As dinner time rolled around, the dark clouds did too. It looked like it was going to open up again later on so we decided to get cooking. The menu tonight is steak with roasted potatoes, sour cream & chives along with jerk broccoli & onion and corn on the cob. Paired with some red wine and thoroughly enjoyed. I love a fire cooked steak. I love eating dinner in Algonquin under a tarp. Great food and great company on our first day. I couldn’t be happier. With dinner finished, Angela cleaned up the dishes while I searched for a spot to hang the bear rope. I spent quite a bit of time trying to find a decent location as my choices were very limited. It was becoming increasingly dark out due to the clouds and by 9pm we both decided to head to bed. A good call too, because as we approached the tent it began to lightly rain – a perfect sound to fall asleep to.
The narrows between Little Cedar Lake and Aura Lee Lake
Old Shed on the Kish-Kaduk property
Preparations are needed to travel through the spider-tunnel. Just paddle quick and don't look up.
Looking down the site from the tent pad. It's much more of a hill than depicted here
We arrived at Aura Lee Lake proper at 10:50am and we didn’t have much further to go. Once again I pointed out a campsite that I had made previous use of, and after only a few minutes of paddling we arrived at our first portage of the day. A 345m portage would take us to Laurel Lake. With the extra comfort items we brought for day one, we anticipated having to double carry the two portages today – but after loading up we realized that with just a little suffering we could do it in a single carry! So on we went, loaded to the max but single carrying. We crossed this trail in about five minutes and were both really happy we didn’t have to go back and do it again. Honestly, I love single carrying and loathe double carrying – but sometimes its necessary. We launched onto Laurel Lake and the wind had picked up a little. It wasn’t intense or annoying, but it was definitely coming. Laurel Lake is a small, roundish lake surrounded by big hills – one of which in particular is tall and round. I remembered seeing this hill from the other side while paddling down Hurdman Creek last year. I’d like to stay on this lake some day, but the island campsite looks a little over used. Not long after launching onto the lake, we arrive at the take out of P135 leading to Little Cauchon Lake. This short portage has a nasty bite to it – the first 30 meters or so is very uphill and very rocky. It’s probably one of the more challenging short portages out there. Using the same system as last time, but taking a very quick break at the top of the hill, we managed to make the crossing and arrive at Little Cauchon lake by 11:55am.
The Little Cauchon end of this portage is very picturesque, as it looks like a little pond with the railway trestles in the background. We stopped for a quick water break and rest before continuing on the final leg of the day. After all, it wasn’t even noon yet and we were on our destination lake. About ten minutes or so goes by and Angela suggests we make a move so we can get the desired campsite and have lunch. I agreed as the wind was also picking up a little. We took our time paddling and once under the railway trestle we emerged onto Little Cauchon Lake proper. This is a long narrow lake and due to its orientation can become very windy. The wind had picked up since Laurel Lake but it still wasn’t a problem. We paddled to the west shore and began to follow it. While passing the first two campsites I took note that the second one looked pretty decent as well, so if our targeted site is occupied we can backtrack a few hundred meters and claim this one. At around 12:40 we were approaching the final outcropping that was blocking our view of the campsite. I was sincerely hoping it was vacant as I was hungry and hot – I wanted to take a swim off those rocks!
Looking down Cedar Lake towards the Petewawa In-flow
A quick break while headed up Cedar Lake
A small railway runs from the beach into the lake - likely the remains of a boat-launch
We passed by Gilmour Island and I pointed out a little rock that a friend and I stopped at last year for lunch while waiting out some foul weather. In a little over an hour after leaving the beach on Cedar Lake, we arrived at our first historic destination of the trip – The Kish Kaduk Lodge. I had tried to visit this location twice in the past, both times failing to do so as the campsite was occupied and I didn’t want to bother someone with my intrusion. As we rounded the rocky outcrop I was thrilled to see the campsite was vacant and I would finally get to see these ruins!
Day 1: Cedar Lake to Little Cauchon Lake
In the middle of a deep sleep, my eyes suddenly snap wide open as the sound of my mobile phone alarm goes off wildly on the other side of the room. For a brief second I had the ‘where the heck am I?’ feeling as I had spent the night at a nice little motel in Mattawa. This happens to me every time I spend the night somewhere other than my own bed. I clambered out of bed and slowly began to more with a little more urgency once I realized that I was awake this early for a very good reason – today I will begin a short but sweet five-day adventure through the north end of Algonquin Park. My canoe mate for this trip would be my fiancée Angela who has joined me on several canoe trips in the past. This one however, would be a little bit different for Angela. This would be her first five-day canoe trip in which we are moving campsites each day – no layover days – no rest days – just a big loop with plenty to see and some very specific ruins/historic locations to visit. Angela also had a little extra planned for this trip – you’ll hear more about that on day four.
By 6:30am we were showered and leaving the motel. I took a quick look out at Earl’s Lake and the sight of water had me excited. Soon I’d leave behind the pavement, cell phones and ceilings in exchange for forest trails, tarps and the lack of connectivity – basically, perfection! After a quick stop at Tim Hortons in Mattawa we were on our way to the permit office. About 20 minutes later we arrived at the permit office and it wasn’t even 7:10am yet which is perfect because the office only opens at 7am – so as far as I’m concerned we got here as early as possible. A quick and friendly exchange with the staff in the permit office and we were back in the car. The drive to Brent can feel like a long one – especially when you are so chalk full of excitement because you’re going to Algonquin Park. Eventually we caught up to a pickup truck also headed down to Brent. While rounding a corner, I noticed the pickup truck suddenly breaked hard and swerved a little to the left. While observing I noticed something run off into the bush. It looked small, like a dog or something. I figured it was possible a wolf, but I didn’t get a very good look at it. We continued down the road and arrived at the Cedar Lake by 8am.I pulled right up to the dock at the beach and began the process of unloading the car. Angela and I have it down to a science now – while I’m unloading the canoe, she is unloading the packs and other equipment. I did a quick once-over in the car to make sure we didn’t forget anything, and moved it off in the distance where it would spend the next 5 days. While headed back to the canoe, I passed the guys in the pickup truck and asked them what ran across the road in front of them. ‘A bear!’ one guy replied. Wow, didn’t see that coming – I really would’ve guessed a wolf, but I didn’t really get a good look. Back at the canoe, geared up, PFD’s on and we hit the water! Today was a good day to be paddling Cedar Lake as there was absolutely no wind so it was dead calm. Just perfect paddling conditions. We didn’t have a very long day ahead of us, which made it all the better to have an early start. Our destination lake is Little Cauchon and I was aiming for a beautiful rocky campsite that I remembered seeing while passing through the area back in 2012. I remembered it being the best campsite on the lake, so I was really hoping it was vacant. As we paddled up Cedar Lake, Angela was taken back by the view surrounding this lake – giant rolling hills all around.
We landed at the campsite and immediately saw interesting artifacts. There is an old rail system and rail wheels that lead into the lake as well as an old stove and other scattered metal. While impressive, I knew the really good stuff was behind the campsite, up the hill. Angela and I both photographed the ruins and artifacts in the immediate area then continued up a narrow trail to see the rest. What remains at the top of the hill is truly breathtaking! Just standing there makes your mind race back to a time when this place was thriving and flourishing. Today however, only collapsed walls and stone chimney stacks remain. We spent our time carefully photographing the area. The sun was out and it was still a little cool on account of it being morning, so the bugs didn’t seem to bother us here either. As you explore closer and closer, you begin to notice things you may not have seen the first time around. Little stone pathways or stone edging, possibly a boarder for a garden. Then there are the negative things, such as discarded batteries and other items that are harmful to the environment. Different times, I guess.
After a solid 45 minutes at the ruin site, we figured we photographed and absorbed as much as we could and decided it was time to move on. Our day is mostly paddling with only two very short portages. Knowing this, we decided to bring in a little extra wine and food for the first night. Continuing up Cedar Lake and eventually through Little Cedar Lake, I mentioned to Angela how happy I was that the wind was cooperating – it was still a very calm day. As we arrived at the narrow channel leading to Aura Lee Lake Angela became very nervous. She has difficulty seeing under water (I need to get her some polarized glasses) and she was worried we may hit a rock. Now if you’ve been through this area, you know hitting a rock here isn’t as simple as hitting a rock somewhere else – these are some extremely jagged and sharp rocks, hitting one would surely damage the gel coat. I told her not to worry and just keep a close eye – but before I could finish saying that I hear ‘cruuuuunch’ and we were stuck. Oh well, it’s happened, lets deal with it a move on. I stepped outside the boat to ease the weight off the rock and moved it into the deeper part of the channel, then climbed back in. No worries, it happens! We made our way down the narrow channel and arrived at the railway underpass. Being terrified of spiders and other creepy-crawlies, Angela threw on her bug jacket and ducked down while I paddled through the dark and narrow tunnel. A huge sigh of relief was heard from the front of the canoe once we were on the other side– and rightfully so, as there were some pretty big spiders on the wall in that tunnel!
Around the corner we came and YES! The campsite was available. I was so very happy, it just looked so inviting. It’s a massive sloping rock that at the back it’s probably fifty or sixty feet above the lake and continues on a gradual but consistent slope right into the water. A great campsite indeed! We arrived just in time too – the wind was really kicking up and it was bringing some dark clouds along with it. We gave the campsite a once over and decided to place the tent up high and above the fire pit and seating area. While I setup the tent, Angela covered the seating area in a little old tarp we use for above the fire. Good thing we didn’t mess around because not 10 minutes after getting the rain fly on the tent a HUGE rainstorm arrived. We didn’t have time to put up the big tarp so here we were, huddled down under this tiny tarp, with huge gusts of wind and rain coming at us from the side. Luckily, the way the rocks and seating area are situated, we were mostly protected from the side-winds and rain. But man oh man, it was raining so hard at one point that we both just looked at each other and laughed. What else can you do? The tent was up and our gear was protected, so might as well just sit back and enjoy the show – but I really can’t stress how intense this rain was, a LOT of water was falling from the sky.
Who says you can't have a classic stove-cooked meal while camping?
Ready to launch onto Little Cauchon Lake
A nice view up Little Cauchon Lake
Great view of Little Cauchon Lake - you can see the rail bed on the opposite shore
Remains of the Kish-Kaduk Lodge's main building
The rain lasted about 30 to 40 minutes then tapered off and eventually blue sky returned. We had a quick lunch of salami sandwiches with mustard on bagels and I decided to go forage for wood. Angela setup the interior of the tent and we pretty much spent the rest of the day lounging on the rocks drinking wine. By 4pm or so we were really glad we had the advantage of an early start because the wind was strong by now and the few groups that passed us all had the same disappointed ‘crap – its occupied’ look on their faces as they struggled to push forward.
The storm rolling in - a tarp's dream!
Steak and potato's on the fire - is there any other way?
Cedar Lake to Little Cauchon Lake