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8/08/2017 4:11 pm  #1

4 day solo - Smoke > Little Coon > Lake Louisa > Bonnechere

I thought I would try to post my first trip report on this message board since I've learned a lot from other's reports. Time to give back!

I try to do one solo trip every year and I've been planning this one since February. Decided to do Kevin Callan's Louisa Loop trip from "A Paddler's Guide to Algonquin Park". First time doing a full solo canoe route so I was a bit apprehensive if I could do that distance on my own in 4 days. Especially given the headwinds I experienced when getting on to Smoke on the Friday morning. 

I rented a 15' Swift Keewaydin from Algonquin Outfitters. I really fell in love with this boat since it moves through the water like a knife. I felt it had amazing balance. I could stand up in the boat or crawl from one end to the other if I needed to without fearing tipping (as long as the wind behaved). Highly recommend this boat. 

I went out from Smoke on Friday morning. I'm unfamiliar with the southern end of Algonquin, I've only done the hiking trails like uplands and highlands for summer and winter camping to this point so it's all new to me. 

The paddle down Smoke was a grueling almost 2 hours. I had to really stick to the shoreline and some of the cottagers were watching me as the canoe held almost still as I tried my hardest to push it forward. I later learned that we had some tornado's touch down not far from the park so it all makes sense now. One of the worst headwinds I've experienced. Things weren't as bad as I got more south on the smaller lakes. 

My stay on Little Coon was very wet. A huge downpour happened around 7-8 o'clock. Really quiet lake, almost spooky feeling to it. I wouldn't go back again, I rather just stay on the far end of Big Porcupine. The portage the next day down to What Not Lake was incredibly muddy. My legs were almost completely submerged in spots. I then made the decision to go to Lower What Not and try to see if the What Not River was passable and maybe see if I could spot a moose. The river was intense. I'm used to canoeing Kawartha Highlands or Killarney so I've never really had to get out of my boat and drag the canoe through the reedy waters. Very buggy in spots and I was laughing about what a stupid decision it was. 

I ended up on Loader by accident since I assumed it was McGarvey and didn't know until I saw the portage sign to Lower Loader. Doubled back and made it to McGarvey without issue. It was a nice paddle after that - spots of light rain and then sun and then big winds from the west. That's how the day went in terms of a cycle. At points on North Grace I just let the wind push me and I tried fishing during. I didn't catch anything the entire trip. I spoke to a few others and they had the same issue. 
Lots of garbage on the portage trails unfortunately. The 1450m portage from North Grace to Louisa had 8-10 pieces of garbage scattered along the route. Mostly sun tan lotion bottles. I picked up what I could but there is a lot - not sure if this is what it's normally like? 

I stayed on the North side of Lake Louisa, nice spot on the main land near the two small islands with sites on them on the western half of the Lake. Really great camping spot especially for a larger group. Found some blueberries on the peninsula to the south near Thompson Bay. 

The trip from Lake Louisa through to Bonnechere was uneventful. Nice day overall. Bugs weren't too bad. Saw a lot more people on this side of the loop. Lots of groups of kids heading up to Harness. Bonnechere is a great lake. I loved getting through the Devil's Razor area towards the southern part of Bonnechere. Really fun to navigate and I got to use some paddle strokes I don't always get to use. I really fell in love with Bonnechere, stunning landscape. I stayed on the southern most campsite. Had a nice sunset. I'll definitely be back. 

The portages were good for the most part, no real issues other than the mud and lots of traffic on Ragged on the way out. I double carried most of the trip until the last day. The double carries gave me a chance to check out the portages without a canoe on my head. 

The weather was definitely a mixed bag but I will be back to this side of Algonquin. Loved it. I hope I wasn't too wordy and this helps someone plan their trip!

Bonus: Here's a picture of my canoe stuck in the What Not (to do) River. http://imgur.com/a/rRGy8

- Josh


8/08/2017 5:47 pm  #2

Re: 4 day solo - Smoke > Little Coon > Lake Louisa > Bonnechere

Lake Louisa is a really nice lake with great sites. I'm surprised that wasn't the worst of your headwinds, they always seem to be brutal when I'm there! Even in the early morning and evenings.

Also seems lucky you were able to paddle all the way through Bonnechere and snag the last site; I've heard it's a really beautiful site and the nicest one on the lake. I'll be camping there in a few weeks but I'm going on the Saturday of the long weekend and will be coming all the way from Smoke, so unfortunately I don't think I'll be getting much choice of sites :/

Sounds like a great trip though, thanks for sharing


8/10/2017 6:44 am  #3

Re: 4 day solo - Smoke > Little Coon > Lake Louisa > Bonnechere

Hey Pizzabones (Josh),

My wife and I saw you during your trip, I believe it was on the Friday before the portage at the bottom of Smoke (we are sure as you posted a pickture of your boat). We thought it was odd that you seemed to have unpacked all your gear before the portage. I guess you were just getting everything square before getting into your trip. You passed us on the portage so Inassume you did.

We stayed on Bonchere for three night and took in all that rain. I think we were on the same campsite that you stayed on, the south most one with the big rock faces. Wasn't this site just awesome?!

Good to know that Little Coon was not remarkable. We wanted to make it to Louisa but it is just too much for a day trip from Boncherre.

Happy tripping,



8/10/2017 7:55 am  #4

Re: 4 day solo - Smoke > Little Coon > Lake Louisa > Bonnechere

That's so funny JayRock - there was a lot of people on that portage. Were you heading out at that time? did you have a dog named Wesley? I might have spoken to your wife. I was doing double carries in the beginning to not over exert myself too early on and I'm lazy. I think I left my gear and took the boat first on that portage from Smoke to Ragged. I learned later that I could wedge my rod between the seat and gunwhale and that helped me single carry after that. 

Those three sites on the south end of Bonnechere are all awesome but I liked that one especially, I got really lucky considering I was arriving at the lake around 5-6. 

     Thread Starter

8/10/2017 8:12 am  #5

Re: 4 day solo - Smoke > Little Coon > Lake Louisa > Bonnechere

No dog named Wesley. But I think you were talking to my wife a bit on the portage.

You were unpacking stuff BEFORE the portage from smoke to ragged. From our canoe I asked you about your canoe. You talked about how it was a swift solo and it was butter in the water.

You followed us on the portage with your boat, we were both doubling. You were faster and got out on ragged first.


8/10/2017 8:53 am  #6

Re: 4 day solo - Smoke > Little Coon > Lake Louisa > Bonnechere

Thanks for the report Josh. That's a nice route, I did parts of it last summer and really enjoyed it. Sorry to hear about the garbage. I've been seeing a few posts this year that make it sound like maybe the garbage problem is worse than usual? I know when I was at the McKaskill cabin in May I was really surprised by how much there was around the site, especially so early in the season.

pizzabones wrote:

My stay on Little Coon was very wet. A huge downpour happened around 7-8 o'clock. Really quiet lake, almost spooky feeling to it.

I had the exact same feeling when I was going through Little Coon. I didn't stay there, just passed through, but I was more than happy to be done with it.


8/10/2017 11:47 am  #7

Re: 4 day solo - Smoke > Little Coon > Lake Louisa > Bonnechere

Oh I remember you guys, I was on the shore just before the portage from Ragged to Big Porcupine. I was eating on the shore because there was a large group coming out of the portage and I didn't want to clog up that portage. I think I picked up your chap stick on the portage when I headed out to Big Porcupine. I left it at the start of Big Porcupine. Hope you got it!


     Thread Starter

8/10/2017 12:00 pm  #8

Re: 4 day solo - Smoke > Little Coon > Lake Louisa > Bonnechere

Hahahaha! Yellow Chapstick!  You are correct, it was the portage from ragged to big pork.

Yes. My wife grabbed it off that rock. I thanked some other portagers and for leaving it there and they looked at me funny.


8/11/2017 7:39 am  #9

Re: 4 day solo - Smoke > Little Coon > Lake Louisa > Bonnechere

Glad I'm not the only one who got a weird feeling about Little Coon, AlgonquinLakes. 

Love your site by the way and I use it for referencing lakes I've never been to. Good luck with your goal this year. 

     Thread Starter

8/11/2017 10:51 am  #10

Re: 4 day solo - Smoke > Little Coon > Lake Louisa > Bonnechere

Thanks @pizzabones! I'm hoping to add a few more over the next week, heading into the park for my first extended trip in forever this weekend.


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