Saturday, April 28, 2007 to Thursday, May 3, 2007
length: 45.0km, 6 days
organizer: Jeff McColl
participants: Mitch Mitchell,
QEWLPP APRIL 30 TO MAY 3
Head Lake to Smudge Lake across to Crooked Lake and back to Head Lake.Distance Traveled Approx. 45 Km.With the water levels high this would be an easy 3 day trip, but if you add the bugs, low water and heat off the shield in the summer it might not be a fun experience.This was a completion of the route I tried to do last fall. We chose an early date to avoid the bugs and to have less growth in the bush. The portages are not marked it made it easy to find the easiest route along the ridges to the next small lakes. The goal of the trip was, complete the route, photograph wild life and scenery, and avoid black flies. It was a complete success.
2 people Mitch and me, one boat. With the ice being out just over a week, the water was very cool for this time of year, plant growth along the Head River and Smudge creek was very minimal. The white suckers were just starting their run towards the fast water when we left.The weather forecast was good and we were on the water by just after 9am.Our first surprise was a pair of otters on the Head River, for all the years we were up there (since 67) I had never seen otters.) With the water being higher than the fall we were able to avoid 2 small beaver dam pull-over’s on the Head and were able to run the first rapid a short grade 2 and the second 200m downstream an easy grade 3 (at this level) (portage river right on both rapids if you have to)
We entered Smudge creek (first stream system downstream on your right from the last rapid) last years first pull over was under water and the stream was much easier to follow without the leaves on the swamp brushes. We made it to the first camp at the first small canyon in good time, with lots of time to hike, which I overdid, and paid for the rest of the trip. We saw one bear which ran away when it got wind of us, but very healthy looking. (about 150 – 200 metres away)3 moose, 1 bull and 2 females, I didn’t get a chance to get a pic of the bull because of brush and of how fast he can move through the bush, but the 2 females did stop and pose about 200 – 250 metres away. The thing about hiking and paddling in this park is if the beaver dams are in it’s a fairly easy paddle, with the granite ridges you can walk a long way. I wouldn’t say all the ridges were easy, some where some did create some adventure, but all were interesting.
The next morning before we portaged up the east side of the creek (250m)3 cranes flew over which were later confirmed by a biologist at the Canadian Wildlife service to be Sandhill Cranes, but he said he couldn’t tell which sub species it was with out measuring the bird. There were reports of Whooping Cranes in southern Ont. So he said keep looking.Simple point – Find rare wildlife, take pics, protect more areas better.
There are a couple of narrow shallow areas that in low summer water you may have to get out and walk or make an extra carry.A quick easy paddle to the next portage, the next canyon has a portage west side up a steep hill 50m; 250m. along the ridge, down between a cut in the rocks into some animal trails through some brush back to the creek, 50m. more.
Another day of sunny weather, 10 -12 degrees a good breeze, no people no bugs, 2 hours from the big smoke of T.O. J (priceless)A quick pull over another beaver dam at a narrows and then a 5 min paddle to the next canyon, portage on east side up a steep hill, walk along the ridge about 250m and back into the creek This time we used ropes and a pulley to help go up the hill with the boat and it made it very easy 250m along the ridge and back into the creek. The west side is a longer portage and more hill at both ends, just a little less brush to get through at the bottom end.Several more pull-over’s of small beaver dams and into Smudge Lake.
There is only one good camp site on Smudge Lake, north arm of lake, south east corner. There are several other sites, one on top of a cliff overlooking the lake in the middle of the narrows, but there would be no place to put in tent pegs. There are several small hunting and fishing cabins on the lake.We took a short nap before going for the next set of hikes. My legs were still jelly from the day before (I’m a mailman, I walk every day) so I went for some short hikes to take some scenery pics and Mitch went for a longer one. Another nice night, no wind, no bugs, clear sky, but too tired to stay up late and enjoy.
The next morning brought high cloud and dark clouds on the horizon, but we ended up with just a sprinkle and clear skies by nightfall. The day’s goal was to get through the chain of ponds and small lakes to just above the upper Head that flows out of Lake Victoria. The first portage of the day at the northeast corner of Smudge turned out to be the longest of the trip. We first took the packs, Mitch tried through the bush and I went up the ridge and back down to the first pond, which we found out, it wasn’t worth the up and down on the ridge for a 150m paddle and then back up the same ridge through bush. So in the end and with the boat up a path past a hunt/fish cabin, along the ridge and back down to the second lake a portage of approx. 800m but, once on top of the ridge it is a very easy flat walk.
This lake is about 500m long with a lot of submerged logs and stumps to get around. Portage on Lake left (n/w side) with the lake level fairly high the portage was about 100m long. There are some good camp sites here.The next lake is only about 150m. long, portage into the next lake on lake right side by the burnt tree. Walk up to a small ridge for a clear path to the next lake, approx. 150m long. The next lake is again about 150m long with the portage trail 50m short of the end of the lake up a very steep small hill, lake right side.
Portage along the lake to were you can’t go further move to your right approx 25 m to the next ridge, follow that ridge down approx 150m to were the ridge on your left starts to go down to the swamp. Total length of the portage is about 300 m. Once in the swamp paddle along the north east side about 300 m to where a small creek comes in and portage up the left side of the creek approx 125m. into the next lake.
At this point there are some orange hiking trail markings, which you will cross again when you leave the lake.This is a very neat narrow lake with several interesting arms. The beavers have dammed this up and there are 4 different water outlets.Mitch named this rabbit lake, because when you look at it on the satellite it looks like a rabbit, and we camped on the rabbits butt.Paddle down the main length of the lake (right) to almost the end. There is a very narrow entrance to another arm on the right and the portage trail to the next lake is on your left just past the end of the narrows. This point of land you just came around has a good camp site on it.
The portage trail is approx. 150m long and crosses that trail again and is all down hill except for the lift out of the lake. You have just entered the upper Head river area. The next lake is about 200m long and has a lot of logs to maneuver around. Portage on your right through some bush, down the hill to a very large beaver Lake, This lake has a huge beaver lodge in it. If you go to the northwest you can loop back to Smudge or loop up to Wolf or Victoria. It is a short 200 m paddle to the outlet creek and there was barely enough water to float the boat, in lower water you would have to portage to the next beaver pond which is only about 100m long. The beavers at this point had stopped all the water flow except for a trickle and the next beaver dam has been washed out, so portage approx 500m on the north side of dry swamp bed and this will put you at the bottom of a small cement dam on the Head River. (In a few years this should be grown over unless the beavers rebuild the dam.) In high water you should be able to float down the creek or at least walk it down to the river. Once on the river it meanders around a bit and there are a few small pull-over beaver dams till you get to Crooked Lake. There is only the one lodge on this lake so you still have that remote feeling.Once Crooked Lake narrows it is more like a small narrow lake to a dam with a portage of approx. 100 m long on river right along the trail the lodge has established. This is were we encountered black flies that were hungry for dinner, but once on the water with the wind blowing strong we were okay. We paddled down Long Lake almost to the end and set up camp on a tiny island, (we had to bring some fire wood to the island) the wind was blowing hard enough to keep the black flies down so it was a good choice.
We hiked around the next portage just to see the river and it was a very pretty stretch with no signs of human destruction, there wasn’t enough water to float a canoe down, but in high water it might be possible grade 2 plus with the chance of a sweeper or two blocking the way.
There is also another great hike up the west shore of the lake to get up on the ridge; the view is well worth it. If you have the energy you could paddle through a chain of 3 beaver ponds to get half way up the ridge. I won’t say it’s easy, but just hiking through was inspiring. The first one is like going through a mountain pass with cliffs on either side of you, the other 2 are just incredibly scenic and you feel like a million miles away from the rest of the world.(Things to do list, paddle up and camp on the ridge and watch the stars on a weekend in late August or in September. No bugs and an easy 2 day trip. But a long weekend would give 2 nights there. Approx 14k paddle to Long Lake from Head Lake Trailer Park 3 portages 6 if you go the beaver pond route) Even though we could not see the sun set (because of the ridge) we were still rewarded with great colours looking to the north of the lake.
It is a short paddle to the next portage 250m (river right) and follow the path to the next lake.At all 3 of the portages from Crooked to Fishog you will see boats & docks used by the Lodge to ferry their customers up and all 3 are very easy to walk.
A quick paddle across a small lake to the next portage 100m, and follow the river system into another small lake, back into the river again and when it opens you are in Fishog Lake. At the south end of Fishog, we could not find the old hydro cut that lets you know you are leaving the park, you will re-enter the park were the Head river enters Head lake but the islands are marked no camping, and there is a fish sanctuary in the river for different times of the year.The portage trail at the rapid and dam from Fishog to Head Lake is steep and approx. 150m. long but is far from being the hardest on this loop trip (6th. hardest)(But I did slip in the mud on the Head Lake side and fell into the lake J)The trip across Head Lake was uneventful because there was no wind, but it was nice to paddle past the small rookery and watch the birds with out being blown about, (sea gulls, artic turns, cormorants,)The best thing about an early spring trip, no hunting, no fishing, no people, we didn’t see another person the entire week, and only 2 hours from T.O
And now preaching from the pulpit…..As much as I would like to keep my secret places secret, growing up in Mississauga, and watching them ruin the Credit River, now living In Milton and watching them rape the “World Bio-sphere”, listening how they are not protecting Algonquin Park, how they are doing the same elsewhere (Temagami, etc.)It seems that all outdoors people have the same goal, they want it protected, from “development “But, we are going to have to sit at the same table and get the politicians to actually do something; there is a federal and provincial election in the air.Make them make it an election issue.
Take pictures, document the time and place, rare species of just about anything will help our cause. (A rare minnow in 16 Mile creek has stopped a few projects from being developed)Take the candidates to task, ask questions that you already have an answer to, and hopefully ones they don’t have a pre-arranged answer and if they don’t give a straight answer, ask why, be polite but extremely firm.
Example: they are all for gun control but have done nothing, Why?
On a canoe partner note it was good to have Mitch along.I am sure she had a harder time with my food choices that I did with hers.
Mitch of good wholesome health food. And me package man, and smoked meats.
It is the first trip In a long time that I have been out hiked, and nice to have someone along who didn’t want to do the 30 second canoe trip. If it wasn’t for her I would have missed the bear and the big bull Moose.