September 19-22, 2009

Day 1

5pm, Friday Sept 18, Radiant Lake

We’re here, enjoying a lovely, if breezy and chilly evening.

Martin’s trying to get a fire going. It could be a while.

I got up around 5am, made some coffee, inhaled some cereal, crept out the door and got into the car just before 5:30. I drove over to Martin and Tanya’s and by 5:45 we were rolling.

We drove up to Brent through cloud and rain, stopping at Logosland - a first for me - for a quick coffee and snack.

There were still construction delays. Will this highway ever be finished?

We rolled into Brent at around 10:30. The rain had stopped although clouds covered the sky. They seemed pretty high up so I held out some hope that the rain wouldn’t return.

As we unpacked, I realized I had forgotten my camera. For me, this is a huge deal. And for a bit there, my stomach sank and it was hard to think the trip wasn’t ruined.

However Martin pointed out that my iPhone has a camera and I figured if I put it into airplane mode (no service in Algonquin anyway) I might be able to stretch the battery over four days.

So I had something. And it weighed a whole lot less than 1.1kg. So I popped it in my pocket and tried not to cry. We were here. There was no going back.

Cedar Lake was as wavy as I would want it to be. The wind was at our back, so we were bombing along at 8km/hr according to the GPS, but the waves aren’t good news.

Canoes have a tendency to ‘swivel’ when they’re atop waves overtaking them from behind, which can leave you sideways to the waves at inopportune moments. I mostly managed to avoid those, but still until we got past the big islands, I was more than a little tense, and twice watched water splash over the side of the boat.

If Martin was worried about a fully-clothed, late September 1km swim, he didn’t say anything about it.

The three portages that take you from Cedar Lake to Radiant Lake along the Petawawa are pretty mean for Algonquin. They seem to mostly bypass waterfalls and require some pretty steep climbs. Particularly the third, marked as 860m.

We had lunch at the end of one of the portages, around 1:30pm. We almost skipped it, I think because we were worried about losing the time. But eventually we did the smart thing and refuelled.

My bright idea of putting antipasto (pickled artichokes, olives, sundried tomatoes and pesto) into wide-mouthed Nalgene bottles turned out to be not fabulous. Messy. Leaky. Heavy.

We just covered ourselves in the stuff. Next time it’s back to pesto-in-a-tube.

I still need to find a lightweight lunch you can eat on the go, aided only by a pocket knife.

The messiness of it was even enough to drive Martin - yes, Martin a Brit - to eat peanut butter and jam on subsequent days.

We briefly agonized over whether or not to push on, once we reached Radiant Lake. We arrived around 3pm and had sort of set 4pm as our “off the water” deadline.

We decided ‘no’, which in retrospect I can say was an excellent decision.

Radiant is gorgeous, though there’s cottages, so if you want to pretend you’re in pure wilderness, push on or push past the first few campsites once you emerge from the Petawawa.

There was actually another party of canoeists on the lake. A man paddled past us, on his way back from doing some fishing in a nearby bay. He said he'd caught some bass, but they'd had worms. I offer that for the benefit of those who fish. I don't so I know nothing of it. Don’t ask me.

Our site had a trained chipmunk. We went right to the bribery/harm reduction approach to dealing with it. It seemed to work well.

Dahl with rice and bread worked well. We had enough to fill two bellies with no leftovers. (Note to self: that was one cup of red lentils worth. 1.5 flatbreads each including some chipmunk tax)

We also killed a 1l tetrapak of white wine. No doubt in any other circumstance such plonk would have been poured down the drain. But in the wilderness, it was Chateau de Chastelain.

Its absence would make a noticeable improvement in the food pack in the days to come.

The temperature dropped rapidly, along with the sun, so by 8pm we were tent bound.

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