We left home at 5:30am after a rough night without much sleep. I got gas near our house and then we drove non-stop to Barrie, about 2 hours away (through Toronto). We saw a flipped tractor trailer just outside Barrie, where we made a brief stop at Tim Hortons to get a coffee and breakfast sandwich, the quintessential Canadian breakfast. We then continued on the drive to the most northern entrance to Algonquin Park, about 7 hours in total from our home in Niagara. We turned off highway 17 and down into the heart of Algonquin. The ride from the edge of the park to Cedar Lake is another hour, on a gravel and active logging road. My tiny car bumped along for the next hour, as we avoided fast moving logging trucks barreling towards us along the sharp curves in the roadway. We finally made it to the lake and made a left at the waterfront, to arrive at the Brent Outfitter store. The incredibly friendly and adorable Brent Shop owner is 84 (in 2022) so he said he would not be opening the store up again, but you can still rent canoes and kayaks in advance from him for self pick-up. We walked up to the store where we found a paper with our name on it and which boat we were to take (also where the boat was supposed to be located). We walked up and down the boat racks but could not find our boat number anywhere! We then walked back to the car to get our bags before setting out on a second search of the racks to try and find our boat. After quite a long search, we decided we needed help. We walked up to the back of the Brent shop where the owner was and admitted our defeat. The owner happily walked down to the canoe racks with us and also couldn’t find where he had put our boat. Eventually our boat was found on the lawn, sun bathing! We had been looking for a boat that said “Gill” when in fact it was meant to say “6;11” oops. We then loaded up our boat with our gear and pushed off from the shore, into Cedar Lake. The Brent shop owner had asked where we were setting off to, and we told him “Laurel Lake”. He said that was one of his favourites and even recommended his favourite camp spot there, a north western one with a stream and table. He also said that if we were stranded by the huge waves, we could abandon our boat along the railway tracks on the way back and that he would come pick it up.
We set off on Cedar lake, which was uncharacteristically as still as glass. It was a bit overcast but the perfect temperature for paddling, especially for the hottest time of the year. We stopped at the island campsite on the north western end of Cedar Lake to take a good look at the old chimney and fireplace from a long gone cabin. We stopped for long enough to eat our pre-packed sandwiches, have some water and for Jives to have his first try of the “thunderbox”, the outdoor wooden pop boxes you find at each campsite. We then set off towards our next lake, Little Cedar. Cedar Lake funnels down to a point at the North Western end, and narrows to form Little Cedar. Along the way we hit one patch of water that was very shallow, but kind of fun to navigate, like a very tame level of white water rafting. I don’t believe this area would be an issue in the spring and early summer, as the water would be higher than when we went in late summer. We crossed under the old train bridge and encountered a group of about 15 girls in 3 canoes listening to Outkast very loudly on a speaker. We continued down to Aura Lee Lake, which was just as beautiful and still as Cedar Lake had been. At the west end of Aura Lee Lake we met our first portage. It was a short portage of 275 metres. We tried doing the journey in a single portage, but I quickly found out I was not tall enough to carry a canoe on my head and also see where I was going, so Jives carried the canoe and we did a second pass to carry all of our gear. At the very end of the portage and adorable little bunny hopped out of the woods to say hello. The bunny had appeared just as Jives and I had started to fit about the portage, and we took that as a sign that the bunny wanted us to shut up! We had just lost our 15 year old rabbit Fleetwood the fall previous, so the bunny sighting felt extra special to us.
We pushed off after our portage and on to Laurel Lake, our destination lake. On this lake we had five campsites to choose from, but we were interested in checking out the site that the Brent Store man had recommended to us. First we paddled past the campsite on the small island in the centre of Laurel Lake, it looked like it would be difficult to camp on and very rocky. I assume that bugs are not as bad on this island site, as there was a strong breeze and very little wooded coverage. The toilet on this island site was very visible and on a steep angle…. Not ideal for using. The second site we came upon was definitely the site that had been recommended to us, with a stream right beside it. We decided this would be our spot without further investigation, as we were tired from the long day, 8 hours of driving and 5 hours of paddling.
We spent an obscene amount of time trying to throw a rope up and over a branch to hoist our food out of the way of animals and bears (a bear pinata we call it). Eventually we were able to get a rope around a branch that hung over the water, but it certainly wasn’t 5 metres above the ground, as recommended. We then set up the tent and cooked some veggie sausages over the fire Jives had managed to make with damp wood. It had been such a long day, so at 9:30 we retreated to the tent to play a game of cathedral and go to sleep.