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5/20/2018 11:18 am  #1

Back Door to Burnt Island Lake (AKA the Secret Solo)

This was my first solo trip and the planning started when my wife told me that she would be away for several days at a conference. I figured that I could slip up to Algonquin without the wife knowing but one week before the trip I got a call for a job interview on the afternoon of the day I planed to return. Rather then cancel this perfect opportunity, I just planned to leave the park very early in the morning on the last day. On the morning of the first day I had breakfast with the wife and when she left I got the dog and left in my already packed car. For 2 reasons, I needed to make a quick stop at the Barrie MEC. First, I bought a watch (I don’t normally have a watch) to tell time and function as an alarm. Second, today’s forecast called for thunderstorms to hit Algonquin at about 9 pm so I bought a large poly tarp.

My route choice was based on wanting quick immersion into the wilderness from the access, long portages to exercise the dog’s evil spirits, and a large lake with nice long views. OK, perhaps your thinking that the paddle up Canoe Lake is dodging motorboats going to cottages and camps and then traversing several short portages to get into the Burnt Island Lake with its hordes of campers, and you would be right. So I took the backway, up through the 6.66 km of portages leading from Canisbay Lake into the far end of Burnt Island Lake. It was sometime after 4 pm when I arrived at the Canisbay Lake camp office asking for my permit and the young staff member said to my “Burnt Island Lake! You’ll really have to haul ass to make it before dark. I gave him the cold icy stare of “yeah, I already know that, and I don’t need your commentary.” 

Five hours and five minutes is how long Jeff’s Map says it takes to get to the eastern end of Burnt Island Lake, either from access #1 or access #34, but the two experiences are quite different. As a side note, I love how Jeff’s Map give numeric times and perhaps I’m old school but I don’t want to count colored squares on the new Unlostify Maps. Off we went, dog and I, and after a brief misguided attempt to get into the northern extension of Canisbay Lake, we found the 2600 m portage. About 400 m in the trail merges with the Minnesing Mountain Bike Trail and sitting there on the boardwalk/bridge was a full bag of Ontario Park Firewood. I guess some newbie was backcountry camping, bought a bag of firewood, and carried it there until they dumped it on the portage. The 2600 m is mostly flat, the 930 m and 875 m after that are fairly bumpy, then the 2105 m is a beast where you need to watch your footing. Also Linda Lake seemed quite beautiful but I heard you can still hear road traffic from highway 60. Alder Lake and Birdie Lake then a short paddle until I could see my target campsite, the one west of the “very poor condition” one, northwest of my entrance to Burnt Island Lake. Because it is getting dark I took a conservative line to the opposite shore and follow it west to the site. But disappointment set in when I see a bag hanging beside the camp sign and voices could be heard. Quickly I climb over my dog in the canoe to retrieve the map from my pack and plot a course to the nearest site. I head west to the shore hoping to see the nearest site but I had to go a fair way south before I could spot a site, it was the one due west of Gull Island. 

Darkness was soon to be complete and thunder could be heard in the background. I pitched the 16’ by 12’ tarp, set up the food hang, then gathered up enough wood to start a fire before the downpours began. I was hungry and thirsty so rather than using a filter I just collected the rainwater that was pouring off of my my tarp, drank my fill and cooked up KD. The site was small and had only one tent spot but it was perfectly sheltered and I loved the experience of sitting by the fire, drinking my rum, watching the lighting over the lake with my dog as small stream came off my tarp and worked it’s way though my camp and down to the lake. 

Rather than spending the originally planed second night on this lake, I packed up and camped on Canisbay Lake, picking up the dumped bag of Ontario Park Firewood to help feed my fire. In the morning my alarm got me up at 5 am and I started paddling semi-blindly in the pre-dawn mist that covered the lake. It was only a 20 minute paddle to the car but I wouldn’t want to stay on this lake again because you can clearly hear the highway traffic. Got out of the park. Got home, showered and went to my job interview while being paranoid that I smelt like campfire. A great successful experience. The only flack I got from my wife was about not answering my phone for 2 evenings. Maybe I’ll tell her the full story in 10 or 20 years. 

Funny enough, the following year my wife went to another conference over the Victoria day weekend and she suggested that I go soloing with the dog in Algonquin. So I did the exact same route, but spending both nights on my originally planed campsite, which was very nice. The black flies going in were ever-present but not bitting. However, on the way out I got eaten on the brutal 2160 m portage and itched for a week and a half.

Last edited by solos (5/20/2018 11:20 am)


5/20/2018 12:19 pm  #2

Re: Back Door to Burnt Island Lake (AKA the Secret Solo)

I really love Linda Lake and in the few times I've stayed there I was never able to hear any highway traffic. You're right about those portages between Linda and Burnt though, definitely some ups and downs.

Also my first solo was on Burnt Island (and Little Otterslide) and I've seen a few others say the same thing.. it seems like a popular option for "first solo trips". Don't know how you could get away with not telling your wife about it though, between the packing and preparing, to wanting her to know where you are.


5/21/2018 10:13 pm  #3

Re: Back Door to Burnt Island Lake (AKA the Secret Solo)

Good to hear someone say that traffic noise is not a problem on Linda Lake. On the map it looks like Linda Lake should be just far enough away from Highway 60. You've made me reconsider this as a great "easy" and less visited destination that can be reached in less than 3 hours, but with 3.63 km of portage. 

As for hiding the packing from the wife, we have an old dark, low celing basement where most of the camping gear is kept and she doesn't like to go down there. Also, I have a long history of not beeing overly accessable by phone (although that has caused relationship issues), but its unlikely the wife would worry if I didn't answer the phone for 2 days. Compared to her I'm not overly chatty. But now that I get "permission" to go solo, I wouldn't do a secret trip again.

Last edited by solos (5/21/2018 10:30 pm)

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