Saturday, November 1, 2014

Trip Log: Algonquin Park - Kingscote Lake - August 6-8, 2014

 Chris didn't know when he'd get a week of holidays until about 2 days before the holiday started, so we weren't really prepared for a longer trip.  I had a rough (and totally impractical) outline, but all we knew was we really wanted to do Algonquin's Barron Canyon...until the morning we were going to leave and the kids decided they really didn't want to drive that far.  After some grumbling and arguing, we decided to try Kingscote Lake.

As much as we would have loved to venture further into the back country than the access lake, we knew from experience that Biscuit would make portages miserable and as all the ones we'd be taking from Kingscote would be fairly long, we decided to just make it a short paddle and a relaxing three days.

We arrived at Birch Point Campground to get our permit and it started to rain, but by the time we got to the put in, the sun was back out and we were able to load the canoe fairly quickly except for one little hiccup...I'd forgotten poop bags for the dog and as luck would have it, he went thirty seconds before we would have pushed off.  As Kingscote has no garbage facilities at all, we had to bag it up with a grocery bag and leave it in the car for 3 days...not pleasant to return to, but we had no real choice.

Soon enough we were on our way, with Biscuit darting back and forth for the whole hour of paddling, nearly tipping us every ten seconds.  Most of the sites seemed dim and a little scary as we passed.  It was nearing 4pm and they weren't getting much light.  We decided on a few back ups but kept paddling.  The last site on the lake, the one I'd read was a good one, was empty, so we took it.  We could see from far off that it sat on a rocky ledge, and we hoped it would provide good swimming.

Our site on Kingscote Lake
It's a decent site, mostly open so not a great summer site if you want some cool shade, but it got a nice breeze for keeping bugs away.  It also didn't offer much shelter from wind for cooler season camping, but we were happy enough with it.  The kids weren't impressed.  After the site we had at Fishog, I think it would take a lot to impress them, and in comparison, this one was pretty small.

We set up the tent and the kids set about exploring.  There wasn't much room to explore as there was at Fishog.  The few trails were narrow and the surrounding bush was thick.  Thankfully the thunderbox was fairly close and in good shape.  There was even a rickety old picnic table for cooking on.

We weren't there ten minutes before Squatch got his pants wet.  His shorts had gotten wet from the dog splashing water into the canoe, so he'd changed and then the three of them were fishing.  Bubbie got a spinner stuck on a rock and it broke the line.  It was only about 2 feet out into the water, and the bedrock extended out far enough, but it was slippery from algae.  He ended up stripping to his underwear and tried to get it, but only managed to flick the spinner further away.  Chris went swimming after dinner and found it.  

Dinner the first night was lentil sloppy Joe's but on rice rather than buns.  I wasn't really thinking clearly when I made the rice, I boiled water (without having measured it or the rice) and then dumped the rice in...way too much water!  And I'd forgotten to bring salt so we had bland, mushy Minute Rice...not pleasant.  The dog got lots of left overs (which he barfed up at about midnight, luckily I got him outside the tent in time.)

Everyone but me fished most of the evening (I don't have a licence) and only caught a few rock bass or perch.  I saw a mouse run over the rock and nobody believed me, until I went to the thunderbox and when I got back they were all watching him scurry around.  There was also a fairly large garter snake living at the site.  We saw him several times, sunning on the rocks. I imagine he is well fed because there were always a few dozen frogs at the little sandy spot where we landed the canoe.  

Chris took Biscuit for a little paddle and nearly flipped within thirty seconds, so he came back, dropped off the dog, and went out by himself to fish.  

Chris tried out his portable chainsaw and got a few logs cut from a fallen tree for a fire.  He said it worked well unless the tree was a rotten, then it just bound up and was hard to cut.  Marshmallow's were toasted...Biscuit kept trying to steal burning sticks from the fire, so all in all, it was a pretty normal evening for us at camp.  We even managed to get everything cleaned up, and brushed our teeth before it got dark so Chris could hang the food barrel while he could still see.

That night, I didn't really sleep.  I don't know why I was so much more spooked than I had been at Fishog.  Maybe the lake just had a more remote feel to it since we'd driven down a narrow dirt road for 12KM to get there, and had only passed one other used campsite on the way across the lake.  We heard loons all night, owls too and around 2:30 we heard a pack of coyotes going crazy.  They sounded like they were just down the shore from us.  Coincidently, that was the only time Biscuit barked at the night sounds.  Chipmunks skittered around the tent all night and he didn't even wake up.

I got up around 6:30 to take the dog out and use the thunder box.  There was fog on the lake, and in the rising sun, it looked like gold dancing over the calm water.  I took a few pictures and crawled back into the tent.  We'd all been chilly that night and took our time waking up once the sun started to warm the tent up.

Breakfast was oatmeal.  The kids had packets of instant oatmeal and Chris and I had my super healthy oatmeal.  We also had tea and hot chocolate.  It was a bit of a hassle, trying to boil enough water for all the drinks and instant oatmeal, then making the other kind of oatmeal.  By the time it was done, it was practically lunch time. 

The kids spent half the morning with their feet in the water, letting minnows nibble their toes.  It sounds weird, but they thought it was hilarious.  Once camp was cleaned up and the food barrel rehung, we took the trail leading along the shore from our site, hoping to get to the portage to Big Rock Lake. It wasn't a great distance, probably less than 50m.  It looks like there was once a clear trail there, but several downed trees made it a bit tricky.  Once on the portage though, it was a nice hike and we enjoyed the chance to explore a bit.  Squatch kept commenting that he couldn't imagine doing the trail with gear (and he wanted to do the Meanest Link a few months ago!!!.)  We met a family portaging with so much stuff it was kind of scary.  Two canoes, a kayak, three big packs, two food barrels, and a pile of odds and ends.  There was five of them, and a 18 month old golden retriever.  Biscuit didn't like the other dog and after a few seconds of sniffing began snarling at her.

Sadly, the put in to Big Rock Lake was kind of a let down.  It really wasn't the kind of place where you could sit and enjoy the scenery while you rested up.  We turned around and headed back to camp to make lunch - "gourmet" Mr. Noodles.  I know, it's pretty hard to make instant ramen gourmet, but that's what the kids call this meal.  Pretty crazy how impressed they are by a few dried veggies and some beef jerky cooked with beef ramen.  Also, it was kind of sad that this also turned out to be everyone's favourite meal of the trip.  While lunch was cooking, we saw two military planes fly super low over the lake.  I'd never seen planes fly that low, it looked like they might skim the tips of the trees. 

Chris had a little nap, then there was more fishing and swimming.  The kids threw Biscuits ball a few feet into the water, hoping he'd grow a pair and learn to like swimming, but it didn't work too well.  The ball floated away so the kids got into the canoe to rescue it then paddled around a bit.  Biscuit freaked because his ball was then in the canoe.  He ran out onto a dead tree sticking out into the water and fell in, panicked, and tried to climb back onto the log.  The water was about a foot deep, but he really did not like it.  After that, every time the kids and Chris went swimming or even mentioned it, he'd run to the tent, crawl under the fly and stomp the tent flat to hide.  Luckily he didn't manage to break any poles, but I think he put a few tiny little holes in the side that you can only see when the light shines through in the moonlight.

Squatch had snapped his line, losing his favourite lure on a rock, so Chris put on the goggles and rescued it.  

Dinner that night was stir fry with minute rice.  I did the rice right this time, boiling the water and pouring it into the rice rather than the other way around.  Unfortunately, the veggies weren't that great.  I had bought a bag of frozen stir fry vegetables and dehydrated them.  They tasted okay but were kind of weird looking and the kids wouldn't really eat them.  

After dinner, Chris took the kids into the canoe to fish.  Biscuit was not happy about being left behind.  He whined the entire time.  I kept thinking any nearby wolves or coyotes would think there was a cub in distress and come check it out.

We had another fire and toasted more marshmallows.  Every time Chris went to bite his marshmallow off his stick, Biscuit would sneak up behind him and try to drag the stick away from him.  The kids and I were tired so we went into the tent while Chris sat up and watched the fire.  He fished a little and caught a small rock bass.  He claims he had a good sized bass on the line but it jumped up into the reflection of the moonlight, spit out his hook and did a little wiggle before swimming away.  I'm not sure if I believe him or not, but it's a pretty good fish story for him to tell.

It was quieter the second night.  Not as many loons and no coyotes.  It was still cold though.  All of us wore all of our clothes.  We hadn't brought much but we layered on every t-shirt and sweater we had and were still kind of chilly.  

I got up with the dog again at 6:30, and again, watched the fog on the lake before crawling back into my sleeping bag.    I was excited about breakfast this day.  I'd dried a can of maple baked beans, as well as potato slices and peppers.  The third item was a quinoa lentil vegan sausage patty.  All in all it wasn't bad.  The patties were kind of dry and the potatoes took forever to rehydrate.  The worst part was the beans dried onto the plates and pot pretty quickly and were really hard to clean with cold water.  I'd pretty much exhausted the easily accessible sticks for the vital stove and really didn't feel like hunting farther into the bush for more to heat washing water so I packed everything dirty into the food barrel to wash at home.  If we'd been staying longer obviously I would have sucked it up and heated up water.

Biscuit ran like a crazed thing from the moment we hit shore on day one.  He dragged us down the portage trail at full speed and then ran some more once we got back to camp.  By day 3, he was so tired he couldn't even stand up to pee, and just went as he lay sleeping.  It was a little scary, to be honest.  I thought there was something wrong with him.  But as soon as we started to put things back into the canoe he was as hyper as ever.

The kids and Chris swam one more time, then we packed up and headed back to the car.  We were all tired and hungry by the time we got there, and luckily there was two more boxes of granola bars stashed in the trunk, as well as a half dozen bottles of water.

So what did I learn on this trip?  I need to make bigger portions of food because we were all hungry still after most of our meals.  I also need to take more snacks.  We ate all the granola bars I brought in about 5 minutes after getting back from our hike.  Next time, I think I'll dry frozen hashbrowns with peppers and onions for breakfast, and maybe try something else with the "sausage" patty idea.  They weren't bad, but the kids wouldn't eat them (surprise) and I had way to much mix for them.

Our thoughts on Kingscote started out sort of negative.  The sites were small and dim, and very few of them looked like they'd have good swimming spots.  As the trip went on, we grew to really like our site.  We liked that the lake was quiet.  We only saw a few other parties the whole time, even though the lady who wrote out my permit said there'd be 7  groups camped on the lake the first night and 5 the second.  We only saw campers at 2 sites, and a few groups heading over the portage to camp deeper in the park.  We saw a few fishing boats, and there are a few cottages on the lake but unlike at Fishog, it actually felt more like back country camping.

Also...since Biscuit likes to bite the water so much, we really need to take some time back at the car to let him pee...a lot.  He went twice as soon as we got him on shore, and ended up dribbling in the car so we had to pull over a bunch of times.  Next time we will give him more time to really make sure he's done.  It might also have had to do with how tired he was.  Either way, Chris was not happy about having the dog piddle in the car.

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