7 Days in North Algonquin:
Kiosk, White Birch, Mouse, Erables, Maple

Trip Info

Date: September 3rd – 9th, 2022

ROUTE Kiosk Jump Off Kiosk > White Birch White Birch > Mouse Mouse > Erables Erables > Maple Maple > Kiosk
Travel (Single)
-
2 hrs
3 hrs
2.5 hrs
1.5 hrs
4.5 hrs
Travel (Double)
-
3 hrs
4 hrs
5 hrs
1.5 hrs
5.5 hrs
Portage #1
-
635m
345m
1,705m
170m
130m
Portage #2
-
1,300m
350m
190m
-
805m
Portage #3
-
-
610m
1,495m
-
630m
Portage #4
-
-
-
-
-
130m
Portage #5
-
-
-
-
-
190m
Portage #6
-
-
-
-
-
915m
SINGLE CARRY
-
1,935m
1,305m
3,390m
170m
2,800m
DOUBLE CARRY
-
5,805m
3,915m
10,170m
510m
8,400m
DIFFICULTY Travel (Single) Travel (Double) Portages Single Carry Double Carry
Total
13.5 hrs
19 hrs
15 portages
9,600m
28,800m
Per Travel Day
2.5 hrs
4 hrs
3 portages
1,920m
5,760m
Trip report and details for 7 Days in North Algonquin - Kiosk, White Birch, Mouse, Erables, Maple
Credit goes to Algonquin Map v5.0 from Jeff’s Map at algonquinmap.com, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License. All derivatives or copies must use the same license and note the original author.

Trip Video Coming Soon

Background

This was going to be my one and only long, intensive trip of the season. I started the season with a few quick “ice out” day trips, then waited until August to do another quick 1-nighter to Sunday Lake with my new dog Elo. I had a few more short trips planned after this one, but this was going to be the only long trip. Seven days solo. I sent Elo on vacation to her grandparents house. This week was going to be for me, and me alone.

The initial route I had planned was starting from Magnetawan and going down the Tim River from Queer to Shippagew, then coming back through White Trout, McIntosh, and Misty. Two days before the trip was scheduled to begin, I had a sudden change of heart. I saw almost complete vacancy for this northern route, and this northern route had been on my Algonquin to-do list for the past few years. So I made the last minute call and changed my route to start from Kiosk and go through White Birch, Mouse, Erables, and Maple. The park looked quiet, the weather looked fantastic, and I was itching to get out and explore the backcountry.

Day 1 – Kiosk Lake Jump Off Campsite

The start of this trip was a weird one for me. It was the first time that I didn’t have a brutally early wake up in order to get on the road before sunrise and start my trip at first light. No, instead I woke up, did some laundry, cleaned my place, took Elo for a walk, went to my parents house, and then finally got on the road at 2:30 PM.

Instead of hitting the water on Day 1, the plan was to treat it as a travel and pre-launch day. I would do the 4hr drive to Kiosk Lake, where I had one of the jump-off campsites booked. The drive went smooth and I found it funny how much faster 4hrs felt when I wasn’t driving in the pitch black at 5:00 AM right after waking up.

Red H2O Carbon Kevlar Canoe on Honda Civic September 2022

There are three jump off campsites at Kiosk Lake. When I arrived at 6:45 PM, I stopped at the office and I was told that one site has a parking spot right at the site, but it was already taken. The two remaining sites would require parking about 50m away and then walking to the site. Luckily, I was told of another space I could camp for the night. She said I would be able to park my car right beside my tent, so I opted for that option.

It started raining during the second half of the drive and it continued to rain when I arrived, so I hung a tarp over my tent while setting up at my unofficial campsite. Once I was all set up with my tent, my tarp, and a messy car trunk scattered with the rest of my gear, I went for a walk to look at the vacant jump off sites J1 and J2.

Afterwards I had a quick snack, visited the washrooms, took a few pictures, then got in the tent at 9:00 PM. It was a pretty simple day without anything too exciting, and since it was still raining by 9:00 PM, I decided to try and go to bed early. I was planning on getting an early start to Day 2, with hopes of being on the water by around 8:00 AM.

Day 2 – Kiosk Lake to White Birch Lake

I woke up to a semi lit tent from the start of the day at 6:30 AM. Unfortunately, I got out of the tent to see a morning that was cold, windy, and full of overcast. The temperature was around 5 degrees, but it sure felt a lot colder with the wind and lack of sun. I packed up and hit the water at around 8:15 AM.

The winds were surprisingly bad on Kiosk Lake, especially for that time of the day. There were full white caps with swells one to two feet high. The paddle didn’t feel too difficult, probably because I had full energy reserves, but it definitely took me a lot longer than it should have to cross Kiosk Lake to the 635m portage.

I saw a few different groups at the first portage; one group behind me, one coming from the other direction, and one group walking along the railway starting from the Kiosk campground.

Red Canoe Maple Lake Campsite Algonquin Park September 2022 v2

By the time I finished my double carry the sun was starting to poke out from behind the clouds and the wind had become slightly more gentle. I did the quick paddle over to my second and final portage of the day, the 1300m into White Birch Lake. At the end of the portage I saw a group leaving White Birch. They told me they were camped on the southernmost site and that it was a nice site, and that the one just north of it was occupied. My goal was to take the one just north of it because I had read it was the nicest on the lake, but when I arrived at the southernmost site, I think that was actually the one I read about. Either way, it was the nicest site on the lake in my opinion, and I happily took it.

I arrived at my campsite before noon and spent the first few hours setting up camp and enjoying the large rocky shoreline at the front of the campsite. Then I went for a paddle to check out the other sites on the lake and to collect some more firewood. By the time I was back at the campsite with all chores completed, it was still only 3:00 PM. What an amazing feeling!

I made myself a late lunch / early dinner, aka ‘linner’ and then went for a quick swim. The campsite had two chipmunks constantly running around the site, though thankfully they weren’t aggressive with trying to get my food. No, instead they were happily scouring the pine trees for pinecones and using me as target practice down below.

I didn’t do too much filming earlier while it was windy and cold, so I got out my camera and GoPro and started putting them to use. The rest of the afternoon was pure laziness, including a fully naked nap while lying on the rocks at the front of the campsite. When was the last time you could honestly say you fell asleep lying down butt naked while suntanning? Your junk needs some Vitamin D too you know.

The winds calmed down and the sun felt hot in the sky. There was a gentle breeze with the occasional gust, but it was such a beautiful afternoon and evening to be outside. And I was just happy to be there.

Sunset on White Birch Lake Algonquin Park September 2022

I took the canoe out for a long sunset paddle and it was such an extraordinarily beautiful experience. The sky in the south of the lake was shining cotton candy pink, while the moon was low and glowing bright in the sky towards the southwest. And to the west of course was the sunset, lighting up the sky with shades of yellow, orange, pink, and red. Each of those three scenes would have been breathtaking on their own and I couldn’t believe they were lined up for me to enjoy while going for a paddle. Not to mention the serenity and peacefulness of White Birch Lake during a calm evening with still water.

I came back on shore just after 8:00 PM to get a fire going. I sat by the fire for a little over an hour, roasting some marshmallows, toasting a bagel, and having a few sips of whiskey. After I got my barrel hung I moved to the rocky shoreline to admire the moon as it continued to glow in the night sky.

The sun schedule and the moon schedule are both pretty important parts of the trip planning stage for me. I knew that my trip was going to start with a half moon and end with a full moon, with the moon hanging in the sky during nighttime hours. On one hand, this meant that I would get to enjoy the glow of the moon during nighttime, and would hopefully get some nice pictures of the moon. But on the other hand, the glow of the moon would block the stars, so unfortunately, I knew this trip probably wouldn’t be too great for astrophotography.

I decided to set up my camera anyways while at the front of the campsite. I attempted some moon photography and astrophotography for a bit, then went back to put out the fire and head to the tent. I got in the tent just before 10:30 PM. Day 2 was as good as I could have asked for. I got a gorgeous campsite, the weather was perfect, the sunset was as pretty as could be, and I genuinely enjoyed my first real backcountry day of the trip… other than that first hour crossing Kiosk, but we’ll just forget about that.

Day 3 – White Birch Lake to Mouse Lake

Day 3 started terribly. Well, the day wasn’t terrible, but my sleep was. I woke up at around 2:00 AM and couldn’t find a comfortable way to sleep, so I just tossed and turned until 6:30 AM. I woke up feeling like crap and I knew I needed at least a few more minutes of sleep. First, I went outside to check on the campsite and to relieve my overnight bladder.

The lake was completely covered with fog. You couldn’t see even two feet past the shoreline into the water. It’s always cool when this happens, but incredibly eerie at the same time too. After taking a few photos I went back into my tent for a quick 20 minute nap. I woke up again still feeling overwhelmingly tired, but it was time to pack up and start my day. I didn’t rush packing up camp, but I also didn’t have too much to do. It ended up taking just over an hour until I was on the water, at around 9:00 AM.

Morning Forest in Algonquin Park September 2022

The early morning while packing up camp was freezing. It must have been just a few degrees above zero. But when I got on the water the fog was just finishing sweeping off the lake and the sun had started to appear in the sky. A beautiful day was about to begin.

I really enjoyed paddling down White Birch Lake and I think it’s a very pretty lake in general. The portage into Waterclear had a bit of rolling up and down, but it was pretty easy and it came with nice flat landings on both ends.

Waterclear was very uninspiring. I didn’t find it to be very scenic, the campsites were not good, and despite its name literally being ‘water clear’, the water was not very clear! This is false advertising Algonquin Park! But seriously, the water was foggy and fully of these cloudy things near the shoreline (moss? algae? I don’t know what it was). I rationed the little water I had left because I didn’t want to refill on that lake. Funny enough, when I went to check out one of the campsites there was a dead fish by the shore in the water. Not gutted and left there, just straight up dead and floating. I thought to myself “yeah, I had a feeling something was in the water”.

I continued on to the second short portage of the day, the 350m from Waterclear Lake to Club Lake. It started off flat and easy, but I got my hopes up thinking it would stay that way. Midway through there’s a boardwalk crossing water that you need to be very careful on. The boardwalk itself is fine, but if you did happen to tumble, you’d be going for a swim. And then right after the boardwalk was a steep incline. To top it off (no pun intended), the portage ended with possibly the worst landing I’ve ever seen. It was about 10m of complete muck with very thin, unstable branches to walk across. Have fun trying to balance on those thin logs while carrying your gear or while there’s a canoe on your head. Maybe it was worse than usual because of the previous day’s rainfall, but either way, it sucked.

Somehow, I made it across the muck in one piece and started to paddle on Club Lake. I really enjoyed Club Lake a lot. Its circular perimeter has grassy shorelines all the way around, with a more typical tree shoreline behind the grassy areas. It had a really unique aesthetic and overall vibe to it compared to most other lakes in Algonquin Park, and something about it just felt different, but in a good way. I only stopped to check out one campsite on Club Lake, the one with the Ritchie Bros Lumber Mill remains, but it was a pretty cool site.

When I hit the fork that would take me to either Mouse Lake, or Mink Lake, I saw a group paddling opposite of me. I made small talk and asked where they were going. They told me Mouse Lake. Wait… I was going to Mouse Lake! I told them I thought they were going the wrong way, and after they checked their GPS they thanked me and turned around to join me towards the portage. There were two guys in one canoe, and another in a solo pack boat. I paddled alongside them and made conversation all the way to the portage.

I finished the portage just a few minutes before them, but I told them I was heading for the northeast sites and I had heard those two were the nicest on the lake. They came a few minutes later to check it out. Both sites have a very large communal beach in the middle which acts as the landing for the sites, with two trails leading to each respective site. They were going to be on Mouse for two nights, and they all had hammocks, so I told them to look at both sites and they could choose whichever they preferred. I was planning on spending the evening on the beach so I really just needed a single tent spot. I wasn’t picky with which site I got. They chose the southern of the two sites, so I went and set up at the northern site.

It was about 3:00 PM by the time I finished setting up camp. I chatted with the guys a bit more on the beach then headed out to paddle around Mouse Lake and check out the remaining campsites. Some of the sites were, well, interesting… but you can read my full campsite reports at the bottom for more info. I will say that I was a big fan of Mouse Lake in general. Similar to Club Lake, its circular perimeter was full of grassy areas that I’m sure moose love to explore, but Mouse Lake also had gorgeous rolling hills on its eastern shoreline. I almost wished I had done this trip a few weeks later to enjoy the fall colours splashed across those hillsides. Those rolling hills were breathtakingly beautiful while I was there, I can only imagine what they would look like with peak fall colours.

When I got back I made myself a Backpackers Pantry dinner, then went for a skinny dip at the gorgeous beachfront (don’t worry, the other guys were out for a paddle!). I took my canoe out one more time as the sun was setting, then came back and started a fire at the beach fire pit. We all chatted for a bit longer while the moon began glowing beautifully as the last light from the sunset was dimming to black. As they went into their campsite to make dinner by their own fire, I stayed and enjoyed my fire at the beach. With whiskey, banana bread, a toasted bagel, and a few roasted marshmallows of course.

After a hot sunny day it was another beautiful, calm, and peaceful evening. The stars were out and shining, however once again the glow of the moon prevented them from putting on their full display. I stayed at the beach fire pit until 10:30 PM, which is quite late for me. But I was enjoying the moon glowing across the vast landscape dimly lit by its glow. And I was just happy that I was able to enjoy such an amazing landscape from such a beautiful campsite. I didn’t really mind that I basically shared most of the earlier evening with another group. I was going to have seven days to myself; one of those days shared with other people wouldn’t be the end of the world. They were all really nice guys too, so it was nice to meet new people and I enjoyed their company.

Oh and in case you’re wondering, yes I did see a mouse on Mouse Lake!

Day 4 – Mouse Lake to Erables Lake

I finally got a half decent sleep on Night 3! I woke up at around 6:30 AM after only waking up three or four times throughout the night, which is basically a new record.

It was another freezing cold morning and I heavily procrastinated getting out of my comfy sleeping bag. But I knew what needed to be done so I eventually got started packing up camp. I was all ready to go with my boat loaded on the beach by 8:30 AM.

The three gentleman came to the beach to say good morning and goodbye, and we ended up chatting for an hour. I was wanting to get an early start so I could portage before the sun was at peak heat, but the hour delay was worth it. It was great meeting Chris, Dale, and Ken, and hopefully I’ll bump into them again on a future backcountry adventure. Plus, the scenery on Mouse Lake was beyond breathtaking. It was another completely foggy morning but as the fog started to disperse and the mist blew off the lake, the sun illuminated the circular shorelines of the lake in a grand reveal. The water was pristine and I was excited to get started with my first paddle over to my longest portage of the trip.

I arrived at the 1705m portage happy to find a smooth landing. The portage wasn’t overly difficult… it was 1705m that I double carried and had a 65m elevation climb, so yeah it definitely was not easy, but it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. That’s not to say that my back and shoulders weren’t sore by the time I finished my double carry. Both of my pinky toes were also starting to blister so I took a minute at the end of the portage to put bandages on them.

Mink Creek was another gorgeous paddle as the sunshine started beating down on the water. Its twist and turns were easy to maneuver, with no low water or beaver dams to slow me down. The only thing that slowed me down was that next 190m portage. With brutally muddy landings on both ends, and a massive incline in the middle, that 190m felt way worse than it looked on a map.

I arrived at Big Thunder Lake which, in my opinion, was a very underwhelming lake. The lake itself wasn’t very pretty and the campsite wasn’t anything particularly special. I can’t see why anyone would want to camp on the lake unless they absolutely loved the idea of having a sole campsite and lake to themselves. It also splits the pain of the two long portages into two separate days.

Mink Creek in Algonquin Park September 2022

After paddling across Big Thunder Lake, I arrived at my last portage of the day, which would also be my second longest of the trip after the 1705m portage. I have to say, this portage was absolutely terrible. It had way more ups and downs than the 1705m portage, and rougher terrain including some rocky sections that made me question if I was in fact still on the right trail. What made the portage even worse was my blistering pinky toes, my lack of hydration (I was still on my first 1L Nalgene that I started the day with), the heat of the 30-degree sun, and my unexplainably stupid decision to eat a bag of candy on my walk back before my second carry, after already eating a Larabar, banana bread, and bag of trail mix on the earlier portages.

To put it simply, I felt like death. I was ridiculously tired and sore, topped off with a decent dose of nausea to round out the experience. Seeing my canoe at the end of the portage as I walked with my main pack on my back, indicating that I had finished both carries, was a sight of heaven.

I took some time to relax and regain my energy before heading out onto Erables Lake. For the first time all trip I finally had a tailwind so I paddled very leisurely to my campsite. I went to the island with two campsites and took the one that faces west. It’s exposed on the tip of the island with a nice fire pit, good tent spots, and great views onto the lake. I was all set.

After getting way too much sun the previous days I decided to spend the rest of Day 4 relaxing mostly in the shade. I set up camp, took a quick 10 minute power nap in the tent, collected some firewood, and made some dinner. On Mouse Lake, Dale had told me a story about all the tent pegs he has found at campsites and packed out with him, mentioning he basically had a gallon bag full of them at home. My site on Erables was very clean, but I did notice 5 tent pegs tidily grouped on one of the benches beside the fire pit. Dale, if you’re reading this, I think I may be starting my own collection. Hopefully I don’t catch up to you anytime soon.

Late in the afternoon another soloist, an elderly gentleman, passed by to see if the site was occupied and he ended up taking the other campsite right beside me. I found it kind of surprising considering the lake is massive and these two campsites are extremely close to each other. The two of us were also the only reservations on the lake. Oh well, he’s free to take the site if he wants.

At 7:00 PM I decided to go for a paddle to look at some of the nearby campsites and scout the shorelines for wildlife. I noticed that the other soloist ended up moving on to a different site. I don’t know which site he took, but he was nowhere in the south half of the lake. I checked out some of the other sites in the south of the lake during my paddle. I saw some beavers and loons swimming, but no larger wildlife like I was hoping to see. More importantly, the moon was starting to rise as the sun was passing the shoreline, which made for a spectacular display. The almost full moon was glowing bright, just barely above the tree tops, as the light sky gradually faded to black.

I came back to my campsite right as the final minutes of light let me navigate the waters. I got a fire started, had some snacks including my go-to whiskey, marshmallows, and banana bread, and continued admiring the moon as it rose higher in the sky, glowing even stronger. The sky was cloudless and the stars were shining, but once again the glow of the moon prevented them from showcasing their otherwise dazzling display. They were nice to look at, but not powerful enough for me to attempt any astrophotography. At around 9:30 PM I decided to get into the tent and start writing some campsite reports for the day. By 10:30 PM I was fast asleep with the glow of the moon acting as a nightlight inside the tent.

Day 5 – Rest Day on Erables Lake

I woke up at my usual time, just after 6:00 AM. Today was going to be a rest day on Erables Lake so I was in no rush to do anything in particular. I got out of the tent to pee and check on the campsite, and I figured I’d get right back in the tent to try and get more sleep.

But the sunrise didn’t let me. The thick fog was sweeping off the lake just as the first colours of light began to show above the treetops. Since the campsite is on a point it gets a perfect 270-degree view, including both sunrise and sunset. When the sun crossed the shoreline, the landscape was profoundly beautiful. The bright beaming large sun was low in the sky as the mist was still sweeping across the lake. The trees were reflecting perfectly onto the calm, glass like Erables waters with the orange hues from the sun shimmering across the lake.

Sleep could wait.

I spent a while just admiring the sunrise and taking photos. Then I decided to get in my canoe and go for a paddle. It was one of those memories I want to look back on and remember being in my canoe. I paddled back towards the portage, the same paddle I did the evening prior where I saw some beavers. Once again, I saw beavers and loons but no larger wildlife. It didn’t matter, I was too focused on the beautiful scenery and sunrise in front of me to really care. Heck, a moose could have been 20ft away from me at shore and I probably wouldn’t even have noticed.

One unfortunate thing did happen though. My GoPro Hero 7 Black glitched on me. GoPros are the worst. I hate them so much. This Hero 7 Black glitched on me years ago when I got it, then my new Hero 10 Black glitched on me earlier this season with some corrupt memory cards (twice!). Now this memory card had issues. I couldn’t view my 5 days of footage on the GoPro, but luckily it let me view it on the phone app, so I downloaded all the footage to my iPhone. It took over an hour and drained a full phone charge, but at least now it was somewhere safer than the GoPro. I think when this season is finished I may need to sell my GoPros and switch to the Insta 360.

Anyways I got back to camp, had a quick bite to eat, then went back in the tent for a short nap. I woke up for the second time at 10:30 AM and came out of my tent to a still gorgeous Erables Lake. The water was perfectly calm with the tree shorelines reflecting impeccably against it. Other than the red tail chipmunks screeching and using me as target practice for the pine cones from above, it couldn’t have been a more peaceful and perfect morning.

The island campsite on Erables makes you feel like you’re on a private smaller lake since it faces south and offers wide panoramic views of the nearby shorelines, without any other campsites or portages in sight. But there was still so much lake to explore behind the island to the north, so at 11:00 AM I set out for a day trip to paddle the lake.

It didn’t take long for me to question whether I should have done the day trip. I felt great in the morning but the minute I started paddling under the hot sun I realized I hadn’t fully recovered from my previous few days of portaging and heat exhaustion. And today was another 25-degree sunny day without a cloud in the sky and no wind at all. I told myself I would go one campsite at a time and if I felt like I needed to turn around, I would.

I paddled slow and took my time visiting each campsite, often staying 10 minutes at the site. The peninsula site on the east shoreline, in the north of the lake, was recommended to me before the trip and I do think it’s probably my favorite site on the lake other than the island site I was camped on. By the time I reached that point site I felt extremely exhausted and I was no longer questioning my choice to do a day trip, now I KNEW it wasn’t the right choice. I spent around 20-30 minutes relaxing at that site, sitting in the shade and soaking in the gorgeous views out onto Erables Lake from the rocky cliff.

I had three more sites to visit if I wanted to complete them all. Or I could turn around and go back to camp. Following my streak of bad decisions, I decided to push onwards and finish checking out all of the campsites on the lake. I dipped my hat in the water then put it on my head as a means of refreshment, and when possible, I stayed close to shore where the trees offered some shade.

By the time I made it back to my campsite after successfully visiting all the others, it was around 2:30 PM. I had been gone for just over three hours. And I was toast. Oddly enough I felt ok in the sun, but when I relaxed in the shade, I started to feel the heavy head, the upset stomach, and the overall fatigue. Maybe it was some weird fight or flight thing where my body knew the sun was causing the issues, but for some reason wanted more of it? Anyways, I got back to camp, got everything settled and then immediately took a nap in my tent. I woke up feeling overheated and slightly disoriented from the lack of adequate airflow in the tent, so I spent the next 30 minutes afterwards just sitting in the shade.

Then I finally did something smart for a change. I stripped naked and went for a skinny dip in the lake. The feeling of the cold lake water was super refreshing and knocked me awake. I still felt like crap after the swim, but at least it offered temporary relief! For the next two hours afterwards, I literally did nothing. Not metaphorically “oh I did nothing” but actually broke down wood, read a book, etc.  No. Literally nothing. I sat in my chair in the shade and just watched my surroundings. The squirrels were continuing to feed on pinecones at the campsite, some birds were roaming around, and the loons were active on the water. I just sat and watched. I admired how peaceful and beautiful Algonquin Park is. I love how you can literally sit and do nothing and still be left speechless and stricken by its beauty.

At 6:00 PM I decided I should have something to eat. I had my first Mountain House meal, the Chili Mac with Beef and Beans. The taste was good, nothing special but definitely hit the right spots. But the two things I loved about this meal was i) the simple ingredient list; it actually felt like I was eating real food, and ii) the small package size. Every other brand I’ve tried has these tall packages, making it so difficult to eat the bottom half of the food with a normal sized fork, let alone a backcountry petite fork. That has always been a pet peeve of mine with dehydrated meals. The Mountain House package was maybe half the height making it significantly easier to eat the whole meal.

When I was eating dinner a group of two men in a canoe passed by. I said hello and asked if they were looking for a site for the evening (kinda knew the answer to that one already considered it was 6:00 PM and they just arrived on Erables). They responded by saying “yeah, eventually, just paddling right now”. I thought to myself these guys are living the good life. It’s late in the evening and they’re leisurely paddling through the lake. The fact that they rounded the small island, creating a detour to find the next campsite, just shows they really enjoyed admiring the environment they were in. Setting up camp was not a priority for them and could be done in the dark, which was likely the case based on their timing. I just appreciated the contrast to the way I tend to trip, going straight for my desired site as early as possible. I reminded myself that there are other ways of doing things that can offer equal amounts of joy and satisfaction.

By the time I finished eating and cleaning up around camp it was just after 7:00 PM and I decided to go for an evening paddle, like I usually do. I went back to the same spot as the previous night and once again spent some time with my new beaver friends. Unfortunately, once again I had no luck finding moose.

But the moon was something special that evening. Each night it rises about 40 minutes later, and on Day 5 it was timed so that it would cross the shoreline right after the sun set. It was also very close to being a full moon. All of those things combined meant that it would shine its full glow while just hovering above the tree tops, and while the rest of the sky was getting dark. You know the saying ‘the stars aligned’. They need to make an equivalent saying for the moon, because everything worked out just perfectly that evening to provide possibly the most beautiful moon landscape I’ve ever seen.

Moon Rise in Algonquin Park September 2022 v2

With my camera battery flashing low (in other words, it was warning me I had a few shots left at most) I snapped as many photos and videos as I could, as quickly as possible, and then headed back to my campsite. I got back to camp minutes before needing to use a headlamp, and got a fire going right away. I sat by the fire until 9:30 PM or so then decided to get into the tent. After how crappy I felt that day, I knew I wanted to get to sleep somewhat early so that I could get on the water by 9:00 AM at the latest the next morning. I had 1.5-2 hours of traveling into Maple Lake, and I wanted to get that out of the way before the sun was at its peak heat. I didn’t want a repeat of how I felt on Day 5.

Day 6 – Erables Lake to Maple Lake

I woke up at midnight, only a couple hours after falling asleep. I was wide awake and couldn’t get comfortable to fall back asleep. I realized that despite the first few nights being freezing, I was overdressed in my sleeping bag. I stripped down to just my underwear and let my winter sleeping bag do the rest of the work.

I woke up for the final time that morning at 6:30 AM and like usual I got out of the tent to take a pee, check on the campsite, and look at the sunrise. Just like the previous day I was treated to a magnificent sunrise. It was basically a repeat of the same beauty with the mist sweeping off the lake as the sun rose above the shoreline. I didn’t get in my canoe this time. Instead, I just took some photos and videos from shore then got started packing up camp. I wanted to stick to my plan to get on the water early and do my travels before the suns heat would be at its peak.

I ended up getting on the water shortly after 8:00 AM. The water was dead calm and it was an incredibly peaceful paddle across Erables Lake. Erables was empty with the exception of the group of two gentleman I saw the previous day who ended up taking the point site on the east shore. Wherever that older soloist camped, he was long gone by the time I crossed the waters. The sun was already strong at that time of the morning. I knew it was going to be a hot day.

Sunrise on Erables Lake in Algonquin Park September 2022 v2

I did the one and only portage for the day which was quite easy at only 170m and completely flat. It crosses a logging road about midway through, and right after the logging road is a campsite that I’m not sure why anyone would ever choose to camp at. I decided to spend 5-10 minutes collecting firewood since I was going to camp on an island and islands usually aren’t great for wood. The wood at the portage was in fact great, so I collected a good amount and threw it in my canoe. The short creek after the portage had two small beaver dams that I was able to paddle right over with a little oomph in my stroke.

And then I made it to Maple Lake. I went straight for the southernmost island campsite which I’ve stayed at in the past. It’s a fantastic site and if it was available, I was going to take it. Before my trip started there was nobody on Maple Lake the previous day, and then only myself and one other reservation on this day. Given that I arrived just after 10:00 AM, if those reservations hadn’t changed, I felt like there was a very solid chance I was entering an empty lake.

I was correct. The island was available so I snagged it. It was a bit different than when I was there in 2015. There used to be a main fire pit inland with a small secondary fire pit on one of the cliffs; now the cliff fire pit has been built up with seating and is the primary one. The older primary one has been decommissioned. There was, however, a ridiculous amount of firewood left over at the campsite. I thought I was smart for collecting firewood at the end of the portage, but there was probably a 3-4 day supply worth of wood just waiting on the island. Oh well, the firewood I collected just meant there would be a little bit more leftover for the next group of campers!

Red Canoe Maple Lake Campsite Algonquin Park September 2022

I spent a bit of time setting up camp and soaking in the beauty of Maple Lake. The water was dead calm with the shorelines reflecting perfectly onto the water. The sun was getting even hotter. Eventually, I decided to set out for a day trip to check out the other campsites. I went west first, towards the Ratrap Lake portage. Then I headed to the north of the lake. Lastly, I went to the east before heading back to my island. I was able to visit every campsite. The lake was dead empty and I was the only one there.

But the most spectacular part of the day trip was when the clouds started filling the sky. But there was still no wind. This meant the cloudy skies were reflecting on the glass-like water along with the tree shorelines, and the experience of being in the middle of Maple Lake all alone with those views around me in every direction was utterly amazing. It was such an incredibly immersive experience that pictures just can’t do it justice.

When I got back to camp I got a few things organized and sat down in my comfy chair with back support, letting out a great “ahhhhh” sigh of comfort. It took about 20 minutes for me to realize sitting down wasn’t cutting it. I was super tired from three hours on the water under the heat of the sun and I needed a nap. But I also knew that my tent would be a sauna with those temperatures outside and the limited airflow. So I did what any normal camper would do and I plopped myself on the ground beside my chair. Full of dirt, pine cones, ants, and whatever else, I lay flat on my back and closed my eyes. It didn’t take long for me to pass out. But it was only a micro nap, after a few minutes I jolted awake and felt amazingly refreshed.

Story time. I remembered when I arrived at this campsite in 2015. We had come from Three Mile Lake. It was a relatively long day of portaging and the sun was just as strong as it was this day. We arrived and forgot to refill our water supply, so we immediately filled our jug and dropped in the Aquatabs. But we had 30 minutes to wait until it was safe to drink. We were all borderline dehydrated and I was borderline going to start hallucinating if I didn’t get some rest. I laid down flat on my back on one of the benches beside the fire pit, and my friend that I was with silently took out his phone and put on the song Sun King from Abbey Road. As I lay on my back looking up at the trees above with The Beatles serenading me and the wind and sun hitting my face, it was an experience I’ll never forgot.

That whole story was just to share that when I woke up from my dirt floor nap, I remembered that moment from seven years ago. I took out my phone and put on Sun King and continued laying on my back, looking up at the same trees above that I looked at seven years ago, with a big smile across my face. Man, do I love Algonquin Park.

Sunset on Maple Lake Algonquin Park September 2022

The rest of the day was pure laziness. I took some photos, made some dinner, and just lounged around the campsite. A gentle breeze appeared every now and then to accompany the piercing hot sunshine. It was just another gorgeous day in the park and I couldn’t believe the luck I had to have so many days in a row like that.

At around 6:00 PM I decided to go for a swim to refresh. Afterwards I laid out on one of the flat sloping rocks at the shoreline for another naked tan. It had been a few days since I had a good naked tan and I definitely felt overdue. I have to admit this naked tan was better than the one on White Birch Lake because the rock I was laying on sloped in such a way that the bottom half of my legs were submerged in the water while everything from my knees up were exposed. It’s hard to explain, but it was a top-notch naked tan. Best naked tan I had all trip that’s for sure. This paragraph was just an attempt to see how many times I can say naked tan. It really did happen though.

After my naked tan at around 7:00 PM I took the canoe out for a paddle. Yes, yes, I put some clothes on first, don’t worry! I circled the island and went into the creek towards the 170m portage that I came from earlier that day. I saw what looked like a weasel, but it was a sneaky little weasel and disappeared right as I was trying to grab my camera. Otherwise, I didn’t have any luck with wildlife during that paddle.

I came back to my campsite just in time to watch the final stages of the sunset, and the first stages of the moonrise. Every night has had such clear skies that the sunsets have been pretty, but not “light up the sky and make the clouds look like they’re on fire with 30 different hues of orange red pink purple and yellow” type of pretty. It was ok though, I had been fortunate enough all trip to enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery that Algonquin Park has to offer.

Once the sun had settled and the moon had risen I decided to put my fire pit and absurd amount of firewood to good use. However, the bench at the fire pit was too close to the pit, meaning the moment I got a decent sized fire going it became way too warm to sit on the bench. Plus, there were way too many embers shooting directly at me. Luckily, I bring a camping chair with me so I set that up just slightly off to the side in the ideal position.

I sat by the fire with my routine whiskey, banana bread, and toasted marshmallows, and at around 9:30 PM I decided to get in the tent. I had Maple Creek to tackle the next day. It was going to be my longest day, and I knew it would either be the hardest day as well, or second hardest after the day from Mouse to Erables. I needed to rest up!

Day 7 – Maple Lake to Kiosk Lake Through Maple Creek

I woke up for the first time at 4:00 AM and then fell in and out of sleep for the next few hours until 6:30 AM, at which point I decided to stay awake. I was in no particular rush to start my day, but I also didn’t want to get an unnecessarily late start since I didn’t know what the conditions of Maple Creek would be like.

I spent the first 30 minutes of my morning admiring the gorgeous sunrise from my campsite while having a quick breakfast. I was getting low on food options and to my disappointment, I had finished the last of my banana bread and bagels the night prior, so breakfast on Day 7 was some cereal and a Bear Paw.

After watching the sunrise I spent about an hour or so packing up camp. I got on the water just a few minutes before 8:30 AM to a quiet and peaceful Maple Lake. There was a gentle breeze already and I knew it was going to pick up later to be a windy day. I stopped at the northern island for a quick pee break before starting the creek travel. Yes, I know the portage landing was just a few more minutes further, but I really had to go! With all the sun and borderline heat exhaustion I had during the trip so far, I wanted to make sure I was properly hydrated throughout the creek travel, so I drank almost a litre before even leaving my campsite.

The pee break ended up being beneficial because right when I got back in my canoe a few loons popped up beside the island. As I started taking pictures, my 256GB memory card on my R7 became full. I swapped it out to my backup 126GB, took some pictures and videos of the loons, and kept moving.

I arrived to the start of Maple Creek. Let me start by saying I’m creating a petition to rename Maple Creek. It should be called “The Boat Destroyer”. You can leave your signature for the petition; I trust I can count on your support.

A flat and easily accessible landing led to the short and easy 130m portage. It gave me a glimmer of hope that maybe the portage landings along the creek wouldn’t be as bad as I thought they would be.

Boy, was I wrong.

I did this creek seven years ago but I was with two other people and having the extra hands made the world of a difference. The other end of the portage was just a wall of boulders, with no obvious location to place the canoe. You basically just need to choose which set of rocks and boulders you want to try to navigate around. But the most difficult part is that when travelling solo, you can’t yell over to a friend “hey will you come hold the boat still while I load the pack?” Nope, you need to somehow stabilize the boat while trying to drop a 35lbs pack perfectly into its narrow space in the canoe, all while balancing on jagged sloped boulders. Whatever damage my boat had on the bottom before this portage landing, it probably just doubled.

The first stretch of creek between the 130m and the 805m was full of rocks poking out from the water. And some that weren’t poking out, sitting just below the shoreline like sharks waiting to ravage your boat if you weren’t paying full attention. It was clear which of those rocks were the most evil based on the rainbow of paint colours splashed across them from scraping the bottom of numerous canoes over the years. As long as you’re paying attention, it really isn’t that bad though. I think I managed to get across without any bumps or scrapes, I just had to paddle slowly and cautiously.

The 805m had a very welcoming landing after the previously brutal ending of the 130m. It was Algonquin’s way of saying “hahah we got you with that last one, don’t worry we’ll go easy on you this time”. The portage itself had some ups and downs, but travelling north it wasn’t too difficult. There was one section of the portage that must have been one of the longest, steepest sections I can recall in the park. I was very glad to be going downhill, but even during the walk back of my second carry, without any gear on my back, I was furiously out of breath by the time I got to the top of the hill. I can’t imagine doing that with 50lbs+ of gear. Thankfully the landing at the finish was also a flat beach landing. 2/2 for this portage in terms of good landings… I’ll take it!

The next section of the creek was quite easy and pleasurable to paddle through. There were some really beautiful sections along this stretch. There were one or two beaver dams that required a bit of butt scootching to get across, and some more boulders that needed dodging, but there was nothing that I needed to get out of my boat for.

I checked out both of the campsites on Maple Creek along the way. The campsite on the 805m portage is located about 30m from the portage landing, but it is directly on the portage trail. I can understand why this campsite is set up. It’s for emergencies or if a group wanted to split the creek travel into two separate days. But it’s by no means a destination campsite. There’s no privacy from any travellers passing through. The other campsite on the 630m is similar in that sense, but it’s a much worse campsite overall. It’s significantly more overgrown, completely exposed to the elements, and only has one tent spot.

The 630m portage itself wasn’t too difficult. It had a few small ups and downs but nothing too challenging. Just like the 805m previously, I was definitely travelling in the right direction by following the natural flow of the creek. Both the portages and the creek travel itself would probably be a nightmare travelling upstream.

The 130m and 190m portages were easy and didn’t have any notable features worth highlighting. The portage landings were a mix of rock and mud, making them far from ideal but still not nearly as bad as that 130m boulder landing.

The portage landings overall were definitely the worst part about the creek travel for a solo canoeist. The portages and waterways had their moments, but were totally tolerable. It was each and every landing that I dreaded. With a bigger group and heavier loaded boats, it would probably be the opposite; the landings would be easier, but the waterway travel would be harder.

When I said “the portages and waterways had their moments” there are a few particular instances that come to mind. The first was a beaver dam just large enough that it required me to get out of my boat, but not large enough that I was able to unload and reload everything like I normally would on a very large dam. That meant dragging was the only option. And as a soloist, you can’t really lift the boat, so literal dragging was required. And with dragging comes boat damage. You shudder with every screech you hear, but you do your best to lift as much as possible to minimize the damage. Maybe the real solution is earplugs and forever avoiding looking at the bottom of the canoe?

The second instance was a narrow rock passageway. There was a strip of rocks blocking the creek with two specifically large ones creating a v-shape opening, with rushing water passing through. The v-shape was just wide enough for my canoe to get through… and by get through, I mean get stuck. Just like the beaver dam, there wasn’t enough room to get out and unload, but I definitely was not making it through without some sort of dragging. With a wider boat, getting out seems like an inevitable choice, but with a narrow solo I was able to butt scootch my way through, once again shuddering with every screech.

I think I would make a pretty good living if I started a business mid-creek selling earplugs. Who wants to join me as a business partner?  

Other than those few hellish moments, the water portions of the creek were actually really enjoyable to paddle. Water levels were good and notably better than the last time I travelled it in 2015 when I remember we constantly needed to get out and drag the canoe. The creek was full of beautiful scenery, some smaller wildlife, and just enough obstacles to keep you focused on the route instead of it becoming a mindless meandering paddle.

And then I finally arrived at the 915m portage. The final portage of the day and the final portage of the trip. Thankfully, it was a super easy portage that was basically flat the whole way through until the last stretch, where it went gradually downhill. I didn’t even notice the downhill portion until my walk back when I was doing the gradual climb, which is when I thought to myself “hey why am I getting out of breath? Oh, this portage isn’t flat the whole way”. But overall, it was about as easy as a 915m could be, and once again I was definitely happy that I was travelling north instead of south through it.

The final portage landing is a wide open and exposed beach that leads into extremely shallow muddy waters. I remember in 2015 this was the worst section of the creek. The low water levels made it too shallow to paddle, but the muddy sinking waters were too deep-sinking to get out and drag. It was a conundrum that we somehow managed to figure out and luckily this year it wasn’t nearly as bad.

Before setting out onto Kiosk I took some time to lay against my pack and relax, basking in the blazing hot sun with a strong wind hitting my face. I felt the wind strongly at the portage landing but looking out to the middle of the lake it was clearly the windiest day I had all trip. It was around 2:00 PM at that point. Maple Creek had taken me about 5hrs to get through. I was in no particular rush for the rest of the day. I had a permit for Kiosk Lake, but I was also perfectly happy with heading home instead. I was going to check out some campsites on the lake and then decide what I wanted to do.

I got moving and checked out the few campsites on the point as you round the corner from the portage into the main body of the lake. They were all pretty exceptional campsites, with beach landings, large rock cliff faces, and good fire pits. But with each campsite I found an excuse to not stay. I didn’t like the tent spots… there wasn’t any firewood… it was too steep of a climb from the landing to the site.

I think it was clear to me that the trip was over. From the beautiful evening on Maple Lake the night prior, to the perfect sunrise to start the morning and the sense of achievement and accomplishment completing Maple Creek, the trip just had a sense of finality to it. Staying the last night on Kiosk felt like something I would do just because I had it booked, going through the motions one more time because it’s what I was supposed to do. But sometimes you just get that feeling that you took everything from a trip that it had to offer, and I knew that feeling had hit me as I paddled across Kiosk hopping from campsite to campsite.

I did almost feel guilty because it was another stunning day outside, but then again, I had that for six days in a row. There was also a very strong tailwind at my back pushing me across Kiosk towards my car. Another sign of where I was meant to end up that day.

I barely paddled on Kiosk; I either paddled extremely leisurely, or layed back on my pack behind me. It was an amazing feeling having the warmth of the sun on my body, the wind on my face, and the cool water touching my hands while they hung over the edge of the canoe as I lay backwards on my pack, body facing up towards the sky. I worked hard that day, it was time to let the wind do the rest of the work and drift me to shore.

I finally made it back to my car just after 3:30 PM. After loading all my gear and strapping the canoe to my car, I layed on the grass for a quick 10 minute nap. I stopped to chat with Carmen at the office for a bit before starting my drive and ended up getting on the road just after 4:30 PM.

Towards the end of the drive I was treated to another sunset that was beyond gorgeous, followed by a very special moonrise. It was the Full Harvest Moon. It hung low in the sky with a red tinge covering the full moon, and as it passed through all of the different landscapes while I was driving, it was jaw-droppingly beautiful. I felt like it was Algonquin’s way of telling me it was ok that I didn’t stay the last night. “It’s ok, you had an awesome trip and we’re going to give you one more beautiful sunset and moonrise to end things off. See you next time kiddo.”

Throughout the drive home I couldn’t believe that literally that same day I had woken up on my Maple Lake island campsite and travelled through Maple Creek for 5hrs, including almost 10k of portaging with my double carries. It really is amazing how much you can accomplish in one day.

The Aftermath

There are so many thoughts I had about this trip I don’t even know where to start with this conclusion. I’m going to do this section in bullet points as I think it will be the easiest way to get my points out.

  • The fall colours were not apparent yet. I usually start to see them the following week around Highway 60, but with north Algonquin usually being a couple days behind the Highway 60, I’m guessing the first signs of change would start the following week.
  • Despite being in north Algonquin and the route I was doing having very few reservations, I still saw at least one group on every day of this trip. It’s funny how Highway 60 is known as the busier area, but last year on my “Big Dipper” canoe trip I went four of those days without seeing a single person at all.
  • This was the first time in a while that I truly felt wild and remote. There was no cell service at any point of the trip, which hasn’t happened in a very long time for me in Algonquin. I always find the odd bar of service here or there. As much as I love finding cell service to pull a good weather forecast, it was a really nice feeling being truly disconnected.
  • Words can’t describe how gorgeous the moon was all trip. Hanging low in the sky just slightly above the tree shorelines with it’s almost full illuminance shimmering across the water and gently lighting my campsites. It really did take my breath away each and every night. The moon was probably the highlight of the trip and when I think back on this trip years from now, the first thing I’ll remember will likely be how ridiculously pretty it was every night.
  • The bugs were still out and biting, but they definitely were not bad. It was mostly at dawn and dusk and at the odd portage, but they got noticeably better as the week went on. By the end of the trip I don’t remember seeing any bugs really.
  • I saw tons of small wildlife but unfortunately no moose or bear. I still think it was a major success though, seeing mice, loons, frogs, a snake, beavers, a weasel, a grouse, a woodpecker, and more.
  • I can’t believe the weather I had all trip. The first night at the Kiosk campground was raining, but the moment I launched and properly started my trip it was nothing but blazing hot sun every single day. There were barely even clouds in the sky and the wind was a gentle breeze at most. It was crazy hot for September and six days in a row of that is basically unheard of. It reminded me of the weather I had during my Trip of Six Islands, which is the only other time I had ever gotten so lucky.
  • The first few nights were freezing, probably 0 to 5 degrees, but it got warmer after that. I didn’t need a sweatshirt while I sat by the fire, and I was able to sleep in my winter sleeping bag in just my underwear.
  • This was my first real, intensive trip with my new canoe The Tourist. She performed like a beast, but I definitely put her through a good test. I probably put on 5 years worth of scratches in this one trip, with 3 of those years coming just from Maple Creek. But I bought the canoe to use and those scratches are battle wounds. I’m still very careful at preventing any real damage though. Everything it has is just cosmetic. Looking at the bottom of the canoe with a million scratches, I jokingly asked myself, does this make me a bad canoe owner… or a good canoe owner?

Overall, these 7 days in north Algonquin were full of beautiful scenery, tough yet rewarding days, gorgeous campsites, and tons of amazing memories. It was a spectacular trip and I couldn’t have asked for anything better. You treated me well Algonquin. Thank you.