Algonquin – days 13-20

Algqonquin, day 13, Sunday morning at Roxy’s

I awoke very early, on Algonquin park time, to the sound of the rain on this log home’s metal roof. Our room is quite dark still at 7 am, though only because Don pulled the darkening shades sometime during the night. The weather has turned much cooler. This morning it is raining buckets and I must admit I am glad we are snug in this pillow-laden room rather than huddled beneath a nylon tarp. The rain is supposed to pass through and leave in its wake more typical temperatures for September in this part of Ontario. Perhaps I will rethink some of the sorting out of the pack of the layers of clothing, which we pulled after the last 2 weeks’ experience. This morning, the ultra-light down jacket we eyed at the Portage Store yesterday is seeming attractive.

We visited the Portage Store yesterday as part of our drive across the park on Highway 60, something we’ve not yet experienced here. This is a more developed corridor in the park, with public campgrounds and interpretive walking trails, historic sites, cottages, summer camps and lakes with motors allowed. The Portage Store is on Canoe Lake, an historic jumping off point for the classic canoe trip circuit, which evidently can be like a super highway of canoes during the height of the season. Still, it was nothing at all like the commercialized streets of a town like Lake Placid in the middle of the Adirondacks. This was just one building with a restaurant, a gift store and an outfitter.

We enjoyed the feeling of long tradition that we experienced there — our waiter’s great-grandfather had started one of the camps on the Lake and the store clerk was one of 4 generations of family members who had worked at the Store — and we caught a glimpse of the ‘summer resort’/ tourist attraction aspect of this part of the park too. While we consumed a $50 chicken Caesar-salad-and-soup lunch from the historic restaurant , we watched the canoe livery send Grumman after Grumman into the bay with what appeared to be no instruction on how to even hold a canoe paddle. Still, it was good to see people drawn to the beauty of water and woods and sky.

Later in the afternoon, we pulled into the Logging Museum, an outdoor interactive tour that follows a walking trail, which depicts the history of logging in Algonquin. Don especially loved it. I expect some of his keen fascination came with imagining life as a man during that period of time – performing such long hours of demanding physical labor through grueling winter months, living in the tight quarters of the logging camps, or risking the dangerous work of river driver come spring thaw when tons of logs were ‘floated’ down river to waiting seaports in Ottawa – in much the same way as the stories of women’s past lives engage something in me.

We also checked in with the outfitter, making payment and arrangements for the canoe to be delivered to our planned access point on Monday morning for our friends, who will be arriving sometime this evening to join us for our second trip into the interior.

Arriving at Roxy’s hungry and expecting to have to drive again to the nearest town for dinner, we were delighted to discover that the little restaurant and lodging establishment next door had reopened. A walk through the woods on a trail opened out to their place, still in need of some repair (and had we not been given such an endorsement we likely would not have ventured in). The younger couple was enthusiastic, charming and green, embarking on a second career as they were, and for a time we were alone with them in the place, enjoying their stories and their company. Soon, however, three tables of 4 entered in succession, keeping the pair on their toes, and we were happy to see the local community supporting and embracing them.

Roxy lent me the use of her computer after dinner, to email our paddling friends with news of our trip. Before I knew it, I was writing a ‘book’. When I sit at the keyboard, I certainly enter a zone that feels timeless somehow. It is important for me to notice this difference between being immersed in the moment, which feels so intently present and deeply connective, and getting lost in the mindless distraction that the computer can also afford.

Today, we hope to explore the tiny town of Maynooth, on a walking tour of their studios and galleries, bakeries and cafes.



Day 14, Monday, September 14, Rock lake to Pen lake to Clydegale

Our first day together in the park had us leaving the put-in much later than we’d hoped. We had a great start to the day, leaving Roxy’s by 8:15 and arriving at the permit office on Rock Lake by 9 or so. Unfortunately, the canoe wasn’t delivered by the outfitter until 10:30, so we stood for some time on the dock waiting for the truck to arrive. Thus, we arrived at our campsite on Clydegale much later in the afternoon than we’d wanted, and hit both Pen and Clydegale lakes in the mid afternoon when the winds were up. That made for more stressful paddling, especially with partners who were unaccustomed to each other’s paddling strengths and styles. Thankfully, we arrived at the very last campsite, on the south side of the island, and found it unoccupied (after having passed the previous three, which were taken) I was both quite glad to have arrived and relieved that we would not have to paddle the length of the lake back up to the northern end to find a campsite.

Both portage trails we carried today (a 375m and a 275m) were up and around falls, the first one, from Rock Lake to Pen Lake, the most picturesque, with a campsite right next to the river where one could walk a trail to view and/or play in the rapids. We lingered there, exploring, photographing and taking our lunch break after getting our gear across the trail. We also chatted for a bit with 2 groups we met there, one on the way in and one on the way out, and then chose the wrong channel for circling the large island sentinel to the lake-proper and had to circle back around the itf. Still, I’d say we made good time, arriving at our campsite by 4 o’clock, given the late start, a lingering lunch, waterfall gazing, conversations, and misdirections.

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(Day 15, Tuesday, Sept 15)

Our campsite on Clydegale was quite picturesque and private, though rather quiet from a wildlife perspective as well. However, the 300 degree views from the small granite island offshore were quite phenomenal. Last evening we paddled the 10 meter channel to take our dinner there and stayed the evening, awaiting and then reveling in the stars, which have been amazing this week with the new and gradually waxing moon, so beautifully framed in the twilit sky on its evening descent. Thoroughly magiacal, we remained until nature at last called us all back to camp. By then we were quite ready for bed, so dealing with burning the leftovers back in camp was tense and frustrating for all, with ‘too many cooks’ spoiling an otherwise enchanted evening.

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Earlier in the day, we had ventured out for a day paddle, exploring the morning-still water of shorelines and bays on our way to the South Madawaska river, which we intended to follow for a day of discovery. As had been suggested, the entrance to the river was quite difficult to find, and we poked around several dead end passageways in the marsh before a heron finally showed us the way through.

Once on the river, we weaved and circled through beaver habitat, lifting over 4 or 5 small dams, many of which were old and in disrepair, a few of which may have been active. There were delightful narrow channels sprouting off the main trunk into the grasses and alders, and I peered down each one with longing. Once or twice we found ourselves having chosen the wrong trail and had to backtrack to find our way through, but finally we found ourselves on solid enough ground to stop for a lunch along the water just as the marshlands were giving way to rock walls, narrowing into the forested notch… and just as grumbling tummies and full bladders were requesting a reprieve.

There, Deirdre and I explored and climbed as high as we could, peering in hidey-holes and marveling in the clinging mosses, thick and saturated. We pondered towering trees and others whose roots seemed impossibly improbable, clinging as they were to sheer rock. The woods were thick and undisturbed here. We followed a slide, where perhaps an otter entered the water, or perhaps another creature might descend for a drink, for in the path next to the water, there were several blue gentian stalks that had been crushed underfoot.

We decided to head back to camp after lunch, rather than continuing down the river. The paddle back to camp (the afternoon winds were back) found Don and me bickering about angle and distance from shore and finally where to ‘park’ the canoe. Time for some quiet, some space, some rest… and perhaps a good cup of coffee

Deciding the coffee might not be a bad idea, I left my pack sit on the rocks where I’d settled in for a break and some quiet, checking in with Jim and Deirdre about whether they’d appreciate one too. (Don had taken his rod for his own R&R). Seated on the log, awaiting the water to boil, we settled in to some pleasant conversation while laughing over the antics of the red squirrels who nosed about for snacks and chased one another around camp. Suddenly, I thought of my pack on the rocks, still holding my bag of gorp. Sure enough, one of the rascals had broken in, chewing around my zipper to gain entry,permanently destroying it. They weren’t quite so comical after that.

Day 16, Wed, Sept 16, 6 am, Clydegale Lake

I sit watching the sun rise, painting the sky with its palette of peach, lemon yellow and pale mint green, a few of the brighter stars still apparent in the sky – orion’s belt and one super nova that I imagine must be a planet.

I am still.

It has been much more difficult to be still on this trip, where I feel ‘responsible’ somehow – for more than just such things as the route, agenda, and food, but also for such things as the comfort and contentment of the group.

I seek to simply notice this about myself this morning, to see it without judgment of the rightness or wrongness of either myself – my feelings, my actions, or reactions- the other, or about the trip itself.

A loon calls, ‘Where are you?’ Silently, my heart responds ‘Here I am’ and I thank it for its reminder to find myself here, the part of myself that beholds with Love.

The morning mist is beginning to rise around the bends that wrap either side of the far shoreline, the one we paddled yesterday morning when the water was yet still. The sun is beginning to ever-so-slightly raise the temperature of the earth and her waters. I know this not by my senses, for I feel no change on my skin, but by deduction, my mind

understands from whence the fog arrives. The mind can be a good place to start.

A few less stars are now visible.

A frog kerplops.

A treefrog chirps.

Something nearer by squawks.

The reflection of the planet wavers in the grasses and pickerel at the water’s edge.

A woman grows weary, irritable, frustrated, annoyed.

A man longs to be accepted and respected, to be himself and just to fit in.

She feels disempowered, second-guessed, diminished.

He worries that he is not doing enough, being enough, good enough, fears that others are not pleased.

She longs for quiet and slow paces, to be alone and just to fit in.

We are a ragtag lovable group, as lovable as the colors of the morning sky that seem to have deepened since last I looked up from this page.

A duck quacks somewhere across the water.

A raven lifts from the top of the ridge.

May I continue to watch the day unfold with such gentleness and mercy. May I greet each new arrival with welcome.

I thought for some time about the wisdom of rising so early when I awoke in the dark, afraid I would only make myself more cranky if I cut short my hours of sleep, wondering if the physical demands were beginning to take their toll and shortening my sleep might shorten my fuse. But this has indeed been wise, this taking a moment to be alone with myself, to be still and listen with love. Perhaps sleep is not always what one needs to refuel and relax. I have set aside my journaling/quiet time for the needs of the group, but checking in this way is likely more vital to the health of the group, or at least for my contribution to it.

I am ready to begin my day in peace.

Late afternoon. Clydegale to Pen Lake, a lovely paddle with Deirdre as my paddling partner.

We began the day on quiet water, reflective and glassy smooth. Immediately upon leaving the shoreline, Deirdre spotted a moose browsing on the opposite shore, then confirmed with her binoculars that is was a bull. By the time we paddled across, however, he had retreated into the cover of brush or woodland.

There were several black ducks in the shallows, poking their heads down, bottoms up, feeding admidst the pickerel reed there. Soon after, a family of 4 loons joined us in the widening channel. It was there that Deirdre noticed the small, dime-sized, jellyfish swimming in the waters around our canoe. What a surprise and a delight. It is so wonderful to paddle with her for the way that she pays attention.

Arriving on Pen Lake, the wind was just beginning to create ripples as we made our way north. Settling around noon on a campsite along the eastern shore about half way up the length of the lake, lunch was eaten and camp was reestablished for the next few days. Tonight, with an open view of the northern sky, we hope for another clear night, both for star-gazing and for a potential view of the northern lights. (We have heard they may be visible this week.) There are a few clouds dotting the western horizon. Perhaps they will reflect the sunset this evening. I expect that the ridge beneath them, covered as it is in deciduous trees, will be quite stunning itself in a few weeks, painted in autumn’s palette.

The water, now being blown in earnest, is lapping at the shoreline, whereas farther from shore, so many diamonds are seemingly strewn across the lake’s surface by the same interplay of wind upon water. The breeze too delights my own skin and likewise affects the alder and birch, in which I am nestled, inspiring their leaves to flutter and dance.

While it is definitely different being here with friends.. I miss the intimate connection with Don that we had on our 11 day journey, for instance, and the introvert in me finds it doubly fatiguing and almost impossible to cultivate stillness .. I do appreciate being here with Deirdre and the lens that she has to share. I wonder what it might be like to experience a trip such as this with women. The male/female power dynamics and control issues, defensiveness and communication breakdowns are definitely more pronounced on a trip such as this. Whew. I own that in myself as much as I notice it others…. at times more grace-fully than other times.

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Day 18, Friday, Sept 18

Our last morning in the park. All is packed that can be, as we wait for our friends to pack their personal gear. It is another beautiful morning, a bit cooler but still no jacket required. The sky, a bit more streaked with clouds, is an azure blue. Perhaps tonight will bring a lovely sunset. We have had no clouds to reflect its beauty this week… an interesting concept to ponder.

Our campsite on Pen was my least favorite of the trip. While the west facing site gave us a view of the setting sun, that same sun was quite intensely hot until it dipped beneath the horizon, which made sitting by the water uncomfortable until evening. The setting of the waxing moon each evening, however, was quite enchanting, its light casting a path across the water toward us that made one long to climb into a canoe and paddle across its invitation. The stars this week continued to dazzle and baffle., and we ooo-ed and ahh-ed over a dozen or more shooting stars. No northern lights though… oh well, we’ll just have to come back another time


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Yesterday (Thursday) we enjoyed an easy paddle north along the shoreline to the portage to Night Lake, a 1600 meter walk-in- the woods through mushroom and fungi laden terrain, which we traveled without gear. Along the way,we were delighted by a chipmunk seated beneath a large white mushroom, munching away on a chunk of it that he had broken off. Night Lake itself was peaceful and had the feeling of intimacy and away-ness that the larger lakes we have been on this week have not afforded. Where the portage trail came into the water, there was a marshland that appeared to be rich with life. We spotted moose tracks and otter scat and freshly gnawed alder and birch. Then there were the frogs, of course.

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We lunched there on hummus and cheese, wasa bread and carrot slaw, relaxing at the water’s edge (some of us half in and half out) until the sun again encouraged us to move back into the woods to return via the woodland trail. Back on the shore of Pen Lake, we sifted through the granite strewn beach for favorites – speckled, striped and sparkled , pinks and blacks and grays. Don found a marvelous heart-shaped stone, which he has been working on smoothing. He can be so romantic.

Deirdre and I paddled together again, which I quite enjoyed. (I hope she has too). I have been pleased with my ability to keep the canoe on course from the stern in a stiff wind and waves. Yesterday afternoon, we enjoyed a lovely afternoon sitting next to her tent on the hill overlooking the water, in the filtered light of the trees.

Our last evening together ended with laughter and stars. A good closing to a pleasant day.

Late Friday afternoon, Sept 18, Hay Lake Lodge

A morning of paddling and portaging, leaving camp at 9:30, got us to the visitor’s center, hungry and weary, at 1:30. There, we grabbed a bite to eat at the Snack Bar , and then browsed the center. I purchased several books, which I hope to read through the slow days of winter as I dream of my return to this magical place. I am already envisioning an interior trip on a small isolated lake, where I might settle in for awhile, as that feels most enticing and inviting to me at this time after 3 weeks of hard work. I have definitely learned that being responsible for a group drains me almost as much as the previous 2 weeks filled me (this is  the introvert in me).

After navigating the rock garden around the large island in the north end of Pen Lake, (well, sort of… but we did leave some paint behind for future canoeists to follow!) we came into the north bay, which was surprising appealing to me. I was particularly drawn to the campsite in the bay that heads east toward the portage to Gem Lake.

At the end of the portage from Pen to Rock Lake, we encountered a young couple on their way in, the wife on her first interior trip, and I felt excitement for them, hoping their weekend would go well enough to inspire the beginnings of a love affair with Algonquin and canoe camping for them. Of course, as is often the case, as soon as one is in the presence of other canoeists, one wants to look as if one knows what one is doing, and therefore will most certainly look foolish, and as I recall once reading on someone’s trip report ‘Our ability to pretend to be skilled while actually demonstrating our lack of skills has been honed to perfection’. As Don and I struggled to load our boat and our gear into the water in front of the young couple, I wondered how much of our increased tension throughout this week was related to this wanting to look like we knew what we were doing. Of course, clear communication (what do you mean exactly by ‘back’?) and hearing one another might be the bigger issue.

Ah humility.

Rock Lake was wind-tossed today and we stayed close to the western shoreline as we rounded the bend from the cliffs, where we thought we’d actually spotted the Petroglyphs that are supposed to be on them.

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By this time, I was indeed feeling irritable from physical fatigue, but also from what I am beginning to  identify as a lack of autonomy and self-determination. With each decision and choice discussed and/or second-guessed, and opinions about the best way to build fires/erect tents/carry canoes/lift over dams/trim the boat/paddle the wind abounding, I was feeling not only frustrated by now, but also somewhat diminished.  I think I have some knowledge and skills that I have been both studying and practicing, which I felt were not necessarily valued. So, I must balance the self-judgment I wield upon myself for being defensive and irritable with the very real possibility that I may have been responding to something that feels disempowering.

This spring, I met an older man who seemed to be ahead of his time on this one. A canoe builder by trade, he told me he realized years ago that women want to be active participants and carry their own weight.. including their own canoe… so he designs solo boats for women that fit their bodies, both for paddling and carrying, so that they can do so. I think this is what I appreciated about the freestyle canoe symposium this summer , where it was assumed that women could paddle with as much finesse and control as men.

Ah well, here I am now at Hay Lake Lodge on a warm evening, rainy but not at all unpleasant under the roof of the screened-in-porch where I sit. Things are uncomfortably quiet inside the cabin, but out here, I hear the loon call again, ‘Where are you?’ Silently, my heart responds ‘Here I am’ and I thank it again for its reminder to find myself here, the part of myself that beholds with Love. These trips are always as much about learning about myself, my inner terrain, as they are about being in the natural world. (remember #5, 6, and 7 ?) I always forget that somehow from year to year. I imagine that even, and especially, if I come here alone parts of myself will always rise to be seen, understood, and loved in a place like this where I can’t escape into distraction.

Saturday evening, Sept 19

Looking out over the dark waters of Hay Lake from the lounge at the lodge, deeply appreciating the view, the music, the fire, the quiet… inner and outer. Clouds are rolling , gray and billowy, at times still releasing showers of wind-driven rain, at times blowing over, creating whitecaps in the lake. I am content, quite at last.

This has been a good debriefing day, the tension eased in me substantially with a short amount of time this morning being still and alone. Don and I then had a conversational debriefing on the porch swing. It helps so to have a listening ear, as I sort out what is mine and what belongs to another.

We then spent the day exploring the countryside in the area by taking the studio art tour, which is happening this weekend from the east side of Maynooth, to the west side of Bancroft, up and around Baptiste and Elephant lakes, through rural farmland and country homesteads to lakeside cottages.

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The first artist’s studio at which we stopped was a woman who painted the arctic from expeditions she takes to a beloved landscape with a beloved mentor, the first of which was a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ trip that has become an annual pilgrimage. There was something in her story that brought tears for me, something about the resonance of her inner calling/gift with something she has met outside of herself for which she feels a deep passion, a sense of purpose and an evident aliveness, to which she has dedicated her life.. (I think of Beuchner’s quote here, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” )

I must pay attention to this stirring in me around her story telling.

The second place we visited was an old log home, off the grid, atop a crest overlooking an amazing view. There was a kitchen garden and a stockpile of wood being cut for the winter here. Again came the feeling of deep longing and resonance.

It is good right here, right now, to be free of care-taking, to be free to notice the me that emerges, and the longings that have space to bubble up here, through this opening in me, to be heard.






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