Day 2

Saturday, July 16, 1:20pm, Cedar Lake

I woke before six, but I forced myself to stay in bed until 7am. Maybe I was channelling Mallory? I figured I didn't have that much travel time today so I should try to take it easy, this being the last bit of relaxation possible before plunging back into the work, home family nexus of full-on activity.

After a crunchy sludge breakfast of oatmeal mixed with granola washed down with coffee, I was on the water by 8:40. Sun again, and again warm.

A couple of kilometres paddling brought me to the 1070m between Carl Wilson and Little Cauchon. It's pretty much flat. I can see why the man at the Brent Store ever so gently suggested doing a there-and-back via this route, rather than the loop I chose.

From there, it's less than 200m of paddling, under a disused railway bridge to a 130m carry into Laurel Lake. Up a tiny bump of a hill, along a well used and maintained trail. Laurel too, is a short paddle to the 275m which brings you to Aura Lee. Aura Lee is maybe half a kilometre long.

It leads into Little Cedar, but a railway causeway has split the lakes in two. It's so overgrown you can't make it out unless you really look. But at the very end of Aura Lee, there's a stone bridge under which water flows between the lakes. The 'tunnel' under the bridge is maybe 30 feet long, and has a cool echo.

Little Cedar blends into Cedar after a string of tiny rock outcroppings and islands, somewhat reminiscent of High Falls Lake in the Achray/Barron Canyon area.

I got to the island campsite at the northwest end of Cedar Lake by around 11:30am. It was a bit of a dilemma whether to stop or push on. It felt too soon to stop. But none of the sites I'd spotted on my way out had seemed all that promising. There's a cluster of them across the lake from the Brent campground and hamlet and I was hoping to have a bit more solitude.

I decided to stay there. I felt the wind coming up (it blew about all gusty for an hour or two but never did amount to anything) and figured it would be more fun to make the 6km paddle down Cedar in the morning when the lake would likely be calm.

And it is a nice site, although there aren't a lot of places to park a tent. The island is covered with blueberries. And there's the chimney. It's this huge stone and masonry thing with a cast iron inset and vents to carry the heat out into the rooms of a cabin, which used to be here. The fireplace is too high up to use (I'm guessing the cabin was on stilts or footings that rose pretty high above the ground) but it looks neat. These days it's a bit off plumb. I wonder how much longer it will be around.

I had my regulation three peanut butter and jam wraps today, desperate to rid myself of the oh-so-organic-healthy and uncluttered by chemistry crushed-blackberries-in-a-jar-transposed to a refillable plastic tube. Say what you will about pectin-laced, gelatinous commerical jams, they don't leak out of the back of one of these tubes like this stuff. Never again.

And speaking of never again, never again use rechargeable AA batteries in your GPS. I figured three sets of batteries for a two-and-a-half day trip would be okay. One set of alakaline lasted the first day and a bit. The next set - NiMH rechargeable lasted an hour. I'm on my last set. The only reason I have any juice left at all is that I switched it off at Aura Lee so that I'll have enough power to locate the car tomorrow.

I spent most of the afternoon hanging out reading, watching the wildlife - human and otherwise - and contemplating such profound subjects as:

I watched a heron hunt for fish and frogs in the shallows. The human traffic was no less interesting, just not as entertaining.

Yesterday I saw no one after I left Cedar Lake. Today, I ran into a group camped at Aura Lee Lake. Then I saw a guy paddling solo - bow in the air, switching sides frantically - up to the end of the lake. I hope for his sake this wind dies down before he comes back.

Then a motorboat full of kids and parents (Look at that man camping! Is that a hammock he's got there? No, I think it's a tarp"). And then, three canoes stuffed full of kids, counsellors and backpacks from Camp Pathfinder.

This last batch kind of irked me. They approached - I think they wanted my site - to ask about the chimney. One counsellor was babbling loudly about how he was going to get in shape and how in shape he was whether he'd train for track in the fall or cross country too. I noticed none of the kids were actually paddling or even pretending to. They were silent and morose-looking.

The counsellors were all swearing a blue streak. Mister keep-in-shape saw the chimney and exclaimed. "That is so exciting, I think I'm going to [bleep] like right now."

Charming. Quite the example you're setting for your kids dude. I too was a camp counsellor - more than two decades ago - and we had in fact invented swear words back then. But there was a prohibition on their use in camp. On canoe trips however it was an unwritten rule that as a counsellor you could ease up a bit on the kids.

But counsellors always had to hold back a bit not only to avoid hurling abuse at the kids but also to maintain a degree of authority. I guess not any more. I'm trying to nail down what pissed me off most about the young 'leader's' behaviour. Maybe the sexual nature of what he said? Maybe just that it seemed so gratuitious. It's one thing to say 'fuck this pack is heavy' but this just seemed to be there for effect.

Whatever. Dude, if you're reading, here's another out-trip-only word: douchebag. And it's for you.

Also: random thoughts that would be tweets if they had Twitter in Algonquin Park. Which they don't. Which I'm happy about.

What do you have to do in this life to get reincarnated as a mosquito? Universally despised and easiest to kill of all the biting insects. Throughout your short miserable life you will be restless, starved, full of fear until you become a black streak on some camper's sleve. I'm thinking maybe Tory cabinet minister. Or News of the World assignment editor.

Up close - one surfaced quite near my boat this morning - it's easy to see that loons are predatory birds. Their beaks are long, thick and very pointy. They call out when they take flight as if to tell the others 'look at me! I made it' because they're better swimmers than flyers.


I had hoped to stay up and look at the stars but right on time, the hum of mosquitos drowns out the bird song and I head for the tent. Much worse here at the shallow, somewhat reedy end of Cedar than on Carl Wilson.

I want my own personal dragonfly.

Beaver lodge amid reeds: Carl Wilson Lake

Beaver lodge amid reeds

Railroad causeway to them: A tunnel to us. Aura Lee Lake to Little Cedar. It's hard to spot

Railroad causeway to them

The tree number three: You know I have a lot more of these I could upload.

The tree number three