Algonquin – day 4

Sept 4, day 4. Misty Lake through the Petawawa and the Grassy Bay to White Trout Lake – 15.5km traveled , 1650 m portages

Yesterday continued to be a relaxed day. I went for a swim.. in life vest and panties…though the water was nippier with the increasing cloud cover than I’d thought it would be from the earlier sundrenched (hot) rock. Don fished from the rocks, though he caught nothing but the bottom of the lake and I swam out at one point to attempt dislodging his lure from the underwater boulders, to no avail. After dinner, we lounged on those same rocks appreciating the array of colors that the sun and the clouds can create when they play with one another. As we reclined, a heron flew over our heads, squawking its crow-like call, so close we could see the sky through the separation between its back legs. trailing him in flight. A beaver swam the circumference of our point on the now-glassy water.

In the wee hours of the morning, we heard that same beaver thwacking his tail repeatedly, in annoyance or alarm, obviously disturbed by the presence of something unexpected or unwelcome. I was most certain he was upset by a bear, as some paddlers who passed by our campsite earlier in the day had mentioned they’d seen a small bear swimming across the bay near their campsite behind us. My imaginings were fed by the racket in camp of something snooping around. (It turns out the culprit was into the hardware pack, seemingly drawn to Don’s fishy smelling tackle) . Of course, I was convinced our food barrel, which I’d carried out of camp and into the woods, had been raided and we’d be unable to find it come morning light.

Oh the ingenuity.. of a mind in the dark.

An early start to our day, we were on the water before 8 for a long day of paddling and portaging. Six portages, five of which were under 200 meters, found us in and out of the boat a lot. The Petawawa River was so low at times , our paddling was more like poling through grassy and sometimes silty water, a real slog at times. Over 3 beaver dams we ‘slid’ and once my boot filled so with muck, as I sunk to my knees in it, that I was not at all certain I was going to be successful in pulling it out.

Then there was the miscue in reading the portage signs around one very large beaver dam and pond. We misunderstood the portage sign indicating the exit from water on this side of the dam, thinking the portage itself was merely to bypass the dam as we could see another portage sign just across the beaver pond, which we assumed was marking the place that we would put our boat back into the water if we took the overland trail. So..we decided to forego that portage altogether and pull ourselves over the massive pile of sticks. What we’d misunderstood was that there were 2 potential takeouts for the actual 195 meter portage itself (and if we’d thought more carefully would’ve quickly realized that the 2nd sign was not 195 meters away at all) . Soon we found ourselves in a boulder strewn, almost-dry, riverbed with no passable channel. Evidently this part of the river contains a series of rapids when the water is high, so we were fortunate that we misread the signs in low water conditions and our only mishap was a scrape or two of the bottom of the hull on some rocks. We lined the boat back to the beaver pond and were soon on the portage where we set our packs down next to some tree roots, not noticing that there were ground bees’ hives in those roots. Luckily Don was only stung once on the wrist as he reached for his pack.

Still, it was a magical paddle. The Petawawa was teeming with frogs, perched on the mat of grasses bent over in the slow current with just their eyes popping up above the surface. Most of them seemed unconcerned at our passing and would sit perfectly still unless the canoe actually brushed up against them. On the first portage trail of the day, a young marten, as curious about us as we were about him, posed for a few moments on the limb of a pine next to the trail, cocking his head and scratching his ear, until I reached for my camera and he scampered off. Soon after, a ruffed grouse clucked his dismay at our passing. So many mushrooms and fungi line the paths in the late summer, as diverse, abundant and colorful as wildflowers in the spring.

Back on the Petawawa, we witnessed a family of 4 otters out for morning swim, and followed a family of geese for some time. Heron fished the banks, flushing often at our arrival around the bend, and Don tried his hand too, throwing in a line at several of the pools at the bottoms of what in higher water would be rapids or falls. Our lunch break was enjoyed at one such pool.

At last, we arrived at the Grassy Bay, which was not at all what I’d expected. I had imagined a narrow meandering channel cutting through the high grasses, but in reality it was more like a very shallow , boggy lake with a slow labyrinthine current that one had to be attentive to follow. It felt quite remote and I was struck by the raw beauty and seeming wildness of it. On one of the mudflats, we noted several black cormorant drying their wings alongside one lone white gull, rather like the ugly duckling of the group, so mismatched was he. Again, we were enchanted by the utter quiet.

Following strategically placed signs, often appearing just when we were certain we’d missed a turn, we soon found ourselves back on open water as we entered the southern end of White Trout Lake. This end felt very alpinish to me with its shoreline of slender spires. I hope to explore that shoreline abit more tomorrow, but it was getting to be quite late in the afternoon by the time we arrived so we headed directly across the water to the peninsula campsite I’d earmarked. As we paddled closer, I noted movement on the land there, and sure enough a small party was out gathering wood , so then we spent quite abit more time searching out a site we’d want to call home for the next few days. I had to chuckle at our decision making process here, doubly hindered by our water weariness (we were getting hangry) , remembering a funny flowsheet at which I’d once sniggered on choosing the ‘perfect’ campsite.

We settled at last on this beauty, where the tent overlooks the water through a wide gap in sheltering trees. We have more than a 180 degree view from this rock upon which I now sit, relaxing after setting up camp and having dinner. Already an otter and a beaver have swum past, the latter coming within 20 feet of us before thwacking his tail in dismay at our presence. I think we may be seated on his exit ramp.

The stars are the best they’ve yet been, as the moon is not only waning but rising later each evening, creating a window of darkness for us to gaze through. We have slept with the tent fly thrown open each night and tonight will be no exception. Perhaps we will remove it altogether.

I may just be a convert for early September trips.

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