August 2007 - Access Point 4 - Casey Lake, Misty Lake, Sawyer Lake

By Rory Leidecker


I waited impatiently for my cousin Brent to arrive at my house. I quadruple-checked my portion of the gear, and wondered if we would be ready to leave by 1 a.m. We weren't, but it wasn't Brent's fault. He had driven from Florida to his home in Indiana, picked up his gear, and headed towards Detroit. But a big accident on the freeway forced him into a slow-moving detour, so he didn't arrive at my house until 1. We brought his gear inside, to my basement. We packed everything, referring to the checklist I had prepared ahead of time. Probably not the best time to pack, but we had little choice.

We were on the road by 2 a.m. An hour behind the schedule I had set, but at least we were on our way. We drove over the Blue Water Bridge around 3 and entered Canada. Brent was driving, continuing his marathon trek from Florida, and my job was to stay awake so that he would too. Brent asked if we could stop by his friend's cottage on Lake Huron, and I reluctantly said okay. It was a great place, right on the lake, and they fed us an awesome breakfast. But I was relieved to be back on the road and heading towards Algonquin.

Shortly after noon, we turned onto Highway 60, but my memory failed me. We were supposed to pick up a canoe from Algonquin Outfitters in Huntsville, but missed the turn and stopped at the Oxtongue Lake store for directions. I had to swallow my pride and endure the looks from the staff as I asked for information I should have looked up or remembered. We headed west, returning to Huntsville, and quickly found the AO store. The usual expert service was given to tying the canoe on our vehicle and getting the paddles and PFDs for us. Finally, we had everything needed for an Algonquin adventure.

The drive from Huntsville to Kearney was uneventful, except that my excitement level had gone from high to ecstatic. With the interior camping permit purchased, we drove to Rain Lake and found a parking space. By 2 p.m. the canoe was loaded with our two packs, and we shoved off. Finally, after five years, I was back on Algonquin waters!

It was a beautiful day as we paddled down Rain Lake. We had plenty of time to work out a paddling rhythm and take in the scenery. In less than two hours, we were at the portage to Casey Lake. Brent donned his large pack that held most of our gear. I secured the PFDs and paddles to the canoe and threw on my small pack. It was time to see just how light this super-light Kevlar canoe was. It was indeed super-light, but I didn't have the weight balanced just right. I decided that some modifications would be needed to position the paddles better. But that could wait for the next day, as we had arrived at our day's destination.

Securing the paddles to the thwarts.

A nice incline for my first canoe carry in 5 years!

Perhaps it was the lack of sleep, but we didn't even notice the first campsite, close to the portage. I didn't really consider that one a choice anyways. I was interested in the other two sites. The first one we came to was occupied, but the last one was empty. We pulled up alongside the rocky bank and unloaded our packs. I didn't need to explore this site, as I had stayed here before. Back in 2000, my wife and I had endured a terrifying thunderstorm here. I was hoping for a drier night this time. It was about 4 p.m. when we arrived.

We took a brief swim, more of a rinse to get the sweat and dirt off, and then tackled the remaining necessary chores. A small fire was made, food was prepared, and the food line was hung. We ate a tasty (to us) Mountain House dinner and enjoyed a little Kahlua with our cocoa. I puffed on a fine cigar while we enjoyed the scenery and chatted. Not long after, we decided that we had been awake for far too long. The sun was still out, but we needed sleep. All of the tasty things were bagged up and hoisted hopefully out of a bear's reach, and we called it a night. Even with daylight illuminating the tent, we quickly fell asleep.

It's good to be back in Algonquin Park!


After going to bed so early, it was almost impossible to stay in my bag until sunrise. So we both got up to enjoy the morning and get an early start. Coffee and oatmeal. This was before I had discovered Algonquin Adventures, so I had no idea how standard this breakfast combo was. It got us going and didn't weigh a whole lot, so no complaints from us.

Sunrise coming to Casey Lake.

Our campsite on Casey Lake.

After breakfast, we broke camp and loaded up the canoe. We left firewood for the next visitors, but little else. Confident that nothing was left behind, we left the shore and paddled a short way northwest to the first portage of the day. I tried a new positioning of the paddles before lifting the canoe to my shoulders. It was better, but not yet perfect. We hiked the scenic trail from Casey to Daisy Lake, and I nervously scanned for poison ivy. Why was I so nervous? I still had a lingering rash from a batch of it I had been exposed to on a golf course a few weeks earlier. The last thing I needed was more poison ivy. I might have preferred poison ivy to a bear encounter, but that would be a tough choice. The trail was quite beautiful, and poison ivy free, with a rocky creek crossing that keeps the portage interesting. The creek was low, but the boulders still required careful steps to cross. With Brent hiking just ahead of me to warn of potential stumbling blocks, I continued to Daisy Lake. I was not disappointed to complete the longest portage of the day so early.

I felt like a mountain goat at this creek crossing.

Daisy Lake, at the portage from Casey Lake.

We paddled the length of Daisy Lake without any trouble, but also without any wildlife sightings. It wasn't long before we reached the other end of the lake and disembarked for another portage. The two portages between Daisy and Little Misty were not difficult, and we crossed them quickly. Nearing the western end of Little Misty, a heron flew up near us, but neither of us had a camera ready. Our lunch that day was nothing special: peanut butter and jelly on pita bread, with water to wash it down. We're not the types to take a long lunch break, just long enough to refuel and catch our breath if it's been a tough morning. The portage from Little Misty to Misty didn't seem any shorter than the day's first carry, but it helped that I had finally balanced the paddles perfectly in the canoe.

As we entered the western side of Misty Lake, we noticed that the first few sites were already occupied. It was just after 2 p.m., so we assumed that anyone at a site was going to be there all night. We headed north and began scouting sites. It didn't take long for us to find a nice, unoccupied campsite. It was northwest of the large island, adjacent to a marshy bay. It was almost too much campsite for just the two of us; we could have brought four or five others and still there would be plenty of space. The fire pit was up a hill, probably thirty or more meters from the lake, and there is a nice boulder to sit on and watch the lake, sunrise, wildlife, etc.

This exposed rock is quite comfortable for sitting, and affords a magnificent view of Misty Lake's western end.

Lots of room for a large group, but beware the resident chipmunks! Note: food bag placed high on the vertical log.

We set up the tent, went for a quick swim, and bummed around camp until suppertime. The highlight of the day came shortly after supper. I noticed a family paddling by our site very slowly and carefully. I walked down to the rock to see what they were so interested in. A bull moose was browsing in the shallow bay near our campsite!

We really wished we had a camera with a powerful zoom lens. This was the best picture I was able to get.

I have been really close (almost too close) to cow moose several times, but before this day the best bull sighting I had was from about 500 meters. 50 meters is so much cooler! He continued to do his thing, and we eventually returned to the fire pit to enjoy some hot cocoa and Kahlua. I enjoyed my single cigar for the evening, then sipped on one more drink as my cousin and I shot the breeze. It was another early night, so no sunset pictures.


I awoke very early, partly because of the early bedtime, but also because it was COLD! I could not get comfortable enough to go back to sleep, so I put on my warmest clothes and went out to look around. The fog was extremely thick, so there wasn't much to see for a while. I walked down to the shore and sat on the shield rock there, totally alone in my own little world. It was absolutely peaceful and quiet, but very cold. No matter, I had sat in the cold and dark many times before. This time, I was not hunting anything, just sitting and thinking.

Morning on Misty Lake. Look how misty it is!

I sat alone on the rock for about an hour. Brent woke up and joined me as the sun came up. We made another oatmeal breakfast (same oats, different flavor) with coffee. By 8 a.m. we were packed up and heading for the southern end of the lake. Upon arrival at the opposite shore, we unloaded the gear, applied a generous dose of bug spray, donned our packs, and set out down the trail to Muslim Lake. Brent once again led the way, and I followed with the canoe on my shoulders.

After awhile we started complaining that the lakes were too small, and the portages were too close together. Some people like to explore the forest as they hike down portage trails, but that was not our mindset. Unfortunately, our route was set before we started, and I had underestimated how far we could travel in a day single-portaging with an ultra-light canoe. Once again, barely an hour after stopping for lunch, we arrived at Sawyer Lake, our destination for the day. Several groups were already camped on the lake, and we began to worry that all of the sites were taken. What does one do in such a situation? Fortunately, I did not have to find out, as we did discover an empty site, and quite a nice one at that. Like our previous site, this one had room for several tents, and we again felt like there was too much room for just the two of us. This site actually had a dock over a shallow, sandy area.

The dock and sandy shallows at the shore of the site on Sawyer Lake.

The fire pit was only a few meters from the dock, while the tenting area was on higher elevation behind the fire pit. The box looked brand new, or at least new as of that year. I had never seen a box in such good condition before, and it was a delight to use. Ahh, the simple things in life! We had a lot of time to gather wood, enough for us and whomever would visit the site next. Brent got ambitious and starting tearing down what looked to be the frame for a kitchen area. Somebody had cut down 2" thick trees and nailed them to larger ones to form a cabin-shaped frame. We thought this was excessive and irresponsible. My only regret is that I didn't have any wood golf tees to fill in the nail holes, and didn't think to fill in the holes at the time. I wish everyone preferred a simple campsite, without furniture nailed into every other living tree. I like a nice log bench by the fire pit, but don't need or want anything else.

Firepit and kitchen area, seen from uphill tenting area.

After supper we sat around the fire, talking about future trips and people we'd like to bring along. I smoked my last cigar, and we sipped Kahlua as the sun went down. Since this was our last night, we had a little extra Kahlua to sip. Just one of those tough situations you have to deal with when out in Algonquin Park. Since there was not a single cloud in the sky all day, there wasn't much of a sunset. But the night sky was clear, and a billion starts could be seen. We had a feathered visitor join us for a while, which was a welcome treat. After getting our fill of nighttime Algonquin, we extinguished the fire and retired for our last sleep in the Park.

Sun getting low over Sawyer Lake.

Our evening visitor.   We guessed it was looking for one of the
chipmunks that had been so interested in our food bag earlier.


Another night on the cold side, and another chilly morning. So cold that our fingers were numb until we could warm them by holding cups of hot coffee. This last morning it was very foggy, so there wasn't much to see as we ate our morning oatmeal. Eventually, the mist rose and by the time we were packed up, it was clear enough to see where we had to go. One last time, we went through the morning routine of packing, loading the canoe, and shoving off. Sometimes, after longer trips or a heavy downpour on the last night, it's kind of nice to finish a trip and go home. This time, it just wasn't long enough for me, and I didn't want it to end.

Early morning on Sawyer Lake.

Ready to take on the last portage of the trip, Sawyer Lake to Rain Lake.

A very short paddle brought us to the last portage of our trip. We covered the short portage to Rain Lake in just a few minutes and were back on the water. Rain Lake was very beautiful this morning, and paddling it was effortless. We saw several occupied campsites along our way, some still quiet and others emanating the soft noises of campers making breakfast. Our trip had not been loon-filled, something I was disappointed about. But we did travel about 100 meters alongside a pair about 2km from the access point.

We were escorted part of the way by these two beautiful loons. What a nice way to end a trip!

As we reached the parking area, we observed a rowdy group of teenagers arriving at the shore. We felt sorry for the group leaders who would be taking them into the Park! After a quick change of clothes and a few pictures, we drove away, back to Huntsville to drop off the canoe and grab a few slices of pizza.

Beautiful weather, no rain, good company. We love Algonquin!!

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