Algonquin Park
Wilderness Canoe Trip

Cedar Lake to Mink Lake Region
September 10-16, 2000

by Norm Hooper
Part 1

Immediately after the successful canoe trip to the northern region of Algonquin Park last year (An Algonquin Park Canoe and Camping Trip), Wayne Morrison, Norm Rail, John Nikita and Norm Hooper began to plan another trip in the year of the millennium. This past spring, however, it became evident that John would be going to Kosovo on peacekeeping duties with the RCMP contingent for nine months, and failing to find a replacement, we organized our trip with Norm H. canoeing solo and Wayne and Norm R. sharing the second canoe.

During our first meeting in July, it was decided that we would commence at the Brent wharf and head westward on Cedar Lake and finally to Mink Lake, using base camps at two specific sites and doing daily excursions. This would allow us to carry less equipment and food through our portages and, at the same time, paddle more lakes and see additional territory. Our menu for the week was finalized - we would acquire our food supply from three sources, namely, our personal supplies, the grocery store and a specialty store. Finally, the designation of equipment was assigned among the three of us.

At the end of August and early September, all the food items were purchased and placed in marked bags, as per our menu, for easy access. On Sep. 9th, the canoes were secured onto the trailer and stored along with the rest of the equipment in Norm H’s garage overnight.

morning sunrise departure

Wayne, Norm H. and Norm R.

Sept 10th – We met at 6:30 am under warm, sunny skies. Everyone was eager to get packed and under way; however, our "testing" began when we encountered a slight delay because the ball on the hitch of Norm R’s van required changing and the wiring redone to accommodate the trailer. Not to be so easily deterred, we quickly "bent to the task" and were soon on our way.

On route, we stopped at the Irving Restaurant in Pembroke for our traditional breakfast and then in Deep River to purchase some Tim Horton muffins for our afternoon snack. Turning off Route 17 towards the Brent Ranger Station, we soon came to realize that the next 41 km (25 miles) would involve a dirt road, "wash boarded" by logging trucks, bringing the speed limit almost to a crawl. After registering, we still had another half hour "jittery" ride to the wharf. We did take the opportunity to climb a tower to observe the Brent Crater that was created by a meteorite millions of years ago. We decided to canoe this area on Monday as part of a side trip.

dirt road leading to Cedar Lake

dirt road leading to Cedar Lake

By 1:30 pm, our equipment was secured in our canoes. Before leaving, some medical attention had to be directed towards Wayne, who sustained a deep cut on his hand from the gunwale of his canoe. The injury was serious enough to warrant concern at that moment and over the next week; however, this mishap did give us material for some "fish filleting" jokes at Wayne’s expense!

For the first twenty minutes of our trip, we met a southerly wind and waves large enough to make handling the canoes a challenge. Once we rounded the two land points and headed westward, the winds came at us from a 7 o’clock direction and demanded our full concentration. Occasionally, however, our eyes would be drawn toward the spectacle of the white-capped waves stretching into the horizon before us. The force of the wind from this direction resulted in a "riding the crest of the waves" sensation – profoundly felt by Norm H. during most of the trip to our campsite.

Fall foliage sprinkled the countryside and seemed earlier than normal for this time of the year. A 3-foot water snake approached along side of Norm H’s canoe and appeared to be searching for a resting place - a paddle was gently used to re-direct the snake towards the shoreline. While searching for our campsite, we passed Gilmour Island on the north side and noticed the portage sign to Gilmour Lake. Passing between a group of rocks and the mainland, we entered an inlet and located our campsite.

Norm H. went for an invigorating and well-deserved swim - in the buff – not waiting to dig out those swim trunks! While setting up our tents and arranging our equipment, we noticed that the mosquitoes were vicious and out in force - quite a surprise! Our decision was to sleep in one tent and place the equipment in the second one. Thunder could be heard in the distance while we gathered firewood along the shoreline. We decided to install tarps between the trees over our campfire and make shift kitchen as a precaution. By 5 pm, it began to rain heavily and these shelters proved successful in keeping us dry, especially during the meal preparation. The "feast" consisted of baked potatoes with sour cream, baby carrots and steaks cooked over charcoals. Except for the occasional medicinal sip of 12 year old, single malt Scotch during the evenings around the campfire, this was to be our only luxury during the trip! That evening, with the landscape clearly silhouetted in the background, we stood along the shore watching the scattered clouds drift past the moon shining on the tranquil lake - picturesque to say the least. By 11:30 pm, we were ready to turn in for the night.

Cedar Lake

from our campsite

During the evening, Norm R. remarked that we were presently in the heart of the country of our ancestral voyageurs who paddled in their 24 foot birch bark canoes loaded with 1000 pounds or more of supplies and living a life full of adventure and pitfalls. One only had to recall the stories read and told to us as youngsters of the voyageurs, such as Pierre-Esprit Radisson, Medard Chouart des Groseilliers, Sir George Simpson and others, to realize the truth in his statement. The canoe journey into the wilderness has always been a consistent theme of our Canadian history and culture and has emerged as the image of our national dream life, the symbol of our oneness with a rugged landscape. As much as the Beaver or the Canada goose or the maple leaf, the canoe is presented as our link to the land, to the past, to our forebears, and to our spiritual roots.

morning mist - Cedar Lake

afternoon reflection

copyright 2001 by Norm Hooper