Algonquin: Cedar – Catfish – Hogan – Burntroot – Nipissing River

A four day canoe trip in the heart of Algonquin Park: Sept. 21 - 24, 2018.

Saturday September 22, 2018 9:20pm

Burntroot Lake

We’re here at the island at the north end of the lake. It’s the site everyone wants to stay on. Kevin Callan recommends it. And it’s easy to see why. I last stayed here in September 2003 and it was a great site then. Whoever you are — I love what you’ve done with the place. A fabulous kitchen counter, with an eat-in dining room, grooming station, stand up bar and living room.

We were up at 6:30 this morning, unspeakably grateful for a sunny and calm morning. We could forgive what felt like single digit temperatures. The wind had persisted through the night, though at a certain point it must have changed direction as I could still hear it thundering through the trees but it stopped shaking the tent some time around midnight.

A short paddle down Catfish and we ran smack dab into Sunfish Lake, which is making great progress in its transition to a swamp or mudflat or flood plain or beaver meadow or whatever.

Planned route and actual route overlaid on a map. The two look radically different
Orange = planned route, blue = actual. No, I wasn’t drunk.

I know it would be highly destructive of habitat and incongruous with Parks Ontario’s mission of wilderness conservation and indeed wholly incompatible with the idea of ‘wilderness’ generally, but I would have paid good money to someone to dredge us a clear canoe channel to Newt Lake this morning.

In the end it cost us a couple of extra kilometres of false starts, round-abouts and obstacle dodging all at low speed before we pushed, shoved and scraped our way to the Newt Lake portage.

There was much evidence of the power of yesterday’s wind storm on this and all today’s portages. Deadfall derby. Many trees down all along our trails today. Three portages — 1105m, 750m and 1845m brought us from Sunfish to Hogan Lake via Newt and Manta. They were hilly but not extraordinarily so.

We got to Hogan by late morning and the rest of the day was spent soaking in the beauty of it and two other big, majestic Algonquin lakes, La Muir and Burntroot. And through all this the sun held the clouds at bay and the wind never rose above a moderate breeze.

It was, however, a lot of paddling. My rough reckoning was 38km. Professor Garmin put the total later at 36.8km.

We were quite fried by the time we got to Burntroot. But we figured we might as well go for the four star site at the north end. We had made up the distance from yesterday and faced a long day Sunday. So we pushed on, getting off the water around 5pm. This still gave us enough time to set up camp, prepare food, find wood, pump water and clean up before losing the light around 7pm.

The couscous was good, and at 1 cup of the grains and 2 cups of tajine with feta and almonds made for enough food without leftovers. And did you know that tetrapaks can leak? Not a lot.

As I pulled the boat out at the campsite I noticed that the emergency throw rope/bailer/whistle kit was missing. I expect it got yanked off while I was trying to haul the boat over a big, bristly tree fallen across the portage path. Bummer. I should have realized it when I discovered that it was possible to no-hands carry the canoe. And I should have clipped the thing into the bow where I could keep an eye on it. Happily I brought a back-up bailer. Kinda by accident.

Also in the to-do department, the rear rail of the bow seat has cracks in it. It’s being held together by the seat webbing it seems. I brought a battery pack to recharge the GPS but forgot the cable. Good thing I also brought AAs. Good thing the Montana can take them.

The stuff sack I use for the bear rope is done for. The hole in it is so big the rocks I use to weight the throws fall out.

Rounding up the gear grousing, I think I should settle this for once and for all. Small pack = food, kitchen and yellow bag. Big pack = everything else. Therma rest up against the back, poles down the middle, sleeping bags to each side with smaller items (tarp, pillows, pegs, chairs in between).

All in all a great day. Feeling strong, accomplished and together.

I wish I had better capacity to plot routes and calculate distances on the fly. We were contemplating having to change routes today but I couldn’t say how much distance we’d save. Plus since I left my reading glasses in the car I can’t see the approximations on Jeff’s Map. If he was still updating the Jeff’s maps, I’d say, “please more contrast.”

It would be nice to be able to see if there was a third way (between the over short and the very long) back to Cedar. It would be good to be able to review easily and exactly how far we’ve come on a given day.

Must remember to swap batteries in my GPS. It has to be on all the time now so it won’t last three days.