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2/16/2018 6:19 pm  #1

Winter camping Access 1 (almost reached North Tea Lake)

Hi all,

Had a very interesting trip with a buddy. Had never been to the northwest part of the park in the winter. Access 1 is plowed year round as Northern Wilderness Outfitters has groups staying in their cabins in the winter (they are really nice guys there). Some things did not go according to plan though. 

We wanted to get into North Tea Lake, and possibly into Manitou (very ambitious for a 4-day trip). The access was going to be tricky, as Amable river is not frozen. Looking around, I found that the North Algonquin Dog Sled Trail goes from a logging road just south of access 1. The plan was to take the trail along Craig Lake, then head north along the portages into Jeepi and Cayuga, and end up in NTL. Two days there, two days back. 


Due to several mishaps on the first day, we ended up not making it to NTL, but instead left from Access 1 and headed to Wet Lake (the GPS trail is marked in blue on the map above).

Day 1: 
We left around 6AM, and were making great time. Followed the directions on Google Maps... ... That was a big mistake. 


All was well ass we passed Sundridge, and traveled along a lovely road (in my amazing Odyssey van). As we continued, passed a snowmobiler, who seemed to be waving at us... Traveling down, and then up a couple of snowy hills. Eventually the "road" did not seem to have any snow shoulders... And only snowmobile tracks. Flagged down a snowmobiler group that was going the other way... They confirmed our suspicions that Google Maps was trying to kill us. This was a snowmobile trail in the winter. And it narrowed down to less than a meter in a couple of km. Fortunately, I've been in this spot before and have some rescue equipment. We did a 20-point turn with the van using the traction pads, and headed back. We almost made it, until the last hill. Got within 10 feet of the top. Tried the traction pads, did not work. Crappy zip-tie snow chains broke immediately. My winch (that had been unused for 3 years) was broken!!! So we flagged down a group of really pleasant snowmobilers, and 10 guys pushed the van up the last 10 feet. Freedom!!! 

The proper way to access the dog sled trail was to go up to Access 1, then drive south along the logging road. Which we did, but when we got to km 7, there was only a single lane with no space to shovel out a parking spot. At this point, we accepted defeat and returned to access 1. We changed our plan, and decided to try and access NTL via the roads on the east side of Kawawaymog. 

Access 1 was nicely plowed. 

We finally set out at 1330. Crossed Kawawaymog in about 1 hour (using a combination of old snowmobile trails and making our own path). In order to access the roads, we did cross a cottage property, as we followed the established snowmobile trails. I felt a bit guilty about that. 

It took 5km, and we made it to Wet Lake by 1600. Set up camp, cut  a hole for the water and cut some wood. The ice was about 10" to 12" thick. 


Day 2
It dropped to -22C overnight, despite the forecast showing nothing lower than -15C for the whole trip. A light snow started falling in the morning, and it gradually became heavier. We had about 4" by noon and 8-10" in total. Daytime high was around -10C. 


After discussing with my friend, we decided to base camp and not attempt travelling. We had arrived to the camp fairly late and did not have a great supply of wood. The snow was going to make travel slow and difficult and we weren't here to set records (survival and enjoyment in that order were our foremost properties). We proceeded to build a nice wood supply and set up camp. 


Day 3:
Incredible sunny day! It was only -15C overnight, daytime high was close to that as well. 



The plan was to explore the area, possibly get to NTL and back. here was 10" of powder on top of a snow base of 10-12", so travel was difficult. But the day was truly amazing. 


The roads past Wet Lake were not used by snowmobilers or loggers, so the travel was slow. We made it to the next larger lake, and bushwacked through 30m of spruce to get to the lake. 


We built a cooking fire, had some lunch and a shot of sljivovica (google it - really warms the hands). It took us about 2 hours to get to the spot. The way back was incredible. The trail was packed down, and it took us only 45 minutes to get back to camp. 



Day 4:
Frigid temps. -28C. Definitely below the forecast hahaha. My wife sent me a message that we had the babysitter that night, and that I should get back by 1800 for our date. Now that's motivation! We packed up by 10AM, and headed back. The trails were packed down by snowmobilers, it took only 30 minutes to cross the 2.5km to Kawawaymog. From there, the wind was brisk along the lake and there were no established snowmobile trails. It took an hour to get across 2.5km of the lake (last 500m were packed down). 


Overall, it was an amazing trip. I think the area at access 1 has amazing potential for winter camping. I'll be going back in early March to explore more. 

Breakfast: Bacon every day, with eggs, oatmeal or bagels. 
Lunch: Every day in the morning I filled a thermos with boiling water and added minestrone soup mix. What a treat! Second thermos was filled with KD and sausage or pulled pork (rehydrated in the morning). 
Dinner: Shepherd's pie, pasta, and pulled pork wraps. 

Learning points:
1. Don't trust Google Maps and don't trust the forecast. 
2. It's really hard to park on a single-lane logging road when there's active logging in the area.
3. I have a pair of MadShus Eon 62 skiis, and just got the Rossi BC110 skiis. I love the fat ski. Glides nicely, and the flotation and traction are superior. Snowshoes are still necessary for the uphills. But the BC110 has flotation that is better than the 42" trad snowshoe. I'm really impressed. 
4. Northern Wilderness Outfitters are really nice people. I chatted with Bill from NWO at the take-out (he was guiding a group of 30 students). His recommendation would be to take the trails north of Amable in order to access NTL. I may try that. 

Going back March 3rd, I think I figured out the path to NTL - 8KM from Corkery Lake. Bill said there should be OK parking there, but I may just park at access 1 and get him to shuttle if he can. The path is marked on Jeff's Map, until the last 2 km or so... but after that there is still a clear-looking trail on the Google Earth satellite photos. And Bill says there's a trail there. So... Give'er! 


If anyone has any thoughts on access of NTL, would love to hear from you (either post or PM me). 



2/16/2018 6:45 pm  #2

Re: Winter camping Access 1 (almost reached North Tea Lake)

Great winter adventure Marko! Beauty pics too!

Never, ever trust Google Maps for driving anywhere near AP. It will screw you over, every time.

There is definitely a road right to the shore of North Tea Lake.. why? Cause that tiny edge of the lake isn't in Algonquin and there is a private cottage there. So you can definitely access via this method (and I guess bushwhack when you get close to the cottage as to not intrude on their property?)

It's funny, as I was reading along I thought, 'Why the hell wouldn't they just take the road to North Tea?'

Give it another go man! I wanna read about it!


2/17/2018 6:44 am  #3

Re: Winter camping Access 1 (almost reached North Tea Lake)

Wow, that was quite the adventure!!!
I've been spending lots of time in that area lately, I could have told you what all was plowed out there, I've explored every one of the back-roads back there until they stop plowing.
There is lots of plowed parking at Corkery Lake, you can park there and snowshoe the road, there are lots of snowmobile tracks. I can take pictures of these parking lots for your next trip if you wish.
There is also even way more parking at Tyne Lake and you could go into Kakasamic, Mattowacka, Lorne, etc.

Last edited by ATVenture (2/17/2018 6:45 am)


2/17/2018 7:55 am  #4

Re: Winter camping Access 1 (almost reached North Tea Lake)

Thanks guys! 

I fixed the winch (a piece of metal was bent and prevented the release of the cable), and bought some snow chains. I'm ready for anything now!

Going back March 3-5. Determined to find NTL - will try and park at Corkery and then follow the trails to NTL. ATV, the info is super helpful, thanks! 


     Thread Starter

2/17/2018 10:05 am  #5

Re: Winter camping Access 1 (almost reached North Tea Lake)

Enjoyed the read very much - thanks for posting it. I've not yet gotten into winter camping, but I'm finding the enforced winter camping break harder and harder to deal with, so I suspect it's in my future. 


2/17/2018 8:58 pm  #6

Re: Winter camping Access 1 (almost reached North Tea Lake)

I used to depressed every February because paddling season was still 3 months away... Not anymore. In some ways I like the winter much better. The clear, cold, sunny days are magical and the feeling of skiing across a lake is out of this world. You should definitely try it!


     Thread Starter

2/18/2018 7:24 am  #7

Re: Winter camping Access 1 (almost reached North Tea Lake)

Marko_Mrko wrote:

I used to depressed every February because paddling season was still 3 months away... Not anymore. In some ways I like the winter much better. The clear, cold, sunny days are magical and the feeling of skiing across a lake is out of this world. You should definitely try it!


I was going to actually post something similar.
This is my first winter getting out as much as possible. I haven't been doing camping trips but I've been doing LOTS of ice fishing (outside of APP obviously) and have learned to really enjoy the season. I'm honestly not even dreading winter that much, by this time in Feb. last year I spent my days sitting in my canoe on the basement floor pretending to paddle. Lol


2/18/2018 9:03 am  #8

Re: Winter camping Access 1 (almost reached North Tea Lake)

Great adventure you guys had there!  Love the pics as well.  I've heard that shingles make for good traction pads.  I've never tried them myself but when we lived up in Sudbury I recall a few folks traveling around with a few sheets of shingles in their vehicles...


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