Algonquin Park: Érables – Biggar – Kioshkowkwi

A four day canoe trip through Algonquin’s north end: Sept. 23 - 26, 2016

Friday, Sept. 23, 8:30pm

Erables Lake

I packed all the gear and put the canoe on the car — real roof rack whoo hoo! — last night. I was up way too late trying to get some work stuff squared away and didn’t have enough time to do the work on the GPS routes, which I regretted several times each day this trip.

I was up at 5am slamming some coffee and food into me, gingerly sneaking out the door just before six, in time to pick up Martin and get rolling. And indeed we were on the Queensway just after 6, heading to Kiosk.

Rain pelted the windshield for most of the trip. But that old adage ‘Rain before seven, clear by eleven’ proved true. We arrived at Kiosk just after 10am to overcast skies, light wind and 12C.

A few minutes to pick up our permit from the ever-present and ever cheerful Carmen Cross, Kiosk’s Access Point manager, advice-giver and all-round good egg, a few more minutes to faff about getting the gear ready, stashing stuff in the car, firing up the GPS, and we were on the water. By about 10:15.

We pushed off a little after one of two parties of canoeists we saw today, two humans and two dogs, who were headed to Mouse Lake.

The other group we saw were headed back toward Kiosk. We encountered them on the 1165m portage between Mink and Club Lake. Breathing hard and wearing jeans, they all asked us ‘how much further?’

I’d built us a long first day in part because we had less driving to do than if we were paddling in Temagami or Killarney, but also because I was keen on camping on Erables, which has always struck me as a prettier lake with better sites than Maple, which always seems to be more ‘on the way’.

A long first day means the packs are heavy — full of food and French Rabbit. In our case, the big pack — carried with the life jackets, paddles and klingons — weighed 25kg. The smaller pack, carried with the canoe, weighed 15kg.

Also, you need to pack food for a lunch on the first day. We decided to eschew the usual lunch and just eat trail mix. That seemed to be fine, but we were hungrier than usual by dinner time.

And it was a long day. 27km all in, including seven portages totalling 6210 metres. None were dramatically long, strenuous or complicated, but the longest of the day — 1705m — was also the longest of the trip.

By the time we time we hit Mouse Lake, at 2:15pm, we were both looking forward to killing some of that wine. If for no other reason than to make Saturday easier. And I spent many long minutes trudging along the paths, trying to imagine what to shift to bring the weight of the big pack into line with the concept of ‘reasonable’.

We took the Mink Lake route from Kioskowkwi to Mouse Lake. Last time I was through here I’d gone via Waterclear to avoid having to look at the disused railway line, but it’s hardly visible — just a kind of intriguing line through the trees. The sort of thing Edward Burtynsky might be able to photograph beautifully.

Despite having Jeff’s Map of Western Algonquin Park overlaid on my mapping application, I’d traced my route off Kiosk ignoring One Mile Bridge and took us on a bit of a zig zag, paddling all the way to the campsite near Lauder Creek before realizing that, no, there is in fact no magical second way under the railroad causeway.

Mercifully Martin forgave me.

The rain brought forth an amazing mushroom bloom along the portage trails we walked today. Huge toadstools, colonies of brown capped mushrooms, these screaming red ones. Neither of us knows enough about mycology to venture harvesting any of them but if you did, and your no-trace camping ethics did not extend to leaving them untouched, you could have had quite a feast. If indeed any of them were edible.

We made it to Erables around 4:45pm and picked the campsite on the south-facing point about half way to the portage to Maple Lake. It’s a fine site.

Despite the late arrival we had time to cook and clean in daylight. Or dusk, at least. I brought home-made pesto, frozen in a ziplock bag, and actual grated parmesan cheese to go with the pack-and-a-half of shelf stable gnocchi. We ate it all. And could probably have eaten more. So we finished the bag of trail mix that we’d brought as a lunch substitute.

We also had our special wine. I’d decanted the bottle into the Platypreserve only to discover it had developed a tiny pinprick of a hole. I didn’t know quite what else to do so I transferred it to a Nalgene bottle. So now we have three nalgenes. But 750ml less weight to carry.

It didn’t wreck the wine, but I have to wonder why make a collapsing, camp wine container so flimsy? I suppose for $10.50 I shouldn’t expect different.

While I’m on the subject of extra crap, I packed the two metal coffee cups, forgetting that my pot set also comes with two (admittedly plastic, weirdly-shaped cups). So we have two extra cups, “in case we have guests,” Martin quipped.

Before I’m done in the extras department, I found the tent pegs for the two person tent I bring. In the green pack. I’d been unable to locate them at home so I’d brought the pegs for our family-size tent. So now we have two sets of pegs.

On the other hand, there’s no sign of the frying pan. Here’s hoping it turns up at home.

Tomorrow I must re-jig the packing to take some of the heft out of the green pack so that it’s a little less punishing.

I could also use a better bag for the kitchen stuff. My old black ‘dry bag’ disintegrated on me this summer so I am using two smaller black stuff sacks. I like having things colour coded. It makes it so much easier to answer questions that begin with “Where’s the…” But it would be nice to have just the one bag so that I didn’t have to answer “It’s in one of the two…”

A cold evening tonight. I’m all-in in the clothes department. Missing the down vest I usually bring. The stars are great.

But this is all small stuff. Now is time to sleep.