When last we left off with our intrepid explorer, he was pulling up to his campsite for the night on Lake Louisa, full of questions about what the evening ahead would hold. Would the tent spaces be flat enough? Would the sunset be memorable? Would there be two privies built surprisingly close to each other that smelled like death with the door closed but who both happened to face towards the island’s only other campsite with the doors open? Only time will tell. Now, let us rejoin our hero for the third and final act of Ragged to Louisa Then On To Lake Of Two Rivers, We Need A Shorter Title.
Given that it was my fourth choice, I was pretty happy overall with my campsite on Louisa. It was the westernmost of the two sites on the island just west of Louisa’s midpoint. There’s a decent place to land the canoe between two rows of rocks, almost like someone has built a small, canoe-sized harbor. The landing is also a good place for a swim and the series of ledges above the landing are a great place to watch the sunset. There’s a blueberry patch just up from those ledges and whoever stayed there after me can be grateful that they weren’t quite ripe when I was there, otherwise there would have found exactly zero blueberries left in the patch. As it stood, I was pretty tempted to just eat the unripened berries on the theory that I probably wouldn’t get sick until the next afternoon, and by then I’d be home and my wife’s problem. It was a poorly developed theory. Fortunately, I didn’t put it to the test since I had an industrial sized bag of dried blueberries with me that I figured would be good enough.
The site itself was relatively small, but serviceable. There are a couple of decent tent spots in what I’d consider the site proper. The fire pit is well maintained and some enterprising tripper has built a small table and what look like a set of uneven bars that I assume are meant to be a drying rack. Regardless of your opinion on those kind of campsite improvements (you’re not supposed to alter the sites in the Park and some people hate finding them because it’s disrupting the natural setting even more than the existing campsite already does, some people carry hammers and nails into the woods so they can build more (don’t do this)) I will say that the ones on this site came in handy.
After I set up my tent, I walked around the island. It didn’t take long, it’s a small island. The second campsite is a less than two minute walk through the woods from the first and, apart from that and the two outhouses in the middle of the island, there isn’t a whole lot to discover. No pirate gold. Yet.
The proximity of the two sites is probably the only drawback of the island. There were people camped on that site and every once in a while I could hear snatches of their conversation from my own. Likewise, I’m sure they could hear my stomach growling on theirs as I waited for my dinner to cook. Those people had a small tin boat with a motor on it, which was a bit of a surprise to me as I couldn’t figure out how they got it in to the lake in the first place. The portage over from Rock Lake is 3 km and that’s about 2.99 km further than I’d want to carry an outboard motor or tin boat.
I ate dinner on a rock ledge facing west and watched the sun go down. The wind that had followed me all day had disappeared and the twilight was silent save the occasional loon calling from the middle of the lake. It was a remarkably peaceful scene, a perfect end to a busy day. Once dinner was done and the sun behind the trees I went to my tent to read and think unpleasant thoughts about the 3 km portage over to Rock Lake that awaited me the next day.
I left the island early the next morning. I had hoped to see a nice sunrise as I paddled east down Louisa but, unfortunately, a solid bank of clouds had rolled in overnight like a bunch of view obstructing jerks and the sky was almost uniformly grey overhead. The water, however, was perfectly calm and it was a very nice paddle from my site to the Rock Lake portage.The portage between Louisa and Rock Lake was far and away the longest portage on my trip. I’d been thinking about it a fair bit since leaving Ragged, and was really not looking forward to the trek. Maybe because I’d built it up so much in my mind, the portage was actually relatively quick and painless. I was across in less than an hour which means I can now add “Portaging from Louisa to Rock’ to “Martinizing” and “Getting pictures developed in the 90s” to my “Things You Can Do In Less Than One Hour” list.
I was excited to see Rock Lake, specifically because I knew there are pictographs (petroglyphs?) on some of the cliffs and rock faces along the shore. I spent a decent chunk of time paddling in and around Pictobay, but the only thing I saw that wasn’t rock and lichen was a guy in a kayak who was most definitely not a pictograph. Eventually I gave up and resumed my paddle north (if anyone has been to Rock Lake and has seen the pictographs, I’d love some directions so I can find them the next time I’m out that way).
Someone who knows more about this than I do is free to correct me if I’m wrong, but to me it looks like Rock Lake is part of the Madawaska River system. This would make sense, since once you’re on Rock Lake the paddle up to Lake of Two Rivers involves very little portaging and some river paddling. Rock connects to Whitefish by way of a small river that goes past the Rock Lake Access point. I don’t have much to say about Whitefish Lake. I’m sure there are people out there who think it’s the prettiest lake in the park and have many a fond memory of summer days spent on the water there, but to me it basically seems to exist to fill space between Rock Lake and Lake of Two Rivers. You paddle under a bridge at the southern end, so that’s cool. I guess. Whatever, Whitefish. Try harder.
Actually, one thing about Whitefish. At the south end of the lake there’s an old bridge. I believe at one point it was a rail bridge and at others it’s been a logging bridge. What it seems to be most used for these days is as a place for people who should know better to write stupid things in big white letters. Don’t do this. You’re better than that. And if you’re not you should be.
I finished up on Lake of Two Rivers. This seems to be one of the more popular lakes in the park. I’d say that, apart from Canoe Lake, it’s probably the most canoes and kayaks I’ve seen on the water in the same place this summer. Paddling up this corridor, Rock through Whitefish and Pog Lake to Lake of Two Rivers, is an interesting experience. Each of these lakes has its own campground, making this some of the busiest real estate in the Park. You can constantly hear other people enjoying themselves (and, in one case, probably not enjoying themselves given the quantity, and volume, of swearing going on) but, thanks to the decent shore cover, still feel like you’ve got some space to yourself. That being said, if you’re looking for backcountry seclusion, this area might not be the best place to start. Well, it’s a good place to start, but only if you’re leaving it fairly quickly for somewhere quieter.
And that ends my three day trip. We had some laughs, we had some tears, but above all we had lots of dried apple and almond mix. I highly recommend taking the time to get down towards Louisa if you get a chance. It truly is a gorgeous lake and well worth a night or two. No matter which route you take to get to Louisa (down from Smoke, down from Cache or down from Rock Lake, assuming you’re starting from one of the highway 60 access points) there are going to be some portages to deal with. If you’re simply looking to get there as quickly as possible, the Rock to Louisa route is probably the best choice. The portage is long, but well maintained and with not too many changes in elevation. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, and a nice cross section of what Algonquin has to offer, start on Cache and head south through Head Lake and Harness Lake (check out Vader Falls on Head Lake if you do go this way). If you’re looking to do not one but two portages with devil in their names, go south from Smoke.
76 down, 24 to go.
New Lakes Paddled: 4
Total Lakes Paddled: 4
Total Portages: 2
Total Distance Portaged: 3.125 KM
Total Distance Covered: 20.00 KM