The Spring 2010 Algonquin Canoe Trip was an amazing 4 days in the Canadian Wilderness with absolutely perfect weather. It was blue skies and smooth sailing (well, mostly smooth sailing). Apart from a few bugs, a missed lunch, no salsa for the fajitas, lost pair of glasses and, oh ya I almost forgot, an extreme game of manhunt (literally), the trip was amazing.
This time of year is always great to travel in Algonquin Park, as it is quiet because most people don't like the unpredictability of the weather (only 7 days earlier it snowed all weekend) and the blackflies can be challenging. On the other hand, this time of year can also surprise you with 25 C degrees and only moments of bugs. We were fortunate enough on this trip to have the latter.
Our trip started Saturday morning as all the students gathered at the school around 8:00 AM to do the final packing and loading the bus. After a 3 hour bus ride, we arrived at Achray on Grand Lake, it was surprisingly cool, as the weather forecast was predicting very warm temperatures all week. We were not complaining, as there were no bugs. We made our way across Grand Lake to our very 1st portage, which was a quick carry around a dam. This led us to Stratton Lake and our 1st campsite, which was on a beautiful point near the end of the lake.
I would like to say that we set up our tents had a wonderful dinner and then had a peaceful night, but I would be missing one of the biggest adventures of our trip. The set up was good, our fajita dinner was wonderful (especially the apple crisp dessert), but the evening entertainment got a little out of hand. Some of the boys decided to play manhunt, the extreme version. After spending about an hour chasing each other into the dark wilderness, they realized on of their own, Braden, was missing. A quick search was done of the camp and surrounding trails without success. This forced us to quickly mobilize a search party and with 10 of us armed with flashlights, compass, GPS and our voices we went to find Braden. Using a grid search pattern, we headed into the dark wilderness and it took about an hour and about 500 m deep into the wilderness Braden was found. It seems he was running so hard from his enemy in the game that he got turned around and couldn't figure out which way camp was.
I am glad to say that we did manage to get a good night of sleep after that and we awoke to perfect blue skies and a sun that warmed things up very quickly. After a scrambled egg breakfast we had a leisurely departure (11:00 AM) to our next campsite on St. Andrew's Lake. This being a very short distance to travel, it set things up nicely for us to have a great pizza lunch and an afternoon of swimming at the water slides at High Falls. The slides didn't disappoint, a little chilly, but when you get this kind of beauty to yourself, it is always special (and fun). The day finished with hamburgers and hot dogs, and a perfect calm evening of paddling with beavers and many stars.
Our first real day of portaging began like the last one started, perfect skies with a wonderful pancake breakfast. We were on the water by 9:30 AM, ready to tackle 3 portages, which would take us through High Falls Lake, Ooze Lake, and finishing on Opalescent Lake. The group was very efficient through the portages and made it to our campsite by lunch with our wood collected on the last portage (this was also the buggiest spot on the trip). This made for a very relaxed afternoon of snoozing, swimming, gunnel bobbing, and playing cards (Sakiko showing Ryan how it is done). Our lunch this day was grilled cheese, which was followed by a spaghetti dinner with muffins made in orange peels as dessert.
The relaxation of the last afternoon was well needed, as our last morning required a very early start as we had to complete the trip by 11:30 AM. The morning would see us complete the most portages in a day yet, with 4, including our longest portage of 740 m. The plan was to be on the water and moving by 7:30 AM and we were moving by 7:29 AM, pretty impressive for a group of teenagers. The portages all went smoothly and quick and we were able to enjoy the cliffs of the Barron Canyon. We arrived at our take out at 11:30 AM, just in time for the bus to pick us up. All in all, great weather, not too many bugs, good food and a wonderful group to share this adventure with.