Fall colour canoe/photography trip
Algonquin Park, Smoke Lake to Cache Lake, September 25th October 1st 2012 – by Doug Hamilton
Last Wednesday my good friend Paul Morrison and I departed on a 5 night , 6 day canoe trip from Smoke Lake to Cache Lake with a 2 day side trip built in to Lake Louisa. Both of us are photographers but Paul is a world famous ski and adventure tourism photographer, originally from Ontario but living in Whistler BC for the past 35 years. Like me he has a soft spot for nature, the grandeur of canoe routes in Algonquin Park and the majesty of fall foliage. Our decision to leave on Wednesday was prompted by weather constraints earlier in the week and what we hoped would be the peak of fall colours. The timing was ideal.
The trip ended at Cache Lake so that meant I needed to shuttle my vehicle from Smoke Lake where our trip started , back to Cache Lake somehow. My plan was to do this before the trip started so the car would be waiting when we finished. I tried for 40 minutes to hitch a ride from Cache back to Smoke but almost all traffic on Hwy 60 that day in the morning was east bound with almost zero traffic west bound. So, not wanting to waste the first day canoe travel I decided to drive back to Smoke Lake, park there and do the shuttle at the end of the trip. We came out Monday afternoon when the highway was busy with fall colour travellers. I got a ride right away then.
Our trip took us through Smoke, Ragged, Big Porcupine, Phipps on to Lawrence; then a 2 night side trip to Lake Louisa , returning via Lawrence, Pardee, Harness, Head to Cache. The small interior lakes were empty of people ; just us ! There were a few people mainly on Ragged lake with a few more on the north end of Big Porcupine and Lake Louisa. The lack of other canoe parties this time of year provided more of a wilderness experience than we expected, which was an added bonus. The fall scenery was spectacular and well worth the 4000 Km trip from BC for Paul.
View Doug Hamilton’s Smoke to Cache canoe Trip 2012 in a larger map
There is a series of little streams connecting the interior lakes that generally follow the portages between lakes. Some of these offered some excellent photo opportunities with rambling cascades surrounded by multi coloured leaves; more or less a nature photographers paradise !
The lake shores and distant hills throughout the route were a good mix of conifer and hardwood forests with all shades of colour from pale greens through to vivid reds. In fact this year is the best fall colour year I’ve seen in Algonquin for a long time. A lack of deep frosts this fall with light winds and damp conditions in September after a very hot and dry summer seem to have set up the colours in a good way ! We think we went through the ideal peak of colours around last Friday (the 28th of September) but in fact the entire trip was close to peak and it was still amazingly vibrant on the Monday when we came out.
Along the way some of the wildlife we encountered included loons, mergansers , kingfishers, ravens, nuthatches, owls, various raptors, moose and a possible bear ! When I say possible bear , here is the story.
At the end of the portage from Rod and Gun Lake (weird name for Algonquin lake dated to earlier times I guess) to the NW end of Lake Louisa there is a parks map of Lake Louisa posted on a big pine tree that you cant miss. It is undated but looks new. On that map 5 campsites circled on the extreme east end of the lake (closest to Rock Lake). These campsites are (or were) closed due to a problem bear. This is a first for me to see a warning map like that on a remote portage. So we entered Lake Louisa with a discussion of bears and how I never encounter them on campsites in the interior. As fate would have it around dusk on our outstanding campsite miles away from the bear problem area, we are startled by a massive commotion of breaking branches , crashing and clomping and breathing just behind our campsite. We look at each other. Bear or Moose. Paul lives in bear country and he is thinking bear. I’m thinking maybe bear but maybe moose but bear is on my mind because of the bear warning. We muse that there is a logging road somewhere back of our campsite that has not been used in a few years but that it might make a nice bear runway from east where the problem is and bring it to us ! This is the thinking when one gets a bit paranoid I suppose. Well that noise never did happen again and the rest of the night was peaceful although sleep was slow to come. Paul slept near the axe; all funny now in hindsight. We checked the noise zone in the morning and could not see tracks or evidence of what could make so much noise. I did see old bear sign not that far away though so I do lean towards it being a bear. The good thing is, whatever it was ; I guess it stumbled on us and was scared away.
The photos included here give a good overview of conditions and features along the route.. All photos © Doug Hamilton 2012
There are no photos with those IDs or post 17365 does not have any attached images!
It was a good one that also had lots of time built in to relax and for photography. We both finished trip feeling happy and inspired.
Doug Hamilton is a photographer and a former interior canoe ranger warden for many years in Temagami. He loves the diversity of Algonquin and lately spends about 30 days a year exploring canoe routes there and shooting photos. Off season, spring and fall when the crowds have thinned, are his favourite times there.