About an hour after I started I was at the narrows that separate the two Cauchon Lakes. There are two bridges here, one for vehicular traffic followed by another railway trestle. The pond between the bridges was filled with water lily’s and other aquatic plants, making it a very scenic paddle. Once under the second trestle you are again faced with a very long and skinny lake. I was lucky there was still no wind and I figured as long as I could get to the end of Cauchon Lake before it kicked up I wouldn’t have any problems today. I stuck to the left shore as I paddled up the lake but I wanted to make a quick pit stop to check something out. There was a note on Jeff’s map about a storm that passed through the area in 2006 and caused a substantial amount of damage to the forest. I landed at the first campsite and walked along the rail bed, looking for the affected area. It didn’t take long before I found a giant log that had fallen from the rail line edge into the forest. I climbed onto of the log and walked across it to a clearing – but this was no man-made clearing. There was nothing but toothpicks back here! It was crazy to see such damage from a windstorm – I hope nothing like this ever goes down while I’m out here – one would have very little chance of survival in this scenario. I walked the rail bed back to my canoe and had a quick snack before moving on.
Very scenic view of Club Lake from the lumber building ruins
The cedar-surrounded campsite on Aura Lee Lake
Beautiful evening on Mouse Lake
I landed at the beach around 5pm and immediately got in the water – the vacation within my vacation has begun. I was staying here for two nights and I wanted to check out both sites since they had respective trails from this beach. I walked up to the north site and it was pretty decent – small, but good benches and good fire pit. Rocky access, but who cares as the beach served for a great landing for both sites. I walked the trail back to the beach then took the 2nd trail to the southern campsite. As soon as I cleared the trees I knew I was home for two days – a beautiful, massive campsite in a hemlock grove. It had the best of both worlds – open site allowing the breeze to pass through while providing shade, and a Caribbean white sand beach. I went back to my boat to retrieve my pack and other gear – I wanted to get camp established then get back in the lake for a much-needed swim. While I set up camp I thought about the couple on the portage and how long it had been. Perhaps they were triple carrying but I was surprised they didn’t pass yet. Then I realized they may have landed at the north site just, only meters away from mine. It wouldn’t bother me, but I’d prefer not to have neighbours that close. I went and sat on the beach for a few minutes and they eventually passed, taking the far-away site on the southern shore – looks like I’ll have some solitude after all. It didn’t take long to get all settled in to this wonderful campsite and once the chores were done I spent a good amount of time relaxing on the beach. It was still very hot out and I swam in the lake for 20 minutes or more, just to cool off.
I loaded the boat at the north landing and made the quick paddle across Aura Lee Lake to P345 leading to Laurel Lake. I put my food re-supply in a dry sack and planned on double-carrying the portages today – all of which were fairly short. When I landed at the trail and loaded up, I figured I would try using my free hand to carry the dry sack holding my food. It was heavy and slightly awkward, but I managed to get across in a single carry – which is my preferred method. Laurel is a small, pretty lake but the campsites appear to be a little over-used. The island one in particular was looking rough and I could see a couple tents set up, not very much privacy at all. I moved along and arrived at P170 around an old dam and leading to Little Cauchon Lake. This trail has a rough take-out accompanied with a very steep & rocky incline for the first 20 or 30 meters. Once you reach the high point, its only a minute or two before you’ll be launching on the other end.
More bacon sizzling in the pan - a great way to start day nine!
Looking down Cauchon Lake - it took a lot of paddling to get here
Scenic paddle between the two Cauchon Lakes
Old Lumber Building (Click here to see more!)
Nice looking campsite on Cauchon Lake
As I made my way up Cauchon Lake, I saw another campsite that looked pretty good and made a mental note about it for future use. The northern shoreline of Cauchon Lake is very scenic – a high ridge covered in thick forest. There are a few places where the rocky ridge peaks out and overall makes for a very scenic lake, despite being dotted with private cottages. When I arrived at the small island in the western section of the lake, I decided to take a break and pump water. The two Cauchon Lakes stretch for nearly 11km of straight paddling. Better than portaging but this was a long time to be sitting in the boat. I stretched my legs in the cool water then figured I best be moving on. It took another fifteen minutes to get from the island to P440 taking me over to Mink Lake. The portage is pretty straight forward and takes you up and over the railed bed, then back down to Mink Lake. The wind had finally picked up a little but it wouldn’t be a problem. Mink lake seemed nice enough though I only briefly passed through the south end of it.
There's nothing little about Little Cauchon Lake
I found the tiny entrance to Mink Creek and could see the portage a few dozen meters beyond that. The creek here has a very sandy bottom and I debated doing a little creek-walking, but opted to keep my shoes dry for the next portage. I loaded up for P1165 leading to Club Lake and made my way down the trail. Though it feels a bit long, its actually a nice portage. It’s mostly a flat trail and the lower portion follows an old railway spur line. I arrived at Club Lake and was greeted with both a beautiful marshy landscape and some very cool lumber building remains. I put my gear, food and boat down then took the camera over to the old lumber building. Its full of bricks and other relics of the past – very cool. I poked around a bit more but didn’t find anything other than small metal relics scattered about and hanging on the trees. I returned to my boat to make my way down Club Lake, but then I noticed an old dam indicated on Jeff’s Map. It was just at the Mink Creek outlet so I paddled over to check it out. A few concrete pillars but not much else, still neat to see some history. I debated going to the campsite in the upper portion of the lake as the map indicated there used to be a lumber camp there – but there was no ruin symbol there, so I just continued south to the lower part of Club Lake.
I was running out of drinking water but I had to wait to cross the insanely-low water marsh between the two sections of Club Lake. It was a bit of a hassle to get through here, very weedy with mud mounds and the occasional hidden rock. It was slow going but by 4pm I was on Lower Club Lake. I took another break for some snacks and to filter water before moving on. The lake is small with two campsites and while I was pumping water I could see a canoe pacing back and forth along the far shoreline – they appeared to be looking for the entrance to Mink Creek. By the time I was nearly across the lake they found the entrance among the reeds. I was happy that they found it in front of me so I didn’t have to spend time searching. I aimed for the small entrance and followed behind. I don’t know if they got stuck or stopped for photos or a break but I caught up to them on Mink Creek very quickly. I didn’t want to intrude on their trip and privacy but they were only paddling a few meters in front of me after I came around a corner. They asked me if I wanted to go around, but I said no need as the portage isn’t very far away. They were going really slow so I asked them if they were single carrying or double carrying the portage. Since they were double carrying I decided to take them up on their passing offer so I could get out of their way, as I was single carrying. They were fine with it and let me move on – but not before I asked them if the fire-ban was still in effect – yup, it was.
Beautiful campsite! I will definitely come back here some day
Nothing but blue sky & blue water! Again!
Finally at the end of the Cauchon Lakes - it's not often you are happy to see a portage
Beautiful marsh between the upper and lower sections of Club Lake
Aura Lee Lake to Mouse Lake
Day 9: Aura Lee Lake to Mouse Lake
I slept in again today and didn’t get out of the tent until 9am. I unzipped the fly and for the 7th time on this trip I was greeted with a bright blue, cloudless sky. It was another gorgeous day in Algonquin Park! I was really excited for breakfast today, fresh bacon sandwiches - too bad no lettuce, tomato or mayo. I decided to switch it up a bit and have a green tea instead of coffee. I cranked up the stove and boiled a bit of extra water in case I wanted more than one tea. Once the water was boiled I cooked a half pound of bacon to have on toast for breakfast. The process worked quite well, I would cook a few strips of bacon, then use the grease to toast the bread and make a sandwich. I made three sandwiches and enjoyed every last crumb along with a couple cups of tea – it was awesome to have fresh food so late in a trip. Given that it was now 10:30am, I figured I better get my ass in gear. I had a lot of distance to cover today, including the two Cauchon Lake’s - which I have been told can be very windy and unfavorable to those travelling west. I managed to get my gear packed up in about 30 minutes and by 11:10am I was ready to say good-bye to this campsite.
The landing on the other side takes you to a small pond created by the railway line/trestle that you must travel under before reaching Little Cauchon Lake proper. As you approach the railway trestle you can’t help but smell the creosote and it intensifies as you pass under it. On the other side, I was happy to see the wind had not picked up yet, despite being just past noon. The Cauchon Lakes appear very long on the map and it’s no different when you actually there. I could barley see the other end of the lake and suddenly I became more thankful there wasn’t a west wind. I passed a few campsites that looked fairly decent, and one giant rock site that I decided I would definitely return to one day – it was a great looking site (And I did return, twice. See TR 62 and TR 71). As I approached the widest part of the lake I could see a couple cottages here and there, on both shorelines. Must be nice to have a small slice of heaven in Algonquin Park. One of the cottages on the south shore was pretty big – two-stories and looked more like a house than a cottage.
Approaching the new road bridge between the two Cauchon Lakes
Small, muddy landing of P1165 to Club Lake
A few minutes later I arrived at the muddy take out for P610 to Mouse Lake and loaded up quickly. Just as I was walking away from the landing, they came around the corner – it was nice they let me go ahead of them and it worked out for everyone as it’s sort of a small landing. It took me about ten minutes to get across this trail and I was now becoming very tired. It was hot all day and I was carrying a very heavy load due to my food re-supply. I couldn’t wait for this last portage to be over, I wanted to go for a swim so bad! When I finally reached Mouse Lake I dropped everything and removed my shoes – it was a sandy portage landing and the campsite I was targeting also had a beach – or at least I thought it did from looking at Google Earth images. I was going for the north-western campsite and I wanted to be quick about it, just in case it’s no good and I have to go somewhere else. I paddled over to the lonely site in the north end, passing the first campsite without a second look – it only took one to see it was terrible! I arrived at my targeted campsite that I thought had a beach and was not only disappointed by the quality of said beach, it was a crappy site to boot. Sure, it was ‘sandy’ but also filled with reeds and not much of a beach – also, no sun! How can you have a beach with no sun? I looked across the lake and spotted a bight white sandy beach on the opposite shore – how did I miss this on the satellite images? I may have looked it over due to the two campsites in such close proximity. I did see it while making my way to this campsite, but I thought the one I was heading too would be better. It looked like paradise so I immediately changed direction and made my way back across Mouse Lake. I made the 1.2km paddle across the lake without missing a beat, I was worried the couple on the last portage would have finished by now and taken that site – they were also camping on Mouse Lake tonight. As I made my way across, I could see their packs still waiting at the end of the portage. A bit of relief, but I still gunned it and landed there in 8 minutes, exhausted once again.
North-east shore of Cauchon Lake
Like I said before - there is nothing small about the Cauchon Lakes
The little pond before entering Little Cauchon Lake proper
Huge, open campsite on Mouse Lake
Cauchon Lake is very scenic
Yup - this is all I need to see to claim it as home for two nights!
The sun was fading and I figured it would be a good time to get dinner going. I really wish I could have a campfire, I must admit I’ve missed the smell and sound of a campfire the entire trip. Dinner tonight would be a bacon sandwiches – sounds basic but it was delicious! It was nearly 8pm by the time dinner was ready and I enjoyed it down by the beach. I was still hungry so I made a peanut butter and jam sandwich – wolfed it down and I was STILL hungry. Made another PB&J and a green tea to go with it. Finally satisfied with dinner I became really tired from the day’s travels and the scorching hot sun (and eating 4 sandwiches), so after just a couple minutes of enjoying the view of a calm lake and silence, I hung my food, straightened up camp and retreated to the tent for the night.
An aerial view of the previous photo - forest destruction caused by a severe storm in 2006
The railway trestle between the two Cauchon Lakes
Toothpicks in the sky - severe storm damage from 2006
Small waterfall dumping into Laurel Lake