On the evening of August 29, 2018 a group of intrepid explorers join us at our home in Elizabethtown. Dan and I together with our friends Glenn and Gwen Manderson as well as our son Petar and his partner Amanda and their friends Nick and Alex made up this illustrious group. We got last minute equipment sorted and packed, food lists made to ensure all food in the refrigerator and freezer would be packed the next morning and our gear all ready to go. And then of to bed to enjoy the soft pillows and cushy mattress for one last night before we headed into small tents and sleeping on the ground!
The food prep is important. There’s no stores anywhere close to a campsite, so ensuring your have every meal, condiments, snacks and drinks accounted for is important! I enjoy putting together a menu that not only helps me to pack the right quantities, but lets everyone know what food is coming up next, and what food is surplus for snacks!
The first morning of our trek we were all up between 5-5:30. Dry packs had all been loaded into the car, the food was packed up and finally the canoe was tied down to the top of the car. Time for our convoy to start our drive north (with a stop at McDonald’s drive thru for a sustaining breakfast and much needed coffee!).
Our drive was almost straight north for about 250 km. Our entry point was the Sand Lake Gate in Algonquin Provincial Park (Ontario) and once we finalized our permit we headed to our put in location at Brigham Lake parking lot.
The parking lot was about 150 metres to the actual lake where we “put in”. This meant all the gear and canoes had to be portaged to the lake.
Eventually, we all got into our packed canoes (the 2 16th canoes carried 3 people and the 14th canoe had 2 people with extra packs). The short paddle was more like river paddling rather than Lake paddling. Brigham Lake is a feeder lake that eventually runs into the Barron Canyon.
Our destination was one lake further, Opalescent Lake. This location would give us easy access to the Barron Canyon as well as moderately easy access to High Falls – an amazing wilderness water park!
Once at the end of our paddle along Brigham Lake we landed at the portage and took on the 750M hike that took us into Opalescent Lake. We were hoping to get a particular campsite on that lake – one which would give lots of room for our 4 tents and had a spectacular fireside setup. This site is often referred to as the “Flintstone site”, and is even featured on tripadvisor!
Glenn, Gwen and I were in the forward canoe, and with 3 of us in one canoe we could distribute all the gear in order to single portage (this means carrying everything in one trip along the hiking path instead of having to come back for additional gear that you couldn’t manage not he first pass). With a long weekend coming, we were hoping we were on the lake early enough to get the site we wanted. At the other end of the portage, we headed straight off to try to get on our site of choice…our efforts were rewarded!
What an unimaginable pleasure to be able to sit around the campfire and sit on a stone sectional complete with back rests! The usual set up is a few logs set around a small fire pit…you need the rarest chairs or life jackets to provide a small amount of comfort – but when you are slogging all that gear and canoes a back rest is priceless!! This was already looking up to be a great trip!
The next step was for Glenn and I to head back the short paddle to see if the others needed help with the second portage. Waived off by Petar, we headed back to the new campsite…but first stopping off for some firewood along our way.
Once everyone gathered at the site it was time to get set up. Everyone explored tent locations and each couple got their tent set up. The next step after lunch was to get the ancillary stuff set up. Glenn brought a large tarp that could serve as weather protection (yes, there was rain and thunderstorms in our forecast). We also had to get the food pack line up as well as the hammocks. This site had loads of trees, perfect for our lightweight nylon hammocks!
Once camp was fully setup if was time for a small libation – strictly as a muscle relaxant!
One thing we had been forewarned about was the small critters (chipmunks and voles) that were at this very popular site. Clearly people had been hand feeding the chipmunks as they knew no fear! This meant all food packs were tied up when not under direct supervision. A little extra work, but we did not lose any food because of these hungry beasts!
After swims, and general relaxing it was time for supper. Tonight’s menu featured salmon with salad and fresh veg. (Because our portages were not long we could bring food that was not dehydrated (heavier) as well as wine for our evening meal. A lovely luxury!
But oh oh, the salmon wasn’t thawed. The day had been cooler than previous days and our frozen meats hadn’t thawed. (They get packed in reverse order of need in the cooler pack so that the top protein will thaw first etc.). Gwen and Pete to the rescue trying to defrost our supper!
After a delicious supper, and libations to take the pain away from our aching muscles we enjoyed the evening sitting around the campfire and watching the setting sun…
The location was perfect, the loons singing us to sleep and our beds beckoning us into a warm comfort against the cooling night. Time for lights out!