Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Day 2: Red Rock to Red Pine

If you haven't read it, here's Day 1

Day 2 was one of the more ambitious travel days on this trip, so my morning began early. On top of that, the forecast before I set out had predicted 30 km/hr winds, rain, and possible thunderstorms for the day. The morning greeted me with strong winds, but no rain (or sign of) in sight yet. The sooner I could get on the move, the happier I’d be.
Breakfast was oatmeal and coffee, boiling the water over my new Bushbuddy. It was the only stove I’d brought on the trip, leaving my Whisperlite (and its fuel bottle) at home. This was partly to save a few ounces of weight while portaging, but also to enjoy the added challenge. With rain in the forecast, I wasn’t entirely sure dinner would be hot that evening.

 Boiling Water Before Dawn

I was packed up and on the water by 7. While I did see some more of Red Rock on my way to the Happy Isle portage, I knew I’d have to come back some day with more time to explore. The Red Rock to Happy Isle portage was where I discovered the black flies were still around, and in very healthy numbers! The portage was very wet, very mucky, and very buggy, and I was glad to see the end of it. The first of many on this day, however, so I didn’t let it affect my spirits.
Happy Isle and Welcome passed quickly. I pumped some water for the coming portages. I filmed a kayak portage start to finish between Happy Isle and Merchant (On my YouTube Channel if you're interested). I saw a single campsite in use on Happy Isle (with 6 canoes on it), none on Merchant.
The Merchant to Big Trout portage, while almost 2km in length, is one of the kindest portages in the park. Nice footing, no major ups and downs, I’ve never found it anything but an enjoyable experience, and that day was no exception. Well, as enjoyable as portaging gets. I’d been wearing my bug jacket since I left Red Rock, and while the head netting came off while out on the lakes, it was zipped up fully on all portages. The winding stream leading into Big Trout was buggy enough that I stayed fully covered until I reached open water.

 Paddling the stream leading to Big Trout Lake

This section of Big Trout often acts as a wind funnel, and with strong winds out of the west today was no exception. The wind was blowing, waves were crashing over the deck of my kayak, and I was laughing like a madman, enjoying every second of it. I pulled up to the backside of the first island campsite, enjoying a few moments of shelter from the wind. I briefly considered getting out and taking a longer break, but decided I’d push farther down Big Trout before taking some time off the water. Besides, my route would take me past a favorite campsite of mine. If it was available, it would be a fantastic place to recharge. I pushed away from the island’s edge and started paddling. A few strokes ahead I could see a line in the water, where it went from calm and sheltered to windy and wavy.

Back into the Wind
Big Trout’s largest island up ahead may have been sheltering me from some of the wind still, but it sure didn’t feel like it. I headed for that island, ducking behind it and out the channel on the other side as so many paddlers do. Rounding the corner out into open lake, my pit-stop destination was in sight, and it looked like nobody was on it. I wasn’t terribly surprised, having seen no canoes on the water all day and only a single campsite (two lakes behind me) in use.
Pulling up to that site was like meeting up with an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while. I’d last camped there two years ago on a mid-June loop. While it was only for a single night, I had fond memories of my time there. The weather had been gorgeous, the bugs virtually nonexistent, and I’d had the lake entirely to myself. Comparing the conditions then to my current trip, I couldn’t help but laugh. But with the bugs being what they were, I found myself hoping the wind stayed as strong in the days ahead.
After a brief hello to the campsite, I walked out onto its best feature: a huge chunk of glorious Canadian Shield overlooking the water. Having not ‘called home’ since I woke up early that morning, I set my SPOT on the rock beside me and pressed the buttons to send an OK home to my family. That underway, I spent some time lazing in the sun and munching on snacks.
Call home complete and the edge taken off my hunger, I clambered back into the kayak and got underway. While I wasn’t feeling pressed for time, I still had quite a bit of paddling that day and was looking forward to reaching my destination.The rest of Big Trout was uneventful, as was the portage into Longer. The North/South section of Longer is a pretty mundane paddle on most occasions, but today I saw a pair of canoes in the distance! Having not spoken to anyone since pushing off the Opeongo dock the previous morning, I was looking forward to exchanging a few words, or even just a nod and hello if they were traveling the other way. It turned out to be a group of fishermen out trying their luck. We spent a few minutes chatting about the weather, the fishing, the bugs and how great it was to be in Algonquin, and then on I pressed. (Weather: windy. Fishing: no luck. Bugs: bad. Greatness scale: pretty great).

Longer Lake Fishermen

Buoyed by a few minutes’ of conversation, the rest of the Longer Lake paddle passed in contented silence. After the turn towards the 40 meter portage, I saw the first (and as it turned out only) moose of the trip. A bull moose, he barely acknowledged my presence as I paddled past. For some reason I failed to take a single picture, despite the close range and his apparent indifference. Sometimes my get-there-itis gets the better of me.
On one of the two short portages to follow I encountered a father with two kids (at a guess his son and the son’s friend). Brand new to Algonquin tripping and inexperienced paddlers, they’d nonetheless fought their way to this portage from Hogan’s Lake that day. “Is it always like this?” he inquired, referring to the wind and bugs. I laughed, acknowledged they’d gotten a bit unlucky, and wished them well for the remainder of their trip.
My last portage complete, I turned out into Red Pine Bay. After spending a few minutes out of the wind pumping water, I decided the first half decent campsite I came to was going to be home for the night. All I wanted was to be done paddling for the day. To my great surprise the first two campsites I checked out were occupied, doubling the number of campsites I’d seen in use since I portaged out of Opeongo. After paddling to the eastern side of the bay I found a great campsite waiting for me. Too small for any decent sized group, it was perfect for me.

 Campsite on Red Pine Bay

Camp setup complete, a couple hours of lazing, sunning, swimming and a nip or two of rye followed. A pot of water boiled on the stove and a full stomach later, the darker clouds rolling in convinced me an early bedtime was in order. Crawling into my tent, I pulled out the kindle determined to read for a couple of hours. Instead, tired and content, I managed a couple of pages and turned in.

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