ALGONQUIN TRIP   -   APRIL 27 to MAY 12, 1990   . .   by Ken Born

For all the Algonquin Park purists, I know the first thing that comes to your mind is that the Park didn’t open for fishing in 1990 until April 28. That is true; however, my wife and I were allowed to go in the day before fishing started this year. Hence, our trip started on Friday, April 27.

Now after a long, long winter and months of planning, the unthinkable thing happened two days before our trip was to begin. I was sick with the flu bug, but no way was I going to prevent our scheduled departure date from happening as I believed I could endure a little sickness on a 16 night/17 day canoe/camping/fishing trip in the greatest Park in the world.

DAY 1  . .  Friday, April 27

My wife and I left Ottawa shortly after 1:00 a.m. as I was unable to sleep being excited about the start of our trip. I was feeling somewhat better and thought the worst of my sickness was behind me. We drove through the wee hours of the morning to the self serve permit station on Brent Road, put our money in an envelope for 16 nights of camping and deposited it in the box, and proceeded to drive down a very bumpy and muddy road to our access point on Cedar Lake.

It was still dark outside so we decided to get some sleep as we were both very tired. Before I could mention this to my wife, she had already climbed into the back of our Blazer and was trying to get comfortable on top of the packsacks and gear. I decided to just lean my head on a lifejacket placed against the window. About an hour later, I awoke to daylight and some noise at the launching dock. I could see 2 guys dressed in army fatigues about to set out on their trip. Although we didn’t know it at the time, these 2 guys were to play a significant role on our trip…..but more on that later on.

We decided to get out of the Blazer to a very cold morning and started to get all the packsacks and gear into the canoe. We pushed off from the dock and our trip was about to begin. What a feeling! A short paddle across Cedar to our first portage of the day, 715m. I was feeling so good that I decided to take a heavy packsack as well as the canoe across. That didn’t last too long as I tired very easily, especially on the uphill climbs which were the entire length of the portage! Finally, we managed to get all the gear over this portage, did the next portage of 255m (again uphill), and found ourselves at the start of a mammoth portage of 2345m. The plan was to do double portages and this plan worked to perfection for the first 100m or so of this portage as it was relatively flat. My health was failing fast as I started to run a temperature again from the flu bug I thought I was over. I don’t recall exactly how many back and forth trips we made over this portage, but it must of have been many as we kept meeting 2 other guys (not the ones dressed in army fatigues previously mentioned), We got to know these guys on a first name basis. It turns out Don and Mike were also from Ottawa and were heading for Burntroot Lake. They were moving a lot faster than I was and we parted company saying that we would probably run into them again on Burntroot.

Our plan for this day was Catfish Lake but as my health continued to fail and the day passed, all I wanted was to get this mother of a portage behind me. This portage climbs gradually almost all the way and I was having one hell of a time carrying my share of gear plus the canoe up the hills. My wife told me to just worry about the canoe and she would carry the packsacks up the hills. So, she was doing triple portages while I was doing singles at this time. After what seemed like an eternity, I managed to get the canoe to the top of the mountain and, believe it or not, it started to get relatively flat again.

My wife had now joined me and we decided to each take a packsack to the end of this portage, hang the others in a tree, leave the canoe behind, and camp at the other end for we were both exhausted and it was getting on late. It was only about a 10 minute walk and we were at the end of the portage and started to set up camp by the Petawawa River. A quick bite to eat and we were in our tent and asleep well before darkness fell.

I awoke to almost darkness and someone calling if anyone was in camp. I climbed out of the tent to see a Park Warden who not seeing a canoe on the site, believed that we were fishing illegally as the season didn’t start until tomorrow. I told him that our canoe was still up the portage a ways. He checked our interior camping permit and that was the end of that. I crawled back in the tent and fell asleep again!

DAY 2  . .  Saturday, April 28

I awoke to a beautiful sunny, cold morning and feeling a lot better than the day before. I decided to leave my wife sleep and started back across the portage to retrieve the canoe left behind the day before. This was done quite easily. I guess sleep had something to do with it, not to mention feeling better and some trail legs beneath me that weren’t there yesterday. When I arrived back at camp, my wife was out of the tent and we both proceeded back across the portage again to retrieve the packsacks. Finally, we had all our gear and canoe in one place and it was at the end of that mother portage! To this day, I still hate it and haven’t been back across it.

We had a quick breakfast of toasted bacon sandwiches, broke camp, paddled about 30 seconds across this bay of the Petawawa River and came to another portage, 170m in length. This portage, although small in length, was again uphill even more than what we had encountered previously. What with all the uphill climbing we were doing, I expected to see flags of countries like I hear you see on Mount Everest! A nice leisurely paddle down Narrowbag Lake, a short portage of 90m (again uphill), brought us to Catfish Lake. We paddled on down this lake hoping that the island campsite at the lower end of the lake would be available. It was and we immediately claimed it. It didn’t look like much from the water and it was a tough haul to get the gear to the top where the campsite was, but once there it was flat as a pancake. I named the site Shangri la. This was to be our home for the next 2 nights as the plan was to fish Catfish and Lynx Lake. We set up camp, canoed to shore for some firewood, had a quick lunch, and were out on the lake in hopes of catching our first trout of the year for our first trout supper of the year. We fished Catfish Lake until almost dark and went back to camp and had Kraft Dinner for supper. I guess the trout weren’t as enthused as we were! We had a nice romantic campfire that night and took some time lying on the rocks by the shoreline looking up at all the stars in the sky on a clear but crisp evening. It is only after such an experience as this that makes you realize that you are so small and insignificant in a place where the galaxies stretch on to infinity! I went to sleep that night thinking of catching my first trout of the year the next day.

DAY 3  . .  Sunday, April 29

We awoke early to another sunny, but cool morning. After a quick breakfast of porridge, we were out on the lake again in search of Mr. Elusive Trout. But this time, I brought my heavy artillery by the name of trolling rod with steel line. Hey, if trout weren’t in the shallow water, perhaps they are still in deeper waters. We trolled all around our island campsite and up the lake where we came in the day before without any action on the end of my rod. We decided to troll to the northern section of the lake to where the portage to Luckless Lake is. Again, there was no fishy action on the end of my rod although I did manage to catch bottom twice. Finally, we decided to try Lynx Lake so we wound in our lines and proceeded through a narrow body of water that opened up into Lynx. We trolled the northeastern shoreline with no results, but when we turned and trolled towards the western end of the lake, the unthinkable happened. I had a bite and the constant throbbing at the end of my rod was no doubt being produced by a fish and hopefully a giant speck. After a few minutes, we had the fish in the canoe and it was a trout, but it didn’t have any specks on it. It was a laker in the 3 lb. range which was released to where it came from. Although I have eaten lake trout, I really don’t like it that much and much prefer speckled trout as a meal. Right after that, I landed another laker that could have been the previous ones twin as it was approximately the same size and weight. Again, I released it.

By now, it was getting on late in the afternoon so we decided to call it quits and paddle back to camp. We decided to do no more fishing that night as tomorrow was moving day to Burntroot and we just packed the few odds and ends lying around the site making for an easier and early departure the next morning. Had another beautiful campfire that evening and again gazed towards the heavens marveling at this picturesque scenery.

DAY 4  . .  Monday, April 30

As I crawled out of the tent this morning, I noticed that there were no shadows on the ground and hence no sun. It was still quite chilly and when I looked to the skies, it had really clouded over during the night and the presence of rain was a definite possibility today. We quickly got everything packed and placed in the canoe and were on our way up the Petawawa River again. There are 4 short portages involved before reaching Perley Lake and these were done without any great difficulty It is interesting to note that 3 of these portages have names, e.g. Catfish, Snowshoe and Cedar Rapids. I have always wondered who it was that named these rapids and why they chose these names.

Upon reaching Perley Lake, the wind had really got stronger and, of course, was directly into our faces. A long and difficult 2 hour paddle brought us to the 155m portage named Portal Rapids. As usual, I carried the canoe on the first trip and my wife carried one of the heavy packs. At the end of the portage, we ran into 4 guys from Windsor, Ontario who worked in a car assembly plant. I have since forgotten their names, but they had quite a few specks in their possession having fished the aforementioned Portal Rapids where it flowed into Perley Lake. A quick bartering meeting was held and we traded some of our sambucca (used for medicinal purposes only) for 4 small specks.

We went back for our second load and upon reaching Burntroot Lake again, the wind had quieted down substantially. Our campsite destination was the small island at this end of the lake and the 4 guys told us that it was available as they were camped on the site near Portal Rapids. We said our goodbyes and off we went. Upon reaching the campsite on the island, it was flat and spacious. We immediately began setting up camp and getting it in order as the plan was to camp here for 3 nights. Having completed setting up camp, the next order of business was to go to shore for a small supply of firewood for our nightly fire. That taken care of, next was an early speckled trout supper and out on the lake for some fishing.

We trolled with our spinning rods close to shore up and down the lake with no action whatsoever. The wind started to get strong again, so we gave up and headed back to camp. It was now around 7:00 p.m. and we were doing odds and ends around camp when lo and behold, the four guys we met that morning at Portal Rapids were landing on our site and they were definitely in a “party” mood. This was totally unexpected and I was somewhat unnerved by it. I really didn’t think anything serious was going to happen but I made sure I had my fishing knife handy just in case. As it turned out, nothing happened and we talked for an hour or so. Apparently, they were just looking for someone else to communicate with other than themselves. And I am sure alcohol or funny tobacco had something to do with it as well.

The weather was now starting to turn ugly so I convinced the 4 guys that they should be returning to their camp while they still could. We were quite concerned for their safety and we watched them through our binoculars to be sure they made it back. A short time later, the skies opened up and we were engulfed in a fierce wind and rain storm. We immediately retired to the tent for the night and this weather continued all night long.

DAY 5  . .  Tuesday, May 1

The ground was quite wet with a few small puddles when I crawled out of the tent this morning. The wind had abated and the sun was out once again. We decided to forego breakfast and just had a quick cup of coffee and out on the lake again for some fishing.

We trolled again for 2 hours or so with no action. As we were trolling back towards our island campsite, I noticed a canoe on our site and someone calling out my name. Not knowing who it was or what they wanted, we were thinking the worst from the fierce storm last night and quickly wound in our lines and paddled back to camp. It turned out to be Don and Mike who were the 2 guys we wet on the long portage to Narrowbag Lake.

And boy did they have a story to tell us.

Apparently, someone came on their site sometime during last night and during the fierce storm and stole all 4 of their fishing rods and reels. They told us that they even heard what they thought was someone walking outside their tent during the night and went out during the storm to investigate, but found nothing. It wasn’t until morning that they discovered their rods and reels were missing. I assured them that it wasn’t us and then they thought that perhaps it was the 4 young guys that they had met earlier in their trip. I convinced them that I doubt that it was them as they were on our island last night and we watched them canoe back to their site. Besides, I didn’t think they were in any condition to canoe all the way down to where Don and Mike were camped. Just the same, we all canoed up to where the 4 guys were camped and related this story to them.

Just as I thought, they were innocent and they even allowed Don and Mike to search their site for their missing rods.

Don and Mike and my wife and I then canoed side by side back to our site. They started telling us a story of 2 guys dressed in army fatigues that had asked Mike for some cigarettes the day before. Mike said no as he only had a few left and didn’t have any to spare. The suspicion then shifted to these 2 guys and it suddenly dawned on my wife and I that we had seen 2 guys in a canoe going down Burntroot towards Portal Rapids early this morning. I couldn’t say for sure that these were the 2 guys dressed in army fatigues, but I remember that the canoe was loaded so they were definitely leaving Burntroot. A quick paddle to where these 2 guys were camped, according to Don and Mike, was now empty. Thus, they determined that it must have been them that stole their rods.

We paddled back to our site and I told Don and Mike that I had an extra rod and reel that they could borrow and I would get it back from them seeing we both lived in Ottawa after our trip was over. Also, the 4 guys from Windsor lent them an extra rod that they had.

This excitement over with for the time being, Don and Mike went back to their site and my wife and I started to think about having a late breakfast. Now, another canoe was landing on our site and it was 2 of the 4 Windsor guys who were bringing my wife 4 eggs. For what reason, I’m not sure. We graciously thanked them and they were on their way and we never saw them again.

So now we had bacon and eggs for breakfast after a very interesting early morning. After breakfast, we went out fishing again and trolled all the way down to the lower end of Burntroot and back without a single bite. Eventually, we gave up and went back to camp and just lazed away the rest of the day and evening. Where have all the trout gone and why aren’t they biting? Just in case the trout might be biting tomorrow, I made sure to put our rods and reels inside our tent before going to bed. One can never be too sure, can one? And I had my trusty fishing knife handy as well!

DAY 6  . .  Wednesday, May 2

This morning when I awoke, I was pleasantly relieved to see no other canoes coming towards our site. It was windy once again and the sun was peeking in and out from the clouds. My thoughts turned to yesterday wondering what one would do if they heard footsteps outside their tent at night and went out to investigate and actually found someone there! I quickly dismissed this thought and started the Coleman stove for our morning coffee. Afterwards, my wife and I decided that it was too windy to go fishing and we decided that this was a good day to wash up, including a hair wash. To others who have done this using the water from the lake in early May around a small campfire, they share in the knowledge that it is somewhat painful to say the least.

As the afternoon faded, we thought it was a good idea to lessen our load somewhat as tomorrow morning was moving day to Whiskeyjack. So we decided to drink some of the box of the 4L of white wine that we had brought. The box was in dreadful shape; in fact, non existent but the tinfoil pouch of wine was intact. A small diameter rope attached to the spigot and placed in the lake chilled the wine quite quickly. A quick trip to the packsack for some cheese and crackers made a nice way to spend the rest of the afternoon.

By evening, the wind hadn’t died down so we cancelled fishing once again and just sat around the fire until dark. We went to bed early hoping for good fishing in Whiskeyjack tomorrow.

DAYS 7 - 9  . .  Thursday, May 3 – Saturday, May 5

I awoke at dawn and was up and out of the tent by 9:00 a.m. For some reason, I was really tired this morning and had a hard time getting up. Perhaps it had to do with this being moving day to Whiskeyjack Lake which I felt wasn’t really necessary. I felt a day trip to this lake was more than sufficient. However, my wife had heard the stories that I told of this crystal clear lake from the previous two times that I had been there. And she wanted to camp on Whiskeyjack and soak up the scenery so I relented. Realizing that we were going to carry all our gear across a long portage, I thought we might as well make the most of it and thus decided on staying there for three nights.

My wife finally joined me outside and we had a quick breakfast of coffee and porridge.

The weather this morning was chilly but sunny. All in all, we have had fantastic weather so far this trip except for one severe storm. We broke camp and were on the 1285m portage to Robinson Lake shortly after noon. This portage is pretty flat and seeing that we were now in trail shape, was done quite easily. We canoed westerly down Robinson to the 25m portage that took us into Whiskeyjack. Once on Whiskeyjack, we proceeded down the western shoreline to a point that had a beautiful, flat campsite that we claimed as home for the next three nights.

Now, for all you faithful readers, if you have been keeping track of the number of specks that we have caught, your tally would be zero! Besides the two lakers I caught way back on Day 3 on Lynx, we hadn’t caught a thing. I was really hoping that our fishing luck would change on Robinson and Whiskeyjack as these two lakes are really good for specks. Personally speaking, I was getting somewhat depressed due to the lack of trout being caught as this was the main reason for me coming deep into the interior of Algonquin. My wife’s view is totally different as she doesn’t really care if she catches any trout. She is just happy to be canoeing and camping in the interior of Algonquin.

We set up camp, retrieved a small amount of firewood, had an early supper, and out on Whiskeyjack we went for an evening of fishing. Two hours later without even a bite, we canoed back to camp. Now, my mood was getting even worse as this lake was extremely good to me the previous two times I had fished it. My wife had noticed my mood change and talked to me rather sternly. After a few minutes, I snapped out of it and started to enjoy myself around our site, watched two loons swim by, and just listened to the sound of the wind. It started to get real windy so we decided not to have a fire, and retired to the tent early. Perhaps tomorrow, my fishing luck would change. After all, it couldn’t get any worse, could it?

The next morning, we decided after breakfast to try our fishing luck on Robinson, which was only a short 25m portage away. Trolling down the lake and aided by a strong breeze,

I was shocked when something almost pulled my rod out of my hands while I was daydreaming. Of course, I thought I had bottom but then the tugging ensued and I knew I had a fish on. I also knew it was a huge speck as there are no lakers in this lake. I played this fish for over 10 minutes as the wind kept blowing our canoe down the lake. Finally, I was gaining ground as the fish was tiring when out of the corner of my eye, I saw a deadhead in the water that we had just drifted by. I now started to panic as I knew if this fish was able to wrap itself around the deadhead, my line would break. Before I even had a chance to finish that thought, I heard a “ping” and my line went totally slack. I sat there for a moment in a stunned stupor contemplating what had just happened and it was more than I could bear. I threw my rod down in the bottom of the canoe in disgust and just sat there as my wife scolded me for letting my temper get out of control. I just couldn’t believe what had just happened and I was trying to explain to my wife that it was a “guy” thing and to not get upset over it. I continued with venting my frustration for a few minutes or so, and then it was over. For some reason at this point in time, a feeling that I had never experienced before came over me and it was one of total peace and tranquility.

My mood had gone full circle and I was looking around at the gorgeous scenery and pointing out to my wife an otter that was swimming near shore. My mind was racing and trying to digest all of this and it came to the conclusion that catching fish really wasn’t all that important. What was important was the fact that I was here and sharing my life in Algonquin with my wife. I retied a spinner to my fishing line, applied a good sized worm, and started fishing again. We trolled back down Robinson with no luck and even trolled the shoreline around Whiskeyjack without any success before heading back to camp.

The next day, we decided to forego fishing (and I still can’t believe this happened) and went for a walk through the woods viewing little birds, flowers and plants, shrubbery and lichen. It was a first for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

We had a nice fire that night and stayed up quite late. We talked for hours and it was only the cold weather that was developing that made us retire to the tent. I fell asleep that night thinking of how fortunate my wife and I are to have our good health and the means to go on such a canoe/camping trip in Algonquin Park. Yes, we are totally blessed and I said a little silent prayer.

DAY 10  . .  Sunday, May 6

I awoke to warm sunshine and quite windy conditions. It was quite mild compared to previous mornings. Today was moving day, and our destination was Hogan Lake. We had a quick breakfast, broke camp, said our goodbyes to Whiskeyjack and proceeded to Robinson Lake and the portage to Burntroot. Once on Burntroot, the wind had picked up considerably and we had a long, long paddle into a headwind all the way down to Red Pine Bay. The 735m portage into LaMuir was a lot rockier and uphill more than what I thought from the last time I did it. Upon reaching LaMuir, the bay we were in was quite calm but we could see the whitecaps rolling down the lake past the point on the western shore. We paddled for what seemed like an eternity down LaMuir and eventually came to a small island at the far end that had a lot of dead trees on it. As we got closer to this island, we could see large nests in the dead trees and then all of a sudden the air was filled with herons. It was really an eerie sight!

We did the 685m portage into the Little Madawaska River that leads into Hogan and it was here that I believed we would have our choice of campsites. You must remember that back in 1990, you didn’t have to plan each night on certain lakes. We just paid for 16 nights and the Park was ours to roam around and camp. I had purposely planned on reaching Hogan on a Sunday because I thought that those camped there the previous week would be leaving. Upon coming out of the Little Madawaska into Hogan, I was shocked to see so many motorboats on the lake. We were beginning to tire and the site I wanted on the island was taken. So down Hogan we paddled and each time we came to a campsite that was marked on the map, it was taken. We were still paddling into a stiff headwind and I was concerned now that we weren’t going to get a site on Hogan. Towards the end of Hogan where it narrows before expanding again into Parks Bay, there is a sandy bar that stretches across the entire lake. We were paddling down the eastern shoreline and the map showed a campsite on the western shoreline at this point. As we got closer, we observed that it was indeed vacant, and made a mad dash to claim it.

This was to be our home for the next three nights. It took us close to 10 hours to get here from Whiskeyjack and we were quite fatigued. I had no desire to do any fishing that night with the windy conditions still on the lake. We had a spaghetti supper over a small fire and retired to the tent well before dark for a well deserved sleep.

DAYS 11 - 12  . .  Monday, May 7 – Tuesday, May 8

I awoke this morning relieved that our tent had not taken flight to some other nearby lake in the area. Mr. Wind blew all night and Hogan Lake this morning was a torrent of whitecaps. After breakfast we decided to check out the portage that was the start of a few portages that would take us back to Catfish Lake. We put the canoe in the water and hugged the shoreline to the portage which is in a small bay just to the west of our campsite. We also hoped that the lake would be calmer in this bay and thus enable us to do some fishing. We ran into some others in a boat with a fish finder and were told that although they were “tracking” a lot of fish, no one on the lake was having any success in catching them.

We reached the portage and started our investigation. It didn’t take me long to decide that we would not be heading out this way as the portage started extremely uphill and there were a lot of deadfalls across the portage that hadn’t been cleared yet this spring.

We canoed back to camp after trying some fishing in the bay but had no luck whatsoever.

We started a small fire as it was quite chilly and in the midst of a cup of coffee, we heard this sound that really startled us. It was a chilling scream and it was coming from a tree right close to us. At first, we didn’t know what this animal was but found out later that it was a martin. It was in the tree trying to catch whiskeyjacks!

This excitement over with, our conversation turned to which route we would take to return to Cedar Lake. I suggested the way we came in, but my wife wished to go further to Phillip Lake and then to Radiant and then up the Petawawa River to Cedar Lake.

I had heard good things about Phillip Lake and was definitely planning a day trip there from Hogan. I wasn’t too enthused about going out this way as there were a few lengthy portages along the way and the trip out would call for a night’s stay on Radiant Lake which I had never had any success in fishing for trout.

This conversation went on for two days and eventually my wife had convinced me to go out her way. We did some fishing on Hogan Lake the rest of our time there, but caught nothing except for a small perch I caught in the bay near the portage we had investigated.

The night before we decided to depart, I fell asleep wondering where all the trout had gone. Was it the weather that spooked them? Were we fishing too early? After all, it has been a long, long time since Day 3 that I had caught a trout. I was still having a super time but I was looking forward to a speckled trout dinner with mashed potatoes, gravy and onions.

Day 13 - 15  . .  Wednesday, May 9 – Friday, May 11

Today, I awoke to a beautiful, sunny and calm morning. And it was promising to be a great moving day to our next destination, namely, Phillip Lake. We went about our usual procedure of breaking camp. This involved my wife in the tent taking care of letting the air out of our air mattresses, packing our clothes in our packsacks, and rolling up the sleeping bags. My chore was to pack anything outside of the tent and to check our campsite to be sure we hadn’t misplaced anything in the three nights we had camped there.

Once my wife was finished with her chore, both of us would then take the tent down and pack it. This whole procedure of breaking camp usually took us about two hours, which included a breakfast while we were doing odds and ends.

Finally, our canoe was loaded and down Hogan Lake we went with a slight breeze that was at our backs. There were three portages we had to do today along the Little Madawaska River and the first one of 215m was around a dam. I decided to try fishing at this dam and, believe it or not, I caught two specks in the one-half pound range which I kept.

The next two portages of 110m and 1495m were accomplished without any great difficulty as they were relatively flat and in very good shape. We were now canoeing on the Little Madawaska for a brief stretch before it empties into Phillip Lake. Upon reaching Phillip, there was a couple camped on the first campsite to our left. We stopped for a brief moment to talk and they informed us that they were having GREAT success in the fishing department for specks. We filed this information in our memory banks and proceeded down the lake in search of a site. We decided on the one at the far end of the lake near another dam. This was an excellent site that was nestled in and around some very tall pine trees. It had a sandy beach and was very spacious. To this day, this site is my wife’s favourite of all the sites we have camped on over the years in Algonquin Park.

It was now late in the afternoon and after setting up the tent, getting our site organized, and having a succulent supper of speckled trout, mashed potatos, onions and gravy, we tried our fishing luck on the lake. The entire lake is pretty shallow except for the part of the lake where we entered from the Little Madawaska River. At this part, it is extremely deep and I would assume so from the force of the Little Madawaska River.

We weren't having any success on the lake so we decided to go up the Little Madawaska River a ways and fish in the deep holes we had noticed on our way in. My modesty prevents me from telling you how many specks my wife and I caught and released that night. You probably wouldn’t believe me anyways and just chalk it up to another fisherman’s tale. My only advice to you would be to give it a try for yourself.

This was undoubtedly the finest fishing my wife and I had ever experienced in Algonquin Park and believe me when I say that we had previously had some great days. It got to the point where we actually …..are you ready for this…..”grew tired” of all the fishing action that we were experiencing! It didn’t matter what lure we decided to put on our line for with each catch we were catching specks in the 1-2 lb range. We did keep a couple for breakfast and as the daylight was slowly fading into darkness, we headed back to camp.

Our trip was beginning to come to an end and the great fishing was just starting. We only had four nights left on our trip, three being on Phillip and our last night on Radiant.

The next day, we decided to do some fishing in some small rapids that were up a dirt road from the end of the 1075m portage that once again took us to the Little Madawaska River. Again, we had great fishing success but the specks were much smaller than the ones we were catching yesterday. We released every fish we caught as we were convinced that we could catch some specks back on Phillip for our final two suppers and, in fact, we had no difficulty in doing so.

Our final day on Phillip did not involve any fishing at all for it wasn’t a challenge any more and was getting too easy. This was a far contrast from the previous days when we couldn’t even catch a cold! This campsite and area is marked on the map as a “historical zone” but on our walks through the forest and around the area, we didn’t see anything of a historical nature to report. I am of the opinion, however, that this area was probably part of a logging drive in the early 1900’s.

Our conversation around our campfire that night dwelled on the long day ahead of us tomorrow, with portages of 1075m and a mammoth one of 3565m, and a long paddle down the Little Madawaska. We fell asleep that night with our bellies full of speckled trout and thanking the God of Fishes for the tremendous fishing activity he bestowed upon us these past three days!

DAY 16  . .  Saturday, May 12

We awoke to a fairly mild but overcast morning. I didn’t think we would be getting any rain though as the clouds were quite high in the sky. We broke camp and after completing the 1075m portage, we placed our canoe in the Little Madawaska and set out on about a 3 mile paddle that would take us to a dam where our mammoth portage of 3565m starts. This river like all rivers in Algonquin is windy, but not nearly as much as others that we had been on. It was on this stretch of the river that we encountered a curious otter that swam beside our canoe all the way to the dam. Every once in a while he would make this “snorting” sound as if to say “get the hell off my river”! It was truly a wonderful experience and we were dumbfounded that this otter would be swimming so close to our canoe. Of course, we were of no danger to it but it didn’t know that, did it????

Upon reaching the dam, a party camped there told us that instead of taking the long portage down the river, that we could walk out on a ministry road that ends at Odenback Station on Radiant Lake. We thanked them for this information and off we went down an old lumbering road in search of this ministry road. We found it after about a 20 minute walk and although the road was full of ups and downs, it was easy walking. My wife had pointed out to me some bear scat along the road and she was a little concerned as she was carrying the packsack with some speckled trout in it. I told her not to worry as I would fight to the death defending her if in fact she was attacked by a bear! Fortunately, I didn’t have to spring into action and after a 6 hour double portage, we found ourselves on Radiant Lake. We were both very tired but very content with what we had just accomplished.

We canoed by a few cottages and took the first campsite we came to. It wasn’t that great, but we were only here for one night and it would do quite nicely. We had an early supper, started our last campfire on this trip, and just sat back and counted our blessings.

It was a beautiful, clear evening to view the stars and the evening was made complete with a chorus of loon calls that were developing. We didn’t retire to our tent until almost midnight.

Day 17  . .  Sunday, May 12

I awoke this morning to another windy day and proceeded to get out of the tent and do what I always do each morning. This involves starting a campfire, boiling some water on our Coleman stove, and making my wife and me coffees. I then would deliver hers to drink while still inside the tent. Then when I would announce that I had a warm campfire going, she would come out of the tent and join me by the campfire.

We had spent our last night in the Park on this trip and although I was a little anxious to get back to civilization, I was also extremely sad to be leaving my second home. There was no joy in breaking camp this morning for our next destination was not another lake, but rather a vehicle.

A short paddle from our site took us to where the Petawawa River flows into Radiant from Cedar. We had no difficulty in canoeing up river and/or doing the three short portages of 860m, 685m and 980m respectively. However, there was one occasion when my wife carrying a heavy packsack had a heck of a time trying to cross some railroad tracks on the last portage as it was an uphill climb and not very good footing in the soft sand. I also remember another part on this portage that was quite narrow and a false step would tumble you down this cliff and do severe damage to yourself if not killing you!

Upon reaching Cedar Lake, we were quite relieved that all the portaging was behind us and all that remained was a paddle down Cedar to our waiting vehicle. But there was one slight problem! The lake was as rough as I had ever seen it and no way were we about to canoe on it! We waited and waited for close to 5 hours, but the lake refused to calm down. At around 7:00 p.m., we thought it was getting somewhat calmer so we set out. Once on the lake, of course, it got really windy again and for the first 15 minutes, all we could do was hold our own and try to keep the front of the canoe into the waves. We were not making any headway, but we weren’t going backwards either! At about the same time that I said to my wife that we should go back to shore and camp for the night, the wind mysteriously just died right down!

We had about a two hour paddle down Cedar and the last hour’s paddle was done in darkness. Finally, the end was in sight and we paddled up and beached the canoe on the sandy beach. Our vehicle was packed in short order and all that remained now was a 4 hour drive back to Ottawa. We were both somewhat tired and I drove the first two hours before taking a rest. My wife took over for an hour, and then I took over again for the final hour. It was a long but uneventful drive and we arrived safely at our home at around 2:00 a.m. on Monday, May 13, content in the thought that we had just been on a fabulous, marathon canoe/camping trip in Algonquin Park, and already looking forward again to going back to what I consider the greatest Provincial Park in the whole wide world!

And a Park that I am proud to call my second home!