Algonquin in Three Days: Magnetawan, Hambone, Daisy Lakes
We arrived at Algonquin Park on a crispy morning with a bright blue sky. I was looking forward to disconnecting and using the time to enjoy nature. I did not get to Algonquin the previous year, so this weekend was anticipated. After a busy summer of skydiving, a hectic work schedule and busy weekends, a weekend away was what I needed. No cellphone reception and relaxing by the lake sounded perfect!
We wanted to stay away from the increasing busy-ness of the HWY 60 corridor. We decided on the Magnetawan Lake access point with two nights on Daisy Lake. Although I have done this route before, I never stayed on Daisy Lake. We thought this would be great for a mother-daughter weekend. In the spirit of relaxation, we decided on an easier trip with fewer portages.
After getting our permits, we headed down the long road to Magnetawan. The dirt road was better than usual and we arrived to the lake around 10:15am. We paddled to sunny skies and low winds – a paddlers dream. It was surprisingly quiet for a Saturday morning in August.
We quickly reached at the 135m portage into Hambone, which was muddy but manageable as it is a well-worn portage. As we canoed across Hambone, we were surprised to find it had very few campers on it.
The water was so high, we were excited to skip the 55m portage into Acme pond. Luck and water was on our side because we navigated the small river to the right of the portage with little trouble.
Acme Pond was a quick windless paddle before beaching on the 420m portage into Daisy Lake. I remember this portage being relatively easy, but this year it was very muddy. This was also the longest portage I’ve ever carried a canoe on my own. I’ve travelled significantly longer portages, but this was a first with a canoe over my own head! Navigating through mud and trying not to slip made this portage take longer. It was a satisfying victory putting the canoe down in the river before entering Daisy Lake.
We had our hopes on the last campsite on the eastern side of the lake, but it was a Saturday, so we decided to check out all the sites on the way. The first two towards the Dolly Lake portage were bushy and unremarkable, but not terrible. The one before the island was a pretty rocky site, although with less tent spots. We almost stayed, but a rowdy group on the island convinced us to continue on.
The first island site looked nice, but the second was another unremarkable one. We had our fingers crossed as we paddled up Daisy. The campsite on the west shore was pleasant and we were prepared to stay, but to our excitement, the site we were hoping for was open.
The campsite is a little peninsula, so gets both the sunrise and sunset. It has a great fire pit and lots of tent spots. Overall a perfect spot to base camp and relax. Although it was August, the nights were around 7C, so we enjoyed the fire before turning in to get warm and read.
The evening before, some campers appeared across the narrow. Their voices carried easily, so we decided to explore down the river. We quickly arrived at the 135m portage that was usually easy, but it was slick with mud. We both enjoy paddling rivers, so continued on. We cruised down the river with the current and quickly came to the next portage.
We debated continuing on the river, but decided against it as we had to turn around to our campsite for the night. We crossed the 450m (another muddy one) on foot and enjoyed a lunch under the warm sun. After a rest we headed for home and to explore the falls on the previous portage.
The 135m portage has pretty little falls that would be good swimming on a warmer day. The water was high at the falls and we enjoyed exploring them before continuing on.
The afternoon and evening was enjoyed with a book, some wine and good company. Lying on the sunny rocks with the water glistening in the cool breeze was just the disconnection I was hoping for. Dinner was pasta cooked over the fire with s’mores for dessert. The evening was a bit warmer, so we stayed up and enjoyed the evening before turning in.
I awoke early and decided to watch the sunrise. A thick fog was hanging over the glass-like water. The sun rose and I could feel some warmth in the air. We enjoyed another egg breakfast before tearing down camp. We were off down Daisy Lake with a last glance at our lovely site.
It was surprising how many people moved in Sunday because the lake was now full. The 420m portage was already busy with people coming in for the week. This was surprising, but people must be taking advantage of the last week of August.
Our trip out was relatively easy, but the portages were quickly turning to traffic jams. The Hambone-Magnetewan portage was the worst with 5-6 canoes travelling in.
Overall the trip was lovely and just what I was hoping for. Algonquin has this way of putting the mind at ease. Fingers crossed that I will find more time for Algonquin next year.