this was the fastest I ever stripped my clothes off in my life.

".. an opportunity to build a tripod around the fire pit to hang up and dry clothes."

We all got to the site finally and set up camp. Well, Laker, Vince and Spec did; while I tried to dry my clothes and my pack. Did I forget to mention that my pack was the only other thing to fall into the water with me? The fall in the water actually gave us an opportunity to build a tripod around the fire pit to hang up and dry clothes.

Laker and Spec went for a walkabout to find Cat Lake which is one of the back lakes, that you have to bushwhack into. It seems that on their way back to the campsite they missed the marked tree to access the site and were walking up and down the logging road. Vince and I went up to the logging road to get them. The trip wasn’t for naught because Laker caught a beauty resident spec, which was our dessert after dinner. After dinner, we sat around the campfire all bundled up because the temperature dropped dramatically.

Picture: Laker on Cat Lake with the resident spec he caught.

DAY 5 (Animoosh Lake)

It was a pretty standard morning. Laker got up early and gathered firewood. I woke up shortly afterwards and once we were all up we had breakfast. The weather was cold and windy but the sun was shining.

Laker and Spec went to try their luck again at Cat Lake. Vince went to go take a nap (even though he just got up…lol). I cut the rest of the firewood and cleaned up the site. Laker radioed in from Cat Lake and it seemed they had no luck and were going to try to push into Alluring Lake (which is another back lake). I was trying a little shore fishing but had no luck. I thought it was just a little to cold. I did the one thing a fisherman never wants to happen while on a back backing fishing trip. I broke the tip of my fishing rod. I was able to somewhat repair it so I could still fish… thank God!

Vince and I got fed up of waiting for the other guys to come back. So we made lunch. Around 5:30 p.m. Spec radioed in to tell us that they were lost again. Vince and I thought they were just joking around. But this time they were very serious and very lost. It seems that when they left Alluring they ( to use Lakers exact words) "went up and over bud". After two hours of contact over the 2-way radios, we had finally got actual sound contact and then visual contact with the lost fishermen. We all got back to the camp site at 8:00 p.m. Spec and Laker ate their lunches and realized that it wasn’t worth going to the back lakes because they didn’t catch any fish. But it was an experience they will never forget… EVER!!

PHOTO: Laker and Spec, the lost fishermen upon their return to the campsite.

Spec and Laker both thought that they would have to stay out in the bush for the night which they are lucky they didn’t because the weather report said that the temperature was suppose to drop down to –4oC. As we were getting dinner ready and drying off Spec and Lakers clothes on the tripod, they were thanking their lucky stars to be here. Laker said it best "guys, you don’t know how good it is to be right here right now."

DAY 6 (Hidden Lake)

We all slept in this morning. But after the search and rescue we did yesterday, it was well deserved. We woke to a sunny cool day. We had breakfast and packed-up once again. We started our first portage of the day .. a 2825 meter one, at noon. Surprisingly, it was a pretty easy flat portage and we only had to handle our gear a couple of times, which saved a bunch of time. We finished the first portage at 1:30 p.m. and we stopped for a half hour for lunch. The second and last portage of the day was 1550 meters. It was also surprisingly easy and we single-carried the entire thing.

By 2:50 p.m. we were in Hidden Lake. We picked our campsite and set up. By now our set up and take down times were very fast. So that gave Spec, Laker and me time to do some trolling. We barely got our lines wet when it started raining with a little hail mixed in. We hurried back to camp and tried fishing from shore with no luck. It rained pretty much most of the time we were on Hidden Lake; but we still managed to rig up a tarp to cover us so we could sit out by the fire.

DAY 7 (Ryan Lake)

We woke up on our last full day to rain and we unanimously decided to sleep in until the rain passed. The rain subsided around 9:30 a.m. so we ate breakfast and packed up. Our first portage was a short 430 meters and we were in McKaskill Lake in about 20 minutes. While paddling through, we stopped at the Old Ranger Cabin. One of the windows wasn't secured so we went in to check it out. By this point in the trip, our instant coffee supply has diminished and to our luck there was a jar of Nescafe in the cabin. We took a few spoonful’s in a zip lock bag and continued on our portage. By the way thanks for the coffee!!!

Picture: L – R -- Specs, Vince, Chesney and Laker in front of the old ranger cabin on McKaskill Lake

The second portage of the day was a tiny 40 meters so we decided to tandem carry the canoe to make up time. We paddled the small lake call Dove Lake and we started the biggest portage of the day a 2355m. This portage was one of the hardest of the entire week. This portage was very hilly, with terrible terrain like walking along a mountainside. The next two lakes, Shrew and Big Red were separated by a 545m portage that was a cakewalk and the 230m portage into Ryan Lake from Big Red was an even easier portage.

We got to our site on Ryan Lake around 5:00 p.m. For the last time we set up camp. Spec and Laker took the canoe out and caught a perch. I was trying a few spots off shore and caught nothing.

We had dinner and chilled by the fire. We were reminiscing about this trip that had started 7 days ago. The funny thing was that at this point in the trip, 'Day 1' seemed so long ago that I was glad I wrote this log to remember the beating we all took…haha! Laker and Vince went to sleep but Spec and I didn’t want the day to come to an end because in the back of our heads we knew that tomorrow we were leaving for another year. Finally, after a few hours of relaxing by the fire, the hard day caught up with us and we went to sleep.

DAY 8 (The Exit)

We woke up to a very nice sunny day, not too cold and not too hot.. but just right. We ate breakfast and packed up for the last time. We started the first of two portages of the day .. a 515 meter one. It was quick and easy. Now we were in Shirley Lake, we paddled to out last portage a 1050m. Both of the portages were very well maintained because of the close proximity to the access point, which basically meant that they we blew through them with ease. We were then in Crotch Lake and finally paddled on into Farm Lake.

We went to the parks office and signed out and told the lady about the tag fished we caught. We asked an older gentleman to take our after picture. We took off to Algonquin Bound Outfitters to drop of the canoe gear and now we were off home. On Highway# 60 we saw a bunch of people parked on the side of the road because of two moose’s just standing there. Vince went in as far as he could to take some pictures. We got going again and headed home.

To recap this was a grueling hard trip with some high points like the good fishing, the food and of course the company. But with every high points there were some low points like the "mother-in-law", the beating on our bodies, me falling in the water and Spec and Laker getting lost in the bush, twice! You know what? After thinking about it for a moment, those low points aren’t that at all, they are the incomparable moments of the trip that we will tell our kids about. They are points of the trip that make you want to go back again year after year.

Algonquin Park .. see you next year bud!!!