The Remona end of P1910 - note the tropical water
At 11:30am I launched onto Robinson Lake and for the third time in a row took note of how pristine and clear the water was – I absolutely couldn’t wait to get to camp and take a swim. As I left the small western bay and into Robinson Lake proper I could see the first island with the ‘not so great campsite’. As I got closer and closer I couldn’t help but notice there was no sign of a campsite here - at all. The island was completely over-grown, I couldn’t see a fire pit or any evidence of a campsite sign on a lake-facing tree. I thought it was weird but I assume they just closed the campsite for regeneration. I looked around for another site on the lake but could find one. I moved on past the first island then an amazing sight came into view – the awesome campsite that I was targeting was not only vacant, but looked even more impressive in person compared to the photos I’ve seen. I pulled up to the giant rock and at 11:45am I proclaimed this to be my home for the next two nights!
I was so happy to be at camp before noon – I have a few things I wanted to get done today (bathing, laundry, etc.) and having a sunny day with plenty of time was a real advantage. I inspected the campsite and was very happy with it. The tent pad and fire pit are situated high up on a rock with a commanding western view of Robinson Lake. The lower part of the island was a gentle rock-slop which allowed for easy in and out swimming access. It was truly a perfect site – the best one I’ve stayed on in Algonquin as of this trip. I brought my gear up to the tent pad and unpacked a few items. I really needed a good bath and to wash some clothing so I hung a laundry line and filled my collapsible bucket with lake water and soap. An easy way to do laundry in the backcountry is to first pre-soak all your stuff in the lake – swishing it around to loosen and release as much dirt and grease as possible. I usually let them soak for a while. After a good soaking, I wash the items one by one in the soapy bucket, leaving socks and underwear for last. I wring them out and empty the soapy water behind the campsite and away from the lake. With a new bucket of lake water, I rinsed the soapy clothing and once again dump the water – this part has to be repeated a few times but overall it works very well. I hung my clothing out to dry and put on my swim shorts – it was time for a much needed cool-off.
I must have been more tired than I thought because I didn’t wake up again until 10:30pm and it was still raining. I was a little confused because it was dark out. ‘What day is it? What time is it? Where am I?’ were some of the questions I pondered until I eventually came-to. Oddly, I still wasn’t very hungry as I had snacked throughout most of the day and even though it was hard to get back to sleep, since I couldn’t have a fire I decided to stay in the tent and get some extra rest. I remained in bed until the next day.
Beautiful morning mist on the Nipissing River
Morning sun over Graham's Dam on the Nipissing River
The main landing of the campsite
Packed up and ready to move to Robinson Lake
Nipissing River @ Graham's Dam to Robinson Lake
I spent about a half an hour swimming in the small channel between the island and the mainland. The water was so clear I felt like I was swimming in a tropical lake – it felt so good to be able to swim in clear water – I don’t care how deep the nipissing is or isn’t, I’m not swimming in that black river – ever. With my swim over and feeling fully rejuvenated I returned to the upper portion of the campsite to set up my tent and get everything else unpacked. I placed my ground sheet down and erected the tent so that it faced west and provided an excellent view. The clouds closed in and it looked like it was going to rain and when I went back to my pack to get the rain fly a gust of wind came and blew my tent over. I had to react quick because I was worried it would be blown into the water. I rescued it but decided to snap a photo while the wind was dead – I’ve never had my tent blow away before and now I use pegs every time! By the time I secured the fly to the tent the clouds were even thicker and I was sure it would rain. I put up the tarp so I could have a dry place for dinner later on. I was beginning to feel very tired and decided I would take a short nap before dinner. My clothes were almost dry so I took them down and hung my food pack then got in the tent at around 4:30pm. At 5 I awoke to the sound of rain pelting the tent and tarp – my good luck with weather had come to an end. I still wasn’t hungry or interested in going outside, so I turned over and continued with my nap.
A less-than-impressive High Falls on the Nipissing River
Tent up, tarp up - Not going anywhere for the next couple days
Such a great campsite
The bugs were coming out and starting to annoy me so I decided it was time to move on. The next portage had something special to see as well – High Falls on the Nipissing River so I was eager to get going. It was 8:45am when I was back on the Nipissing River and headed towards P1300. The fog had entirely lifted by now and it was another beautiful 30-minute paddle down a remote river in Algonquin Park. Around quarter after nine I was at the take out for P1300 around High Falls and I once again loaded up for the single carry – this would be the last portage along the Nipissing River and though it’s a beautiful river I was happy to be getting off it – I desperately wanted to go swimming plus the Nipissing’s water is very hard on a ceramic filter. Around the half way point I noticed the off-shoot trail leading down to High Falls so I dropped all my gear off to the side of the portage and made my way down.
A lot of people have told me High Falls is beautiful – one of the most scenic waterfalls in Algonquin. Well that may be the case, but not today. I guess as a result of the severe lack of rain this water fall wasn’t flowing like it normally does. There was barley any water and I wasn’t impressed at all. I snapped a few photos and moved on after just a couple minutes thinking it must be more impressive during the spring flood. As I got back up to the main part of the portage I loaded up and continued along the trail. About ten minutes later I reached the campsite near the end and thought it would be a great place to stay – literally right beside the river. A few short minutes after that and I was at the other end but I didn’t get too excited – it would only be a 5 or 6-minute paddle before I was faced with another long portage. Between P1300 and P1930 I thought it would be a good idea to chug a bunch of water as it was getting very hot. I finished what was in my Nalgene then sat in the canoe for a couple minutes while I filtered the brown Nipissing water for the last time. I put everything away and made my way up to the grassy take-out for P1930 leading to Remona Lake.
Saying goodbye to the Nipissing River at P1910 to Remona Lake
Evidence of a different time in the same place
I’ve heard bad things about this trail and today I would confirm them to be true. This trail climbs for nearly the entire length. The trail has a total climb of 90m – most of which happens on the first 2/3rd when coming from the Nipissing River. My plan to tackle this trail was simple – just take it nice and slow and keep a steady breathing pattern. It worked for the most part and I only had to put my stuff down twice during the worst parts of the climb. When I reached the old road the intersects the trail I unloaded once again for a quick break and to take a couple photos. Someone had made an arrow out of stones as an indicator of where the portage continues on the other side of the road. Another couple of minutes and I could finally see the glistening water of Remona Lake through the trees.
Another shot of the mist on the Nipissing River
You may not expect it by looking at the map - but this portage is uphill the entire way to Remona Lake
Very minor evidence of the P.O.W. Spring Camp (Click here to see more - from a later trip)
On my way back up to the campsite I noticed a pile of rocks that were clearly put there with intention as well as few logs with giant iron spikes through them – I guess the campsite is at the precise location where Graham’s Dam use to be. I thought it was pretty cool to be camping somewhere so historic – I was glad I pushed on a bit further yesterday and made it to this site instead. I used the rest of the boiling water to mix up a couple packages of maple & brown sugar oatmeal for breakfast. At home I like to put a bit of milk on my oatmeal and it took me a long time to get used to eating it without milk but it’s not so bad. At 8am sharp all my gear was packed and the campsite was clean – I loaded up and made my way across the rest of this portage.
In under two minutes I was at the downstream end of P410 and relaunching onto the Nipissing River. It was a very short paddle between here and the next portage but also very scenic as the sun was still rising above the trees and there was plenty of fog on the water. I approached the landing for P365 and made a mental note to keep an eye out for any signs of ruins – there used to be a P.O.W. camp somewhere along this trail. I loaded up for the single carry and began down the trail. It was easy enough to follow and stayed relatively flat for the entire length. I crossed it in 6 or 7 minutes but I didn’t see any ruins or even any signs of ruins. It was so early in the morning I figured I could spare a few minutes to poke around the area. All I could find was the odd bucket and a few hunks of metal – no sign of any buildings or other relics. I didn’t give it as much time as I should have because four years (See TR 76) later I did find the ruins and they’re still fairly extensive – in fact the portage passes right between two building foundations!
My tent blew away while I was doing other stuff. Note to self: Use tent pegs
Follow the arrow - it knows where you're trying to go
I found this guy poking around the campsite
The put in at Remona Lake is very shallow and rocky so you’re pretty much required to wet-foot it as you have to walk out a few meters to deeper water. That was totally okay with me because the water was crystal clear and it was now very hot outside. I took off my shoes and socks to stand in the water for a bit. I splashed the crystal-clear water over my face and neck several times – man it felt good to be back on a lake following so many days of river travel! After thoroughly enjoying the cool, clear and refreshing water I placed the canoe in the water and loaded it with gear for the brief crossing. I considered checking out the two campsites here, but abandoned the idea when I thought of someone possibly snagging my desired campsite on Robinson Lake. I was doing okay for time as it was only 11am by the time I landed at P435 to Whiskey Jack Lake. There were two canoes in the water at the landing – these are the first canoes I have seen in five days! I wondered where the owners were because the landing here is very small and their boats were blocking the entire landing – and my ability to get out. I pulled up beside one of them and gently nudged it over to give me just a little space to work with. It was a bit annoying but I managed to get everything out on land and loaded up for the carry. This portage is very steep at the beginning and around the half-way mark I encountered two guys who were coming across in the opposite direction with their second load. They knew their canoes were blocking the way and immediately apologized for it – I told them no worries and wished them well on the rest for their trip. It was nice to finally be able to speak to a person instead of the squirrels!
It was quarter after eleven when I launched onto Whiskey Jack Lake and wow – another crystal-clear lake. The water here seemed to be more clear than Remona. Maybe I was just so used to the tannin-stained waters of the Nipissing that I forgot what a clean backcountry lake looks like! Since most of the water in my Nalgene was gone I poured out the rest and opted to filter water here. I was amazed at how quickly I was able to filter a liter of water – I could finally get water without having to clean the filter cartridge after every use. I put the filter away and kept moving – I was happy to be on track to arrive at my campsite by noon! I approached the little creek between Whiskey Jack Lake and Robinson Lake and despite a note on the map about potentially skipping this trail in high water, I instantly knew I had to take the portage. In fact, once I was up on land and loaded up I realized no matter what you would have to take this portage as the creek was so low, narrow and jammed up with logs I don’t see it ever being skippable. You can almost see the other end from the starting point so it was over in less than a minute – I was so happy to put down the canoe for the last time of the day – two days in fact because I have a rest day scheduled tomorrow.
Nice view - looks like it will rain soon
Day 5: Nipissing River @ Graham's Dam to Robinson Lake
I set my alarm for 6:45am as I wanted to get an early start to the day. It’s not that I had a long travel day ahead of me, I was just excited and anxious to get to Robinson Lake. Excited because I was targeting a very cool campsite that I’ve wanted to stay at for a while now. Anxious because there are only two campsites on Robinson Lake – and one of them is terrible, so I really wanted to secure the awesome campsite for my two-night stay. I wasted no time this morning and I had the entire interior of my tent packed up before exiting. I retrieved my food pack from behind the site and put some water on the stove while I took down the tent. It was a gorgeous sunny day and I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to constantly get nice weather – and when it did finally rain, I was protected by a cabin. I think I set a take-down record because I had the tent disassembled and stuffed away without boiling-off my entire pot of water! Since the coffee was ready I decided to take a short break from packing up and take my coffee down to the rocks. It was a crisp morning and there was a slight fog dancing over the river and down the rapids. It was a very calm and relaxing place to enjoy a morning cup of coffee – so good in fact I decided to make another one before getting back to work packing up.
The ever-changing Nipissing River
Approaching 'Paradise Island' on Robinson Lake
This photo is deceiving - I'm standing about 10-15 feet higher than the base of those pines