Algonquin – day 7

Day 7, Sept 7 – White trout through the Grassy Bay To McIntosh Lake. 12.9 km traveled, 1255 m portages

We were up before 6 and on the water before 7 for a windy, windy day. First came the quieter paddle across White Trout and pausing to fill and treat our water bottles before entering the marsh, then it was on into the alpine bog and marshland , with its quiet, remote, and beautifully rugged atmosphere. Softening the view, the marshland meadow was dotted with the cottonball seedheads of an undetermined plant that was simply striking against the darker green alpine backdrop.

Paddling for hours alone, through meandering paths in bog plants, we followed whatever current we could detect to find passage. At times we were convinced we had come to a dead end, when around an unseen corner, the pathway would pick up again. We paddled against a strong wind all day, even in smaller channels. At last, it seemed we were paddling in beaver trails and indeed soon found ourselves lifting over 4 or 5 smallish dams before reaching the portage trail to McIntosh.

The first portage of the day was a beautiful walk in the woods along McIntosh Creek, gurgling over rocks today. We crossed the creek twice on log bridges and I sighed as I passed, saying , “this is like the portage trail to heaven’. Again I noted the mushrooms and toadstools too numerous to name. There are mosses and sorrel leaves (which remind me of shamrocks) in these magical woods too, a virtual fairyland. One thing I like about being under the canoe on a portage is that one notices things underfoot or along the trail’s edge, small life such as this that would be easily missed with one’s eyes focused too far ahead.

Still, the portage was mostly uphill and by that second time across beneath the canoe, I was fairly tired. It was quite hot again, and sunny by now, probably in the upper 80’s by noon. We laughed abit about our canoe trip to the tropics. Indeed, the breeze through the tent door felt tropical again last night.

The second portage of the day dumped us out into McIntosh Lake at noon. but the mean looking water, driven across the wide lake into our faces, made for a tough paddle as we looked for a campsite. The first two at which we stopped were not very appealing at all, and by the time we disembarked at a third, we wisely decided to at least take a lunch break before making camp, with so much physical work behind us and breakfast a long time ago. I was fairly well spent.

The site that we lunched at appeared to have been recently hit by a strong storm, with so many huge blowdowns and bramble. Exploring a bit after having refueled, I noted a huge pile of bear scat and several of mooseberries. We had noted wolf tracks in the muck earlier too, next to the water at the beginning of the first portage.

We decided to head out to try to get to the western shoreline, in the lee of the land, where we could see what appeared to be a huge eddy line about 25 yards out from the land, with calm water beyond. Across the lake at last, we stopped at the first site we came to, one with large flat granite frontage that could’ve been mistaken for sand from a distance, In fact, the sandy beach we thought we’d found around the side proved to simply be the slope of the granite as it rose up from the water.

We grabbed the site, despite the boggy back yard, because we were done, and for the stargazing and drying potential the rock ledge held. Too bad the blueberries are finished for the season, for we certainly could’ve gathered bucketfuls from the bushes in the bog. Perhaps the bears enjoy that patch too, so maybe I’m glad they are not in season after all.

We both were quite hot and smelly, so we went in for a rinse and a swim. Then, I took some soap to my body with the bucket of water I’d drawn and carried back from the lake, for I discovered that the rinsing did not take care of the smell at all.

We dried our refreshed bodies, laying out on the rock in the sun and the wind, next to our rock-weighted drying clothes. Feeling fresh, we set about the camp chores of dinner prep, water-gathering, and washing the sooty coffee cups that I’d heated over a small pitchy fire in the morning, which we’d thrown in our pack after breakfast.

After dinner, some of Thomas Merton’s, ‘Rain and the Rhinocerous” and later sky watching from our fabulous 270 degree vantage point. The lake was so very quiet, and then, a lone wolf howl, quite close, then another, perhaps on the site where we’d lunched. A perfect note to end the day.

Too tired for more tonight.

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