4 Days on Queer Lake - Solo in Algonquin

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Trip Info

Date: July 25th – 28th, 2021

ROUTE Magnetawan > Queer Queer > Magnetawan
Travel (Single)
3.5 hrs
3.5 hrs
Travel (Double)
4 hrs
4 hrs
Portage #1
135m
135m
Portage #2
295m
295m
Portage #3
435m
435m
Portage #4
175m
175m
SINGLE CARRY
1,040m
1,040m
DOUBLE CARRY
3,120m
3,120m
DIFFICULTY Travel (Single) Travel (Double) Portages Single Carry Double Carry
Total
7 hrs
8 hrs
8 portages
2,080m
6,240m
Per Travel Day
3.5 hrs
4 hrs
4 portages
1,040m
3,120m
Trip Report and Details for 4 Days Solo on Queer Lake in Algonquin Park July 2021

Background

This was my first trip of the 2021 season after a cancelled ice out (thanks COVID!). As you can imagine, it was much anticipated coming out of another year of lockdowns; I was ready to get back into the beautiful backcountry.

But this trip almost didn’t happen.

Not because of COVID, or bad weather, or anything like that… but purely out of stupidity. I was scheduled to leave Wednesday morning. I planned everything around that date; groceries, getting my car serviced; you know, all that fun stuff. I decided the Friday prior to confirm my canoe reservation with Algonquin Basecamp. When I looked at my confirmation email, the days were Sunday to Wednesday, not Wednesday to Saturday.

Oh no! I booked the canoes for the wrong dates.

Wait… *checks campsite permits*

The canoes were booked for the right dates. My brain was just on another planet and for some reason I kept thinking the trip started on Wednesday, but that was never actually the case. Ok, so now I had two days to get everything ready before the REAL start date of the trip.

Day 1 – Magnetawan Lake to Queer Lake

If you’ve read my other trip reports you’ll know that I wake up at an absurdly early hour to get on the road. This trip the alarm was set for 3:45 AM. Considering I only slept from 8-9 PM and then 12:30-3:30 AM, I knew I was going to be brutally tired.

After a couple quick off-the-highway micro naps, I grabbed the key for my canoe from Algonquin Basecamp and made my way to Magnetawan access point. I arrived at Algonquin Basecamp before they opened for the day, so Chris left the waiver form, yoke, and key in the dropbox outside for me.

The roads were dead quiet on my way to the Magnetawan access point. It seemed nobody was awake yet, other than the one group at the launch point at the same time as me.

I got onto the water just before 8 AM to start my journey. Oh how I missed paddling and being on the water! There isn’t too much to report for the first few hours of the day. The portages are all quite easy, short, and well-maintained; although very muddy after the previous day’s rainfall.

I met a few other groups travelling in the opposite direction as me. All of them were families with children. Ralph Bice and Little Trout are popular destination lakes for families since there are just a few quick portages. One family that I met was actually coming from Queer Lake, and they said the lake was basically empty; only one site was occupied in the north end of the lake.

So I continued onwards with some good news about an empty Queer Lake, and a friendly push from the Algonquin Tailwinds (ie. the wind was very strong at my back on Ralph Bice and Little Trout, but “Algonquin Tailwinds” would make a pretty sweet name for a sports team. If the commissioner of the NHL reads my trip reports, I give you permission to use that name, I just want seasons tickets for life.)

Anyways, after almost stepping on a snake at the end of the portage into Queer Lake, I finally made it to my destination for the next 3 nights. I know that Campsite #6 is beautiful, but I was aiming for Campsite #4 instead, which is my preference of the two while travelling solo.

The site was available, but there was no orange campsite marker. Either it must have blown off in the wind, or the site is temporarily closed for camping. I’ve seen campsite markers blown off multiple times in the past, and I’ve also seen actual notices when a campsite is closed, which this site did not have. I figured more likely than not, it was the former (blown off). So I decided to set up camp.

I arrived at my campsite just after 11:30 AM, making great time thanks to the Algonquin Tailwinds. The sun was shining, it was a beautiful day, and I was feeling great. I did the usual tasks—tent, tarp, food hang, wood, water—and spent the rest of the day relaxing.

As I was swimming, paddling, and falling asleep in the sun on the flat rock at the front of the site, other groups started trickling in. There was a family with children and a group with a dog to the north, and a couple with a dog and another family to the south.

Queer Lake is relatively small and the campsites mostly face each other, so I was able to see 5 other sites from my campsite. That means I was also able to HEAR 5 other sites from my campsite. Children yelling, the occasional dog barking… but I can’t complain. I chose this lake knowing its geography as well as how busy it would be. No one was actually doing anything wrong, they were just having fun with their group. And I was just enjoying my time too, although a bit quieter.

My neighbours to the south, who actually had two dogs with them, and who would end up staying on Queer Lake for the full 3 nights that I was there, were actually extremely quiet the whole time. I barely heard a peep from them. Their dogs were very well behaved, and very cute too (they came to say hi when I paddled by in my canoe).

I made an AlpineAire Creamy Noodle with Beef and Mushroom for dinner and it was delish. Not the type of meal I thought I’d want on a hot summer evening, but it hit the spot.

Afterwards, I went for an evening paddle to the south of the lake to check out the campsites missing from my Campsite Reports. I still couldn’t find Campsite #9, just like the last time I was on Queer Lake, but I checked out the rest.

The clear skies starting filling with overcast right before sundown, and although there was the threat of rain, none came. I went to check out the bay to the east of my site. There are no campsites there and I figured if I wanted to see moose, I needed to get away from all the loud families and dogs. Plus, there was moose poop everywhere on my site, some looking quite fresh, so I knew they were around.

I was extremely happy to see a single bull moose right at the end of the day, chowing down on some dinner. It was no Creamy Noodle with Beef and Mushrooms, but hey I’m sure he still enjoyed it.

I relaxed in my canoe and watched for as long as I could before he went inland. Then, it was my turn to go inland as well. I sat by a fire for the next hour or two, hoping the overcast would give way to some stars. Unfortunately it didn’t, so I went to bed around 10:30 PM. I was out cold in seconds.

Day 2 – Rest Day on Queer Lake

By the way, I forgot to mention my pillow. Not an inflatable one, not a “throw your t-shirt into a pillow case” one, not a mini one. No, it was a real bed-sized pillow. I brought it with me for my car naps and then said what the heck, I have space for it and I’m now officially in my 30’s, so it’s coming with me. It was so worth it. I think this might just be my new luxury item for every trip.

Oh right, you actually wanted to read about Day 2 and not my pillow.

The day started with some banana bread, a few sips of whiskey, and a sunrise paddle back into the east bay in hopes of seeing more moose. The moose never showed up, but I was treated to a very pretty sunrise and the calm morning paddle was very serene.

Even though I had a great sleep, waking up at 5:30 AM to watch the sunrise clearly didn’t give me enough hours after my terrible sleep the night prior. So I went back to bed after I finished my sunrise paddle. When I woke up for the second time I felt so much more refreshed.

I had a few lazy hours in the morning and then got ready for a day trip. I was deciding between doing the 1.45km into the Tim River, or paddling around Little Trout instead. I opted for the latter. The thought of 2.9km of portaging (there and back) with beaver dams in between just wasn’t what I was in the mood for.

Although windy, Little Trout was beautiful. I checked out a handful of campsites for my Campsite Reports, took some pictures of the windswept trees and small islands dotting the lake, and then headed back. I checked out one more site on Queer Lake, the only site I still hadn’t visited yet, and then returned back to my own campsite.

Another lazy few hours took place and was followed by another nap on the flat rock at the front of the campsite. I took 2 naps in 2 days on that rock. Want to guess if I went 3 for 3? Spoiler alert, I did.

Dinner that evening was a Backpackers Pantry meal, and once again it hit the spot. After dinner I set up my GoPro for a timelapse of the sunset, and hit the water for a long, relaxing paddle. I paddled all the way to the southeast of the lake hoping there might be moose far from all the people, but I had no luck. I did see however that the southernmost campsite was now occupied by a family with a crying baby and barking dog. Luckily they were too far to hear from my own campsite.

I spent close to 2hrs in my canoe watching a breathtaking sunset, and then finally went back into my campsite. It was time for a fire and some s’mores! Although the night sky looking promising for stars, clouds started to roll in around 10 PM and took my hopes away. But it’s ok, I had a belly full of marshmallows and a bladder full of whiskey. At 11 PM it was time to hit the tent and go to bed.

The first two days had been absolutely beautiful weather, sunny and hot, but the forecast called for rain on Day 3. The rain wouldn’t scare me away though, it just meant I’d have a lazy day relaxing at camp under my tarp.

Day 3 – Rest Day on Queer Lake

I didn’t set an alarm for the sunrise. I anticipated clouds (you know, those things that are usually present when there is rain), so I prioritized a good sleep. It didn’t matter because I woke up at 5:30 AM anyways. I got out of the tent to pee, have a quick snack, and confirm that the sunrise was indeed blocked by overcast. Then I got back into bed.

Right when I got back inside the tent it started raining. Perfect, because I planned on going right back to sleep anyways.

I woke up for the second time around 7:30 AM with the rain still coming down. The next few hours were spent sitting under my tarp, taking photos, eating food, and just relaxing. There isn’t too much else to do in the rain anyways.

The rain finally started letting up around 11 AM and the rest of the day was surprisingly gorgeous, although with a few quick 5min showers two or three times in the afternoon.

I went for some paddles around Queer Lake, but didn’t leave the lake during this rest day. I spent most of the day sitting at camp, taking photos, starting to write this trip report, and having a staring contest with a snake. While walking to the front of the site a massive snake slithered right by my foot into a bush by the water. I came back 10 min later with my camera, and it turns out there was a family of snakes there. I didn’t see the massive one again, but I did see two others. One was curled up and camera shy, but the other was slithering around and for a good 20 seconds, it was staring right at me.

The rest of the afternoon was basically the same as Day 2; paddling and eating while watching groups leave and enter the lake. Oh yeah, and of course an afternoon nap on the rock—I can’t believe I almost forgot to mention that!

I was treated to another spectacular sunset in the evening. I followed what seemed to be routine at that point and went for a paddle to the east bay looking for moose (no luck again), towards the southeast of the lake looking for moose (again, no luck), and then back to my campsite. I kept my firewood under my tarp to stay dry during the rainfall earlier, and now it was time to put it to use.

Then there was more whiskey and s’mores by the fire, of course.

Luckily, on my last night of the trip, the sky was actually clear and I was able to see the stars start to shine around 10 PM. I went to my favourite napping rock and gave it a new purpose… star gazing and astrophotography.

At around 11 PM the faint glow of a moonrise coming from the east, mixed with some clouds flowing in from the west were my two warning signs that my time with the stars were limited. I took a few more photos and then packed up my gear for the evening. I was really happy that I got to enjoy the stars for at least one night of the trip, and the unique trees around the campsite made for some nice astrophotography photos as well.

By the time I went to bed it was about midnight, which might actually be the latest I’ve gone to sleep in the backcountry while on a solo trip. I had to decide whether I wanted to wake up early to watch the sunrise before packing up camp, or sleep in knowing that I had a long day ahead of me under the hot sun.

Day 4 – Queer Lake Back to Magnetawan Lake

Despite actually choosing the ‘sleep in’ option, I woke up at 5 AM anyways. I knew 5hrs of sleep wouldn’t be enough for the day ahead of me, but I wasn’t tired enough to go back to sleep so I was just going to have to manage.

There was no sunrise that morning. Well, of course there WAS a sunrise, just not one that was visible from Queer Lake. The lake was filled completely with a thick fog making it impossible to see more than 1-2ft out of the shoreline. It was incredibly cool and eerie at the same time.

The fog slowly got brighter and brighter as the sun started to rise, until the fog gradually started thinning out to a soft mist sweeping across the waters. 

I took my time packing up camp while watching the lake slowly reappear from among the fog. I took a few short breaks to take some photos, and then I was all packed up and ready to hit the water by around 8:30 AM.

A quick side note about Queer Lake…

Queer Lake doesn’t look very impressive at first glance. It doesn’t have the same vastness and expansive views that Ralph Bice and Little Trout offer, so more people prefer to camp on one of those lakes. But if you spend some time with Queer Lake and give it a chance, you would be pleasantly surprised with what it has to offer. The unassuming shorelines have a way of looking magnificent when the sun hits them from the right angle. And with the lakes unique shape and many twists, turns, and bays, it seems like a new portion of the lake is being highlighted by the sun every hour.

Ok, back to my Day 4 report. The reason I mentioned that quick side note is because once I started paddling towards the portage, I was stricken with the beauty of the shorelines. Although I already had 3 days of evidence that Queer Lake can be quite beautiful, this last morning just solidified it for me. The perfect reflections of the combination of live standing and dead standing trees brought such a unique and magnificent perspective of the lake. The fact that the moon was low in the sky, hovering just above the tree tops made it even more special.

Now it was time to start portaging. Even early in the morning, the sun was already feeling quite hot. It was a windless and cloudless day, and I felt relieved to be among the shaded trees during that first portage.

By the time I got to Ralph Bice a few small clouds entered the sky, coupled with a very gentle breeze. I welcomed them both. I was astonished at just how clear the waters are on Ralph Bice. Most people will paddle through the centre of the lake, and it can also get quite choppy, so you wouldn’t really notice its clear waters. But I stayed relatively close to shore and it was a calm day, and wow, the water was incredibly clear. It was really gorgeous and a special treat to paddle through.

I stopped to check out the easternmost site on the lake, which was quite impressive in my opinion. You can read the full report on my Campsite Reports. I decided to follow the southern shore of Ralph Bice and check out any other vacant campsites on route. A few of the sites looked quite nice from the water, but most were occupied and I didn’t get a chance to go on shore until the two campsites midway through the lake. And they were… uh… interesting I guess. The first of the two is probably the worst site on the lake if I were to guess (I haven’t seen every site, but it can’t get much worse), and the latter was the smallest, most exposed site I think I’ve ever seen in the park. It’s hard to explain, but you can read the full campsite report and view the photos to get a better idea. Honestly though, it seemed like a pretty unsafe site in poor weather conditions and it’s not like Ralph Bice is lacking in campsites, so I’m surprised this was even made into an official campsite.

Back onto the water. The sun was hot. Real hot. I dipped my hat in the lake and let the cold water drip down from my head onto my body. It’s not quite as refreshing as going for a swim, but it’s the next best thing! I continued onwards to the next portage. When I arrived at the portage landing it was very busy with people entering Ralph Bice, so I lay backwards onto my pack behind me and just closed my eyes. The sun had been at my back the whole time, so it was nice feeling it on the front of my body now.

I waited about 5min, listening to the canoes slowly pass by before emerging from my pleasant lake relaxation. When I sat up, someone said “Cody?” and it turns out I ran into someone I knew from back in the city, who was just starting his trip with a group of friends.

I did the final two portages alongside another group of three men who were also double carrying, so we travelled at the same pace and chatted along the trails. We talked about tripping (of course), solo tripping, bear encounters, and luxury items. I brought a full sized pillow with me, they brought jugs of water… my pillow might be spacious but at least it’s light! They were base camping on Ralph Bice though so it’s not like they had to carry the water far anyways.

I made it back to my car at Magnetawan access point at around 2 PM. I made pretty good time considering I stopped to check out 7 campsites along the way.

After loading my car and locking the boat to a tree for Algonquin Basecamp to pick up later, I headed out. 

The Aftermath

I was looking forward to this trip for many COVID nights, and it did not disappoint. There were so many families and groups with dogs, but this trip wasn’t about privacy for me. I just wanted to spend time in the backcountry and have a lazy trip to start the season. And for that, it was perfect. 

It was also nice not having any cell service, since I seem to be finding pockets of service in more and more places throughout the park. 

The bugs were pretty bad at times, specifically mornings, evenings, and after the rainfall. That’s pretty typical for this time of year, but it still didn’t stop me from complaining about it considering I got eaten alive. 

The highlight of the trip was probably the wildlife. Moose, snakes, loons, frogs, and some more. I really enjoyed playing around with my new camera, the Canon 90D, which I knew was going to be a focus of mine during the trip.

Overall, I had a wonderful time. Queer Lake isn’t a typical destination lake. Not when you have Ralph Bice and Little Trout next to it, which are easier to get to and offer more expansive views. But I thoroughly enjoyed my stay on Queer Lake. A trip is what you make of it, and I made the most of this trip.