Solo on Linda Lake, Again

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Trip Info

Date: September 6th – 8th, 2018

Route: Source Lake  Linda Lake x2  Source Lake

Map and trip details of my canoe trip to Linda Lake in Algonquin ParkClick image to view larger

Background

This was my third time on Linda Lake and my third time at this island site in the past 4 years. I mentioned after my last solo trip to the island, “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”, and I guess I’m living up to my own words so far. Anyways, despite only being a 3-day trip, it was actually quite eventful.

Day 1 – Alone on Linda Lake in Algonquin

I got on the road just before 4am to make it to AO Opeongo right when they opened at 7am. I strapped the canoe to my car, and as a last minute game time decision, I booked Linda Lake for the night. I was the only permit issued for my first night, and the last permit issued for the second night; odds were looking pretty good for my treasured island site to be mine once again.

Ducks crossing the road on Highway 60
Waiting my turn

I got on the water at around 8:30am and headed to my first of many carries for the day. I was double carrying, which means the 3.3km of portaging I had ahead of me would turn into 10km, which I would have to do on my way in, as well as on my way out. I was feeling extremely tired, coming off two consecutive nights with barely any sleep. I was just overall groggy and really not in the mood for all this portaging.

For some reason I remembered these portages being extremely flat, which wasn’t the case… I forgot just how hilly that 920m into Raven is. On the 435m into Owl however, is when the first piece of excitement hit. Halfway through, I heard rustling in the bushes right beside me. It sounded like a large animal, and I thought maybe I’d get to see a moose! It was in a dense area so I couldn’t actually see anything farther then a few feet beside me, but right as I tried to grab a look, I heard more than just rustling… I heard a deep ‘growl’, or whatever the preferred term is since I’ve read black bears don’t technically growl. Either way, it didn’t sound like a moose.

My grogginess and tiredness quickly turned into being wakeful and alert. My attempt to stay dry on these muddy portages was quickly disregarded, and my new goal was to finish this portage ASAP because I’m pretty sure there was a bear a few feet away from me. The worst part was, I still needed to double back to grab my canoe. I made lots of noise, and kept my bear spray in my hand the whole time. Just to be safe, I also paddled along the opposite shore once I got to Owl. Not only was I travelling solo, but there were no permits issued for Bruce, Raven, Owl, Linda (other than mine) or Polly that night, so I was the only one in the area and wanted to play things safe.

I did the next 1.3km moving at a very quick pace, just to get more distance between myself and the (supposed, though never seen) bear, as quickly as possible. I finally arrived to Linda Lake at around 12:30pm, making great time of only 4hrs since I left Source Lake. If you’re ever travelling in a group and want people to pick up the pace, I’d highly recommend hiding out of site and making bear noises… from personal experience I can guarantee that people move much quicker in these types of situations.

I made it to Linda Lake with the sun shining and the waters calm, and paddled over to my beloved island site, which yes, I did in fact get to call home for the next two nights. I set up camp, took a short nap, and then paddled over to the east end of the lake. I wanted to collect firewood from the Iris portage, and check out the eastern site, which I’ve only seen from the water before.

Wood for the evening, with a freshly cleaned fire pit and lots of garbage from previous campers that I ended up packing out:

Collection of wood to prepare to cook dinner over the fire in Algonquin Park
Wood for the evening

I went on shore to check it out, and it was pretty fabulous; tons of open rock that gets sun during all hours of the day, with a spacious but sheltered interior, a good fire pit, lots of seating, and ample tent spots. It checks off every box except for 1, which is one of the most important to me… sunset! Although you would get to see most of the sky during the sunset, I think the sun itself would be blocked by the small piece of shoreline that sticks out just northwest of the site. In good weather, the island is still my #1 choice, but the eastern site is still fantastic. They only reserve 3 sites on this lake, and 2 of them I’d consider pretty awesome.

Dehydrated meal for first night dinner
First night’s dinner

I spent the rest of the evening sitting in the sun, slowly paddling around the lake, breaking down some firewood, and just relaxing on my island. There’s no better feeling than what I was experiencing at that moment… perfect weather, not too hot… beautiful lake in the interior of Algonquin, all to myself for the night… all while camping on a gorgeous island with spectacular views. Life is good.

Day 2 – Exploring Polly Lake

I woke up to watch the sunrise, which was eerie and beautiful all at the same time. There was lots of mist/fog on the water, but what made it particularly eerie was the thick fog shoreline towering over the tree shoreline. It was like a scene straight out of the movie “The Mist”.

Thick clouds of fog during early morning on Linda Lake
The morning mist
Misty morning on Linda Lake giving way to the sunrise
The morning mist, but slightly prettier

Breakfast today was cinnamon raison toast with Nutella… although I accidentally burnt my first set of toast over the fire, so into my garbage it went. Normally people get upset over burnt toast, but I have to admit, it did a spectacular job of making my garbage smell like cinnamon raison for the rest of the trip.

When I finally got around to finishing breakfast, I went to the back of the island to continue watching the sunrise. It was my dad’s 64th birthday on this day, and I had cell service from my island. Instead of giving him a call (which I did after), I first recording myself walking along the rocky shore, singing along with The Beatles “When I’m Sixty-Four” playing from my phone, before wishing him/the camera a happy birthday. I thought sending him that video was much more fun of a surprise than just calling.

The last time I stayed on Linda, I planned on day tripping into Polly Lake, which I never ended up doing. This time I finally got around to it. But first, I hung a Canadian flag at the backside of the island so people coming onto the lake would see the site occupied without needing to paddle all the way to the front of the island on the northwest side.

Canada flag hanging at the back of my campsite on Linda Lake
Oh Canada
Island campsite on Linda Lake, view from the water
Can be seen from a mile away

I headed over to the Polly portage, still not sure why I was willingly adding on almost 2km of portaging to my trip (930m each way). But I wanted to see the lake and the sites, so I just sucked it up and got moving. Right as I entered the lake and turned the first corner, I saw what looked like a moose far off in the distance. I grabbed my binoculars to confirm. Yup, that’s a moose!

Any doubt I had about adding on that 2km of portaging was immediately relieved. I paddled extremely slowly and cautiously, trying to get close without scaring it off. I made it maybe 30ft away from the moose before it decided to go inland, but unfortunately the only picture I took was from a bit farther back.

Zoomed in blurry photo of a moose on Polly Lake in Algonquin
My far away moose pic

I spent a little while exploring the rest of the lake and checking out the one unappealing, and the other somewhat appealing site on the lake. Polly wouldn’t be a bad place to camp, but I’d take Linda over Polly any day.

After getting back to Linda Lake, I sat in my canoe in the middle of the lake soaking up the sun for a while, and then went to visit the dock in the northwest bay in front of my island. I had already realized from the smaller amounts of exposed rock on the island that water levels were really high, but this was just reinforced when I saw the dock almost completely submerged. Both ends were under water, making it impossible to walk from the dock onto the land, and on one side, they had actually started building a connection.

High water levels show an almost sunken dock on Linda Lake
Sunken dock

Here are some comparison pics from two years ago, mid August, to this year, early September.

High water levels show an almost sunken dock at the northwest end of Linda Lake
This year
Low water levels show dock at the northwest end of Linda Lake
Two years ago

The rocky landing at the front of the island is also now completely submerged, so I left my canoe at the back where it’s now easier to load/unload:

High water levels cover the canoe landing for the island campsite
This year
Low water levels show the canoe landing at the island campsite on Linda Lake
Two years ago

Not only water levels, but the island always seems to change each time I’m there. The thunder box needs to be propped open with a stick, the picnic bench is in a different spot every year, and the ugly lashed together seating has been taken down thankfully.

Thunder box needing to be propped open with a stick
Propped open thunder box
Old fire pit and seating area on island campsite
Old fire pit seating
New fire pit and seating on Linda Lake island campsite
New fire pit seating

After getting back to the island, I saw the first group enter the lake; they paused in the middle of the lake, noticing that the island was taken, and then moved onwards to the eastern site. They still had some work to do, but for me, it was time for a nap.

I woke up feeling like I didn’t get enough rest, so after 10min I went back in the tent for another short nap. I woke up again still feeling a bit off, like I had gotten too much sun, so I decided to keep myself sheltered for the next few hours.

I made an early dinner and watched a rather beautiful sunset from my personal viewing point.

Beautiful sunset from my island campsite on Linda Lake
It doesn’t get any better than this

Just after the sun crossed the shoreline, two canoes rounded the corner from the Owl-Linda portage. I figured they must be set up on the campsite beside the portage, and they’re coming to get a better view of the sunset. Nope. They had just entered the lake, and they were coming straight for the island.

Turns out, they thought they had booked the island specifically, and even though they noticed it occupied, they were certain that this was their site for the night. One canoe pulled up to the rocks where I had to explain to them that you don’t book specific sites in Algonquin, you book lakes. I was told that’s not true, the lady over the phone booked the island site for them, Linda Lake site 34, he paid the $12 reservation fee for the island, and he has a permit to prove it. Funny enough, my permit also says Linda Lake, 34! I then explained that each lake gets numbered, not each site. So 34 is just the number for Linda Lake.

He seemed very disappointed, and I genuinely think he wasn’t trying to take me for a fool, and he actually thought this is the way it worked in Algonquin. The girl in the canoe said he’s had his hopes for this site for the past two years. He really did seem let down when he found out he was misinformed. I took him on a tour of the site and even offered to let their group share it with me for the night, but they didn’t take me up on the offer. I said I was sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but hey what can you do. Clearly I wasn’t going anywhere at this point.

As they took off, back to one of the not-as-appealing sites on the lake, I got an evening fire going. The stars weren’t as plentiful as the previous night, but I still stayed out for a while and ended up going to bed at around 10:30pm.

Day 3 – Saying Goodbye to Linda Lake

Day 3 started much earlier than planned… like, 12:30 am early. I woke up and was immediately wide awake. I tend to wake up in the middle of the night often, but I always fall back asleep right away. Whenever I wake up and I instantly become wide awake, it means something is not good. 

I felt a little bit nauseous while lying down, so I turned on a light and sat up in the tent. I was worried it had something to do with earlier in the day, how I felt a bit off after my consecutive naps. I started getting negative thoughts; what if I got food poisoning, or a stomach bug, or drank bad lake water and was getting sick. I wouldn’t be able to portage out, and I only have limited food… would I have to call in a rescue? 

It lasted about 30-45min, after which I was able to lye down again and fall back asleep. It was a good scare, but thankfully nothing bad came from it.

The proper start to day 3 happened at 6:00am when I woke up to watch the sunrise again. Surprisingly there was almost no fog, but it was also a good amount colder, with a “feels like” of 3 degrees celcius. I went back and forth between watching the sunrise while packing up camp, and ended up hitting the waters just after 8am.

I wasn’t looking forward to doing the portages all over again, especially because this time my destination was the city, not Linda Lake. But as I started to paddle there was a light tailwind helping me forward, which raised my spirits a bit. Once I got onto Owl, the wind had picked up to the point of forming small white caps, and luckily it was still at my back.

Fresh animal tracks in the mud on a portage
Some fresh tracks

On my last portage of the day back into Source Lake, I came across a large blow down blocking the portage trail. This wasn’t here on my way in two days ago (I think I would have remembered this!) and there was no lightning over the past two days. It made me curious… what could have brought this bad boy down? My theory is that it got struck by lightning previously, and was hanging on by a thread, and a large gust of wind tipped it over the edge and finally made it fall. If that’s actually what happened, then it was likely within an hour or two before I arrived, because there was barely any wind prior to that.

Large tree blow down in the middle of a portage in Algonquin Park
Mysterious blow down

I made it back to a very busy dock at the launch of Source Lake, got the canoe on my car, and dropped it back off at AO Opeongo. A quick backseat nap and a large coffee gave me the energy I needed for my 4hr drive home.

The Aftermath

The next day, I noticed some interesting marks on the hood of my car. There was one imprint on one side of the hood, and another on the other side… almost as if something ‘hugged’ my car. I’m still not sure what animal it was, but it definitely didn’t look human. Someone suggested it might have been a racoon holding itself up while feeding on dead bugs/insects on the front grill, which makes a lot of sense. Or it could have been a bear hug 🙂

Animal prints on the hood of my car
Hood of my car
Set of animal tracks on the hood of my car
Hood of my car

Between the moose/bear rustling beside me on the trail, the moose on Polly, the attempted pirating of my campsite, a rat running across my site (sorry I forgot to mention this earlier in the report!), the midnight nausea, the mysterious blowdown, and the animal tracks on my car, it was actually a pretty eventful three days! It was also the first trip I’ve ever done that I didn’t look at a map once; not while travelling, and not while resting at the campsite either. Granted, I’ve done this route before, but I had never gone into Polly so part of it was still ‘new territory’.

Overall, it was a really great trip. This wasn’t my first time camping at the island on Linda, and I highly doubt it will be my last.

My Campsite

Other Campsites Visited