Eastern Great Lakes Hang Trip Report- Fall 2011 -Sunny with a Chance of Flurries
Just got back from an excellent, albeit, tiring trip to Algonquin.
In a nutshell... 7 went in.. 7 came out... There was rain, snow, headwinds, sunshine, soul sucking beaver bogs, blazing fires, near zero degree temperatures and smiles all around. Everything else is in the details...
More to follow... Must rest.....must res........:sleep::sleep::sleep:
I was thinking about you folks on Friday when we had the rain and winds, and then I saw the snow flakes and I cringed for you,.... and then head winds again on Saturday and then on Sunday! I would think you all need a good sleep for the rest of the week!!
I was watching the Algonquin weather forecast over the last weekend, and I was thinking about the group with the rain, wet, damp and cold conditions for Friday. The weather for Saturday was at least sunny but windy which would have made for interesting paddling heading a northerly direction.
I like the thread title, Sunny with a Chance of Flurries.
Looking forward to the trip report from any of the participants.
Night 1: Cold
Day 2: Snow, Muskeg, Headwinds
Night 2: Cold, Fire
Day 3: Headwinds, Kayak
Let me say what a great time I had! All the challenging conditions coupled with the comaraderie and teamwork made this trip a very rewarding experience. Pushing through headwinds, and traversing demanding portages made the nights in my hammock that much more comfortable and cozy. I slept warm and rested well both nights. Thanks to the others for making it a memorable trip! My outdoor experience has been primarily backpacking so I think when I get my tax return in the spring I may invest in some more canoe equipment.:D
Mud Pardee on the Bog that tried to eat my Buddy!
Mother Nature threw down the gauntlet on this EGL adventure and I know we'll be talking about it for many years to come! We asked for a challenge and our 32 km - 10 portage route from Smoke to Cache was nothing short of that! From a cold and snowy morning to a "man eating" mud labyrinth, we embraced the vicious headwinds and emerged moist but victorious...
Hahaha ok my face is wind burned, I reek of A535 and I still only have partial use of my arms but I had an awesome trip and thank my Camp Mates for it, especially the portage help, I'd still be on that 1600m without ya :huh:!
Voting for Snowshoes & Pulk on the next one?? Didn’t have a lot of time to shoot but here's a couple that will go in the EGL Book for 2011!
A couple more...
Algonquin Hang - Fall 2011 - Sunny with a chance of flurries...Part One
Although I'm a little more tired and sore than I should be, I can say that the Fall2011 Hang was definitely a memorable one.
It's usually not a good omen when you're driving down the highway towards a weekend hang through a night so dark and rain so heavy that you can barely make out the taillights of the car in front of you. Add to that a weather forecast that called for rain, wind and cold, and top that off with zero sleep. Someone should've been taking notes.
Around 8am Wolvaroo and I turned off of Highway 60 and pulled up to Algonquin Park's Canoe Lake Access Point. Located at the end of a long bay opening onto its namesake, Canoe Lake is probably the most popular jumping off point for canoe trips throughout Algonquin, and one that I have known well since I was a boy. On a summer long weekend, this now tranquil place turns into a madhouse; literally packed with canoeists and tourists of all shapes and sizes, each going about their business of coming and going. As for myself, I prefer the tail seasons of early spring or late fall, where the crowds are at a minimum and you have the Park almost to yourself.
As the first ones there, Wolvaroo and I took shelter from the rain on the Portage Store porch. It was nice to be able to relax for a while and watch the patterns of rain on the quiet lake. I also took the opportunity to pull out my pack and make sure everything was packed in serious waterproof mode.
The rain was still coming down, and although it appeared to be clearing slightly, the prospects of a rain-soaked weekend and a lack of sleep were wearing me down. I was starting to seriously consider the merits of base-camping at a drive-in site. Before long, Ryvr, [o]TTer and Bubba showed up and their enthusiasm was infectious. Come Hell or high water, we would go on with our plan: two nights in the Piney Woods of Algonquin Provincial Park. We registered at the Park Office, zipped across the highway and pulled up by the Smoke Lake dock where Dan8tro and Brantwing were waiting. Let the good times roll!
The route we had chosen called for us to push off Friday morning from the Smoke Lake access point, paddle our way south through Ragged and Big Porcupine until we finally set up camp in Bonnechere some fifteen kilometers and four portages distant. Our second day, Saturday, would see us looping eleven kilometers and five portages east and north through Phipps, Kirkwood and Pardee and then up through Harness to our second night's camp on Head Lake. Our last morning, Sunday, would see us covering about five kilometers with the longest portage of the trip and a short paddle through the island maze of Cache Lake to the parking lot and the cars that we had parked there ahead of time. A good three day trip, especially with the fall colours at their best.
Back at the docks we were soon ready to go. With the exception of Wolvaroo, the rest of the group had been on two or more trips together, including a winter hang at Valen's in early 2011. Our little band consisted of three canoes and one kayak. Ryvr and Bubba would be in Ryvr’s 16’ Kipiwa, Dan8tro and Brantwing in a rented 16’ Kipiwa and Wolvaroo and myself in my 16’ prospector. [o]TTer, ever the rebel, would be paddling his small solo kayak.
Ironically we weren't the only ones with questionable mental health. Despite the weather, there was a large group of young adults transferring their gear from their bus to a flotilla of rental canoes. We'd see them again as they paddled ahead of us down Smoke and again on the beach that marked the portage to Ragged, but that would be the last of them. I hope they fared well.
As for us, the trip down Smoke was damp but uneventful. As if to make up for the wet weather, we were blessed with a light tail wind that would follow us for most of the day. Smoke Lake is a beautiful lake: large and long and flanked along its length by steep, forested hills in full autumn colour. When the wind picks up it can be treacherous, but today even under a light rain, the lake was a pleasure.
We passed over the first portage with little trouble. I reflected on the three missing members of the original group, Shawnh and his family. We had planned to meet up with them on this portage, but unfortunately at the last minute, they were forced to cancel. It’s too bad. It was great having their company at our spring hang and they’d be missed. From Ragged we paddled to our second portage that crossed over to the North arm of Big Porcupine. The portage is a pig. Almost all of the elevation gained on the trip came on this one portage, on one long, often slippery hill. Here's where portaging goes from a pleasant walk in the park to real work. Our basic goal was to try to do single carry portages, taking all of our gear and canoes with us in one shot. The alternative, the double carry, means taking half your load on the first trip, and then walking back to get the remainder of your gear. You cover three times the distance but the actual carries are easier. As I mentioned, we aimed for a single carry, but had no reservations about dropping our canoes and coming back for them later. Case in point. Ryvr, Dan8tro and I were carrying the canoes up the Pig with Dan8tro far in the lead, followed by me, then Ryvr just behind me. About halfway up the main slope, Ryvr slipped and went down under his canoe. The overnight rain and wet leaves had made the trail quite slippery and he wiped out on roughly the same section I had slipped two years earlier going the other way. I dropped my canoe and helped lift Ryvr's canoe off of him. We decided to leave the canoes for a second trip and just continued with our packs down to the other end.
As we stood on the north shore of Big Porcupine portage we had the option of either paddling around the large peninsula that divided the lake into three parts, or do a short paddle and then easy portage to the other side. [o]TTer, wary of having to unpack, carry and repack his kayak yet again, decided to paddle around while the rest of us chose the portage. In the end, however, we met up at about the same time, so there you go. As we were getting ready to launch, I found a large ziplock bag with a photocopy of a route map marked on the other side with all of the details of their trip, including emergency contacts. I certainly hoped that whoever lost it had a backup map!!
In the southern arm of Big Porcupine we had a half hour paddle to our last portage of the day, an easy 200m into Bonnechere. As we crossed the lake we saw what appeared to be a gentle mist rolling across the lakes between the islands. Getting closer the mist looked wrong. It was the wrong colour, less the pure white of mist and more the grey-grown of wood smoke. Sure enough we paddled into it and you could smell the fire in it. While the rest of the group paddled to the portage, Wolvaroo and I took a little detour to check on the source of the smoke and maybe find the owners of the lost map. Following the smoke to it’s origin, we met up with a nice retired couple and their dog, and it was their small campfire that was causing all of the smoke. It was amazing how the weather conditions were forcing that smoke right down onto the water. No, they hadn't lost a map and they even invited us to join them by their fire to warm up. I guess we looked cold: I was in shorts after all. We politely declined and turned to rejoin our group at the portage.
Once in Bonnechere, we faced an important decision; we needed to find a site that offered maximum protection from the cold north wind. We passed by the site I had stayed on with my "trout'n" buddies at the opening of this year's trout season, only one day after ice out, and paddled to the site on the north shore with it forested back into the wind. We unloaded the canoes and everyone immediately scattered, each intent on finding those perfect trees for the night. Before long, a little "Hammock Ghetto" sprang up near the main clearing where Brantwing, Dan8tro, Ryvr, [o]TTer and Bubba set up. I found a couple of nice trees in a small clearing some twenty yards away and Wolvaroo, in an effort to optimize the warmth of his gear, set up deeper in the woods, his tarp staked directly to the ground. Very sensible. As I mentioned earlier, the rest of us had survived a winter hang with temperatures well below freezing. Wolvaroo would be pushing his three season gear to the limit on this trip.
With camp all set up, attention turned to dinner. I had brought some small lamb chops and wanted to roast them over an open fire. I grabbed my axe, Dan8tro grabbed his insanely wicked saw and, joined by Wolvaroo, we headed off to get some firewood. After a long search we found several standing dead pines, roughly twenty feet high and a good five inches across. We picked one, sawed it down and then again in half and carried it back to camp. Once there Dan8tro started sawing sections that I started splitting up into firewood. In no time we had a good stock of wood. Pine burns hot but fast and we'd go through our supply quickly, but that wasn’t going to be a problem. Most of us had had little or no sleep the night before and we were all looking forward to an early night. I set up a "burn-down" fire and [o]TTer went to town shaving kindling. For some reason, the wood was absolutely beautiful to carve. Dry and well seasoned, it cut like butter. [o]TTer was in his happy place. He then took firesteel to birchbark and got the fire going... first try. Once the blaze had burned down I grilled the lamb and shared the little chops with the group. Excellent.
Standing around the fire for a while, we just enjoyed each other's company, but before long the sleepless night and long paddle started catching up with us and it was sleepy time. Settling into my cozy down cocoon, I was in my happy place. Through the night I could hear the wind blowing in the treetops, but my tarp only flapped slightly. Our campsite was well protected. I'm a light sleeper and at one point in the night I could feel/hear some critter tripping over my guy lines. Not too long afterwards I'm sure that, just for a second or two, I smelled that wet dog smell. But then it was gone and I fell back asleep.
Stay tuned for part two.
All in all it was another great trip, and one of the most challenging I have ever undertaken. Although I have been on longer trips the unique conditions (rain snow, wind burn causing head winds, and near vertical portages (it should be noted that our most vertical portage was on the same ridge line as the Devils Staircase Portage)) this one left me exhausted and proud of myself. In fact everyone in the group performed admirably.
Thanks to Chard for putting it all together and for making those delicious lamb chops. Although Bubba would be considered a novice paddler he did an amazing job.
Bob we might have to mount another expedition to get you hair back from that dastardly red squirrel. Dan my only regret about you getting caught in the lightening mud is that we didnt get a picture of it. Well that and there were no ROUS's around....
Wolvaroo glad to have met you and hope to see you out on the winter group hang. Tim how could you not get a picture of dan in the mud? Seriously though always a pleasure to have you along. Sometimes its nice to be reminded of how much I love my canoe when I see a kayaker on the path :laugh:
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