Sunday, September 11, 2016

Algonquin: Canoe Lake To Burnt Island

We figured we, as a family, were ready for our first back country trip where we didn't just setup camp on one lake and stay there. Canoe Lake in Algonquin seemed like a good place to start. It was meant to be a four day trip but our oldest daughter was sick the day before we were set to leave and the day we were to leave. We shortened the trip by a day but kept the root the same, which meant our first day would be a long one.

We put in at Canoe Lake which was extremely busy on a Saturday afternoon. We had lunch at the access point and I couldn't get over the number of canoes in the water. While we ate, there were never fewer than a dozen canoes visible on the water at once. At one point we were able to count eighteen canoes in the water. There was a time I might have been discouraged by such a large crowd. I might have liked to enjoy the peace and quiet that would come with an empty lake. In recent years my perspective has changed a great deal. I was ecstatic to see so many people. It means that people (and lots of them) are getting out there doing the things that I love doing. We saw young families, university students, couples, seniors all out in canoes and kayaks. Some were out for the first time, others were bringing friends and family out for the first time and still others were on their way to much quieter lakes. Rather than being frustrated at the crowds, I had a huge smile on my face the entire time. I hope more people take some time to explore this great park.

Ready to Launch From Canoe Lake
After packing away our lunch we headed off. We knew that we'd have to work hard to make up for not arriving on the Friday. but I was really hoping to see the Tom Thomson Cairn since I had never seen it. I knew we were pressed for time but decided to stop anyway. The Cairn was easy to locate due to the totem pole at the site. The kids were able to pick it out from a distance. We stopped and I had a quick peek while the others waited in the canoe.

Tom Thomson Cairn
We continued north towards the portage. As we neared the portage we could see a traffic jam of canoes. We took our time gliding into the portage and by the time we landed the others were on their way. We blasted through the 260m portage without issue. Upon arriving at the other end of the portage we saw more boats and people than we had when we arrived. While many of the others took their time and lingered at the portage, we were quick to get back on the water.

Off He Goes! Looks Like the Girls Are at a Parade.
We enjoyed a beautiful paddle through Joe and Little Joe Lakes. The sun was out, there was a bit of a breeze and there were lots of people enjoying their sites. We skipped the 120m portage along the creek at the north end of the lake. There were a few shallow rocks at the beginning but they were easy enough to avoid.

We made very good time in our paddling. We managed to pass a few groups also headed to Burnt Island Lake. This would prove beneficial later as all the sites on the lake were booked that night and it was getting late. Getting ahead of a few groups would make it easier to find a site.

Along the portage from Little Joe Lake to Baby Joe Lake we met a couple with adult children who were on their first canoe trip. Great to see!

After arriving on Burnt Island Lake we spent some time paddling in and out of different bays looking for a site that was available. We eventually found a vacant site which turned out to be great. It had a nice spot for landing the canoe, a good swimming spot and was quite flat. The only downside is that there was another site very close by. It started drizzling shortly after we arrived so we set up the tent and the rain stopped. After a tough day of paddling we were all very hungry which made our simple pita pizzas seem extra delicious. The kids had a great time playing on the spacious site. As we settled in for the night it began to rain a little. The pitter patter of rain drop on the tent made for a great sound track to fall asleep to.

Home For the Night

Favourite Camp 'Chore': Tending the Stick Stove
Playing Outside
The next day was a little cool and quite windy. We had a leisurely breakfast and took our time getting ready to go. As we were leaving our site the kids noticed a very small island with what looked like a single tree. They wondered if this small island was in fact Burnt Island, that had burned at one time leaving a lone dead tree. They wanted to check it out so our first order of business was to paddle the short distance to the island.
Little Island on Burnt Island Lake
We had a quick peek then turned around started paddling into a very strong headwind. It was at this point in the trip that I appreciated the fact that we had travelled in one canoe rather than two. On our way to the portage to Little Doe Lake we noticed about 10 canoes heading in the same direction. The portage was quite busy, but everyone else seemed to be going to the Joe Lakes, leaving us on our own to get to Little Doe. We covered the 1340m portage much quicker than I though we would. A good sign for future trips. As we loaded up the canoe on Little Doe it was a little misty. We thought it might rain but before long it started clearing up. We paddled past a couple of sites that looked okay and thought we could come back to them if we didn't find anything else. Before long we came upon what looked like a great site. It was a little tough to get the canoe out of the water but other than that the site was great.

We setup our site, went for a swim, did some paddling as well as some relaxing. It was a great day.

Touring Around
Campsite on Little Doe Lake
The soundtrack that we fell asleep to on this night consisted of barred owls hooting back and forth to one another.

Looking Out Over Little Doe
I was hoping to go for a swim on our last day before leaving the site but it was quite cool in the morning. The swim would have to wait. We had breakfast and packed up. We decided it would be fun to paddle into Tom Thomson Lake just to see it. We paddled up the short creek from Little Doe to Tom Thomson. We hoped we might see a moose, but we did not. Tom Thomson was a beautiful lake. It would be a good lake to camp on for a future trip.

Lots of Lily Pads
Beaver Dam En Route to Tom Thomson
Friendly Loon
Eventually we decided we should start making our way back to Canoe Lake. We paddled down the Little Oxtongue River to Teepee Lake. We noticed that we seemed to be paddling slower today than we had on the other days. Were we just tired and suffering from sore muscles? Perhaps. Is it possible we were subconsciously paddling slowly in order to extend our stay in the park? Perhaps. Either way it was a great paddle. As we paddled we noticed that the wind had died entirely. We decided to find a campsite on Joe Lake where we could stop for lunch. We found a vacant site across from Joe Island and unloaded our lunch. The site had a ton of garbage in the fire pit. I was pleased to hear the kids ask "Why would anyone leave all this garbage here". We had bagels for lunch. I finished quickly and went for a swim while the kids were finishing their lunch. They decided that they didn't want to swim so we cleaned up the site and pressed on.

The paddle across Canoe Lake was interesting. There still wasn't any wind and the lake was as flat as glass. It was beautiful and there were far fewer boats on the water than when we had left. What a great way to end the trip. When we arrived at the access point we discovered that it was 4:30, which was much later than we had anticipated. We loaded our stuff up and headed for home. Before we got to Highway 60 the kids were asking if we could come back. A good sign that we had a successful trip.

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