Portages and Campsites

To really experience the ‘interior’ of Algonquin by canoe means portaging is inevitable. So our criteria when trip planning are pretty simple, the fewest number, and the shortest portages possible to get us away from the ‘crowds’ and the sounds of civilization. The days of five day trips with 24 portages that vary in length but included two over 2,000m long are over. We are more ‘the one 295m portage’ kind of trippers now. Our destination was Tom Thomson Lake, a 12 km paddle and one short portage from our starting point. Perfect!

The wind was in our favour as we paddled up Canoe Lake, and a good thing it was, as our arms, butts and knees started to protest as we approached the portage. The portage was busy with several canoes on the shore when we arrived and four more came in shortly after we did. And that didn’t include those heading out, back to Canoe Lake. As we waited for our turn to land on the shore and unpack the canoe, I noticed a sign with a large black bear head. Apparently none of my fellow canoe trippers seemed bothered that we were entering black bear territory. The caution sign also warned not to approach or feed the bears (seriously?).

First trip across with our gear packs.

The portage is a relatively flat 295 m long gravel/dirt wide pathway that passes the Joe Lake damn. Easy peasy! We made three trips back and forth: one with packs, one with the canoe, and the last with paddles and the food pack. Ok so most groups did one trip, maybe two, so what, we aren’t in a race. It was during our third and final crossing that we realized that maybe all these folks were also headed to Tom Thomson Lake and would reach it first and select the best campsites. Suddenly I felt a little like I was on the “Amazing Race” heading to the last check point where your team may be eliminated. I picked up my pace.

We paddled into Tom Thomson Lake a couple of hours later and had no problem finding a great campsite. Each campsite offers the basic amenities (campfire pit, tent site(s) and a thunder box) but can also include benches or tables made by a previous occupant.

Our site included a pully and rope attached to a wire affixed to two trees that is used to hang the food pack so it is out of reach of bears. I guess they weren’t kidding, we are in bear territory.

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