This yearís trip was from May 3rd to 7th. The weather this year was PERFECT! Daytime temps were in the high teens and nighttime temps were hovering just above zero. The sky was wall-to-wall blue every day and the moon was full on May 3rd. And best of all, there were no BUGS. NONE! The only slight disappointment were the strong winds but we were fortunate enough not to have to contend with them too much. More on that later.
Our trip began Thursday, May 3rd in Ottawa (Constance Bay) and we were in the water at Cedar Lake at 1 pm. I was driving and I had a major brain cramp on the drive up. I donít know why but I drove to Kiosk, bypassing the turn to Brent. That wasted over an hour. Age is showing I guess. My buddy doesnít do the planning for the trips so he wasnít paying attention either. He did say "I just saw a sign saying Brent Road" and I replied "that is not the right one". How stupid was that of me!!! But we made it to Brent and got on our way.
The 5 day trip-plan was from Cedar to Laurel, to Mouse, to Skuce and then to the area of the Nipissing called Plumb Creek Junction (the area between the two dams on the Nip) and out through Cedar Lake.
The only kicker to the perfect weekend weather was the consistent strong winds. These were daytime winds caused by the sun. There were no winds from sun-down to sun-up. The nighttime conditions were perfect, except we could have used better sleeping bags and a 3-season tent.
We had very strong cross-winds as we crossed the bottom of Erables Lake. Itís a blessing that we didnít have to go north-west on Erables. We couldnít have done it in those choppy waters. It was bad enough crossing the bottom of the lake to get to Skuce Lake.
We used most of my gear for the camping. My tent is a Coleman, single-season and not totally suitable for the cool temps of spring camping. My sleeping bag is good for +5C. Same for my buddyís sleeping bag. So we were cold at night. We did manage to improve things by tying my two tarps directly to the outside of the tent. See the photo below. One tarp is red the other is green. It clipped to the 4 corners of the tent pegs and "D" clips held the two tarps together at the front and back. There was quite a noticeable difference in temperature between the inside and outside of the tent. It must have been +5C warmer in the tent with this setup. The tarps are $80 each from MEC and are 4í x 4í. They fit into their own stuff bag.
Tent with two tarps for extra warmth
One more thing about gear. On our trips, I carry most of the gear and my buddy carries the food with his personal gear. We start the trip at about 60 pounds each but he looses 20 pounds along the way as we consume the food. A good piece of that weight is the ice the steaks are in. The ice is good for the drinks also.
Oddly enough, the run from Brent to Laurel Lake did not seem nearly as long as the run from Laurel Lake and through the Cauchon Lakes. For some reason that section seemed to take forever. Maybe it was the winds that made it seem so long and the work so hard. But we made it to Mouse Lake in good time to set up camp.
Leaving Mouse Lake we had trouble at the pull-out due to strong winds. Our cedar strip canoe was being slapped on to the rocks so hard that we had no control and I was afraid the boat would split. It didnít and we made it to shore. But it was scary for a while.
Other than that incident, the stripper performed perfectly. It goes straight as an arrow and we managed 4 Ė 5 kph (GPS measurement) with steady paddling.
We found the portaging in this loop to be fairly good but there were numerous trees and debris on the trails. There were many portages that had major blockages. It wasnít until we got to the area of the Nipissing River that blockages became minimal. At the portage below Erables (P660) I counted fifty-three downed trees. Five of these were major blockages of one large tree or a group of trees. Approximately ten other blockages were of single smaller trees or groups of small trees that were difficult to step over and the rest were small trees that were easy to step over. Also, at the end of Erables it looked like a microburst had hit the ground in a couple of areas because there were large areas where all the trees were blown down. The strong winds we had earlier this year must have done some real damage in the park.
I'm glad we took the P1410 down from Nadine Lake. The upward direction would have been brutal. Although the portage is smooth and in good shape, it is totally uphill. It is gentle but still uphill.
The P1765 between Nadine and Osler is a hardwood forest and fallen leaves obscured the trail. It was hard to follow. My buddy suggested we follow the area where there was no small brush growing. It doesnít have a chance to grow so we figured it had to be the trail. This was not easy to do with the summer leaves not out. However, it worked once we figured it out. We picked up the trail enough to get through. There were other portages in that general area that were similar and once one gets the knack of following the "no brush" signs, one can keep to the trail.
Being the 1st campers in the spring is a blessing in terms of firewood. There was plenty of small debris and smaller dry wood from winter damage to make a very nice fire. Our steak was cooked over an open fire and it was fantastic.
After the next campers on the island on Laurel Lake, which I called Tear Drop Island (it reminded me of a teardrop), there will be next to no firewood available. I felt a little guilty but not much I could do.
As for the land locked campsites, folks will have to travel further inland to get firewood. I imagine it is the same every year.
For the first night we had Subway sandwiches with us. We'd stopped on the road for a kick-ass brunch then pick up subs. Worked for us.
The second night, we had the best steak money can buy. They were already seasoned and frozen at home and were now thawed and ready to cook. The remaining ice was available for drinks.
The dinners for days 3 & 4 were pre-packaged food from MEC. We had beef stroganoff. It was very good. The turkey with mashed potatoes was a hassle.
Day 5 was dinner on the road. I strongly recommend Long Shotís Sports Cafe in Deep River. Try their fahitas and apple pie with caramel & ice cream. FANTASTC!
Throughout the trip, breakfast was Breakfast Bars and lunch was Power Bars. We donít stop to cook during the day while traveling.
Our drink was Rum and Vodka with Nestea Crystals with water.We use the water purification drops to treat our water.
Each year in Algonquin Park we have a remarkable encounter with wild life. After seeing a bear on two occasions, deer and moose with their young and meeting a large bull moose in the middle of the river on another occasion, we couldnít think of anything but more of the same for this year. I was wrong. Although this may be a non-remarkable event to some folks, we called out to a Barred Owl and it called back to us .. Hoot hoot hoot; Hoot hoot HooRooooo. ... Barred Owl reference website
It was my 1st ever vocal encounter with wild life and I am amazed. I hope to do the same with wolves some time.
We paddled directly over a huge snapping turtle. Fantastic! His shell was about 18 inches across. His tail was about a foot or more long. What a beautiful animal!
We witnessed a Common Merganser playing. His game was to fly to the top of the rapids at the P915 on the Nipissing then float down shooting the rapids. What an incredible ride. Animals really do play. Now donít go and spoil my imagination by saying he was hunting for food this way. To me he was playing and having a tonne of fun.
We saw one large Bull Moose on the Nipissing and he was skittish. He took off like a bat out of hell. We didnít have a chance to take a photo.
The rest of the trip was free of large animal sightings. We think that the large animals felt safer in the bush and were not being driven out by the bugs.
The trip down the Nip from the P1410 (from Nadine to the Nip) took longer than we thought it would, so we stopped at the campsite just east of the P365. We stayed at this site a few years back. It is a very nice site. The next day we had to get out through Cedar Lake and we were worried that the winds would cause a major problem. As it turned out the winds were there. However, the water was just below white cap height, so we made the crossing. At one point our ground speed was 9 kph (GPS again). We were moving quite well.
We got home safe and sound. A little sore since each day was very full of canoeing and portaging. Our fingers are torn from snapping dry sticks for our fires. A pair of work gloves would have come in handy. Funny thing is we found a pair of brand new work gloves at Laurel L. but we left them there.
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