As faithful readers of my website might already know, last May I accepted
work colleague and friend Arn's invitation to come along with him and his family on a 3-day canoe trip in Ontario's Algonquin Provincial Park. Although the trip started out in miserable and rainy conditions, it was ultimately a very enjoyable and successful trip.
That 2013 trip was not a one-off: Arn and his family regularly canoe-trip in Algonquin Park, and the May outing is an especially regular outing for them. So, as 2013-2014's long and cold winter finally released its grip, Arn once again invited Jenn and I to join them.
This time around - unlike last time - Jenn was actually available to join us. Furthermore, she was keen to invite her 9-year old niece Sophie. Given that Arn's entire family (i.e. including their two children, Nel and Kai) goes on these trips, it would be a good opportunity for Sophie to get her first true experience with the backcountry without having to be surrounded only by dour grown-ups.
En-route to Algonquin
This year's trip fell on Canada's Victoria day long weekend. Typically Arn chooses a weekend earlier in May, but this year's long winter meant that the trip had to be pushed back a bit, for the snow and ice in Algonquin park had lingered for longer than usual. The long weekend's extra day allowed for a slightly longer itinerary, one that started on the Friday evening and went all the way to the end of the day on Monday.
Start of Brent Road
We were a large group this year: in addition to the three of us and Arn's family of four, along for the journey were Arn's brother Kyle and partner Eveline, and Arn's longtime canoe-tripping friends Dave and Nancy, along with their daughter Emma. Twelve in total.
Arn had chosen a route that started out from the entry point of Brent - a small camping community along the northern boundary of the park. We had complicated arrival logistics: While Arn and Dave's groups started out at 2pm from Ottawa, Kyle and Eveline were arriving from the Toronto area (a very long drive), and Jenn couldn't get away from work until later in the afternoon. This all meant that several of us were arriving at Brent fairly late and at different times. Arn planned to head out from Brent as soon as they arrived, and had arrange to leave behind a couple of canoe rentals and permits for myself, Jenn, Sophie, Kyle and Eveline. We had a set of 2-way radios that we'd use to communicate as we headed off across the lake to join them.
We were a bit worried about arriving and starting our paddle before dark. We made good time, however, and managed to arrive at the Brent location right around 7pm. This gave us a fairly comfortable two-ish hours of light to set off and find our campsite.
As luck would have it, Kyle and Eveline had arrived just minutes before us. We joined up with them, did some final packing and got ourselves familiar with our rental canoe and gear, and made ready to head off together.
The Brent site is situated on the shores of Cedar Lake, one of the larger lakes in the northern sector of Algonquin Park. We had pre-agreed that a campsite would be chosen on the far side of the lake from Brent, near the entrance of the Petawawa River.
It was right around 7:15pm when we were ready to head off, and the opposite side of the Lake from the Brent dock was about 2 kilometers distant. Timewise, therefore, we were doing pretty well. We'd surely be able to paddle that distance in well under an hour, well ahead of the 8:40pm sunset time.
Across Cedar Lake
It was cool and mostly cloudy as we headed off across the lake. This was Sophie's very first canoe trip, and you could tell that she was taking in the newness of it.
Cedar Lake is large and has a very long west-east axis, and is prone to choppy conditions. Fortunately, the winds were light, and our progress was untroubled and straightforward.
It took us only 29 minutes to cross the 2-kilometre width of Cedar Lake. Kyle had already established radio comms with Arn, and soon we could see him waving to us from the trees on the far shore of the lake.
Arn at camp
Sophie immediately ran off to make friends with Kai, Nel and Emma, while Jenn and I set about putting up our tent before things got too dark.
Arn lit one of his signature campfires, although apparently with some difficulty. A stiff westerly breeze had sprung up, and the orientation of our campsite meant that we got the full force of it coming from across Cedar Lake. It made keeping the fire going somewhat difficult.
Evening at Cedar Lake campsite
The sun would occasionally make an appearance through gaps in the predominantly-overcast conditions. When it did, it flooded our campsite with brilliant low-angled light, and created dramatic photo opportunities. It wasn't enough, though, to warm us from the cool temperatures and the stiff breeze.
We had a quick and late dinner huddled around the campfire, and then rushed off to bed, seeking refuge from the blustery conditions. All in all, things had gone well. All of the complicated arrival logistics had come off without a hitch. A good start.
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Cedar-Catfish Lakes Canoe, Day 1 - click map to view
Brent dock to Cedar Lake Campsite
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet