Washed & dried my canoe
The campsite I thought I scored - until I came around the corner and say the tent + canoe
Day 13: Three Mile Lake to North Tea Lake
I woke up around 8am and left the tent to find an overcast sky. I walked out to the rocky outcrop and looked down the lake – it appeared to be raining down there. I put on the stove for some coffee and began to take down the tent. I always try and get the tent packed up as fast as possible when the threat of rain is imminent – I hate portaging a soaking wet tent, too heavy. When my coffee was ready I took a short break to enjoy it and mull over my plan from last night. I had two ideas in mind:
1. Move to Biggar Lake tonight and spend two days there, then North Tea Lake for my last night, or
2. Move to North Tea Lake tonight, then spend the next two nights bushwhacking and paddling back to the town of South River, via the historic canoe route (Mary Jane – Pot – Denis – Twenty-Seven – South River)
Looking just as good as the day I picked her up in Gravenhurst
North end of Mangotasi Lake just before entering North Tea Lake
A less than impressive Twin Falls
A very hilly Biggar Lake - I didn't expect such a scenic view!
Looking up Mangotasi Lake
Very happy where I ended up - beautiful beach campsite in North Tea's west arm
Very low water at the upstream takeout of P50 around Twin Falls
Looking south over Upper Kawa Lake
Looking up Three Mile Lake
Looking down the west shoreline of Kawa Lake
I didn’t really like Biggar Lake and that’s it - the decision was made – I would go with option 2 and have an unforeseen adventure – screw it, what’s the worst that could happen? I have fun? Oooooh! I approached P140 to a small pond and made a very quick crossing of it, as well as the short 50m portage leading into Hornbeam Lake. I took a break along P50 to check out Twin Falls and relax on the rocks for a bit. I was surprised the rain managed to hold off and started to hope I could get to camp on north Tea before it hits. Twin Falls was nice, but I suspect it’s more impressive during regular water levels. With a hop, skip and a jump I crossed Hornbeam Lake and the 305m portage to Mangotasi Lake. When I launched onto Mangotasi Lake I made a travel error and almost went back up the creek the portage took me around – doh! Realizing my mistake, I turned around and followed the shoreline through the narrows leading into Mangotasi Lake proper. Nice looking lake, but the campsites look mediocre at best. I paddled up the middle of the lake and was surprised I hadn’t seen anyone since Biggar Lake – it was the day before a long weekend so I figured The Park would be packed with visitors.
Three Mile Lake to North Tea Lake
Took advantage of the sun and wind to wash & dry some laundry. Made my own clothes pins too!
Taking a short break before tackling North Tea Lake
As I came around to the campsite landing a tent came into view – the paradise site with useless firewood was occupied. No worries, there are about a thousand other campsites on this lake. I decided to head to the west arm and see if I would have better luck there. I paddled towards the narrows and once again was hit with a fierce wind – probably the worst it has been on this entire trip. I struggled just to get to the campsite in the narrows and as I passed I heard a loud ‘Hello!’ I looked to my right and it was the family of four – my neighbours from Mouse Lake. I pulled over and landed at their beach to chat for a bit – tonight was their last night following an 8-day family canoe trip. I told them of my plan to spend the next three days making my way back to the town of South River. The dad commented it would be an adventure for sure, but he also mentioned water levels are troublesome all over the park – what if there is no water in the South River? He brought a valid point and it had me concerned, but the plan was made and I was going through with it regardless. We said our good-byes and I moved on, back out into the wind. As I came around the corner I spied a massive sandy beach – this is where I wanted to camp. I made my way up the shoreline and the first campsite was occupied. No worries, there’s plenty of beach for everyone! I continued to the second site and it was also occupied – rats. I debated going to an island, but as I came around a small corner I could see another giant beach that continued nearly all the way to the north shore – and there happened to be a campsite here. I paddled up the shoreline – which was difficult due to the cross-wind and giant waves it was creating. Finally, at 4:30pm I landed at a beautiful sandy beach and found a vacant campsite – I was home for the night.
Yup - some foul weather is definitely moving in - and that's my cue to get in the tent!
By 3:30pm I was in the narrows separating Mangotasi Lake from North Tea Lake and the winds kicked up again, a bit stronger than before. I took a break in a small bay to rest my arms and after 15 minutes I ventured out for the last leg of today’s journey. Just as I emerged from the little bay, I ran into a large group of canoeists – eight girls and one guy – lucky guy. We chatted for a bit, they showed me their planned route and told them where I started and how long ago – they appeared astonished - one even made a comment about how she stunk after only two days and I must really be bad after thirteen – to which I replied bathing and laundry is key when canoe tripping for weeks on end. I asked if the fire ban was still in effect and sure enough – it was. We parted ways and after one look at North Tea I wanted to make camp in the east arm on one of the beautiful rocky islands. North Tea Lake was much more scenic than I anticipated – rocky pine islands all over the place! I spotted one in particular that I wanted to target, not too far from the narrows that separate North Tea’s East and West Arms. The lake became very windy and forward progress was becoming exhausting. As I approached my targeted island, I spied a HUGE stack of chopped fire wood – and I mean a stack – the kind you would find at a cottage. Amazing, except for the whole fire ban thing. Then I realized something – my new plan provided an uncalculated benefit – the fire ban was only within Algonquin, once I leave the park I can legally have a fire! That was a great realization and made me more confident my decision to tackle this extended adventure was the right one! There would be a few more uncalculated benefits to this trip that I would realize in the upcoming days.
I wasted no time packing up, out of fear of the rain
In minutes, I was launching onto Kawa Lake and found it to be a pretty non-descript lake. Not ugly, just nothing special. I crossed it quickly and landed at P1040 to Sinclair Lake. I noticed fresh boot prints in the mud at the landing, so it looks like I am not the first one to traverse through here today. I loaded up for the single carry and sure enough at the other end of the trail I ran into two women and three kids. They were travelling to Biggar Lake today and had also stayed on Three Mile Lake last night. I launched onto Sinclair Lake and it took about 2 minutes to reach P520 to Biggar Lake. I feel like I’m walking much more than paddling today. I actually enjoyed this portage – it was very flat, wide and easy to cross. I landed at the beach on Biggar Lake and was faced with a bit of a headwind. I launched on Biggar and paddled straight into the wind. I figured I would check out some campsites on the west end of the lake – there was a site on a rocky point I wanted to see.
Pretty sure it's raining over there
A very spacious and well-hidden campsite behind the beach
North Tea is a very scenic lake - dotted with rocky islands in the east and beaches in the west
The wind was persistent all afternoon and evening - I'm sure some foul weather is moving in
Option one kept me on the same route but it changed my rest day from Three Mile Lake to Biggar Lake – no real adventure though. Option two was so adventurous, it was almost daunting. What if it wasn’t passable? How long since someone had last gone through there? I mulled over both ideas while I continued to break camp and I still couldn’t reach a decision. I was thirsty for more adventure, but I didn’t want to bite off more than I could chew.
Once camp was completely taken down, I made a quick breakfast of oatmeal and coffee. I decided to push my pancakes back another day or two – I wanted to end the trip with a delicious breakfast. As I ate I continued thinking about my options and I figured since both options will take me through Biggar Lake, I still had plenty of time to decide what to do. With the canoe packed, I pulled away from my campsite at 10:45am and made my way to the south-east bay of Three Mile Lake. The landing here was a bit rocky, but manageable and I loaded up for the single carry by 11:10am. It wasn’t raining yet, but looked as though it would come down any minute. The first 400 meters of P1220 seem to be a never ending uphill battle but once at the high point the trail tapers off as it leads to Upper Kawa Lake. Twenty minute later I was at the other end of the trail and shoving off onto Upper Kawa Lake. I looked to my left and spotted a beautiful campsite situated under a giant white pine – I don’t know why but it just looked so inviting. I made a mental note that I would like to come back here and make camp. A very quick paddle had me across the lake and loading up for the short 320m portage to Kawa Lake. This portage seemed to follow and ATV trail and had fresh evidence of ATV’s passing through. I presume its rangers, but there are plenty of others who disobey the rules and use ATV’s to access the backcountry.
Sun beaming through the clouds on North Tea Lake
At 7:30pm it was time for dinner and tonight it would be a simple one – pasta with tomato sauce. I learned my lesson a few nights ago and used much less water when rehydrating the pasta sauce this time - it worked out much better, much more flavour. I did the dishes and relaxed by the beach with a drink. By 8:30pm the attuited of the sky changed quite rapidly and I knew I was in for a big storm tonight. The sky turned deep blue and moved in from the north to the south. It was all I needed to see to convince me to head to the tent for the night. I got in the tent by 9pm and sure enough by 9:30 it was pissing rain harder than it was on Erables – I was really happy to be in a dry tent, in dry clothing, in my warm sleeping bag. I didn’t fall asleep right away but instead kept pouring over the map thinking of my crazy plan for tomorrow and the next day. I don’t remember when, but eventually I passed out with the map still spread out over me, like a blanket.
Getting a little rough on North Tea's east arm
Small pond between Hornbeam Lake and Mangotasi Lake
I really liked this campsite! The beach was massive, stretching for hundreds of meters on both sides and the actual campsite was a huge open space – perfect for keeping the bugs away. I set up camp then decided to take advantage of the wind’s drying capabilities by doing some laundry. As my clothes soaked in soapy water I whittled a few clothespins and hung up a clothes line. With the laundry done and handing in the wind to dry, I figured I myself could use a bit of a bath. I put on my swim shorts and walked out into the water. The sandy bottom continued until I couldn’t touch anymore and I swam around for several minutes – to cool off and to clean up. I was surprised the rain managed to stay away all day and there was now patches of blue sky. I spent some time just relaxing on the beach and I also washed out my canoe – she needed it!
At 12:45 I began the journey across this giant lake. It took me a solid 45 minutes of battling the wind to get to the campsite on the rocky point – it looked great, but it was occupied. I continued along the south shore and briefly stopped to filter water. I inspected the campsites that I passed from the canoe and none of them looked very appealing – in fact, a lot of them were downright terrible sites. It was becoming obvious I had left the ‘less-travelled’ area of Algonquin and seem to be on the 401 of canoe routes. The campsites just looked over-used and abused – very similar to Three Mile Lake. I was quite disappointed with this section of Algonquin as I assumed the north end would have been the opposite of highway 60.