Trip report: 4 day Algonquin canoe trip from Rock Lake to Clydegale, Harry, Lake Louisa and back to Rock

Canoe trip planning presented a new challenge for me this year – for the first time ever, I was unable to read the paddling and portaging distances on my map! Thankfully, it was nothing my optometrist couldn’t easily fix.

My friend Jen and I decided on a route that would have us camping on lakes neither of us had camped on before. We planned to cover a little less distance than last year’s first trip together, when we did a 5-day canoe trip at Algonquin from the Magnetawan Lake access point to Misty/White Trout/McIntosh/Daisy Lakes. Our plan this year was to single carry every portage if possible, and in particular, the super long ones (2k-3k!).

Day 1: Rock Lake access point to Pen Lake to Clydegale Lake

Somewhere around 1 PM we pushed off the dock at the Rock Lake access point, with me in the stern and Jen in the bow. We headed for the portage into Pen Lake. I carried the canoe and Jen’s barrel, while she carried the big canoe pack, paddles and other miscellaneous (annoying) things. After that first portage, we changed things up slightly, adding more weight to the barrel, and allowing Jen to carry only the paddles in her hands. And just like that, our portaging system was set!

About to set out from the Rock Lake access point.

Pen Lake was completely new to me, and looking at it on my map (Jeffsmap – waiting patiently for the new Unlostify Algonquin map to come out!), it looked like a relatively big lake with little moose viewing potential. Was I ever wrong! Jen and I rounded a corner to see a young moose feeding in the water. We watched him for a while, and then continued on. We rounded the next corner, and spotted a second moose, a large female.

I love her eyelashes!

We left her, rounded the next corner, and you guessed, a third moose, this time at the Galipo River and portage to Welcome Lake! We were pretty amazed at our luck. Finally, we left this young guy and headed for the short portage into Clydegale Lake. We knew that all of the sites on the lake weren’t booked, so we knew there would be a site for us, but we didn’t want to paddle too far only to have to return if the sites were taken. We did end up having to packpaddle a bit, but we ended up with a great site not far from the portage back into Pen Lake.

Apple crisp.

We set up camp – our tent, bug shelter, and bear rope over a tree branch – and then jumped into the lake to cool off. It was quite a hot day! There was a cute little garter snake at our site, and a very pretty sunset. Jen cooked us foil dinners over the fire (potatoes, other veggies and cheese, with sausage in hers as well), and then very yummy apple crisp!!

We went to bed pretty tired, but we both had a terrible night’s sleep!!

  • Day 1 distance paddled: 15k (all distances approximate)
  • Day 1 distance portaged: 375m + 275m

Day 2: Clydegale Lake to Pen Lake to Welcome Lake to Harry Lake

We disassembled our tent, and boiled water for oatmeal, packing up the bug shelter and the rest of our things as we finished using them.

Did I mention the bugs? Oh my god. Mosquitos, horse or deer flies, and even blackflies! Despite bug spray with deet, over the course of our trip we were absolutely covered in bites, bumps and red dots. Even though we would re-apply bug spray for the portages (because that’s when they were the worst – often at the start/end) we were sweating profusely (well, I should speak for myself here!) and the bug spray was sweated away! I did wear my bug jacket around camp, but there’s no way I could portage with that thing on – way too hot even though it is only made of mesh! But the moose moments make the portaging and bug challenges worth it!

We set out from our campsite, with just a short paddle over to the portage into Pen Lake.

Oh, the places you’ll go!

We had a short portage and a long portage (2170m) on our way to Harry Lake. On the long one we encountered a big group of teenage campers doing multiple trips back and forth with their canoes and gear. Each and every one who passed me asked if I knew how much longer it was to the end. “8 minutes at my pace!” was my first answer. The only time I asked one of the kids how much longer I had to go, the answer was, “It’s a LONG way!” so I never asked again. Too demoralizing. At one point, two boys helped me to get the canoe back up after I had taken a much needed break!

Once into Welcome Lake, we were able to paddle right into Harry Lake without another portage, as they are connected by a creek. It was in the creek between Welcome Lake and Harry Lake that we saw another moose. I spotted the ears long before we got close.

Spot the moose ears as we paddle away!

By the time we got to Harry Lake, a poor night’s sleep, heat, and physical exhaustion caught up with Jen and she wasn’t feeling great. Once we chose our campsite, we set up the tent and she lay down for a while.

Dinner was awesome pizzas on the campfire. I think we were in the tent ready to sleep before it got dark!

Dinner view.
  • Day 2 distance paddled: 10k
  • Day 2 distance portaged: 275m + 275m + 2170m

Day 3: Harry Lake to Rence Lake to Frank Lake to Florence Lake to Lake Louisa

On day 3, Jen woke up feeling refreshed and awesome! Yay! Before leaving our campsite in the morning, I spotted what looked like a shoelace on the ground, but when I got closer, I realized it was a snake! Turns out it was a Northern ring-necked snake, one I had never seen before (the ring around its neck is not visible in this pic). We also had a loon family just off our site. I love loons and the varied noises they make, but 2 AM is not my preferred time to listen to them! One night we had very vocal loons calling back and forth to each other – one of whom sounded like it was right outside our tent door.

We paddled from Harry Lake into Rence Lake, and then did a short portage into Frank’s Lake, which continued on to Florence Lake. From Florence Lake we arrived at the portage into Lake Louisa, and boy was it ever muddy! Lots of evidence of people slip-sliding their way from the water onto the drier ground inland. Our sandals and feet were completely mud covered, and I went into the mud part-way up my calf. Thankfully, I didn’t fall. We carried the canoe together onto drier ground before beginning our portage.

Once into Lake Louisa, we knew that the hardest part of the day was behind us – now we just had to paddle to find a campsite. Jen had read some reviews of sites, so we scoped out various ones as we paddled by. We had heard that the lake can get pretty windy in bad weather, so we planned to get as close to the portage into Rock Lake as we could while still choosing an awesome site. We hadn’t seen a single person (other than each other!) all day long, and that continued on Lake Louisa. We pulled up to a campsite to swim, have our lunch, and relax a bit before finding a campsite for the night. I heard a man and saw evidence of people at one site, but never did spot anyone.

As we paddled along, I spotted something very dark against the green of the shoreline. “Jen, is that a moose?” I asked. She was impressed with my eyesight (thank you Dr. Ruhl – not only could I read the map but I could still see way into the distance)! We decided to go have a look, and sure enough, it was a big bull moose!! And just like that, we picked our campsite, the one 400m from the moose.

That’s one big bull moose!

We sat and watched him for a while, then headed over to our campsite. While setting up, we continued to sneak glances of him.

After setting up, we jumped into the lake for a swim, still watching the moose!

Spot the moose in between the tall trees on our campsite – this was the view from inside the tent.

For dinner we rehydrated some veggie soup that I had prepared, and Jen made bannock using my MSR Dragonfly stove. Yum. Then I made chocolate pudding which we added goodies to (peanuts, M&Ms etc.).

This was our first night not making a campfire, but honestly it was way too hot to sit by a fire. In fact, the first two nights when Jen cooked by campfire it was rather unpleasant being near it!

  • Day 3 distance paddled: 8k
  • Day 3 distance portaged: 320m + 1725m

Day 4: Louisa Lake to Rock Lake

The next morning I spotted a snapping turtle laying eggs on our campsite. She was there the entire time we packed up our campsite. As we paddled away, she swam by!

Snapping turtle laying eggs on our campsite.

We had a very short paddle over to the portage into Rock Lake. This one had an outhouse on the Lake Louisa side (it even had toilet paper!).

It was time for our last portage of the trip, a 3000m portage into Rock Lake. We planned to take 3 breaks, with me stopping when I needed to relieve my shoulders and back, and Jen stopping when she reached me. We had read that this portage wasn’t too difficult technically (not a lot of rocks and roots and ups and downs); rather, it was just plain long. So, we set off! When we emerged from the woods onto an old logging road, I spotted a weasel of some sort. A couple hundred metres later, I saw it again running along the trail. By 800m I was ready for a break but forced myself to continue to 1k. Jen caught me, but we didn’t stop for long, because the bugs were horrendous! We did adjust the stuff attached to the outside of the barrel though, transferring something (water?) to Jen’s pack, because it was swinging wildly on my back for some reason and yanking my back.

Another 800m later, I needed to put the boat down and take the pack off. But then I walked 1.2k without a break, and the portage was done! There were lots of bugs, but also tons of butterflies (White Admirals, apparently)!

We got back in the boat as fast as we could to get away from the bugs, and then paddled over to a campsite where we had a quick swim and snack before heading back to the Rock Lake access point.

Being a Friday, we saw lots of people paddling on Rock Lake as we were heading out. Over the course of the 4 days, we were lucky enough to see wildlife galore: 5 moose, 2 beavers (including one dragging a very leafy branch), loons, herons, a weasel, dragonflies, butterflies, woodpeckers, lots and lots of toads on portages and frogs in the marshy areas, turtles (3 or more), snakes, and a few too many biting bugs!

We made it!
  • Day 4 distance paddled: 10k
  • Day 4 distance portaged: 3000m

It was another great canoe trip at Algonquin Provincial Park!!

Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete

Follow me on Twitter: @kyraonthego

Follow me on Instagram: @kyraonthego

Trip report: Cross-country skiing and yurt camping at Algonquin February 2019

After such a great experience yurt camping for the first time last winter at Mew Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park, my friend Rebecca and I decided to do it again. This time, we would be joined by Jen, who had never stayed in a yurt before. There is so much to do at Algonquin in the winter!

Our plan was to borrow cross-country skis from Algonquin Outfitters, and in my case, to try them out for the first time in more than 10 years! Last year, we borrowed fat bikes and had a blast!

Unfortunately, Jen was unable to ski due to a knee injury, but she was still keen to get away with us for a few days!

Skiing in fresh snow on the Fen Lake trails at Algonquin after 25 cm of fresh snow had fallen. [Photo by Rebecca]
Snow-plowing my way down a steep hill on the Blue Spruce Resort trails. [Photo by Rebecca]

I’ve already written about my cross-country skiing adventures with Rebecca on the Algonquin Outfitters blog, so I’ll skip that part (it was super fun) and focus instead on winter camping in a yurt!

We pulled into Mew Lake and headed for our yurt. Before even parking our car at our campsite, we had already spotted 2 pine martens. Their little faces are so darn cute!

Pine marten beside our yurt.

Jen had arrived just before us, so we went into the yurt and decided who was going to sleep in which bed, and where we were going to stash all of our stuff. A yurt is much bigger than a tent, but start piling gear in there and it fills up quickly.

Since there were only 3 of us, Jen and I each had a double bed (bottom bunk) to ourselves, with Rebecca on a top bunk. The yurts sleep 6, and while there are 6 chairs, the table is tiny. As you can see in the pictures below, there is a long shelf above the table, perfect for keeping paper towels and kleenex and other things out of the way.

There is an electric heater in the yurt, which takes the edge off the cold, but you still have to dress warmly. As the heater cycles on and off, I often found that I was most comfortable wearing multiples layers, including a winter hat (I may or may not have worn the same long johns and running pants for 3 days straight)! But at night, I was quite comfortable in regular pajamas and my -7C sleeping bag. There is a single overhead fluorescent light, which is plugged into the only electrical outlet in the yurt. This means you have one outlet to plug in your phone, kettle, etc. unless you bring a power bar.

Insider tip: bring a very long extension cord to reach the power outlet outside and behind the yurt. You can feed this into the yurt through a window (they close with velcro), and then you can have an outlet that works when you turn the light off. Otherwise, when you turn the light off, the other outlet turns off too! Jen read up on yurt camping and learned lots of useful tidbits, including putting a sheet on the double mattress to make the bed more cozy!

Note the bedsheet on Jen’s bed! Smart!

Jen also brought a mat for just inside the yurt door, and we all brought “inside shoes” so that we didn’t track snow and water all across the floor. There were a couple of rubber mats to put our footwear on, and several hooks to hang coats. Our door didn’t quite shut properly (it seemed misaligned), so it’s no wonder it never really warmed up in there.

Rebecca, Jen and I.

We had a sneak peak at a newer model of yurt across the road from us, complete with newer bunk beds, a wooden table, and a fireplace! It sounds like all of the older yurts will be replaced in time with the newer model.

Extension cord giving us power even when we turned the light off.

While Jen wasn’t able to ski, she was able to go for walks, so we walked through the old Mew Lake airfield at sunset, which was just as pretty as always.

Jen and Rebecca in the old Mew Lake airfield.

Another time we walked through the old Mew Lake airfield to the Old Railway Trail, then back along the Highland Trail to the waterfall, and finally along the Track and Tower Trail back to Mew Lake.

While we didn’t skate at Mew Lake, there is a rink beside the comfort station (hot and cold running water, flush toilets, a shower, and laundry facilities), complete with hockey nets, sticks, pucks (and shovels!) for campers to use. There’s also a warming tent with picnic tables and a fire in it.

Warming tent and skating rink.

While we were camping, the only occupied campsites were the 7 yurts, and 3 sites with trailers on them (including the camp hosts). It quiet – and lovely!

Our 2nd day at Algonquin saw a snowstorm blow in, and when it was all done the next morning, 25 cm of snow had fallen! We couldn’t leave until a tractor came to plow the roads (which happened before 10 AM). We had to dig our cars out, and sadly, head for home!

Just a little snow fell!

I love that in a yurt at Algonquin you can hang your clothes to dry, be cozy at night, and have nature’s playground at your doorstep. It was a great 3-day mini winter getaway, with cross-country skiing, hiking, card playing, lots of laughs, tons of sweets (and hot chocolate!) and relaxation! Algonquin, I’ll be back!

On the road to our campsite! [Photo by Rebecca]

Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete

Follow me on Twitter: @kyraonthego

Follow me on Instagram: @kyraonthego

Trip report: 5-day canoe trip at Algonquin Provincial Park – Magnetawan Lake access point/Misty/White Trout/McIntosh/Daisy Lakes

It doesn’t seem to matter how much planning and preparation goes into my backcountry camping trips – something always seems to happen that I hadn’t foreseen!

This 5-day canoe trip at Algonquin Provincial Park (Magnetawan Lake access point on the West side of the park) was to be my 1st canoe trip since the fall of 2016, when I did a trip along the Tim River, also at Algonquin. And this time, I’d be paddling with my new(ish) friend Jen, who I met through social media connections. I was slightly paranoid while prepping food, as Jen is Celiac, so I had to be extra careful in my choice of ingredients. Lists made and prep done, it was time to start the trip! The forecast looked great, though we would be starting at the tail end of a heat wave. Drinking lots of water would be key.

Day 1: Magnetawan Lake access point to Misty Lake, through Hambone Lake, Acme Lake, Daisy Lake, the Petawawa River and Little Misty Lake

We picked up our backcountry permit at the Kearney office, and set out for the Magnetawan Lake access point.

Ready to push off the dock at the Magnetawan Lake access point!

In terms of gear, we had 1 canoe pack, 1 big backpack, a waterproof bag of food, a small backpack with water and stuff (Jen), and a camelbak with water and stuff (me). And of course a canoe, 3 paddles, a bailer, throw rope, painter, and 2 PFDs (worn at all times in the canoe). We knew that we wouldn’t be able to single-carry everything on the portages, so instead we would walk each portage 3 times (1st time with canoe and gear, 2nd time empty-handed, 3rd time with the remainder of the gear).

We pushed off the dock and headed for the first portage, about 500m away. Starting our trip on a Tuesday meant that there weren’t many other canoes around. We paddled through Hambone Lake toward the portage to Acme Lake, and thankfully the water was high enough that we could keep paddling and skip the portage. It was on the portage from Acme Lake to Daisy Lake that I had my first adventure.

Jen carried the canoe, and me my big backpack. We put the canoe down on the dock, but after Jen headed back to get the rest of our gear, I decided to put it into the water, since the dock wasn’t too big and I didn’t want to block anyone who needed to use it. I lifted the canoe into the water, stepped away from the dock, and no… the canoe did not float away. I grabbed my backpack, stepped into the water to load it into the canoe, and sunk down with my right leg up to my waist in muck!! My backpack ended up in the water, but everything inside it was in waterproof bags, so nothing got wet or damaged. Just my ego, as this entire ordeal was witnessed by a couple in their canoe! Thankfully I was not injured, and I was able to extricate my foot (and sandal!) from the muck. What a start to the trip!

We paddled through Daisy Lake and along the Petawawa River, which was twisty and narrow and my kind of paddling (except for the deer and horse flies). We continued through Misty Lake and Misty Forks, where we encountered our first moose of the trip! He was a young one, and was exactly where we needed to paddle in the river. We sat and watched him for a while, and then eventually he headed into the woods.

First moose sighting, a young male.

The first few sites on Misty Lake were taken, but we managed to find a great one. We set up Jen’s 3-man tent, her bug shelter (a welcome refuge from the mosquitos, deer and horse flies), threw a rope over a tree branch to hoist our bear bag and safely store our food, boiled water to rehydrate quinoa spinach soup in Jen’s Kelly Kettle (so cool!), and cooked bannock using Jen’s Trangia stove, and then made apple crumble for dessert. We also cooled off in the lake!

Delicious quinoa spinach soup and freshly baked bannock for dinner.

We were exhausted, but for some reason, neither of us could fall asleep! It may have been the bullfrogs calling loudly all night long, it may have been the loons calling for slightly less time, or it may have been that we were overly tired. Who knows, but I do know this – I slept less than 4 hours that first night! I love the sound of bullfrogs and loons, but not in the middle of the night!

  • Distance paddled: 15.7 km (Note: all distances for paddling and portaging are approximate, based on Jeffsmap Algonquin map and my Inreach data.)
  • Distance portaged: 6.3 km
  • Wildlife highlights: moose, snapping turtle, muskrat, frogs galore in the water, and toads galore on the portages

Day 2: Misty Lake to White Trout Lake, through Misty Forks, Petawawa River, and Grassy Bay

We woke up a little less rested than desired, but we were keen to get moving and see what kind of adventures the day would bring us. We ate hot cereal for breakfast, and laughed at ourselves for packing tea. It was so hot out that tea was the last thing I needed! While sitting on the shore eating our breakfast, a snapping turtle swam by. A good start to the day!

We packed everything up, and headed out. Just a few minutes after paddling away from our site, I spotted a moose on the far shore of Misty Forks, and quickly realized there was a little one as well – a mama and baby. How lucky were we?! The baby was small – definitely born this year. It was the smallest moose I had ever seen in the wild. We eventually continued paddling and after our first portage of the day, continued along the Petawawa River. There was the most amazing looking grass in the river – and so many frogs just sitting on top of it at the surface of the water.

It was so hot that the deer flies and horse flies were out in abundance! We used bug spray with Deet, but it was only marginally effective. We were sweating profusely, so we were likely just sweating it off!

I tried hard to drink water frequently so that I didn’t get dehydrated. The portages were more challenging in the heat and humidity, and the bugs didn’t help! It’s so frustrating to be portaging the canoe and to be unable to reach a spot that the bugs are attacking!

We ate our lunch while sitting in the canoe once we found a spot where we weren’t being swarmed by bugs.

Before we got to White Trout Lake, we spotted yet another moose (#4!). On White Trout Lake, we headed for the campsites on the East side. Randy from Algonquin Outfitters helped Jen and I to choose our route, and made some campsite suggestions too. Based on his advice, we found a great site!

By Day 2, we had our routine set – arrive at the campsite, pull everything onto shore, jump into the lake to cool off and feel somewhat clean again, and set the campsite up.

Thankfully, we both slept much better the second night! Before falling asleep, I heard a Barred Owl.

  • Distance paddled: 15.1 km
  • Distance portaged: 3.9 km
  • Wildlife highlights: snapping turtle, mama and baby moose, other moose

Day 3: White Trout Lake to McIntosh Lake, through Grassy Bay, and McIntosh Marsh 

When I got up in the morning, I decided to pull out my bug jacket – I should have done it earlier on the trip! While the bugs still buzzed all around me, they couldn’t get me. Visiting the privy was much more bearable!!

Jen cooked us a delicious breakfast of pancakes, bacon, and copious amounts of maple syrup.

We started paddling back the way we had come the day before, but eventually headed further West into McIntosh Marsh. It was here that we spotted a loon with 2 babies. As we approached, the mama loon lifted her wing and one baby scooted underneath. At one point, one baby was by her side, and the other on her back. So cute!

Photo credit: Jen

We checked out a few campsites on McIntosh Lake before we settled on one. The things we wanted most in a campsite were good swimming (not weedy/leechy), and West facing for direct evening sun and potentially awesome sunsets!

The sky was clouding over, and eventually we heard thunder, but it was to the South and East of us, and we never got rain. However, the temperature dropped and the humidity disappeared, and with it, the majority of the deer and horse flies!

While making dinner, I discovered that the dehydrated salsa I had to add to our egg, veggie, bacon and cheese wraps was actually dehydrated tomato sauce! Oops – I guess I mixed it up with the food for my September trip at Killarney. At least it was a tomato base and went well with the wraps.

After dinner each night, I would add contact lens solution to my case, which I would then put in my pocket and keep there until bedtime, so that I didn’t forget to get solution out before hanging the food and our toiletries (I learned the hard way). But this time, I accidentally took my contact lens out. It was windy, and after the first few attempts at putting it back in my eye failed, I asked Jen for help, worried that the lens would blow away. But before I could finish my sentence, you guessed it – the lens blew off my finger! I saw it fall, and while we spent at least 10 minutes looking for it (including shining a headlamp at the general area we were in), we never did find it. Thankfully, I always travel with spares! I learned a valuable lesson – always put my contacts in and take them out inside the tent!

After the contact lens incident, we had a fire so that Jen could bake a birthday cake on her reflector oven to celebrate Algonquin Park’s 125th birthday. While it baked, we roasted tiny marshmallows – a first for me! I’ll definitely do the mini ones again – the same fun with less sugar overload! Plus the outer part gets crunchy and while you expect a soft middle, there’s nothing there. Try it. At one point, Jen attempted to rotate the cake, but tipped it into the campfire by accident! We lost half the cake (it was still more liquid than solid at that point), but it didn’t matter! We still enjoyed a delicious birthday cake.

  • Distance paddled: 11.6 km
  • Distance portaged: 3.9 km
  • Wildlife highlights: mama loon and 2 babies

Day 4: McIntosh Lake to Daisy Lake, through Timberwolf Lake, Misty Lake, Little Misty Lake and the Petawawa River

On Day 4, we paddled a short distance from our campsite to the portage to Timberwolf Lake, where we spotted yet another moose! This one was on shore, but then started swimming toward the portage as we were paddling toward it. We waited in the canoe until she was gone, then paddled the last bit to shore. We were careful on the portage, knowing that she was near, and not wanting to get in her way.

On the portage from Timberwolf to Misty Lake, I had to climb through and over downed trees. At one point, I stood there holding the canoe over my head, with just trees and branches ahead of me. I asked Jen if I had maybe not paid attention and lost the trail, but nope, she said the trail ended at the downed tree. So I climbed through it! Later, I had to sit on a big downed tree in order to get over it.

When we arrived at Daisy Lake, we found that site after site was already occupied. It was Friday night, and we knew we were competing with people just starting their trip, and those ending it the next day. However, we had booked a site on the lake and knew there would be one for us. In the end there were 3 empty, and we chose a big one with a great spot for swimming.

We cooked pizzas in tinfoil on the campfire, and then homemade pudding, also on the campfire (with yummy toppings of peanuts and M&Ms).

This campsite had a few resident chipmunks who were brave and very interested in our food! It also featured garbage strewn all about, from toilet paper piles to plastic bags, contact lens cases and tampons! So sad and disgusting.

We settled into the tent for our last sleep of the trip.

  • Distance paddled: 14.8 km
  • Distance portaged: 4.5 km
  • Wildlife highlights: moose, mergansers (ducks)

Day 5: Daisy Lake to Magnetawan Lake, through Acme Lake and Hambone Lake

Our last day would be our shortest travel day. After a little photo shoot at our campsite, we set out for our last few lakes and portages.


Remember the muck I stepped into at the end of the portage from Acme Lake to Daisy Lake? Well, when we reached the portage at the end of Daisy Lake, we spotted the infamous dock, and once we got close, but before we could give a warning, a paddler stepped into the muck on the other side of the dock, and sunk down deep! Unfortunately for him, he was also carrying the canoe above his head! “Are you okay? Let me know if you need help.” I said. He said he was fine – he just needed to get his foot out!

See that dock behind me? It’s there for a reason.

At the other end of the portage we met a Park Ranger, who along with what was probably a student, was headed to Daisy Lake to do maintenance at the campsites. He asked if any portages needed work, and we told him what we had found. I also told him the story of my fall into the muck, and the guy we just saw do the same thing. He said, “Always test the ground with your paddle.” Lesson learned!

We met the fall-into-the-muck-paddler at the next and last portage, where he told us that his family was disappointed that they had missed his fall. He was nice enough to take a few pictures of us, including the one below!

And just like that, we arrived back at the Magnetawan Lake access point, our trip over.

  • Distance paddled: 3.2 km
  • Distance portaged: 0.6 km

One thing we loved about the route we did was the variety of areas we paddled through: little lakes, big lakes, winding rivers, lily pads, gorgeous grasses, beaver dams requiring us to lift over them, rocks in shallow waters requiring us to walk and pull the canoe alongside us, dead calm water, wind and whitecaps (well, I wouldn’t ask for this!).

We were surprised one day to find that we had cell signals on McIntosh Lake! The rest of the time, Jen and I used our Garmin InReach devices to communicate with our families and friends to let them know that we were okay.

I highly recommend this route, but be prepared for lots of portaging!


Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete

Follow me on Twitter: @kyraonthego

Follow me on Instagram: @kyraonthego

My 10 favourite things to do while car camping at Driftwood Provincial Park

Driftwood Provincial Park is a little gem! The first time I camped there, my son was almost 3, and my daughter 11 months old. My husband and I decided to try a short camping trip, and then visit our friends in Deep River. We loved the park! Driftwood is on Highway 17, about 1 1/2 hours east of North Bay, and 2 1/2 hours northwest of Ottawa. It lies on the Ottawa River. After visiting many times, I’ve drafted a list of my 10 favourite things to do while car camping at Driftwood Provincial Park.


1. Go for a hike along the Oak Highland Trails or Chevrier Creek Trails

Neither trail is too demanding, but the Oak Highlands Trails give a panoramic view of the Ottawa River.



2. Explore the Ottawa River shoreline by canoe

When the weather is good and the river calm, we love to paddle along the Ottawa River shoreline looking for creatures like beavers.


3. Hike the Barron Canyon Trail at Algonquin Provincial Park

The drive to the Barron Canyon Trail (accessed from the east side of the park 11 km north of the Sand Lake Gate) is about 1 1/2 hours from Driftwood. The hike itself is short – it’s just a 1.5 km loop trail – but the views are spectacular! Make the drive worthwhile and visit High Falls while you’re in the area (see below)!


4. Swim and play at the water slide at High Falls at Algonquin Provincial Park

We love playing at High Falls! It’s a natural water slide that is easily accessible and super fun! You can hike there via a short trail (3 to 4 km) on the Barron Canyon Road about 250 m west of the Brigham Lake Parking Lot, or you can take the longer route and hike along the Eastern Pines Hiking Trail from the Achray access point.

There’s a rope to help you get out of the water and back up onto the rock.

Tip: don’t wear your favourite shorts or bathing suit – sliding down the rock could tear the material! I’m speaking from experience.


5. Go to Deep River for ice cream

Sadly the dairy is no longer operating, but you can still get ice cream in Deep River, a small town about 30 minutes south-east of the park!


6. Swim from our campsite to the island

Our favourite campsites are in the 39-41 range, and just off the campsite there is an island that we love to swim to. It may be 100m or more away, but with life jackets and calm water, it’s manageable for kids!

Sunrise on Driftwood Bay
The island!


7. Admire the beauty of the Ottawa River

You can’t beat sitting in a chair and staring out at the Ottawa River. We’ve seen some spectacular storms come across the river… hitting us with a flash flood, hail, and wild thunderstorms!



8. Hike the Brent Crater Trail at Algonquin Provincial Park

The Brent Crater Trail is a 2.0 km loop near the Cedar Lake – Brent Access Point of Algonquin Provincial Park. From the park website: “[It] allows scenic views and exploration of the Brent meteorite crater, one of the world’s most famous fossil meteorite craters. Visitors can descend into the present floor of the crater before looping back to the observation tower overlooking the crater rim. The observation tower can also be accessed by a small parking lot off the Brent Road at km 32.” Apparently the crater formed 450 million years ago!


9. Visit the Canadian Clock Museum in Deep River

The Canadian Clock Museum is way more interesting than it sounds! On the front lawn there is even a clock that tells time using your body and the shadow you cast.

Tip: Call ahead! The museum is not open every day!


10. Snack on blueberries while hiking through the park

Who can resist a few fresh blueberries while hiking through the forest?

Picking wild blueberries

If you’re interested in other Ontario Parks, here are my tips for Grundy Lake, Lake Superior, and Sleeping Giant:

My 10 favourite things to do while car camping at Grundy Lake Provincial Park

My 10 favourite things to do while car camping at Lake Superior Provincial Park

My 10 favourite things to do while car camping at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete

Follow me on Twitter: @kyraonthego

Follow me on Instagram: @kyraonthego

Trip report: 1st time staying in a yurt, at Algonquin Provincial Park in February 2018

Until this year, my winter camping experiences had all involved a tent, with no heat other than a hot water bottle at bedtime! But last fall I decided to book a yurt at Algonquin Provincial Park – Mew Lake – for a weekend of fat biking and snowshoe running! I’m now sold on yurts for winter camping. It wasn’t even that cold while we were at Algonquin (-5C to -10C), but it was so nice to be able to get out of the cold, to be warm at night (I was actually too warm in my -20C sleeping bag), and to be able to hang my clothes up and dry them overnight!
Yurt on site 54.
The yurts at Algonquin have an electric heater (you can’t control the temperature), and sleep 6, with 2 bunk beds each sleeping 1 on top and 2 on the bottom. There is also a small table and 6 chairs, a shelf over the table, and 1 electrical outlet (well, 2 plugs but one is used by the fluorescent light). There were 3 of us in the yurt, so we had plenty of room for all of our stuff. On Friday night, my friend Rebecca and I took the fat bikes we had borrowed from Algonquin Outfitters out for a test ride. Our plan was to ride part of the Old Railway Bike Trail, but we had trouble getting any traction in the snow (despite fat bikes being made for snow!). When we reached the Old Railway Bike Trail, it was time to turn back – the sun would be setting soon. We were treated to an amazing sunset as we rode through the old Mew Lake airfield.
Mew Lake airfield at sunset.
The only other time I had ridden a fat bike was last summer, also at Algonquin.
Mew Lake airfield at sunset.
When we got back to the yurt, our friend Kristin told us that our traction problem was the result of having too much air in our tires! The next morning, we let a whole bunch of air out of the tires, and she was right – we were able to ride!
Well-fed turkey (not by us) at our campsite.
We headed for Huntsville and the Muskoka Winter Bike Festival fat bike race (which I wrote about here – so much fun!).
Bikes ready for the fat bike race.
After the race, we headed back to Algonquin and our yurt. I went out for a short snowshoe run, and was treated to a very pretty, quiet, calm forest. I didn’t see a soul – just animal footprints. DSC08340 On our last morning, the 3 of us headed out for a bike ride on the Old Railway Bike Trail. This time, we made it to the trail quite quickly, and actually got to ride the trail. We headed west toward Cache Lake.
Old Railway Bike Trail.
Once again, we saw no one, but did see animal tracks of all kinds. It was quite fun to ride the same trail that I had ridden last summer in the winter.
Old Railway Bike Trail.
Sadly, after our ride it was time to head home. I won’t be giving up tenting in the winter, but I’ll definitely stay in a yurt again! Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete Follow me on Twitter: @kyraonthego Follow me on Instagram: @kyraonthego

Winter food planning for camping adventures

Are you considering going winter camping for the first time, or are you looking for new food ideas to make your winter camping trips easier?

Check out my guest blog post on the Algonquin Outfitters blog, “Winter food planning“.  I give tips for simplifying and pre-trip planning.


Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete

Follow me on Twitter: @kyrapaterson

Biking at Algonquin Park: mountain, fat, and tandem (or, that time I became a movie star)

Ever star in a photo or video shoot? I hadn’t, until recently at Algonquin Provincial Park during a weekend of biking adventures.

Given that I will be participating in a canoe/mountain biking/trail running race on the Bruce Peninsula later this summer with my friend Rebecca, I figured that we should practice actually doing these activities together! Algonquin Outfitters graciously offered to let us borrow 2 mountain bikes for the weekend in exchange for a blog post on their website about my biking experience, and a photo shoot so that they could update their website content. A few days before our trip, we found out that in fact we could try any of their bikes, simply exchanging one kind for another over the weekend.

Ready to hit the trails!

So Friday night we stopped at the Lake of Two Rivers Algonquin Outfitters store where we borrowed two Specialized mountain bikes. Because the Minnesing Mountain Biking Trail along Highway 60 was closed due to flooding, we had to drive 1 1/4 hours to the south end of the park, where we could try out the Byers Lake Mountain Bike Trail. We stopped quickly at the Pog Lake campground to register for our campsite, and then headed for the trail. When we got there, we were quickly discovered by the resident mosquitoes!! Bug spray and riding quickly were pretty effective, but if you’ve mountain biked before, you’ll know that you don’t always go quickly!! We got stuck in mud puddles at times that reduced our speed to zero and increased our bug swatting immensely! The trail wasn’t super well marked, so we weren’t totally sure that we were on it the whole time (there were lots of trail junctions), but we had fun and rode for just under an hour.

At the end of the Byers Lake Mountain Bike Trail, on an old logging road.
On Saturday morning we met Randy from Algonquin Outfitters at the Lake of Two Rivers store for the photo shoot, which was actually a photo and video shoot. We spent a couple of hours pretending to go through the process of getting out of our vehicle, looking at the bikes, getting help from the bike rental shop, getting explanations of the various bike components, getting a helmet, and finally trying out the bikes. Chris the photographer/videographer had us reshoot some scenes multiple times because of the lighting, where we stood (or didn’t), what we did (or didn’t), etc. We had fun but we felt funny at times doing it over and over. After clear instructions from Chris to ignore stuff around us, we did just that and did not glance over when a vehicle honked its horn long and hard multiple times. It turns out we missed 2 moose crossing just in front of the store!! Randy asked us if we’d be willing to ride the trail-a-bike, which essentially is an adult bike with part of a kid’s bike trailing behind. I rode in the front, and Rebecca on the little kid’s seat! It was so hard to go straight, because our balance was way off – the back seat isn’t designed for an adult!! We were laughing though, and after 3 attempts we managed to smile and wave without falling off or crashing.

After the photo/video shoot was done at the bike shop, we exchanged our mountain bikes for fat bikes and hit the Old Railway Bike Trail. We met Randy and Chris at the old Mew Lake airfield for a few more shots.

Map of the Old Railway Bike Trail.

The trail is pretty much flat, with just a slight uphill grade one way and a slight downhill grade the other! You can ride it on almost any bike (other than a road bike with a skinny tire – it wouldn’t be so fun on the loose gravel). We even saw a kid with training wheels on his bike. The trail is 16 km long, and quite scenic in places.


We decided to head West for Cache Lake, and stopped at the very end of the trail at a little bridge over a pretty creek for a snack. I had never been on a fat bike before, and thought it would be heavy and unwieldy. It wasn’t at all like that – it was light and maneouvreable. I loved it. While riding, we saw a painted turtle and tons of dragonflies. By the time we returned to the Lake of Two Rivers store, we had pedalled about 15 km. We had a delicious ice cream cone before trading our fat bikes in for a tandem bike.

Yummy salted caramel.

The Algonquin Outfitters employee gave us some tips on riding the tandem before we tried it in the parking lot. We were pretty wobbly at first! Rebecca started in the front and me in the rear. There is a tandem bike challenge: ride all the way to Rock Lake and back (approximately 25k) and get 15% off the rental fee. We wondered if we could make it that far.


The hardest part was starting, and then slowing down or stopping – we took turns at the front, and had to remember to tell our passenger that we were going to slow down, because the pedals and chain are such that you pedal in sync! If one stops pedalling, the other has to as well. And when you decide to coast or brake, you need to tell your partner to stop pedalling. It didn’t take too long for us to get the hang of it. We actually rode through the Rock Lake campground all the way to the trailhead for the Booth’s Rock trail! By the time we returned to the Lake of Two Rivers store, we were pros!! The tandem was super fun!

You can also rent kids’ bikes, “cruisers” (you sit more upright, kind of old fashioned style, with more padded seats), and bikes for people with accessibility issues.

I can’t wait to go back to Algonquin this winter to try fat biking again!! While fat bikes were originally designed for winter riding, they are great for trails, mud, loose gravel etc.

I’m also looking forward to checking out Algonquin Outfitter’s new pictures and video! In particular the trail-a-bike bit…


More photos, and eventually the videos, here.

Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete

Follow me on Twitter: @kyrapaterson

Menu for 4-day early May hike of Western Uplands Trail at Algonquin Provincial Park

One thing I love about planning for a backpacking trip is planning the food! My friend Cheryl and I decided on a menu for this trip, then split up who would prepare what. We cooked, baked, dehydrated and then froze everything. Finally, Cheryl brought her food to my house, where I verified that it was all there, and organized it all into Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4. Our trips always start after lunch, so we pack all our food away in our bear bag except for our afternoon snack on Day 1.

For breakfast, we boil 2 L of water, using it for tea/coffee and hot cereal, and the remainder, if any, for warming up the little bit of dish water we use in our pot.

For lunches, we always have no-cook meals.

For dinners, we sometimes bake fresh bread like bannock or corn bread, or cook something like eggs, but otherwise we usually just boil water to add to something like pasta or soup.

Food ready to go!

This trip though, we didn’t exactly follow our menu! What started out as a 4-day backpacking trip turned into a 3-day trip because of the cold and wet conditions. You can read the trip report here. Below you will find our planned menu, and then what we actually ate!

Planned menu for 4-days for 2 people

Day 1

Afternoon snack: trail mix

Dinner: spinach quinoa soup with bannock

Evening snack: dehydrated fruit and chocolate

Day 2

Breakfast: oatmeal with dried fruit + tea/coffee + gatorade

Morning snack: pizza gorp

Lunch: leftover bannock from Day 1 dinner with cheese, nuts, jerky, dried fruit

Afternoon snack: harvest oat squares

Dinner: pasta Alfredo with bacon, veggies, parmesan

Evening snack: dehydrated fruit and chocolate

Day 3

Breakfast: granola + tea/coffee + gatorade

Morning snack: trail mix

Lunch: apple peanut salad wrap

Afternoon snack: energy squares

Dinner: egg wraps with bacon, veggies, salsa

Evening snack: dehydrated fruit and chocolate

Day 4

Breakfast: strawberry peach muesli + tea/coffee + gatorade

Morning snack: harvest oat squares

Lunch: tomato flatbread, hummus and cheese

Afternoon snack: pizza gorp




tea and coffee

hot chocolate

Actual menu for 3-days for 2 people

Day 1

All meals as planned + hot chocolate before dinner

Day 2

Breakfast as planned

Morning snack as planned

Lunch as planned

Dinner (at this point, we decided that we didn’t want to spend any more time outside in the freezing cold under a tarp in the pouring rain to cook our dinner): wraps with dehydrated veggies and dehydrated salsa (not rehydrated – a little hard to eat!)

Evening snack: harvest oat squares

On Day 2, we organized all our food into stuff we would eat, and stuff that would require cooking and we would bring home.

Day 3

Breakfast (knowing that we had to hike 20 km to cut our trip short by a day and get back to our vehicle, we opted for an early start and a no-cook breakfast): Day 4 harvest oat squares + gatorade

Morning snack: Day 2 evening snack dehydrated fruit and chocolate + Day 3 morning snack trail mix + Day 4 afternoon snack pizza gorp

Lunch: Day 4 Tomato flatbread and cheese (no hummus) + gatorade

Afternoon snack as planned

Dinner: Day 3 apple peanut salad wrap

Leftover food

Day 2 pasta Alfredo with bacon, veggies, parmesan

Day 3 granola

Day 3 egg from wraps

Day 4 strawberry peach muesli

Day 4 hummus

Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete

Follow me on Twitter: @kyrapaterson

Trip report: 4-day early May hike along the Western Uplands Trail at Algonquin Provincial Park

As our 4-day hike along the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail at Algonquin Provincial Park got closer, the weather forecast continued to deteriorate. The forecasted temperature dropped (10C on Day 1 to 2C on Day 4) and the likelihood of rain increased, so much so that Environment Canada issued a rainfall warning for heavy rain. And yet we still set out for our early May adventure…

Day 1: Rain Lake access point to Brown Lake (13-14 km)

After picking up our backcountry permit at the Kearney park office, where we were assured that even low-sitting vehicles have been getting through the Rain Lake road, we headed for the access point! We ate our lunch in our vehicle (and spotted a vole while doing so!), then started our trip.

Starting the tracking function of my Garmin Inreach SE+.

All smiles as we start our trip, warm and dry and energetic.

After crossing Rain Lake on a wooden bridge, the trail follows an old railway bed for nearly all of the first 8.7 km, at which point you reach the 3rd (and top) loop of the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail and need to proceed in either a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction (you can also access the trail – and loop 1 – from Highway 60). We were headed for Brown Lake, so we went in a clockwise manner. The next 4 km takes you through the forest, up and down and up again. With all the rain in recent days, the trail was very wet in sections, requiring us to carefully choose our steps so as to avoid getting a soaker. There were also stream crossings to manoeuvre by picking a path along partially submerged rocks and logs. We found the trail lacking in signage, and many times we had to consult our map to figure out which way we should probably go. Since we were hiking so early in the season, there was new growth everywhere in the forest, including on the trail – it hadn’t yet been beaten down by hikers’ feet. So without very many trail markers in trees, we found it quite frustrating at times (suggestion: when the trail turns, put a marker!). Perhaps it would be easier to follow the trail in the summer!

We reached the first campsite on Brown Lake, but having looked at a map posted along the trail, we thought there were 3 campsites and decided to continue to the last one to shorten our hike the next day. We met 3 men at the 2nd campsite, who warned us about a stream crossing they had done earlier, having travelled in the counter-clockwise direction. They said that they had to build a bit of a bridge with trees but that it wasn’t too stable and we might still get wet feet. We continued on to the next campsite, but soon realized there wasn’t one. We returned to the 1st one and settled in, setting up our tent and tarp, and throwing a rope over a branch for a bear bag. We had decided that we didn’t feel like scavenging for wood to make a fire, so opted to not have one at all. I set out to make hot chocolate on our MSR Dragonfly stove, but soon discovered that we had a problem – (insert guilty party’s name here) accidentally packed only 1 of 2 required bottles of chemicals to treat our water (they work together), meaning that we would have to boil all of our water to avoid getting sick from nasty tiny critters invisible to the naked eye. We debated scrapping our plans for hot chocolate so that we could save fuel, but then decided to have a campfire because 1) it wasn’t raining (yet), 2) wood was dry (still), and 3) we may not have brought enough fuel to boil all our water for 1 minute! So we gathered wood, and had a great fire, boiling as much water as we could use for hot chocolate, dinner, breakfast, and to carry with us the next day. We had a delicious dinner of spinach quinoa soup and fresh bannock. Yum. Full menu for the trip is here.

Our one and only campfire of the trip.

Short-lasting pretty sunset on Brown Lake – before the rain!

Possibly the best feature of this campsite was the fully enclosed toilet – 3 walls, a door, and a roof! Who cares that the door didn’t shut?! Someone had tied a rope to the handle, and Cheryl modified it so that it could be hooked onto a nail so the door stayed closed. From the outside, we pushed a log against the door to keep the inside dry!

Within 5 minutes of us climbing into the tent for the night, the rain began. With 2 very short exceptions, it continued to rain for more than 40 hours!

We had one Nalgene bottle with us, so we filled it with boiling water, and after Cheryl’s feet warmed up, I had it for the rest of the night. Unfortunately, I was still cold and had trouble sleeping (despite my sleeping bag rated at -7C). In the night the loons were quite loud, but I didn’t mind! We also heard a beaver slapping its tail against the water a couple of times.

Day 2: Brown Lake to West Otterpaw Lake (6.5 km)

We woke up to pouring rain, so we cooked our breakfast under our tarp. We packed up camp, and set out for West Otterpaw Lake.

Much of the trail looked like this. Note the useless bridge!

We knew that we would encounter the stream that the guys warned us about “just around the corner”. Turns out we hiked for quite a long time before we found it. Rather than crossing the stream where they had apparently cut down a live tree (!) and lay it across the water, we chose to cross further downstream, where we could use a combination of partially submerged rocks and logs to cross. Would the rocks be slippery? Would the logs move? We picked our way slowly, very slowly across the stream, and safely made it to the other side. I was very thankful for my hiking poles! It would have been next to impossible to cross without them.

One of many stream crossings – this one perhaps the most harrowing.

The temperature was such that whenever we stopped, even to quickly eat a snack, we got cold. It took hiking for 10 minutes or more to warm up again. Unfortunately, Cheryl and I brought shells for our gloves that eventually soaked through, meaning that we couldn’t keep our hands dry and warm. I had extra pairs of gloves, but if I wore them in the pouring rain, they would be soaked within seconds!

When we originally planned out and reserved our route, we fully intended to hike 16 km on Day 2, going the long way past East End Lake and Loft Lake before arriving at West Otterpaw Lake.

We saw moose poop all over the place, but no moose! I did spot this antler though!

But then driving up to Algonquin, we wondered whether we really wanted to hike 16 km. We decided that we would figure it out as we were hiking. In the end we decided to shorten our hike by walking along a portage to Lady Slipper Lake, and following the trail to Gervais Lake and then West Otterpaw Lake. We thought that we would set up camp and then go for a day hike, hiking along part of the trail that we had originally intended to cover. However, once we arrived at camp, we had no desire to go anywhere. It was still pouring rain, and after setting up camp, we climbed into our sleeping bags, eventually got warm, and never wanted to leave them!

From 2 PM until we went to sleep that night, we tried to keep warm in the tent, going out only a couple of times to use the toilet and hang our food bag. And by toilet I mean seat without a lid, which meant that it was soaking wet wood that I refused to sit on – instead, I hovered.

Look how close the moose was to pooping in the toilet! For those unfamiliar with backcountry toilets, that wood all over the ground is the lid.

It was raining so hard that as soon as you pulled your pants down, your backside and exposed clothing started to get wet! Not fun.

At some point that afternoon, I think, I spotted a hare between our tent and the toilet. It was very cute, hopping off into the woods.

While we had originally planned a 4-day trip, we started discussing options for shortening our trip. We could pack up right away and hike as far as we could back in the direction we came, spending the night on another lake and hiking the rest of they way out the next day. Or we could wake up early the next day and hike 20 km out to our vehicle. Or we could continue with our trip, facing another full day of hiking in the pouring rain, where the temperature was expected to drop again, and where we weren’t sure whether our rain gear would eventually soak through with all the rain! Our plan had been to stay on Weed Lake that 3rd night. We were worried though that our fleece sweaters would get wet and we would lose our layer of warmth. And to be perfectly honest, camping in freezing temperatures in pouring rain is not fun! I would rather have had colder temperatures and snow. At least we would have been dry and been able to wear gloves. That evening, while out of the tent to hang our bear bag, it started to snow! It was a rain/snow mix.

We decided to head home early, getting up at 6 AM the next day and hiking 20 km out to our vehicle. This would be further than either of us had ever hiked with 35+ pounds on our backs. We knew that it was doable, with the last 8+ km mostly flat.

We also scrapped plans to cook any more meals, not wanting to hang out in the cold under our tarp to cook. Instead, we poached our snacks and no-cook lunch from Day 4, and ate those for dinner and breakfast the next day.

Once again we filled our Nalgene bottle with boiling water, and this time, despite the cooler temperature, I slept better!

Day 3: West Otterpaw Lake to Rain Lake access point (20.7 km)

We were up at 6 AM and on the trail by 7:20 AM. Packing up the tent and tarp takes longer when your hands are frozen and don’t work right! Our rain coats and pants were still soaking wet in the morning – they hadn’t dried off at all overnight (not surprising).

Using my new Garmin InReach SE+, a satellite communicating 2-way messaging device that can also summon emergency assistance (rescue), we informed our families that we had modified our route and were intending to hike all the way out that day. They confirmed that they had received the messages. So far, I love my InReach!! Peace of mind for me and my family.

Hiking out the way we went in meant that we would have to do the stream crossing again that was a little harrowing the first time (it probably took us 30 minutes to figure out where to cross safely!). However, I found it easier the 2nd time, maybe because I knew I could do it. We eventually arrived at our Day 1 campsite, and used the luxurious toilet with a roof and door! We continued on our way, and were later stopped in our tracks when we reached a stream that was totally impassible – without walking through it! We spent a while – a long while – walking upstream and downstream, evaluating our options for crossing it. We couldn’t remember how we did it on the way in, but figured the water was so swollen that likely we just picked our way easily over rocks. But now, we had to weigh the options – cross over rocks with fast flowing current, and steps a little too long for our liking? Or precariously balance along a log 2 feet above the stream (not in my lifetime!)? Or take our gaiters, boots and socks off, roll up our pants, put on our sandals and walk through the stream. Yup, the last option. The water was cold, but not quite as freezing as I expected it to be. I was worried that we wouldn’t warm up! But we used our quick dry towels to dry our feet and continued on our way! Phew.

And speaking of gaiters, we were so happy to have brought them. Several times we had to step into puddles or streams and never once did I get a wet sock! Love my Outdoor Research gaiters and my Salomon Quest hiking boots!!

Once we reached the old rail line, we knew we would make it to our vehicle! However, the last few km’s were hard on our feet. The packed ground was surprisingly painful. It seemed that the end would never come. The pouring rain continued, and each time we turned the corner, we saw more trail… we thought the bridge would never come!

But finally, we spotted the bridge! A couple of guys heading out on a canoe trip were at the access point, and one of them agreed to take our picture. Amazingly, I was still dry under my wet rain coat and pants!


Did I mention the rain?

Another time, I would not set out on a trip with such a terrible weather forecast. We were colder than during our winter snowshoeing trip this February.

Nevertheless, this trip presented us with several challenges that we were able to overcome! Algonquin, I’ll be back!

Screen Shot 2017-05-08 at 8.48.37 PM
This is the map page on my computer for my InReach SE+. The little dots are the log points, and the big dots (just a few) are the hourly tracking points. I was just learning how to use the device, so inadvertently stopped the trip for a segment of our hike.

I saw today that Algonquin has closed the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail and the Highland Backpacking Trail due to flooding – I’m not surprised!

Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete

Follow me on Twitter: @kyrapaterson

Trip report: My very first backcountry kayak camping trip (at Algonquin Provincial Park)

Back in August 2012 I suggested to my friend Cheryl that we do a canoe trip together in Algonquin. She was game, and after briefly considering bringing our combined four kids along, we ditched that idea and decided to go alone – in her two sea kayaks. We picked a weekend in late September, consulted people more knowledgeable than ourselves about Algonquin, got route recommendations, and learned that when kayak-tripping, fewer and shorter portages are best (had we not been told this, we would have soon come to that conclusion ourselves). We settled on a 2 night 2 lake trip, and set to planning all the gear and food we would need. I told myself not to look at the weather forecast, but as the days got closer I couldn’t help it. The forecast got worse and worse, but we were going anyway!

Setting out under ominous skies.

Day 1 (Friday)

We picked up our backcountry permit in Kearney and headed to Algonquin Provincial Park, which was along a road that quickly became a gravel road. It took a while to drive the 25 km to the put in on Rain Lake. We were a bit surprised to see lots of people at the put in, including what looked like a huge group of teenage girls with many boats and lots of gear. Would there be any campsites left? Thankfully, they were camping at the put in and wouldn’t be competing for sites (it turned out there was lots of choice for us). The rain didn’t start until we arrived at the put in – of course – but it didn’t rain too much and most of our gear was packed in “waterproof” bags. (It’s not clear who won the bet for the last mini reeses pieces bit – Cheryl, who said it would start pouring at the put in, or me, who said it wouldn’t – it rained, but did it pour?)

Map of where everything should be packed – simplified things for portaging!

After test-packing the boats back at home before the trip, and making a map to remind ourselves how it all fit in, it didn’t take too long to get ready to go – about an hour from the time we arrived at the put in. We headed out, enjoying the fall colours as we paddled. We checked out some campsites along the way, aiming for one of two island sites (apparently one has the fireplace from an old ranger cabin which has long since disappeared), but decided on a different one when the one island site we could see was occupied. Our site was about 5 km from the put in. It was private, big, and had a great rocky area on the shore for sitting on.  It even had a table for food prep, and a bizarre spinning arrow nailed into a tree…? 

After setting up our two man tent, we set to hanging a bear bag to keep our food high off the ground overnight. It was a first for both of us, since normally my husband did the bear bag when we camped! We had fun, but it wasn’t easy – the instructions sounded so simple, but the trees were never the right distance apart, didn’t have branches at the right height, or had way too many branches in all the wrong places. In the process we managed to avoid any head injuries, but we did snag the bag of carabiners in a V shaped space of a tree, and wondered how the heck we were going to dislodge it (far too high to reach and climbing was out of the question). Cheryl found a huge branch and stripped it of excess branches so it weighed slightly less than a tonne. Then we eventually got it upright and managed to poke the rope loose. Oh my, that was fun! (I now use a simple 1 rope method!)

We reheated delicious stew for dinner, discovered that my water pump was not functioning (had to boil lake water instead), and attempted – but failed – to start a fire with wet wood (and dry paper). Somewhat discouraging, but we reassured ourselves by being convinced that the fires we could see across the lake must have been started with accelerants. Instead of sitting by the fire, we sat on the rocks watching the stars, looking for the bizarrely elusive big dipper, saw some satellites, at least one shooting star, and a… flare?! It seems someone set one off on a neighbouring lake (hopefully they didn’t actually need help, because we weren’t going anywhere in the dark!). I had never heard or seen one before – wow, it was bright. Good thing our fire wouldn’t start – I saw a mouse run through the fire pit.

Overnight was cold and the rain poured down on us, but we were dry in the tent. We heard Barred owls hooting – at least one close, others further way. Very neat. Some loons were also very noisy in the night or early morning.

Day 2 (Saturday)

In the morning we made pancakes for breakfast, and just before sitting down to eat I went down to the water to wash some maple syrup off my fingers (should have used my tongue!!!) … only to slip in while wearing my shoes and thick warm socks. Two soakers and I knew my shoes would never dry. Back to sandals it was (thankfully, I had brought 3 pairs of socks)! I was so looking forward to having warm dry feet. After breakfast we were taking down our campsite when a bungee cord snapped back and cut my thumb – ouch! 


We loaded up the boats again and headed over to the 310 m portage to Sawyer Lake. It was a difficult take out spot, rocky and awkward. And of course we had an audience, with two guys coming from Sawyer Lake to Rain Lake. We hauled the boats onto shore, unloaded some of the gear into backpacks, and each carried a big backpack and the yellow boat. It was heavy and we had to keep stopping every few feet, it seemed, as our fingers failed us! It was at this point that Cheryl asked if I was cursing her for bringing the kayaks instead of the canoe! We went back for the red kayak and re-loaded everything into the boats. The guys had recommended a campsite to us, so we headed for that one – at the far end of the lake (about 1 km away). As we headed over we waved to people at one campsite, and continued paddling as the wind picked up like crazy. We paddled through waves that I wouldn’t have liked in the canoe. I overshot the campsite and had to turn back into the wind, for another awkward take out without a nice landing spot for boats. However, we managed, and found ourselves at a huge, very exposed campsite! Later it was so windy there were whitecaps. We set our tent up way up on the hill, at what must have been a 45 degree angle! We opted for a sheltered site over a flat one. We set up the tent, a tarp over the kitchen “table” and strung up another bear bag (I think it took less time than at the first site!). 

It was c-c-c-cold in the wind and rain. It rained off and on all day long. When it started to pour, we headed for the shelter of the tent. While we were in there, cosy in our sleeping bags, it started to HAIL! Yes, the weekend had it all.

In the late afternoon/early evening, I was wearing every piece of clothing I had brought with me, except my bathing suit! I had 6 layers on the top, including fleece pyjamas, 3 on the bottom, my winter hat and gloves, and I was still cold! We’re not sure but we think without the wind it was about 4 degrees Celsius. We had warm beverages and went on a moose hunt to get warm. We didn’t find moose but did find moose poo (very close to our toilet and tent!) and other animal scat. There were also lots of cool fungi.

Just before dinner we had 3 otters visit us just off our site – they swam away but not before “talking” to us. Very cute.

We had an amazing chicken salad for dinner and chocolate pudding for dessert. Yum. Later, when the rain had stopped, we sat on the rocky point and star gazed. We also looked enviously at the two fires across the lake, which we were sure had to have been started with accelerants! We both opted to use “hot paws” toe warmers overnight, but didn’t find them too useful. I wore 5 layers on top to bed, and 2 on the bottom, with my winter hat and gloves and yes, I was still cold! I decided that I needed a new sleeping bag. Cheryl was shedding layers!

Delicious dinner!

Day 3 (Sunday)

We decided to have a cold breakfast and a hot lunch at the car since we wanted to get out before any crazy wind and waves hit Sawyer Lake.


It took about 2 hours from the time we woke up to the time we paddled away, heading for the portage back to Rain Lake. The water was warmer than the air, but there wasn’t yet too much of a wind. We hauled our boats on shore, and this time, decided to take an extra trip to portage all the gear. I also decided to portage with my camera (which I hadn’t done the day before).

I learned my lesson on this trip, and now I carry my camera everywhere when I camp, even to the loo!

We walked first with only the packs (no boats). We went back for the yellow kayak, and then on our way back, gathered yellow leaves for a bit of arts and crafts on the trail. We got back to Sawyer Lake, and while Cheryl unloaded the red kayak, I started to spell out Rain with the leaves, having remembered to do so because our friend Doug asked Cheryl if we were going to spell something with rocks or sticks as I usually do. Had he not asked her, we likely would not have thought about it, and we wouldn’t have taken the extra few moments to pick up all the leaves. All of a sudden I heard a grunt, which I first thought was either Cheryl making noise moving the boat, or a bear! I turned around, and almost immediately saw antlers! I knew then that it was a moose. It was not far away, in the bush, and as I called to Cheryl, it headed down to the water. It stopped, looked at us, and sauntered through the lake, over to the other shore and up into the woods. Very very cool! It was about 15 – 20 feet away from us. I had resigned myself to not seeing a moose, so this was even cooler.


Had we not done an extra trip with the gear, and the gathering of leaves, we might not have seen it at all! I finished with my arts and crafts and we headed over to Rain Lake. We got back into the boats and started our 6 km paddle to the put in. It was windy at times – very windy – and c-c-c-cold! Our hands lost feeling and I couldn’t make mine do what I wanted them to do! As we were paddling out, we heard some crazy grunting in the woods. We figured it was either a very angry bear, or a moose mating call – and settled on the latter. We heard it a few times. We had been warned before our trip that Rain Lake can be a tough paddle on the way out because of the wind, and boy were they right! Rain Lake is a wind tunnel!

We finally made it back to the car, and enjoyed some hot oatmeal for lunch, along with tea and coffee. We “met” the four men who were camped at the accelerant fire site across the lake from us on the 2nd night, and they insisted that all they used was dry wood… and this air thingy that they wind up to provide wind to the fire (rather than blowing on it). They said they were “this close” to bringing dry wood to the girls (us) the night before but because they didn’t see any smoke from our site, they figured we weren’t even trying to build a fire (correct – we didn’t try since all the wood was soaking wet). We packed everything back into the car, and headed back to civilization.

Other animals that we saw on this trip Algonquin: slugs, a chipmunk, herons, crows, loons, mergansers, a grasshopper, one lone frog, a dragonfly, miscellaneous small birds, ducks, unidentified flies. 

All in all we paddled about 15 km, and walked about 2.5 km with the gear. Despite the crummy weather, we enjoyed ourselves and the wilderness that is Algonquin. We both agreed that another night would have been ideal – less packing up and moving and more relaxing. 

Back at Rain Lake put in.

If you’re interested in reading more about kayaking tripping, check out the guest post I wrote on the Algonquin Outfitters blog.

Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete

Follow me on Twitter: @kyrapaterson