Killarney Family Canoe Trip - August 2011
This is a trip report for the annual "Family Canoe Trip" which consists of the Pronovosts (Dan, Patty, Devin, Joane), and the Wrights (Deanna, Jeff, Jenna, Kaitlin, and Kelsey the dog). This is an annual tradition for us, going back several years. Each year, we have planned progressively more challenging trips, as our kids (and some of the adults) get more used to longer portages and daily travel. Last year, we introduced the group to a moderate Bell/David Killarney loop trip, including a hike to Silver Peak. This year, we upped the ante significantly, squeezing in a hike to The Crack, a night on OSA, and a couple nights stay on Three Narrows. I hoped this more aggressive route would not kill anyone, or lead anyone to want to terminate the trip planner instead!
You can mouse over the markers to see where we stayed on each of the five nights of our trip.
Day 1, Aug. 2nd - Carlyle Lake Access Point to Kakakise Lake
As usual, both families packed up their vehicles with canoes, and we departed Kitchener around 7am. Rather than caravan up together, we simply decided to meet up at the Hungry Bear restaurant at the French River Trading Post. This simplified the bathroom stops, since co-ordinating the bladders of children and adults proved challenging in prior years travels!
The weather report was promising, with no rain on our entry day. After getting our permits at the George Lake office, we headed back to the Carlyle Lake access point and geared up. Both families have Swift Temagami canoes, 17'6" beasts that are perfect for handling such large loads (2 adults and 2 kids per canoe, plus gear and one dog!)
Everyone handled the first 970m portage just fine, even the very steep and treachorous put-in on Kakakise. As we paddled down the lake, some teenagers were climbing a cliff on the north face, to do some rock jumping. We paused to watch their ascent, and witness the impressive leaps, thankfully without injury.
I was hoping that we would be able to take the east-most campsite #9, as I had stayed on it in the past and really liked it. Alas, it was occupied, so we carried on to #7, which I had not stayed on before. It turned out to be just fine, and very suitable for a large group (as almost all campsites in Killarney are.)
The kids enjoy fishing, so we always plan our routes to get at least one fishing lake on our route. For this trip, that was the justification for the grueling trek into Three Narrows, which I have had good luck fishing on in the past. But, a couple days before our trip I was checking the Ontario MNR fishing guidelines, and was surprised to find out that fishing was allowed on Kakakise! Even more surprising were the nice-sized bass that Devin and the girls managed to catch right from the shallow shoreline. But our steak dinner was already well on the way, so we didn't keep any of the fish.
Day 2 - Kakakise Lake to OSA
We woke the next morning to a sky threatening rain, and indeed a big downpour started just as we began cooking breakfast. It was nothing we hadn't experienced before, so everyone endured, as we cooked up pancakes under the tarps. In fact, the kids got in their bathing suites and enjoyed a morning swim despite the rain!
The plan for the day was to stash our gear at the head of the 1440m portage to Killarney Lake from Kakakise, and hike to the top The Crack. I've always considered the view from the Crack to be amazing, possibly better than the view from Silver Peak. Thankfully, by the time we were packed up and arrived at the head of the portage, the rain had stopped, and the sky not quite as threatening. The group managed the hike well, including Kelsey (the Wright family dog), which proved adept on the boulder-strewn trail, requiring a manual lift only once.
We enjoyed a rain-free lunch at The Crack, and headed back to our canoes to carry on to OSA. I warned everyone that the next portage would be more challenging than the last one, but was generally flat. I hadn't done it for a few years, and it's interesting to see how the mind forgets the uglies of a portgage so easily! I had forgotten about the short but steep boulder climb at the 100m point, and the terribly muddy put-in on Killarney Lake. But again, the troop survived with good spirits, and after a brief stop to refill water bottles, we carried on to OSA.
While Devin and Kaitlin were pumping water, I noticed how much faster the Wright's MSR water pump was working, compared to ours (same model.) I didn't think much of it though, as I've noticed in the past that my sister's same pump generally needs cleaning less often and pumps easier than mine. But later that evening, after my pump had been cleaned for the second time this trip, I was surprised that their pump was still flowing strong. Deanna was cleaning their pump, and noted, "I don't know where this o-ring is supposed to go... on top like this?" Mystery solved... with the bottom o-ring not in place, the water was pumping straight through without being filtered! The good news is that all eight of us had no stomach problems at all for the duration of the trip and after, even Patty who has had giardia once before from a cottage trip. Killarney waters must be cleaner!
There are two ways to get to OSA from Killarney Lake: you can take a 455m portgage from an easy access point in a north-west bay, or meander through a stump swamp and lift-over to a shorter 130m portgage. Until a couple of years ago, I had always taken the 455m portage without even considering the alternate route, as it looked like one of those swampy mazes that could easily peter-out and leave you stranded. I had finally done the shorter route in a high-water spring trip, and have since realized that it is always navigable even in mid summer, although the lift over might require a bit more effort. So, we managed the stump maze and 130m portage, which ends with an amazing westward view of OSA.
Everyone was pretty tired from the long day and hike, so we were happy that the island site #29 was available. This is a great site, if the weather is nice, but certainly brought back bad memories for me from the May trip that spring. An east wind had picked up that first night, and never let up for 4 days straight. We had to move our camp site into the center of the island in a hollow, to get protection from the cold wind, and the return paddle was frighteningly difficult. Thankfully, the weather was perfect and hot on this day of our trip, the kids enjoyed swimming, and a hearty meal of spaghetti was welcome after the long day.
Day 3 - OSA to Three Narrows
I was nervous about this day many months ago, when we first planned and booked this trip. Although I had warned everyone in advance about the grueling 3.5km portgage to get to Three Narrows, and presented alternate trips that avoided it, the consensus was, "go for it!"... more easily said than done in the comfort of our warm homes in March! So here we were, ready to start The Day of the BIG Portage. Even though I had done it several times in the past, that didn't make it any easier for everyone else!
Thankfully the weather was perfect, hot and sunny with minimal wind. We lunched at the head of the Big Portage on Killarney Lake, then off we went. I had told everyone that the trail was fairly flat once we got past the first bit, but people were skeptical after my similar statements about the Kakakise-Killarney portage. And indeed, what memory served up as a short 200m climb, is much more like a 600m climb before the portage flattens out, with the same at the tail end. All the same, everyone, especially the kids, did extremely well and we managed the whole 3160m portgage with only two stops.
Once we had finished the annoying second portage into Three Narrows (the pond and 335m portage), no one was keen for continuing with a long paddle to any site. So, we took site #43, despite site #51 across the way being occupied by another family. Everyone was pretty tired, and happy to settle down to a meal of sheperd's pie (a favorite of this group, including the kids.)
Kelsey is the best canoe dog I've ever seen. She is perfect in the canoe, always stay close to people on the trail, and never leaves the camp site. But when the day is done, she knows how to relax!
Day 4 - Three Narrows
Ah, our lay-over day! Perfect hot and sunny weather again, with much swimming and fishing throughout the day. Our pennisula site had many good spots for swimming, and even a modest jumping rock which the kids enjoyed plunging from. Always the trooper, Kelsey the dog would always paddle out to the swimmers to join them. Kelsey rarely had a dry coat on this trip!
I had originally hoped we would get camp site 42, an island site in the south-east arm of Three Narrows. There are some great weed beds right off the point, with good bass fishing. Alas, the site was taken. But our camp site, #43, proved to have some good fishing from it as well. Joane was the star fisherman for that day, catching a couple good size bass which we enjoyed for lunch. Not to be out done my his sister, Devin put in a good effort, but Joane retained the fishing crown for the day.
I always enjoy fishing on canoe trips, but the annual family trip rarely presents any opportunities for me to take time to do so. Cooking for eight people is pretty much a constant chore, but it is always worth it. The kids get along fantastically and never have problems entertaining themselves. In all the years our families have tripped together, we have never once heard the dreaded, "I'm bored" expression from any child. At worst, we've had to cope with a few modest injuries and scrapes, but even then we've never had anything major to date (the worst being a wasp sting a couple years ago.)
We ended our rest day with a meal of burritos, made from my dehydrated string-beef. This is another popular meal with the gang.
Day 5 - Three Narrows to Killarney Lake
No one was excited about the return portage to Killarney Lake, but the troop mustered the courage and we headed off to tackle it again. Half way down the 3km leg, we caught up to the family who had camped across from us on Three Narrows, having left earlier in the day (the benefit of single-triping the portages... you travel faster!) The father asked us if we had seen the bears on the 335m portage right off of Three Narrows... no, we hadn't! Turns out as they walked the portage that morning, they bumped into a mother a her two cubs. The cubs scurried up a tree, and the mother ran off. I guess by the time we got to the trail, the cubs had climbed down and moved on.
Of course, there was much mention of how "flat" this 3km portage was, after enduring the 600m climb up to the middle section. I don't think anyone will believe me again when I say a portage is "not so bad".
After reaching the end of the portage, we stopped for lunch, along with several over trippers beginning the trail in the other direction, and eventually the family that we had passed from Three Narrows. The father of the family noticed the unusual rigging of my canoe, especially the lack of yoke. So, I showed him how replacing the yoke with a flat thwart, and gluing closed-cell foam around it, makes for a much more comfortable carry, allowing you to rest the thwart on your backpack straps. Tieing the painter line from front to rear allows you to steer the canoe left and right, up and down, and frees your hands from holding the canoe.
As I blubbered on with my usual canoe-expertise, and then answered some map questions from another group, Patty and Deanna poked much fun at my Mr CanoeHead Show, as evidenced by the snickering and giggles from the shaded seating area. Yes, I do love canoe-tripping, and it's hard to stop me from talking about it once you get me going!
We camped across the way at site #17, one of my favorites on Killarney Lake. On a previous Spring trip a couple of years past, we had watched a large male moose swim right across the lake, from the portage area to the bay south-east of this camp site. In was incredible to watch this massive animal swim so gracefully, and then simply walk out of the water and into the bush.
While cooking dinner (chilli), we spread out the park map and discussed possible routes for next year's family trip. I figured after everyone had experienced, and survived, the long march to Three Narrows, it was as good a time as any to see what they were fit for next! My sister and brother-in-law and I had completed a loop trip from the west access point off highway 6 earlier that summer, the first time we had used that access point. That allowed us to get into the upper lakes of Murray, Nellie and Grace without days of extra paddling from George Lake (which we had done a couple of times before.) After showing the group this route, and noting the spectacular scenery and amazing fishing on Murray, we all agreed that the extra traveling time to the West access point would be worth the effort. And despite my warnings that the portage from Murray to Nellie is, "very challenging", the group was unanimously up the challenge (it should be much easier from our planned Nellie to Murray direction.) So for 2012, the plan would be two nights on Grace, one on Nellie, two on Murray, and then out of the park from the West access point. Let's hope I can reserve those lakes (all of them book up very quickly.)
Day 6 - Killarney Lake to Carlyle Access Point
The last day... never long enough for me (although I think plenty long enough for Patty, who looks forward to the comfort of a soft bed after every trip!) Other than one morning of heavy rain, we had perfect hot sunny weather throughout. The bugs were not as bad as my canoe trip a week earlier (swarms of deer flies), and manageable overall. Everyone survived the brutal portages, proving once again what a hardy lot this group is!
We arrived back at our cars on Carlyle by late afternoon, then both families met up for dinner together
in Barrie. Another fun-filled family adventure!