Algonquin Park
Wilderness Canoe Trip

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

by Norm Hooper
Part 2

Sept 11th – We awoke to an overcast and dreary morning with mist settling over a calm lake - by 6:30 am, breakfast was prepared consisting of scrambled eggs and ham, toast and coffee. As we ate, some loons could be heard calling out to one another near Gilmour Island – offering further incentive for us to get on with our venture!


Norm R. cooking breakfast.

At 9:30 am, we launched our canoes for Gilmour Lake with Norm R. and Wayne in one canoe and Norm H. in the other. The first portage was a grueling 2190-metre journey through the woods over an old, rutted logging road. The 3-4 foot tall ferns and small bushes leaning over the trail were still wet from the previous night’s rain and it didn’t take long before our clothes were drenched. Our trek in the high humidity became the main attraction for the really BIG mosquitoes. As they swarmed us, our initial plan to stop for a rest became impractical. Near the end of our portage, we came upon some old bear dung on the trail and approximately ten paces further, we heard a loud crashing sound in the bushes to our right. Our first thoughts favoured a bear, but we later concluded that it was a female moose when we discovered moose tracks in the mud along the riverbank.

For the next half hour, we meandered through the bog along a narrow stream that forced us to climb over two beaver dams before entering a larger, lily covered waterway. After assisting Wayne with hauling his canoe over the first beaver dam, Norm R. remained behind to offer assistance to Norm H. with his canoe; while Wayne proceeded ahead to the second beaver dam. After negotiating the second canoe over the first beaver dam, Norm R., not realizing that the canoe had been reversed due to the solo trek previously done by Norm H., attempted to get his "large frame " into the bow of the canoe. It was at this moment that we were provided a little "comic relief" as Norm R’s weight caused the other end of the canoe to elevate out of the water, rolling him unceremoniously out of the canoe and into the beaver pond – an expected result much to the amusement of Norm H. standing on the embankment. Not to be discouraged and being a good sport, Norm R. regained his composure, laughed and helped remove the unwanted pond water from the canoe. We then proceeded to catch up with Wayne who appeared somewhat bewildered by our turn of events. On a far shoreline, we spotted a cow moose and her yearling calf feeding on the marsh grasses. As we approached, caution outweighed their curiosity and they sauntered into the woods.

Norm R. and Norm H.

Norm H. in bog stream

Unable to locate the next portage sign, we verified our map and then took a chance on a particular narrow straight that zigzagged through tall, swamp grass to the far corner of the bog. We finally located our 200-metre portage next to an impassable stream that led to the next lake. Whenever it became necessary for us to get out of the canoes, we were relentlessly subjected to a putrid odour emitted by each step placed into the silty and mirky lake bottom.

After paddling through a narrow channel and into Brant Lake, we entered a shallow stream that would take us to our destination, Gilmour Lake. What we didn’t expect were the slippery, fallen logs and rocks throughout this course. Many times, we had to walk our canoes when paddling became impossible. Overall, the "short distance" from Cedar Lake to Gilmour Lake was accomplished in three hours.

Historical Brent Crater

Norm and Norm on Gilmour Lake

Gilmour Lake was found to be oval and surrounded with a ridge of coniferous trees. Beyond the lake, we could see the outline of another oval ridge that more than likely encompassed Tecumseh Lake. We were now in the midst of the Brent Crater Basin, created over 450 million years ago after the collision of a giant meteorite. About 200 feet from shore, three large loons alerted each other of our presence as they fed on the lake bottom. To our surprise, even swimming in Gilmour Lake was a challenge, as it required walking for approximately 500 feet in two feet of water before the water reached our thighs. It became a matter of just sitting in the water to cool off from the existing humidity! The question arose as to why the lake was so shallow if a meteorite had fallen in this actual area. Our conclusion was that the lake was much deeper at one time and filled in with sediment from the melting glaciers that passed over this region.

Our intention was to paddle into Tecumseh Lake and beyond, but having reached our allotted halfway time-point, we decided to cook some soup and then return to our base camp. Out in the middle of the marshy bog again, we encountered and surprised the female moose feeding in deeper water. Discovering our sudden presence, she tried to flee, but had a difficult task in reaching the shoreline and the sanctuary of the woods because of the deep, muddy lake bottom. Occasionally, she would stop and turn her head to take a long look at us, trying to determine if this was an actual invasion of her territory. For Norm R., an avid moose hunter, it was certainly the highlight of the trip. He stated that the moose would not remain in this region in about two weeks time because of the aggression demonstrated by the bulls during the rutting season.

The 2.2-kilometer portage was accomplished in rapid time and we were back at our camp by 3:45 pm. Norm H.' neck and shoulder muscles stiffened from carrying his canoe solo and he suffered the consequences for the rest of day. To relieve the discomfort, some muscle liniment was applied and Norm H. soon became his old self again. Norm R. and Wayne also felt the effects of the trip, but not as acutely. We had miscalculated on the amount of water to bring and the effort it would take to reach Gilmour Lake - this resulted in our becoming dehydrated from the trip. An important lesson learnt – from now on we would sacrifice the added weight by carrying our water filter on future side trips.

Wayne and Norm H.

under the tarp

Norm and Norm

Wayne and Norm R.

That evening, ample water was substituted for the usual medicinal scotch to counteract our fluid loss. Supper consisted of BBQ chicken and rice, left over baked potatoes, apple brown betty dessert and some wine. By 9 pm, everyone welcomed, without complaint, the suggestion of going to bed early.

copyright 2001 by Norm Hooper