When I arrived at the Greenleaf end, I was happy to see a small dock easing its way onto the log jam pile. It was shallow here and I could see (brook) trout and they could see me! By the time I got my camera out they were gone. I will have to try fishing here, I thought. I launched onto a very calm lake – I have been fortunate with the weather so far and I was grateful for it. Greenleaf is a beautiful lake, and over the next two nights it would become my favourite in The Park – you have to go there and you’ll instantly see why. It’s a very rugged Lake. The south end is relatively flat, but rock studded. As you make your way up the narrowing middle of the lake, the shoreline becomes more of a shore wall. At the north end of the lake, just south of Lost Lake, there are cliffs towering over 250 feet. Finally, at the very north end, where it connects to Greenleaf Creek, the cliffs are nearly 400 feet tall! And I thought the Barron Canyon was awesome. There are only three campsites on this lake, which is one too many in my opinion. The first site is very flat and close to the south end of the lake. I was not interested in that site – I wanted the go to the last site. I didn’t know about the cliffs and rugged beauty at the time, but I really liked the site when I got there. I passed the second site and vaguely remembered a fellow tripper’s log about it consisting of many levels and trees. It sure looked interesting from the water, but I really wanted to see that third site. So far on this trip, I had just picked sites by looking at the map and Google Earth during the planning stages, and it was working out in my favour. The first site of the trip had a stone couch. The second was large and had more firewood than I could burn. The third and unplanned site was situated on a neat peninsula and last night, well... I guess you have to have at least one crappy site on a trip, right? As I approached the final site, I saw it was unoccupied so I was in less of a rush to get there. Instead I threw my line in the water, just in front of a small rock face on the opposite shore of the site. I stayed there perhaps 20 or 30 minutes. No bites – not even a nibble. That’s okay because fish wasn’t on the menu tonight anyway, but it would have been nice to catch one. I pulled up to the camp site and WOO-HOO! Another stone couch! The site itself was situated on a small outcropping. There was very little flat space at this end of the lake. I looked around for a bit to find the best location for the tent. The flattest ground I could find would still have me on a slight angle. The site was really cool. The stone couch faced the lake, with the fire pit in between. It boasted five seats, but lacked the arm-rests like the one on St. Andrews Lake. Behind the couch the land had a steep-uphill slope, like a mini-mountain. I could see there was a depression behind there, and the hill continued up beyond the depression for 80 or 90 feet. I supposed that’s where the thunder box is. Yup – it was located in a “mini-valley” behind the “mini-mountain”. Pretty Cool.
Day 5: Lower Spectacle Lake to Greenleaf Lake
I woke up to a dead-calm lake and morning. It was 8 a.m. and the lake was very still, it reflected the trees on the opposite shore exactly as a mirror would. I took my time this morning, even though I had a long distance to cover I did not want to feel rushed. I gave the campsite another look-over and really noticed how unimpressive it was. Small in size, a steep take-out and a crappy little log bench. The site did the trick, but I’d like to have stayed somewhere else. After a breakfast of oatmeal and coffee I packed everything up and prepared for the journey to Greenleaf, approximately 16 km away. I had 12 portages tucked in there as well. I launched on to a calm Lower Spectacle Lake by 10:30 a.m.
A well-maintained section of Algonquin Park - gotta love those rangers!
Like glass on Upper Spectacle Lake too! I guess the Spectacles really are made of glass
Back in the boat by 1 p.m., I needed to get a move on because I still had some ground to cover. I arrived at the 215 m portage and noticed the bugs were really bad here. Particularly the mosquitoes. I made a quick single-carry passing of it, and then paddled a few minutes more, arriving at the 80 m portage. The bugs became even worse! I suppose it was due to the marshy creek I was travelling up. It didn’t take long to finish the final three portages connecting me with Carcajou Lake. The water levels in the marshy creek before Carcajou Lake were not as bad as I had expected. I only became lodged on underwater piles of earth a couple of times. Once I arrived at Carcajou Lake I was happy to be able to get into the middle of the Lake – hoping for a breeze to take these lousy mosquitoes away. I passed the first couple campsites and the bugs were still hot on my trail, so I decided to go up the middle of the lake. When I passed the massive southern bay, I debated breaking out my fishing rod for a while – but I was sort of running behind and decided against it. I made my way to the end of the lake and prepared for a single carry over the 285 m portage. When I finished it I was a little excited for two reasons. One being the Sedge Meadow I was about to paddle through, as I always find them to be very scenic and great for wildlife viewing. The other being the fact that I had only one more portage for the day – then I was relaxing for a solid two days on Greenleaf Lake. I took my time through the meadow, and tried to stay as quiet as possible. To no avail because I did not get to see any wildlife there. Oh well. I arrived at the three-point portage at 3 p.m. and was at Greenleaf Lake by 3:40 p.m. Not too bad – but the bugs on this trail were terrible until I got to the hydro field. It felt a little strange coming across a hydro field in The Park. I had passed this field once before to the south on my way to Madawaska Lake, but it still felt strange. It takes away from the wilderness experience like any other man-made object. The way I look at it – these towers need to be maintained from time to time, thus there are maintenance roads leading to them. This creates the lack of wilderness experience. It took me a couple days by canoe and foot to get to where I was standing, but on this road someone could get here in less than a few hours by vehicle. I guess as long as I don’t see the vehicle I am okay. As I re-entered the forest from the hydro field, I came to the fork in the road. On the left was the remaining 440 m to Greenleaf Lake and on the right, the epic 4950 m portage to Grand. I would be crossing that in two days. The trail to Greenleaf is studded with rocks and roots, like many others. A fallen tree forced me to put the canoe down and go under. A smooth walk the rest of the way to the Lake.
A very calm evening on Greenleaf Lake
I guess some sign is better than no sign
Lower Spectacle Lake to Greenleaf Lake
Like Glass on Lower Spectacle Lake
Ready to launch onto Greenleaf Lake
The paddle over to the portage was effortless and I quickly crossed the 155 m portage. I launched onto Upper Spectacle Lake, it was just as calm as the lower lake. The eastern shoreline had evidence of a small forest fire, as many trees bore the scorch marks of such an event. I passed both campsites on the lake; they seemed more appealing than the site on the lower lake. I crossed the lake and landed at the take-out for the next portage. This 2110 m would prove to be one of the more difficult on the trip – but not the worst by far as I will eventually find out. The mosquitoes were pretty bad here, and they were filling my canoe by the dozen, and eventually a hundred or more. It became slightly overwhelming because I’ve never been swarmed like that before and I had run out of defence methods to deal with them – nothing was working! I tried to get through that portage as quickly as possible, taking minimal breaks. It seems to be a lot longer than 2110 m. When I got to the section I could paddle, I took one look and decided it was not worth it. Beaver dams, log jams and muck – all to save a lousy 300 m. I continued along the trail and the bugs became even worse once past that pond. I finally reached the other side – I’ve never put my canoe in the water, thrown my pack in and launched so fast in my life. I paddled really hard, to try to lose the mosquitoes by going into the middle of Little Carcajou Lake. Some of them were able to keep up. These guys are terrible. After I finally shook them all, I began to enjoy the calm paddle across Little Carcajou Lake. I wanted to check out the Stone Chute, but I did not want to go back into bug territory again. I passed the sole campsite on the lake and continued to the end to the 380 m portage. As I made my way further, I entered a small marsh-like area and had a little trouble locating the portage. After paddling closer to shore, I noticed a giant dead log with a tiny piece of yellow on it. It was a small piece of the portage sign, jammed into the dead log by a twig. I was glad to find it.
I sat on the couch and made a small fire out of sticks from the immediate area. I wasn’t cold, nor did I need to cook, but I was sort of tired from the long day of travelling and didn’t feel like setting up camp right away. I lazed around for about an hour then finally decided to make camp. I had everything set up and decided to go hunting for firewood. There was a small pile at the site, but if I was to stay here for two nights I would need more. I explored the hills behind me and found some good chunks lying on the ground. I could see more in the hills above, but it’s a very steep grade and a bit of a challenge. I gathered as much decent wood as I could find and had a good-sized pile, but still only enough for tonight and tomorrow morning. It was a warm night, much warmer than I had expected for May. I only had to wear my sweater once so far on the trip, at The Barron Canyon campsite. Around 7:30 p.m. I made dinner of bannock and noodles – a quick and simple meal. I really liked having these stone couches around – they work great for setting up the kitchen. After dinner I cleaned up and enjoyed the sunset by the shore. Greenleaf’s waters are extremely clear, and when the lake is as calm as today, you can see down deep. As the sun’s light faded, I sparked up the fire and enjoyed the crackling sounds with a hot cup of green tea. The bugs came out in full force. I don’t know if they had some sort of breeding grounds within the stone couch, but it seemed the second seat is where they were hiding out. I lit a few mosquito coils I found on the ground at the site and it helped a little bit. Then the black flies came – I hadn’t seen these guys since my first night on St. Andrews Lake and they weren’t biting much then. Four nights later and it’s a very different story, these guys came out fighting. It became very annoying, very fast. I got up and walked around for a bit. There wasn’t much light to work with, but I was able to spend some time gathering a few more small bits of firewood that I had passed on earlier. Finally the bugs subsided and I was able to get back to my fire. It was very dark now and probably around 10 p.m. I threw a couple big logs on the fire to brighten up the place, as I wanted to get a chapter or two of Joe Lavally in. As I was reading by the fire light, a chilling reminder of my wolf encounter could be heard in the form of howling wolves. I was excited to hear them, but it also put a little bit of fear back into me – nothing too intense though. The sound of wolves howling at night is impossible to describe. Sure you can imagine what it sounds like, but when you’re out there all alone, miles and miles away from anyone else and civilization – those wolves sound even more spectacular! This was another great experience in The Park. As a matter of fact, in all the years and nights I’ve spent in The Park, this would only be the second time hearing wolves howling – the first being just over a month prior at Tom Thomson Lake. They continued to howl and I continued to read. Finally, around midnight, I decided it was time for bed. The wolves kept at it, for how long I am not sure as I fell asleep quickly.
Almost packed up and ready to go
Getting dinner ready - I burned my bannock :(
This was a short carry-over to Wenda Lake. I planned to stop at the cabin for lunch if it was not occupied. I didn’t think it would be occupied in mid-May, mid-week. I made the 380 m carry in about ten minutes and launched onto Wenda Lake. After a few minutes of paddling I approached a clearing, and eventually the cabin. I was glad to see it unoccupied. It was just after noon when I landed at the beach in front of the cabin. It’s a nice cabin from the outside. A cozy size and I couldn’t wait to see the inside. I pulled my boat up on the gravel beach and walked to the door. I opened the screen door and to both my surprise and dismay, the cabin door was locked. I was under the impression no cabins were locked. I have a long trip with a two-night stay at the Highview Cabin coming up and I was told it’s not locked. I closed the screen door and continued around the parameter. There are a lot of historic artifacts outside this cabin. Tools of a few trades and many different eras. Even though I could not get inside, I was glad no one was there so I could take my time exploring the immediate area. One thing I had noticed, all around the cabin on logs high and low, were the carvings of people who have visited over the years. There must have been 500+ carvings on the cabin, and even more inside (as I would come to find out). My personal opinion of this is a variable: In a case where a cabin is covered in literally hundreds of names, I see it more as history and less as vandalism. If that cabin were clean of all names, I would prefer to keep it that way. Nevertheless, I decided to add my legacy to the cabin. I chose a log high up, close to the roof and carved “PEEK.” I was going to snap some photos before I did the name carving, but I decided to wait until after I carved. This decision would play a very key role in what happened next.
When I finished my carving, I stood back to admire my work and wondered how many eyes would see it. Within seconds, I heard a very loud rustling in the bushes. It sounded like something was rushing right towards me! With my back to the lake, and the cabin to my left, I stood motionless watching the trail coming from the thunder box. I could hear it coming closer and closer but I couldn’t see it, nor could I move. All I could think was, “please don’t be a bear, please don’t be a bear.” Then out of the bush, not more than 15 feet in front of me, the beast skids to a stop. It was the largest eastern grey wolf I have ever seen, aside from television. There was nothing between us. I do not think he was expecting to run into me, judging by the way he skidded to a stop upon seeing me. I still had my knife in my hand from carving my name, and I had a death grip on it. We stared at each other. It was probably less than ten seconds, but the amount of thoughts that ran through my mind would equate to a few paragraphs. We were so close to each other I could see the brown of his eyes. I was thinking what would be the most effective way to take him down? I knew no matter what, this would be a fight to the death for one of us, and the odds were not on my side. Even if I was successful, I would be seriously injured. A chilling thought indeed. If so many thoughts were racing through my mind – I wonder what he was thinking. Perhaps it’s best I don’t know. Finally after what felt like minutes, (again probably ten seconds) he turned around and ran less than five metres back up the trail, stopping again. He looked back at me for a few seconds while keeping his body in the direction he ran, and then casually strolled off down the trail and into the bush. This especially scared the crap out of me. The most insane part is, there was a part of me that wanted to follow him into the bush, a part that wished I had my camera in my hand instead of the knife. Thank god for logic and rationality, because obviously that is not a good idea. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t like the way he just walked away. From what I know, he should be scared of me and should have fled the scene at first scent or sight. Why did he look back at me? Why did he walk away instead of run? Why wasn’t he scared of me? I did not know the answers, and I did not want to find them out there.
I went back to the canoe and I paddled to the middle of Wenda Lake. I sat there for a while, munching on some gorp. I did not want to be on shore because of the wolf. I wasn’t yet comfortable with continuing with my route because the portage I have to take really isn’t that far from where the encounter happened. Plus, I never got to take any photos of the cabin. I decided I would wait it out. I waited a good half hour in the middle of Wenda Lake, and finally decided to go back to the cabin for photos. I was glad I did – upon closer inspection of the locked door, I noticed the padlock was on an eye-loop bolt. So to get in, one simply has to twist the entire bolt with the lock. No damage done and I was in the cabin. (UPDATE: I rented the Wenda Lake cabin with some friends the following spring (TR32: Clover to Greenleaf) and they changed the locking system, you can no longer twist the bolt to get in) A cozy little cabin indeed, but I was disappointed to see the wood stove had been removed. I later found out it was being used without authorization in the winter months by snowmobilers, so the stove was removed to discourage it. I took a few photos of the interior – more carvings of visitors past. I found the cabin log book and read a few entries, then made an entry of my own. I made a mention of just passing through and having my first-ever wolf encounter in The Park. I found a recent newspaper inside. The cabins are not available for rent until the last Friday of April, so obviously someone was recently in there without authorization. Too bad when a few bad apples ruin a good thing for everyone. I poked around a little more. There was a cribbage board on the table and if the last game played is accurately portrayed on this board – somebody got skunked!
The one-room cabin had literally hundreds of carvings in the walls. The oldest one I could find was from the ‘70s, but I am sure some are older. I sat at the table, peering out the window at the lake. I began to wonder how the rangers used to feel, when sitting in the same spot looking out the window. I really would give anything to have been a visitor of the park decades ago – perhaps even a ranger. Coolest job ever. I read a few of the journal entries and decided to make one of my own. I briefly spoke about my passing through, and my first encounter with a wolf in Algonquin. I put everything back as I had found it, gave a quick sweep of the floor and was on my way.
Inside the Wenda Lake Cabin - Someone got skunked!