Well, it finally happened. After much anticipation and apprehension I finally left an Algonquin access point to a destination alone. While I will admit that the single night trip occured largely to justify the trip to Dwight I needed for my canoe repairs (I'm having the back seat replaced and skid plates put on,) it had also been three weeks since my last weekend get away, and I will admit I was missing the Park.
Since I needed to stop by Dwight on the way home I decided to stick to the highway 60 corridor for this trip, and decided to stay on Raven Lake, a beautiful and small lake accessible from Access Point 7 via Source and Bruce Lakes.
The trip went as follows:
(I doubled all portages, i.e. headed from point A to point B with the canoe
then, back to point A empty and then to point B again with my gear.)
2:00 pm Toronto Departure
4:35 pm Permit office at Canoe Lake
5:00 pm Source Lake Parking Lot
5:15 pm Source Lake push off
5:45 pm Source->Bruce Portage (540 m)
6:30 pm Bruce Lake push off
6:40 pm Bruce->Raven Lake Portage (920 m)
7:45 pm Raven Lake puch off
8:00 pm Site
Heading out alone was an exciting but also a bit frightening experience for me. As such, I planned a relatively short journey into the Park, that I felt would test my soloing skills, while also practicing my portagiong. As it turned out, the journey was just the right distance for me, as I ended up doubling both portages. The second, longer portage proved to be fairly hilly and at times mucky, but also equiped with some long sections of even boardwalks. While the trails were in good shape, and clearly marked, there were several downed trees that I had to "shave" in order to cross, and one that I had to bush wack around.
End of 1st Portage
My only regret in the trip route was that while I crossed three lakes, the route consisted of 25% canoing, and 75% hiking, a ratio I would have rather had in reverse. Next time I return to this area I hope to spend 4 days, and continue from Raven Lake (on day 2) to Linda Lake for day 3 and then out via Canisbay on day 4.
Portage Rest Area
In any case, once I reached camp my first job at hand was to pump some water, as the one leter bottle I was travelling with was emptied as I canoed the last leg of my journey. Note to self; you drink a lot of water when hiking with a canoe on your head for more then 500 meters. I will admit though that it was not only water that quenched my thurst, as I celebrated my arrival with a few cold beers (in plastic of course) as I went about setting up camp.
By 9:00 pm the camp was set, as I had pitched the tent, unpacked my gear, selected a food hanging spot, cleaned the fire pit collected firewood and stored the canoe on shore for the evening (I took a word of advice from Markus and tied the canoe to a tree even though she was set back from the lake and adjecent some larger cedar trees.)
It was then time for dinner, to which I enjoyed a Backpackers Pantry dinner of Chicken Pa Thai.... one I highly recommend. Following this I relaxed by a fire, and watched a plesent sun set.
A Calm Evening on Raven Lake
Now the bugs. when I first arrived there was a slight breeze, and sunny skies. When I hit Source Lake, there were almost no bugs, and so I didn't put on my bug shirt. By the time I had carried my canoe from Source to Bruce Lake the bugs were swarming, and so my hike back to my gear became more or a jog. Once suited up with my bug jacket and having lathered myself in more bug juice (I used "Ben's 30 Wilderness Insect Repellent Pump Spray" from Mountain Coop; great stuff) I was off again, only to be pestered by the bugs swarming around me, rather then actually biting me. By the time I reached camp though, they had all but left, and so while I set up camp with my bug shirt on, by the time I had dinner, I was able to remove it, as the bugs had moved on. The same was true during my trip out, only I wore my bug shirt the entire trip out. In short the bugs were the worst while I portaged.
Me in my "Bug Gear"
By midnight I was getting tired, and headed to sleep. To my surprise sleeping alone was no big beal, and I was fast asleep in minutes. The following day I was woken at 6:00 am to the sound of a light rain and rolling thunderstorm. Being in no hurry to vacate my tent in the rain, I read in bed and enjoyed the pitter patter of the water on my tent as the forest around me was drentched in rain while I was warm and dry in my tent. By 10:00 the rain stopped and thinking this was a temporary situation, I jumped at the opportunity to pack up camp and get a start on the trip back before the rain started up again.
Water... Water Everywhere Except Under My Tent!
As luck would have it, the rain never returned that day, and so upon returing the same route back that I had taken the afternoon before I had time to ralax at the access point a while, and even jumped in the lake off the large dock that the access point is equipped with. Yes it was a bit on the cold side, but it was great to rinse away the sweet, bug spray and mud that I had collected over the past 24 hours.
It was as I dried off and was about to leave that I met up with the only other camper I was to see that weekend. We chatted a bit about the mornings rain, and I learned that he and his wife were staying on Raven lake for a few nights. He had returned to the access point, only to get his wife's gear (how lucky is she) and then to head back out. While I was tired having done about 9 km of hiking in the last 24 hours, I was also jealous that he was returning in, while I had to head out.
All in all, while short, the trip showed me that I could not only handle solo tripping (at least for one night) but also that I actually really enjoyed it. Having myself as my only company is a rarity in my life, but something that I quickly learned to enjoy. It's true that sounds and sites become more vivid when you stop talking, I guess because there is no other option but to look and listen.
For my next trip I wont be soloing, which is fine by me, but I do look forward to experiencing Algonquin alone again, only next time for two or perhaps three nights rather then the one.