This will be a shorter than usual post since it covers a shorter than usual trip. A few weeks back my wife and I decided to do a quick morning trip from Canoe Lake to Cache Lake that took just under three hours from start to finish. Don’t worry though, I’ll pad it with as many unnecessary, superfluous, extraneous and possibly redundant words as I can think of to make you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth.
We started on Canoe Lake and went south to Smoke Lake. The route we were following cut off to the east about halfway down Smoke. The thing about the eastern shore of Smoke Lake is that it’s not exactly a straight line. The shoreline meanders all over the place like it was drawn on by a three year old. As a result, the portages (there are two) off the east side of Smoke are hidden in small bays and not at all visible from the water. It’s always fun playing “guess which bay the portage is in” as you crane your neck like Uncle Gadget hoping for just the smallest flash of yellow to tell you you’re on the right track. We found our portage on our second bay, which is a new personal best (and may be the theme for my next challenge, 100 bays in 100 days ((it even rhymes!)).
This particular portage was just over 800 m and took us to Kootchie Lake. Despite its length, this was a relatively easy portage. There’s some uphill, but it’s not too bad. We also found someone’s Camp Ahmek toque on the path, which raised far more questions than it answered (whose hat was it? How did they lose it? Was it an accident or did they have a fashion epiphany and realize orange and black are so last year’s toque colours? Why did they need a toque in the middle of July? Seriously, it has literally been the hottest summer on record. What part of 13 consecutive months of breaking heat records screams, “you need to take your toque on trip with you”?) Ok, before this turns into a toque blog, let’s get back to the trip.
Kootchie Lake is very small but also very pretty. We arrived as the sun was poking above the trees and the morning mist was still rising from the water. There are high rock walls surrounding the lake and the end result is that it felt something like we were paddling into the middle of aRoman style arena or an amphitheater. According to Audrey Saunders Miller’s Algonquin Story, which chronicles the history of the Park up until the 1940s, Kootchie was named after a dog that fell in the water some time around the turn of the 20th century. If that’s all it takes to get a lake named after you the park is going to be renaming at least a half a dozen lakes for me at the end of the summer.
After Kootchie (and a short 225 m portage) we came to Little Island Lake. I hadn’t seen Little Island Lake since my days as a camp counsellor and, given that those days were mostly spent trying to keep a bunch of six year olds from wandering into the woods or poking themselves (and others) with whatever sharp thing was available, you could argue I’d never seen Little Island. It’s a very nice lake although maybe misnamed since the island in the middle of the lake is not little at all. We checked out a couple of sites on the island and they’re wide and well maintained. My only reservation about making a reservation on Little Island (see what I did there!?) is that from time to time we could hear truck noise from highway 60, which kinda derails the whole peace and tranquility thing most people are looking for when the camp in the park.
Sheriff Pond was probably the most visually stunning lake (pond) on this trip. That was a good thing, because the view was a good distraction from how frustrating the put in at the end of the little island portage was due to low water conditions. It took some maneuvering, and some light yet highly effective cursing, to get through the Rock and log obstacle course at that end of the lake, but we did. Obviously. Otherwise I would probably not be writing this right now.
From Sherrif Pond it is another short portage over to Tanamakoon Lake. Tanamakoon is home to Camp Tanamakoon, one of the most well maintained camps I’ve seen in the park. Apart from the camp, Tanamakoon Lake didn’t really stand out to me. It’s very pretty, and the paddle between it and Cache Lake is gorgeous in the sunlight, but that’s about all I can say for it. It’s probably a wonderful spot for a camp, but isn’t necessarily the first lake I’d think of for camping.
There’s no portage between Tanamakoon and Cache, just a short river paddle that, as I mentioned earlier, is very pretty. The river puts you out on Cache close to the access point, which is where we were headed having dropped out car there the night before. We pulled up to the landing just under three hours from when we left Canoe Lake.
All in all, I’d say that this is a very nice route for a day trip and if you’re looking for a relatively easy way to get from Canoe (or Smoke) to Cache as part of a longer trip. The highway noise is something the would probably hold me back from actually camping on any of these lakes, although I’m sure it’s not always that noticeable. Maybe there was a wild truck migration that day or something.
80 down (at this point), 20 to go.
New Lakes Paddled: 4
Total Lakes Paddled: 7
Total Portages: 5
Total Distance Portaged: 2.145 KM
Total Distance Covered: 12.2 KM