Trip Log: Brent to Catfish Lake
2010 August 27
I left home at about 7:45 am, somewhat later than I had hoped. The drive up the valley was pleasant with morning mist rising off the Ottawa River. I picked up my permit — no reservation, no problem — and continued on to Brent, launching on Cedar Lake at about 9:45.
I reached the top of the timber slide at about 12:40. (I was double carrying the portages and taking lots of time for photography) and I stopped for lunch. I was in a quandary. There was an empty campsite at the top of the portage, but it was not very good — in extremis only. My permit was for "Stacks Rapids" which includes all of the campsites along the Petawawa River between Cedar Lake and Narrowbag Lake, but not including Narrowbag Lake. It seemed too early to stop, and yet the next campsite farther upriver that I was sure of was at the top of the Stacks Rapids portage, and that was farther than I wanted to travel that day.
I checked out the campsite across the river. It was quite nice. It looked like it would get the evening sun and had a bit of a front porch. It was a bit exposed to the wind, but I assumed the wind would die at sundown (and I had tarps for a wind break if need be.). I decided to stay.
A couple came downstream at about 1:45. I think maybe they were looking for this campsite; if not, they were looking for the portage on the wrong side of the river. Another couple came through at about 3:45 and headed down the portage. Other than a couple I had met on the first portage, these were the only travellers that I saw on the Petawawa River that day.
I gave myself a nasty rope burn on the ring finger of my right hand in putting up the food rope. It subsequently blistered and burst. It was a bit of an issue for the rest of the trip, but I was able to keep it (relatively) clean and it didn't interfere with my paddling too much.
By 6:55 I was packed up for the night. The food was up but not quite as high as I would have liked. Supper had been "Katmandu Curry with Rice" by Back Packers Pantry. It was a little much for one person but I finished it. It was OK, but it was strongly flavoured and not a flavour that I particularly liked. But my wee dram of Bushmills went down very well. After sending Diana an "I'm OK" message on my SPOT, I was in my hammock a little after 8:00. It was still twilight but I was quite tired.
2010 August 28
I had an OK night and I was up at 5:45. I was on the water at 8:50 but still had to filter some drinking water. It wasn't that I was having problems, it's just slow when you're alone. (But there's lots of scope for improving my efficiency.)
The sky was clear but the breeze was coming up.
Part of the agenda for this trip was to quantify what my 65 year old bones were capable of. The Stacks Rapids portage was to provide that data. Twenty years ago and travelling tandem, reaching Narrowbag Lake on the first day would not have been an issue; but now? solo? I wasn't sure. That's why I had stopped early on my first day.
I started across the portage at about 9:45 and finished at 11:50 (double carry). I was beat. I had lunch at the end of the portage and was ready to go again at about 12:30, still tired, a little stiff and probably overheated. It was hot and the wind was looking to be an issue for the rest of the day.
I stumbled my way across the portage to Narrowbag. I encountered three guys out for the day fishing. I assumed they were camped on Catfish (there was no way one could have comfortably fished Catfish in that wind).
I slogged my way up Narrowbag against the wind, but I was too tired to notice. Someone was camped at the point on Narrowbag — he was spread out on the shore like the polar bear from Sherman's Lagoon. No one was camped at the portage into Catfish.
I arrived at my home for the night at 2:30. It was somewhat exposed to the wind — in fact, it was probably the most exposed campsite on the entire lake. However, the wind was just too strong to go looking for something better. Catfish Lake looked — except for the wind — pretty quiet, just a single canoe out doodling around, trying to fish, I think. I saw several more canoes as the afternoon wore on. It was not clear what their story was. By 8:00 pm, the sun was down but the wind was still blowing, albeit, less strongly. If tomorrow were to be the same, I wouldn't get much exploring done. I was beat, but less inclined to go to bed as I was at this time the day before. Once again, the Bushmills had gone down much better than the freeze dried dinner (Mountain House Chicken and Rice).
2010 August 29
I was up at 6:00, somewhat stiff, but not too bad once I got moving. The sky was clear but there was a slight breeze already. The morning temp was 18C with no mist. I left to explore the lake at about 8:30. I figured that I'd at least get to visit the alligator before the wind came up. I found it, relying on memory, without any problem, but it had recently been the victim of a tree falling on it.
After leaving the alligator, I stopped before the narrows for some water filter maintenance and pumping. When I finished, I noted that the wind had largely died. A group with three canoes was camped at the narrows. I think it was the fishermen of yesterday and two women. They said good morning and asked what time it was (9:33). They were the only campers I saw on the lake
I continued down the lake, rejoined the Petawawa River and proceeded to the first portage (at Catfish Rapids).
I turned around and started back.
At about my farthest extent from home, the wind had returned, although perhaps a little more out of the west. There were a few high clouds as well.
I was back at my campsite a little before 2:00; all was well. I had a nap — perhaps an hour — and then got up and brewed myself some tea. While it was cooling / steeping, I had a quick dip in the lake and felt much better. I then sat around and air dried. I had a cold supper; I just couldn't face soup and FD dinner again. They're way too salty; I need a better solution. Or alternatively, maybe it was just too hot. Supper comprised left over lunch supplies and the next day's pita / PB / jam.
The temperature at 6:00 pm was 27C. The lake was essentially deserted. I had seen two separate canoes during the afternoon. I had earlier determined that the group at the narrows had moved on — without putting out their campfire! Once again, some Bushmills and early to bed.
2010 August 30
I was out of the hammock at 5:45. The morning was calm, warm, and felt heavy. I broke camp and was away by a little after 8:00.
The morning was uneventful, just hot and muggy. It took me a little over two hours for the long portage, but this time I stopped for a break at the top of the hill. It was definitely easier in this direction, but temperature control was the main issue.
I met a soloist going upstream. He asked about the portage. I suggested he had some hot work ahead of him. He was to be the only traveller I was to see that day. I stopped at my first night's campsite at 1:00 pm for lunch in the shade. It seems that I had lost a carabiner. I was hoping to find it here. However, someone else had been here in the interim, so no joy on that front.
I was back at Brent at 3:30. The afternoon had been straight forward but hot (in the low 30s I later learned). Cedar Lake was a little choppy with the odd white cap, but not hair raising. My concern had been that if I were tardy, there might be some late afternoon thunderstorms brewing so I didn't dilly dally.
I was home around 5:30. Overall the trip was a success; I satisfied myself that I was still capable of undertaking Algonquin trips and can do so solo, but I need to pace myself. My old bones were sore and aching for the first three days, but I gained my stride on the fourth day. In my younger days, I would have hit my stride on the third day.
For more photos from this trip see our photo gallery: A Solo Canoe Trip From Brent To Catfish Lake in Algonquin Park.