A Sunny Sunday on Sunday Lake — Elo's First Canoe Trip!
Date: August 28th – 29th, 2022
This was basically Elo’s trip, but since I haven’t trained her how to use a computer yet, I said I’d do her a favour and write the trip report on her behalf.
I got Elo, a two year old Australian Cattle Dog, about six weeks ago. I’m still teaching her the basic commands and haven’t gotten to the more difficult, but more important skills like impulse control and recall. She’s an energetic herding breed with a strong prey drive, so letting her off leash is not an option until we’ve gone through significantly more training together.
What does any of this have to do with Algonquin Park? Well, I booked this trip last minute because I saw Sunday Lake was full (3/3 reservations) on Saturday night, and then completely empty (0/3 reservation) on Sunday. This meant that every party would be leaving on Sunday, and if I arrived early, I’d have a very good chance of getting the island. And with the island, I could let Elo off leash without fear of her chasing something into the forest and getting lost / never coming back. Plus, we would always be 10 minutes from my car in case something went wrong and we needed a quick exit. It would be the perfect introductory trip for Elo.
The trip was initially planned to be two nights, but the forecast called for heavy thunderstorms on Monday and Tuesday, so we decided to pack it in after one night. I was perfectly happy with that. My main goal was to see how Elo would do on portages, at the campsite, and sleeping in the tent overnight.
Day 1 – A Sunny Sunday on Sunday Lake
I slept in until 6:00 AM and got a much later start to Day 1 than normal. Since the island on Sunday Lake is only 10 minutes away from where I’d be parking my car, I didn’t want to arrive at 8:00 AM because the current party would still have the site occupied. I timed it so that I’d arrive at Sunday Lake around 10:30 AM which I thought would be the perfect time to arrive.
The drive was smooth and took 3 hours after stopping to pick up my canoe. It was by far the longest I’ve had Elo in the car, but she was perfect… she spent part of the drive sitting upright watching the cars go by, and the rest of the time lying down relaxing. She didn’t make a single sound the whole time.
We arrived around 10:00 AM, got our gear ready, and did the one and only portage from the car into Sunday Lake. Elo was nervous for a few minutes while I was getting the gear ready, but the second we started portaging she was super enthusiastic and excited. I was admittedly nervous about the portage because I’ve done it before and I know how steep it is, and Elo was going to be attached to me with a waist leash. Any sudden lunges pulling on my waist could be dangerous with a canoe over my head while going down a steep hill. But luckily Elo is only 35lbs and she didn’t pull too hard.
We saw a few different groups on the portage, all coming from Sunday Lake. One group said they had just left the island. My timing was indeed perfect!
We paddled over to the island and before I even got the chance to start setting up camp, I let Elo off leash and she went wild. She went swimming, chomping on the lily pads as she swam past them, then came on shore and ran circles around the island for a solid five minutes. It was official, she has canoe tripper blood in her!
I pitched my tent, hung a tarp over it, did a bear hang, broke down some firewood that was left at the island, and got my gear organized. Then we headed out for a day trip.
We paddled back to the 150m portage because I wanted to check something at my car. A quick up and down the 150m and we were ready to keep going with our day trip. The portage landing is absolutely terrible (basically a 2ft vertical drop into the water) and while I was focused on getting back INTO the canoe, Elo decided to jump OUT of the canoe and go for a swim. I thought the grab handle on her Ruffwear life jacket would never get used… boy was I wrong. A couple hours into our trip and it already came in handy.
We then paddled over to the 645m portage into Little Rock Lake. The portage landing on the Sunday Lake end was equally as bad as the landing coming into Sunday Lake from the 150m portage, but the landing on the Little Rock Lake end was a sight for sore eyes. It was a perfectly flat and smooth beach landing.
There’s one campsite on Little Rock Lake and I figured if it was empty I would take some pictures to add to my campsite reports. It would also be a good test to see how Elo did on a longer portage. I was super pleased with her, she stayed a few feet in front of me the whole time (not that she had a choice since she was on the waist leash) and didn’t try to wander off the trail. She took the lead, kept the pace, and only got distracted a few times by small wildlife, but I was able to get her attention back to me to keep moving.
Little Rock Lake was very interesting. It has that remote feeling you get with some smaller lakes deeper into the interior, even though it’s only a few kilometres from the highway. The marshy shorelines look like it would be a great place to spot wildlife, and the sole campsite means any occupants would have the lake to themselves. I wasn’t too fond of the campsite since I tend to like large, flat sites. This campsite was decent, but it sits on top of a large sloped rock (ironic the lake is called Little Rock Lake when the campsite sits atop a large rock) which doesn’t appeal to me personally.
After spending a few minutes at the site and Elo deciding to eat miscellaneous things on the ground that she shouldn’t be eating, we headed back to Sunday Lake.
The two other campsites on Sunday Lake were not occupied so we paddled over to each of them to check them out. They’re both rather small sites but they have all the essentials to make camp for the night. The easternmost site had a beautiful fire pit, but the southernmost site had the better tent spots. Either way, the island is by far the nicest of the three and the other sites would be good for a night or two, but aren’t campsites you would want to visit with a large group, or campsites you would want to base camp on for an extended period of time.
By the time we got back to our campsite it was around 3:30 PM and we had nothing left on the agenda. We relaxed around the campsite and after each of us had some dinner, we went for a long evening paddle as the sun was getting lower in the sky, approaching the shoreline. We paddled down the creek at the south of Sunday Lake in hopes of seeing some moose, though to no avail. It was however a very pretty paddle at that time of the evening… as long as you can ignore the faint sounds of the nearby cars and motorboats.
We arrived back at the campsite just after the sun had crossed the shoreline. I didn’t see one mosquito the whole day but once dusk arrived, they were out in full force. I was honestly shocked at how bad the bugs were for late August. I got absolutely eaten alive, and Elo clearly wasn’t a fan either. I immediately got a fire going but it did little to ward off the bugs. Elo kept wandering around the campsite; I’m guessing either the fire was startling her, or the bugs were annoying her.
The night ended with some stargazing. It was an absolutely gorgeous night full of stars and a very clear milky way. I was debating doing some astrophotography, but I decided against it. I was sitting with Elo on the large rocks at the front of the campsite and I just wanted to enjoy that moment. Plus, with my new R7 camera I need an adapter to use my old wide-angle EF-S lens, and while I did remember to bring the lens, I forgot the adapter. I still could have used my main lens which opens to 24mm, but I decided to save the astrophotography for another time and enjoy that experience with Elo and no other distractions.
At around 9:30 PM it was finally time for bed. I figured I’d keep the headlamp light on in the tent for a while until Elo got settled, but she only needed a minute. I don’t think she took a single nap all day, and she was clearly exhausted. We both got comfy and quickly fell asleep.
Day 1 – Leaving Sunday Lake
I woke up around 4:00 AM and noticed I was sleeping on a bit of a slope, and my back was sore because of it. I was also wide awake and had trouble falling back asleep. I drifted in and out for the next few hours until I saw the first signs of light outside, at around 6:00 AM.
I got clear cell reception basically the whole time the previous day, so I was sporadically checking the weather for Monday and Tuesday. Unfortunately it stayed consistent… thunderstorms all day for both days. I decided that we would watch the sunrise, pack up camp, and get back to our car before the rain started.
The sunrise was quite pretty, and with the tiny island being exposed in all directions we had a perfect view from basically anywhere on the island. I finished packing up camp at around 8:30 AM while keeping my eye on some very dark skies approaching in the distance. We paddled over to the 150m portage, did the climb back to the car, got the canoe strapped on top, and headed out.
It was a beautiful sunny day for the first 30 minutes of the drive and then it started raining. And then it started pouring. There was no thunder or lightning, but it was raining pretty hard until we got to Barrie, and then it cleared up and became beautiful and sunny again.
Day 2 was pretty uneventful, but I guess that’s expected when you wake up, pack up camp, and travel 10 minutes to get back to your car.
Overall I was super happy with how this trip turned out. It wasn’t meant to be an intense canoe trip by any means, but rather a gentle introduction for Elo into camping. And she was an absolute rockstar! Yes, she did typical dog things like jumping in the water a few times when she wasn’t supposed to, and eating way too much stuff off the ground… but she didn’t bark once, she was amazing in the canoe and in the tent, and she was incredibly well behaved overall. I’m still not confident letting her off leash unless we’re on an island, but luckily I have a few more trips planned with high chances of getting an island. I have a 50ft rope to tether between two trees as a backup just in case, but I hope I don’t need to use it because it was really nice seeing how happy she was running free.
A couple random takeaways:
- The weather was perfect for the short trip we took. A beautiful, warm sunny Sunday on Sunday Lake.
- The bugs were shockingly bad for this time of year, but luckily they only came out at dusk and dawn.
- The animal eye autofocus on my new R7 is killer. I only got one chance to test it with some loons on the water, but basically every shot was a keeper compared to my 90D where my ‘keep rate’ was much lower.
Sunday Lake isn’t a ‘tripper’ destination. There’s clear cell service, faint sounds of the nearby highway and motorboats, and very little privacy from the nearby campsites. It would however be a good place for a family looking to take the next step from car camping before heading deeper into the backcountry. I visited Sproule Lake in 2018 and had similar feelings, and just like I said in that trip report “maybe one day I’ll be back, but probably not in the near future.”
This trip was planned completely around Elo, and I was extremely pleased with how everything went. The plan is to do a few more short trips similar to this one before the season is over, and hopefully by next year she’ll accompany me on some longer trips deeper into the backcountry!