Louisa, Harry, and Pen Lakes, Algonquin, August 2014


This year, we extended the August long weekend into a 4 day trip in Algonquin. Although we had spent two nights on Lake Louisa in the southeast part of the park before, we hadn’t made a proper loop though that region. We were also anticipating a killer Killarney loop with several multi-kilometer portages later in the summer, so choosing a route with some intermediate length portages seemed like it would be a good warm up.

We left from the Rock Lake access point around noon on Saturday and paddled down Rock Lake while Tucker adjusted to being in the canoe again. This being his second trip, he already seemed more relaxed, and when he disrupted the canoe, it was usually to catch lily pads as they passed by. We made it to the portage to Lake Louisa without incident. And what a portage it was! We tackled the 2.9 km by splitting the walk into three challenging 20-minute segments. To our delight, the last segment was over in about 7 minutes as beautiful Lake Louisa came into view. Tucker swam while we ate a very late lunch, and then we paddled almost the entire away across the lake to find an empty campsite to our liking. Most of the sites were already taken despite the long portage, presumably due to the long weekend and the truly gorgeous lake that is spotted with islands. We set up camp on the north shore on a nice, roomy site with great rocks extending down to the lake and a view of the islands.

The next morning, we packed up Loona and made the short paddle to the 1.7 km portage to Florence Lake.  As we were paddling through the narrow waterways between Frank and Rence Lakes, Tucker decided that he would rather be on the shore.  So he jumped out of the canoe onto the stream bank.  It wasn’t for long, as he was coaxed back into Loona, and we were on our way.  When we arrived at Harry Lake, it was deserted despite it being Sunday of the long weekend. We had heard about a campsite with an amazing sand beach on the far side of the lake next to the portage and so paddled across the lake to check it out. It was indeed a giant sand beach, but other than that, the site was buggy, a bit trashy, and just not that great.  We ate a quick lunch, got back into the canoe and paddled back across the lake to a site on the north shore.  Now this was a GREAT site! No sand in sight, but perfect for swimming and although the fire pit was set far back from and above the lake, the trees were just sparse enough to allow plenty of ventilation to keep the bugs away and the smoke from the fire going in one direction. We cooked a huge ribeye over the fire and potatoes, onions, and peppers in foil in the coals. Paired with our ever-present tetrapak of wine, it was an amazing meal!

From Harry Lake, we paddled through a serpentine waterway to Welcome Lake and then took the 1.8 km portage from Welcome to an unnamed lake.  Then there was more serpentine water, and a portage around a waterfall and rocks to get to Pen Lake. Pen Lake was very pretty and very popular: apparently we weren’t the only ones who squeezed an extra day into the long weekend.  But we managed to find a great, vacant site on the east side of the lake.  We had to hike way up the hill above the campsite to find firewood, though. And there was a “friendly” chipmunk that Tucker enjoyed successfully chasing away. We spent a long, lazy afternoon in the hammock watching as people paddled by. Dinner was dehydrated lentil dal that we had made at home, rehydrated and served with naan. Delish!

On Tuesday, we broke camp and paddled all the way up Pen Lake to get to the Rock Lake portage: a short portage with 20 Canadian geese at the end, much to Tucker’s delight! As we left the portage and saw a marshy area on our left, we commented (as we almost always do) how if we were a moose we would totally be hanging out there. And then we saw it:  a very large moose with huge antlers munching away in the marsh! Were we ever surprised! We pulled out the camera and snapped a few shots before Tucker woke up to see what was happening and drew the attention of the moose. Tucker got very excited, so changing to the telephoto lens and taking a few more pictures was very quick as the boat was rocking while he tried to get a better view of the foreign creature. This was the first moose we had seen in Canada with proper antlers and it was impressive! The paddle back to the access point was pleasant, if long, and we arrived back at the car dry again. Tucker is a pro canoer now! We drove home via the scenic route out of the east side of the park and down through Bobcaygeon. In a little town called Maynooth not far from Algonquin we saw a sign for homemade butter tarts, so of course we stopped! They were amazing! Nothing like an Ontario butter tart!

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