Trip Log - Tom Thomson, Misty, Big Trout, and Burnt Island Lakes from Canoe Lake
A description with photos of a four night canoe trip out of Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park, passing through Tom Thomson Lake, Misty Lake, Big Trout Lake and Burnt Island Lake.
The text below is from Bob and Diana's trip notes with only minor copy editing, while the figure captions (and other italicized copy) are current commentary.
1980 May 16
Launched at Canoe Lake about 11:30. Day sunny, some fluffy white clouds, slight high cirrus, thermal winds. Air cool but pleasant in the sun. Worked against wind to top of Canoe Lake and completed short portage around dam at 11:05. Ate lunch there and proceeded up Joe Lake at 1:35. Varying gusty winds, mostly head-on or slightly across gave us some work but no serious problems. Passed a large noisy group with 1 swamped canoe at narrows at bottom of Tepee Lake. 2 boats fishing on that lake, 4 people camped on river above Tepee Lake, another group in Littledoe Lake. Channel into Tom Thomson Lake blocked by a beaver dam with a very small head – we dragged over near shore. Suckers were trying to run up the sluice (some succeeding). After looking at one island campsite, finally stopped about 4:00 at same campsite we stayed at with Herman and Phyllis in May ’76 — (Canoe Lake to Brent and Return). Set up, had soup and supper (Cheeseburger Macaroni – good). Sun warm, cirrus gone (other clouds disappeared later), blackflies out but not too bad yet. 1 canoe passed, apparently headed for McIntosh Lake. Later 2 canoes passed in same direction but seemed to stop at left campsite near portage. Wind died as sun got low. Many birds around – sapsucker, loon, raven, bittern, whippoorwill, etc. etc. Also beaver at point, and possibly muskrat as well. Noisy group camped in bay behind us. It got quite cool when the sun went down. We sat by the fire for a while, then retired into the tent about 9:40. All calm and quiet except for spring peepers. Later it became less quiet as coons investigated our food tree, pack outside the tent, etc. After we put the run on them (it?) a few times, there was no more trouble, thought our sleep got eaten into somewhat. What with choruses of loons, whippoorwills, white throated sparrows (!), etc. it turned out to be not such a quiet night after all.
1980 May 17
Up at 6:00, temp. 42°F in tent, 38° outside, mist on lake, sun, no wind, a few cirrus clouds. On the water at 8:00, paddled to end of lake – a nice little bay where portage starts. Portaged to Ink Lake 8:30-10:00. Not exactly as on map – 600 paces to beaver pond, paddle across pond (large), carry another 2300 paces. There is a rough trail around the beaver pond. Longer part of trail skirts swamps and other beaver ponds. Ink Lake small with dark water; large campsite at end of portage. Continued on down McIntosh Creek – an interesting marsh. Arrived at McIntosh Lake about 11:00, very pleasant. Saw only 2 groups camped there. Sky was getting more — and more interesting — clouds all morning, finally a grey film all over which thickened later throughout the afternoon. Arrived top of McIntosh Lake about 11:30 and carried through to Timberwolf Lake about 11:45. Met two fellows from Ohio cutting firewood near the trail. They have been coming to Algonquin Park for 14 years to camp, cook and fish. Ate lunch and got back on the water at about 12:40. No one else camped on the lake. Canoes arrived at portage when we were about 1/2 way across, but then headed down towards short portage to Misty Lake We took the longer portage, arriving on Misty Lake about 1:20. After a short break, paddled around peninsula and stopped about 1:45 at campsite we stayed at in ’77. (Island already occupied). Numerous canoes passed in all directions. Set up in leisurely fashion. Nature of sky and wind suggest a possibility of rain tonight or tomorrow. 2 people camped at small site across the way not too long after we stopped. Not much happened for rest of day except eating, etc. Chicken Tetrazzini – blah. Both tired due to disturbances of sleep last night. Into tent for the night at 8:45. Night quiet and very dark (hard to find tent after answering calls of nature). Noisy loons. Wind came up from south during night, rain started gently and became steady.
1980 May 18
Up at 6:00, steady rain, temp 54°F. Set up tarp, cooked on stove – oatmeal for breakfast, pasty but rib-sticking. Packed up and on the water about 8:45. Narrow part of Misty Lake has remains of an old log bridge across it – we just fit under. Arrived bottom of lake about 9:50. Portage crosses river partway down – treacherous logs, etc. [well above the water]. Bob carried all the stuff across while Diana crossed alone with some trepidation (and partly on all 4’s). Through around 10:45. Continued on down river and various short portages. First two are marked wrong on park map. We ran rapids at 1st one (short and simple) but declined all the others, most of which were impossible. Arrived at Grassy Bay about 12:55, whereupon we ate lunch. There was a canoe at the 80m. portage but no sign of people. Also a red canoe which we had previously spotted behind us popped through the last rapids just as we were leaving. This part of the Petawawa is somewhat reminiscent of the Nipissing – meandering with short rocky sections of rapids. Some scenery very nice. Continued on at 1:45 (rain had stopped as we ate lunch). Paddled up White Trout Lake in dead calm. Rain began again partway up and fluctuated. Got heavy as we went through channel to Big Trout Lake, which made it hard to see campsites. Stopped on first island to left of lefthand point about 3:30. Set up in pouring rain. Everything was wet but we managed a reasonable setup — [sleeping bags and inside of tent were dry] — and soon had soup, whiskey, Chili Tomato dinner, etc. Rain died away, then returned and fluctuated. Clouds now moving from north (vs. east this morning) which is somewhat encouraging. Into tent for the night at 8:00. Light rain, and bittern “singing” nearby. Slightly later, a group of 5 people camped at large island east of us and started singing and kept it up until about 10:30 or 11:00, despite several requests for reduced volume. Sleep was impossible until they finally shut up.
1980 May 19
Up at 6:00. Overcast, breezes from north, temp 50°F. Everything still very wet, so we cooked on the stove. Packed up and on the water at 8:45. Wind stronger, from north or northwest. Got into the middle of a large group of canoes heading for the portage (14 canoes – a school group). We got ahead of some on the 1st portage, then the entire group on the second portage. [Along the first portage, in the midst of the chaos, one of the teachers peered under the brim of Diana's hat and asked with a puzzled look on his face, "Who are you?" He was relieved to learn that she was not a student he should have recognized. The challenge on that portage was keeping our packs separate from the those of the big group, since the students were just picking up whatever was lying around to carry it through.] Continued up Otterslide Creek at a great rate, determined to stay ahead. Finished portage at road about 10:50 (11:20?), stopped for a snack break. Loaded up and took off as first of large group were arriving. Carried on up creek with group close behind, whipped through two portages ahead of them and arrived at Otterslide Lake about 12:45. Stopped for lunch at campsite across from portage and were entertained by activities of the large group finishing the portage and collecting for lunch. After collecting some birch bark, we were on our way about 1:20. Up through Otterslide and Little Otterslide, then fairly quickly through portage to Burnt Island Lake about 2:50. Met a couple from Pennsylvania who were on a 10-day trip headed for Catfish Lake and some fishing. Proceeded down lake and stopped about 3:30 at campsite on north shore to west of small bay with island in it, just before the turnoff to Sunbeam Lake. Set up camp as clouds broke up and cleared to welcome sunshine; chilly breeze from north continued. Large group passed later on and disappeared down lake. About 8:00 our noisy friends from last night appeared and stopped on point just past island across the lake. Got our stuff fairly well dried out and had a good supper of beef stew and scalloped potatoes. After a double ration of booze, into tent for the night at 9:30. Temp. 44°F. Loons calling on lake, many spring peepers in bay behind us. (Ranger plane went over very low some time earlier). So far no racket from across the lake.
1980 May 20
A quiet night despite loons, owls and unidentified sounds. Bob heard the train [or so he said]. Up at 6:30, heavy mist, temp. 42°F in tent, 39°F outside. Mist lifted as sun rose and began a beautiful day. On the water at 8:45, zipped down Burnt Island Lake, passing noisy group and school group on the way.
Through to Baby Joe Lake – takeout is badly eroded, and shallow sandy bottom makes launching difficult. On next portage, campsite still much as it was before — [we had stayed there several years previous: Canoe Lake to Brent and Return] — though somewhat messy. Through to creek about 10:50, rested and snacked while drifting downstream. Paddled down Joe Lake, passing a couple out for a paddle from Arowhon Pines. Farther down, canoe rangers working with chain saw. Another canoe (wood-canvas) ahead at portage to Canoe Lake. Carried through and chatted with a couple who were there, he fishing and she snacking. After a grinding launch, went a bit down the creek and stopped for lunch about noon. A group of 6 passed heading upstream; the noisy people passed by downstream. Continued on about 12:50 and hit beach at Canoe Lake about 1:40. Packed into car and ready to come home at 1:50.
This trip was significant for us because it precipitated a major rethink of our foul weather equipment and technique. We increased our emphasis on wool-based clothing and improved our rain gear; we increased our tarpage to be able to sit out rain more comfortably; we resolved to always carry "fire plugs" (cylinders of absorbent paper thoroughly saturated with paraffin); we became more conservative in our decisions as to whether to travel or to stay put. We considered switching from down sleeping bags to synthetics, but never did.