It was a simple plan, as 3 members of our group had risen at 5 a.m. to dash to the park office on Opeongo Lake to register and catch the first water taxi across the lake. They were lucky and able to grab to two excellent campsites sitting side by side on a peninsula jotting into the North Arm of the lake where they left our camping gear.
The rest of the group of 15 from the Outdoor Club of East York (Toronto) meanwhile were preparing our breakfast at the Wolf’s Den, a hostel in Oxtongue Lake just outside the west entrance of the park. We had spent the night there along with other guests from Germany, Michigan, New York State and other Canadians.
We then headed out for an early start on the lake by driving along Highway 60 through scenic Algonquin Park to just past 45 km where we took the 6.2 drive to the Opeongo Store and parking lot.
Algonquin Provincial Park
Algonquin Park was created in 1893 and consists of 7,635 square kilometers of forests, lakes and rivers. While along Highway 60 there are standard campgrounds and hiking trails many including our group prefer the beauty of the park’s interior.
We were going to paddle with huge Voyageur canoes weighing about 250 pounds and holding up to 10 people although we only had 7 in one and 8 in the other. In went the day packs with our lunches and off we went up the channel for the 13 km paddle to the campsite.
They are called a common Loon but perhaps curious would be a better name and they kept popping up near our canoes to spy on us as we traveled up the lake. Also there were plenty of other flotillas of canoes headed north. Others had chosen to rent water taxi’s which can hold up to 4 canoes on their racks as they raced to campsite on the lake or to the Happy Creek Isle portage giving them a quick start to the more remote sections of Algonquin Park.
There had been a small forest fire along the shores of Opeongo Lake the previous week but weekend rains had put it out and we didn’t see any evidence of its occurrence. However, we stopped at a small island to enjoy our lunches before continuing to the campsite.
After a 4 hour paddle we arrived and set up our tents, water filter systems and other gear. We located the thunder box in the forest, a simple wooden box with toilet seat and lid with a nice view of the surrounding forest.
With a large group it is always easier to divide into teams to prepare the meals and clean up after. Our first dinner menu was impressive featuring Rotini with beef and spinach; garlic bread; salad; and dessert. Previous visitors to the site had constructed a wooden table where we had placed our stoves making things easy to prepare.
Our Opeongo Lake Campsite
We had purchased generous sized bags of wood for $10 from the Opeongo Outfitters Store and set about getting a camp fire going for the evening. Also there was the task of hauling our food packs up into the trees as there could some of 2,000 Algonquin Park bears in our area. We went to sleep to the sounds of loons. We didn’t hear any of the 300 wolves in the park on this night.
Breakfast the next morning included sliced oranges; sausages; scrambled eggs; English muffins with peanut butter or jam. And around this time we had a few rain drops but it didn’t amount to anything.
About half the group decided to relax around camp but the others headed in one of the canoes across the North Arm to Hailstorm Creek padding to the end. Along the way they encountered a beaver dam requiring a lift-over heading up the creek but on the return they were able to ride part way over and by moving people around in the canoe slide down the other side.
Dinner tonight was chicken souvlaki in a pita; Greek salad; dessert. I was amazed how creative the trip organizers were in our menu selection. As with the other meals a chipmunk and red squirrel ran around our feet picking up odds and ends. One chipmunk will be dining on cheese balls this winter.
A Major Thunderstorm
It is 6 a.m. and the boom of thunder could be heard along with visions of the flashes of lightening right through the tent. And yes it was raining hard although the storm moved on after about one hour. As one person explained, “the thunderstorm always adds a sense of danger challenging our wits to cope.”
Just a light breakfast this morning of juice; hot or cold cereals and toasted breakfast pita. We packed up our wet tents and awaited the water taxi to take the gear back to the parking lot.
Back into the Voyageur canoes we headed back across the lake into a strong wind providing white caps but still singing as we paddled as it had been an amazing weekend.