It’s amazing how being out in the backcountry can transform a group of people. In this case, our group of 6 quickly transformed into a pack of coyotes after only 2 days. We all yipped together in triumph, to lift spirits, when approaching a portage, and to check in on each other. If a pack member wasn’t yipping along, we knew there might be something wrong, and it was a good idea to check in on them.
We were all given trail names by each other, and below is an introduction of my coyote pack members who will be referred to in the following blog posts as it relates to this trip.
From left to right: me as Tripod, Banjo (aka “Bells”), Busy Bee (aka “Busy”), Yahtzee Cups (aka “Cups”), Sugar, Two Ply (aka “TP”), and Tackle Box. There’s no point in explaining why each of us were given these particular names because you had to be there.
You know when you spend hours and hours preparing for a canoe trip and the day finally arrives when you all convoy out together, and you just want to be there but it takes FOREVER? It took us 7 hours to drive to Algonquin Provincial Park (APP). There were stops along the way as there usually are, but a late lunch in Huntsville on the water’s edge was a nice introduction and celebration of excitement for the days to come.
Busy and I spotted a bull moose on the side of the road, but unfortunately the other pack members missed it!
When we finally arrived at Pog Lake campground in APP we were greeted by a sandwich board sign that said bears were in the campground. When I enquired, the Park Ranger told me that 3 mamas and cubs were spotted in the campground over the week and to take extra caution. No bear sightings for us though.
Busy was up at 4AM, I followed at around 5AM and the rest shortly thereafter. We had to catch our water taxi provided by Algonquin Outfitters across Lake Opeongo at 8AM, which meant we needed to be at the dock by 7AM. By this time excitement was really setting in. It was a beautiful morning. Our boat ride was about 20-30 minutes to the north arm of Lake Opeongo where we were dropped off at the portage into Proulx Lake (1395m).
Before even unloading our gear and canoes from the water taxi, the bugs started swarming. We all rushed to put our bug jackets on and spray ourselves with bug repellent. If you could see us, it looked like we were dancing and doing the stomp. When we reached the other end of the portage, they were even worse. There was a trail of mosquitoes feverishly trying to suck our blood through the mesh of our jackets. With a short break, we set off in our canoes for the first time on Proulx Lake. It felt amazing to have my paddle cut the water.
After paddling through Proulx Lake, we entered the mouth of the Crow River. This section of our route had us winding back and forth and the scenery was beautiful. It was moose territory for sure, but we didn’t see one. Instead, we startled a mama loon sitting on her nest. I felt pretty bad about this whole thing. I snapped a photo as we paddled by, but she rushed off her nest and started charging at us in the water. We left quickly as to not disturb her anymore. It was an incredible encounter for me and an opportunity to capture a few photos.
After the river, we paddled into Little Crow Lake and then into Big Crow Lake, which was quite rough. I was happy to get off and make camp. We paddled 20.8 kilometers on Day One, and I portaged 1.5 kilometers.
We spent our first and second night at Big Crow Lake. It was a rest day for us early in the trip, but I knew we would need it before attempting the 3750m portage.
It was Tackle Box’s 30th birthday on Day One and we had planned to surprise him with a birthday cake baked in our brand new Reflector Oven. It turned out amazing.
Day One ended with a beauty sunset for Tackle Box.
Day Two it rained all day. We didn’t mind though because we planned to hike to the Old Growth White Pine stand down the Crow River. It isn’t a canoe trip unless it rains. After breakfast burritos, we put together our daypacks and paddled down the lake to the mouth of the river. As we started paddling in I noticed Sugar’s hand go up, I looked, and right in front of Tackle Box and Sugar was a huge bull moose. What an incredible encounter! It was only Day Two and already we saw a moose.
We paddled down the river until we reached the trail. Mosquitoes were once again fierce, but we had our bug jackets and repellent, which helped a lot. It was a wet hike, but again, we didn’t mind the rain.
Hiking this trail was a big deal for me. I can remember looking at a map of Algonquin during my first ever backcountry canoe trip in 2009 and seeing that there was old growth white pines. On the map they were situated in the middle of the park almost, and to get there seemed impossible. Since then, APP has become a significant place in my life. My husband proposed to me under an old growth white pine on the Big Pines trail during winter and it’s a place we keep going back to.
I planned this whole trip for Busy and I. It was a nice surprise that 4 others joined us, but the plan behind this trip was to see those pines and prepare us for a larger more difficult trip in Killarney later in the year. What a special place where those pines stand.
As part of Tackle Box’s birthday celebration, Sugar brought a white spruce for TB to plant. It was a heartfelt ceremony. I couldn’t believe it was only Day Two!
Day One and Two shown on Jeff’s Map.
To be continued…