Trip Log - Kiosk, Mink Lake, Club Lake, Cauchon Lake and Return
Two old farts wimp out
An account of a five night canoe trip out of Kiosk.
We started at Kiosk and travelled to Mink Lake, passing through Little Mink Lake. The next day we travelled to Club Lake. Then we went to Cauchon Lake, via Mink Lake once again. We spent three nights on Cauchon Lake, spending one day exploring down to Windermere Falls (aka Cauchon Falls) on Little Cauchon Lake and the next day sitting out the rain under our tarp. We returned to Kiosk directly from Cauchon Lake, passing through Mink Lake and Little Mink Lake. Due to the wind, we opted to portage along the old rail bed back to Kiosk from the trestle.
Our original plan had been that we would loop through Mouse, Erables, and Maple Lakes; however due to low water, we were unable to reach the portage from Club Lake to Mouse Lake.
The text below is a minimally edited transcription of our trip diary. The diary was written by Bob. Diana has subsequently added some comments; these are identified. Any material added subsequent to the trip is enclosed in square brackets.
2015 September 09 (Wednesday) - Kiosk to Mink Lake
Sitting in the canoe on Kioshkokwi Lake, just beyond the railway overpass finishing up a snack break – 10:55. Weather is overcast and breezy following a night of rain, supposedly clearing later today. Comfortable temp about 20C.
Left the house at 8:10, Deux Rivieres at 9:00 and Kiosk about 10:00. On the water at about 10:30.
Through to Little Mink by 12:10 – portage good but access was tricky at Kioshkokwi end due to low water.
1:05 – Just finishing up a food break drifting at the western end of Mink Lake. We encountered a group of 4 people and a dog going the other way on the portage. A canoe is approaching us from the east. A group of 4 canoes has just completed the portage along the railway bed (which skips Little Mink Lake).
Campsite at 2:00, coffee at 3:00. It is now 3:40. We sort of raced to this campsite (just like the old days). But we haven't seen anybody recently. No idea what happened to the four canoes that came along the railway.
When we arrived here the fire was still burning and there was a bag of garbage in the thunderbox (which I removed).
The wind is really blasting. Glad we're not trying to paddle any big lakes. The wind meant setting up the tarp was a bit of a challenge, especially since it was [the first time setting up] our new Cook's Custom Sewing tarp. Ended up incorporating the canoe as part of the wind break.
7:30 - Sun dropping below the tree line. Everything is put away and time for our Bushmills.
Supper was [Alpineaire] Black Bart Chili – good but we had some issues with hydration.
Wind has died and mosquitoes are out but not a problem.
A little before 5:00 a group of 4 canoes (9 people) went by (heading east). If this was the group that we saw earlier, what were they doing for that 3 hours?
2015 September 10 (Thursday) - Mink Lake to Club Lake
Up at 6:08, not yet sunup. Temp about 8C – calm. Beautiful clear night, quite a lot of stars. Heard a train in the middle of the night – (must be the North Bay/Mattawa line) – reminiscent of the old days of camping on Mink Lake [but not quite as loud!]. Also heard a barred owl in the middle of the night and we were visited by something – probably a raccoon.
On the water at 9:15. Sunny, calm but clouds moving.
11:15 – sitting on the water in Club Lake – completely weed-choked.
There were indeed 3 other parties on Mink Lake last night – just as the reservation system said.
Weather is 'iffy' but OK so far – some sun, some cloud, some wind.
At a campsite on Club Lake. We are going to stay here. There is no reasonable access to the portage to Mouse Lake at this water level. It would involve a slog of several hundred metres through the muck to an unknown destination. While this is probably “doable” it would be pretty tiring for a couple of old farts like ourselves. Of more worry is that tomorrow's travel would involve another kilometre or so on this same creek (and further upstream). So we decided to turn back and look for a plan 'B'. The question I'll be plagued with for the rest of the trip is “Was I being sensibly prudent or was I a wimp?” [I suspect the latter.]
[According to Donald Lloyd in Canoeing Algonquin Park:
The portage from Club to Mouse Lake is a bit difficult to find. The most obvious channel into the marsh at the south end of the lake is to the left. But it terminates at a beaver lodge. The correct channel, well concealed is to the far right or west side ...
So perhaps there was a route through and we just missed it, but we did explore both left and right sides and there was no water on either side but ...
I have subsequently checked our gps track against the satellite image of the marsh. The correct route through is obvious from the satellite view. We did indeed investigate the correct route, but perhaps not hard enough. Sometimes, you need to know that you're on the right track to push on through.
Note to self: do this sort of research before the trip, not afterwards!]
3:00 pm – camp set up, coffee water boiling, started to rain – not seriously – and then stopped. All is very quiet.
7:11 about 30 min to sunset – Diana is pouring the Bushmills. [Diana: As the saying goes, 'a woman's work is never done' - make the coffee, carry the pack, carry the canoe, set up the tent, pour the Bushmills...] We have the lake to ourselves, which is good
being [since we are now] off permit. Very light rain – enough to hear it on the tarp and not much more.
The plan is that tomorrow we will travel to Cauchon for a couple of nights and then back to Kioshkokwi. Not as good as our original plan [(to loop through Mouse, Erables and Maple Lakes back to Kioshkokwi)] but OK and unlikely to get us into permit problems.
P.S. Diana carried the canoe for the 2nd half of the portage into Club. Also Club Lake is not choked with weeds but the channel is.
A canoe just showed up – heading for the other campsite, I assume.
2 guys – red canoe – seemed to know what they were doing. Set up camp, chopped wood, etc., in the dark with a couple of lights – looked like a lantern and a headlamp.
2015 September 11 (Friday) - Club Lake to Cauchon Lake
7:00 am - sitting under the tarp looking at a promising looking sky. It rained much during the night -- never hard but often. Coffee water just coming to a boil.
Left campsite at 9:20 and paddled to the end of the lake to take some photos of where we got stopped yesterday. The other party had no more success than we did, trying about the same things. When we left, they were still on the shore discussing the situation.
[Diana: the other party tried paddling/poling/wading through the left side of the marsh, but didn't get any farther than we had. They retreated to the right side, close to their campsite, and worked their way along the edge of the marsh, searching up the creek with binoculars. Presumably they were looking for either a way through or the portage sign to give a hint as to where to go. When we left, they were still at it. I'll disagree with Bob here - I don't think we were wimps to turn back.]
11:40 – drifting about at the end of Mink Lake, just finishing our snack break and about to start the portage [to Cauchon Lake]. We had to wade to exit Mink Creek into the lake. [We hadn't the day before. Not sure whether the water level had dropped, it was a wind and waves issue, or we just didn't quite find the right channel.]
Into Cauchon at 12:25.
Arrived at campsite 1:30.
4:00 pm – finishing our coffee at our campsite on Cauchon Lake. It is the same one we stayed at in 2014 June. We checked out several at the top [west] end of the lake but none were as nice [or else were too exposed].
We haven't actually seen anyone since the two guys on Club Lake this morning (although Diana heard voices at the start of the Club to Mink portage and also when we were having our snack break on Mink). So the population out here is quite low and we will not be depriving anyone of their campsite for our being off permit.
The day remains sunny but quite windy at times. Our speed paddling down Cauchon [with a tail wind] was about 7 km/hr.
7:18 – 20 minutes to sunset although the sun is [already] below the hill line – wind is calm but seemed to have shifted more to the north before dying. As far as we are aware, we have the lake to ourselves.
Bushmills is served. Beautiful evening, beautiful sunset. We had a second Bushmills.
2015 September 12 (Saturday) - Exploring Windermere Falls on Little Cauchon Lake
7:50 am – sitting in my chair, drinking my coffee looking out over the lake. Looks like a high overcast but hard to say. Cool air seeping out of the north. Everything very quiet.
With a little more light we see that the sky is indeed overcast but not too thick. Air temp is about 7C.
12:20 – drinking coffee at our campsite. This morning we travelled down to Little Cauchon Lake to check out Windermere Falls and ruins – what a mess and desecration of a beautiful spot! This certainly doesn't support the notion that cottages and lease holdings are good for Algonquin Park.
We had a snack in the canoe [on Little Cauchon Lake] before returning to our campsite. My overriding impression of this jaunt was that it was cold – a strong, biting wind out of the north. The current temp is about 13C. A mix of sun and clouds though, and the sun is warm. But I will need to rethink my clothing strategy for future trips.
[According to Gaye Clemson in Treasuring Algonquin:
... On Little Cauchon Lake, one lease was issued in 1932 to a Dr. W.J. Stevenson, a longtime fisherman in the area and apparently a friend of Herbert Lennox and Clifford Chase, who were members of Parliament at the time. ...
We assume that this is the cottage referred to.]
3:20 – afternoon coffee under the tarp. Spent a quiet afternoon lazing in the sun out of the wind alternating between snoozing and contemplating the meaning of life. No conclusions reached as yet.
5:00 and we're having our soup. After coffee we gathered firewood so we can have a fire in the morning if we wish. At about 4:30, a group of 9 people in 4 canoes pulled into the 1st campsite in this set of 4 (we're on #4). Perhaps this is the same group we saw on Mink. So far they have been reasonably quiet.
7:11 – about half an hour to sunset. The wind is dying. The other group remains quiet. One of the group sat cross legged by the shore for approaching an hour, perhaps meditating. All of the men seem to be wearing the same tan shirts. Perhaps a religious group. Another story we will never know.
Beautiful red sunset. I spoke too soon about our neighbours; a little noisy at sunset but not unreasonable for a group of young people (says the old fart).
2015 September 13 (Sunday) - Rain on Cauchon Lake
7:40 am – the sunset lied. Sitting under the tarp listening to the light pitter-patter of rain. It was doing so at first light so I rolled over and went back to sleep. It stopped and I got out of the tent at about 7:00. Sky overcast, still blowing slightly from the NE, temp around 9C. Pressure 987 mb.
11:15 – having a snack, fire going. The other group seems to be getting on their way. Still overcast, breeze from the north. Rain let up at about 10:30.
The other group launched and then rafted up a few hundred metres off shore. It was raining lightly. They all sat quietly, no talking, most with their heads bowed for perhaps 10 or 15 minutes then they paddled off. It is now 11:36. Pressure 987 mb.
2:00 pm – sitting by the fire. The rain has largely abated but it is still overcast and a slight breeze from the north. We have the lake to ourselves.
Diana walked down the beach and checked out the other group's campsite. They left it spotless.
At about 5:30, a motorboat with two people appeared from the direction of Little Cauchon – note that the railway underpass is currently dammed by beavers. The boat continued along the south shore of the lake and stopped at a cabin we had not previously noticed. Cabin at approx map reference 17T 768 030. [This would appear to be the Wilson Camp. (See the photo on page 68 of Treasuring Algonquin by Gaye Clemson.)]
At around 6:00, the motor boat headed back towards Little Cauchon. I couldn't see how many people were in it but I don't currently see any signs of life at the cabin.
Diana says it is clearing in the west.
Motor boat returned at 6:45.
Bushmills poured at 7:01.
Stars overnight and a tiny light [but no noise] from the cabin. [But that alone was sufficient to spoil the wilderness feel of the lake.]
2015 September 14 (Monday) - Return to Kiosk
7:10 – having coffee looking out over a completely mist enshrouded lake. Temp about 7C, pressure 992 mb. No noticeable wind.
On the water at about 9:20. Sky clear. Wind is solid from the south west but cool.
11:15 – stopping for a snack break on the water after completing the portage from Cauchon to Mink. We're sheltered here, but the surf's up out on the lake.
Passed two taciturn fishermen on the portage [from Cauchon to Mink. Their boat was tied up at the Cauchon Lake end of the portage (but not blocking it); we assume they are from the cabin.]
[It was a bit of a slog down Mink Lake against the wind.]
1:36 – stopping for lunch / snack on Little Mink – huddled in some cattails to get out of the wind. Passed two guys in a H2O canoe single carrying on the portage [from Mink to Little Mink].
[As we were starting our portage from Mink to Little Mink we noted that the group of four canoes that we have been shadowing all trip were once again portaging along the old rail line. They started before us but we launched into Kioshkokwi before they did. Thus we were faster, even with our snack break, paddling through Little Mink rather than portaging around it. However, they were clearly travelling at a pretty laid back pace.]
4:30 – sitting at a picnic table at Kiosk – strong blow off the lake. We portaged from the trestle back to here.
[Diana: After a snack break and some relaxing time at the picnic table, we headed home. The day had become quite warm. We arrived home around 7:00 pm and were glad to have the chance to enjoy a shower. Most of the trip cleanup got done the next day.]
We have previously travelled from Club Lake over to Erables Lake without any issue that we remembered. But that was 40 years ago; see: Trip Log: Brent / Maple Lake / Catfish Lake Loop - 1975 August 11 to 21. Upon rereading that account, I see that we did experience low water issues. I remembered not being able to find the Mink Creek portage, but I didn't remember having to wade to reach the portage to Mouse Lake.
The photo of the Club Lake campsite was actually taken the following morning.
I have previously mentioned (Trip Log - Brent to Carl Wilson Lake) that the falls between Little Cauchon Lake and Laurel Lake might be the site of the Tom Thomson painting Little Cauchon Lake. I am now fully convinced that this is incorrect and that the actual location depicted in the painting is Windermere Falls.
Gaye I. Clemson (2006), Treasuring Algonquin, Sharing Scenes From 100 years of Leaseholding, Trafford Publishing, Victoria, B.C.
Donald L. Lloyd (2000); Canoeing Algonquin Park, Published by D.L. Lloyd. Distributed by Hushion House Publishing Ltd. Toronto.