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Algonquin Feb/March 2012

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  • Algonquin Feb/March 2012

    This excellent trip started on February 22, 2012, which just happened to be Ash Wednesday. I was on the road just before 0500. I arrived at the West Gate in Algonquin Park at about 0820. Since this gate doesn’t open until 0900, I thought that I would register at the East Gate which is 50 km down Highway 60. Unfortunately they did not open until 1300 due to staff appreciation Day. I had to drive all the way back to the West Gate to register. While talking to Kevin at the West Gate he told me that a nasty storm in December had knocked close to 300 trees down over the dog sled trail. After registering, I made my way back to the entry point for the Sunday Lake Dog Sled Trail. While I was getting my gear ready, Craig Lawrence rolled into the parking lot and got his dog sleds ready. He was actually providing free dog sled rides to the park staff for staff appreciation day. He told me about a new section of trail which would actually help get me to my destination more easily and more quickly. This new section of trail was very flat and saved me from having to haul the toboggan up close to 800 m of incline. I started hauling out by 1150. I arrived at my location at Zenobia Lake by 1500. While on the new section of trail I was passed by the dog sledders enjoying the staff appreciation day. Craig McDonald was on one of the sleds. Below is a picture of a river shortly after heading out:

    Below are two pictures of the new section of trail that I recently mentioned:

    On the way to the site I spotted a downed Spruce Tree. I scooped up some nice boughs for the floor of the hot tent. It took quite a while to get everything organized. I did not get to bed until midnight.

    I slept in until 0900 on day two. After breakfast, I processed the tree that I had cut down the day before. I also scooped up some more Spruce boughs from a tree that had snapped in half. I spent some time in prayer and enjoyed some hot drinks and tobacco. Below is a picture of the tent:

    Below is a picture of a nice area tucked into the woods for a future site on this lake:

    After processing the tree that I cut down the day before I ended up with this beautiful pile of Tamarack:

    This is the nice sunset that I was fortunate to see on this evening:

    My evenings were very laid back. After eating dinner and doing the dishes, I kicked back in front of the stove, finished my prayers, did some reading, enjoyed some hot drinks and some tobacco. After eating my final meal I enjoyed a shot of scotch mixed with water. On past trips I brought a small Protestant Bible which unfortunately lacks ten books in the Old Testament that were used by the early Church. The early Church used the Greek version of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. This is the Bible that I read at home and the version of the Old Testament which is used by Orthodox Christians. Since it was too big to bring on this trip, I brought a very small copy of the Roman Catholic Bible which contains seven books not included in current Protestant Bibles. I was really pumped about reading through some of these additional books. On this evening I read through the Book of Tobit. Overnight the temperature dropped down to about (-8) C.

    On day three I was up at 0530. After breakfast, processing wood, and spending time in prayer I headed out to go skiing at 0930. By the time I got to Red Fox Lake it had started to snow. Below is a picture of the section of trail between Red Fox Lake and Hiram Lake:

    By the time I crossed Hiram Lake the snow was coming down fairly hard as the following picture indicates:

    At this point I took the portage trail to get me to Whitegull Lake. The path is fairly level and one could easily haul a toboggan here. Once I got to Whitegull Lake, I followed the trail on the lake which led to a trail through the bush which led me to me to Twinstone Lake. The trail to this lake was very level and one could easily haul a toboggan to this area. The trail runs parallel to the river on the east side of the river. Twinstone Lake is beautiful and would be a scenic place to camp. There is not an abundance of standing dead wood but I have no doubt that wood would not be too difficult to find. The trail at Twinstone Lake headed length wise down the lake in a southern direction. The trail on the lake lead to trail through the bush which took me to Dutchboy Lake. I would not wish to haul a toboggan through this stretch of trail. There is not a lot of level terrain and there are two short but steep hills. Below is a picture of myself that I took on this lake:

    The trail from Dutchboy Lake led me back to the official dogsled trail just north and west of Cedar Hedge Jct. I followed this trail and then entered the northern section of Penaish Lake. I then skied south on Penaish Lake and came to the official end of the trail. Below are some pics of this lake:

    At this point I ate lunch and headed back to the site. I managed to ski for 5.5 hours today. I took a lot of pictures of the lakes, but due to the heavy snow fall they didn’t really capture much of their beauty and their distinctive characteristics. I’ll show some more pictures of the lakes later in the report when I headed up this way again on a nice sunny day. After dinner and some prayer, my evening reading focussed on the book of Judith. She was quite the dynamite gal. Overnight, the temperature dropped down to (-5) C.

    On day four I was up at 0530. Between yesterday morning and today it had snowed between 10cm -20 cm. After breakfast I repacked the working area with my snow shoes. Due to all of the snow fall, I decided to not do any skiing today. I was hoping that Mr. Lawrence would drive by on his snowmobile later in the day to pack down the new fallen snow on the trails. After doing my normal routines, I spent the mid morning and early afternoon finding submerged logs. After delimbing them and cutting them to a manageable length, I brought them back to the site and leaned them against some trees so they could be used on future trips as fire wood:

    Below is a picture of a nice view taken later in the afternoon:

    Before dinner I washed up. This was really refreshing. Mr. Lawrence drove by on his snowmobile while I was getting dinner ready. He said that he needed to go to all of his camps to remove the snow from his tents. Since it had called for a cold night, Mr Lawrence dropped off some nice pieces of hardwood for the stove. I started reading 1 Macabees tonight. I put some of the hardwood in the stove later in the evening. Overnight, the temperature dropped down to (-20)C.

    On day five I was up at 0530. There was still a very small amount of hot coals in the stove from the hard wood that I put in the night before. It was a very cold morning. I had been wearing my Swedish 15oz Melton wool pants up until this point. They were not warm enough though for these temperatures. The wind cut through to the bone. I put on my 24 oz Big Bill wool pants and found them much better for the colder temperatures. Due to the wind, my water hole was completely covered in snow. As such, the snow insulated the water in the hole and no ice formed over the hole. Below are some pics of the early morning mist:

    I found my toes to be very cold on this morning. After removing my orthotics, my feet warmed up very quickly. On cold mornings, I no longer wear my orthotics first thing in the morning. This prevents my toes from getting cold. After completing my normal morning routines I headed out skiing. Fortunately Mr Lawrence had driven over all of the trails that I was hoping to ski on today. I quickly made my way up to Red Fox Lake:

    Below is a picture of where the river enters this lake:

    Below is picture of the trail between Red Fox Lake and Hiram Lake:

    After crossing Hiram Lake I made my way to Whitegul Lake. Below are a few pics of this lake:

    I followed the dog sled trail on Whitegul Lake which led to another trail on land which quickly brought me to Twinstone Lake. Below are some pics of this beautiful Lake:

    After eating lunch on DutchBoy Lake I headed back to my camp by the same route. After getting to camp I cleaned out the pipes in my stove. Surprisingly they were fairly clean. After eating dinner and getting my evening chores done I continued reading 1 Macabees. The temperature dipped down to (-8) C overnight.

    On day six I slept in until 0800. Since I was starting to run low on firewood I cut down another tree. After delimbing it and cutting it into suitably sized pieces, I hauled it back to the site. I then processed it into smaller sized pieces. Below are some pictures that I took of the process involved in cutting down a tree. I first used the saw to cut about 1/3 of the way through on the side that I wanted the tree to fall. I then used the axe to cut away the wood just above the saw groove:

    The next step was to use the saw on the opposite side of the first cut. This second cut was made a few inches higher than the original cut. Once the second cut is made deep enough, you can simply push the tree over:

    Below are some pics of the fallen tree:

    Before dinner I washed up again. It really feels good to do even do a simple wash up. After eating dinner and completing my evening chores, I finished reading 1 Macabees. I then started to read 2 Macabees. I also started reading the Collected Tails of Nicolai Gogal. I started this book last year. The temperature dipped down again to about (-8) C.

    On day seven I slept in until 0700. After completing my normal morning routine I headed out skiing at 1040. Below is a picture of the remains of a site on Red Fox Lake from my first ever hot tenting trip. I had left some poles and fire wood leaning against a tree. The next day when I came back to this area the poles and firewood were gone. They were used by a school group that had come in on this day:

    I then made my to the dog sledding camp at Hiram Lake. Below are some pics of the camp:

    On my way back to the site I passed a school group heading out to camp just above Red Fox Lake. The people were hauling their gear with UHMW toboggans and komatics. This was the first time that I had ever seen komatics in action. My first thought is that these people that must have either purchased this gear from Mr. Craig MacDonald or received direction in making the toboggans and komatics. I briefly spoke to a few of the people and they said they would be hot tenting. It was really amazing seeing these young people winter camping using the traditional methods. I really wished that I had asked them if I could take some pictures of their gear. It was a sight to see. On my way back to the site I bumped into Mr. MacDonald as he was grooming the trails. I told him about the school group that I saw and asked him about the toboggans and komatics. He told me that they had sought his assistance for a school project. He was kind enough to provide them with directions and with some material. He is such a nice man. After I finished dinner, Mr Lawrence passed by my site and dropped off a small load of hardwood since it was going to be a cold night. I decided that I would try to keep a fire going all night tonight. On this beautiful evening I continued reading 2 Macabees and Gogal. With the hard wood that I still had from the previous load that he dropped off, I figured that I would be set. I started burning the hard wood in conjunction with the Tamarack a few hours before going to bed. Before going to bed I filled the stove with the hard wood and left the damper and the air intake very low. I woke up at 1130 and the stove was filled with hot coals. I then filled the stove up again with another load of hardwood. At 0245 I woke up again and there were still red hot coals in the stove. I then filled the stove with a final load of hardwood.

    I woke up at 0600 on day eight. The stove was still full of glowing coals by morning. The temperature at the ridge line was (6) C. Outside the temperature was (-16) C. When I did my water run this morning, the water level was about six inches above my hole in the ice and it was almost flush with the snow. The original hole that I had made in the ice had increased in diameter by about a factor of two. This was the first time that I had witnessed the development of slush in a lake. The weight of the recent snow fall had created such pressure on the ice that cracks had formed and this led to the water forming on top of the ice. My water hole must have had a lot of water pass out of it to have the diameter increase as it did. This lake was slush free at the start of the trip and by this point it had slush. It was a great learning experience to witness this process first hand:

    While fetching my water, the snow around my left snow shoe started to collapse due to the water underneath the snow:

    Below is a picture of the mist above the lake:

    After completing my normal morning routine, I headed out to go skiing. Just before heading down the hill to take me to Red Fox Lake, I saw the camp of the school group that I had passed by yesterday. They were camping in two large tupeks. This is the first time that I had ever seen tupeks in action. I figure they must have purchased the tupeks from Craig MacDonald. Again I wish that I had asked their permission to take a picture of their set up. It was a nice sight to see. After heading into Red Fox Lake I spotted the water hole that the school group was using. The water in their hole was up to the level of the snow as well. While skiing on the lake I noticed a slush hole right beside the trail:

    It was interesting that the same forces were operating in the same way at the same time in different lakes. Fortunately, there was no slush on the lake section of the dogsled trail. I made my way to Hiram Lake and decided to scout out some areas for future camp sites. I did not come across any slush in Hiram Lake. After searching different areas I found one area tucked away in the forest that looked like it might do the job:

    The entry point to this location is just under the brownish section of tree branch in the middle of the following picture. There are two large boulders on both sides of the entry point:

    After eating lunch I headed back to the site. The wind had picked up and although the temperature was only a few degrees above zero, the chill cut right through to the bone and I had to put the anorak on:

    While heading back to the site I thought that I would have the opportunity to take a picture of the tupeks that the school group was using. However, by the time I got back to where they had been camping they had already packed up and left. On my way back I bumped into Craig Lawrence. We shot the breeze for a little while. I told him about the slush that I had seen on Zenobia Lake and Red Fox Lake. He stated that on the bigger lakes in Temagami this can be real problem. He told me that another school group had spent two nights at his camp at Titmouse Lake and that they would be spending two nights at his camp at Zenobia Lake. On my way back I saw several kids on the ice. I briefly spoke to a small group of them. They seemed very pleasant and said they were having a really good time. They really liked staying in the huge hot tents.

    After this I headed back to the site. I decided to clean the pipes again today. There was much more creosote in the pipes today compared to a few days ago when I cleaned the pipes. After assembling the pipes together I did another water run. While getting the water, the snow under my right snow shoe started to collapse due to the slush and I started to lose my balance. I then shifted a lot of weight to my left snow shoe to gain my balance back and my left snow sunk about six inches into the slush. The water bucket ended up flying from my hand. I had a tough time extricating my snow shoe from the slush. My snow shoe had close to six inches of slush on it and it felt like it weighed a ton. I was wearing my Arctic mukluks at the time and although the leather was wet, the liners remained dry and it did not take long in the tent for the leather to dry out. Afterwards I made another water hole a good distance away from the original water hole. Just before dinner I washed up again. It is such a nice feeling doing a simple wash up while winter camping. It started snowing at about 1600 and snowed all night. I finished reading 2 Macabees tonight and enjoyed reading more Gogal. The overnight temperature was about (-3).

    On day nine I slept in until 0740. By late morning the snow had tapered off. Later that morning I met one the teachers from the school group that was camped across the lake. He had a cotton canvas anorak from Empire Canvas Works. I basically took it easy around the site today. I ended up reading the Book of Daniel tonight as well as some more Gogal.

    On day ten I slept in until 0715. The school group headed out today while I was doing my normal morning routine. Although there was a great deal of slush around the region of my first water hole, there was initially no slush around the area of my second water hole. I was surprised by this fact since there was at lest four inches of water over the ice at the second hole. By today however, there were slight traces of slush in my snow shoe tracks on the path to the hole:

    After lunch I went skiing. Below are some pics of the beautiful scenery:

    At the end of skiing I took some pictures of the dog sled camp at Zenobia Lake:

    This was my third time camping at this location. I camped here last year on two occasions. One thing that struck me was a broken branch that was hanging over another branch. The broken branch is perpendicular to the ground and it looks like it could come down at any minute. This same branch has been in the same position for all of my trips to this area. It is amazing how nasty winds can bring down huge trees and yet this branch has not blown down. Below is a picture of the branch:

    While completing my evening chores, Craig Lawrence drove by in his snowmobile. He told me that it was calling for rain overnight and tomorrow. He also told me that on some the lakes when he veered off from the established track with the snowmobile, he had encountered close to about 12 inches of slush. I relaxed this evening and came close to finishing the Collected Tales of Nicolai Gogal.

    Day eleven was the day for my departure. I was up at 0530. I had been expecting rain overnight and was surprised to find that wet heavy snow had been falling overnight. I had an interesting experience with the stove this morning. I had filled the stove and had a really good burn going. The damper was half open and the air intake was about ¼ open. I had been rolling up my sleeping bag and when I turned my head to check on the stove, the damper pipe and the elbow were both glowing. I immediately reduced the air intake to about 1/8 and adjusted the damper so that it was less than half open. Within seconds the pipes and elbow were no longer glowing. It was really interesting because my adjustable elbow is made from black steel and I did not think that it was possible for black steel to glow. Obviously I was mistaken. I am always careful with the stove. After this experience, I will be even more careful. If I absolutely have to leave the tent while there is a really hot burn happening in the stove, I will make sure to turn the air intake to less than 1/8 open and adjust the damper to less than half open. Below are some pictures of how I set up the legs on my stove when doing these trips:

    As the picture shows I have wood pieces running through the holes on the snow legs on the stove. These pieces rest on long logs placed at the back and front of the stove. I use the blunt end of the axe to tap the logs into the snow. I make sure that the log at the front of the stove is deeper in the snow to ensure that the tail end of the stove is sitting higher. This improves the functioning of the stove. I find that this approach works really well to almost eliminate the risk of pipe separation caused by melt back. Under the stove and to the right and left of the stove I lay spruce boughs and heat shields. There is still melt back under the stove and to the right and left of the stove. Every few days when base camping I remove the boughs and add some extra snow to the affected area.

    From the time I woke up until I headed out it took 3.5 hours. By the time I headed out the wind had really picked up and there was a nice snow storm in progress. In the open areas, much of the trail had been blown over with snow. I found the travel to be really difficult. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had ice and snow build up on the bottom of the toboggan. This really made hauling the toboggan more laborious. I had scraped the bottom of the toboggan just before heading out and I figured that I would not have to scrape it again while travelling. I should have stopped to scrape it again while traveling. I ended up using my military snow shoes while hauling the toboggan. The wet snow kept building up on the snow shoes and really weighed them down. I was continually having to wack the sides of the snow shoes with a stick to knock the snow off them. In the future I will be using my synthetic MSR Denali snow shoes while on the packed trail. These have nice metal claws which will give much better grip on the hills. I also think they will not get weighed down in wet snow conditions.

    As usual I was blessed with a really great trip. I got out for some nice skiing and was able to explore some new lakes. I was able to spend some quality time in prayer and I was able to do some nice reading. It is really nice getting away from the concrete jungle and simply living in a hot tent for ten nights. I am very thankful to my employer for the flexibility that I have to do my camping trips. I was able to experience first hand the process of slush forming on the lakes due to the heavy snowfall. If anybody is ever interested in doing dog sledding, Craig Lawrence and his crew are the right people to do such a trip with. His company is called Snow Forest Adventures.

  • #2
    Great trip report and awesome pics, CousinPete. I was right there with you brother. I really enjoyed it all, thank you.

    I've often thought I'd like to take a trip up to Algonquin some time. Unfortunately, I waited too long and my health won't allow a trip like that anymore. I'm restricted to short jaunts these days, though I still enjoy being out. I'll have to live vicariously through you and the others here. 😁

    Your stove looks a lot like mine, is it a Knico packer, by any chance? Thanks again,



    • #3
      Hello Bob: I am glad you enjoyed the report. Thanks for your kind words. It is a knico-packer. Good eye! I hope you get out more nice jaunts this year.

      Happy New Year,
      Cousin Pete