So long, Paradise Island!
Day 7: Robinson Lake to Catfish Lake via the Petewawa River
I didn’t set an alarm and managed to sleep in till 8am. I wasn’t in a rush, but I did have 20km and a half dozen portages to get to Catfish Lake. When I exited the tent, I looked up and once again couldn’t believe my eyes – another beautiful, cloudless day. So far it was 5 to 2 for sun versus rain – an excellent ratio for a canoeist. I did my usual ritual of putting water on the stove for coffee while I took down the tent. I was happy the tent was able to almost completely dry over night and I wouldn’t have to deal with the extra weight of a wet tent. I packed mostly everything while I enjoyed a cup of coffee then made a quick breakfast of oatmeal and took it down to the rocks to enjoy.
The downstream put-in of P380 around Cedar Rapids
Pearley Lake as seen from P155
By the time 7pm rolled around my dinner was ready so I took it out to the rocks along with a whiskey sour. It was a quiet evening and you could barely make out the chit chat from other campers on the lake. It was kind of nice to hear other human voices after being secluded for so many consecutive days. I enjoyed my dehydrated meal and the look of the calm lake was too much to resist. I decided to head out for an evening paddle. I wanted to check out the Alligator ruins on an island just south of me as well as explore the northern bay. Once my food was secured for the night I went down to the beach and launched my canoe.
It was even more quiet now and the sound of my paddle dipping in the water could probably be heard across the lake. I slowly made my way to the island with the Alligator ruins and had a little trouble locating it at first – I was on the wrong side of the island. I paddled around to the other side and there was a bit of a clearing, so you could see some of the ruins through the bush. I landed the canoe and got out to explore the area and take a few photos. This thing was really cool but there was no structure left, just the metal bits and pieces that once formed the mechanical inner workings of a very awesome machine. This ‘boat’ had the capability to wench itself across land from lake to lake – an impressive feat, even by today’s standards.
I continued through the narrows and past a giant rock labelled by Natives as ‘Turtle Rock’. It was an aboriginal spiritual site resembling the shape of a turtle. Once through the narrows I could see two or three really cool looking campsites – all occupied. What the heck?! I went from seeing 2 groups in 6 days to not even being able to score a decent campsite – I was not expecting this. There were two more sites in the north end of the lake and since that’s where I had to exit tomorrow, I figured they would be better than turning around and going back to the south end. Luckily, the first campsite I came across was pretty nice and had the best of both worlds – it had a very small sandy beach as well as a giant rock leading down into the water. There was also pink quartz studded all over the place – I was happy where I ended up.
These loons kept me company during my evening paddle around the north end of Catfish Lake
I got to my campsite a little before 3pm so I still had plenty of light. After a little bit of relaxing down by the beach I decided to take advantage of the sun and give my clothes a good rinse – it was really hot today and I was sweating a lot. I didn’t bother hanging my stuff to dry, I just spread it out on the rock in the blazing sun while I took a swim in the lake. I felt amazing after a 20-minute swim and part of me didn’t want to leave the water. This campsite also seemed to be infested with red squirrels because they were chattering at me from all angles – no matter where I was. It was funny and annoying at the same time. After cooling off in the lake I started the process of setting up camp – with the friendly red squirrels constantly reminding me that I was the intruder. I was getting hungry and my dinner tonight was one of two dehydrated meals – the other being a back-up meal for the first half of my trip. I decided to go with the chicken and rice so I boiled water on the stove, poured it in the bag and let the meal do its thing.
North shore campsite on Pearley Lake
Looking back at Catfish Lake
Robinson Lake to Catfish Lake
Another gorgeous day in Algonquin Park
Pulled over to climb a ridge and take this photo - what's up with all these logs?
Taking a short break at a small island on Catfish Lake - you can see Shangri La Island from here
Beautiful evening paddle around Catfish Lake
Clearly something had quite the feast here - I suspect otters
This cow moose takes a look back at me before headed into the forest for the night
I decided I would go as far as the 80m portage to Narrowbag Lake then head back to camp. As I made my way through the narrows leading to the portage I could hear a strange but consistent squeaking. I was unfamiliar with this sound and it has me very curious. I went into stealth paddling mode and slowly approached the logging chute that the portage circumvents. Well lo and behold there we three otters having the time of their life on this logging chute. They would climb up the remains and jump off the wood back into the rapids over and over again. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and more surprised that they didn’t take off right away – I managed to get pretty close and even score a photo (though not a very good one). When they finally did leave, I decided I would do the same and began the short journey back to my campsite. It was nice to be out on the lake while all the bugs were at their worst as when I got back to camp the mosquitoes seem to be gone for the night.
Looking back at Catfish Lake through the narrows leading to Narrowbag Lake
As I approached my last portage of the day, a 365m trail around Catfish Rapids I began to wonder how busy Catfish Lake would be. I have heard great things about an island campsite with the nickname ‘Shangri-La Island’ and I was hoping it would be available. I loaded up for the quick carry and was happy I wouldn’t have to deal with any more portages until tomorrow. I launched onto the lower section of Catfish Lake and once again decided to get comfortable by removing my socks and shoes as well as soaking my bandana and neck. I’m pretty sure today has been the hottest day so far – at least it feels that way. As I rounded the corner leading to the main section of Catfish Lake I could immediately see Shangri La island, along with a bright orange tent erected on it. Oh well, I’ve heard there are plenty of nice sites on this lake. I decided to paddle close by Shangri La because I saw an older guy sitting down by the shore and I wanted to ask him if the fire ban was still on. As I passed by we exchanged greetings and he confirmed that even after yesterdays rain, the ban was still on when he got his permit this yesterday afternoon.
A chubby chippy!
When I arrived at Burntroot Lake, I was greeted with a dead calm and windless lake with a bright blue sky. I was really fortunate to be getting this kind of weather – maybe it’s positive karma for getting stuck with a fire ban on such a long trip. I placed the boat and my gear on the beach then took off my shoes & socks then waded into the sandy shallows of Burntroot Lake. It was going to be another scorcher today and I would be wise to consistently keep cool. Burntroot Lake is stunningly beautiful and I regretted not booking a day here. After a few minutes of soaking my feet, I loaded the boat and gear then hopped in for the short journey along the north shore to P155 around Portal Rapids on the Petewawa River. I could have taken a different route to Catfish Lake, via Junco – Hayes – Macoun – North Cuckoo but that would have involved substantially more walking and less paddling – that route didn’t make sense unless I planned to actually camp on one of those lakes along the way.
I landed at the beach of P155 and I had to make a quick pit-stop as there was supposed to be an old root cellar nearby. I took my camera and made my way behind the campsite to begin my search. In less than 3 seconds the very obvious root cellar was in front of me – it was pretty cool! I snapped a few photos of the inside & out then made my way back to my canoe. I loaded my pack on my back then my boat on my shoulders and made the very quick crossing of this trail. I looked out at the expanse of Perley Lake and decided to take off my shoes and socks – I wouldn’t be walking a portage for at least an hour, this was a long lake. There was no wind and the crossing was actually quite nice, despite the blazing sun. I had to keep soaking my bandana and neck just to remain cool.
Loving every moment of my trip around Catfish Lake
My campsite on Catfish Lake
Looking back at Burntroot Lake
Looking up the Petewawa River at P80 - I debated running this, don't know why I didn't
The very dry Portal Rapids on the Petewawa River
The view from my campsite in the north end of Catfish Lake
The Alligator ruins on a small island in Catfish Lake (Click here to see more!)
I got back in the boat and made my way up the western shore to the northern bay. I could hear something splashing around in the water but I couldn’t see what it was. I continued paddling north then I saw it – a cow moose was feeding in the lake. My paddling must have spooked her because within seconds she decided she had enough and retreated back into the forest. I was happy to once again see a moose after so many days of no sightings. I made my way around the bay and saw a small ridge so I decided to get out of the boat for some photos. In the upper portion of the bay there is a massive log jam, but it doesn’t make any sense because there are no outlets there so I don’t understand why the logs are all jammed up in this one corner. I took a few photos from the small hillside and got back in the boat to continue my journey.
Beachy landing at the North end of Burntroot Lake
Upstream end of P425 around Snowshoe Rapids
Just as I suspected it took me an hour to reach the east end of Perley Lake. It’s a pretty lake but the campsites leave more to be desired – especially during bug season. It was 12:30pm when I reached my first of four sequential portages around the Petewawa River. The first one, a 380m trail around cedar rapids was easy enough to navigate and a few seconds after launching I was immediately at the next portage. I debated skipping the next portage as it was marked as just a small swift and the trail is only 85m but due to the extremely low water, I would have heavily damaged the gel-coat on my boat so I landed, loaded up and crossed in minutes. This part of the Petewawa River is very scenic and it’s also where the alternate route I mentioned earlier would have connected. I made the short crossing and was at P425 around Snowshoe Rapids by 1pm. This trail took about ten minutes to cross but was very easy, as all the portages today have been. I launched back onto the Petewawa River and had a tiny bit of relief because it would be a good ten or fifteen minutes before I’d have to do my last portage of the day. There was a campsite on the portage around Snowshoe Rapids and another one on the south shore of the Petewawa River - both of which seemed to be a great place to camp in the off-season.
Once breakfast was finished I went back to the upper portion of the campsites and finished the chore of breaking camp. It took a bit longer today because I opted to hang the tarp, but by 10:15am I was ready to get going. I loaded the canoe and paddled out in front of the campsite for a couple more photos before headed on my way. As I came around the corner and approached the landing for P1285 to Burntroot Lake, I ran into a young couple from Scotland; Jill & Gareth. Gareth told me a long time ago he used to drive laundry trucks for the youth camps along highway 60 – pretty cool to be working in Algonquin. We chatted for several minutes at the landing and they told me they were visiting Algonquin Park for 3 nights. They we’re doing the Catfish – Burntroot – Nipissing route, having just stayed on Burntroot Lake. They had an older copy of Jeff’s map with them that contained a few discrepancies. We compared maps (I was using the latest version of Jeff’s Map) and they had confidence in getting back to Brent without issue. I think they were concerned with low water, or trailheads, I’m not too sure. We both went our separate ways and I crossed P1285 in roughly twenty minutes. The bugs were particularly bad along this trail.
A very calm Burntroot Lake
An otter playing on the log chute remains by Narrowbag Lake
Old root cellar at the north end of Burntroot Lake (Click here to see more!)
Since I couldn’t have a fire I decided to sip on some whiskey down by the rocks while watching the full moon slowly rise over the lake and illuminate the shoreline. It was a very beautiful night and I was really happy I decided to go out for an evening paddle to enjoy it. Around 11pm I was getting tired so I decided to call it a night and hit the sack.