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September 19-22, 2009

Day 3

9:30pm, Sunday Sept 28, Cedar Lake

What a busy day - phew. Martin told me to write that.

But in fact, we slept in - til 6:30. We were on the water by 8:10, under blue skies (again) and a gentle wind in our faces.

We had decided to do the short route and I think that was a right decision. To do all those extra kilometres of paddling - with only one PFD - would have been too much work, too much risk, a couple of long days and camping by flashlight.

But that meant today was mostly about portages. Algonquin’s detractors often complain that many of its canoe routes are a “long walk in the woods with canoes.” This morning’s route did little to contradict that assertion.

First up was 1945m from Hogan to Manta (big hill as we go from the Little Mad watershed to the Petawawa?), a half kilometre paddle, then 750m portage into Newt Lake, a 100m paddle then 1105m portage into Sunfish Lake.

For someone who’s not done a lot of portaging - like none - Martin’s bearing up extremely well. He carried the boat and the pack on the 1945m portage and is unflappable about all of this muddy, wet feet and sore shoulder business.

Our wildcard today was the stretch from Sunfish to where the Petawawa drains into Catfish Lake. On the map it’s about a 2km length of creek. But what’s that mean? Nothing. Could take all day.

As it happens, it was fine. Hard to locate the creek entry through the reeds, but clear, wide and relatively straight. Eminently navigable. We met a guy paddling a solo whitewater boat, complete with spray skirt and carbon fibre bent shaft paddle.

He was kinda going the wrong way for rapids and did that American paddling thing where you change hands and sides every time you start heading the wrong way. Whatever floats yer boat, I suppose.

So easy was the route to Catfish that we arrived around 11:30am. We paddled up Catfish - a beautiful lake - and had lunch around 12:30 after making a half-hearted attempt to find the alligator remains. Does anyone have a waypoint they could send me?

We decided we would try to make it to Cedar today. It would give Martin time to deal with family issues, me time to deal with mess issues and it would mean crossing Cedar first thing in the morning which would be a lot safer in our under-PFD’ed state than mid morning, especially since prevailing winds would have us crossing with the waves hitting us on the side.

Of course it meant we had a bit more work to do.

The afternoon’s portages were pretty gentle if lengthy. From Catfish, to Narrowbag Lake, to the Petawawa and down to Cedar was more than 3km all-in, including a 2345m. Mostly downhill, but still a fair bit of carrying.

Today was the warmest of the trip. We were paddling in shirtsleeves.

We found ourselves on Cedar at 3:30pm. We headed west in search of a south shore campsite, paddling past the Nippissing River delta before finding one. Note: drop the packs and take the scenic trail to check out the falls on the 695m to Cedar. It’s probably worth it. We didn’t and I regret that.

Our site had bugs and newly planted two-ply Trilliums, and no kitchen furniture (benches or big flat rock for the stove) but it meant I could finally justify bringing out the thermarest chairs, so I was happy.

The bugs never actually got bad as the evening wore on.

The chili worked out well enough given that it was a total experiment. I brought a bit too much TVP and didn't add some extra carrots, but it came together well enough and again - three nights running are you impressed? - there was enough to fill two bellies without leftovers.

And we still had some scotch left, so we sat up, watched the stars, listened to loons until around 9:30 when the tent beckoned.

And there were beavers. A few actually. The first non-trained mammal sighting of the trip.

It’s meant to rain tomorrow. I’m skeptical/optimistic as the air is still and the sky cloudless.

Portage sign: You can miss them if you're not careful.

Portage sign

Petawawa: Petawawa River, where it empties into Cedar Lake

Petawawa

Loading up: Almost done with the portages. Note the shirt sleeves.

Loading up