28 July 2008

Rock - Pen Lake; Algonguin Park, Access Point #9

Wow... After having returned home from Pen Lake Campground for a mere 3 days (2 nights in my own bed) me and the boys decided to return to Algonquin Park, as I was missing the environment, and my boys the fishing. Seeing as the trip was put together rather quickly and would only be able to stay for two nights (3 days) as we had appointments on the Monday immediately after the trip, we chose to stay along the Hw. 60 corridor, and take on Pen lake via Rock Lake at access point #9.  I also chose this destination as it would bring me back to Rock Lake where my tripping had began this year at the "AA Park Opener on Rose Island", and give my boys the chance to experience the cliffs along Booth's Rock Trail that they visited last week while at the Pen Lake campground, only this time from the lake rather then the top of the cliffs. 

We left Toronto with overcast skies, and the chance of rain on Friday, July 18th early and arrived in Dwight by about 1:00pm, where I had hoped to pick up my replacement canoe at Langford.  As luck would have it, the boat was in and ready, but as we drove up the parking lot the clouds opened up and we had very heavy rain for well over an hour.  Not wanting to "switch boats" in a thunderstorm, the Langford people suggested I keep the loaner for one last trip, leaving me to pick up my baby on the way out, to which I did.  

By 2:00 pm we were at Rock Lake, and at the permit office.  As we get our permit (the last one for Pen Lake that weekend) I enquired as to if Rock Lake had a "launch point camp site" in the event that the weather didn't improve.  They informed me that they did not have one, but offered me their unofficial interior overnight spot at Rock lake (site #123).  As it was still raining as we got to our car, we decided to check the site out, just in case.  Well the site is more an overflow parking spot, that on that day was  under about 4 inches of water; in short a clear pass. It was then that we decided to try our luck heading out, and as we pulled up to the launch point the rain stopped (as it turned out for good).  Wow, what luck!  Taking that as a sign, we quickly unloaded our gear from the car and loaded up the canoe.  I changed the kids and I into our rain gear (just in case) and as we departed met a young kayaker by the name of Luc who was also heading to Pen for the weekend to hook up with some friends.  Luc was a bit faster to load and leave, as he had but a single pack to strap to the back of his solo kayak; something that I had never seen before. and so we ended up following him for much of our paddle.
Liam and Josh ready to Portage.
Our paddle was really nice, and the boys were a big help in getting us past Rose Island in under 30 minutes, as they were excited to be paddling again.  By 4:00 pm, as we passed Rose Island we spotted Luc unloading at the portage, and not questioning his sense of direction made the cardinal mistake of blindly following him.  To say this was no little mistake would be an understatement as that portage turned out to be the 2895 m portage to Lake Louisa rather then the brief 375 m path to Pen.  To make matters even worse, it wasn't until after about 15oo m that we caught up with Luc who by then was dragging his rented kayak that we decided we had made a wrong turn and turned back.  He  was very apologetic, but I had to take the blame, for it was me that while having stopped to take a picture of the portage sign at the portage, hadn't really bothered to read the sign itself.  (Look back at the last photo again, did you read it either?)
An end to an error's view.
Well, this put us about 2 hours behind, and approaching 6:00 pm.  As we left that ill fated portage (which by the way was mostly uphill and rocky) we finished the paddle along the southern narrows of Rock lake; what a fantastic part of the lake the narrows are!  
While the kids were still tired from the "1st portage" they were real troopers, and eagerly helped with the gear as we hiked to Pen Lake.  The portage was more a swamp, from the days downpour and took about an hour in total to exit the boat from Rock Lake and paddle off on Pen, as we doubled it.
Ready to take on the correct Portage.
Getting to Pen at about 7:00pm we were quick to depart, as we knew there was one site for us, just not which one it would be.  As such we had traveled the eastern shore of the lake in a southern direction, but also sticking to the shore line and each bay, to find the empty spot.  All the sites we spied were easy to recognize as filled (gotta love a brightly coloured canoe when hunting for an empty site) but also of a higher then average quality.  In the end as "Murphey's Law" would have it, the "end site" adjacent to the Dam between Pen and Clydegale Lake Portage was the site we got, to which we found at about 9:00 pm.  Unloading as the sun went down wasn't that fun, for while the rain had stopped and the wind died off, this meant mosquitos; and for the first time I felt the rathe they can be known for.  We were quick to get out of the rain gear and into the bug suites, followed by the fastest set up of camp on record, a brief meal, and then off to bed.

The following morning we woke early and had a light breakfast before we explored our site. We discovered the remains of what was a building of some sort (not on any of the maps thought) as well as a fantastic wild raspberry patch directly behind where we had set up our tent the night before.  The kids played while I lounged a bit, and then surprised me with a handful of wild blue berries and raspberries to add to the pancake brunch I had promised them for later in the day; mmmm camping pancakes, maple syrup and fresh berries.
Our Raspberry Patch.
After lunch the kids fished from the shores of our site, for the winds had picked up making fishing from the canoe awkward.  We were visited by Luc though along with a friend of his, to offer me a drink in exchange for the help I had given him the night before.  You see, we left the Pen dock before Luc, as he was tired from soloing.  Knowing that he was meeting friends I had asked any people we saw along the way to our site if they were waiting for Luc, and as luck would have it the people at the site next to us turned out to say yes.  Once finding his group of friends I had suggested they canoe out to give him a hand, as he was tiring (which they did) and hence the offer of a drink was made.  Tequila is not my poison though, so I declined, stating wine was all I could handle.  (God love tetra packed wine.)

Later that evening, having no luck with the fish, the boys and I enjoyed a spaghetti and meat balls dinner along with bread and desert.  Following that the wind settled down, and so we decided to explore a small island we had spied, the day before, directly adjacent to our site. The island while very small was beautiful and proved to be a good swimming spot.  
Josh casting an evening line.
Liam trying his luck on the island.

After a swim at the island, I enjoyed a glass of wine, while the boys tried some more fishing, as we enjoyed a beautiful sunset on Pen Lake.
Our wonderful sunset view.
By 9:00 pm it was time to return to our camp, where we enjoyed a warm fire, roasted marsh-mellows and a symphony that included the toads on base, and Loons on percussion; aaaah algonquin!

The following morning, we were early to rise, and after a quick oatmeal and power shake breakfast were off and packing up. I wanted an early start, as I wanted to show the boys the Pen-Rock rapids, the freshwater spring and pictographs on Jeffrey's Cliff. The boys were a great help in this, and within the hour we were off.
Josh and Liam about to board the canoe for home.
The paddle back along Pen was very calm that morning, and we even experienced some of that famous early morning lake missed that I'ver seen in so many photos.  As we paddled we passed Luc's site to say goodbye, and then made our was north on Pen.  The paddle was swift with the waveless waters, and we were amazed to learn how many of the sites were empty, where 2 days prior they were all so full.  Reaching the north end of Pen one is faced with two choices; option 1 go around the three small islands on the east side of the lake or option 2 try the narrow passages between the middle two islands.  Well we had come in via option 1 and was planning on doing so again in our exit, but as we approached the islands we spied several canoeist clearing the narrows with no trouble, and so we decided to make an attempt.  Ahhh how nice it was to replace several hundred paddles around an island with a few short strokes through it.  (For the record had I not seen others successfully canoed the rocky channel, I wouldn't have made an attempt.)

This brought us back to the Pen dock a bit earlier then expected, giving us plenty of time for site seeing along the rest our journey.
The Portage back to Rock Lake.
 "This will be a piece of cake Dad!"
Upon doing the Pen to Rock lake portage in about 30 minutes (again we doubled it) I decided to show the kids where "Real Spring Water" comes from, and what it tastes like.  Following the directions on Jeffrey M's Map I easily found the Spring that is immediately after the first boardwalk along the portage from Rock to Pen on the right hand side.  I followed what appeared to be a trail for several minutes, and while unable to find the board and pip to help in the filling of my bottle, had no trouble filling up our three water jugs with ice cold (and I mean ICE cold) clear, odorless fresh water.  Seeing as it was around 28 degrees out, it went down really well!
Spring Water anyone?
Following this we took the "left fork" along the portage back to Pen to visit the rapids between the two lakes. With all the rain we have been having, the rapids were still running strong. Surprisingly though, even though the portage was active with lots of campers, only a few seemed to take the time to visit such a beautiful site.
The Rock/Pen Lake rapids.
Liam & Josh enjoying the rapids (looking downstream.)
Josh, Dad and Liam enjoying the upper rapids (looking upstream.)
A final look at the rapids.
Following this, we headed out on Rock lake back to our original launch point, and laughed a bit as we passed our "detour portage" from two days ago.  The paddle was very easy until we approached the open waters of Rock Lake around Rose Island, where all three of us had to paddle hard to stay on course for Jeffrey's Cliffs.  

As we passed to open waters of Rock Lake and were sheltered by Rose Island, we were lucky enough to spot a female Loon and her two babies. (What do you call a baby Loon? a "Chick"?) The mother let us paddle very close, but never left her chicks side, and after a brief cry asking us to go, we paddled on, but not before capturing a quick shot.  Now all I need to see is a Loon giving her chicks a "piggy back ride."
A mother Loon and her two chicks.
Once we reached Jeffrey's Cliff, it took me a few minutes to find the pictographs that I had seen in my April trip to Rock, as well as a few others that would have been under the water in April while now with water levels down almost a foot, at the waters edge.  We were also able to canoe about 20 feet into one of the cliff caves just west of the pictographs, but turned back as the kids got a bit frightened.  Next time I'm swimming in though, as the cave is massive!
Liam excited about the deer pictograph.
For me showing the kids the rapids, cave and pictographs were my favorite parts of the trip, as it gave me the opportunity to show them first hand all the things that I had told them about seeing back in April, and had spent countless hours planning on visiting back through the cold and snowy months of February and March this past winter. As well, it gave me time to reflect on my past 7 trips to the park this year, and how blessed I am to have had the opportunity to see not only so much of the park, but to share in these experiences with my kids and the many new friends I've since made from Algonquin Adventures (some in fact from Rose Island, which was a mere 250 meters away, as I pondered my fortunes so far this summer.)

After that we finished our paddle back to the car and headed to Canoe Lake for lunch and ice cream (a new tradition I have made with the boys; Moose Tracks is my favorite.) Following lunch we feaded along Hw. 60 and spotted lots of cars on the side of the road, and so too had to stop and investigate. We were glade we did, as we were treated by seeing a magnificent Bull Moose having lunch in an adjacent bog.
A road side Bull Moose.
After a few photos we were off and running, but not until I turned in my loaner green Kevlar 15" Prospector for my new red 15" Ultra Lite Prospector which weighed in at just under 44 pounds! Ahh what a difference from the loaners 58 pounds! If that wasn't enough, the weight included the front and rear skid plates that they installed for me at no extra charge!

Now, with all my gear back and in its rightful place, all I can do is plan for my next trip which is between heading to Booth Lake for some history or St. Andrews Lake for some "water sliding." 
So tell me .... Which would you pick?

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the read. Algonquin springs are the best source of energy anyone can ask for.