Our three day trip through Algonquin started and finished at entry point #29, also known as Kiosk (pronounced KYE-osk). There's a campsite, a parking lot, and a permit office in Kiosk. We picked up our permits and packed the canoe, leaving the Kiosk campsite around 11 AM. From there it was an uneventful and quick paddle across Kiosk lake (we had a lot of energy still). We reached the falls at the Amable du Fond River and our first portage of the trip. Actually, we paddled around the base of the falls a bit trying to find what turned out to be the most obscure portage of the trip. This is an exciting moment because you never quite know how terrible portaging will be until the first one. It's nearly impossible to have everything as portage-friendly as it should be, and we discovered the key was to keep track of Trout who promptly managed to get between David's legs on a hill and end up with a canoe on his head. There's an optional second portage here based on the water level. Since we already had everything on land, we decided to just keep going on foot. Trout followed commands slightly better this time and everything went smoothly. This picture is the put it on the flat water section of the Amable du Fond. It's a long still narrow lake basically at this point.
It doesn't take long to reach the upper end and another portage. The final portage to Manitou Lake is 1.2 km over relatively easy terrain. There are a few overgrown narrow sections in mid-summer and the mosquitoes were rather fierce here. We both stopped long enough to put mosquito nets on along this portage. Arriving at the northeast shore of Manitou lake was exciting. We were done portaging for the day and had only to choose a campsite from the 20 or so around and in the lake. We also saw other people here, the first we had seen since leaving Kiosk.
We checked out a variety of campsites before choosing this one. In central Manitou is a bigger island with 3 sites located on it. This is a one-site island just east of that and only a short distance from the shore. The island is probably a little less than an acre in size. Within 5 minutes of landing on it we'd explored the furthest corners. Besides having an island to ourselves, this site featured a sandy beach, an outhouse, and a nice firepit site with log benches and even something like a table propped up on logs. This is the view out the 'front door'. We arrived here around 5 PM, about a 6 hour leisurely trip from Kiosk.
As is probably always the case on night one of a canoe camping trip, the most important thing was to repack the bags differently for the next day to make portaging easier. In the meantime, we started a meager fire (most everything around was wet) and set about domestic duties (like filtering water and cooking dinner).
This is sunset as viewed from the back of our island. While there were clearly storms off to the west, they stayed away from us overnight. We later talked to people camped just 3 or 4 kilometers away on Three Mile Lake who said they were rained on overnight. We heard only loons (lots of them) and frogs (lots of those too).
The next day started with a dreaded 3km portage to Three Mile Lake. The only good things were that we got it out of the way early in the day and the ridiculously steep hill is right at the very beginning. The eastern half of this portage is along a logging road that did not appear to be used very often. Happy to be paddling again, we crossed Three Mile Lake in no time and followed the 500 meter portage to North Sylvie Lake. North Sylvie is a very pretty lake. We filtered more water here and had a bit of lunch before crossing to the portage on the east side.
It was probably around now that we realized the worst part of this trip isn't the portaging, and it's certainly not the paddling, it's the constant transitioning between the two. The take outs and put-ins started to get a bit difficult leaving Sylvie, often involving lifting the entire canoe over rocks, or standing knee deep in mud unloading it. It's another 500 meters of trail to Boggy Lake where Trout was waiting (impatiently as always). By now we had developed a couple different portaging techniques. We had our 43 pound (20 kg) canoe, about a 40 lb (18 kg) drysack and a larger maybe 55 lb (25 kg) drysack. We started each portage with Melanie carrying the large pack, and David carrying the smaller pack and the canoe. If it was a long portage, David would eventually abandon the smaller pack and start shuttling the two items. Once Melanie reached the far end of the portage, she'd come back for the smaller pack. Basically, we were able to single portage anything under 1 km, but longer than that it became sort of a 1.5x portage.
Boggy Lake is depressing in its smallness. It takes longer to pack the canoe and unpack the canoe than it does to paddle across to the next portage - a heartbreaking 1.1 km to Dahinda Lake. The good news though - Boggy Lake was the high point on our trip so all remaining portages were a net loss of altitude.
We crossed Rattrap Lake under the threat of thunderstorms looming to the north and west. The final portage into Maple Lake was a relatively easy 450 meters. As we paddled into the lake, it started raining. Maple has about 8 campsites but they're scattered all over the lake. The Algonquin system allows you to reserve a site on a lake, but not a particular site. So far on our trip only about 10 percent of campsites had been occupied. As we crossed the lake we could tell at least 1 of the 2 southern islands were occupied. Having enjoyed our previous island experience we headed for what is sort of the central-western island in the lake. It was vacant and we were happy to take it after 8 hours of travel. This island was a bit longer than the previous one. It also did not have a nice sandy beach so the canoe had to be pulled up on rocks. It is very private though, facing an isolated boggy shoreline.
Day 3 was Maple Lake back to Kiosk. We started with a paddle across the rest of Maple Lake before finding the first, very short portage into Maple Creek. There was a short paddle across a stagnant lake to the next portage. That trail is 820 meters and a bit more difficult. One hill was so steep that it was nearly impossible to keep the canoe from banging against the ground. When we reached the end, there was a group of 8 or 9 girls headed up Maple Creek. In fact, we saw more people along Maple Creek than anywhere else in the park. Another short creek paddle leading to another portage. This one leaves from a campsite (pictured here) where we actually couldn't find the portage trail for several minutes. It leads up a hill from the campsite but was overgrown here and hard to find.
The end of this 650 meter portage leads to what might otherwise be a lovely little pool at the bottom of a waterfall on Maple Creek. This is the view from the water. It wasn't all that lovely in our case because we reached the end the same time a scout troop reached it from the other direction. We considered doing a mock-documentary here of How Not to Portage. They had three canoes and about 20 packs. They scattered their belongings all over the take-out area, left the canoes untied and headed up the hill with a paddle or two each. We actually couldn't find a spot to put our canoe in. Since we weren't about to wait for them to portage some of their stuff and make the return trip for the rest, we tied their canoes end to end and pushed two of them back into the creek (yes, it was in fact quite tempting to just push all three untied back out there). From here it was a short paddle to another very short portage (90m). Here we met two people and a dog headed upstream who did understand portaging etiquette. The section to the last portage is a very winding bit of Maple Creek. We'd heard a lot of horror stories about the eternal undulations of Maple Creek. Quite frankly - we don't get it. While it does meander back and forth a lot, it's not exactly difficult paddling. The sharp turns make it hard to keep much speed (in a long, heavily-laden canoe at least) but it's still a relatively short section of creek. It rained on us again here and thunderstorms threatened to the north although they once again drifted on past, which is a bit lucky since I don't know exactly where we would've gone out here in the open grassland.
I don't remember a whole lot about the last portage except in thinking (repeatedly), "this is the last portage!". Melanie arrived at the end first where the mouth of Maple Creek is obscured by tall grasses. When I arrived with the pack, she told me we'd have a choice between poling the canoe through grass, or carrying it across mud flats to get to open water. While she was describing this, I saw a hump moving through the grass behind her. It turned out to be a mother moose and her calf. This in turn led to a half-hour portage break while we filmed the moose. Eventually, I went back to get the canoe (which was a few hundred meters back up the trail).
Moose photography is really about two things: moose drool and ear drippage. That's why this is inevitably an award-winning moose photo. It is a shame the grass obscures much of the slobber though. I'm sorry to say the arrival of the canoe (on my head) caused the moose to wander away. Up until then they had clearly been aware of us but didn't seem to care. Trout meanwhile was not aware of them. He was overdue for a nap which he took in the canoe on the way back to Kiosk. On our way back across Lake Kioshkokwi, the wind came up against us giving us one final arm workout as we paddled back across waves. Total travel time this day was around 6 hours including snacks and moose filming. It was right around 5 PM when we reached Kiosk so we returned our rental canoe, threw everything else in the car and headed back to North Bay for a shower, a bed and food that wasn't made in a single pot on a tiny propane tank.