Algonquin, Canada
August 10-16, 2014



Getting Ready to Go

The adventure began around 4 AM on August 10, 2014 when Steve, Wil, Erica, Trisha and Marisa left Galion, Ohio and Tom left from the Toledo area - headed for Liz's house where we all met up and headed north. We crossed into Canada about noon and reached Tea Lake Campground around 5 PM. There we set up 2 camp sites - one for the flats and one for the curves. Steve with eager help from Erica then cooked us a steak dinner. The bathrooms (new this year) were great - too bad no one had cleaned them until after we left the next morning. We got up for another Steve cooked (with Erica's help) meal.

The shuttle to Smoke Lake (our put in) was short and we were on the water by 11 AM. The flats each soloed while the curves shared canoes. We headed into a noticeable head wind. Steve's crew of girls got a short canoe lesson from Liz. Tom trolled for fish. Liz and Wil navigated but apparently they were in parallel universes since they interpreted the map differently. However to their credit they guided us to the same portage (and the correct one). We all, but especially the girls, were happy to get out of the canoes (little did they know) and have some lunch. Then the fun began.

Beautiful Lake

We had to wait for the portage of a 400 pound voyager canoe by a misguided family group. Wil gave them a hand with getting around the last bend in the trail. Liz provided inspiration for the woman in the group to reconsider her decision to never canoe again. Then we started to move our stuff - one trip - two trips - three trips and we made it (and this was the short one). Tom carried a 3 gal pot for a group on a return trip. He did a triple and a double back flip - sacrificing his knee to save the pot and his hands (needed for paddling). We launched into Ragged Lake and began our search for a campsite. Once again Wil and Liz consulted the maps, while Steve ditches us all and checks out the campsites visually. Steve succeeds in finding an excellent group site. It easily held our 5 tents, had a great fire pit, and bathroom facilities that included a physical fitness trail. We set up camp and had dinner. Unfortunately for Marisa her planned meal of black beans and rice required 30 minutes of cooking in a pressure cooker. And while Steve brought the kitchen sink, he did not bring a pressure cooker. Thanks to Liz for sharing her spaghetti with sauce. After the moon came up Tom, Steve, Marisa, Erica, Trisha and Coleen went for a moonlit canoe paddle. The lake was quiet and the breeze refreshing.

The evening was spent hanging the bear bag by Wil, Liz, Tom, Erica and Steve. Using many trees, lines, and intense discussions to hang the bear bags all of 4 feet off the ground! While the group worked on the bear bag Trisha, Coleen and Marisa tended to the fire - with Marisa becoming quite the pyromaniac. Steve and Tom then kept the fire going after everyone else turned in for the night. Thunder and rain came throughout the night doing its part to ward off bears and critters. We woke to the sound of rain and so had a slow day in camp as we did not have to move on that day. Steve prepared all of us brunch. Camp was protected from the raiding chipmunks by Tom who pitched tent stakes at one. One stake ended straight up in the dirt 3 inches from the chipmunk. We started the campfire around 10 AM and kept it going all day thanks to Wil's tomahawk and Liz's saw. Steve sawed and Wil split wood and rocks in equal measure.

Bear Bag Material

Wil and Tom took a short canoe paddle going opposite directions around the offshore island. Wil's sighting of a loon was special as he was within 10 feet of it. At 3 PM snack time Steve once more drug out his cooking gear and made everyone pie iron pizza's and then cherry pies. We then finished with supper and stayed by the fires watching the storm brewing. Unfortunately Liz and Coleen were up the hill for the last pit stop when the rain dumped. While figuring out how to get into the tent, without the wet outer layer, they provided amusement for Trish and Marisa who were already snug in their tents.

The next morning we were packed and out on the water by 10 AM. The wind and waves were both high but conquered by all without any spills. We landed, only to face "Devil's Staircase" (950 meters- 925 which were uphill). We spent 2 hours lugging everything - canoes, packs and "diddly squat". Our 2 charming young ladies chatted up a couple of Canadians. They were surprised to discover Americans canoe camp. And of course they helped "our young ladies" by carrying a couple of bags over for them. Liz and Coleen had to rely on Wil for help. It took 6 of us to carry the Coleman canoe over the portage.

Tents in Camp

After making it across Devil's Staircase and into Porcupine Lake we again found a really nice campsite with lots of room for tents but no physical fitness trail to the loo. We put our tarp up on the point and then added sides as the wind and rain were brisk at times. We had better luck with bear bags at this site. The next day on Porcupine Lake was a rainy one. While Wil and Tom did brave the weather and spent some time paddling in the area, the rest of the group spent our time under the tarp. Everyone made the occasional trip up the path (making sure to put out the red stop sign) so as not to have company. We spent the day working at lowering the weight of the food bags. We managed to get in 3 breakfasts before lunch time. Marisa wanted to try and move the fire under the tent so as a substitute Steve provided her one via the flames from a Coleman stove. Liz warmed her toes and Erica tried to get here wet tennies dry. Later we used the stove to cook Marissa's black beans which we had finally set to soaking for the day. We not only lessened the weight of the food bags but the fuel bottles as well. Tom, Steve and Wil worked on a campfire but most of the time we opted to stay behind and under the tarps and smell the fire rather than sit out in the elements by the fire. The evening conversation included a lot of discussion about the long day we would have the next day. We would be travelling the entire distance all the way out which had taken us 2 days to get in. At that point we were still hoping for winds at our back as they had been blowing the same direction all week.

Camp Fire

Erica's alarm went off at 5:30 AM. The crew got up and started packing (lots of wet tents and stuff). It was going to be a long day going back out with 2 portages but the girls were eager to get the show on the road with visions of a hot shower and a beer (no beer for Erica). Wil and the girls were on the water by 7:20 AM. They sighted a pair of loons with their 2 babies. Liz, Tom and Steve's canoes were on the water by 7:45. It was a very short paddle to the first portage (Devil's Staircase) and when Liz, Tom, and Steve arrived the girls and Wil were returning from their first trip across. On one of the many trips over the portage Wil and Trish witnessed 2 boatloads coming in to shore and before they even hit land the man of the group started yelling "get out, get out, get out" and started throwing gear at the young boys with him, telling them to hurry up and pick up the pace. He grabbed a canoe and started running up the hill. He said they were going from Whitney and back. The last trip over the staircase was with the 80#" Weasel" canoe used by the 3 girls. 4 people were carrying it and as the end was coming into sight Coleen fell. Even though a lot of noise and rolling around on the ground ensued, no harm was done to Coleen or the canoe.

Back in our canoes we headed back into the headwinds, paddling past our 1st campsite and made it to the next portage around noon. Trish announces with a smile that this portage is half devil's staircase in length. Off we went - same as last time only twice as fast. Before taking off we had a lunch break. One way of taking a deep breath before heading up Smoke Lake, and wouldn't you know it the wind had changed and we were once again paddling into the wind. At least it wasn't raining. 2 hours later at 3 PM we made our final landfall. We packed up our gear and headed back to Tea Lake Campground. Tents put up- showers and then off to supper at "Muskoka on the Rocks". The first round of drinks we toasted the girls for surviving their first back country canoe trip. Each drink that evening came in a glass with its own logo, food was good, and everyone had a great time. The last morning Steve's van of 7 headed back to the states and Liz headed towards Quebec, solo lessons and week 2 of her vacation. A great time was had by all in spite of the rain everyday.

Rain and Canoe

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