02 July 2008

Cedar Lake, Access Point 27; 4 Day Trip

With another academic year having come and gone, it was time to celebrate the start of my summer vacation with a brief trip to Cedar Lake, located in the northern region of Algonquin Park. While Cedar Lake was not on my "to do" list for this year, a few weeks back I had been invited by long time AA member Markus to meet up with him and some other AA'ers on the tail en of a ten day trip several folks were attending and so in the spirit of seeing some AA friends, as well as visiting a "new" part of the park for me, the destination spot to start my summer was set.

Deciding to leave directly from work I was able to leave Toronto at 12:30 pm.  The drive was fast, as the highways were empty, and I was in Dwight to pick up my loaner canoe at 2:45.  After selecting my boat for the trip, I ended up going with a green Langford Kevlar 15" Prospector, I was off and back on the road north by 3:00.  After about another 4 hours of driving (which also included stopping for gas and dinner, as well as two bags of ice to cool some beverages for awaiting fellow AA'ers) I arrived at the permit office, only to learn that the office closed at 5:00 pm on Mondays through Thursdays.
 Cedar Lake Permit Office.
This left me with a conundrum.  Do I (A) ignore the fact that I don't have a permit, and drive the 40 km to Cedar Lake, and then the 6  km paddle to the meeting spot, (B) Return to the nearest town and stay in a hotel, and continue the trip the next morning or (C) Drive to Cedar Lake in the hopes of acquiring a "first-come-first-serve" site, and return to the permit office the next morning.  Seeing as I had already driven on highways for about 6 hours, and not wanting to do any more, option (B) was quickly ruled out.  As such, I headed down the well maintained dirt road to Cedar Lake.  Arriving at the dock at 7:30 pm, and not knowing how long the paddle to the site would take, I decided to take the first-come-first-served site, and stayed the night at the Brent Campground.  After checking in with the grounds "host" for permission, setting up a mini camp, a walk around the grounds, including a visit to the "famous" Brent Store and a few cold ones (why waste the ice) I was off to bed.
The Brent "Central Business District: The Brent Store."
The next morning I was awake by 7:00 am.  Having noted the night before that the office didn't open until 9:00 am, I decided to sleep an hour longer, only to awaken at 10:45 (not a bad hour eah?!?!?)  After a quick meal, I drove to the office to acquire my permit.  Along the drive back I stopped at the Brent Crater Lookout and Trail, took some shots of the Crater and acquired a trail guide, hence returning to my campsite at about 11:30.  (Remember the dirt road is 40 km, and while well maintained this year, still a 40 minute drive each way.)
Brent Crater Lookout Point.
Brent Crater Plaque (click to read.)
View of the Crater from the Lookout. (The shadowed area is the far edge of the crater.)

Interestingly enough, it was as I slept in that fellow AA'er "Sean of Ajax" took off from the dock at Cedar Lake and as I packed my mini site that "Jim C" exited the water at the same spot.  I would later meet Sean, but unfortunately did not get a chance to meet Jim; next time for sure!

By about 12:30 I was packed and my canoe loaded and ready to go at the launch point at the Brent campground.  As the day was a bit windy, and being my first time on Cedar Lake, I stuck to the shore, as I made my way north east to the beach island site where I would meet up with Markus and Sean.
Cedar Lake area map.
The paddle in was wonderful, as the sun was out in full force.  Normally I paddle with my lifejacket on, but decided that since I was sticking to the shore line the whole way, that I would enjoy the sun to its fullest and work on my tan.  Along the way, I passed the Brent Store, and Ranger's Cabin (a former Deputy HQ), some rally nice beach areas, several beautiful mini islands and lots of fantastic shore line; in short I saw why Cedar is an AA favorite.  After about an hour and a half I arrived at my to be home for two nights.  Markus and Sean were out for the afternoon fishing, but left me a sign, literally, in the form of an AA t-shirt mounted on a camera stand.  Knowing I was at the right spot, I set up my tent and gear, hung my food and relaxed on the beach that the site boasted, as I enjoyed a cold one in the sand.  (Before I left for the site, I got a chunk of solid ice at the Brent Store that ended up lasting the weekend).  

By around 5:oo pm or so, Markus and Sean arrived back for the day, and we chatted about their days fishing excursion (Sean had thrown back his first catch, as it was caught on his first cast; something he later would regret.  Together with some "ones that got away" they returned with no fish, but a good time none the less,) while I explained why I had arrived a day late. As we chatted we practiced our "tarpology" skills, as we put up three large tarps around the fire pit and cooking areas in the event of rain.  That evening Sean treated us with burgers on the grill, while I provided cold pasta salad and beer. We chatted until about midnight by the campfire, and then retired for the night.
Our site's beach.
The following morning we woke to rain, and so while Markus and Sean chose to explore and fish some more, I decided to wait out the rain a bit and then try my luck on the lake.  In the end I waited about two hours, and during that time read my "Brent Crater Trail" guide, made some lunch and went for a long swim. 

Later that day I explored the various islands surrounding our island, as well as trecked back to the Brent Store for some extra supplies.  This time I took the direct path across Cedar, which shortened my trip to about 40 minutes each way.  Once I returned, I tried to paddle around the island we were on, but had to turn around half way because of high winds, and the return of some rain.
The islands around our Site.

Later that day I returned to camp to enjoy a second swim, as the sun had come out a bit, and by around 6:00 was rejoined by a soaked Sean and drenched Markus.  While wet, they had had a nice day, as we chatted and prepared a dinner of rice and Pork curtsy of Sean. After dinner Sean and Markus tried their luck at fishing around the camp, while I explored the bogs of the island across from our site.  It was as we all returned that I learned that Sean and Markus had spotted a mother moose and her new born calf in the same area that I had traveled after dinner.  While I had no luck at spotting them, I did see my fair share of frogs.
The islands where Mom and calf were spotted; view from our site.
That night was fairly early, and by 10:00 we were off to bed.  Prior to ending the day though, we betted on the nights weather, as the clouds above were dark and traveling in, it seemed, every direction.  While Sean and I thought we would miss the rain, Markus felt a storm was brewing. It wasn't until midnight that we would learn that Markus was correct, as I was awaken to gail force winds, heavy rain and some incredible loud thunder and lightning.  While short, the storm left be preying it be over, as I'm not ashamed  to admit that its quick approach and extreme intensity had me wondering if  "we weren't in Algonquin anymore." 

The next morning when I woke, I was convinced I would find our camp in a mess.  While the winds had died down, they were still around, and to my surprise the camp was intact, and we had all survived the nights storm warm and dry.  While in no real hurry, as this was our last day, we knew it was time to pack up camp, and head back to the access point.  As we loaded Sean discovered the hard way one of the largest spiders I've seen in the park.  
Now that's a spider.
While the initial plan was to pack up and paddle to the access point, unload and then continue for the day to the Petawawa rapids, after a pretty hard paddle in, we decided to stay put and explore the rapids next time.  We all took our time packing up, but after about an hour had finished the task and were ready to depart.  Sean wanted to visit the Brent store before leaving, so Markus and he went one way, while I having visited twice already, headed another.

All in all the trip while, wet at times (because of rain) and frustrating at others (due to timing) was fantastic (because of the scenery and company.)  Cedar Lake left me wanting to see more, and I will likely return for years to come.  I would like to see the Petawaw Rapids, and look for the cross marked for A. Corbeil, 1888 as well as portage to (and camp on) Gilmour Lake via the Brent Crater Trial and Tecumseh Lake.  Then of course I'd like to try the Cedar-Little Cedar-Bug-Ironwood-Carl Wilson-Little Cauchen-Laurel-Aura Lee-Little Cedar-Cedar loop trip.  

In short, Algonquin's second largest lake Cedar is a fantastic destination. While motor boats are permitted on the lake, I heard nor saw any my whole trip on the lake.  The area is quiet and peaceful, and the locals I met really nice.  The water was warm for swimming in late June, and the bugs not all that bad.  To quote Markus in regards to the bugs "I found by the end of the weekend, the blackflies were all but finally gone(whew!), and the skeeters could be fierce at times. Deerflies, horsefliess, and those darn stable flies are all out. "  In fact, I'd go a step further. While the above mentioned bugs were annoying at times, and I did get a few bites, they were no where nearly as bad as I had expected. Not once did I put my bug gear on, and after the first day on the lake, all I used was "Off Skin Tastic" which was just fine at keeping the bugs away from me. (We did have a wind though much of the time which obviously helped). The worst times were under the tarps, where, protected by the wind, the skeeters seemed to flourish.

Simply put, It's worth the drive to Cedar Lake!

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