ALGONQUIN 2009 – Access Point 22 – Grand Lake (Achray)

- by Chris Johnston


The plan for day one was for us all to meet at my house by 7:00am and then be on the road by 8:00am. Well it turns out only Cole and I were ready and waiting at 7:00am. And after several hours, Matt finally showed up with Ryan around 9:00am. It turned out Ryan had also been waiting at his trailer since 7am for Matt as well. Matt gave us the excuse of having issues with his alarm clock, which caused him to take some ‘all-in-good-fun’ verbal abuse for most of the seven-hour drive to Algonquin.

With the drive behind us, we arrived at Achray campground in northeast Algonquin Park. The truck was unloaded and the canoes were loaded for the trip across Grand Lake to a campsite at Carcajou Bay. Being as we were so far behind schedule, darkness would be setting in within a few hours, so we hurried across Grand Lake, but did manage to spot old native pictographs on a rock wall leading to Carcajou Bay.

We passed several campsites that were taken when we finally came to the portage between Carcajou Bay and Lower Spectacle Lake. It turned out there was a campsite just 50 meters down the portage. The campsite was fairly large and there was water nearby and lots of dry firewood so it did not take us long to get our tents setup, a fire going and get a very late dinner into us.


By the times we woke up, ate breakfast, took down the tents and packed the canoes, we were on the water at Lower Spectacle Lake by 11:30am. Lower Spectacle Lake and Upper Spectacle Lake were nothing worth exploring, so other than a few attempts at catching some fish, we paddled though these Lakes fairly quickly.

The big portage of the day would be a 1.8km portage from Upper Spectacle Lake to Little Carcajou Lake. This portage was done in the middle of the afternoon at the hottest time of the day. In the end, with several breaks to allow us to rest and eat lunch, this portage took us almost two hours to complete. This consisted of walking the portage three times to get the canoe and gear across in separate trips across the portage trail.

At Little Carcajou Lake, we took our time paddling, spent a little over an hour filling up our water bottles, ate the remainder of our lunch and even had time to try our luck at fishing. But again, we caught nothing. After the final relatively short but very rough portage, we finally made it to Wenda Lake and the cabin around 5:00pm.

When we opened the cabin door, we quickly realized that the cabin was insulated from the hot summer air and it felt as though the cabin had air conditioning, which was a welcome treat on a hot summer day. Being as it was hot all day and we were still drenched in sweat, we all threw on lifejackets and jumped into the Lake to rinse off while floating around and enjoying a few drinks.

After we ate dinner and collected some firewood for the evening ahead, we jumped into the canoes and all headed out on the lake, just before sunset, to try and catch some fish. After about an hour, this lake would also provide us with no fish. We spent the night around the campfire and got to bed after 2:00am, which was very late considering how long many portages we had done that day.


Day three would be our longest portage we had ever attempted. The portage length measured out to 3.62km, but because we were hiking our gear first, walking back to the cabin and then portaging our canoes, we actually had to walk the length of the portage three times, for a total distance of 10.86km.

The start to this portage wasn’t looking very good because after just five minutes of hiking through a bog-like mess of water and rocks, we ran into a recent blow-down with a mess of very large trees crowns that had fallen right in the middle of the portage. The only way we could get through the mess of branches was to cut our way through with hatchets.

The portage did get slightly easier due to the quality of the trail improving as we went along. But overall, I would not call this portage easy. We had a few very short breaks, but the mosquitoes were so bad that we just wanted keep moving so they didn’t bother us as badly. From Wenda Lake to Grand Lake, it took us just over three and a half hours to complete.

The plan had been to spend the night on a campsite partway down Grand Lake. But we were so wore out from the portage, all we wanted to do was go back to Achray campground, where the truck was parked, and drive into town to pick up some cold beer and warm food.

From the portage we headed out slowly down Grand Lake. The weather was overcast with a calm breeze, but this happened to be the calm before the storm. About ten minutes before we arrived at Achray campground beach, the wind picked up, waves started crashing and a few minutes later the rain started.

We just made it in to shore as the rain came down. After we got back from Pembroke the rain had stopped and we set up our gear on a ‘jump-off’ campsite, which was allowed, because we had a permit to stay on Grand Lake. The night around the campfire would be a short night for us as we had all had a long day.


Day four would start out very nice with a sunny morning which gave us a chance to dry out our gear all morning from the rain the day before. We spent the day relaxing at Grand Lake and even got to see a Float-plane take off from Grand Lake.

Now the new plan was to pick up our good friend Adam in Pembroke between 12pm and 2pm and then to drive to Number One Lake for the last night. However, we didn’t end up in Pembroke until almost 2:30pm and Adam wasn’t even home. Well it turned out he had been waiting for us since 12pm and had planned on driving into the park and trying to find us. Fortunately, he had only made it a gas station and had a feeling he should check his apartment one more time. This worked out, because just as we were about to leave his apartment without him, he drove into the apartment parking lot.

We did a bunch of driving around some of the old logging roads outside the park near Sand Lake and considered camping there, but in the end we decided to set up camp at Number One Lake. Adam continued the tradition of falling out of a canoe and into the water within the first hour of us being at the campsite which gave everyone a good laugh.

After getting the campsite set up for the rain that was in the forecast and after eating dinner, we got out on the lake and tried fishing at dusk and once again, we did not catch any fish. We all had a great night sitting around the fire as even a few downpours couldn’t dampen our spirits. Most of us stayed up well past 4am to take in as much of our last night in Algonquin as we could. We had originally planned on spending two nights at Number One Lake, but Matt’s swollen knee had been bothering him and he wanted to get it fixed at the hospital in London so he could go back to work for Thursday and Friday.


Day five started out with rain showers, which continued off and on all day long. However, we did make the best of our last day in the park. Ryan and I decided to try our luck at fishing for a few hours, but got trapped on the other side of the lake during a heavy downpour that lasted for about an hour. This delayed us from leaving the park until the late afternoon, which delayed us from getting home until almost midnight.

2009 Trip Summery

This year’s trip was a lot of fun. The cabin was nice to stay in and the canoe-portage part of the trip was a great adventure. It would have been better to make the overall trip a few days longer, but that wasn’t in the cards this year. We all agreed that the canoe-portaging part of the trip is best done in the first few days, followed by several days of rest at one campsite to give us time to relax after the canoe-portage route. In 2008 we'd stayed at one campsite during the first few days and then set out on a canoe-portage trip the last few days. This proved to be a bad way to end a trip due to how tired you ended up being for the 8 hour drive home.

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