Saturday, October 7, 2017

Fall in Algonuquin - Ragged Lake

We don't get to do much fall camping. Once school starts the kids get busy with their extra curricular activities, I get busy with work...excuse, excuses. We've often talked about how great it would be to get out during the week in the fall. There wouldn't be many people or bugs and there could be some really nice weather. I decided to book some time off and we booked a site on Ragged Lake in Algonquin. It was a bit of an odd trip. I had nothing to do with the planning. Sarah and the kids looked at the map, chose a section of the park, then chose a lake and booked it. It different kind of trip for us since we booked four days on a single lake. As it turns out we chose one the nicest four days of the summer. It was also the only camping we did all year where we didn't get rained on.

We arrived at Canoe Lake at noon and picked up our permit then headed across the highway to Smoke Lake. We had lunch on the dock (in the shade) on a very hot day. As we were having lunch two CC-130 Hercules flew across the lake and directly overhead. They were flying so low it looked like they were just above the trees. It was like I'd never left Trenton.

 We finished lunch, loaded up the canoes and hit the water. The weather was perfect. The sun was shining, the temperature was north of 25ºC and there wasn't much wind. Shortly after leaving dock we saw the park float plane take off right behind us. It disappeared for a while then came back, landed and docked. Next up in the Smoke Lake Air Show was helicopter dragging some long cables behind it. We had seen the same helicopter, as we drove in, hauling a very large piece of lumber.

After the Air Show we had a beautiful paddle across the lake. We saw a couple of small motor boats go by and a group of about seven canoes headed back to the access point but other than that it was very quiet.

On Our Way
We made it to the portage to Ragged a little quicker than expected. As we arrived there was a couple coming in the other direction. They had spent the night on Ragged and said the site they stayed at was very nice. They showed us where it was on the map. We easily managed the 240m portage. We got onto Ragged Lake and started negotiating which site would be our home for the next few days. I was pushing for the small island site in West Bay. One of the kids (possibly two) just wanted to grab the first site that we saw. They were hot and excited to do some swimming. Once we reached the big island in the middle of the lake they realized how quick it was to paddle across the lake so we made our way to West Bay. We didn't see anyone else on the lake. It was, after all, only Thursday. We rounded the corner so that the island was in site was in view and sure enough there was a canoe there. What were the chances that the only people on the entire lake were within a few hundred metres of each other? We opted for the site just north of the island which was fantastic. It had a great beach and was located on a point. Our middle daughter was very upset that we weren't on the island but after being there for a while she admitted that we had a great site. The kids spent most of the time that we were on the site at the sand beach or in the water.

We've Arrived
The Beach
Moose Bones on the Beach
Once we arrived at our site it was time for a swim. We were all really hot and the lake just seemed so inviting.
Time for a Swim
The kids stayed in the water while Sarah and I setup camp.

The Sun Goes Down Early This Late in the Year
Our son loves cooking dinner over the hobo stove so he got the fire going then looked after it while cooking for us. It was the last day of summer but it sure felt like it could have been the middle of summer.

It was quite late by the time we finished eating, got cleaned up and hung the food. We piled into the tent and went to sleep. I had hoped to go out and take pictures of the stars but I was tired enough that I fell asleep and didn't feel like getting up at any point in the night.

The next morning we awoke to a perfectly calm day. There was no wind and the lake was as flat as could be.

More Sunrise
Fall Colours
The air was so still that we could hear the faint sound of logging operations off in the distance. It wasn't until the next day that I looked at the map and noticed how close we were to the edge of the park and a logging camp to the south.

After breakfast we paddled over to Archer Bay to check out the long beach we had seen the day before. The girls swam for a bit while the rest of us explored and took pictures.
Checking Out the Geese At Archer Bay

Beach at Archer Bay
Looking Into Archer Bay
After a while we decided to head back to our site for some lunch. We had lunch then Sarah took our youngest daughter for a nap. She'd had a very restless night the night before and could use a little more sleep. The rest of us spent our time swimming and playing with rocks. The kids discovered that some rocks were harder than others and that one type of rock turned to sand easily if you rubbed it or banged against other rocks. We figured it was sandstone. They had such a blast identifying rocks and making sand. It was quite fitting given that our daughter was studying soil, erosion, etc. at school. Experiential learning at it's best!

Playing with Rocks
After hours of playing in the water we decided it was time to start thinking about cooking up some dinner. We started a fire and cooked up some delicious pizza. After dinner the girls hung out around the fire while my son and I went fishing. We both caught a fish on our third cast and had a few other bites. It was great to be on the water as the sun disappeared below the horizon.

The next morning was almost as calm as the first morning. It was a bit cool but once the sun came over the horizon things started to heat up pretty quickly. We took out some eggs and discovered we hadn't brought any fat to fry them in. The good news was that we had some Ready Crisp bacon. We fried it up which gave us enough grease to be able to fry the eggs. It was a delicious breakfast. For whatever reason this was the first time in a long time that we brought eggs with us. It certainly won't be the last.
After breakfast we hopped in the canoes and headed for Parkside Bay. We were just looking to explore and see what was around the corner. Our son fished while I paddled and Sarah paddled as the girls played in the front of the canoe. Somehow we'll need to get the kids to paddle more on our trips (not that it mattered for this trip). As we paddled our son caught a nice smallmouth bass. He was pretty excited. This was the first time he'd caught a fish big enough to eat.

Heading to Parkside Bay 
Beautiful Day
Mountain Behind Our Site
We paddled for a bit but it was getting hot so we headed back to our site. On our way back we could really notice Ball Mountain behind our site. I wondered if there were any lookouts on the mountain. I imagined that the views of the lake might be great.

We headed back to the site. I dropped our son off then went to clean the fish. The rest of the crew started a fire and when I came back we cooked the fish and had a delicious lunch. You could say that our son was hooked on fishing at this point. He was really excited to be able to catch our lunch.

Big Catch
In the afternoon we hung around the site and did some swimming and relaxing in the hammocks.
Hanging Around
While the kids were relaxing I decided to head up to the top of Ball Mountain to see what I could find. There were no trails beyond a certain point but I managed to meander to the top. Once I made it to the top it was pretty clear that there was no lookout but there was a gorgeous meadow of maple saplings. It wasn't at all what I expected but it was super rewarding none the less. 
Maple Saplings 
I made my way back down and we had dinner. After dinner we did some fishing but didn't catch anything. It was another beautiful night on the water.

Beautiful Night on the Lake
The next morning we woke up to a really humid morning. The forecast was for a maximum temperature around 30ºC feeling more like 40ºC. We had breakfast, packed up our stuff and headed out. It was a hot, hot day. Hard to believe that these were the first days of fall. We were hoping to stop somewhere for lunch and a swim but we were not covering ground very quickly so we ate in the canoes and pressed on. 
On the Way Back - Captured by the Four Year Old
Smoke Lake
It was very busy heading to the access point. It was amazing to see how many people must have been in the park over the weekend. We were all sweaty and smelly when we got to the access point so almost all of us opted for a swim. It was so refreshing. I couldn't believe how much cooler I felt after being in the water.

We had a great four days in Algonquin in the fall. We will certainly be back for more fall trips in the future.

Do you have a favourite fall destination?

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