Wednesday 29 July 2020

Algonquin Canoe Trip July 20-23

Last week my dad and I finally went on a canoe trip in Algonquin. We've been wanting to go on one together for several years now, and we finally made it a reality. This would be my first time backcountry camping in Algonquin, so I was quite excited!

It was pretty last minute, with us booking our sites just a few days before we were to depart. The plan was to canoe up to the North Arm of Opeongo Lake on the Monday, spend Tuesday in Hailstorm Creek, then canoe back down to the docks (and car) on Opeongo on Wednesday, where we would then take a short jaunt down the highway and put in in Sunday Creek to go to Fork Lake, where we would spent our last night. No portages, but I think that was for the best!

Dad got off his night shift on the Monday morning, so when he got home, we put on the canoe on the van, and then took off for Algonquin. We opted for the backroads as to not put stress on the canoe, avoid Toronto, and so that I could drive (darn G1 restrictions!)

We hit a bunch of construction and detours on the way, which slowed us down considerably. By the time we pulled up to the access point, we were three hours behind schedule, meaning instead of putting in at 3pm, we would actually be putting in at 6pm! With rain in the distance (and we had already endured a couple showers), we had no choice but to set off. We had wanted to get to the North Arm, but with the weather and time, we would have been happy with any site!

It was pretty smooth sailing for the first little bit. Sunny and warm. Quite pleasant. But soon, the sky clouded over, the wind picked up, and it began to rain. The rain would only let up once during the rest of the journey. We hugged the shore, in hopes of combating the winds and waves (we saw whitecaps at one point). All we could do was paddle northward. It was brutal at some points.

As darkness fell, we kept pushing, with a particular campsite in mind. All the campsites we had passed, with the exception of a few, had been full. As we neared our target I heard voices. Uh oh. Sure enough, the campsite we had wanted was occupied. It was dark, and the nearest campsite was over two kilometres away. 

We aimed for the direction of where the closest (hopefully unoccupied) campsites were, and paddled hard. I'm not sure how long it took us, as the adrenaline really kicked in. Finally, we spotted a tiny orange speck in the very quickly fading light. The campsite! Thankfully, it seemed to be vacant. 

We pulled up on the rocks (not a very good landing place), and nearly collapsed. We were dead tired, sore, and going into hypothermia (both of us were shaking and chattering our teeth uncontrollably). It was raining, and the mosquitoes liked us (really, they weren't all that bad, but a tad bothersome at this moment). We hauled our gear and canoe up onto the shore, and desperately tried to find a spot to pitch the tent. It was only after I spotted a narrow trail leading back to an opening in the woods were we able to set it up. As Dad put up the tent, I attempted to make some dinner. Thankfully, by this point, we had stopped shaking. Soon, we had food in our pots (despite a little mishap that resulted in losing half the pot of Kraft Dinner), which soon made its into our stomachs. It was 11:30pm by the time we finally got into the tent (we estimate we pulled into the site around 10pm). In total, we did about 17km of paddling in 4 hours. Quite the ordeal.

Between trying not to die, I noted a few birds:

The next morning we awoke, itching to dry out and get into Hailstorm Creek. It was a nice clear sunny morning, my quick dry pants really did dry quite quick! Here is my eBird list from the morning:

Hailstorm Creek is a neat area that supports some rare nesting birds in Algonquin Park, such as Sandhill Cranes (of which we saw two). Last time I was here was three years ago with the OFO Young Birders Camp. 

Birdwise, there were a few things of interest. Its always neat seeing families of ducks that aren't Mallards! My eBird list:

I spent a lot of time looking for odes. It was difficult to try and approach things and net them in the canoe, so the bulk of my captures were when we stopped to stretch our legs.

Belted Whiteface

Chalk-fronted Corporal

Slaty Skimmer

White-faced Meadowhawk

Northern Spreadwing

I did see a couple rare odes too. There were a couple of male Orange Bluets, which are very local and rare in Algonquin. Another was Lilypad Clubtail. I am not sure if these species have been recorded from Hailstorm Creek before. Nevertheless, it would still be one of few places in the park they are known to occur. 

Lilypad Clubtail

A took note of s few plants as well. 

One-seeded Sedge (Carex oligiosperma)

Northern St. John's Wort (Hypericum boreale)

White Meadowsweet (Spiraea alba)

In all, we spent nearly 8 hours in the bog, with about 16 total kilometres paddled (there and back).

On our way out, I netted one of a few Black-shouldered Spinylegs.

Black-shoulder Spinyleg

Since we got back to the campsite in the mid afternoon, I had some time to go around and look for stuff. I put on my bathing suit and did some wading.

Powdered Dancer

Canada Darner

Later in the afternoon, Vesper Bluets came out.

I saw a few plants of interest around the site.

Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata)

Crawford's Sedge (Carex crawfordii)

Rock Harlequin (Capnoides sempervirens)

The view was pretty nice.

That evening I caught a couple Ocellated Darners, a lifer for me. I had spent a few hours earlier in the day trying to catch some Boyeria darners (Fawn or Ocellated), so was quite pleased to finally have some in the hand!

The next morning we set off at 7am, the lake was pretty calm so we made good time. We made it back to the car by 10:15am. A few birds along the way...

We packed up the car, and drove down the highway to the Spruce Bog Boardwalk, where we put into Sunday Creek, which is the creek that goes out in front of the Visitor Centre. It was pretty smooth sailing to Fork Lake, save for the couple of beaver dams we had to cross.

It started to rain just as we pulled into the Fork Lake site. We quickly set up, ate some lunch, and with nothing better to do, took a nap. We woke up a few hours later, and the rain had stopped. I went out for a paddle in the canoe.

Fork Lake is the lake visible from the Visitor Centre.

A few cool plants...

Purple Bladderwort (Utricularia purpurea)

Water Bulrush (Scheonoplectus subterminalis)

Common Pipewort (Eriocaulon aquaticum)

Common Bladderwort (Utricularia macrorhiza)

Horned Bladderwort (Utricularia cornuta)

Intermediate Sundew (Drosera intermedia)

I spent the next morning looking at a few things around camp. 

Green Frog

There were a few Common Loons out on the lake. This species was definitely a highlight from the trip.

We set off around 9:30, and before too long, was back at the boardwalk. Our trip had come to an end! Of course, not before we had to cross the beaver dams again...

Despite what this image conveys, all he did the whole
 time was complain about having to cross the dam

After loading up the canoe, I wanted to go and walk around the Spruce Bog Boardwalk. I had a couple of Black-backed Woodpeckers, which was nice, as well as some neat sedges.

Few-flowered Sedge (Carex pauciflora)

Boreal Bog Sedge (Carex magellanica irrigua)

One last stop before leaving the park was Pewee Lake, at the Highland Backpacking Trail parking lot. I found a few new odes for the trip (I had just over 30 species total), including Swamp Spreadwing, uncommon and local in the park.

Delta-spotted Spiketail

Crimson-ringed Whiteface

Swamp Spreadwing

Last but not least, a few plants that I liked.

Stalked Bulrush (Scirpus pedicellatus)
Steeplebush (Spiraea tomentosa)

Northeastern Bladderwort (Utricularia resupinata)

Canada St. John's Wort (Hypericum canadense)

Water Lobelia (Lobelia dortmanna)

Brownish Beaked-Rush (Rhynchospora capitellata)

Nodding Sedge (Carex gynandra)

And there you have it! The condensed version of three days in the backcountry. It was a lot of fun, can't wait to go back! Certainly a story to tell.

1 comment:

  1. My high light was spending it with you. Dispite all the bugs,rain that we had to set up our camp in, and bever dams that got in our way. It was great being back on the lakes of Algonquin seeing my favourite Common Loon and landscape. Thanks for sharing that trip with me Quinten.