Guest Blogger

Algonquin – Rock to Clydegale – June 2020

Part 1 of 3 – Day 1

By Natalie Zieman

Rock to Clydegale Canoe RouteAlthough a late start this year – I was super thrilled to be in the backcountry of Algonquin last weekend!  I made this trip into an extended weekend (Thursday – Sunday). The trip was planned to start at Rock lake, we complete a 375m portage to Pen for one night, Paddle to Clydegale portage ( 275m )  for night 2 and then back to pen for Night three before making our way out to Rock.

In preparation for this trip, I purchased my first Swift Solo pack canoe!! I spent lots of time test paddling various canoes last fall at the Oxtongue Outfitters. I chose the Cruiser 14.8 because of its lightweight and nimble maneuvering on the lakes.

Amelia rented a Swift Keewaydin 15 from the Outfitters in Oxtongue – both of us had kayak paddles – which I have to tell you makes solo canoeing much easier.

Day 1 –We Started at Rock Lake we paddled our way across the open expanse – we recognized quite early the wind was not going to be our friend.  As we were getting into the opening of the lake – a giant Blue Heron greeted us on the shore- it was literally not 6 feet away from Amelia as she paddled. We were too busy being in awe of how close it was to think about taking pictures. We zoomed past the Pictographs on the right side of the lake – making our way to the other side of the lake battling the wind.  We tried to stay on the right side the entire time – hoping for a reprieve along the shore as the weather figured out what it wanted to do.

SoloAfter about an hour of paddling, we made it to the Portage at the end of Rock Lake to Pen Lake. This was the first-ever solo carry I have ever completed. Amelia and I decided to do this in two trips – the packs first, then the canoes. This is a short portage   but it was rocky and mostly uphill to Pen. The barrel was at least 60lbs – Amelia being a rock star carried this like a champ to Pen. I have the rest of the gear (mine was about 45lbs). Dropped off our gear and then went back for the canoes. It was hot and buggy. I mean as buggy goes it wasn’t terrible – but the mosquitos were having a field day every time we stopped for more than 30 secs.  After completing the portage – we rested had a small lunch and later then made our way forward into Pen.

The winds continued to be a problem – we were aiming to get to a site that is across from the welcome lake portage on a point – which has a small beach to shore up the canoes and was on a cliff. We fell 2 km Short as we were tired of the battle – and ended up camping in what we decided to call “Buggy Bay”. We were greeted by a grouse that was all puffed up and irate. He then disappeared once he realized that we were not going anywhere! I called him the Buggy Bay welcoming committee.  We also had the pleasure of making a friend who we named “Chester” the super friendly Chipmunk. He hung out with us for most of the stay – I believe because of the food!  The campsite itself was great – everything was in close proximity. We were slightly disappointed that people left a whole bunch of unburnt food in the fire pit.

Solo canoesAfter setting up shelter, getting water and pulling up all our gear – we went looking for firewood.

Believe it or not, I didn’t know how to properly saw! I purchased a lightweight collapsible saw in preparation for this trip – but have been traditionally used to a hatchet. I always thought you have to use brute force to get the wood ready. Amelia saw me struggle and corrected me quite quickly! As a result, I was a sawing champ!!! We not only had enough wood for our evening but left a decent pile behind for whoever decided to camp at “Buggy Bay”

After an epic meal (tenderloin, potatoes and mushrooms, and a few glasses of wine, yes we decided to bring a bag of wine with us!) were content and ready to relax. I did a little fishing (unfortunately no catches) and then made a small fire.  Tired and content, we both had an early night however not before what I now call the “Branch Debacle”.

Like any good camper, we all know that we need to hang our barrel in the event that a “friendly” furry animal may decide to grace us with their presence.  We thought we successfully found the most stable branch around our campsite.  We threw the rope over the branch and started lifting the heavy barrel.  All of a sudden, we could hear the branch cracking! We jumped out of the way in anticipation of the fall and narrowly missed this giant tree limb crashing over our heads! Both shocked and relieved we didn’t get hurt, we both just looked at each other and knew there weren’t any tree’s around that we could get the barrel in the air on.  We made a decision to hide the barrel a few hundred meters from our campsite, hidden in a bush.  Definitely not ideal, but it was all we could muster for the evening.

The most notable animal encounter for our first overnight was an owl that clearly was not happy we were there. Being from southern Ontario, the owl’s I am used to sounding almost like songbirds, gentle in their “whooing”.  However, the owl we encountered –woke us up from mid-sleep.  Both of us thought we were under attack by some unidentified wild animal, screeching almost like a demented angry goat!

The “Whooing” was pretty aggressive – I joked the next morning thinking it was the chupacabra coming for a visit! I wish I would have been able to see this guy – I am guessing it may have been a barred Owl, but am not sure.

I woke up early the next morning – enjoying the sunrise in the sandy bay.  Day 1 under our belts, it was time to get ready for the next move.



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Natalie Zieman

Natalie Zieman is an avid hiker and is an outdoor enthusiast. You can find her spending her time regularly in Algonquin Park as well as many other adventures which include other Provincial/Nationals parks such as Banff and Jasper Parks in AB. She currently working on completing the Bruce trail E2E here in Ontario and of course planning canoe trips regularly in Algonquin Park and other areas.

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