When I decided to go solo, I decided on this route specifically because of the logistics, and because my odds were high of getting a campsite that I would like. There are 4 sites on the lake, and they only reserve 3 of them; 2 of which I consider nice and would be happy camping on, which means I had a 2/3 chance of getting one that I wanted. Getting a good campsite is usually a priority to me, but it’s an even bigger priority when I’m travelling solo.
It was also the long weekend and the park was almost completely booked. So I decided to wake up at 4am so that I could get to the permit office right when they open at 7am, and then backtrack to Algonquin Outfitters to be the first one there and wait for them to open at 8am, so that I could beat the rush and get on the water as early as possible. I planned on strapping the canoe to my car instead of getting it delivered, because who knows how long the driver would take at Canoe/Smoke Lake during the long weekend, before getting to Source. I figured I would attempt single carries, which would get me to Linda by around noon, or worst case I would do double carries and still get there by early afternoon. I was confident that both scenarios would allow me to get either first, or second choice at campsites. All of this was very important to me and I planned and packed accordingly.
Day 1 – A Trip Almost Cancelled
I woke up at 4am as planned, and was on the road within 5-10minutes. Everything was going according to schedule: permit office at 7am, and first one at AO for when they opened at 8am. I was told that my canoe was sent on their delivery truck, but it shouldn’t be an issue because the driver would probably get there before me, or a couple minutes afterwards at the latest. I called twice prior to my trip to confirm that I would pick up the canoe and it wouldn’t get delivered. I scheduled a pick up for the way back, so I wanted to confirm that it was only one way, not both ways.
I figured “Ok, not the biggest deal, it will set me back by a couple minutes at most”. So I get to Source Lake and the canoe is not there. I waited 45min… still not there. So I drove to the highway where there was cell service and called AO, and was told that the driver was on his way and should be there “shortly”. I waited another 45min… still not there. I called AO again and they now told me that the driver didn’t have the delivery on his schedule (because it was never supposed to be delivered!) so he passed Source Lake and continued on with the deliveries. After 2 hours of waiting frustratingly, I finally got my canoe just after 11am.
So I finally launch and made my way to the first portage. And what do you know, the detachable yoke doesn’t fit. The yoke is marked “Osprey/Shearwater”, implying that it is in fact the correct yoke, but it’s definitely too small. I tried absolutely everything, and even had a passing party stop and try to help. I spent at least an hour until I finally gave up, and after exhausting all other options, I decided to paddle back to Source Lake. Once again I drove up to the highway and called AO. They said they would put together a new yoke and bring it right over. Back to waiting…
While waiting by the dock at Source Lake I saw 9 guys unloading their gear. About 10 packs, a couple cases of water, multiple 24’s of beer, a personal lawn chair and sleeping pad for each of them… I’ve literally never seen so much gear being brought into the backcountry. It made me happy that I was solo, even though at this point I was prepared that I might actually have to cancel my trip.
AO finally came with a new yoke, and I was finally ready to launch out… for the second time. It was now just past 2pm… good thing I woke up at 4am and was ready to launch by 9am. At this point I’ve accepted that I’ll be getting last choice of campsites, and I won’t have time to do double carries unless I wanted to set up camp and eat in the dark. So I made my way back to the first portage and got my gear ready for a single carry; everything was thrown into my one pack, and the paddle was tied down to the thwarts. All together I had about 75lbs of gear.
Single carries suck.
I managed the two shorter portages, but I dumped the canoe about halfway through the 900m and about 300-400m into the 1.3km. At least the lakes were calm so paddling was easy.
I made it to Linda at about 5pm, which was much earlier than expected, and noticed 2 canoes checking out the south site across from the portage landing. My #1 choice was the island, which is one of my favourite sites, and my #2 choice was the eastern site. I assumed I wouldn’t get either at this point, but seeing another party check out the vacant south site gave me a glimmer of hope.
I loaded my boat asap and started paddling as hard as I could towards the island. And to my surprise it was vacant! I got out of the boat and noticed the other 2 canoes right behind me… I guess they didn’t like the south site and were trailing behind me to the island site. There was an awkward “oh are you camping here tonight?” and I said yes, but I would be willing to share the site if they weren’t happy with the other ones available. They declined and kept moving.
I kind of felt bad since I knew they weren’t happy with the other choices, but I was the first one there and after my extremely long day, getting one of my favourite sites was the first positive thing that happened and made me very happy. It also made me realize that every second of hustle I put into each portage and paddle was necessary. If I decided to dump the canoe 100m earlier on one of the portages, or take a longer break before starting a paddle, I wouldn’t have made it to this site.
So I set up camp and realized that my body was drained by that point. Those single carries took a lot out of me. I guessed that of the 3.2km total portaging of the day, I did about 1.6km single carry, and the remaining 1.6km with the canoe and gear separately. Including the walk back for the second trips, that’s a total of 6.4km for the day… and I felt it. Even though I was tight on time, I went for a swim before dinner. And wow was that the most refreshing thing ever! I felt like a new man.
There was no wood on the island, which I knew would be an issue beforehand, but it was too late for me to paddle elsewhere to find. So I scrapped together what I could, which ended up being enough to cook dinner and give me about 30min of campfire after the sun went down, with a little bit left over for breakfast. I finished eating and cleaning and had my food hung by 8pm… finally time to relax. I sat by the fire for a little bit, then went and lay under the stars for about an hour. The night sky was gorgeous, and laying there listening to one of my favourite albums, Just Another Ordinary Day, made the whole day worth it.
Day 2 – Exploring Linda Lake
I went to bed around 10:30pm and woke up at about 5:15 to watch the sunrise, which unfortunately didn’t start until closer to 6am… mornings are cold 🙁
The moonrise was happening around the same time as the sunrise, which meant that when I awoke at 5:15 the sky was still dark and full of stars and quite beautiful.
The sunrise was pretty, but it paled in comparison to the sunrise I watched from this same campsite last year, which was arguably the nicest sunrise I’ve ever seen. I made a fire and some oatmeal to warm up and had some chocolate chip banana bread for breakfast dessert. I planned on doing a day trip to Polly, mainly because I wanted to visit at least one lake that I hadn’t seen before, and I figured I could check out the campsites to see if it’s somewhere I’d enjoy camping in the future. But after breakfast I decided against it… my body was sore, and Linda Lake is gorgeous that I was perfectly happy just relaxing and exploring this lake.
I decided to go for a paddle and check out the bay across from the island (northwest). I saw on Jeffs Maps that there’s a trail that basically connects to the lake, but I didn’t realize there would be a dock in the water. So I pulled up, got out of my boat, and walked on the trail for a few minutes, collecting some wood while I was there. I got back in the boat and hugged the shore of the lake and paddled towards the eastern site. I passed by it last year and thought “wow this site looks really gorgeous from the water” and my thoughts were the exact same this year. There were people camping there so I didn’t go on land to take a look, and instead just kept paddling to the portage leading towards Iris Lake.
I collected some more wood at the portage landing, and went back to paddling. I ended up paddling the whole perimeter of Linda, going in all of the bays, etc. The south, middle bay is particularly nice to paddle through. It’s quaint, quiet, has two nice tiny islands side by side, and you can tell it’s rarely travelled through. It was just very peaceful.
After paddling around the lake I made my way back to the campsite and decided to redo the fire pit. As sore as my body was, I somehow brought myself to rearrange the whole pit from scratch, which was pretty difficult with some of the larger boulders. Originally the pit was just a circle of rocks with no order to it, nowhere to feed the fire, etc. I arranged it so that there were large, flat rocks at the back to reflect heat, and I made it open towards the bench right beside the pit, so that you could feed the fire while sitting down, and your facing slightly away from the sunset so the glare isn’t in your eyes while cooking.
The island itself was slightly different than when I was there last year. The picnic table was moved out of the sun and closer towards the tent area, and the solo bench at the back of the island was brought towards the fire pit. Someone had also built a very primitive looking bench, using tree branches for a backrest. With a t-shirt, you could feel the branches poking at your back, but with a sweatshirt on or a towel thrown over it, it was surprisingly very comfortable!
There are very few places to hang food on the island, with a couple ropes hanging from previous failed attempts (my rope from last year being one of them, my story is in that trip report). I managed to find a perfect branch that had a really difficult angle to throw over, so I decided to leave my rig set up for future campers who otherwise might not have a decent alternative.
After a full morning of paddling and an afternoon of redoing the fire pit and organizing my firewood, I decided to go for a swim at the back of the island. I watched some people fishing in the distance, from the east site, and saw the group of canoes from the previous day come and see if I had left the site, hoping my permit was only for 1 night. I fell asleep in the sun for a while, then went and listened to some music by the front of the island.
I heard some noises from the north side of the lake so I quietly paddled out hoping to see some wildlife, but I wasn’t able to see anything. I managed to see what I think was a heron, a blue jay, and a couple frogs and chipmunks, but thats about it… for probably my first time, I saw no exciting wildlife.
I made an early dinner and got everything cleaned up with enough time to relax and watch the sunset. I went for an evening paddle to watch the sunset from the water, getting a full panorama view of the lake. It really is a beautiful lake, and I absolutely love the island campsite. This is the type of site I can see myself making a tradition of coming back to every few years.
After the sun went down I made a fire and sat there for a while, then spent a while under the stars. I went to bed around the same time, with plans to wake up again for the sunrise the next morning.
Day 3 – Leaving Linda Lake
This time I set my alarm for 5:45 so that I would wake up at the right time for the sunrise. Once again it was pretty, but nothing spectacular. I woke up feeling a bit off though… a slightly swollen gland in my neck and an unsettled stomach. After the sunrise I decided to skip a hot breakfast and polish off my chocolate chip banana bread, then take a quick nap before hitting the water. I packed up camp, brought some snacks for the road, and left the site at about 8:30am.
I wanted to do some single carries to cut down on travel time, but my body was still a bit sore, and now that I just wasn’t feeling that great in general, I decided to double carry for the day. I stopped to check out the southern site on the lake, which was very small and uninviting and I was happy that I didn’t have to camp there. As I made my way through the portage, I figured out the multiple forks in the road that had me stuck for a few minutes on my Day 1. The first fork when you’re coming from Linda towards Owl is marked, and tells you which direction to go. The second fork is no more than 10ft after the last one, and there is no sign… but the two paths merge after about 50-100ft, so both options are viable.
The portage itself is quite muddy.. I had dry, warm days so it wasn’t an issue, but a week with some rainfall and I could see this portage getting pretty dirty. Otherwise it’s pretty flat and easy… the steepest part of the portage is probably the end at Linda where there’s no real landing, just a 3-4ft drop into the water!
The rest of the day went smoothly even though I had a gentle headwind most of the time. I stopped to check out every single campsite on route from Linda to Source, with the exception of the easternmost site on Owl which was still occupied. I’ll post some pictures and give my general thoughts on each of them below.
I made it back to my car at about 1:15pm, just under 5hrs after launching. That’s pretty much exactly how long Jeffs Maps predicts it would take with double carries, so I thought I made pretty good time considering I had a headwind and stopped to check out 6 different sites on route.
I drove back to AO where they offered to discount me 25% off my rental for the 3 major mishaps on Day 1 (delivering canoe, missing the delivery, and giving me the wrong yoke). I was honestly expecting a full refund, but I was too tired and not feeling well, that I wasn’t in the mood to argue and I just wanted to get home. I slept for a few minutes in the car before hitting the highway, and the drive ended up taking 4hrs due to traffic from the long weekend.
I made it home in one piece (I guess you could say that), but my body was extremely tired and it really sucked that I had to go to work the next day. But overall the trip was amazing; despite the major delays, I managed to get my favourite site, I had perfect weather the whole time, and it was just an awesome trip and I’m really happy that I decided to go solo.
Fast forward a day or two and I sent an email to AO explaining in detail everything that happened, and how it affected my plans and how disappointed I was, and I requested a full refund, which they were happy to give me. Would I have rather paid the full amount and had everything go as planned? Of course. But at least I’m happy that they recognized their errors, they were apologetic about it, and compensated me as best as they could.
After 2 solo trips of two nights each, I think I’m ready for a slightly longer solo next year.