Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Trip Log - Prologue: Grand Lake to Barron Canyon, September 2013

Prologue                               go to Day 1                         go to Day 2

I’m surprised it has taken me so long to find my way to Algonquin Park.  My mother grew up in Pembroke, I visited my grandmother there often as a child. A woman should never have to give her age, but let’s just say I’m most likely more than halfway through my life.  In any case, that still gives me lots of time to enjoy the park! 

I’ve canoed and camped (although never on the same trip).  I’ve spent a lot of time cycling in a variety  of places.  I love to hike.  I love to cross country ski and have been doing it since before you could buy cross country skis in the sports stores. I used to own a very rudimentary tent trailer and have done lots of car camping.  I love the outdoors.  I just thought Algonquin Park sounded so far away from Ottawa.  Then I met someone who loves the park and he introduced us in the summer of 2013.  We went for a hike, a long one, starting in the Achray campground and ending at High Falls.  It was about 20 km total for the day.  My feet were heavy in the old hiking boots I was wearing and I ended up losing two toenails, the major one on one foot, the minor one the opposite foot.  They both eventually grew back.  And I bought new hiking shoes, Keen ones.
High Falls below the waterslides
The man had a plan, he was showing me the jaw-dropping views in hopes of pulling me in as deep as he is in love with the park.  I already had a Canon Rebel digital SLR camera and it came along on all the adventures.  The second trip in late August was a short hike to the top of Barron Canyon.  We sat on the lip of the rock, swinging our legs over the edge, and I said to him, “when we are at work, this is the place our mind comes to and where we really want to be.”  
My camera couldn't do this view justice
The day was gorgeous, there were a few canoeists making their way up the river, the worm was on the hook and I bit.  Our first canoe camping trip the end of September would be to make our way down that river, looking up at the cliffs we were now sitting on.  After that short hike, we did the shorter route to High Falls, 5 km in, 5 km out.  Along the way we stopped at a hike-in camping site on a small body of water that was along a portage.  There was a small waterfall across the “pond”, and we checked the site out.

The September trip was in celebration of my birthday.  It was our first canoe-camping trip together, okay, my first ever canoe-camping trip.  We did a lot of planning, we didn’t really have much of what we needed for the trip.  We would be renting the canoe, as well as the paddles and life jackets.  My brother had a lot of camping equipment we could borrow.  In the end I only borrowed a Therma-Rest for myself.  LT ended up buying a tent on a “just looking” trip to MEC.  Shortly after that, we were in Bushtukah buying 0° down sleeping bags by Chinook, I splurged on a pillow.  I could not believe that the sleeping bag came in a compression sack that made it about the size of an American football. 

For the rest of the equipment, he already had a large backpack.  I was able to borrow my son’s MEC huge backpack he’d bought to trek through Europe with.  It was kind of cool, as it came with a smaller day-sized backpack that zippered onto the front of the larger pack.  Cool as a concept, however it did limit how full the larger pack could be when the smaller bag was zippered on.  I also would have some balance problems, and ended up trying to wear the smaller backpack on my front.  

Talking about packing, we really over packed.  I had some car camping items that I dragged along (T-Fal nesting camping pots, that my sister still eyes jealously – they were a special deal at Costco – and they never appeared again, either at Costco, or any other store).  LT has a Whisperlite stove, we picked up plastic dishes to eat from, a matching plastic mug and camping KFS at MEC.  I had a couple of little folding chairs, really suitable more for kindergardeners than adults, that we bungee’d onto his pack.

We severely over packed on the food as well.  We did not have a water filtration system, he carried most of the 8 litres we had for the 2 days/1 night trip.  I made a beef stew with potatoes, carrots and gravy for our one dinner that would have fed a party of six.  He made wrap sandwiches for the first day’s lunch, again enough for six strapping men.
When we were planning our route, I checked with my youngest brother what he thought of our plans and he was very worried for me.  He kept saying that we were biting off too much, especially for a first trip and considering it was going to be the 29th of September, the weather could be a really debilitating factor.  We went back to the drawing board and decided to try to go a bit further the first day.  Here’s the trip plan:

Launching from the Achray Campground:
Waterway, approximate distance to paddle
Grand Lake, 4 km
50 M
Stratton Lake, 3.3 km
80 M
St. Andrew’s Lake, 4 km
550 M
High Falls Lake, 1.3 km
300 M
Ooze Lake, .5 km
640 M
Opalescent Lake, .5 km
Camp here for the night

Leaving Opalescent Lake:
Waterway, approximate distance to paddle
Opalescent Lake, .5 km
750 M
Brigham Lake, .5 km
100 M
Brigham Chute, .5 km
440 M
Barron River, 8.9 km
345 M
Barron River, 2 km
Squirrel Rapids, destination

Overall, we had nine portages in two days of paddling, for a total distance of 3,255 M.  LT arranged to have his car shuttled from the Achray Campground to the Squirrel Rapids parking lot.  It was nice to have a one-way trip, worth every penny of that extra fee.

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