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8/09/2017 9:30 am  #1


July 2017 Boys Trip - North Tea, Biggar, Three Mile, Manitou

Dates: Thursday, July 27th - Monday, July 31st
Access Point: #1 - Kawawaymog (Round) Lake
Route: Kawawaymog Lake, Amable Du Fond River, North Tea Lake, Mangotasi, Hornbeam Lake, Biggar Lake, Sinclair Lake, Kawa Lake, Upper Kawa Lake, Three Mile Lake, Manitou Lake, North Tea Lake, Amable Du Fond River, Kawawaymog Lake
Distance: 64.06km 

This trip had been highlighted in my calendar since the four boys agreed on the weekend in early January. It was to be the latest chapter in our annual trip tradition, which started 6 years ago, and will continue until we're dead or close to it. Over the last 4 years, our girlfriends have been coming in with us, and as a result we tended to stick to drive in sites or easier paddle out sites like Sec Lake last year. Much to their displeasure this year we decided to rescind their invitation to the yearly, and make a boys trip of it, covering more ground and generally cranking up the shenanigans.  

We were set for 5 days and 4 nights out of Access Point #1 at Kawawaymog Lake travelling through North Tea, Biggar, Three Mile, Manitou and back.  

We'd had a busy Wednesday getting everything sorted and packed so we could head out early Thursday morning. The biggest thing we needed to sort out was getting two canoes rigged up on bed rack of my truck. This was to be the third trip for my newer Swift Prospector in Kevlar Fusion, having taken it through Big Trout/La Muir/ Big Crow in May and through the Kawartha Highlands in June. My good buddy Chris had also been given a canoe from his uncle which has seen many kms through Algonquin, but was brand new to him. She wasn't a light girl, but wasn't heavy enough to warrant a rental. Plus he wanted to break her in. We ended up picking up some pool noodles and leaning my Swift over top of his and strapping everything down. It wasn't the most aerodynamic rig, but it did us perfectly. Four of us in the truck, gear in the bed, and canoes up top.  

Day #1 - Thursday, July 27th
Distance: 14.04km 

6:45am and we were on the road heading up the 400. A quick stop in Bracebridge to pick up Jared from his girlfriends, get some breakfast in us, and we arrived to the access point by about 11:00am. The office, outfitters and parking lot seemed dead which surprised me given the time of year. I'd been reading about the bug conditions in the park and had been seeing that it was particularly bad, so when the guy at the office told me they were no worse than normal this year I was surprised. I found myself wondering if he had actually been into the park later that weekend. 

We unloaded the truck, loaded up the canoes, and pushed off by about 12:00pm. Round lake was a bit bigger than I had expected and the wind was already kicking up, but we were as fresh as we'd be all trip so we powered through and made it to the Amable du Fond River with little hassle. I'd already found myself growing more fond of river travelling this year and the Amable du Fond solidified that a little bit more. I can say I will focus on rivers next year over big water, which I had been heavy on this season. It feels comparable to driving on winding hilly roads vs. gunning eastbound on the 401 express.
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Loading up at Round Lake 

I'd be relying on my Galaxy S8 for photos all trip, while Chris had brought along his Go Pro, and left the phone behind. When we got onto the river, Chris broke out the Go Pro and selfie stick and started taking some shots and videos. He and Jared were in the canoe behind, while Josh and I were just ahead. We were shooting the shit as usual when I heard a panicked "NO NO NO N..SPLASH!" behind me. Please be a shoe. Nope. Go Pro went for a swim, a la broken selfie stick. We sat there looking into the weedy current. Be damned Chris was going to try and find it. Down to his skivvies and in he went. Flopping around the mucky water, profanities flying. It was like trying to find needle in a haystack. After 10 minutes we wrote it off as the first sacrifice to the park, waiting until it had been long enough to start cracking jokes about it. Well wouldn't you know, right around the corner came a convoy of 6-8 canoes, family and all cruising right by while Chris was sitting in his soaked undies. I couldn't stop laughing for the rest of the paddle to the first portage. 

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About to set off on North Tea 

After a couple of quick portages we were on North Tea, and aiming for site #57 on the east arm of the lake. We could have pushed a bit farther to shorten our Friday trip, particularly because the wind was somewhat in our favour, but we were all pretty eager to make camp and start relaxing. As we made the turn through the narrows, we saw that 57 was taken so we peeled off early to site 56. In hindsight it would have been better to push towards Mangotasi. Oh well. Josh and I hadn't realized how far ahead we were of Chris and Jared until we got to the site. They were a good 20 minutes behind us. We joked it was our superior paddling skills. Later we'd learn it was the canoe difference. This day gave way to the canoe nicknames that have seemed to stick - the to the Frigate and the Clipper. Once we landed, a  walk around the island revealed absolutely no usable firewood, so we would have to paddle out to find some after we made camp.  

A quick nip of our favourite beverages, casts of the rods and the setting up of tents later we decided we would make the short paddle across to the mainland to search for some firewood. We had no problem finding some. We also had no problem finding where all the mosquitoes were hiding. Mauled would be an understatement, but there we were having made a trip of getting wood, so wood we got. I brought along my Bahco folding saw to help in the process, which Josh was using to process a dead tree. On the very last branch he was cutting before calling it quits he accidentally cut right through it and directly into his thumb. God dammit. I asked him to show me to check how bad the damage was, and it was pretty bad. Bad enough that I thought he should get it stitched up. We headed back to camp and broke out the first aid kit. Luckily my girlfriend is an ICU nurse and put together a killer set for us, which we put to good use. We left it upto Josh to decide if he wanted to call it a trip or keep going. I had a suture kit as well, but no assurances could convince him to let us try our hand at it. I don't blame him. In the end he decided to bandage it up and carry a lighter load throughout the trip. What a trooper.  

First day in the books and quite a day it was. Some fresh sausages over the fire, scotch in our system and off to bed. 

Day #2 - Friday, July 28th
Distance: 18.32km 

We had established a pretty fun system for the trip that started yesterday and would carry on every day. Instead of pairing up with one guy for the entirety of the tip, every morning we'd do rock paper, and then throw down a 1 or 2. Whoever you matched up with was your canoe and tent partner for the day. On the second day Jared and I paired up, while Chris and Josh were together.  

My preference has always been sitting stern and despite Jared and I's size difference (I'm a wee man and he has viking blood) I thought we could backload our packs and call it a day. We made it 15 feet out and I looked at the wind, realized our instability and thought better of it. Back to shore we went and swapped so I'd be sitting bow. 

Looking across the East arm towards Mangotasi I was really wishing that we pushed through the day before when the wind was with us. The wind was howling from the NE right down the channel and was putting waves right to our side. We would have to round the Island next to us and head NE, cutting back SE once protected from the wind behind the the peninsula. 20 nervous minutes later and we had made it into the narrows of Mangotasi and started making our way down into Hornbeam. 

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Snapper sunning on a rock at the end of Mangotasi 

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Twin Falls on Hornbeam Lake

I was leading the group on the last 140m portage heading into Biggar. When I got to the put in, I leaned my canoe up slightly to take a peak at the lake. A flicker of movement caught my eye across the bay and it took me a minute for me to realize I was staring at a good sized bull moose feeding at the lakes edge. I was shit my pants level excited. The only only moose I had ever seen in the park were from my truck, and we had all been talking about how it would be a highlight to see one on this trip. I also realized that the guys were coming upto the put in singing god knows what, so I dropped the canoe as quietly as possible and waddled back towards them to tell them to shut up. They must have known from the look on my face why I was telling them to stop being baboons. We all put in and loaded up as quickly as possible and slowly started paddling over to get closer. What an amazing experience that was. We sat there for 5 minutes then continued on, absolutely elated with the encounter. 
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The Bull over yonder  

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Hey man, big fan of your lager 

Biggar Lake was gorgeous. My favorite places in Algonquin are the lakes where you can stare across and see the drastically changing topography and rolling hills. Biggar fit this bill and I was getting a bit sad that we had decided to only travel through the lake instead of camping the night. Regardless, I can certainly add it to lakes that I would come back to.  

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Paddling on Biggar

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Looking back at Biggar from the portage into Sinclair 

We were on the home stretch of our travel day and all that remained was about 4km, 3.1km of which was broken up over 4 portages. We had it planned out that this day would be our longest and most tiring, but that didn't make the last bit any more fun. I don't have any problem portaging three kilometers straight but putting in and taking out a total of 8 times over that span was a little bit of a mental challenge at the end of a longer day. Alas, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. When I finished the first 520m I found myself waiting for what felt like too long for everyone else so I decided to backtrack and find out what was going on. Turns out Chris had managed to get the lure on his rod, which was strapped into the canoe, hooked into his bag. In the process of trying to put the canoe down he broke the tip off of his rod. If a man is having a meltdown in the middle of the woods, and no one is around to hear it, did he really say all of those bad words?  

With Josh not being able to use his most important digit, he got out of canoe duties for the trip. Chris carrying his loaded pack with a not-lightweight canoe was no bueno so we switched things up a bit for the rest of the trip. I'd take my pack and canoe, Josh would take his pack and food barrel, and Jared and Chris would each carry their pack and two man the canoe. This meant we would strap in our paddles and rods, but ultimately allowed us to single carry for the rest of the trip. 

We finally managed to get onto Three Mile and b-lined it for our targeted site, the southern site on the large island. I'd read about some fire damage, and it was indeed true. The two main trees in the middle of the site looked to have had their entire root system lit ablaze. Luckily the larger one, whose roots give the site it's beautiful appearance was blossomed and well. The other was not so fortunate. It gave us enough reason to questions the safety of setting up a tent right beside it, but with perfect weather expected all weekend and minimal wind we decided to tempt fate. I'm glad we did because what a unique and beautiful site. It has two landings and two vistas to look at, one to the south and one to the north. The swimming area to the north is also perfect for wading out. Overall we were very pleased with it, and found more than enough wood.  

Being pretty beat from the long travel day we decided to call it relatively early and get a good nights sleep. Put some fresh spaghetti in our system and off to bed.

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Our site on Three Mile 
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Sunset on Three Mile 

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Chris' nifty lighting setup. A led string small enough that it fits on a fishing line spool, with a USB plug in, into an anker battery 

Day #3 - Saturday, July 29th
Distance: 11.47km 
On the docket today was a pretty simple route. Up Three Mile, one 2905m portage, then onto Manitou where we would be staying the night. Our targeted site for the day was the at the southern end, just before heading into the bay to the 585m portage passing the falls. It was a bit risky because if we made it all the way down and the site was taken we would either have to double back or do the portage a day early. 

We started up Three Mile on a beautiful morning where the water was like glass. Passing the site just north of the island, we noticed it was a beautiful spot that would be a great site to target for future trips. The paddle to our only portage for the day was relaxing and uneventful. Too uneventful given I had been trolling a line all the way up. 

We unloaded our gear and got ready to make the trip to Manitou. With out gear division we decided to push until someone needed a breather. Fortunately for us the first half of the portage was along a logging road and very flat and easy. We took our only break at the point the road ends, shooting to poop for 10 minutes and then pushing onward. I'm very happy we traveled the direction we did because the last 700m of that portage was straight downhill, 63m elevation change to be exact. The plan was to much on some gorp and apricots before setting off on Manitou, but the bugs were so horrendous we just loaded up as quickly as possible and just drifted with the wind for 15 minutes while we joined up and snacked. 

Manitou is a gorgeous lake that reminded me of Hogan for some reason. Couldn't place my finger on why, but it had a specific attractiveness about it. The paddle down was straight forward with minimal wind. We passed the south west island, where I had originally thought about targeting. The campsite as we could see them looked nice but onwards we pushed. As we turned the corner of our hopeful site, I was holding my breath hoping it was free. Yup, all ours. The landing was pretty difficult and the walk upto the site was incredibly steep, but the site leveled out fairly up top. One good tent pad and one decent one. It was good enough to call it home for the night.  

We had reeled in a handful of bass, and were getting pretty excited about our first fish fry of the trip. While the guys went to start collecting firewood, I took to getting the cleaned and ready to go. My heart sank when I cut into the first fish and noticed worms. A lot of them. I knew immediately that if one had them, they all did given they all came from the same area more or less. When the guys came down I broke the bad news. We decided to open up one more small one to verify, and sure enough more worms. We let the rest go and had to settle for our dehydrated meals that night. I tried my hand at Mountain Houses Pad Thai, and it was good. Fish would have been better though. 

As dusk came, I got my dry comfy clothes and decided to go fill our platypus to refill the water supply. I had only just taken off my wet water shoes and put my hiking boots on, and guess what? I took a spill, right back into that water. Soaked upto the knees. With no dry shoes, I roamed around camp in my wool socks for most of the night while I roasted my shoes by the fire. Gore-tex is great for keeping the water out. It's also brutal for keeping the water in. 

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Sunset on Manitou 

Many drinks and hours later, we decided to make a middle of the night run for more wood. It would have been wise to leave the saw at camp. However sometimes, I'm not a wise man. This was one of those times. Add another sliced thumb to the list, almost in identical fashion to how Josh nicked his. Thankfully it wasn't nearly as bad, but it was bad enough that I'm still sitting here picking at the scab as I type this.  

It was a late night, but eventually we found our way to the tents and got some rest before the next days adventures. 

Day #4 - Sunday, July 30th
Distance: 8.09km 

A late night last night, meant a late morning for us. We didn't stir until 10:00am when the sun turned our tent into a sauna. It was going to be the hottest day of the trip today. Luckily we had a relatively short day ahead. We were going to be making our way to North Tea's West Arm for our final night, and trying to make our paddle out of the park the next morning as short as possible. 

We had a quick breakfast of oatmeal and coffee, packed up camp and hit the water by about 11:00am. The only portage of the day for us was the 585m into North Tea where we would be passing the waterfall. For whatever reason, I wasn't expecting much from them but boy was I surprised. We set the canoes down at the put in and backtracked to the falls in our swing trunks. The ridges off lat rocks made a perfect seating area to let the water run over our backs and get refreshed. We spent about 20 minutes doing our best Baywatch impressions before noticing a convoy of people coming in. We took this as our cue to get back to our gear and set off on our paddle across the West Arm.
 
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Yours truly at the falls 

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The wind was not in our favour. I was hopeful it would be the same as our second day, letting us cruise down with no effort, but it was the exact opposite. Straight head wind. I decided to try and veer West and try to get behind and in between the islands to cut the wind, but it didn't do much in the way of helping. We powered through though, passed our first nights campsite, and when we approached the narrows the wind started to die down. 

Jared and I were paddling together again today, and were leading the way. As we were approaching the narrows, I found myself staring at a big brown shape on the shore. Hm, that kind of looks like a moose. I starred at it for about 6 seconds before I was able to register that it was indeed another moose! A cow this time, and not as big as the bull, but it was still incredibly exciting to catch our second encounter of the trip. We let Josh and Chris catch up while we sat around admiring it. It's so fascinating to me how little these animals are disturbed by human presence. I can't help but wonder if they are acclimatized to us, or if they are just so un-threatened by us that they couldn't care less. 

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Moose #2 

After our last site and considering how beautiful a day it was, we had been chatting about how it would be awesome to find a beach site to lounge on all afternoon. The original plan was to target the main and smaller islands on the West Arm, but when we turned the corner coming out of the narrows, we spotted a site that fit the bill to a tee. It was the third site heading north west. The wind was also directly in our faces so we figured to make camp and enjoy relaxing on the beach for our last day. 

The site as it was set in the woods was no good at all. Luckily for us there was two tent pads at beach level and a fire pit to boot so we didn't have to leave that beach at all for the day. The beach was incredible as you were able to wade out in waist high water 75-100 feet out. We took the time to try and get rid of our farmers tans while finishing off what we had left to drink, and putting back our last dehydrated meals. 

The black flies were pretty bad at this site, but we made a game out of showing them their death bed. The four of us stood in a circle facing each other. If a fly landed on the man to your left or right, you could try and slap it dead. I can't say for certain how much power is required in a slap to kill a black fly, but I can guarantee we were using much, much more. Now that I think about it, I know where these bruises came from. 

Beautiful weather, beautiful beach and good company. It really was the perfect relaxing day to wrap up the trip. 

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Day #5 - Monday, July 31st
Distance: 11.89km 
Home day. I had been a little bit nervous calling our day yesterday short because I knew that there was a very real possibility that we would have to battle our way back across North Tea to the Amable Du Fond, but it was a risk we decided to take. When we got up at 7:00am North Tea looked like glass. Trying to take advantage of it, we packed up like lightning, ate our oatmeal, drank our coffee and were in our canoes by 7:45am. It was a beautiful morning with no wind, but some thunder booming far south from us.  

Chris and I led the way to our take out, and we had the most perfect conditions out. We could not have felt better about our decision to call the day early yesterday. When we got to the take out we looked back and counted about 6 canoes all on our tail making their way out. Time to boogie.  

We hustled over the two portages, and jokingly kept our eyes peeled for Chris' Go Pro the whole paddle back. When we got to Kawawaymog the wind had started kicking up a bit and we battled some waves on our way to the truck. Getting back here and seeing all the cottages and motor boats was a reality check that it was time to get back in the head space of civilization and that it was  back to Toronto by the end of the day. 

I was shocked how busy the outfitters and office were on Monday. It was night and day to how quiet it was on Thursday. Trying to get out mid week seemed like it had backfired for whoever was starting their trip this morning.  

We made it back to the truck by 11:00am, got packed up, tossed our canoes up and hit the road my 11:45am. A quick stop for some burgers, dropped Jared off in Bracebrige and I was home by 3:30pm. 

Takeaways and Learning Points:
1. Overall a great trip with a great bunch of guys. The big water was manageable, and I've been fortunate to avoid being wind bound, but I can see how its a very real possibility. River trips are certainly in the cards for next year, but still have one more Algonquin trip planned for this season, among others.
2. Although we didn't plan this as a fishing trip, we decided to target smallmouth. There are better places to go if you are looking for smallmouth. Or maybe we are just poor anglers. Who knows.
3. I've been tinkering with my pack and what I bring. I'm pretty content, but I will be cutting a few more items out. On the plus side, there was nothing that I felt I absolutely needed that I didn't have.
4. Third trip with the new canoe, and I've no complaints yet.
5. I enjoyed my spring trip, but peak summer really is my favourite time to be in the park. The lush green and scorching heat is unmatched. In my opinion.
6. I didn't mind the harder days. In fact I kind of enjoy having to work to get to the day's site. Makes it feel more rewarding. Other people don't always share this sickness.
7. BE CAREFUL WITH THE SAW - Just found out Josh sliced a tendon and may need surgery.  

Thanks for reading! 

Last edited by basilthegood (8/09/2017 10:25 am)

 

8/09/2017 10:20 am  #2


Re: July 2017 Boys Trip - North Tea, Biggar, Three Mile, Manitou

Good read. I'm glad you got your moose encounters, and holy smokes - the man severed a tendon and then carried on camping for another 4 days? Amazing!

Looking forward to the rest of the pics when you get them sorted out!

Last edited by Uppa (8/09/2017 10:20 am)

 

8/09/2017 10:27 am  #3


Re: July 2017 Boys Trip - North Tea, Biggar, Three Mile, Manitou

I did that exact route a couple of years ago and loved it!!! We did however, get stuck at the end of the portage into Manitou due to high winds and white caps so you dodged a bullet there!! We lost half a day, we managed to line our canoe around the shoreline and rode out the wind at a campsite on a point. We also faced the same wind you did in North Tea; I giggled when you said you went behind the islands to no avail. We did the same with the same results. Did you spot the street light on the river???

 

8/09/2017 10:28 am  #4


Re: July 2017 Boys Trip - North Tea, Biggar, Three Mile, Manitou

Uppa wrote:

Good read. I'm glad you got your moose encounters, and holy smokes - the man severed a tendon and then carried on camping for another 4 days? Amazing! Looking forward to the rest of the pics when you get them sorted out!

Rest of the pictures are up, had to split them over two hosts for some reason.

He was pretty pissed off with himself the day it happened, but he toughed it out. Saw a specialist this past weekend and will be scheduling surgery soon given he can't straighten. We didn't think it was nearly that bad at the time.

     Thread Starter
 

8/09/2017 10:32 am  #5


Re: July 2017 Boys Trip - North Tea, Biggar, Three Mile, Manitou

oldboyscout wrote:

We also faced the same wind you did in North Tea; I giggled when you said you went behind the islands to no avail. We did the same with the same results. Did you spot the street light on the river???

You'd think it'd give you some cover eh? No way.

I had my eyes peeled, but I'm either blind or was too distracted to catch it.

     Thread Starter
 

8/09/2017 10:52 am  #6


Re: July 2017 Boys Trip - North Tea, Biggar, Three Mile, Manitou

Great read and photos, Basil. Awesome luck with the wildlife on this trip too. I recently picked up an S8+ and I am stunned at the camera quality (Esp. video when shot in 4K) it may actually replace my SLR - the advantage of the SLR over the S8+ is likely not worth the additional weight.

Regarding the streetlamp: It's not there anymore. I saw it many times over the years and the last time was late 2015. I was back there a couple times in 2016 and noticed it had been removed. No idea why.

Again, great report man, thoroughly enjoyed it! Those falls are something else eh?

Edit: Hope buddy's thumb is okay and no permanent damage.

Last edited by Peek (8/09/2017 10:54 am)

 

8/11/2017 6:25 am  #7


Re: July 2017 Boys Trip - North Tea, Biggar, Three Mile, Manitou

Peek wrote:

Great read and photos, Basil. Awesome luck with the wildlife on this trip too. I recently picked up an S8+ and I am stunned at the camera quality (Esp. video when shot in 4K) it may actually replace my SLR - the advantage of the SLR over the S8+ is likely not worth the additional weight.

Thanks Peek! I struggled with the debate of SLR weight/benefit ratio for a while even before I got the S8. This is the nail in the coffin though.

Peek wrote:

Again, great report man, thoroughly enjoyed it! Those falls are something else eh?

Beautiful. If I ever find myself on North Tea again, a paddle over to them will be a no brainer

     Thread Starter
 

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