Saturday, July 27, 2013

Trip Log: Achray, Algonquin Park - July 15-18, 2013

I can't believe it's taken so long to get this trip log posted!  Between internet issues, Blogger being weird and erasing half the post, and getting a puppy three days after we got home, it's been a busy week.  We got an 8 week old Australian Cattle Dog and are hoping he'll be a great little canoe dog.


The plan was to spend a night at Lake St. Peter Provincial Park to shorten the drive.  While the adults are okay with a long road trip, the kids were dreading it.  Mum and Dad took the kids with them, and Chris and I were supposed to meet them there, but issues at Chris' job meant he didn't get home until 7:30 pm.  With Lake St. Peter at least 2 1/2 hours away, and the need to get a few things in town before we left, the two of us decided to wait until the next morning to head out and just meet them at Achray.  We went into town to get the things we still needed to pick up, and realized nothing was open anyway.

Day 1

Chris and I got up early and finished packing up, then headed into town by 9 (okay not that early) to gas up the car, pick up two boat safety kits for the kid's kayaks and a few things from the grocery store. By 9:45 we were on the road, headed to Achray.  I won't kid you, it was a hot, long drive, made worse by a long wait in construction between Paudash and Bancroft.

We arrived at the site just before 3, to find mum and dad had the trailer set up, and the kids had already been swimming.  The site had a small beautiful beach that it shared with the next site over.  It was the best part of the whole trip.  Hauling all your stuff to a beach, especially when it's hot, means you either spend the whole day there, or don't go as often.  Honestly, I find sitting around a beach all day really boring, so it was nice to be able to do things around camp and swim when the mood struck.  Also, it meant we could launch canoes and kayaks whenever we wanted, which meant we used them a lot more than we might have.

We had some lunch right away, Grillem's and hot dogs, then swam again.  We pretty much just lounged around in the water for 3 hours then started dinner.  Chris and the kids stayed in the water, playing around in Chris's whitewater kayak while we cooked.  The deer flies were kind of brutal as well as the horse flies. We ate in the screen tent so it wasn't an issue.

After dinner, Chris and I took the kids out in the canoe, across the lake to see if we could find the pictographs.  We didn't see any, or maybe the one red smear that looked like a backwards E was one, we weren't sure.  We did see two painted turtles sitting on a log in the channel leading into Carcajou Bay.

On the way back, we saw six loons swimming nearby.  One of them dove, and popped back up super close to the canoe.  He dove again and must have gone behind us because he didn't join the other five.  The kids practiced making loon calls like Jeremy had taught them last summer at the cottage.  Squatch had no luck at all but Bubbie managed a few good ones.  The loons didn't answer back though, like they did for Jeremy.

As it started to get dark, we realized our neighbours had not come back.  Their dog had been tied up all day, and had been pretty much alone the whole day too.  I had heard stories of people leaving their dogs tied up through the night, and of wolves coming in to camp and ripping them apart.  The people next to us came back around 10:30 and took him into their trailer, but I couldn't help but feel bad for the poor guy.  The mosquitoes had been out as darkness set in, and he was whining.  I think they had friends staying at a dog free site and went there after dinner.

I don't want to start a rant about pets in the park, but I notice the laws regarding pets are the ones people tend to ignore the most.  We have had dogs come and almost pee on our tent in the past because they were off leash. These people kept their dog on his leash (except when they were playing with him at the beach) but leaving him alone all day?  How do they know he's not barking all day, disturbing other campers?  How do you know he's got enough water when it is crazy hot?  It's not out of the realm of possibility for bears to come into a campground.  In this case, the dog was mostly quiet.  He whined a bit, especially once it got dark, but I can't blame him.

We went to bed fairly early, and spent a good part of the night killing mosquitoes inside the tent trailer.  We found out later that one corner of the tent wasn't secured properly.  It made for an exhausting night, though not quite as bad as when Chris and I stayed on Pen Lake.

The next morning, we got coffee going, and made bacon, eggs and maple beans for breakfast.  Without an electrical site, we wanted to make sure we used up anything that could go bad.  Most of our meals were either made with things that wouldn't go bad, or things I'd dried.  Mum and dad had brought the bacon and eggs for breakfast at Lake St. Peter, but since the kids don't like eggs, they decided to wait until Chris and I were there.

While we ate we discussed our options for the day.  We wanted to go to High Falls and we wanted to paddle the Barron Canyon from either the Brigham parking area, or the Barron Canon Picnic area.  It was super hot and we decided High Falls would be the better choice because the next day was supposed to be even hotter.  Also, there were two option for getting to High Falls, a 2 hour paddle or a 1 hour hike.  With the deer flies so bad, we opted to paddle, and mum and dad decided to stay at camp. My mum has bad reactions to fly bites, and my dad isn't very comfortable in deep water (or in a tippy canoe on top of deep water.)

The kids wanted to kayak over, and Chris said okay. About 5 minutes into the paddle, we realized it was a mistake but didn't turn around.  We should have.  It was a horribly exhausting ordeal that took a lot of the fun out of exploring the High Falls area.  The problem was, the kids were okay on short paddles, but Squatch kept veering way off course and getting frustrated about his problems steering.  Chris and I were spending a lot of our time sitting in the middle of the lake, with Chris trying to explain how better to hold the paddle (using terms not really suited to a frustrated and pissy 9 year old) which only made Squatch more upset because he didn't understand.  By the time we made it to the portage (30 meters) I just wanted to go home and swim and have a big cold drink.  The kids had been determined to portage their kayaks themselves, which didn't happen.  Squatch made it 3 feet, and Bubbie not much further.  I took the kayak and Squatch got in the canoe.

The kid size kayaks were not made for adults.  Duh.  All that happens is it sinks lower in the water, and you have to paddle twice as hard...with a paddle designed for kids, so is far too short.  I made it about 10 minutes and we had to find an empty campsite and Chris took over the kayak with me in the stern of the canoe.  Squatch swears he knows how to paddle a canoe...and he knows how to hold the paddle, but he manages 3 or 4 strokes then stops to rest.  I'm n
ot used to doing anything more than basic paddling (and never really learned how to do more than that) so it was extremely frustrating.  By this point, Bubbie was tired and Chris was realizing, yeah paddling a kid size kayak wasn't easy (it wasn't just me being a wuss) so we all got to another empty campsite and tied the little boats to the back of the canoe.

I had hoped with them being empty and so light, they'd be easy to pull, unlike last year when we towed the kids around Haliburton Lake in an inflatable dingy.  It wasn't much easier.  In fact, it was like paddling through soup...thick pea soup.  But, we could see a point of land and thought that was where Stratten lake turns to the left so we kept going.  It wasn't the point.  When we got to it, we saw another point...that wasn't the one either.  By the fourth point I was ready to cry and just find a campsite and stay there for lunch, no longer caring about High Falls at all.  Chris suggested we find a spot on the side of the lake with no campsites and stash the kayaks, but we were sure the next point was where we needed to go, and besides, paddling across the lake would be more work.  It also wouldn't help us if the kayaks were stashed at that end of the lake, we'd still have to tow them all the way across Stratten and Grand.

Finally, we made it to the take out, where there were about a dozen canoes and kayaks on shore.  We pulled up further along the inlet and tied our canoe up, then gathered our picnic lunch and headed up the trail.  I should say that I gathered up the lunch, cameras, and water...nobody else carrying anything, and with the trail being so rough, I had a hard time since I was just in flip flops. I know, I really need to invest in some sport sandals for canoe tripping.  Anyway, by the time we got to the water slide, I was pissed off, tired and it didn't help matters that there were a lot of people there.  My whole reason for wanting to go was to take pictures, but there was no way I could get any good scenic shots without at least 2 people in frame.  I should have expected it but it hadn't seemed like there were that many people at the campground, and not exactly an easy drive for day trippers.  I swear my parents must have been the only people back at camp.  I suppose there could have been people interior camping, but I was too tired to think logically at the time.

We had fun though.  Bubbie was a little scared, but Squatch barely hesitated.  I am slightly ashamed to say I didn't try it.  I was 99% sure I'd lose my glasses if I wore them, and if I took them off I'd end up asking some strange man to help me find the rope to get back out of the water, thinking it was Chris.  After I took lots of pictures and video, Bubbie decided she was done, so Chris and Squatch headed further down the river to check out the next little falls.  Bubbie and I found a deep pool to just float in while the water flowed past us.  It was nice and relaxing.  By the time the boys got back, I was feeling much better.

Since it had taken us so long to get there, we didn't stay as long as we would have liked.  I wanted to pump water before we left, but Chris didn't think it was necessary.  By the time we got half way down Stratten Lake I was desperately thirsty.  Stopping to pump water now, with the wind in our face and good waves building, would have had Chris upset, so I handed my paddle to Bubbie.  She lasted about 2 minutes before stopping.

By the time we got back to camp, we were like zombies.  The kids just wanted out of the canoe and Chris and I were so tired and hot.  I kept paddling with my eyes closed hoping if I opened them a few strokes later, we'd be visibly closer back to camp.  It didn't help.  As soon as the canoe hit our beach, we jumped out and dove straight into the water.  Mum had moved her kayak down to the water so she could meet us half way across the lake, but by the time she saw us coming, and got her swimsuit on and gathered all her stuff, we were about 30 meters from shore, so she just came swimming with us.  Dad came down too and we spent a while just cooling off.

After having some snacks and lots and lots of drinks, we got started on dinner.  We like having spaghetti when camping, it's easy and cheap...and the kids don't complain about it.  I cooked up a big pan of vegetables and dried them before coming instead of making a big pot of sauce and freezing it.  It worked out pretty well.  Mum was bringing the sauce, which is why I didn't dry the sauce and vegetables all together.  We also had salad with lots of fresh vegetables.

Dad and Chris got a fire going, then I suggested to Chris that we go do the Jack Pine hike.  The kids and mum took their kayaks down to the trail end, and we were going to meet them there and take pictures of them with the sun setting behind them.  It didn't happen.  By the time we got to the main road the deer flies were three times as bad as at camp, and once we got to the trail head, the mosquitoes came out in swarms.  I swiped my hand down the back of one arm and killed seven of them.  We barely made it 100 feet down the trail before we turned back.  It didn't help I was wearing shorts, a tank top and flip flops and that I had a sun burn on my upper arms.  Every slap at a mosquito hurt like heck.

I should mention here, I managed to get another weird sunburn.  A few years ago, on a canoe trip, I got a tramp stamp burn, this time I got saddle bags.  I'd put on sunscreen while standing, but once I knelt in the canoe, the hem of the shorts rode up a bit, leaving a patch high on my outer thigh unprotected.

We toasted marshmallows, made jiffy pop and the kids tried some s'smores.  They made some with peanut butter smeared on a graham cracker, and some with a piece of banana squished on as well.  Squatch liked the peanut butter ones best.

Another night of mosquitoes in the trailer meant little sleep.  Also, after the canoe trip I drank a ton of water, so I was up several times in the night to go to the bathroom.  Because the bathrooms (flush toilets in outhouse like stalls) had lights in them, there were tons of mosquitoes inside.  I got bit more times while in there than I did the rest of the trip.

Day 3

Breakfast was cereal, granola bars, bagels and apples.  We were all pretty tired, and it was even hotter than the day before, with humidity putting the temperature at about 41, so we pretty much decided to just hang around camp and swim.  The plan had been to drive to the Brigham parking area and paddle down the Barron Canyon but neither Chris nor I felt like paddling much.

Bubbie and I walked to the park office and bought a block of ice.  While there I checked out the weather forecast and saw they were calling for severe thunderstorms in the afternoon and into the evening.  We weren't worried but decided for sure heading out to do any hikes or paddles would be a bad idea.
Camp all prepared for more rain

Around noon, it started to rain.  We secured the campsite, made sure the screen tent was tied off well if it got really windy.  Then we sat in the trailer.  Mum had a nap, the kids drew some pictures, Chris read and Dad and I talked a bit.  After a while, I took the camera up to our bed and shot some video of the storm over the lake.

Looking across Grand Lake to Carcajou Bay
When the rain stopped, I made lunch - baja burritos from Lipsmackin' Vegetarian Backpackin'. They turned out really well.  We also hung out some tarps over the trailer so we could have the windows open if it rained again since it was so hot and humid.  Being in the trailer with no airflow would have been horrible.

Since the weather looked so promising, I convinced Chris it would be a fun idea to paddle across the lake to Carcajou Bay and check out the campsites there.  Part way across, the skies clouded over again but we thought it would be okay.  Just before we got to the narrows, the skies opened up and it poured like crazy.  We turned around, and with a good tail wind made it back pretty quickly.  Just as the bow of the canoe touched the beach, the rain stopped, the wind died and the sun came out.  Chris jokingly said it was such a nice day, we should go for a paddle. There was lots of fog over the hills, over Carcajou Bay and along the river to Stratten Lake.

We swam again, then made dinner.  One of my favourite dutch oven dinners is an adaptation of a recipe my mum found.  Basically it was ground beef, onion, barbeque sauce and a can of baked beans in tomato sauce with canned bisquits on top.  I added peppers to it, then eventually started adding mushrooms, Franks Red Hot Sweet Chili sauce, and a few dashes of Worchestershire. Since my dad is now a vegetarian, I used lentils in place of the ground beef and it turned out really well.  Though with the rain, we ended up making it on the stove, and skipped the biscuits.  Instead, we made more potatoes in foil, this time with garlic butter.

After dinner, the kids and mum paddled around on their kayaks again, and Chris and I headed out in the canoe so he could fish a bit.  As it got darker, we saw lightening over the horizon so we headed back and battened down the camp again.  Once in the trailer, the kids and Chris played cards while I shot more video out the window toward the lake.  The storm didn't last long, but towards the end there were three really loud bangs that had us all a little jittery.  We were discussing getting into our vehicles for safety but after those three, the storm moved off toward Stratten Lake and we decided to go to bed.

The kids had a hard time falling asleep that night.  Between asking for aloe vera gel for their sunburn, and Polysporin for a few scratches, they kept making me jump out of bed.  It was midnight before they finally settled down.

The next morning was buggy after the rain.  We'd hoped to hike the Baron Canyon Trail on the way out but it didn't seem all that appealing while being swarmed with mosquitoes.  So we packed up and headed out after a quick breakfast of bagels, cereal, and apples.

We stopped in Pembroke for lunch at Tim Hortons and started the long drive back home.

The best part of this trip, as I've said, was the fact we had our own beach.  It let us swim and paddle as often as we wanted, and saved us from being bored when it was too hot to want to do all the things we'd hoped to do when we planned this trip.  The kids had a lot of fun, swimming whenever they wanted.  Achray has two really nice beaches and we didn't swim at either of them.  It was kind of disappointing, not doing any of the hikes or paddling the canyon but it just means we'll have a reason to go back again...maybe in the fall when the bugs are gone.

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