Algonquin in Three Days: Ralph Bice, David, and Mubwayaka
I alluded to it in my last Algonquin post, but my Mom taught me most everything I know about camping. Really, when your first camping trip is in a baby carrier, how can you not learn a bit about backcountry camping?
Coming off the rush of our last Algonquin trip, we leaped at the opportunity to go again with my Mom. This trip also started from Access point 3, Magnetawan Lake. In an attempt to avoid the crowds, we stayed away from HWY 60 and utilized the west side of the park.
We were up at 5am and off to my Mom’s house. We left my mom’s around 6:15-6:30am and arrived in Kearney at about 9am. It was brisk, but we were treated to crystal clear cloudless skies. A few days camping in the sun was needed after our last trip! We obtained our permits and quickly made our way to the canoe rental office. As we were three, we decided on a canoe and kayak. There was no significant portaging, so was a perfect opportunity to try backcountry camping with a kayak.
Forty-five minutes later had us turning the corner to access point 3. It was hard to believe that a month earlier, we were there, hoping for a break in the wall of rain. This trip the winds were low, the lake was flat, and sparkling in the sun.
My mom and Shayn packed our stuff, while I brought the canoe and kayak down to the dock. A short while later, we were off to the Hambone portage. Magnetawan treated us to a superb view of a mother and baby loon – this baby looked almost ready to leave the nest! Fall, although lacking the beautiful colours, was on its way.
At the Hambone portage, we experienced our first inkling that a kayak would be harder to portage than we originally thought. A canoe having a yoke, doesn’t create much difficulty – that is if you don’t mind carrying 40-70 lbs on your shoulders. The kayak on the other hand, has no way to balance on your shoulders. We probably should have researched this first! With no other options my mom and I took a small pack and grabbed an end of the kayak and walked it across. The Hambone side of the lake looked still and beautiful. This lake seems to have a blue-green colour that is not often seen in the park. Our fingers were crossed for Ralph Bice – as the lake is notorious for strong winds and bigger waves.
Across Hambone, we saw many people leaving from both Daisy Lake and Ralph Bice! The perks of entering on a Sunday are everyone else leaving. We passed very close to another mother and baby loon. It seems this time of year the fathers are elsewhere. I almost took out my camera, but thought my GoPro would capture them. About midway down the lake, we had difficultly locating the portage for Ralph Bice. A few checks of the map had us heading in the right direction and eventually the portage appeared. This portage was longer, but still relatively easy.
We found Ralph Bice almost completely flat; what a treat! We wanted to find a campsite with sunset views, so followed closely to the south-east shore to check them out. The first site was was unremarkable, but had a nice swimming spot. We continued past the next one on shore and past a few in the bay. Although the island sites looked nice, they were too close together for our liking. FInally, after nearly two hours of paddling, we settled on the last site of the lake. Although this one is almost on the north shore, its a peninsula, so catches sunrise, sunset, and sun throughout the day. Perfect!
This campsite had an interesting “bay” that we could paddle into and unload from. It was also beautiful and sandy, so it was a great swimming spot. The rest of the site was fairly rocky.
We set up both tents, had lunch, relaxed, and read. Before dinner, Shayn and I took out the canoe to try fishing. We paddled towards the Trout Lake portage and cast in the bay. I caught only lilly pads, but thought I felt my line jiggle once. It was fun if nothing else. After dinner, we watched the sun set and enjoyed s’mores around the campfire.
The plan today was a day trip to David Lake for lunch. After a breakfast of Ready Crisp bacon and OvaEasy freeze-dried eggs, we headed for the David Lake Portage. It was a beautiful, crystal clear morning. Although it was early, waves had whipped up in true Ralph Bice fashion.
We stuck to the shore line, in hopes of avoiding the worst waves. It quickly became obvious that the kayak was superior in these conditions. As I battled to keep us straight in the waves, my mom quickly out-stripped us in the kayak. As we rounded on the lake’s second island, we started to get true white caps and Shayn experienced the canoe cresting the waves.
The David Lake portage was incredibly difficult to find. We paddle past it and only discovered our mistake as we crossed a campsite on shore. We turned and hugged the shoreline; only noticing the portage when we were on top of it. The trees hang over the water, making it hard to find. The portage starts steep and than levels out. Shayn and my mom started out with the kayak and I was going to take the canoe across the 620m portage. I couldn’t find a balance going up hill with the canoe and the kayak was cumbersome, so we elected to leave the kayak behind. Shayn carried on with the canoe and we arrived on David Lake to find it empty. As it was fairly early for lunch, we decided to continue on to Mubwayaka Lake.
The Mubwayaka portage was short, so I was determined to successfully carry the canoe. We wanted to check out David river at the end of the lake. We passed the two unremarkable campsites on our way. David River started fairly wide, but after 15 minutes, all but ended at a beaver dam. As Shayn and my mom were paddling with me in the middle, we decided to shore up and switch up. My mom sat while Shayn and I paddled back for lunch on David Lake. Now facing the wind, it took us about an hour to get back to the portage. Fairly tired, we pushed on and stopped for lunch on David’s small island. The back of the site had a lovely big rock where we relaxed, made lunch, and read. The skies were cloudless, the water was sparkling, and we enjoyed the peace of having a lake to ourselves.
Around 3pm, we decided to make the trip back to Ralph Bice. A short paddle had us at the portage. On Ralph Bice the winds had changed, so we did not enjoy them at our backs. Instead we made the trip angling the canoe to avoid going broad side to the waves.
Back at camp, we had a taco dinner. The lovely sunset was viewed from rocks that sat high over the water. I saw fish jumping, so decided to make a few casts from shore, but came up with nothing. As the sun set, we stoked the campfire, enjoyed a few more s’mores, and turned in to a comfortably warm night for September.
At some point in the night, I heard the wind picking up. I remember thinking, before rolling over, that this would mean a difficult paddle in the morning.
Morning brought the first overcast day of the trip — a good one to leave! We had a leisurely breakfast and were packed up around 9am. Ralph Bice was windy, but not like the day before. We headed straight up the lake’s middle to cut down on time. In the wind, these big lakes make you feel like you are not moving! Slowly we made it down the lake. It was amazing to find everyone had cleared out a day earlier with only one other couple on the lake. They were occupying a site I had stayed at in my childhood. It has its own tiny island that we would swim to. Around this area, I saw a clearing on shore and upon checking the map, saw a small marsh that led to a lake. Although not on a route, it would be fun to explore another trip.
After approx. two hours, we arrived at the Hambone Lake portage. We passed a pair of older gentlemen heading into Ralph Bice. On the Hambone side, the lake was nearly flat. It is amazing the difference found between lakes in Algonquin. We saw a few more canoes heading for Daisy Lake. The portage into Magnetawan was easy as usual and we were back at the Access point in no time.
This was a lovely trip and I am glad we were able to share it with my mom. What a treat it was to have crystal clear skies. It was a beautiful trip and it was interesting to experience a different route from the same access, as a month earlier.
Check out our July Algonquin Trip Here: https://adventureboundblog.com/2014/08/30/algonquin-in-six-days-misty-timberwolf-mcintosh-and-moccasin-lakes-plus-many-more/