Thursday, 31 July 2014

Day 3: Red Pine Bay to Catfish Lake

I woke up to the sound of raindrops hammering the tent fly. While my get-there-itis was suggesting I take down camp in the rain and get moving, my rational side won the battle that morning. I knew it was a shorter travel day, and so had the luxury of burrowing back into my sleeping bag to see if the weather improved. I decided I could hang out for a few hours and still have plenty of time to make Catfish that day. While I was happy to wait out the rain, breakfast couldn't wait – I was hungry! I'd set up a tarp the evening before and that morning it came in handy. After a walk through the wet brush to recover my bear barrel, I had a dry area to hang out and boil water. With a full stomach and a cup of coffee in my hand, I headed back to the tent to wait out the weather.

Waiting on the Weather

Fortunately, the rain did eventually stop. I took down camp in a hurry, worried the still overcast skies would open up again at any moment. Not long afterwards I loaded up and pushed off from my campsite.

Leaving my Campsite on Red Pine Bay
Today was an exciting day - I was going to explore new territory! While I’d been on Red Pine Bay and its neighbour to the north, Burntroot Lake, many times, the rest of the day’s trip was to be a first for me. River travel and its inevitable series of portages is not ideal kayak country, but this route wasn’t bad: 5 portages totalling 1.4 km. With Catfish Lake as my destination, I was confident the reward would be worth it.
Approaching the first portage of the day from Burntroot into Perley, I decided to quickly scout the rapids on the off chance I could run them. They looked entirely paddleable! The volume of water and force of the current, however, meant that striking a hidden rock could result in a badly damaged boat. I decided that saving ten minutes wasn’t worth the risk and returned to the portage. I stepped out onto shore and was quickly reminded that the bug jacket wasn’t optional equipment. I hastily pulled it out of a dry hatch and zipped it up. It was to remain on for the rest of the travel day. The trip down Perley and into the beginning of the Petawawa was uneventful. As I approached the next portage, 380m, and with thoughts of the last rapids still bouncing around in my head, I made a truly foolish decision. While I wasn't willing to risk running the rapids, knowing I was far from help if something went wrong, I decided to walk my kayak through them rather than take the portage. Not lining my kayak from the shore – there was no walkable shore – but literally wading down the rapids hanging onto the boat.
Wading the Rapids

In the end I succeeded with no major mishaps, but it took me three times longer than the portage would have as I carefully felt for footings in the current. Tired, wet and annoyed at myself for making such a poor choice, I travelled the remainder of the Petawawa in more traditional fashion, with no attempt to skip the remaining portages. At the end of the Pet I reached a split in the waterway. To the right was Sunfish Lake, which I would be passing through in a few days’ time. To the left, hidden around a few more bends, was Catfish. After a long glance to the right as if I could divine my future, I turned left and resumed paddling.
Catfish Lake was as beautiful as I had hoped. It probably didn't hurt that after an entire day of overcast skies, the sun made an appearance just as the Catfish opened up before me. Open water and windy weather allowed me to take off my head netting for the first time since I left Burntroot. At the recommendation of a fellow Algonquin Adventures forum poster, the campsite on Shangri La Island was my hoped-for destination. While my map suggested Shangri La could be cockroach infested, I figured I’d take my chances if it was available. As I paddled closer to the island I could understand the recommendation: a massive, sloping slab of Canadian Shield, with a view of more than half the compass. And as luck would have it, it was mine for the taking!
Walking from the waterline to the firepit area of Shangri La felt like an uphill portage, but knowing this was my home for the next three nights, a first for me in Algonquin, I was practically floating up with my gear. On a typical solo trip I'm on the move every day, but I was very much looking forward to putting down roots, especially with such a gorgeous campsite under me.
Shangri La Island, Catfish Lake


The skies finished clearing, the wind kept the bugs at bay, and I was had a peaceful late afternoon and evening of sunning, swimming, and relaxing in paradise.

Shangri La
The next day was to be my own little Brent run: a day trip to the Brent store where a resupply would hopefully be waiting for me, followed by returning to my campsite on Catfish. A poster on my Algonquin forums, with a trip plan beginning at Cedar a few days' earlier, had offered to drop off a package at the Brent store for me. Two weeks earlier I'd mailed him a food package in a shoe box, and I was hoping my trust wasn't misplaced. With ~7k of portaging in total, including the infamous Unicorn Hill, it was once again an early night for me. I wanted to get an early start, in case the day was longer than I hoped it was going to be. After a last walk around the campsite to make sure everything was in order, I crawled into my tent and called it a night.


  1. When can we catch the rest of the videos and trip report??

    1. I got lazy after the first three. Now that paddling season is more or less over I'll get to work on the rest!

  2. Any sign of the reported roaches on Shangri La?

    1. In three days on Shangri La I saw a single cockroach. It was massive mind you, so was definitely not alone, but the island certainly didn't feel "infested". It's such a gorgeous campsite I'm happy for anything on Jeff's Maps that scares people away, so let's keep it our little secret.

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  4. With the paddling season drawing toward its end for 2015, any chance of the trip's last 4 days?