Rob & Greg's Paddling Trip - July 2009

Access #8 - Cache Lake

Route-Linear : 43 km paddling + 7km portaging
Cache Harness Louisa Whitefish Lake of Two Rivers

Day 1 - 18 July 2009, Cache Lake to Harness Lake
8 km paddling
2.7 km portage + .5km side trip

06:00 Rob arrived. Since we had sat down a few days before and gone through our gear, it was all packed and ready to go. We loaded the gear into the truck, with the canoe on top. We picked up a coffee at the end of the street, and hit the road, around 06:40. Near Bracebridge, I took over the driving, as Rob had a party the night before, and needed a little nap.

09:00 We arrived at the Portage Store, and I ran into the permit office, and registered our trip, and then drove to our put in at Cache Lake. We loaded up the canoe, and had a potty break before setting off.

09:40 Paddling off we took the scenic route between the islands around Cache, which took longer but we figured we had lots of time. We passed a couple of groups coming the other way, and exchanged hellos.

10:30 - 11:00 After hunting for a bit for the portage into Head lake, we located it, after realizing the sign was missing. A cottager advised us it had been missing for a little while. The take out was quite steep, and I learned my first lesson about tying things to my pack. I had a little pair of binoculars, I was going to use to spot portage signs, and wildlife, until I dropped them in the drink while lifting out my pack. They filled with water, and remained useless for the rest of the trip. We set off across the 1640m portage, and we chose to do a leapfrog style double carry, as we had 3 bags, plus the canoe and gear. Since the boat is mine, I carried the boat and Rob took the heaviest pack most of the time. With the other 2 packs, we shared the load. The trail had a few muddy sections, but was in good shape, and nothing was too challenging other than the length.

12:00 We were done the portage, now looking out over Head lake and took a break to eat a snack, and have a rest before loading the canoe and heading off. After setting out, we decided to go and check out the portage to Kenneth Lake (240m). We left our boat and just walked it to check Kenneth at the other end. The portage clearly isn't used much, and was overgrown with grass, but still wide and generally free of major obstructions. A few photos were taken, and we headed back to our boat to continue on our adventure.

Head Lake seen from the Kenneth Lake portage.

12:30 We continued across Head Lake, and made our way up the river. After a few lift overs, we pulled up to the portage into Harness Lake. The take-out was rocky, and you needed to be sure of your footing when loading the canoe on your shoulders. But the sun was out and it was a nice warm day.

Head Lake portage take-out to Harness Lake.

13:00 - 13:20 We set off on the 1050m portage, and took the same strategy as before, with the leapfrog double carry idea. It seemed to work well for us. We met several groups coming across the other way, as this was Saturday, I figured we would meed people coming out at the end of their trips. The rain started near the last of the portage, and became quite heavy as I reached the end. The last little bit I took the canoe, and our smallest bag, so I waited at the end for Rob to finish with the last pack. I sat and photographed the rain on the water, as it was rain with little to no wind, so made for a couple of great photos, and hear Rob curse the mud slide on the hill about way along the portage. He quite clearly described the route options to two couples we met just coming off Harness, as choosing the river in the middle, right or left as your choices on the clay/mud hill. We waited it out, and after it let up, we loaded the canoe and pushed off.

Harness Lake, seen at its put-in from Head Lake.

14:30 - 15:00 We paddled to the site of choice, which those in the know speak of .. on the east side of the lake at the narrows. It was a great big site, with a few tent locations, and a sheltered landing. We set up our tent, a little out in the open but sheltered from the prevailing winds so as to have the best view from inside for the morning. We ate a couple of wraps, as all we'd had was a snack at noon at the end of the Cache-Head portage. Rob still wasn't feeling 100% so he pulled up a bench and drifted for a while. I explored the site and collecting a bit of firewood in case the clouds blew over.

16:40 We had the lake to ourselves until now. Several canoes arrived from Head Lake, and they were noisy, and appeared quite disorganized, with a mix of adults and kids. The rain started up again, and blew in on and off for the rest of the evening.

18:00 I cooked up our 1 pot meal of pre-cooked chicken and some rice with veggie flakes. It turned out to be way too much food for the 2 of us, and since the weather was not spectacular, we packed up the excess to be carried out. We didn't delve into the Scotch tonight, and Rob hit the hay around 7pm. The rain continued off and on, and the winds died down some around sunset. I knocked off the dishes and with nothing else to do but watch the clouds and rain blow through, I called it a night.

20:40 I crawled into the tent. What a party animal!!!

Harness Lake campsite at the narrows.

Harness Lake campsite - tent with a view.

Day 2 19 July 2009, Harness to Louisa
12.8km paddling
1.2 km portaging

Our sleep through the night was broken, no doubt due to the early bed time. Nothing to do but listen to the wind and rain.

05:30 - 06:00 I was up for the day, and finally gave up on laying in the tent pretending to sleep. Rob was still sleeping, and I enjoyed the morning quite all to myself. The rain was still off and on, but very light, a little more than a heavy mist, or light sprinkle at times. The wind was light, and the sky was grey.

07:00 Rob got up. We decided to forgo the coffee at this time, and just ate our Banana Breakfast bars. We tore down and loaded up the canoe, ready to set off for the day, ahead of our anticipated schedule.

08:00 - 08:30 We paddled the rest of Harness Lake, filtering water along the way, and arrived at the portage into Pardee Lake. The bay leading to the take out, was shallow in spots, and the landing was fairly shallow. The portage was only 240m and not too challenging, although it did have a decent little elevation change over the short distance. We did our carry, and while Rob was picking up the 2nd load, I set up our stove, and boiled water for our morning coffee. We put all our gear to the side, and went to check out the little tumbling water fall between the two lakes. It was very pretty, and worth the side trip for a little bit.

09:30 We were done our coffee, and loaded up again. We shoved off on Pardee, and detoured a bit to cruise by the campsite on the west side of the lake. It seemed nice, and I think I might consider making that our 1st night in the future, if we retrace this part of this route. It is a small lake, and our next obstacle was the 10m portage into Lawrence Lake.

10:00 After a very quick carry of the 10m portage, we set off into Lawrence Lake. Partway across along the south shore, we spooked a merganser sitting up on the bald rocky shore of an island. To that point, the only other canoe we saw was one paddling across Pardee as we were setting off after our coffee. I love solitude! The rest of Lawrence was uneventful, and we just passed the time listening to the dip of our paddles, and the odd small talk comment. The rain was holding off now, and it was just grey and damp, but nothing falling from the sky. The temperature was nice, not stupid hot.

11:00 We landed at the 450m portage into Rod & Gun Lake (Devils Staircase). It was a steep landing and that was out first clue as to the trail itself. As we started out, and did the first switchback, I started to get all cocky .. thinking that was the total elevation change. Man was I tricked. This portage just kept going up and up, and up. There were canoe rests I noticed, but the most important one for me, at the top of the first set of switchbacks, was broken. We kept with our strategy of leapfrogging, as it was working well for us. Near the end of the portage we had caught up with a group of girls, who were just shoving off. We took our time, and caught our breath, before we loaded up the canoe, so that we could laugh at our arrogance over how hard the portage was vs. what we'd thought about the first switchback being the end of the elevation change.

12:00 The Rod & Gun end of the portage was a bit of a challenge .. to load the canoe and get in without swamping ourselves, or getting mud everywhere. We set our sights on the island in the middle of the small lake (pond) for our lunch stop. We pulled up, spooked another Merganser, and dug out our PB & Honey wraps which were just waiting to be assembled. As we ate, and poked around, we scored a few blueberries, which are always a welcome treat. We didn't spend too much time there, as it was small, and the water seemed pretty stagnant.

13:00 We finished the paddle, and loaded our gear onto shore at the 540 m portage into Louisa. This one was all downhill for us, and the path was in quite good shape. It wasn't a difficult carry, but we were happy to know that this was the end of our portages for the day.

13:30 As we set off onto Louisa Lake, we still didn't have any other canoes in sight. So far that day, we'd seen one in the distance on Pardee, and heard one group on the Rod & Gun portage, but never saw them again. As we made our way out of the bay and into the lake, I saw why people love this lake. It really is beautiful, with the bays, and islands to break it up. We filtered some water once we got out into the main part of the lake, and then continued east, passing empty campsites one after the other. So far it seemed we had Louisa all to ourselves, and we were booked here for 2 nights. We went almost to the extreme east end, and only passed one occupied site, and (without binoculars) believed maybe one more was occupied near the portage. The weather continued to improve as the day went on, and the afternoon winds picked up a bit.

15:00 We turned around and made our way back to a site on a point along the south shore. It had a perfect sandy beach landing area, and was elevated a bit up on a big bald smooth rock, that made for a good jumping and swimming platform. The tent area was sheltered from the wind, but still had a great view out over the rest of the site and water. We set up camp, and I didn't waste any time after the chores were done. In for a swim I went. Rob lounged in the ever improving sunshine. It felt great to have a swim, and relax, knowing we were here for two nights. Refreshed, we finished our camp set up, and collected firewood, expecting the clear skies to continue.

Louisa Lake campsite - south shore at east end.

16:30 I had started rehydrating supper by just using cold water, adding it a little at a time to the ziplock bag, and letting it soak in the sunshine. After about hour of that, I then put it in a pot on the stove to heat it up. Our meal tonight was Moroccan Chicken, another 1 pot meal, with wraps to help sop up any excess juice. I learned another valuable lesson. Chicken does take longer to rehydrate, kinda chewy (even though the instructions in Fork in the Trail said so), and I now know that I need to let it simmer, or sit hot for a bit longer to rehydrate, the chicken better. Otherwise it was a fantastic meal, and Rob enjoyed it enough to volunteer to do the dishes. I accepted..(hehe)

18:30 With supper in our bellies, and the clean up done, we had tons of light left in the day. Now that the sun had come out, we were quite content to enjoy it. We started a small fire, and cracked the canteen of scotch. It was enjoyed sitting by the fire, and sitting out on the rock, or bench that had been built by someone, in the sunshine looking out over the lake, soaking it all in. We saw a couple of canoes heading up the lake, coming from the Rock Lake portage. But they continued west, and took up sites down the lake, out of sight for us. So we only seemed to be sharing the lake with the 1 group on the opposite side from us, and noise wasn't a problem.

View from our campsite on Louisa.

20:15 While enjoying the coming sunset, we caught sight of 4 loons swimming together, past our site. They weren't too close, but it was still nice to see them, and hope to hear them later on. We tried a little fishing ourselves, and of course it isn't about the catching, its about the fishing (which means we caught nothing). We enjoyed a beautiful sunset, and the dragonflies(large darners predominantly) feeding in the fading light. You go dragonflies!!

21:15 Final potty break, and to bed as darkness set in. Ah!!

Sunset with loons & canoeists in the distance.

Day 3 20 July 2009, Day on Louisa
6.3 km day trip paddling

07:00 I was awake, and preparing to start my day. It had been a great sleep, and the loons did call some through the night, several times. I made myself some coffee and oatmeal, and just enjoyed the morning. The weather was still grey, but the temperature was a bit warmer. Rob got up a bit later and made his own coffee and oatmeal for breakkie.

08:20 We discussed our day's plans, and other future paddling routes for a bit, before cleaning up and taking the tent fly off to dry. It seems to hold a lot of moisture on the inside, compared to my other tent.

Morning calm on Louisa.

10:00 We took off to check out the bay at Martin Creek, across from us. There was a log with several black ducks on it who were alert to us, but didn't flee, as we just kept moving past. We didn't get out to check out the creek at all, but did paddle over to the campsite that had been occupied the night before, but was now empty. There were 2 campsites close together on the east side of the bay by Martin Creek, but both were kind of open to the wind and appeared to be well used. Not bad sites, but ours was nicer. On our way back to camp for lunch, we filtered some water.

12:00 We whipped up some chilli for lunch, and some fruit sauce for dessert. Now that we had full happy bellies, and a supply of water at camp, we chilled for a bit and digested, enjoying the sunshine that had made its full appearance for the day.

13:10 Off exploring again, this time we went to check out the bay on the southeast end of the lake, (kind of beside us). At the end of the bay, was a narrow channel that was loaded with trees and deadfall, but navigable leading into a small lake/pond. There was 1 site here, and it didn't seem too bad. There was a low maintenance portage at the end, and a marshy area on the west side, that may have good moose watching possibilities. We paddled out and continued up along the east shore, and the couple of sites along there seemed to be kind of dark, and not a welcoming looking from the water as ours. I think we scored a good site.

14:15 The afternoon breezes had picked up a bit, as we made our way back to camp. We took the time to wash the sand and dirt out of the canoe, have a swim, and have a little snack, some jerky and scotch, then chilled out for a bit. We fished, but true to form, caught nothing. Some new people arrived at the site across the lake, so our hopes of being utterly alone were quashed.

17:30 Tonight's menu was pulled pork, and it went down well. The meat hydrated better than the chicken did. We cleaned up, and collected some firewood, as the sky looked as though it would stay clear for us tonight. We collected some nice dry cedar, which made for a lovely fire later on. We watched the loons come back together again tonight, this time only saw 3 of them.

Sunset on Louisa from our campsite .

21:10 Caught a gorgeous sunset, and of course captured it on film (or CCD really). The bugs came out, so we went to bed shortly thereafter, around 21:40.

Day 4 21 July 2009, Louisa to Whitefish
9 km paddling
2.9 km portaging

06:00 I was up and had coffee, while Rob slept in, again. I watched the fog on the water, which was thick enough to obscure the far shore.

07:00 Rob got up, and we had breakfast bars, and pulled the tent fly off to dry in the slowly appearing sunshine, along with some of the other gear, since we had to wait for the fog to burn off before heading out anyway. We packed and loaded the canoe.

08:40 We set out on our way to the only portage of the day. We filtered a couple of litres of water, for the portage, and pulled up at the landing.

09:30 With the canoe unloaded we started off on the 2900 m Louisa to Rock Lake portage. This was the only one that we changed into hiking boots for. As it turned out it wasn't really necessary. We did the same thing as the rest of the trip, leapfrogging, but this time tried to break the trips into approximate 1/3 of the trail at a time. The portage was in good shape, relatively flat and dry. We passed one group with only a couple of canoes going the other way. The weather was warm and sunny, making for a hot trip by the end of it.

12:00 With the portage behind us, holy-time-killer batman, we chowed down on some wraps, and drank lots of water. We shoved off again, and as soon as we were out in the main lake, we filtered more water. Rock is a busier lake, and it wasn't long before we were longing to be back on Louisa. Now we had cottages, motor boats, and day paddlers from the car campground to navigate. We simply dug in, and paddled, not really taking in much scenery, being pleasant and polite to all we came across, but inside, we just wanted our solitude back. We paddled past the campground and up the river leading into Whitefish. Again passing motorboats, and swimmers jumping off the old train bridge on the bike trail. Out on Whitefish the afternoon winds picked up again, and we simply dug in, and paddled to the island campsite.

14:00 As we approached the island site, there was a canoe on the site we could see, but it turned out they were only day users, and left as we approached. We pulled up to the sandy beach off to one side, and unloaded our gear. I had a swim, but the bottom was mucky and weedy a little further out, so i didn't swim for too long, to avoid a free leech lunch. It did feel good though. We just chilled out, and rested, then I went for a little stroll around the island. There was a family on the other side swimming, using the island as a day trip spot.

I came back, and we set up the tent, and loaded in our bags etc. Now the family came over to our side of the island, but they did keep their distance a bit, but the extra use, and people around were very noticeable. There was a nesting family of Kestrels, or Merlins, some smaller raptor of sorts, on the island, and the chicks had just learned to fly and would be coaxed out on fights from the nest by the adults, screeching and squawking the entire time.

We had spaghetti for supper, and devoured it. We did the dishes, and then paddled out to filter 6 more litres of water. There were fishermen trolling, and stationary in the weedbeds off the island. And though they don't mean to intrude, it felt like they were from our perspective. Back at the site, we sat on the rocks, and enjoyed the sun, with a scotch or two to pass the time. I had another swim, and we just chatted about the trip and stuff, while the sun set. No fire tonight.

Yet another sunset, this time on Whitefish .

21:20 The bugs came out, so we went in. Bed time.

Day 5 22 July 2009, Whitefish to Lake of Two Rivers East Beach
6.2 km paddling
60 m portaging

07:00 We both got up, had coffee and oatmeal for breakfast. The dishes were done, and we had a leisurely tear down, since today was not going to be a long day at all.

09:00 We were packed up and on the water, having an uneventful paddle up the remainder of Whitefish, and into the river.

09:30 We hit the river, and followed it past the group campground, winding our way upstream. It was calm, and we passed one canoe fishing where it narrowed down. Along the way we saw a muskrat in the water, and a kingfisher flying. We started to pass some of the campsites from Pog Lake as we approached the dam.

10:30 We portaged around the Pog Lake dam (60 m), met a few people and took a photo of some ducks, before some guy and his dog scared them away. Once we were upstream of the dam, the water was busier, with more car camping day paddlers, and kayakers.

11:00 Our destination was reached, the Lake of Two Rivers East Beach Picnic Area, were Melissa was to meet us. We knew we were a bit early, but we unloaded the canoe, and dug out the walkie talkie, so we could turn it on and wait to hear from Melissa, as per our plan. Another lesson learned here. Some time during the last 5 days, the walkie was turned on in the bag, and we never checked it until now. Yup, dead battery! Good thing we didn't have to modify our plans and needed to communicate that. We considered cooking up some lunch to pass the time.

Mom and chicks bid us farewell at Lake of Two Rivers East Beach.

11:30 Melissa arrived with Lindsay, and she took Rob to pick up his truck, and I took Lindsay for a little paddle to check out a loon at the mouth of the river, that was fishing. Then we played at the beach until Melissa and Rob returned. We loaded our gear, and went to check into our car campsite, for the next stage of the adventure.

But that is another story.

Greg McGuire.