Rock Lake to Welcome Lake

Trip Participants: Husband Mike, 12 year old son Christopher and myself Cheryl
Time of Year: July 30-Aug.1/2001
Note: This was our first interior trip. We received some wonderful advice from the Algonquin Adventures web site before we left.

Day 1: We began the trip early. We had been camping at Canisbay Campground on Highway 60 for the preceeding week. We arrived at the Rock Lake office at 8:00. We were told by someone watering the lawn that the office did not open until 8:30. We went down to the dock to park and put the canoe into the water. While my son and I packed the canoe, my husband walked back to the office. We had the permit in our hands and we ready to set off shortly before 9:00. The weather was co-operative. There was a small wind against us, but it was sunny and bright.

Photo 1: My son ready for his first adventure into the interior.
Notice how we wrapped everything double in plastic.
Later in our trip we will be thankful for this.

We headed across Rock Lake and stayed to the west side. Since we were new to this, we decided this was a safer measure than getting lost. We found the first portage about an hour later. Ready for our first portage we first carried the packs and my husband later went back for the canoe. Its a short 375m portage. There's a climb at the beginning and end but neither's a real problem. There's a small dock at the end and we sat there to have a drink and a snack.

We left the first portage and travelled through the first part of Pen Lake. Ahead of us we noticed large boulders completely across the lake. We thought we'd made a wrong turn somewhere until we noticed another canoe coming the opposite way right through the boulders. Deciding that if they came through that there must be an opening. We headed in that direction. The opening is between two rocks .. about the width of your canoe. We carefully glided through the rocks and entered the longer part of Pen Lake.

Pen Lake has one small island in it and since it was near the entrance to Galipo River, we decided to use this as a guide. We easily located the island and turned right into the river. It was very close to noon at this time and we were very hungry.

Upon entering the river we saw there were several people standing and pulling their canoes. Anticipating a problem we quickly changed into our sandals. The water level was low but with my husband out of the canoe he managed to walk us over several sandbars. The water was fairly clean and sandy on the bottom, so no great problem.

We arrived at our second portage and decided to stop for lunch. We met a group of six boys who were also travelling to Welcome Lake. The second portage was a bit more tricky. A short portage 295m but full of twists and many roots and rocks to climb over. We once again brought the packs over first and then the canoe.

At the end of the portage was one of the worst sights I ever saw, especially for me who thought this would be a piece of cake. There was basically no river, just mud. The group of boys who previously passed us were already knee deep in it trying to push, pull and do whatever it took to move through.

To the right, we could see a beaver dam and some water. At this point I couldn't even call it a river. We sat for some time just staring and then we decided to travel through the grass embankment, dump the packs on the dam, travel back with the canoe via the same route hopfully avoiding the mud the boys were now into. We did avoid knee deep mud but it was up to our ankles as we travelled along the bank.

We managed to put the canoe on the other side of the dam and load the packs into it. My son then went into the canoe. My husband and I waded through some water until we thought we could attempt to step in. We travelled about 500 metres when we had to get out again. Most of the trip across followed the pattern of, out, beaver dam, in, out, beaver dam. It took us well over an hour to reach the end. At this point the water only amounted to an inch or two.

For the last 800 metres we had to drag and push the canoe through some of the murkiest water I have ever seen, I'll name it 'sludge'. At this point, you feel tired and a little defeated. You do have to go through the same experience to get back!! But we tucked in our spirits and decide to rest a bit before the 2km portage. Another couple there decide at this point to tell us that we should check for leeches since others have been encountering them through the sludge. Lucky me, I was free of them, but my husband and son we not so lucky. The couple offered us a cigarette to burn them off. The saddest part was watching my husband, who has been cigarette free for six months, use the cigarette to burn leeches off when I knew he just wanted one puff!!

Photo 2: At the end of the Great Galipo River.

The 2km portage was not a difficult portage just very long. There's an incline at the beginning and at the end. Around 1 km into the portage there's a small pond (or lake). We decided to use this as a halfway point. We first brought the packs and then returned for the canoe. Upon arriving at the halfway point with the canoe we saw a large moose. She was eagerly exploring one of our packs that she had somehow rolled down into the water. Once she saw us, she left quickly for deep water. We pulled out the pack and we were extremely grateful for wrapping everything, I mean everything, in plastic. We again set off with the packs to the entrance of Welcome Lake. It was beautiful. We washed off the sludge from our legs, realizing that we had made it.

On advice from Algonquin Adventures' Trip-log Inventory, we set off for the campsite on the right. It was already taken. We then took the next one to it. It had a small beach and the site was off into the trees. It looked good to us. It was four o'clock when we set up. I had previously frozen hotdogs and wrapped them in newspaper and foil. They were the best tasting hotdogs I ever had.

After supper, I went to investigate the privy when I was welcomed by a swarm of bees. I was stung several times and so was my husband who had heard my shouts. We had to sit out at the beach since the bees then discovered our campsite. I was thankful that our welts did not seem to be overly large or that neither of us were allergic. But I would have traded tomorrow's supper for a bottle of Benidryl (it relieves the itch).

Just before bedtime my husband decided to fix his broken sandals with his pocket knife and slices open his hand. It took most of the bandages in the first aid kit to stop the bleeding and we began to realize how far away from help we were.

We turned in early and just when I thought I would get some sleep we heard yelling, a whistle blowing and pots and pans banging from another campsite. My husband believed they were having bear problems. About an hour later, we again heard the same commotion. This did not make it easy to sleep. Later, we heard wolves , we thought they were howling to each other.

Day 2:

The next morning, we decided to move across the lake to another campsite before the bees could find us again. As we travelled across the lake, another couple was travelling towards us. They were looking for another campsite because they had trouble with bears. They had put up their food packs but had left their garbage out. We warned them about the bees. They tell us about the bear and we looked at each other.

Right then we decided to go back .. not to out campsite on Welcome Lake .. but to our campsite at Canisbay. Yes, we decided to go back. We were proud of ourselves that we did it, but we were tired to the bone too. None of us had slept much the night before and it was a choice of the campsite of the bees or the campsite of the bears.

Would we do it again? We're not quite sure! We would definetly not when there has been a dry spell. We would definetly travel lighter. We each carried 4 litres of water with us going in. We would definetly take two days to travel to Welcome Lake .. not one.

I guess one learns from experience. I'll leave you with this picture ....

Photo 3: Two happy campers encountering the last portage before headed back
              ... to showers and a comfortable afternoon nap.

Text and photos by: "Cheryl"

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