TRIP LENGTH: 35.1km • 4 PORTAGES [1,660m]
DAY 1 STATS - LENGTH: 7.2km • TIME: 2.75hrs • PORTAGES: 1 [120m]
Day 1 Photo Gallery
Day 1: November 19, 2015
The windy paddle in
We arrived on Thursday morning shortly after 9am to a desolate and windy parking lot at access#6, having driven up to The Park in rainy conditions. Consequently, not a drop of snow was to be seen in The Park. It seemed weird to see a snowless Algonquin so late into November. I was able to phone in our permit and once that was taken care of, we finished loading up the canoe and donned our rain gear as we prepared to brave the elements. We took a few photos and discussed our plans to tackle the paddle down Smoke Lake.
It was decided to follow the northwest shoreline to the west side of the lake as the wind was coming from that direction. We figured we’d have about fifteen minutes or more of rough paddling before we reached calmer waters and shelter from the wind along the west shoreline of the lake. Looking at the waves and the weight of our canoe loaded down I wasn’t worried. Our course of action was deemed to be quite doable and safe for our abilities.. It goes without saying though that we stuck very close to shore - The water temperatures are lethal that time of year.
Access#6: Choppy conditions as we launched onto Smoke Lake
Not five minutes into our paddle though a large wave crashed over the bow and the gunnels. Both Mike and I were a little surprised but kept on paddling. I remarked that if we had half a dozen more of those we’d be in trouble. I was sitting in the stern and my boots were in an inch or so of water. As it was though, that was the only wave to crash over the canoe.
The wind was gusty and made steering the canoe a busy task as I had to constantly change from paddling to steering with every 2nd stroke. It was getting quite silly out there with the ferocity at which our paddling style had developed to cope with the chaotic conditions of both the waves and winds.
In less then twenty minutes of hard paddling we arrived at the calm waters of the western shoreline. Our hard work had paid off and we relaxed a little bit as we paddled south. Protected from the wind and waves my anxieties melted away as we progressed south, taking in the views the shoreline had to offer.
I had never paddled the west side of the Smoke Lake before but it seemed to me that there were more cottages there than along the east shoreline. Probably my imagination, as I had more time to observe my surroundings this time around. There were some nice looking cottages and some not so pretty ones. I preferred my tent and the surroundings that go with it though, that’s why we were there, heading in deeper past the cottages.
Near the bottom of the lake there was a large bay that opened up. Conditions prevented us from paddling straight across the gap. We didn’t want to have to circumnavigate it, as it would take a long time. Instead, we paddled in a southwesterly direction. Into the waves more or less with a wind cutting into us from a right angle. It was the gusty winds that made the crossing a little nerve racking, but I was confident and so was Mike - We paddled well together.
Ragged Lake: Mike walks atop the dam next to the put-in
It was a desolate place. Muddy, wet with rain and a crushed pumpkin lay on the shoreline at the take-out. We unloaded and took our time doubling the the short but steep climb to Ragged Lake. The trail itself was quite muddy at the beginning, being slippery in places. There was a single tree that had fallen and we managed to clear it off the trail. Other then that the trek was a breeze.
We loaded up our canoe at the put-in to Ragged Lake. It was a mirror image of the take-out; muddy, rain-soaked and another crushed pumpkin! From October I assumed. *Tisk Tisk*. The only difference at the put-in was that the waters were much calmer.
We had a snack and explored the dam for awhile. It was 11:30am when we launched onto Ragged Lake. The speed of the cloud cover moving across the bay as we emerged from the narrows was considerable. Again, we paddled down the western shoreline protected from the wind. As we progressed the sun broke through and I should mention that I was sweating from my efforts and the temperature. I was over-dressed and it rained less than we thought it would. The temperature was near 14°C, very warm for late November!
Paddling Ragged Lake on a windy November day
We got out and examined the site, liking what we saw. We climbed back in the canoe though, as I dis-liked grabbing the first site (A habit of mine) and paddled to the next campsite along the west shore. The next site ended up being too exposed - The fire-pit area was high up on a flat area open to the lake and gusty, swirling winds. It would have to be cleared too as a large tree had fallen in the midst of the seating area. We paddled back to the first site and made camp - We were home for three nights.
By 2:30pm we had set-up our camp and had firewood prepared. The camera came out as I explored the shoreline around our campsite. The view was quite nice with a nearby island dominating the scene. The winds had whipped away most of the clouds and the sun lit up the opposite shoreline. We couldn’t see the sun as it was behind our campsite and too low in the sky. Just after 4pm the sun began to set.. November can be so depressing at times. Our success at reaching camp and getting ourselves set-up and the solitude we were experiencing made the early November sunset much more bearable. That and hanging with my buddy Mike!