North-West Algonquin Provincial Park with “The Tom”
Before we begin this saga of our Algonquin Provincial Park trip, you will need some background…
A few months prior to this trip, a plan was hatched on a Facebook chat between ourselves, “The Tom” and a mutual paddling friend Matt (You may know him as Paddle_In). We decided when we first met and had many drinks almost a year ago, that we needed to do a trip together. We all got just a tad bit torqued and remained friends ever since…. So we settled on a date and like most of our trips.. that’s as far as the planning went. Several weeks later, about two weeks before the date, we actually booked a campsite. We were heading to the North West section of Algonquin Provincial Park. Specifically, we were starting out on Kawaywaymog lake paddling through to North Tea lake all the way to Biggar Lake. Unfortunately, at last minute, something came up that prevented Matt from coming with us. “The Tom” and I decided to go anyways. Here is what happened. This trip happened (June 19 – 21, 2015)
Reluctantly got up and left Mississauga on Friday morning at 5:30am. Drove straight up to South River, ON and stopped for breakfast at Antonio’s. A road side ….errr… restaurant? Decent food, didn’t get poisoned, we’ll call it a success. Back on the road from South River to Algonquin’s access point #1 – Kawaywaymog lake. The drive in is about 20km from the highway, but the sighting of a black bear along the way split up that dirt road drive pretty well. This was to be, only the beginning of our wildlife experiences on this trip. After checking in with the park, grabbing the permit and loading up “The Tom’s” old canoe – inspiringly named Ol’ Spinecrusher, we were on our way. Straight into the wind.
Sidenote: This was Ol’ Spinecrusher’s last trip, as this 90 pound whitewater beast is being retired for anew Kevlar lightweight model.
According to “The Tom” every direction he paddles in, there is a head wind. He was right. We paddled across Kawaywaymog Lake and into the windy creek that leads to North Tea Lake. A leisurely paddle through the marshy Amable Du Fond River area with lots of twists and turns, coupled with the occasional bloody U-turn along the way. We were paddling a little faster than the other boat we saw on the lake (Who was carrying a bongo drum and guitar), we wanted to beat them to the creek to see what wildlife we may encounter before the band started to play, scaring away everything. As we rounded one such U-turn corner, we were able to see something rattle the bushes just as it took off. We both kind of wrote it off as a deer. We kept quiet and rounded the next corner, and to our surprise we caught a quick glimpse of an Eastern Wolf taking a drink in the creek. It was gone in a flash, with no time to even think of reaching for a camera. Our second bit of wildlife on the trip. We kept paddling down the creek and completed the two portages into North Tea Lake. PS – The portages are hardly worth getting out of the boat they are so small (190m and 240m).
Before we continue, we should explain that Matt and “The Tom” planned this trip. We were told it was about a 15 kilometer paddle each way. This was a huge lie. It’s about 25 miles each way. Little bit of a difference. Matt and “The Tom” – There will be payback for this… Whenever we get around to it. We got into North Tea lake and started the 340 km paddle across it. Ok, maybe it’s like 10km, but with a headwind, this is one LONG ass lake. After roughly 2 hours we reached the east part of lake where it narrows and becomes Mangotasi Lake. Now, we’re going to let you in on a secret; As you might expect, or have come to know, ManCamping does not have an inside voice. We tend to be pretty damn loud even during normal conversation. So we were just as surprised as you would be when we rounded another corner to see a moose casually having an afternoon snack at the side of the lake!
I can’t repeat the topic of conversation that we were having but we can say that we will have this conversation again, as we are pretty sure it was a manly, good luck, hilarious subject matter, moose encounter starting type of conversation. An incredible sight and strangely, the first time we have seen a moose in the wild. (Algonquin highway sightings don’t count). We spent a few minutes with her, and continued on our way.
We hit the portage (305m) into Hornbeam Lake, sneezed the boat across that tiny pond of lake, did the 50m portage into an unnamed lake, and then a 140m portage and we were in our destination lake – Biggar Lake.
Good thing, as we were starting to get a little hot, tired and dramatically in need of some whiskey. We had been paddling for 6 hours at this point. When Matt was unable to join our adventure, he was kind enough to let us know about an amazing campsite halfway across Biggar lake and suggested that we head there. Man alive!! Was he right. A nice rock point to get away from all the biting mosquito hordes that seem to be in the area. We made camp, opened the whiskey, the scotch, and Bailey’s.
We tossed a fishing line in, created a new fishing technique (Click here to read about it), lit the fire and settled in for the night.
Bug Report: Mosquito’s are hell on the portages. They have made a fort and are defending it vigorously. They must have mistaken us for marauders. Black flies have been defeated by said mosquitos and are non-existent.
After paddling 384km yesterday, today is a rest day. We’ll sum it up for you. Drink, drink, fish, drink, eat. Spot a few more moose in the bay beside us, have a chat with the awesome park warden (who let us off with a warning), drink, fish, nap.
Take a dip in the lake that was so cold it literally took our breath away, drink, drink, drink. Drink, drink, watch a moose take a swim past our site, decided it was too far and pulled chute. He turned to head a shore right in our path, but turned off at the last minute.
Mess with the resident bull frog that wouldn’t leave our site for any reason, and then drink, drink, dinner, drink, drink.
Bug Report: Only a few mosquitos around. Might be the rock point we are on, or it might be pure manliness recognition and respect and behalf of the mosquitos.
Day 3: The dreaded paddle back. We started out early(ish) as there was supposed to be a thunderstorm rolling in later in the day and we had a long paddle ahead of us. We breezed across Biggar Lake into the mosquito defended fort territory, sailing through the first three portages. Al the while we had a tailwind that we refused to speak of for fear of jinxing it. Once we go back into Mangotasi lake, I felt the energy drain right out of me. I do believe at this point I already had heat stroke. Hadn’t figured it out yet, and would figure it out until the next day while at home and feeling like ass. Maybe a little more water and bit less whiskey could have helped with this….. but we’ll never know, and you can’t prove otherwise!!!
As “The Tom’s” good luck would have it, we started into North Tea Lake, and into another damn headwind. As we cursed “The Tom’s” name – BAM! Another wildlife sighting. This time another moose with a young calf. (Didn’t get a photo of this one). This trip is just full of wildlife. We went from never seeing any moose in the wild to seeing seven in one weekend! Incredible. We made it almost half way across North Tea Lake before I told “The Tom” we need to stop for a rest. We pulled into a beach site on an island and walked barefoot through the water for a while. Surprised that “The Tom” didn’t want to kill me, he didn’t argue about the stop. We hate being the weak link on a trip, but hey, it happens and we’re man enough to admit it. A half hour later, we were feeling better and off we went. That is until we finished North Tea lake and got back into Amable Du Fond River… where we started to die out in the energy department again.
Even after seeing a deer, go bounding into the woods from the river in what would be our last piece of wildlife on the trip. Let’s just say that the paddle across Kawaywaymog was not a pretty one, and we were hating life pretty bad. “The Tom” was good about it and is probably the only reason why we actually made it back to shore. lol (Thanks Tom!) Out of drinkable water and facing a headwind in the heat – just a bad paddle. When we finally reached the shoreline, we headed straight for the car to get our wallet. Desperately hoping the outfitters located at the access point had something to drink. Voyageur Quest Outfitters – you are a savior. Not only did they have drinks for sale, but ice cold BEER for sale!
We bough a couple of beers, and a pop or two to demolish, and headed out to the picnic table area to sip on cold heavenly beer. What a way to end the trip. rehydrating with beer. Although I wouldn’t aim for this kind of paddling day. It was completely worth it in the end.
Bug Report: Mosquitos may have defended their fort, but we will be back.
A quick stop at Weber’s BBQ joint on the way home was the end of the trip. Great place to stop for post trip grub (AND they put up with the smell us! lol).