This is what happens when you don't tie a ridgeline
My canoe has been so good to me on this trip - I should thank her with a good wash
Pretty sure it's going to rain any minute now
The bottom end of Erables Lake looking west. Three years later I would see my first Algonquin bear here
Mink Creek just after launching from P1705
Small beaver dam on Mink Creek
Day 11: Mouse Lake to Maple Lake
I set my alarm for 6am and woke up as such – my hand and shin both hurt, but it was manageable. It wasn’t so much the pain from the wound as it was wound’s location on my hand. I’m using a kayak paddle and with the position of the wound, it would be rubbing against the paddle shaft with every stroke I take. Ha. That sounded kind of gay, but it’s true. I re-dressed the wound and gave it some extra padding. The wind was howling, the sky was overcast and I knew a storm was coming today as Mark & Teresa mentioned it in passing a few days ago. I put the stove on for coffee and packed up as quick as possible – just in case the rain started early. I wanted to ensure I packed everything while it was still dry so I hopped to it! I think I set a personal record because I was entirely packed in about 30 minutes. I had forgotten about putting water on the stove and accidentally wasted a ton of fuel as my water boiled away – luckily, I didn’t have it on full blast or it probably would’ve ruined my pot set. Breakfast today was supposed to be pancakes with syrup and apple sauce, but I didn’t want to spend the time or effort making it - so I considered pushing this meal to tomorrow and had a super quick breakfast of oatmeal & coffee.
By 6:50am I had the canoe mostly packed and I relaxed over my last few sips of coffee before making breakfast. Before I even finished my coffee, I saw the family of four paddle by and across Mouse Lake to P1705 leading to Mink Creek. The lake was calm-ish and the sky looked like I still had some time before rain, so I reversed my breakfast plan and enjoyed a stack of pancakes with syrup, apple sauce and another coffee. Worth it! I cleaned up then put my kitchen kit in my pack. At 8am I was in my canoe and saying good-bye to my little slice of paradise. It took me about 20 minutes to reach the portage and as I was doing so, I could see another canoe loaded with three people headed in the same direction. We both landed at the portage within seconds of each other and began to chat. It was a father and son, and the son’s friend - all on vacation in Algonquin Park! The father and son were from Buffalo and the son’s friend came all the way from San Francisco to be here. I sometimes forget how lucky I am to be able to hop in a car and get to Algonquin in a few short hours – to those who have to take a plane or a 12+ hours drive, good on ya!
The mucky & muddy landing of P190 to Big Thunder Lake
I was hungry and needed to get some dinner in me. I fixed my tarp and put a pot of water on the stove to make pasta. A simple meal of penne with dehydrated tomato sauce and a dusting of parmesan cheese. It was pretty good – but I think I may have used too much water when rehydrating the sauce as the flavour was a bit weak. I washed it down with a green tea then relaxed down by the rocks under a colorful sky. I pondered how much rain would it take to call off the fire-ban? I just experienced two severe rain storms but I wasn’t convinced it would be enough to make up for the first 10 days of mostly scorching heat. It was around 9pm when I cleaned up and decided to head back to the tent for the night. It was a good call because not 5 minutes later it began to rain – and it did so all throughout the night.
Still many blueberries left in this patch
Mouse Lake to Maple Lake
Looking south on Erables from a rejected campsite after the intense rainstorm
Overcast and a touch of wind this morning on Mouse Lake
Sure it looks like a simple photo of cup of coffee - but you cherish every little thing out in the woods
At 11:50am I came around the corner of the island and the campsite came into view. It was vacant and had a decent rock sloping into the water. I like rocky sites so I decided to call it a day and declare this my home for the night. I was pretty happy to be at camp so early in the day. I inspected the campsite a bit and it seemed like it would do the job. It had decent benches and a bunch of massive pine stumps for tables / chairs. I walked out to the rocky shoreline and something caught my eye – a blueberry patch! Now those pancakes would have an elegant topping, in the morning. I started to regret having pancakes today instead of tomorrow – but it was no big deal, I had two more pancake breakfasts left on this trip. I was worried the rain wasn’t finished yet so I wasted no time setting up camp. As I unpacked I discovered some of my stuff was wet – turns out my pack liner has a small leak at one of the taped seams. Not a big deal but some of my clothing and sleeping pad was a little damp. I strung a laundry line and hung everything up – including my soaking wet clothes. It was very nice to get out of the wet stuff and into dry, comfy clothing. I figured I would see more rain so I put up the tarp too. Once camp was setup, I put the stove on for a coffee to help me warm up a bit – man I really hope today’s rain storm would be enough to call off the fire ban. I took my coffee down to the rocks and just as I sat down I heard a canoe to my left. I looked over and it was the guy from Buffalo and his friend from San Francisco. They were out exploring and collecting fire wood while dad was setting up on the south island – weird, it was occupied when I passed it – but not by them – perhaps a group had stopped there for lunch. I told the guys I didn’t care much for Erables Lake and pushed on to Maple – it was that or go to Ratrap Lake but due to it having only one campsite, I worried I’d be screwing someone over if I camped there.
I loaded up for the crossing and left the group behind. Around the 15-minute mark I had to drop my load and take a break – the food resupply had me back to my starting pack weight, despite already eating two days of food. The group caught up and passed me while I rested. I finished the crossing and met them at the Mink Creek landing. We spoke briefly again, mostly about Jeff’s Map and our routes. I was headed to Erables Lake and they were going a bit further, to Maple Lake. We were both ready to launch and they offered to let me go first as they saw how quickly I crossed the lake with the double blade. Mink creek is very scenic, it’s only about 1km of paddling but through a very pretty mixed forest. At ten after nine I arrived at the short 230m portage leading into Big Thunder Lake. The clouds were thicker now and the threat of rain seemed imminent. I launched on the lake and made the short paddle around the point. Then something funny and embarrassing happened. Before I came completely around the corner, I checked the shoreline for the portage landing – but I couldn’t see it. I looked and looked, nothing, so I checked the map. The trail marker was behind an obstruction that looked like it had been there a while. ‘Who the hell puts a portage sign behind an obstruction like that?’ I said aloud to myself with my head down as I re-checked the map. However, during my map checking I had floated around the point and was now in view of the campsite. A voice replied back, ‘The rangers!’ and it startled me at first – I looked up and saw a couple standing in the shallows pumping water with a smirk on their face – they were probably laughing at me - the weirdo who was talking aloud thinking I was alone. Then I realized this was the couple from two days ago, the ones who let me pass on Mink Creek. They stayed on Mouse the first night with me and moved on to Big Thunder for the next night. We both laughed it off as I passed by and continued to the portage. The landing for P1495 to Erables is very rocky and so is most of the trail. It’s a very flat portage, but you really need to watch your step when crossing boulders hidden in tall grass. Around the halfway mark, I passed by the wife from family of four, then moments later her husband. I continued on to the end of the trail where I met the two boys – the ones who destroyed my bench. I dropped my gear and they asked where I was going today, and how long I’ve been out. The look on their faces when I said this was day 11 of 16 was sheer amazement – they were out for 5 days and couldn’t believe you could camp for two weeks. They asked where I was camping, I said on this lake. The older one mentioned they were going up to Maple Lake. We chatted a bit more while they waited for their parents and the littlest one commented that its going to rain any minute. I told him I agreed with his assessment and with that, I busted out my raingear and suited up before getting on the lake.
One last look at Erables Lake from another rejected campsite before deciding to move on
A calm evening on Maple Lake
My campsite on a small island in the north-west corner of Maple Lake
Small scenic island in the north end of Erables Lake
As the guys moved on the sky opened up again – nothing too intense but I decided to hang out in the tent while it happened. It was around 3pm when I entered the tent and the rain really started to come down just as it did as I crossed Erables Lake. The sound of the rain hitting my tent fly was loud, but relaxing enough to put me to sleep. I took a 3 hour nap and when I woke up the rain had stopped. I got out of the tent and DOH! My tarp failed to stay up. I made the rookie mistake of not using a ridge line, only replying on the corner and edge lines to do the job. The tarp collected water and sank under its own weight – what’s worse is I forgot my camera bag outside on the bench during this rain storm. Luckily, it was under the tarp and when the tarp sank, so it actually protected the camera bag. I reached under to get the camera and snap a few pics of my terrible tarp rig before correcting the issue.
After the storm there were some beautiful colors
Not 3 minutes after launching onto Erables Lake the sky opened up – and I mean opened up! It rained harder than I’ve ever experienced in Algonquin. The drops of water were massive and there was no wind. The lake was dead-calm except the hundreds of thousands of droplets hitting the surface. It was actually pretty awesome and because there was no lightening, I kept going up the lake searching for a decent campsite. The rain kept coming the entire time I crossed Erables. Now, I don’t know if it was the way the rain made the sites look or what, but every site I passed I had zero interest in camping on. Maybe I set my travel distance too short and sub-consciously I wanted to keep going. I checked the sites along the west shore and didn’t like them. I continued to the two sites facing north, didn’t like them either. I paddled across to the last site before Maple Lake – didn’t like it. Weird. Am I being too picky or do these sites just suck? If they suck, what about them sucks? I couldn’t answer these questions but decided to push on to Maple Lake. I did this because I knew Maple Lake has a few spill-over campsites and I wouldn’t be screwing-over someone else by staying here. My buddy Markus’ favorite campsite in Algonquin is an island in the south end, so I figured I’d shoot for that and see what all the fuss is about. I landed at the short portage leading to Maple Lake just as the had rain stopped and I didn’t feel like putting my shoes back on, so I double carried barefoot. I launched onto the small creek before reaching Maple Lake proper but had to get out a few times due to low water. This small creek between Maple and Erables is chocked with razor sharp boulders, all marked with the various colors of canoe paint from the years of damage they’ve been doing. I made it through with only a few scratches and paddled over to the lower island site. Occupied – and so was the one next to it. I changed direction and headed to the north-west island, hoping for privacy (as it faced the north shoreline) and also hoping it was available.
The view directly across from my campsite - not the best but no campsite or people
My view before bed on Maple Lake
Beautiful forest along Mink Creek
Looking South-ish down Maple Lake