As I was getting close to the southwestern end of the lake, the wind began to whip up. By the time I reached the end, it was a strong force. I had beat it just in the nick of time.
The portage into Hambone was easy, wide, and flat. On my second carry, I shared it with a couple of fellows who had come in behind me. They said they couldn't understand how I was able to solo-paddle against the wind so quickly. This comment, along with how much gear they had, including large coolers, led me to believe that they were fairly inexperienced at backcountry canoeing. They were dreading this short 300m portage. When I told them that I had done a 2435m portage the day before, they looked at me as if I had just teleported in from another planet. There seemed to be a lot of inexperienced canoe trippers out in Algonquin that weekend.
The wind wasn't too bad on Hambone, as it is a much smaller lake than Bice. At the portage into Magnetawan, I had to wait in my canoe a bit to take out because a young couple was taking up the entire area with their canoe and gear. I had nowhere to land my canoe at the portage.
At the Magnetawan access take-out, I ran into that massive group that I saw on Daisy Lake. They were taking out on the dock. I stared in disbelief as a few of them were paddling an aluminum fishing boat (yes, you read that correctly...an aluminum fishing boat) up to the dock. Somehow, I had missed that when I had paddled past their campsite two days earlier on Daisy Lake. It took them a very long time to unload the very many objects that they had brought on their trip (including a canoe cart).
I chatted a bit with them when I finally was able to unload my canoe, and in our short conversation, the man complained that Algonquin wasn't like camping in his home country of Romania because the bears in Ontario were too mild. Apparently, they aren't strong and aggressive like the ones in the Carpathian mountains. Sweet Jesus! I wondered what kind of wilderness experience this fellow was expecting to have? Is it not a "real" canoe trip unless there is bear-wrestling involved? Does Mixed Martial Arts mean a mix of different species?
This is the 17th trip report that I have written for this blog. As you are reading this, you might be thinking, "Geez, this guy complains a lot about other campers." I realize that I have done a lot of that in this report, but I simply could not believe what I had witnessed on this trip. I don't claim to be an expert backcountry canoeist, nor do I think that I should have the backcountry all to myself. I enjoy sharing the many mistakes and mishaps that occur during my trips; that's all a part of the fun. I believe that everyone should get out and enjoy the backcountry. It's beautiful and has an instant therapeutic effect. It is good for the soul. That is one of the reasons I spend the time writing this blog -- to encourage people to try it. BUT, I do try to practice low impact camping and maintain backcountry etiquette by being quiet on a busy lake, trying to leave the campsite in equal or better condition than how I found it, and moving my canoe and gear off to the side on portages. At the very least, everyone should respect the rules of the park by not having more than the allowed limit of people on a site, or ripping up portages with an aluminum fishing boat on a canoe cart.
I guess it was the perfect storm. People had been cooped up since early March, car camping at provincial parks was still under covid-lockdown, and it was the first nice weekend at the start of summer. People who normally might not get into the backcountry were doing so, and it showed.
So, if you are fairly new to canoe tripping, please keep in mind that you are sharing the space with others. As vast and remote as that space might feel, your actions have an impact. And if you want to party, stay in the backyard or wait until you can do so at a front-country camping site. I enjoy partying as much as the next person; the backcountry is just not the place for it.
Despite the negative experiences with loud and inconsiderate campers, I enjoyed many aspects of this trip. I thought about them as I was driving home to spend Father's Day with my wife and teenage daughters. The lakes were amazingly scenic, the solitude that I did find on the Upper Petawawa River was fantastic, and I got to taste a trout from the headwaters of two of Ontario's great rivers. I thought about those things again, when my daughter, Erin, handed me her lovely artwork in a Father's Day card.