Trip Log - Brent to Cauchon Lake
2016 June 15-21
In mid June 2016, Bob and Diana undertook a six night canoe trip out of Brent on Cedar Lake in Algonquin Park and travelled to Laurel and Cauchon Lakes. The objective of the trip was to search for Tom Thomson and Lawren Harris painting locations in the area. Some photos and a description of our trip follow below.
The text is an edited version of our trip notes. However, because our notes were both research data and trip diary, this is a much more edited version than is our custom. This is a description of our trip. We may publish the results of our search for painting locations elsewhere. The notes were written by Bob, so first person comments are his.
June 15 - Brent to Laurel Lake
We left the house at 8:00, arrived at the permit office at 8:50, were at Brent at 10:00. We were on the water by 10:15.
At 10:40 we stopped for a break about 2 km west of Brent. Cedar Lake is glassy calm. The sky is clear except for some cirrus waves; two sets at right angles to each other.
We reached the island with the chimney (the small island at north-east end of Cedar Lake) at about noon. We have been paying close attention to the skyline to look for matches with the Tom Thomson painting The West Wind – Winnifred Trainor had claimed that Cedar Lake was the site of the painting. We saw nothing that would support this claim in our paddle up the lake.
We pulled over for lunch at 12:50 at the foot of Aura Lee Lake. We had encountered very low water between Little Cedar Lake and the railway overpass. We managed to get through without getting our feet wet – but only just.
At 4:00 pm we are sitting in our bug net on Laurel Lake having coffee. We had arrived at about 2:30 and are at the same campsite that we stayed at 2 years ago (see Trip Log - Brent to Cauchon Lake and Return - Bug Fest 2014) – on the shore behind the little island. This site is not too bad but not at all level (the tent spot is OK). We are both feeling quite beat; hopefully that's just due to lack of sleep last night. The packing took longer than anticipated.
We haven't seen anyone since Cedar and the population on Cedar was very low – only one other car at Brent and they were coming out today.
My fancy new watch is dead. Not sure what the issue is – bad battery or some buttons were inadvertently pushed (it was riding in the pack). But at least we now understand the electronic noises we were periodically hearing as we paddled up Cedar Lake.
We are safe and secure in our bug net but the black flies look pretty dense outside. It occasionally sounds like light rain on the fly overhead.
Dinner was Kung Pao chicken – tasty but quantity was small.
It is 7:30 and the all evening chores are done; we are about to have our Bushmills. The black flies are fierce; now it definitely sounds like rain on the tarp. The food is hung and is well protected from chipmunks; bears not so much.
Diana reports that the Susie bug net is excellent.
Into the tent for the night at about 9:00 pm. It is still light outside, dead calm, Black flies have abated somewhat. It was warm – day's high was 25C – and muggy. No need for full sleeping bag to start. Warmish night, too, with noseeums at the beginning.
Thurs June 16 - Laurel Lake to Cauchon Lake
It's 6:45 and we're sitting in the bug net waiting for our coffee to cool. We were awake at 5:00 and out of the tent by 6:00. It is a beautiful sunny morning; the temperature is about 19C; the mosquitoes are out but not too bad. Bob slept well but Diana was bothered by noseeums early in the night. She was OK once it cooled off. Our new sleeping bags worked well but probably not as warm as our old Gerry bags.
On the water at 9:35. It's going to be hot.
We pulled over for a snack break/lunch just a little into Little Cauchon Lake at about 11:00. We had spent some time on Laurel Lake poking around, looking for painting locations. We got at least one new possible. We'll have to see how the photos look when we get home. The issue is, as usual, the regrowth of the forest.
It's about 2:00 pm and we're largely set up at our campsite on Cauchon. We are both feeling somewhat beat from the heat; we are not acclimatized. Also, you can't really strip down because of the bugs. But they're not too bad at the moment – mainly black flies. We did not find any good matches for the background hills in The West Wind either on Little Cauchon or here on Cauchon (so far). Some sort of feel right, but truthfully they don't match. You want them to, but they don't.
Dinner was Southwestern Masa with beef – good but perhaps too spicy – very salty.
It's 8:00 pm and the food is up, better than last night but ... We are about to serve our Bushmills – sun will be up for another 20 min or so. It is still very hot; the wind is still; the bugs are better than last night.
The sun is now down behind the hills and it is cooling off quickly. Diana's in the tent; I'm still in the bug net.
Friday June 17 - Cauchon Lake
Out of tent at about 6:30. Now in bug net having coffee. Bugs not are too bad yet, sunny, sky clear, light airs, 10C.
We are about to go on an exploratory paddle to look for The West Wind. The day remains sunny and clear and the lake is essentially dead calm. It doesn't feel as oppressive as yesterday morning. We were on the water at 9:15; the temperature was 18C.
We surveyed the southern skyline from the northern shore. We didn't find any vistas that we thought were a good match to the painting. We then crossed over to the south shore to have a look at the cabin and the somewhat adjacent campsite. We then proceeded to the campsite in the NE bay.
We were back to our campsite at about 12:30. Starting to feel quite hot again but not as bad as yesterday – less humid perhaps.
So where was The West Wind painted? We believe the answer is indeterminate. There appears to be no location where one can match the background hills to the painting without assuming considerable artistic licence on Thomson's part. If one assumes that it is somewhere on Cauchon Lake, then the location is somewhere along the north shore, perhaps the spot that Jim Waddington identified. Another possibility is the most north easterly campsite on the lake. This location requires interpreting the painting as showing a nearer headland coming in from the left.
Another consideration is how much credence one can ascribe to the story that when the storm struck they [Tom Thomson and Lawren Harris] took shelter in an abandoned shack. The terrain surrounding the proffered location would then be a consideration. The north easterly campsite location seems to match the scale of the painting better than the other location(s).
We had lunch and an extra coffee – Nestle Sweet & Creamy – we weren't impressed; we'll stick to Via. Then we both lay on the ground and had a nap. Bugs were not (much of) an issue. The day remains hot with the wind rising and falling and blowing from all directions.
Supper was Three Cheese Chicken Pasta – a little bland and pasty but OK.
A further comment on the West Wind – none of these locations are consistent with MacCallum's comment that the wind was really from the north.
It is about 10 min before the sun drops below hills (7:50 pm) Temperature is still about 24C – it peaked at about 28C. The wind has died – very close – bugs are tolerable.
Chores done, Bushmills being poured. The plan is we'll be staying here for a day or two. A little after 8:00 we became aware that someone is camped at the site opposite on the south shore. No idea when they arrived; they weren't there this morning.
Saturday June 18 - Cauchon Lake with day trip to Little Cauchon Lake
I was out of the tent at 6:30; the temperature was 10C; the wind calm, sky clear, bugs OK.
It is 9:00 am and still dead calm; the temperature is up to 17C. The campsite across the way seems deserted. We didn't see them arrive; we didn't see them leave.
We paddled back to Little Cauchon Lake to explore; we were looking for the location of several paintings other than The West Wind.
We proceeded to Windermere Falls, which is the location of the Tom Thomson painting Cauchon Lake. However, if we wanted to get a good matching photograph, we would need to get here earlier in the spring to match the water flow.
It's 11:30 and we're having lunch/snack at our old campsite from about 40 years ago on Little Cauchon Lake (Trip Log: Brent / Maple Lake / Catfish Lake Loop – 1975 August 11 to 21).
We arrived back at our campsite on Cauchon Lake a little after 1:00. The wind has come up significantly out of the west. It was a vigorous paddle back to our campsite. (We are presently experiencing a pretty substantial gust.) We had to take down the bug net, but there are no bugs out in this breeze.
We saw a couple of motorboats out of Daventry: a pontoon boat trolling back and forth on Little Cauchon and a fishing boat on Cauchon. Upon returning to Cauchon we see that the campsite on the south shore is still occupied and a single canoe is out fishing. But it must be pretty difficult in this wind.
The temperature is 27C but it feels OK because of the wind.
We spent the afternoon battling the wind – a bit of a nuisance but it made the temperature (29C) bearable. Because it is an onshore wind the accessible water is loaded with pine pollen. So a little extra protein with our meals. The issue will be with water for filtering. I still have some water not saturated with pollen, but not much.
We finished our first fuel bottle while boiling the soup water.
A small boat has appeared with 2 fishermen.
Dinner was Mountain Chili: (vegetarian); it was OK, but runny.
The sun is getting low; the temperature is 26C; the wind is still blowing like a bugger. There is no sign yet of it dying at sundown. But whatever we're all set. If it dies I'll reestablish the bug net; if not, it will blow the bugs away. Either way, we win.
Canoe from campsite on south shore launched again and are fishing (I guess). Small motorized fishing boat hasn't returned from up the lake.
Sunday June 19 - Cauchon Lake
Out of the tent a little after 6:30. The sky was lightly overcast. The wind continues but now perhaps more southerly. Temperature is about 19C. We had put the bug net up last evening as the wind diminished at sunset, but we took it down this morning.
Getting water remains an issue due to the heavy pine pollen at the shore and the onshore waves. The wind abated temporarily and so I was able to walk the length of the beached canoe, with Diana stabilizing it to get some somewhat pollen-free water.
At 8:55, the air feels cool with the breeze but the temperature is 21C. Breakfast is over, dishes are washed, water is pumped and we're about to head out to get some pics. We paddled the north shore photographing and documenting possible locations for where The West Wind might have been painted (duplicating our survey of two days ago with more care).
We then proceeded back to the campsite in the NE bay where we had lunch/snack. This location has red pines, some perhaps of an appropriate age, and a possible site for a cabin/shack. We believe that this location is a better match to the background hills in The West Wind. The entire scene can be captured with a 35mm equivalent lens. The hills are at an appropriate distance. The match with the background is not perfect but the vegetative regrowth makes an exact comparison difficult, especially on the near point which obscures the hill behind. In any case, we believe this spot provides a good match but the hills will still require some vertical enhancement and some artistic license. Hopefully we got sufficient and appropriate quality photos.
We returned to our campsite and had some coffee.
The wind is getting pretty lively. The temperature is 28C at 2:10.
Had a second cup of coffee this afternoon. However, the wind is really fierce and it is difficult to shield the stove sufficiently to efficiently boil water. In the interest of fuel consumption we have decided to forgo this afternoon's soup (Liptons Cup-a-soup, which isn't very good anyway).
I think we have the lake to ourselves again; we haven't seen the people on the south shore since this morning and no fishermen today so far.
It's 6:07. We managed to boil water for supper in the lee of the tent without burning the tent down. For supper we had pepper beef with rice – not aggressive in flavour, but good. Would buy again. Adding butter helps.
It's 7:51 and everything is squared away; the Bushmills is poured; the temperature is 26C. The wind has died away considerably but it is still blowing enough to be a nuisance. Some high (fluffy) stratus clouds starting to move in from the west.
Mon Jun 20 - Cauchon Lake to Cedar Lake
It's 6:10 and we're sitting in the bug net (put it up this morning) waiting for our coffee to cool. Wind is calm, sky clear, temperature 19C. The wind was rising and falling during the night, but eventually died. Bugs are not as bad as one would expect on a morning like this.
It's 8:30 and we're just about ready to leave. While it might have been dead calm earlier, it's blowing up a gale right now. Still no white caps but close. The wind is out of the southwest.
At 9:50 we're pulled over having a snack at our old campsite on the south shore of Little Cauchon Lake. It's very hot and humid. The wind has perhaps abated a little and luckily it's behind us.
It's 12:15 and we're stopped for lunch/snack break in Little Cedar Lake — very hot and humid — still windy. We navigated the shallow bit at the top of Little Cedar without incident — no touches.
It is now 2:22 and we are camped on the beach at Kish-Kaduk lodge. Our lunch was cut short by the sound of thunder so we made a bee line here. Luckily it was vacant. Nothing yet but it is presently sounding quite ominous. Sky is overcast although still with cloud definition. Feels cooler but the temperature is 26C. Wind is fresh out of the west but clouds seem more out of the south. It has now started to rain and although I am under the tarp I am getting sprayed.
Intermittent rain showers, quite heavy but not lasting more than a few minutes. Now the wind has died and the bugs are out.
There is a pair of bald eagles hanging around the adjacent point.
Well, it turns out that the “rocks” that the eagles are standing around on is actually a carcass. Well, at least it is downwind of us.
Intermittent squalls continue to pass through. The temperature was 22C at 4:13.
It is now 6:19 and there have been no recent rain squalls. We moved our tarp setup to a flatter location and set up the bug net. The wind is picking up again. This may cause cooking issues and with the danger of blowing the bug net into the stove.
Dinner was South Western Style Chicken Nachos – mixed reviews. Bob was more positive than Diana.
Everything is now packed away. The wind gusts make the bug net unusable, yet between gusts, the black flies are an issue. Thus I am writing in my book and having my Bushmills in my Susie bug net. It is perhaps not perfect but it makes the situation tolerable.
Tues Jun 21 – Kish-Kaduk campsite on Cedar Lake to Brent
We were up at about 5:30. The sky is clear, wind calm (for now), temperature 12C. Although the winds are calm now, they certainly weren't earlier. It was a wild night but we were comfortable. I'm in the bug net with a mosquito coil burning and the coffee water coming to a boil.
We got away from the campsite at around 9:00. The wind is steady and moderate from the west. The odd wave is breaking.
The wind has become quite fresh, more whitecaps, lines of foam. We were back at Brent at 10:02, so just over an hour from the campsite. The gps was indicating just over 7 km/hr for most of the trip. And here in the bay at the put in, it's just like a mill pond.