Algonquin – day 5

Day 5, Sept 5. Day trip to Big Trout Lake, Esther’s favorite campsite , 10 km round trip

We fell into bed at 10pm last night.

This morning, after a breakfast of pancakes over the fire, we decided to take advantage of the beautiful day – sunny blue skies with temperatures already above 70 degrees- to make our way to Esther Keyser’s favorite lake and campsite, a goal for this trip of ours. Birch Point is on Big Trout Lake, which Esther lauds in her book, Paddling My Own Canoe, as the most beautiful lake in all of Algonquin. Esther remembers with fondness both helping to create this campsite and spending many days with her growing family there.

We began our paddle delighting again in the yips and calls of young loons with their families. Their softer familial ‘conversations’ remind Don and me of puppies and when they break into a full-fledged call often their voices seem to break like an adolescent boy’s.

Not long after, we heard a different sound from them altogether, the trilling of warning and anxiety from several loons on the opposite shore. We were just coming around a bend in the lake, approaching the ‘high cliffs’, and soon we understood why the loons were in such a state of alert, for an eagle, who we surmised makes his or her nest in those cliffs, was diving repeatedly. As it flew back toward the cliffs, we thought it was carrying something off in its talons. Don reminded me that cute little baby eagles have to eat too.

The high cliffs were also not at all what I had envisioned, as I imagined them being bald and sheer, though for Algonquin they were indeed high. After some wrong turns, we found our bearings and were paddling through the narrow channel between White Trout and Big Trout Lakes. There, yet another beaver registered his dismay at our passing too close for his comfort.

Big Trout Lake is a large lake, and we saw but a small corner of it, the northwestern most bays. Picturesque, with islands and jutting peninsulas, long inlets and long views, one could get lost and/or paddle her shoreline for days. Esther’s site live up to her praises, with a protected sandy beach cove, perfect for landing and swimming, and a sheltered fireplace, in the lee of a large boulder while still offering views to the east, for community times. Surrounded on 3 sides by water, there are nooks and crannies next to the water for quiet contemplation or basking in the view. Just offshore lies a granite, tree-studded island to which one can easily wade through knee-deep lily and pickerel. We lunched atop the island, where we alternated views from the big water view to the east, then, spinning on our bottom, to the inlets and meandering shoreline to the west.

After whiling some time there (Don fished again) we paddled abit more, encircling the large island, before making our way back through the narrows and past the high cliffs to camp. By now the wind had picked up under a cumulous-dotted sky, and we worked for some time on the wide open water near the northern end of White trout where the wind had a long stretch from the southwest in which to build energy.

Back in camp, I laid back on my rock, my feet in the water again, basking on its heat like a turtle on a log. Dinner, rosemary and olive oil pasta with garlic and chicken, was voted by both of us to be the best yet. We had no trouble emptying the pot tonight.

Again, we sat on the same rock after dinner cleanup (where once again our beaver friend told us just what he thought of our sitting on his ramp) watching the water and the sky darken, after giving to us the most stunning sunset yet. An arcing sweep of vivid pink cumulous clouds, reflecting the light of the setting sun and then mirrored in the glassy still water, created a vulva shaped opening in the sky through which one might just want to be born again. For more than an hour, mostly in silence, we watched as a blanket of now-heavy clouds moved across the sky. To our west, they presented to us a thunder and lightning show (perhaps Misty Lake was receiving a storm) which we were glad to view but happy to have pass us by. As the system slowly passed over, eventually revealing to us the stars that were hidden above it, we were struck by the sudden coolness to the air.

Those clouds had indeed been blanketing us.

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