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8/30/2017 1:09 am  #1

Old man and the kids, Rain-Islet-Rain, 8/14-8/17

We had a nice trip, but the saying about getting there being half the fun is a pile of round pellets on the trail.  The original family vacation plan was our usual south New Jersey shore trip, a week at home (Buffalo), then this four-day trip, but we moved our shore trip out a little to deal with a medical surprise my wife had in July.  She’s doing well, and that’s the important thing, but we knew it would not be safe for her to take this trip.  Instead, she would visit her uncle, and the kids and I would take the trip.  We would celebrate mommy’s 50th birthday....did I say 50th birthday, because I mean 29th birthday, on “Day 3”, 750 miles apart!  The only birthday since I've known her that we haven't been together, 17 years.  Oops.

Before we left for the shore, I got the camping gear as ready as I could.  This was important since our vacation adjustment compressed the final prep time for Algonquin from a week to a day.  We were to return home from the shore Saturday 8/12, Sunday 8/13 would be “packing day”, and Monday 8/14 had a planned 4am Monday departure for the park.  I’m not set up to grab a pack, add food and go.  It takes me time to dump stuff out, divide, decide, pack and conquer – now for myself and both kids.  My checklist is four pages long, and includes the canoe because, “if I don’t remember, I’ll forget.” 

How did that play out?  The Saturday 500 mile drive home was a soul-crushing eleven hours.  Sunday brought three undesired surprises.  Surprise 1: one of the dehydrated dinners I had for the kids turned out to be single serving. Surprise 2: my daughter had no long pants for this trip, only short gym shorts.  Those issues were discovered and dealt with hours apart, and just prior to store closings.  Surprise 3 thought it would be more hilarious to reveal itself later in the evening. 

My son Michael is 12, my daughter Jessie is 14.  He provides comic relief and determination, she provides enthusiasm for adventure. (I provide age and beauty.)  They packed up their clothes according to a list I made for them.  Round 2 of that was to go get the stuff they forgot.  Round 3 was get the stuff they ignored.  Round 4 was get stuff I should have told them in the first place.  Round 5 was get stuff they assumed they’d remember at 4am.  At 9pm, it looked something like this:


You know how this goes, unless you are organized, in which case this is a foreign image to you.  At 11pm, I was mostly done, but discovered Issue 3.  My passport card was missing.  In the words of Scooby Doo, “Ruh-Roh”.  I tore the house apart.  An hour and a half later, I gave up, threw myself a little pity party, grabbed every government-issued document in my possession, feared that the trip was going up in smoke, and finished packing.  Got to bed at 3am.  So much for leaving at 4am.  I set the alarm for 5am, and we left just before 6am.  (I seldom sleep more than 4 hours.)

The border was no problem (figures…), but our late start gave us a world class view of a Monday morning Toronto rush hour.  Fast forward 291 miles, we made the Rain Lake access point around noon.  The plan was Rain-Hot-Islet.  Fortunately, only one other party was booked on Islet – the benefit of starting a trip on a Monday.

I hadn’t loaded a canoe with three people in nearly 35 years, so that was a puzzle, and I just wasn’t seeing the right solution.  We shoved off around 12:30. I realized after we paddled awhile that my son’s position in the middle was unsafe because his legs were mostly under the front seat.  If we dumped, he’d be in big trouble.  I am very embarrassed that I didn’t spot that right off the hop, but am relaying it to prevent somebody else from making a potentially disastrous mistake.  Thereafter, I re-arranged the load.

So this is the change we experienced from Friday to Monday.  See if you can guess which one is Algonquin.


We arrived at the 740M portage to Hot Lake around 1:45. Until you see it you can’t appreciate that the beginning is as steep as the stairs in your house, twice as long, and with 1/4th the stairs.  A regular stairway to heaven.  The picture doesn’t come close to doing it justice.  I kept the weight of the kids’ packs moderate, so I took “the rest”.  My pack was one of the most oppressively heavy I have ever carried.  I had the food, so I told the kids to eat a lot, and they agreed.  Mercifully, they were true to their word.

Beyond the stairway, the portage remains mostly uphill in that direction. It is mucky in spots, with a fair-sized rock hop over muck in the middle.  My daughter’s first portage ever.  Welcome to Algonquin Park.  We crossed without incident, and the paddle across Hot Lake was so short that the 400M to Islet felt like we never stopped carrying.  My daughter dunked her foot getting in the canoe on Islet (for those keeping score, that’s one). 

On Islet, we got a peninsula site opposite the island, which turned out to be really nice.  I will take a quick moment to extol the virtues of the Gravity Works water filter.  That thing is killer.  Easy and super-fast.  Just be careful not to hang the bag on sap.  Lesson learned.  We set my son up in his new Hennessy hammock, and my daughter was in a North Face Tadpole tent with me. 

Just before dusk, incredibly bold mice appeared, obviously human-opportunistic.  They’d come right up to your feet. If you swung a foot at them, or stomped the ground near them, they’d hardly move.  It would have been easy to stomp one on purpose (which I would never do), in fact we had to be careful because they were so underfoot.  We didn’t count many, but it felt like a swarm, and left us expecting one up the pant leg any second.  While hanging the food bag, I set it down, and immediately a mouse came out of nowhere to sniff it.  I tied the top like there was no tomorrow.  We saw two types of mouse.  Little grey ones (not sure what those were, but I’m betting somebody responds saying “grey mice” which had no manners at all, and deer mice, which had a little more class.  


Lots of loon calls overnight, though quite distant from our site.  I think we heard all four calls loons make while at that site, and thereafter called them loonytunes because that’s how clever we are.

Day 2, my son stomped by the tent at 6:30am.  He wanted us awake.  I was in REM sleep, dreaming I was personal assistant to a new Russian Premier (yeah, premier not president in my dream).  It was his first day, and we were walking through a building to his office.  The secretary typed up the days of the week and months for him, in English and Russian, because he couldn’t read Russian.  He was delighted with it.  There was a gold coin on the floor just outside the huge wooden office doors.  Later, somebody showed us that if you held the coin face up, the lights in the room would get brighter, and would dim if you held it face down.  That’s when my son stomped by.  I negotiated 30 more minutes of sleep. By the way, I'd like a coin like that.
We did some fishing and exploring that morning, catching several smallmouth over a couple of hours.  Daddy-with-the-four-page-checklist forgot the stringer. So much for a little shore lunch.  All fish went back home.  Hard for the kids to work with barbless hooks.  They reel like their lives depend on it, yet find a way to let the slack off sooner or later. A few got off before we saw them, but six or seven got to the boat, only two of which I had to help off the hook.  Good news - my son has graduated from casting into tree branches to hooking submerged structure.  I feel like that is an improvement somehow.  The kids kept count of his hang-ups, which tallied up to “mildly annoying”.   



Jessie does an unwitting Abbey Road imitation.

Dance like your dad isn't watching.

The kids kept each other occupied in the afternoon so I explored around our area.  I returned to find them laughing at each other over a game of Go Fish.  Then I was dealer for blackjack.  Last year with just my son, boredom was a factor.  It was nice to have the two of them together, laughing, goofing around, exploring, joking, making up games, etc.     

By afternoon the weather was changing.  We’d get a heavy, cool wind from the east, yet the clouds were sliding over us north to south (more or less).  Then the wind would stop.  Odd way the cool air was displacing the warm air.  The clouds were a mix of stratus and cumulus.  Darker clouds to the east skirted our area, and we heard some thunder over there. We anticipated rain, and set up two tarps; one over the firepit area, and one over the firewood and backpacks.  The rain came, but didn’t last.  Once it cleared, my daughter couldn’t convince anyone to take a dip, so she went swimming herself.  She was adventurous until I told her some lakes have leeches, and I didn’t know how Islet rated in that respect. “Do they stay on the bottom or do they swim around?”  I shrugged my shoulders.  Someday I am going to burn in hell….

That afternoon a chipmunk came around, plunked himself behind a mushroom, and started pulling it apart to eat it.  Like another post said, perhaps it is the year of the mushroom.  I had never seen that.  The mice gave up on us as a potential source of food on the second night.  That evening we had a little campfire and s’mores.  In the photo, it looks like the fire is right next to the tarp, but it wasn’t – I had moved it away.

Somebody discovered whittling!

Somebody discovered the food bag.  Please eat a lot of heavy food.

There was a lean-to very near this site, lashed with strong cord.  I’m not a fan of leaving pioneering stuff like that up, and certainly not when it is all but indestructible.  I cut all the cords.  It was too buggy to dismantle it, but at least it can degrade now.  Whomever stayed in that thing must been eaten alive.  It was, without question, the buggiest area around the campsite.


I don't know what the yellow thing is.  Never noticed it until I was reviewing the photos later.

My daughter brought a travel-sized set of oil pastels and a small drawing pad that came as a kit she had gotten somewhere.  The pastels were cheapies and wouldn't blend with each other, so she quit on the picture.  It is the island with the campsite in front of us, plus a little background.  It has a Tom Thomson look to it, but wasn’t what she was after.  I liked it.  Hope she finishes it.


 When the kids were little, I used to sing Irish Rover songs to them, so I broke out a rendition of The Unicorn Song, modified:  “….but the loveliest of them all was the Loonicorn.”  If I have to listen to the kids’ terrible music in the car, they can handle me modifying lyrics to the Unicorn song.  Also sang Evermore, about a bi-plane who makes a mercy flight in foggy conditions, so “do not be discouraged by circumstance or size, remember Evermore and set your sights up in the skies!”

Day three we awoke to a foggy, but blue-skied day.  The sun burned the fog off quickly  We were very fortunate, by the way, that whenever we traveled, we faced virtually no wind.   

The mosquitoes thought it was a lovely morning for picnic.  We had a deet product that felt like dust when squirted on and it worked very well.  We had a picardin product with us as well, but liked the deet better overall.  The picardin tasted better, but the deet product had that long-lasting flavor (so hard to avoid that...)  We departed our little campsite under ideal weather conditions, heading toward Rain for our final night.

My daughter misjudged a rock-hop on the Hot-Rain portage.  She hot-footed herself in the mud a bit, and dingered one leg slightly, but was fine.  (That’s two).  I nearly tumbled while wearing the sixteen-foot hat, in that same rock-muck section, when I trusted a length of bark that was laid over the muck for one more step than I should have.  Lucky me, verticality prevailed.  My son was dealing with a pack that was very tall, too tall to be honest.  The weight was ok, but the load was high.  His pack is a 60 or 65L Kelty.  It was the only full size pack I could find that would adjust enough to fit him.  My daughter’s pack is a 46L Osprey.  I like it a lot, but it gets very fat with a load, so you have to watch where the weight is distributed.  Mine is a 65L Coleman Max, which is discontinued, but I really like it.  With great care, we were able to carry our respective loads down the “stairs” to Rain Lake.  Man that’s steep.  Had it been wet, I wouldn’t have tried.

Welcome back to Rain lake.

The kids really wanted to experience an island site, and we managed that on the eastern island site on Rain. 

Here's the water access for that campsite. 

We took a swim, with me reminding the kids AGAIN that on a canoe trip, “dry” equals “clean”.  I stuck with the same clothes afterward, the kids did not.  Within half an hour, my daughter hot-footed herself again getting into the canoe.  (That’s three).  So much for that pair of new dry socks.  DRY EQUALS CLEAN!!   Then we did a little fishing, which worked out because the fish were little.  In camp, my son got my daughter to join him taking turns trying roll a log across the campsite while standing on it.  There were lots of balancing games in general.  I sat in my Onwego chair and enjoyed the show.  


How about that old-man beard?  Not bad for 16 days effort.  I pushed as hard as I could, so hard that the hair blew right off the top of my head, but the beard came in ok.  Good glory just look at that face.  I forget just how strikingly handsome I am. 

It was mommy’s birthday, so we pinged the heck out of her with “OK” messages from our rental Spot.  We counted off 50 “OK’s”, but didn’t allow enough time between, so she got 32 on her birthday and 13 the next day. We were so “OK” that she grew concerned about our actual level of “OK”-ness.  We also recorded a terrible version of Happy Birthday to play for her once we got home.

In moving to this campsite, we traded a lot of mosquitoes who were generally inactive on Islet, for almost no mosquitoes at the Rain Island site.  We also traded in our bold Islet Lake mice for one very engaging yet equally bold Rain Lake chipmunk.  The kids used all their creativity to name him Chippy, but I’m guessing it wasn’t the first time he was named Chippy. This guy was clearly accustomed to getting his way in terms of trading cuteness for food.  If he got anything from us it was crumbs after we went to bed, but he did pose for a few photos.  I felt kind of like a thief taking photos of him with no reward, but sharing a campsite with us is its’ own reward I’m sure.  We make for great companions!

We kept a fire going for quite a while that evening so we could stay up late enough to see the stars fill the sky.  My son wanted to come on this trip for the fishing.  My daughter wanted to see the stars, and nobody went home disappointed.  The fishing was fun, and Algonquin absolutely delivered with the stars this night.

The kids swapped sleeping quarters, so I had my son in the tent.  I had forgotten how much he talks in his sleep.  Good grief.  At 10:30, wolves made their presence known somewhere on the east end of Rain Lake.  It went on quite a while, with a command performance at 12:30am.  I’m glad the kids got to hear that. 

Day 4, Thursday, we were awakened by a lecherous red squirrel knocking pinecones out of trees and laughing at us.  Some pinecones landed on rocks, some kerplunked like boulders directly into the water.  Here’s the alarm clock enjoying his breakfast.

Such a foggy morning we couldn’t see the opposite shore.  When the sun burned it off, it revealed some iffy skies.  I think the photo below might be my favorite of the trip.

We made good use of a favorable breeze, making the access point in an hour.  A beaver gave us a bit of a show by crossing right in front of the boat, and later, on the access road, we saw a ruffed grouse and I was surprised by how many flickers we saw there.  Here is our “we survived” photo.  Special thanks to Algonquin Outfitters for their tacit permission to set up my camera on one of their rental canoes….next time please make your canoes less round so my picture is level.

The only remaining obstacle was the return border crossing, which I had been dreading.  No problem with customs.  Go figure. 

Then came the glamorous part of camping - airing things out and putting them away.  Blech.

Soooo much junk airing out

Sooooo many little bags to pack it all in.  My fingers ache just looking at it.

A terrific trip overall, good weather, good temperatures, and fun with the kids. A good intro to Algonquin for my daughter, and a better display of Algonquin for my son than last years’ heat wave trip.   Plus it sure beats working. 


8/30/2017 6:53 am  #2

Re: Old man and the kids, Rain-Islet-Rain, 8/14-8/17

That's an awesome trip report!  I love seeing folks getting into the park with their kids...I think that is so amazing.  Thanks for sharing!


9/01/2017 8:28 am  #3

Re: Old man and the kids, Rain-Islet-Rain, 8/14-8/17

Great report and great pictures. Thanks for sharing. Also, your daughter's pastel work is great, you'll need to get her back up to Algonquin soon so she can add to the series.


9/01/2017 12:35 pm  #4

Re: Old man and the kids, Rain-Islet-Rain, 8/14-8/17

Your daughter's art reminds me that there is an oil painting hung on a tree right across from the thunderbox on the island site on Islet. It was certainly a surprise to see!


9/01/2017 12:39 pm  #5

Re: Old man and the kids, Rain-Islet-Rain, 8/14-8/17

How funny is that?  So for the same money you get a room with a view.

     Thread Starter

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