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TOPIC: Queen Elizabeth II wild Lands Prov. Park Ontario.
Queen Elizabeth II wild Lands Prov. Park Ontario. 3 years 8 months ago #32405
Queen Elizabeth II Wild Lands Prov. Park.
April 28 – May 3 2012
This park is north of Toronto and south of algonquin. the only way in is fly or paddle. It is surrounded by private land.
I have been paddling in the area since 1968. It is a great example of Canadian shield. Best time to visit is before bug season (Early May) and after (mid August) but if you can stand the bugs it is still a pretty place to go.
Saturday morning I was on the water by 9:30 am an it was nice and cool with a gentle breeze coming out of the north and even that died off by the time I was half way across. Even though it is a fairly big lake and the ice has been out since Early March there was not a powerboat to be seen or heard. The birds where active and with the clear skies you could easily see the top of the big ridge to the northwest, a very pleasant way to start the trip. As I was paddling up the Head River towards the first portage the wind picked up pretty good out of the north, so timing was perfect.
My adventure this year was to document the hard way into Jordon Lake, which is just south of Victoria. I had gone into Jordon Lake via the Head River Last fall, so I knew the exit was easy and there was a couple of really nice looking camps sites on the Lake. The trouble with Jordon is it’s close proximity to Wolf/Victoria and the plane traffic one would hear during fishing/hunting season, but that would be strictly a day thing and you could be pretty sure of quiet nights.
Also last fall I scouted out the beaver pond access routes where I found that the one on main body of Crooked lake closest to the Crooked lake lodge was out, so that left the pond chain that starts just east of the only good campsite on Crooked lake. Here I met fellow solo paddler Jamie who had already set up camp and we made our tros and then I paddled down to the portage.
The first 25 m is pretty steep but grassy but once on top of the ridgeline it is easy walking. About 50m before the put in there is a bit of a dip with a small beaver pond It gets a little bushy but not too bad.
I floated my stuff across to the beaver path that leads to the main dam. On my way through last year, this little pond was dry; the work these beavers do to make this area paddle able for us is amazing. Sometimes the changes are quick, other times it evolves over longer periods of time. I planned to camp on this pond for the night, it is 15km. from where I started on Head Lake.
The first pond is a large pond with several nice campsites around it, the best way to describe it would be a boomerang shape with a couple of fairly high ridges at the north end. When I hiked up here last year the west side of the connecting canyon started really easy but then got incredibly rough, it was difficult to walk with just a day pack. The east side had a nice smooth incline up to a open ridge and a natural ramp down to the pond, so before I set up camp I decided to hike the carry and see if I wanted to continue, except this year the pond also appears to be out. (insert disappointed profanity here…. ) Since I planned to hike the ridges anyhow I decided to continue to hike up to the next ridge and was happily surprised to see that the pond was only half out. I could see that I could easily paddle to the next 2 ponds.
Still the hike up along this ridge was really neat, If the wind is out of the west like it was today the Turkey vultures where soaring off the updrafts off the ridge, and how the glaciers carved out the rock is just so impressive.
After hiking for about an hour I crossed back other to the west side of the pond to set up camp. I started going a little wider from the rough area, but still wasn’t happy so I decided to find out where it would be the easiest to put-in and the next pond and then work backwards. As it worked out it was a great strategy. There was a nice natural rock ramp almost to the water, the ramp led to an open line to the top of the ridge and then there was a gentle incline which led right back to where I set up camp, Bonus!
As I filled my water bottles I noticed the water for a beaver pond was actually quite clear, and I could see minnows in the water and some small fish about 10cm in size, and then while eating dinner watched an otter swim up just below my tent searching the shore line for food, and yes I had the camera on my lap… I just watched and then I realized I should take a pic…. and it was gone…
The next morning was very cool, weather Network records showed the low in Orillia was -5c and I am sure it was cooler in the back woods. Lots of frost both inside the tent and outside, and I was very glad to have half my winter bag for sleeping. The small water bottle inside the tent was iced up pretty good, the big one outside was pretty solid and my water bucket had about 2cm of ice… but it was very nice to watch the sun rise and warm the area. I sat on top of the ridge above my tent, ate my breakfast and had some coffee while the sun warmed things up, but it was nice having ice water later in the morning on the portages.
Since most of you travel much lighter than me I thought I would time the approx. 400m portage to give you a fair time for a 2 tripper, so 12 min. round trip so 30 min. for a two tripper at a relaxed pace, for me…. a little longer. (I’m no spring chicken anymore)
Even though half this pond is out, (pond # 2) it still has some interesting arms to it that connect to some interesting ridges. Putting the ridge to what you see on google earth is quite fascinating and well worth exploring around.
The beaver dam that was out has been repaired and it was just a quick 3 m portage to a truly impressive little lake. (pond # 3)
This is one of the extraordinary beautiful places that can be found in the park, in an area of impressiveness, these are extraordinary! I promised myself if I found one of these areas I would camp there, except even with the hiking I had only be going 1.5 hours so I continued on with my adventure.
The portage to the next pond (pond # 4) is quite easy. The beaver dam on this next pond is being rebuilt but the lake behind it is almost 1km long, narrow between 2 ridges, and as you head north the ridges increase in size, becoming more imposing.
Here is the point of Divine intervention on the trip….
As I was looking at the ridges getting bigger and I wondered what it would be like to do a trip with out the camera, all I can say is be careful what you wish for and I think someone was listening….. I stopped to take some pics of both directions on the lake and the camera started to act up, I get to the portage take my last pic of some bear scrapings and the camera is dead….
Nooooooooooooo! I was just thinking aloud…. I didn’t really mean it! It least not on this trip… I meant a trip from the start with no camera gear….. Adriannnnnnnn! Ok enough of the dramatics, I think the true reason is the curse Lttleredcanoe put on me hoping I would forget my tent poles….Since I didn’t forget them I figured the curse had to move elsewhere. (rest of the pics are cell phone pics )
The next portage is again short and easy, again the pond (pond # 5) is partially out but as you look towards the north you can see the ridges that you will have to cross and it does look intimidating. When you get to the end the take out there is pretty obvious. It is a natural path about 25 m wide and goes right to the top of the ridge and it is wide open until the last 50m where it drops into some sparse bush and to the next pond.
Right across from the take out (east side) the rocks are fractured and broken, there is some clear ground water coming out at a good flow, I would still filter it but at least it is clear of the normal debris one finds in ponds. I do not know how it would flow during a dry summer but defiantly a good find.
Portage Pond 5 to pond 6
Bear scrapings and the point of divine intervention…
(only a couple of cell phone pics from here….)
The next pond (# 6) is quite large with a very neat irregular shape. The pond level is at least 2 ft down from a high water mark, but a paddle around the pond shows that the dam is under new management and the levels are building back up.
If I had tried this route last year it would have been even lower, there are full-grown ferns underwater now showing how much the water has risen.
I was going to try and squeeze a couple more ponds in and try and make Jordon Lake. By using google earth and the “Its” (invasive species tracking system) satilite images I figured I had 2 possible choices, the first would have been the shortest had this pond been in fully but the bush would take some serious clearing to make it and you could not see the next pond though it. The other you had to zig zag to connect some ridges so a 150m guess becomes a 300m walk to a completely empty muddy pit.
So at this point I decide to go back and camp at the last pond and go over my maps and Sat. images and figure what I would do next. And as much shoreline that that pond had there was only one good campsite and that was on an island just off from where I finished the last portage. (approx 50m x 25m) In the middle between two rocky knolls there was actually enough soil to put the tent pegs in plus 2 or 3 more tents and this choice of sites had some other “plus’ points for what would happen later that evening.
After I got the tent up I had a coffee and did some measuring and was a little disappointed at what I faced, being solo and a few years short of being a spring chicken I had some decisions to make, but first a nice nap in the sun to think things over.
One option bushwhack distance “X” along my original planned route.
Option #2 back track a bit to the long lake and half way down try jumping over to another string of ponds.
Options # 3 choose a route that would accomplish most your goals.
One top goal was to hike the high ridge on the east side of Jordon lake, and with out a doubt the pond I was on was the easiest, and two If I found a really special gem of a camp site to spend at least a night there, and not to overdo the effort so that the trip is not enjoyable. So option 3 it was stay a day and go hiking up the ridge and then backtrack to that neat little lake and camp there.
There is a lot of firewood close to the island and more than enough on the island from dead trees from beavers past projects. The area in the middle of the island where the tent was had dried grasses and ferns so I did not want place my fire near it, but there is flat spots on either rocky knoll where you could have a fire and still have a comfy place to sit and enjoy the view and a very nice sunset, but not suspecting that there was going to be some “entertainment” later on ….
Sun set looking north-east towards beaver dam.
(Just a point of interest here before we get on to the story, my job as a mail carrier has given my the “opportunity” to be attacked by a variety of dogs, including a pit bull and that would be because the owners where… and in 27 years out there and no bites….but there has been some chewed mail….)
I heard wolves calling off in the distance the first night so I fully expected to hear them again. So the distances on this google map are straight line. Just before dusk I heard the first call well off in the distance to the north, the answering call was much closer just in the woods down below the main beaver dam that would be # 1 on the map. There was also some minor yapping with the howl there suggesting that this was the area of the main pack. No problem what a beautiful loud sound and still some good distance away, and I am on an island.
Half an hour later it is completely dark with a clear sky and the moon just over half full when another howl is let go from position #1, this time the howl coming back from the north is a little closer but still far a way, but this time there is another answering call from position #4, still some good distance, still beautiful to hear and I am on an island.
Another 15/20mins. later the wolf that howled from position #1 howled from position #2 (yes you can recognize their voices… they are very distinct) there was an answer from position # 4, then two wolves howled from position #2 with another answer from position #4. So they had my attention now, I know they are moving but I am on an island…..
Another10/15 mins. pass and the main wolf howls again, this time from position # 3, this time the answering howl is right behind me from position #5 and the hair on the back of my neck stands up, Two wolves howl together again from position # 3 and then there is a whole chorus of howls, yelps and barks from the bush line from position #5, okayyyyyyyy……. so I am now completely out of my comfort zone, I have a nice sized fire going so they can see me clearly and I calmly ( Yeah, right…. ) reach into my pocket for my bear bangers and pen launcher, load, aim almost straight up towards what I thought was the middle between the two groups and fired, and it was returned with quiet.
Having the fire on the rocky knoll closest to the land was a good idea, as accidental as that decision was, I only needed a medium size fire to light up the two closest shores to the island and if they where going to approach closer that is the way they would come. So I started to noisily chop some wood to keep the fire going, but it was quiet and I was on an island.
From Point # 5 looking at the island.
Soon the frogs and night birds where making their calls again and I relaxed, and shortly after that the main wolf howled from position #1 again and it was answered with a short howl and some minor yapping from one of the side canyons in and around #4 so all was good, the beaver had now joined the chorus in its traditional way swimming around the island letting the world know I was there, on the island. After a while I let the fire die down and out and surprising I had a great sleep that night.
The next morning I awoke with no changes in plan, it was dark and gray with a fairly low cloud cover. Breakfast, coffee sit and watch the world, packed a daypack and paddled over to the start of the ridgeline. It is incredibly easy hiking up the ridge, it is pretty steep but the bare rock paths are easy to follow. Once on top you are rewarded with a great view, even with the cloud cover. You can easily make out the different lookouts all the way to Head Lake. I would spend more time here on the way back with the maps, I wanted to get above Jordon Lake incase the weather turned wet. There are a couple of minor ups and downs but nothing hard. Walking along the ridgeline along the Jordon Lake side you soon realize how little justice the topo’s and sata. Images do for this area. It is more than steep in most areas, cliffs would describe most of it but there are paths in the rock that lead down. From up here I can see that the short pond system on Jordon Lake east side is in so you could pretty well paddle up to the bottom of the ridge. When you get to the high point again the view is terrific! I sat there with my legs hanging over the edge eating gorp, having some water and drinking up the view. Here there is a major dip in he ridgeline, it is a steep decent into thick bush before it rises equally quick to bare rock on the northeast side of the lake. I didn’t hike over but you could tell that if the leaves where in you would need to take some serious bearings. (or if your into gps you can watch your tiny screen…. Me I like to watch where I am going and remember the landmarks…) On the way back I wondered all over the ridge looking for anything really interesting, lots of neat little bogs, cuts in the rocks veins of quartz. I didn’t see any critter droppings but with the wolf activity in the area it is understandable.
At the south end of the ridge there is this neat knob that was left as the glaciers retreated and it made for a great table to pull out the maps and compass and confirm the locations of the distant ridges.
It was starting to get misty now so I headed back down to the boat and go for a coffee. There was a cool stiff breeze out of the east with a little more rain so I retired with coffee to the tent for some reading. It didn’t rain really hard put it was enough to make the shallow soil wet, because of the wind a fire on top of the rock would bring any enjoyment, but since it was now wet enough I could build a fire on a flat rock by the water edge without worrying about catching the ground cover on fire. The shape of the island blocked the wind nicely so it was very comfortable eating dinner by the fire. That night with a low cloud cover I only heard the wolves call once, the main voice from site # 1 and the answer from Area #4, with some side yapping but a neat echo from being in one of the little canyons.
The next morning started off cool but quickly warmed up, but the time I was packed up I was down to just my white turtleneck “T” shirt. With a 25 m paddle from my Island sanctuary to the portage it was time to move, at least this way most of the portage is downhill. I wasn’t in a hurry because I would not be traveling too far today so it was very nice to go for a slow float just enjoying being out there. At the south end of the really long narrow lake it was neat to see that the beaver was keeping up with the water flowing in, the lake level was up about 10cm (4”) from 2 days ago. Where I had put in was now under water.
Now on the neat little lake I float around looking for the easiest place to land on the peninsula that dominates the middle of this lake. There are several spots both in the trees and in the open, depending on the conditions you may find yourself in. I chose the middle there was a good breeze and the bugs where now making a serious appearance. It was partly sunny with a good breeze so it was a good time to dry the dampness out of the sleeping bag. Made myself some coffee (gee there seems to be a theme here, rest and coffee….) and get to listen to one of natures wonders, the forest coming alive. I have heard it a few times before where all the bugs coming out sound like a machine in the woods, it truly is amazing, especially since they are not biting yet.
As I said earlier there are just a few really neat spots in this park, this is one of them. Only those that are willing to do a little work will come, it is far enough from the bigger lakes you will not get the boat or plane traffic and no signs of atv trails at all. There where signs of deer, moose, deer, wide variety of birds, including Whippoorwills and with the depth of this lake I would suspect on a normal summer it would be swimmable. The only downside if you had to name one would be lack of firewood on the peninsula. Lots of pine branches if you have a stick stove, but that’s about it, but with a canoe in hand it is still easy to get. But everything else, about 17 km of paddling from my starting point in Head Lake, 6 portages only (one hard 2 med) and one pull over, and 2 hours from Toronto…. And the feeling of being a million miles away… ☺
I was only going to go to the campsite on Crooked Lake site and it was a good choice. The day was sunny and warm with a nice breeze the bugs where starting to bite but not in hordes yet. I got set up and boiled some water for some personal hygiene maintenance (sponge bath and hair wash) It was time for coffee and then I went for a little paddle around Crooked with out gear in the boat. The weather was closing in fast soI turned on my radio to get a weather report and they said there was little chance for a thunderstorm in the area, but the static on the am band said different. I got a quick supper going and by the time it was ready to eat the storm was upon me. It rained hard for 3 hours. So I poured a mug of white wine and sat in the tent to enjoy my last night out in the park. When it finally eased up at dusk I got a fire going. A little more whippoorwill activity here but nothing compared to other years. This bird is a species at risk www.rom.on.ca/ontario/risk.php?doc_type=fact&lang=&id=332 but with what has happened with our Prov. and Fed governments gutting protection in the budget bills I find this statement a bit oxymoronic,
Quote” The Whip-poor-will is a threatened species and receives automatic species protection under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, 2007. General habitat protection also protects the species’ habitat from damage and destruction. A recovery strategy and a species-specific habitat regulation are being developed. The Whip-poor-will was assessed as a threatened species nationally by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). For more information on the Whip-poor-will and how you can help this species…..” unquote.
But it is still great to be out here in the woods.
The fog and the mist at dusk made of a neat optical illusion.
Guardian of the Crooked Lake Camp site.
Next morning was damp and grey, a little cool even and the bugs where biting, but still in the tolerable range. The portage at Crooked to Long lake is usually the place the bugs really swarm and hardly a black fly in sight until I wondered where they where and wham! As soon as I started to load the boat they made their attack!
So I quickly paddled towards the opening to the lake and paused to get a drink of water when over the ridge on the east side of the lake walked a momma bear and two cubs, and all looked healthy and well fed. It is pretty narrow and shallow at this end of Long Lake I was sitting on the bottom about 50m from them and really wish I had a camera… oh yeah the cell phone camera, but in my haste to get away from the bugs I through it in the end of the canoe out of my reach.
The mother just sat on her backs watching me and then as I tried to reach for my phone she stood up on her hind legs, the one cub mimicked her and the other does as all little ones do, play with something on the rocks…then she turned and ran. It was fantastic to watch from about 50m away, happy with what I saw, sad for not having a camera shot of it.
The rest of the paddle was quiet, still didn’t see anyone all the way back to the truck, except for the 2 loons that stayed close for the paddle to the north shore. I took the long way back that way because the forecast had been for chance of thunderstorms, but nothing materialized.
All in all a good trip and great experience. I am getting better at going with the flow. Good to see more people interested in the area.
PS. Oh yeah, Littleredcanoe I did forget something……
My belt to hold up my knife and bear spray…….
But I was able to improvise with a cheap tie down strap, and it actually worked better than the belt.
Story with pics embedded
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