2015 Algonquin Thunderbox Tour – Part Two

Part One can be read here.

After a rainy Day Two, we were happy to wake up to a beautiful sunrise on Day Three. This was the day that we’d portage the 3750m from Big Crow Lake into Hogan Lake. We sat around the campfire the night before and discussed how many others before us had the same conversation about strategic planning on this same campsite. We could see the portage sign across the lake during our stay on Big Crow. It wasn’t taunting us or anything but we knew it was there.



It was a quick paddle across Big Crow and a nice sandy landing at the beginning of the portage. My pack members were all in high spirits. There was laughter, high fives, yipping and great energy. The plan was to try a carry and a half. Some would portage to the end and come back to meet us half way, others would go half way and return to the start to get the rest of the gear.

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All was going well. I was one who portaged half way and returned to the beginning to get the last of the gear. It seemed like a long walk back and it was. When I picked up the last of the gear and eventually made it past the drop I had made in the middle, I was stoked. I couldn’t believe I was halfway already. This 3750m was a piece of cake. That was until we reached a logging road. Confusion set in. I saw pink flagging tape to the left of me and a sign to follow the Cart Trail pointing right. I thought this was the junction of the Cart Trail that met up with the final part of the portage trail. I didn’t look closely enough at the map to see that there was a logging road. This is where I found out that we were only about a 1/4 of the way there!

After a few minutes of scratching my head, I heard Busy call from down the road. He had the map, and we got our bearings before I continued on.

I was concerned for the other two that pushed on to the end who were going to come back to meet us half way. Did they follow the Cart Trail sign? The only thing I could do was follow the sign pointing right. I walked down the logging road a ways to see another Cart Trail sign taking me left down a trail. This is where I seen a piece of TP and Cups’ gear and knew they were on the right path. Banjo was following with me.

Walking further along the trail I came to another road. The Cart Trail sign was pointing left. At this point I noticed that Banjo was no longer with me. I figured that she just ran ahead and was following TP and Cups. I had gone back and forth, slowly inching gear ahead, but it was hot, I was dehydrated and I was exhausted. Busy caught up to me and asked where Banjo was. I didn’t know. A concerned look grew on his face and I tried to tell him to remain calm and that she will come back to find us. But, what I was actually thinking was that she was lost. Because of the two logging roads and all of the different pieces to this trail might have gotten her mixed up. My thoughts quickly turned to the worst and my throat sunk to my stomach as I thought of her never coming back and being out here alone. How were we going to find her. I was in complete despair but had to keep cool for Busy. He dropped everything and decided to hike to the very end of the portage to see if she was with TP and Cups. I hoped, I prayed, I pleaded that she was with TP and Cups…

The only thing I could do was keep going back to get more gear and inch it forward. I realized that I was the last one on the logging road and noticed thick raspberry bushes on either side. This was bear territory. I was scared. When I finally reached the last food barrel, I could hardly pick it up to put it on my back. I started counting to ten with each step and then thought of telling myself a story out loud to warn off any large mammals. It was a story of an acorn that fell from an Oak tree. This went on and on.

Finally I heard a bell. It felt like my knees were going to give out on me as I wanted to fall to the ground in relief. It was Banjo. She was in fine form wagging her tail. Over the hill I see Busy. I almost cried, I was so happy. He asked how I was doing and I started telling him about the acorn. He thought I was delirious. Maybe I was, but I knew that it was helping me take one step at a time and take my mind off of Banjo and finishing the portage.

We were all out of water. I was ordered to finish the portage with no pack or food barrel because they were too heavy for me anyway and send others back with water and to help carry. When I walked to the end of the portage and saw the water, a rush of excitement and energy came over me. I made it. We all made it. Still no time for rest, I got snacks out and had others take water back. By the time everyone arrived at the end of the portage it had taken us 5.5 hours. The portage was more than 3.75 kilometres. With the Cart Trail and all of the back and forths, I probably did about 7-8 kilometres if not more. I have to say that completing that was a huge accomplishment not only for myself, but for us all.

The view of Hogan Lake looked amazing. We took a campsite at the west side of an island. I think the site ended up being everyone’s favourite. I wish we stayed here two nights. Banjo was exhausted and slept outside of the tent in the late afternoon wanting to go in and crash. She received a lot of love from me that day and even got to sleep on my thermarest at night. Both Busy and I realized this day how much we love her.

Day Four had us paddling through a winding river. It was beautiful. We had to portage 685m around what sounded like a waterfall. It was a steep climb at first, but nothing was worse than stepping into leech infested waters. There were hundreds swimming around us as we took our gear out of the canoes and finally the canoes out of the water. Near the end of the portage was several feet of mud. I sunk up to my ankles, but Cups sunk in the mud to her knees. Nothing like being up swallowed up by mud that feels like quicksand! The bugs were particularly bad here. We were warned by Jeff’s Map and it didn’t lie.

We paddled against a light headwind across Lake La Muir. The sight in front of us was one that I won’t forget. We were paddling through a lake surrounded by Algonquin’s Highlands. There were very large hills that reminded me of the Catskills in New York state.

We stopped for lunch at a campsite before our last portage of the day, a 735m into Red Pine Bay. I was really looking forward to this lake for some reason.

Our continued route shown on Jeff’s Map.

Map 3 - Day 3 & 4

Read Part Three here


  1. C, reading your story is so familiar to my journey and the Killarney portages I successfully completed with my “Group of Eight” last week. Probably the physically toughest hiking I’ve ever done were those portage trails from Grace to Nelly and then Murray lake. So gruelling, but incredibly rewarding and I was filled with a sense of wonder and accomplishment. Jeff’s maps are a lifesaver. I miss the woods already!

    Liked by 1 person

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