The 2nd canoe trip started a little late, as the 1st trip took a bit longer than planned to come out from their last campsite. As the saying goes, better late than never and that seemed to be the philosophy of the group. Their goal was to be just as energetic on the final day as they were on this 1st day. That was quite a high standard, as they were flying on the 1st day. The portages went really smooth and quick, even if this was to be their longest day and all uphill.
We came through the Barron Canyon, Brigham Lake and to our campsite on Opalescent Lake in record time. The 1720 m of portaging never bothered the group. This was exemplified on the last portage as I watched 4 ladies work together on the last canoe, they hoped along singing, each with their own corner of the canoe, but the best was when they came upon a bridge and they all moved into the middle as if they had been portaging together for years. It was nice that after this day we came to a camp that was completely set up and stocked with wood by the last crew. We did have to move the tarps around a bit as the wind had shifted since the morning, but the benches and seats were just as comfortable.
The 2nd day seemed went just as smoothly. With a 650 m portage into Ooze Lake and a 300 m into High Falls Lake, the only thing to slow us down was a dubious bag count that left us wondering if we had all our gear with us. It seemed that we did and we enjoyed the great paddle across High Falls Lake. The final portage showed us how not to do a camping trip, as a school from Montreal was travelling in the opposite direction and had a tremendous amount of loose gear, including firewood bought at the gate of the park. I guess this was lucky for us, as we used the end of the portage to fill 3 canoes with firewood for our next campsite.
We had sent the boys cooking group to prep the grilled cheese sandwiches, while we were collecting firewood. Unfortunately, a few very large thunderstorms blew in as we were gathering firewood and as we started to paddle to our campsite, we were forced to get out of our canoes and hide in the bushes as one of these storms unleashed upon us. After convincing Ryan that it would be ok to continue (he had issues about paddling solo in an aluminum canoe with thunderstorms around), we quickly arrived at camp to find the cooking crew looking a bit shell shocked. Eventually we did manage to have some soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.
The campsites we had wanted to take on St. Andrew Lake were occupied, which meant that we had to go to a new campsite and luckily for us, we found a beautiful one just around the corner. It was a bit of a peninsula that gave us many beautiful views of the lake. It also had a great open space around the fire, which gave us plenty of room to play a new version of 'lick the stick' during the next thunderstorm. This evening also saw the entire group get a 2nd wind around 10 pm, unusual for a group that has just finished their two toughest days. We figure this was the reason, because they had two days left with 2 portages totalling less than 70 m.
The next day was a very easy day as we hoped, skipped and jumped over to Stratton Lake. The weather was nice as the barometer stayed steady, giving us some sun and cloud with the odd sprinkle. The best was that the temperatures were quite mild, perfect for swimming at the water slides at High Falls. On this trip almost everyone went in. After our swim we explored High Falls and on the canoe trip back we loaded our canoes with wood. The perfect calm waters really showed off the fall colours that Algonquin Park is known for.
The final day was just a beautiful easy paddle across Stratton and Grand Lake back to Achray. The colour of the leaves was amazing and as promised the group finished with as much energy as that it had started with 4 days earlier. I think many wanted to turn around with me and do it all again. That said, we enjoyed our last few minutes at the beach as we waited for the bus to arrive.