Kioshkokwi - Mink - Mouse - Erables - Maple Lakes Loop - May 2006

by Frank Massacci

Over the past few years the Spidalieri brothers and I have done an annual Algonquin fishing trip. But, this year Frank Spidalieri couldn’t make it due to work commitments. Two weeks prior to our trip, he told the rest of us the bad news. But, not to fear, we acquired our fourth fisherman Murray Caro, with Tony Spidalieri (a.k.a. Laker), Angelo Spidalieri (a.k.a Spec) and me Frank Massacci (a.k.a. Chesney). We still haven’t thought of a nickname for Murray, but it will happen.

Last year I got nominated to write the trip-log and I also got the honours to drive. So, we left Hamilton on Sunday May 7, 2006 at 1:40 a.m., with one pit stop at my house in Brampton because I forgot my flask. At 2:30 a.m. we were finally on our way.

Laker and I have been planning this trip for just shy of a year and we decided to enter at Kioshkokwi Lake (Kiosk) with a 1 night stay on Mink Lake, 3 nights on Mouse Lake, 2 nights on Erables Lake and 1 night on Maple Lake. We arrived at Algonquin North Outfitters at 6:10 a.m. We squared away all the canoe rentals and after shooting the breeze for an hour with Nelson and picking his brain for some good fishing spots, we were on our way to the park office.

Day 1 (Mink Lake)

With permits in hand and after our "before launch" group photo, at 8:15 a.m. we were into Kiosk Lake. The weather was cloudy and cold. And it stayed like that the whole day.

Photo, from left to right: Spec, Murray, Laker, & Chesney ...

We arrived at our first portage of the day at 9:00 a.m. .. a 730m, which was an uphill climb at first and then it levelled off. We single-carried it and within 20 minutes we were in Little Mink Lake. A 450m portage and we were in Mink Lake. It was now just after 10 a.m. and we were a little ahead of schedule. I guess Laker and I over-estimated this year. So with some time in our back pocket, Spec and I unpacked our two fishing rods and trolled to our campsite, hoping and praying to catch our first trout of the trip .. and come to think about it, our first trout of the year.

It started spitting rain, so we picked up the pace and took one of the campsites at the south end of the lake. We were only planning on staying on Mink for one night, so we figured that we could eliminate a little travel time the next day if we stayed closer to the portage. Oh yeah, we didn’t catch any fish. Boo!

After we set up camp, everyone decided to go fishing. However, since I'd driven to the park and hadn’t slept for 28 hours, I took a much deserved nap. While I was asleep, Laker caught 4 bass and Murray caught one, which were all returned safely to the water since they were out of season and we were there for trout.

Dinner time .. steaks! Just before we'd left Hamilton, Laker and I had cut up some red peppers and onions to go with it. And it was delicious. After dinner, Spec and Murray (got to get a nickname for that kid) grabbed the canoe and headed out for a late night cast. Laker and I cleaned up, and hung the food packs. The guys came back with 2 more bass to report and still no trout.

It was now 8 o’clock, the sun was going down and the guys were fishing from shore .. but getting ready to call it a day. I was trying to get a good fire going but the damp wood was fighting me all the way. It took about a half hour, but I got the fire going good and was putting the kettle on for an evening coffee and then bed time. We were heading off to Mouse Lake in the morning .. for 3 nights. I hoped the trout would be biting!

Day 2 - Mouse Lake

Laker woke up at 7:30 a.m. and I followed shortly after. Since Spec and Murray were still sleeping, Laker and I decided to cast a few from shore. It was a beautiful sunny and hot morning, which was a complete turn around from the cold and drizzly day before. I landed a smallmouth and that was it. The other two guys woke up. Well, Laker woke them up. They started taking down camp, while I made breakfast .. bacon and eggs .. mmm .. delicious!

Over breakfast, we discussed the day’s game plan. The first portage (1190 m) into Club Lake wasn’t that tough, because we laddered our gear. At the end of the portage we did some exploring of the concrete cabin. There is a old Ford truck somewhere around this cabin, but we never did find it. But we did find a fender of it.

Concrete cabin and Spec looking out the widow.

It was noon. We loaded up the canoes and headed into Club Lake to do some fishing for the afternoon. Murray and Laker went towards the right, while Spec and I went left. We were only going to fish on Club for a few hours, so Spec and I decided to troll to cover a little more water. We had our lines in the water for less then 5 minutes and "wham!" I had one, and what a great feeling it was to get this fish into the boat, the first spec of the week, finally! I marked the time at approximately 12:30 p.m. for the first fish and within 30 minutes I landed another speckle, which was a lot bigger than the first. We must have hit a sweet spot, because on the second pass Spec caught one.

Spec with 1 .. and me with 2 .. caught on Club Lake.

Our fishing was halted as we watched a moose walking along the shoreline, then trying to cross the lake. Since this was Murray’s first time in Algonquin and the first time he ever laid eyes on a moose, he was totally amazed. Come to think about it, no matter how many times I've seen a moose, it’s always a sight to see.

Photo: A moose trying to cross Club Lake ...

We stopped for lunch on Club Lake. Around 3:30 p.m., we headed to Mouse Lake. The 640 m portage was pretty easy; but trying to get to the put-in was a mission. We couldn’t figure out the way the stream went. The funny thing was we could see the portage sign. But trying to the get there? With a little trial and error, we figured it out.

By 5:00 p.m., we arrived at the campsite that we were to call home for 3 nights. We set up camp and Spec got a fire going because we were having little visitors… black flies. Laker cleaned the specs we'd caught and I cooked the steaks for dinner. Steak and speckles for dinner. Could you ask for anything more? 8 o’clock was dinner, which was fantastic. After we'd sat around the fire until about 11 p.m., we called it a night.

Day 3 (Mouse Lake)

Laker and I got up around 7:30 a.m. to another sunny and hot day. We gathered and cut fire wood for a good couple of hours. It was during our wood-gathering expedition that Laker and I found the partial bones of a moose. It looked like it had been a big one.

... Photo: Laker and I found the bones of a moose.

Around 10 a.m., we dragged Spec and Murray out of the tent to have breakfast. During breakfast, we all discussed the day's itinerary. Since we had originally planned to day-trip into Club Lake, but had fished the entire afternoon there the day before, we decided to stay on Mouse Lake.

Murray and Laker set out from camp and went left; so Spec and I went the other way, towards the portage we'd come in from. Spec and I trolled for a bit, then cast .. letting the current take us. It was more than an hour with no fish to report. Spec and I continued to fish the shoreline. We were on the other side of the lake near a point, when I caught the first speckle of the day just after noon. Laker and Murray quickly made their way to the spot we were in, to try their luck. Since neither of them had caught a trout, Spec and I decided to keep moving and let them have the spot.

At about 1:00 p.m. Spec landed a beauty of a trout. As we kept on trolling, I looked down at my watch and I thought of yesterday. I turned to Spec and mentioned that the two speckles we caught today were around the time we caught them yesterday. Now with a little joking confidence I said "By my calculations, we should be catching another trout anytime now." Within a few minutes, I'd caught my 2nd trout of the day, a nice big one. If were going to repeat yesterday's catches that was fine with me ... haha!

I got on the two-way radio and told them about the catches. I swear that, even from the other side of the lake, I could see smoke coming out of Lakers ears. It was just after 2:00 p.m. and we were heading back to camp. Spec and I noticed a couple of canoes at the portage put-in, so we went over to say hi. We'd just got into the bay when Spec said, "I got one." So I started to reel in my line and about half-way in I had a fish on too. Double-header! I got mine into the boat, but Spec lost his when he tried to bring it into the canoe.

We spoke to the four guys who were day tripping into Mouse Lake from Club Lake. Spec and I told them roughly where we caught our fish and what we were using. We both had one EGB spoons, mine was a perch colour (green, gold and orange) and Spec had on a gold and black one. We told them about the luck we had in Club Lake and gave them some co-ordinates where we were yesterday when we caught them. After wishing the guys luck, we headed back to camp for lunch.

Spec on the beach on Mouse Lake.

Laker and Murray went back out to try to catch at least one trout. Spec and I decided to stay back to get cleaned up and chill on the beach next to our campsite. It was so nice and relaxing to sit on a beach like this. Spec turned to me and said something I hope I never forget, "Who needs Mexico? Look at this place". How true!

A couple of hours later, Murray and Laker came back and again no fish to report. Spec asked me if I wanted to head back out. But, I'd just found a nice spot on a rock in front of our campsite to write the day’s events. Spec just took a picture of me so I thought I would include it …

Sitting on my rock on Mouse Lake.

I stopped writing and just stared out, as the sun and warm breeze was hitting me .. so relaxing.

Murray and Spec just got back from a couple of quick laps with the canoe and Spec caught another speckle. This time, Laker definitely had smoke coming out of his ears … ha ha! I had a feeling that his luck would turn around.

We ate dinner and were cleaning up. Spec and I were walking to the waters edge to get some water to wash the dishes, when my flashlight died. This was puzzling because I know I changed the batteries before I left home. That’s when Spec piped up and said the light bulb had burned-out. He asked if it was a Mag light, that if it was, it had a spare light bulb in the end were you put the batteries in. I didn't know that. I guess you do learn something new everyday. I asked Spec how he knew that and he said it was just one of those facts that you know ... and the fact that his flashlight did the same thing to him the night before. Spec showed me how to change the bulb, while Laker and Murray hung the food packs.

Around 11:30 p.m., Murray went to the tent to grab a sweater. As he was walking back to rejoin us around the fire, his flashlight went out. He'd forgotten his at home so I'd grabbed a spare Mag light from my house and the batteries were new because we just put them in a few hours before. So long-story-short .. 3 light bulbs burnt out within a 24 hour period. Now that’s freaky stuff!

Day 4 (Mouse Lake)

By 7:00 a.m., Laker and Spec were out on the lake for an early morning cast. Laker was determined to catch a trout. Laker radioed me on the two-ways around 9:00 a.m. to tell me that they caught 4 speckles .. 2 each and they were heading back in. Lakers run of bad luck had ended.

Spec and Laker both with 2 trout caught on Mouse Lake.

We got camp ready for our last night on Mouse Lake and then had breakfast. We headed out around 11:30 a.m. and fished until 2:00 p.m. Murray was the only one to catch a trout or any fish for that matter. This was the first speckle trout Murray had ever caught. Later on that night, Laker showed him how to clean it and prep it for dinner and ultimately Murray ate it all up.

Photo: Murray with his first trout he'd ever caught. Caught on Mouse Lake ...

We got back to camp, from our afternoon cast, and had lunch. Spec and Murray went to go take a nap. Laker had purchased a GPS before heading up to Algonquin, so he was playing around with that trying to figure out all the features on it. And for me, I was sitting on my rock writing this log. You know .. just sitting on the rock all by myself, staring out at the trees and water .. watching the waves as they kept rolling in mades everything seem so peaceful and so alive.

Laker walked over and said he was 319km away from his house and that it would take 97 hours to walk home from this point. He'd found a new toy to mess around with. Help us all… hahaha. I'd brought a book with me to read, authored by Kevin Callan and titled "The Paddlers Guide to Algonquin Park". So I sat on my rock and read for a bit.

The black flies had been pretty active, but by 9:00 p.m. they were gone. As we sat around the campfire, we had a couple little visitors. First, a little mouse visited, which was fitting because we were on Mouse Lake and he was zipping all around us. Laker said that that type mouse is called a deer mouse because of the grey and white fur. Is that true? I have no idea. Our second visitor was a rabbit. But he got one look at us and he was gone back into the bush.

We sat around discussing tomorrow's plan. On paper its seemed to be the toughest day, with 2 long and 1 short portage.

Day 5 (Erables Lake)

Before heading up to Algonquin Park, I'd checked the long range weather forecast and it had called for 100% precipitation on Thursday. Well, my watch alarm went off at 7:00 a.m. and within 30 minutes I was out of the tent to discover an overcast, cloudy, and windy cold day. I could see the dark rain clouds moving in. What a time for the weatherperson to be right!

Laker and I started taking down camp and getting things ready for our portage into Erables Lake, for our 2 night stay. We broke camp at 10:00 a.m. With the bad weather approaching, we wanted to get moving. We paddled across the choppy water to our first portage of the day, a 1700m. We didn’t know what to expect from this portage. So, we just loaded ourselves with all our gear for a single-carry. Laker and I each carried a canoe and a pack. We made a good 800m before putting down our packs. Murray and Spec went the entire way, and we met up with them on their way back. So, we passed them the canoes .. and Laker and I went to pick up the packs. We paddled the small river into Big Thunder Lake. But, before embarking on the 1645m portage into Erables Lake, we took a 30 minute break for lunch.

With food in ours bellies, we were ready to go. The Game Plan was: Spec and Murray were to carry the canoes from start to end, while Laker and I would carry half of the gear to the midway point, drop and go back to pick up the rest of things. Murray and Spec would come back to pick up the gear that Laker and I dropped of on the first half of the trip. Laker and I would meet the other 2 guys at the midway point, so we could trade duties. We carried the canoes until the end of the portage. The plan was good in principal, and the portage wasn’t very hard. But, became tricky because of all the downed trees across the portage that weren't cleared away yet. Actually, while trying to climb over one of the down trees, I ripped my pants … a little duck tape patch on my butt and I was good to go… Red Green would be proud. Haha !

We launched the canoes on Erables Lake. It was 2:15 p.m. Considering the campsite we were planning to stay at, we still had about an hour paddle to the north end of the lake. The windy day played in our favour. The wind was at our backs and made paddling the big lake a lot easier than first anticipated. We arrived at the campsite and started to set up. Laker and Murray had a "Three Stooges" moment when hanging the food packs. It seems that Laker had thrown the rope over a branch and Murray had commented that it didn’t look strong enough. So to test it Laker gave a sturdy tug of the rope and of course the branch broke, and hit Murray right on the head.

Spec, Laker, Chesney and Murray at our campsite on Erables Lake.

It began raining lightly. It wasn’t a real bother; but we couldn’t escape the strong wind. We ate dinner. With the strong wind still blowing, we all decided to get out of it by going to cast a few in the bay next to our site. It was still raining but it had never stopped us before. I lasted about a half hour, when I wanted to switch location and my foot went right into the water. With the day's long portages, I'd taken my boots off and put o a pair of running shoes. So, my foot got completely soaked. I figured, by this point I was done fishing. With a soggy foot, I walked back to camp and got a fire going to dry off my sock and shoe. It wasn’t all bad. Being alone, I had the perfect opportunity to write the days events.

Shortly after, the rest of the guys came back. However, Murray had decided to fish from the point. We'd tried there earlier; but it had been too windy to control our lines. Well it looked like it paid off for him, because we heard the yell from camp, "Hey guys! I caught one". We all rushed over to a small perch. Rumour has it that there's no fish in this lake due to acid rain. But Murray’s perch it gave us hope that we might hook into some lake trout the next day.

Photo: Our Campsite on Erables Lake ...

With the strong winds and rain for most of the day, the temperature would be dropping a bit at night. So, we were sat around the campfire and made some hot chocolate and tea. The wind was strong and it started to rain again. The rain was light, so we packed up anything that was still out .. which wasn’t much by this point in the night and lucky for us because the rain started coming down hard. We smouldered out the fire and high-tailed it to the tent. With this long day behind us we turned in.

Day 6 (Erables Lake)

We awoke at 7:00 a.m. to rain drops hitting the tarp. We decided to stay in dry quarters for a little longer. Around 10 a.m. Spec got out of the tent. The rain had stopped, so we all headed out for breakfast. I think by this point our stomachs were in total control. I got breakfast going and shortly after Laker and Spec grabbed one of the canoes and headed out to fish a nearby bay. Murray and I stayed behind to gather up some wood for the night and still managed to cast a few from shore.

Around 1:30 p.m. I noticed that the other two guys hadn’t radioed in for a while. I paged them a few times with no reply; so I turned to Murray and said if I didn’t hear anything in 10 minutes we were going to go for a paddle. I hoped that they were just so deep into that bay that we couldn’t get radio communication. I was a little nervous too, because those were the same two cousins of mine who got lost last year while bushwhacking back to Animoosh Lake from Cat Lake and Alluring Lake. Explain that to my aunt and Laker’s wife .. that they got lost again. NO THANK YOU!!!

I'd gone to hang the food packs when I heard Murray yell out to me that he thought he cold see them. When they got back we got the story. It seems that my two brave cousins of mine docked the canoe and walked into a small lake about 150 metres west, at the north end of Erables Lake. I believe a small creek may run from this lake to Maple Lake. Laker had his GPS, so they said they knew exactly were they where all the time. I asked them why they didn’t radio-in to tell us they where going to the back lake. It seemed that when Laker unclipped the radio from his belt, it fell into the water. So, needless to say, it didn’t work.

As they told us about their journey, I took the two-way apart to dry it out and got it working again. Around 5:30 p.m., Spec went to go lie down while Murray and Laker decided to fish. This time alone was perfect for me to sit back grab a pinch of chew and write the day's events. The winds died down considerably and in turn the black flies came back out. Agh! It wouldn’t be camping without the little guys.

We were just finishing up dinner, when I started feeling a few raindrops hit me. I looked behind me to see if there was a break in the clouds, but looked at a beautiful rainbow instead. I think we all took a picture of it for remembrance.

The rainbow on Erables Lake

It was after 9 p.m. when we all decided to fish from the point. 3 rock bass and 1 catfish were caught and all released back into the water. I guess the rumours of the acid rain killing the trout was true after all. We called it quits around 10 p.m. and just sat around the fire telling stories from when we were kids. I would share them, but for those stories you just needed to have been there.

Day 7 (Maple Lake)

My watch started beeping at 7 a.m. Once again we woke to rain drops hitting the tarp. We unanimously voted on sleeping in. Well, Laker and I voted, because the other two didn’t even budge from their sleep. Once the rain subsided around 10 a.m., Laker and I started to take down camp, while the other two remained sleeping until I called out that the breakfast was ready. I never saw two guys move that fast!

We took our time leaving the site because we only had an 80m portage into Maple Lake. It was close to 1 p.m. when we headed out. We figured that we would be at our last campsite shortly after 2 p.m. After completing the portage, Laker and Murray were leading the way. After paddling past the 2 small islands, they turned left. Something inside of me didn’t feel right about the direction we were going in. I called out to them and told them that I thought we were going in the wrong direction for our campsite. But, Laker said he was positive that his way was the right way. So, I swallowed my pride and followed.

I turned to Spec and said that I thought we were on our way to the portage to Rattrap Lake and to confirm it I pulled out my map to show him. Spec looked the map over and said "No, I think Tony is heading the right way". I hoped I was wrong because having to paddle back against the wind wouldn't be fun. Well, when we got to the 440m portage to Rattrap Lake, the guys all looked at me with the oops look on their faces. We turned around and headed the other way. It was great being right, but at that moment paddling back with the strong wind in our faces I wished I'd been wrong.

We finally got to our campsite an hour later then expected. I thought about it afterwards and I should have known better than to follow Laker because he's the one always getting lost. I asked Laker what made him want to go that way? He said, (and this is textbook Tony) "I had a hunch. And even though you, the map and my GPS were all saying that I was going the wrong way, I still felt it was right". I scratched my head on that for a while.

We settled into camp, had a late lunch and then the guys went fishing. I decided to stay back, organize my pack and downsize the 2 food packs for our exit tomorrow. It was close to dinnertime. Laker brought the ingredients to make ‘bannock’ (looks like pita bread) and Murray insisted he make them because every Saturday he made ‘arreppas’ at home with his family. He got no argument from the rest of us. For the first time doing them, I must say that they were fantastic and a definite addition to the menu for next year.

Photo: Murray mixing up the ingredient for the bannuck on Maple Lake ...

After dinner, the other guys downsized their packs. With two empty food packs, we could spread the weight around. We took full advantage. Night rolled in and we sat around the campfire. We talked about the trip and especially with Murray, this being his first time in the park, what he thought of the trip. He didn’t want to leave and was saying that no matter what, he's coming back next year.

Day 8 (The Exit)

By 8 a.m., Laker and I were up and taking down camp. No words were spoken to each other for at least an hour, until I ask when are we going to have breakfast. It was a little surreal to think that it had already been 8 days in this amazing place and now we had to leave. We had breakfast and we were getting ready to leave when I asked Spec, "Where's Murray?" Spec showed me. He was sitting on a rock by the shoreline .. just staring out to the lake. We let him have his moment and kept packing up.

... Photo: Murray on Maple Lake soaking it all in before leaving.

We left our island site at 9:45 a.m. and after a short paddle, we were on our first portage through Maple Creek. I like to note the metres of each portage for my records so this series of portages went like this: 1st a 130m – easy, 2nd a 805m – a little hilly, 3rd a 630m, 4th a 90m, 5th a 190m – we basically flew through the last 3 portages. We stopped for 20 minutes and ate a small lunch before our 6th and last portage of the day a .. 775m and again, it was pretty easy. Being so light, we single-carried the entire stretch. I wonder if I would have been singing the same tune if this had been our first day and we were fully loaded?

We arrived to Kioshkokwi Lake shortly before 1 p.m. With the wind in our faces, we knew that it was going to be a tough paddle to the park office. Spec and I fell back of the other guys because Spec wanted to take some pictures on "Kioski". As we started across, the waves and wind picked up and the water started to whitecap a little. But we'd been in this situation before. If you ever paddled North Tea Lake south from Manitou Lake you know what I’m talking about!

I could see where Laker and Murray were heading. Spec was absolutely sure that they where going the wrong way and started to turn the canoe (Why does this sound so familiar?). We headed toward the little bay and since he was steering the canoe .. and I was just in the front paddling my arse off .. into the bay we went. Again I found myself saying that we were going the wrong way. But long story short, Spec realized his error and not wanting to paddle against the wind, we docked the canoe. With an unscheduled short portage back to the park office, we were done another Algonquin trip.

The car was all loaded up and we were on our way to the outfitters, to drop off the life jackets and paddles. While on the drive, I was thinking how to end this log and this is what I came up with. I would ask each guy what their most memorable part of the trip was? Here was what we had to say:

Spec: The beach on Mouse Lake beside our campsite.

Laker: Getting into the back lake off of Erables Lake

Murray: (we gave him 2, this being his 1st trip)
  1st – seeing his first moose in Club Lake.
  2nd – Catching his first Speckle Trout.

Chesney: Mine was the rock on Mouse Lake that I chilled on.

That’s about it. The loop was great, the weather was up and down .. but this is Canada and we've had worse, and of course the fishing was great.

On Kioshkokwi Lake, at the park office .. L-R: Murray, Tony, Frank, & Angelo.

Until Next Year….. Later.