A dry tent set up in the shelter of the forest
With everything packed up I left the island at 10:40pm and began the relatively short trek to Three Mile Lake. This entire trip has been new territory for me and each day felt like a completely new adventure – I was loving every second out here and didn’t want it to end. I was at P390 to Ratrap Lake by 11am and made a quick crossing of it. I must admit, this was one of the more challenging short portages I’ve crossed. It has a ton of ups and downs and you really need to watch your footing here. It felt like it took longer than it should have but I was at Ratrap Lake by 11:15am. Ratrap seems to be a peaceful and quiet lake, in a north-south orientation. The lone campsite on the lake was vacant, but I’m glad I didn’t push on and stay here – the entire site is built on a 45 degree slope and just wasn’t ideal. I continued through the pickerel weed chocked channel to Dahinda Lake and wondered why there wasn’t a campsite here, it’s a very pretty lake. I suppose not every lake needs a site, and it’s good to keep some lakes as natural as possible.
This campsite gets a sunrise and a sunset - not too shabby - except for the garbage (not pictured)
Maple Lake to Three Mile Lake
Big nest and big blue sky
By 5pm my shelter equipment was dry and I set up the tent in a clearing behind the campsite. This section of the site was very open and could easily house a few tents. I spent some time relaxing out on the big rock and absorbing the sun while sipping on a bit of rum. At 6:30pm I was bored with my campsite and wasn’t hungry yet, so I decided to get in the boat and explore the lake a bit more. I headed directly south to the island and over to a giant nest I noticed previously while on my search for a campsite. The nest was huge and atop a dead pine. I made my way over hoping to see what bird was roosted there, but no luck the nest was empty. As I paddled away, I could hear a faint scream up in the sky – then another one. I looked up to see a giant hawk chasing a smaller bird. They were swooping, zooming, flipping, nose-diving – it was unreal! I couldn’t believe what was unfolding in front of me. Part of me was rooting for the hawk, and the other part the smaller bird. This continued above my head for a few minutes before the chase went out of view. Wow – went expecting an empty nest, came back having watched an intense moment in nature.
I turned around and continued with my mini day trip. I decided to head to the east shore of the lake, both to check out the campsites there and to see if I can find the cabin remains. I paddled across the bay and landed at the 2nd campsite from the north. It looked okay and would definitely get good sunsets, but I liked my rock outcrop much more. As I moved on I followed the shoreline looking for any sign of a cabin, or a clearing. I did find a small clearing where the cabin symbol was, but upon inspection I found nothing more than an old, but modern design thunderbox, so I assume this is a just closed campsite. I could not find any proof of a cabin so I it must be long gone. I later learned two things about the cabin I was looking for. The first was, Ranger Frank Robichaud was caught in a blizzard on Three Mile Lake and subsequently died in said cabin. The other was, this cabin was one of the several that were intentionally burned to the ground once it was realized the network of ranger cabins was no longer needed. A decision made due to an unfortunate lack of foresight. Back in the boat I continued following the shoreline, checking out the next two sites along the way before turning around and headed back to camp.
Not knowing the above, I was still too weirded out by this campsite to stick around very long. I moved on to inspect the last site on the north side of this island. Now, I don’t know who decided to put a campsite here, but it’s completely useless. The landing is about 2 feet long, by 1 foot wide, then tiny trail nearly straight up a hill leads to a clearing at the top of the island. Who would camp here? I walked back down to the canoe and decided I didn’t want anything to do with this island so I made the short paddle across the bay to the first site I stopped at – the giant rocky outcrop. I should’ve just camped here when I landed the first time. I landed the canoe (again) and proceeded to unload when I heard another fire patrol plane fly overhead. I wonder if they’re looking for campers having illegal fires? Imagine it would be hard to spot in the day but obviously much easier at night. With the sun still shining, I decided to lay out the tent body, fly and tarp to dry before setting up camp. While that stuff dried, I took advantage of the warm weather and rocky outcrop by jumping in the lake a couple times. Cold and refreshing – I felt like a new man when I finally clambered up the slippery rocks.
With dinner finished I felt a bit bummed out and the idea of ‘more adventure’ just kept gnawing at me. I grabbed some rum and sat out on the rocks, still looking over the map under the light of a full moon. I started looking at all my options. I had three nights left (not including tonight). What could I do with three nights in this area? I looked at changing my route to go up through Fassett Creek and down through Kakasamic & Lorne, but that seemed like a lot more walking then paddling – it would add something like 15 portages totalling 9,000 meters – no thanks! Given my current position on the map, I didn’t have many choices. Then I pulled out my phone – to look at the map on the Avenza app because the printed copy I have ends at the west boarder. Suddenly, I saw a potential route – it was a little crazy, maybe even a bit stupid – but it would be a guaranteed adventure. I carefully plotted my next three nights on the GPS and decided to sleep on the idea before committing. I cleaned the campsite and hung the food, for what felt like the hundredth time this trip – zero complaints about that! I crawled into my tent around 10:30pm and once again took a look at my phone, studying my potential idea. I was asleep by 11pm.
Beautiful view from this camsite - but too much garbage everywhere :( (not pictured)
Still a very pretty lake
Remember the grey sky? I don't :)
Very calm & quiet evening on Three Mile Lake
I landed at my campsite at 7:30pm and by now I was pretty hungry. The plan was to catch a Lake Trout for dinner and pair it with some fresh baked bannock, but instead I ate my backup meal – bannock and ramen noodles. Not the best thing for you, but fresh bread and spicy ramen sure hit the spot. As the bannock baked I went behind the campsite to set-up my sleeping pad and bag. I need to make a mental note to hang my sleeping bag as often as possible because it was starting to smell a little bit. With the tent organized I pulled out the map and sat on the bench while my bread finishing baking. I tossed on some water for ramen and in less than 5 minutes I was enjoying a hot & spicy meal with fresh baked bred – delicious! As I ate I started to reflect on the trip again – mostly noting how little, if any fishing I did. I wondered if the rod was worth its weight – most of my time was spent travelling or lounging, fishing didn’t seem to be a priority on this trip. As I finished up my bannock, I was looking over the map – looking for something but I didn’t know what. I think I was feeling a little down that my trip was coming to an end – sure I still had 4 nights to go, but it felt like it went by so quick! I didn’t want the adventure to stop, but I realized I was really close in distance to my ending point – which means the adventure is in fact, almost over.
At 12:15pm I loaded up and made the ten-minute crossing. P660 was the easiest trail of the day – it has a bit of an uphill climb at the beginning but for the most part its downhill to North Sylvia Lake. When I got to the landing at the other side, I was pleased to see it was a small beach. The clouds were lifting so I took off my shoes and socks, rolled up my pants and walked around in the lake to cool off. The sun was making an appearance and it was shaping up to be a nice day. After ten minutes of feet-cooling, I loaded the canoe and kept going. From what I could tell, North Sylvia Lake was completely vacant. It’s a beautiful lake with clear water – depending on the sites I may come back here some day. As I came around the corner leading into Dismal Bay at the north end of the lake I spotted a decent campsite to my left. Upon closer inspection, it was a nice slab of rock, sloping into the water and the site itself was massive – situated in a huge hemlock grove so it was very open and spacious. I will definitely return to camp here (and I did, see TR 75). How could this be called Dismal Bay? It was quite the opposite. As I approached the landing for P550 to Three Mile Lake, I could hear a bunch of voices and upon landing I ran into a group of 8 campers.
Day 12: Maple Lake to Three Mile Lake
I slept in a little bit today as the constant rain throughout the night woke me up a couple times when it was really coming down. I exited the tent and it looked like more rain was on the way -it was an overcast and generally a grey day. I didn’t waste any time packing up as I wanted to have it finished before the rain starts up again. I enjoyed a couple cups of coffee under the tarp and after I finished packing up I made a quick bowl of oatmeal. Given that oatmeal is kind of boring, I grabbed as many blueberries as I could pick and tossed them in the bowl. Fresh fruit on day 12? Sure – why the hell not eh? They would have been better on pancakes, but they worked just fine in oatmeal.
The group appeared to be a youth/teen group of girls with a couple leaders. We spoke for a bit and they were more than excited to tell me about their route, where they started, where they had been, etc. When they asked me about my trip, I told them I was on day 12 of 16 and they all went silent. “Really??’ on girl blurted out. ‘Yup!’ I replied. Then came the questions: Where did you start? Where did you go? Where are you going? How did you manage 16 days of food? What gear do you have? How much does your boat weight? What are you doing with your garbage? How much vacation time do you get from work? Are you insane? – literally these were the questions and they just kept coming. I laughed and answered as best I could while loading up and preparing for the crossing. We wished each other well and went off on our respective ways. The 550m portage leading to Three Mile Lake seemed to have a lot of ups and downs, but it wasn’t terrible. I arrived at Three Mile Lake just before 1pm and the weather seemed to turn around. The clouds were nearly completely gone and the sun was back! I launched and paddled to the south end of the lake to find my campsite. I wanted a good site on this lake as I am booked here for the next two nights. As I entered the lower end of the lake, a giant rocky outcrop came into view and it was looking pretty decent. I landed at the site and found it was mediocre at best. A very basic site with a big rock. Meh. I got back in the boat and began a counter-clockwise inspection of every single site, starting with the little island to the west.
I could hear something crashing through the bush by this rock wall
This portage felt longer than it needed to be
Approaching P390 to Ratrap Lake
Not the best looking day - but at least it's not raining!
Believe it or not - there is a campsite right there. Can't see it? oh.. that's probably cause it sucks!
Greeted by a loon in Dismal Bay of North Sylvia Lake
Looking back at Maple Lake from the long bay leading to P390
Boggy Lake doesn't look like a bog, but it sure smells like one
Minutes later it began to clear up
The narrows between Ratrap & Dahinda Lakes
It wasn’t long before I reached P1430 to Boggy Lake. This was my longest portage of the day and I wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. I loaded up for the crossing at 11:30am and made my way down the trail. Just like the portage to Ratrap from Maple, this trail had a few sections where you really needed to keep a mindful eye on your footing. When I reached the logging road, I took a short break for water and to catch my breath before continuing on. It took me about 35 minutes to reach Boggy Lake and I have to admit, this lake holds true to its name. It’s literally a round bog – pretty in its own way, but a Bog none the less. I launched onto the ‘lake’ and realized I needed to filter water as my Nalgene was empty. Given that I wasn’t dying of thirst, I opted to wait until North Sylvia Lake before pumping water. I didn’t want to drink from Boggy Lake – it smelled funky. After a couple minutes, I was on the west shore of Boggy Lake and loading up for P660 over to North Sylvia Lake – I was making great time today!
Drying out after yesterday's intense rainstorm(s)
I debated going for a moonlit paddle - but opted to enjoy the view from out on the rocks
A full moon rising over Three Mile Lake
Ready to get going
Dahinda Lake under a grey sky
I must admit - this campsite has a lovely view of Three Mile Lake
I got to the island and made the decision in under a minute to keep going. It had a bit of garbage scattered around and I wanted nothing to do with it. I moved on to the west shore and I didn’t like that site either. On to the south shore – neat site! Very small and moss covered – I bet nobody ever stays here and today wasn’t this sites day either. I moved on to the south end of the large island and checked out another site. This campsite was a potential candidate as it was very pretty – but also very exposed and it looked as though an animal dug its way into the thunderbox. I figured I’d check out the other two sites on the island and come back here if they were no good. I continued counter clockwise around the island and came to the east-facing campsite. This was a really nice, open site with great benches and a great fire pit. I liked it a lot, but something wasn’t right. I inspected the thunderbox and it also had been dug out by an animal. Hmmm... Three Mile Lake seems a little over-used and abused. I stood there for a while, debating camping here but something still wasn’t right – something about this campsite was creeping me out – which was also confusing to me as it appeared to be a decent campsite. Perhaps knowing animals are aware these sites are a food source had me turned off – but it wasn’t until over a year later that I learned why I had such a creepy and odd feeling at this site. A few years earlier two group leaders and a handful of youths were camping here when a violent storm hit. The storm affected all areas of Algonquin Park and was the same storm that caused the damage on Cauchon Lake I photographed a few days earlier. Unfortunately for this group, mother nature had other plans in mind and one of the downed trees landed directly on the counsellor’s tent – instantly killing one of them and severely injuring and trapping the other. The group of boys had to paddle back out to Kiosk, alone, to get help. They got back around 1am and the evacuation flight arrived early the next morning. The counsellor killed in the tent was the cousin of one of the campers – a full-blown tragedy and life-altering experience for that little guy. I wonder if he ever camped again?
Still very overcast on Three Mile Lake