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Date: October 28th, 2023

Map and Trip Details for The Trip Report "Raccoon Lake, Whitefish Lake, and Halloween at Lake of Two Rivers"

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Just four days earlier, I did a day trip to the Kearney Lake & Tea Lake campgrounds. The purpose of that trip was to start a new project for my website, documenting the front-country (car camping) campgrounds in Algonquin Park. This trip was a direct follow up to that. Once again, the purpose was to continue with that project. On the first trip, I had someone else join me to help with the process, but for this trip, I was going to be on my own.

The plan was to try and tackle Raccoon Lake Campground with its 48 campsites, and then Whitefish Lake Campground with its 18 campsites. And if I had extra time, I would visit Lake of Two Rivers Campground to take a look at the Halloween celebrations. I also considered doing a hike, time permitting, but that idea became laughable when I had already done 30,000 steps between Raccoon Lake and Whitefish lake.

The weather was going to be chilly, calling for 6 degrees with a “feels like” of 2 degrees. The wind would be blowing at around 30km/hr. But with proper layers, I didn’t think it would be an issue. I booked my Daily Vehicle Permit the night before the trip, and quickly got my stuff ready.

Raccoon Lake Campground

I set my alarm for 5:15 AM, took Elo for a short walk, and then hit the road at 6:00 AM. The moon was setting low in the sky during the drive. At one point, it was right in my view, appearing in a small pocket within the clouds. It looked magical and mystical, like a scene from a Halloween movie where the werewolves were about to make an appearance. Plus, I was listening to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” and this moment happened just as Eclipse started playing. It was perfect timing.

When I arrived, there were two other cars pulling in to Raccoon Lake. The gate was open to the campground. The main trailhead for Centennial Ridges, which is directly off Highway 60, was closed that weekend. They were directing people to the trailhead at Raccoon Lake instead. People started showing up very quickly. Lots, and lots of people. I couldn’t believe how busy it was, even for a Saturday. I got one of the regular parking spots beside the trailhead, but most people were parking in the empty campsites at the campground. Luckily, I was able to get all of my individual campsite photos before the parked cars took over.

I started taking pictures of the campsites, going in ascending order. It was chillier during the first half since it was early in the day, and the wind was blowing through the campground down by the water. I was dressed appropriately, but the only thing that was inevitably cold was my photo-taking thumb, since I needed it exposed to use with my iPhone touchscreen. It’s ok guys, don’t worry, I survived.

Campsite with picnic table at the Raccoon Lake Campground in Algonquin Park, October 2023

The campground was nice but it didn’t stand out to me as being anything particularly special. Like many other campgrounds, the perimeter sites were some of the better choices, while the campsites in the centre offered the least amount of privacy.

For some reason, Campsite #144 was missing (it wasn’t listed on the map either). I’m guessing it used to share a space with one of the adjacent campsites and they eventually closed it down. Maybe the park felt that there wasn’t enough space in the specific area for two campsites.

There was a bit of an elevation climb to get to the higher numbered campsites, but the climb was worth it. I preferred those higher-numbered, higher-elevated sites better than the ones down by the water. One campsite in particular was a double-site, with the second half of the site located inland through a small trail; it offered good shelter and had its own dedicated picnic table, tent spot, and trail down to the waterfront. The site was my favourite by far. A few other nearby sites also had some hidden trails down to the shore, offering private water access. The shoreline didn’t have much room to hang out, but there was enough space to sit and admire the view.

Interior campsites with picnic tables at Raccoon Lake campground in Algonquin Park, October 2023

For some reason, the fire pits all looked very deeply dug. Maybe the park had just gone through and done fire pit maintenance, or maybe they were always lake that. Or, maybe, just maybe, it was some elaborate conspiracy from the park to force people to buy more firewood in order to build a fire that would reach the normal ground level.

In 2022 I had camped at the Rock Lake Campground twice, and I would drive back to Highway 60 to get cell service. On this trip, I found out that the Raccoon Lake Campground had pretty consistent cell service throughout the campground. It was nice to know that cell service was available much closer, for any future trips that I might take to Rock Lake.

More and more people kept arriving to hike Centennial Ridges as I was walking around the campground. I was wondering through Raccoon Lake, basically by myself. I finished taking photos of all of the campsites and then did a second walkthrough to get GoPro footage of all of the sites. I did one last, very quick walkthrough to take some general photos of the campground. One of the last photos that I took was of the box near the entrance, for people to leave their comments and expired permits. I was surprised to see that it still said “Coon Lake” on the box, which was the previous name for the campground before it was renamed to the more appropriate “Raccoon Lake”.

Box on a post for comments and expired permits, at the Raccoon Lake Campground in Algonquin Park, October 2023

Elo was behaving really well the entire time. For those few campsites that I mentioned had private trails down to the water, whenever we would get to the shoreline and then turn around, Elo would for some reason get a burst of excitement and lunge forward. Since she was tied to my waist, it would give me a good yank each time. There was no padding or shock-absorption on my waist-leash setup, so I really felt each yank. But I learned after the first couple times to hold the leash tight to control her excitement.

The parking lot was a zoo by the time I left. It was a good thing they left one of the bathrooms open for people to use. But surprisingly, they only left a single outhouse open.

I started my day at 9:15 AM and left the campground at 12:15 PM. It took exactly three hours to document the campsites, get the GoPro footage, and do the final walkthrough. But Raccoon Lake Campground was officially done and crossed off the list.

I drove over to the Rock Lake Campground for a few minutes. I wasn’t planning on documenting anything, I just wanted to hang out and enjoy the views. Booths’ Rock Trail was busy, but it only had maybe one third of the cars that Raccoon Lake Campground had for Centennial Ridges. The gate to the Rock Lake Campground was left open, so people were able to drive through freely. I saw one person making lunch at a beach-adjacent campsite in Campground A, and a group of 6 or 7 Germans having lunch at one of the campsites near Booth’s Rock Trail in Campground B.

I drove to Campground B and parked my car. There were a few campsites I wanted to check out for future trips. I only spent about 30 minutes at the campground, including a short nap in my car at the comfort station parking lot.

Whitefish Lake Campground

After I finished at Rock Lake, I went to the Whitefish Lake Campground. The Whitefish Lake Campground was rather unique since it’s the only “group” campground in Algonquin Park. It’s meant to accommodate large groups of up to 40 people per campsite. Yes, you read that right… 40 people! There are only 18 campsites at the campground, but each one is very large and has multiple picnic tables, its own dedicated parking area for a few cars, and a huge amount of open space. There are also more amenities like washrooms and water taps; on average, it looked like every three or four campsites would share a washroom and water tap.

Some of the campsites at Whitefish Lake offered much more privacy than others. If I were to guess, the campsites with less privacy would probably get booked in clusters by massive groups (if 40 people wasn’t massive enough). If the non-private sites weren’t booked together, I can only imagine how annoying it would be to have another very large group within very close proximity.

The beach was pretty large too and would be a good place to hang out on a fair-weather day. I was told before I started walking through the campground that two bull moose were fighting each other earlier in the day, at the beach of the campground. I carried my Canon R7 with me, attached to my Cotton Carrier harness on my chest, just in case they made an appearance again. Unfortunately, they didn’t, so I lugged around the extra weight for almost 3 hours for nothing. But I felt ultra-cool with my camera harness on my chest, Elo tied to my waist, and my knapsack on my back. It was a legit setup. I came prepared!

Taking pictures and videos at the Whitefish Lake Campground took longer than I had expected. I didn’t realize just how big each campsite really was, and also how spread apart they were. Just walking from end-to-end of the campground probably took 10 to 15 minutes each way. And I did that walk back-and-forth multiple times.  

The highlight of the Whitefish Lake Campground was the fire pits. Well, the ring around the fire pits. It had the most ridiculously cool engraving, with the words Algonquin Park etched out, along with a repeating pattern of moose, bear, and wolf, in rotation around the ring. Not gonna lie, it was really epic.

Before I started my 3-hour journey of documenting the Whitefish Lake Campground, I checked to make sure that one of the washrooms was unlocked (the nicer washrooms before entering the campground, where the road forks between Whitefish Lake Campground and Pog Lake Campground). When I was finished, at around 4:00 PM, I really needed to use the bathroom. The door was unlocked, yes, but the water was shut off! I didn’t even think to check the water beforehand. I just assumed if the door was open, the washroom was ready to be used.

I had already walked more than 27,000 steps and my feet and legs were sore. Even the short walk from my car back to the washroom, for absolutely no reason, made me curse under my breath. But I had to keep moving. Elo drank an insane amount of water and then we got into the car and headed towards Lake of Two Rivers. I was heading straight for the comfort station.

Halloween at Lake of Two Rivers Campground

I arrived at Lake of Two Rivers Campground and went straight to the comfort station. But first, I had a good laugh. At one of the campsites across from the comfort station was one of the most cliché sights I had ever seen. Two people were standing outside of their trailer, cooking meat on a grill, wearing camo overalls, and blasting Sweet Home Alabama from their stereo. It couldn’t have been any more stereotypical.

My next stop was the beach at the campground. I made myself an AlpineAire Mountain Chili while sitting on the edge of my opened trunk, enjoying the view out onto the water. The sun was low in the sky and a few canoes were arriving back from an afternoon paddle. Dogs aren’t allowed at the beach so I kept Elo in the backseat of the car. She was exhausted and just wanted to lay down anyways. One of the groups that arrived back from their paddle were struggling to get their canoe strapped onto their car. There was no TV at the campground, so watching them with their canoe was my primary form of entertainment while I was eating dinner. It’s ok, they figured it out eventually.

Trick or Treat Halloween decoration at Lake of Two Rivers in Algonquin Park, October 2023
Ghost and witch Halloween decoration at Lake of Two Rivers in Algonquin Park, October 2023
Large inflatable orange pumpkin Halloween decoration at Lake of Two Rivers in Algonquin Park, October 2023
Panorama of the sunny blue skies with a canoe at the Lake of Two Rivers Campground beach in Algonquin Park, October 2023

While driving through the campground, I was surprised with how many campsites were decorated for Halloween. It was October 28th, and it was a Saturday, so it was basically the day to celebrate. It was so wholesome seeing all of the campsites decorated and the kids dressed up going trick-or-treating with their families.

After finishing my dinner, I went for a walk through the campground and took some pictures of the decorated campsites. I didn’t take any candy though. That would have been weird. I left it for the kids of course. I also didn’t take any pictures of the kids’ costumes. That would have been WAY too weird. A single male in his 30’s taking pictures of children? Yeah, no thanks.

Lots of the families that were trick-or-treating also had dogs with them. Elo made some new friends, including another cattle dog. It was kind of funny, they asked what breed Elo was, and they were surprised when I said she’s a purebred Australian Cattle Dog. She doesn’t look like a typical ACD, so it wouldn’t have been obvious to them.

I made one final visit to the comfort station at 6:00 PM and then started my drive home. The moon looked just as good as it did earlier that same morning; except on the drive home, the moon was on its way up instead of down. A thin layer of clouds covered the moon making it look whisky and magical.

The Aftermath

I felt very satisfied with how the trip went. I was able to tackle two campgrounds for my new website project and cross them off of the list. Although, it was humbling to realize that even after 30,000+ steps, being utterly exhausted, and finishing two campgrounds, I had still only documented 66 campsites. Out of more than 1,300 total! I said it in the previous trip report, and I’ll say it again… this was going to be a massive project.

Watching the Halloween celebrations at Lake of Two Rivers was really special. It was so nice seeing all of the decorations and costumes. It made all of the stress of the city life and all of the chaotic world events just disappear, even if only for a short moment.

It also felt really nice getting to see a side of Algonquin Park that I had never seen in my two decades of visiting the park. My first experience in Algonquin Park was when I was a very young teenager, and it was a backcountry canoe trip. Backcountry canoe trips were the only thing I had done up until 2022 when I went car camping for my first time ever. To quote Dan (the person who joined me on the previous trip), he said “You basically started on expert mode”. But with these two back-to-back day trips, I got to experience the more casual, touristy side of Algonquin Park. And I loved it. I was enjoying my dinner from the trunk of my car with absolutely nothing else on my agenda. I would see people walk to the beach, take some photos for Instagram, and then walk back to their campsite where an extravagant meal was waiting for them. This was the side of Algonquin Park that the majority of people would see, and I welcomed the experience for myself.

The day trip was no joke though. With six hours of driving and more than 30,000 steps, it was beyond exhausting. But at the same time, there was no agenda for the day. There were no campsite chores that needed to get done. There was nowhere that I needed to be, and there was nothing that I needed to be doing. As physically tiring as it was, mentally, it was very freeing. I really appreciated that. It felt great that I was able to show up and see where the day took me. The moments of spontaneity were extremely refreshing for me, especially since I typically follow a tight itinerary when I’m in the backcountry.

Campground Information & Campsite Photos

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