Wednesday, August 16, 2017


After a quick research, Catherine and I found a totally new area for camping & canoeing, just south of Algonquin Park, Ontario. A few phone calls later, we reserved a campsite on a small lake, 1.8 km from the parking lot.
Algonquin Park’s Wolf Den, at “Nan & Jack’s Cabin”, enjoying a glass of wine on the porch

We left Toronto on August 21, 2016, drove on highway 48 and then on 35, stopping briefly at the “Independent” store at highway 48 & Argyle Road (in 2000 Chris and I had stayed there in motel for three nights, but the building had been demolished a few years later to make way for the new stores), where we did our last minute shopping. When we arrived at the Herb Lake access point at 6:00 pm, it was very windy and we would have faced headwind, making our short paddle very tedious and long. Considering it was getting late, we decided to look for a different accommodation that night. We checked out a nearby motel, but it was rather crappy and cost $115 plus tax for the night.

We headed to Algonquin Park’s Wolf Den, where Catherine had stayed several times and loved it! The place was teaming with tourists—it was a Sunday evening—yet we were lucky: its French owner gave us an awesome cabin, which had just become available—having our own sleeping bags certainly helped. It had one bedroom, bathroom, porch, kitchen, BBQ and no TV set (hurrah!!!).

The cabin was called “Nan & Jack’s Cabin”, named after Jennifer’s (one of the owners) grandparents, who were passionate amateur naturalists. We quickly grilled fish & corn and later enjoyed a few glasses of red wine on the porch. The air was so fresh that we almost felt intoxicated (even before having the wine!). Later I listened to the news-it was the last day of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro… wow, I did not even know they had started! We slept like logs and in the morning got up refreshed and full of energy.

There were also several cabins on every side of highway 60, some new, some rustic as well as a number of rooms beneath the lodge at a cheaper rate. The kitchen was communal. Large groups tend to book on weekends. It was possible to walk to the Ragged Falls from and down to the Oxtongue River.

I wish we could have stayed longer at this awesome place and checked out all the other facilities, but we wanted take advantage of the good weather and paddle to our campsite as soon as possible.

Let me digress here for a moment. In September, 2010 Catherine and I had visited the community of Wilno in Ontario, the first and oldest Polish settlement in Canada. We stopped at a building housing the “Red Canoe Café” It was closed and there was a big “For Sale” sign. What immediately caught my attention was the real estate agent's photo and here her name, “Anastasia Kuzyk”. As there were still plenty of descendants of the original settlers from Poland living in the area, it was quite common to spot Polish surnames, albeit often distorted and anglicized. I took a photograph of the sign and later posted it in my Flickr album.
September, 2010
While relaxing in our cabin at Wolf’s Den, I picked the most current Algonquin Park Tabloid (such publications are annually published by parks) and in no time spotted the familiar face of Anastasia Kuzyk, the same one she used on her real estate sign and the following caption:

In Memory of a Dear Friend.

Anastasia Kuzyk shared her passion for nature and the outdoors, especially birds, with everyone who had the privilege of knowing her. Anastasia worked in Algonquin Park with the naturalist program between 1998 and 2001. We were deeply saddened and shocked by the news that she was unexpectedly taken from us on September 22nd, 2015. The Staff of the Algonquin Visitor Centre shares our deepest sympathy with the Kuzyk family.

Since she was only 36, I thought it must have been a car accident or cancer. Later I found out that her demise was much more tragic: she and two other women were murdered by a Basil Borutski near Wilno. The alleged murderer’s trail is scheduled to take place later in 2017. What a horrible tragedy…
Ready to depart to our campsite!

We were up at 9:00 am, packed up and left our lovely cabin, paying a quick visit to the Algonquin Outfitters store, where I purchased a map of the area as well as a can of a powerful bear spray. Then we headed to the town of Dorset and its famous Robinson’s General Store, where we bought water and some red wine in the nearby LCBO store, and again arrived at Herb Lake’s access point. Nobody else was there, so we leisurely unpacked the car and were on the water at 03:55 pm, arriving in less than 30 minutes at our campsite no. 87. It was very picturesque, located on a steep rocky peninsula. We circled the peninsula and docked the canoe on the other side, in a small bay. I quickly set up the tent and Catherine brought everything else from the canoe. The adjacent campsite (some 100 meters from us, on another peninsula) was vacant, so we could enjoy total privacy and solitude. It was the fifth anniversary of Jack Layton’s death (at that time he was the leader of the official opposition in Canada)—I remember that we had been camping on the French River on ‘Boomerang’ a.k.a. ‘Banana’ island when in the morning I heard the news of his passing. Time flies…
A very scenic 'parking' for our canoe!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016 was our first full day on Herb Lake. At 5:30 pm we canoed to the end of the lake and passed a family with a motorboat. We checked out from a distance the other campsites; the map that I had purchased at Algonquin Outfitters turned out to be very useful. We paddled into some beautiful back bays which remained us of Killarney Park. Three loons on the lake were making their special sounds—two adults and one baby. Sadly, our sunset paddle was disrupted by a very noisy motorboat which was just cruising on the lake just for fun. Later we had a great campfire and grilled excellent Polish sausages obtained from “Eddy’s Meat Market” in Mississauga. An adult couple with a dog stopped for a day excursion on the adjacent campsite 87A, but they (and the dog) were quiet. The next day a family moved to the nearby campsite, they had a motorboat, but thanks heavens, they were quiet!
A perfect spot at our campsite to enjoy our dinner--and admire sunsets!

On Thursday, August 25, 2016, we decided to paddle to the parking lot and then drive to Dorset, yet we were delaying our departure as both of us were engrossed in reading excellent books: Catherine was reading „Don't Let the Goats Eat the Loquat Trees: The Adventures of an American Surgeon in Nepal” by Thomas Hale and I was mesmerized by “The In-Between World of Vikram Lall” by M. G. Vassanji (later I read the other book as well). In the first book the author, a missionary surgeon, described his amazing experience in Nepal in the early 1970s, where he had to face numerous challenges and trials, including a very angry mob because he accidentally killed a sacred cow! The second book, which won the Scotiabank Giller Prize (deservingly, I must add!), was set in the 1950s-1970s in Kenya. By following Vikram Lall’ life, the author portrayed the country under the British rule, the violence of Mau Mau and finally its independence—and the enormous and brazen corruption of its black African leaders that became a norm. I guess not much has changed since then...
Fallen trees near the small fall, its root system totally exposed

By the way, having read the two books, I also read a book by John Grisham, “The Litigators”. I must admit that in the late 1990s I had read several books by this author, they were typical page turners… but I did not think they were afterwards very rewarding, I much preferred reading non-fiction. So, the first time in almost 20 years I again picked up a book by Grisham. I loved the first page of this book:

“The law firm of Finley & Figg referred to itself as a ‘boutique firm.” (…). Boutique, as in small, gifted, and expert in one specialized area. Boutique, as in pretty cool and chic, right down to the Frenchness of the word itself. Boutique, as in thoroughly happy to be small, selective and prosperous. Except for its size, it was none of these things. Finley & Figg’s scam was hustling injury cases (…). Profits were as elusive as status. The firm was small because it couldn’t afford to grow. It was selective only because no one wanted to work there, including the two men who owned it.”

Whereas it was yet another legal page-turner, reading it was quite relaxing, akin to going to the pub and having a pint of two of beer.
Our campsite in the morning

We quickly paddled to the parking lot, attached the canoe to the post and drove to Dorset, where we first stopped at the Library/Community Center, where Catherine spent probably 2 hours checking her abundant emails (I did not bother—for me vacation means no Internet, no cell phone). We also spoke for a while with a very charming employee of this establishment, Sue Penny. She was a very interesting and helpful person, who used to work at marketing for leading companies—it turned out that both of us had worked with Mr. Clive Minto—I had met him while working at Pepsi Cola’s Canadian head office in Toronto in 1985 (he was the company’s president), she at Canadian Tire, where he was one of its senior vice-presidents. She also told us that we could take a shower downstairs for a small fee. Of course, I spent a lot of time browsing the library books & magazines which were for sale and bought quite a few of them. Afterwards we went to Robinson’s General Store & LCBO, stocked on food, water and wine and ended up getting a huge ice cream at Zachary’s. We sat near the dock area and watched passing boats Later we walked over the bride to the Post Office, where I mailed my postcards. At 7:30pm we left for the parking lot and as we were pulling into the landing, a woman with a leashed dog and two boys were walking down the drive. We chatted with her while loading the canoe. There was a dog on the other side of the lake and it must have gotten quite curious about her dog, as it suddenly jumped into the water and swam over to us to meet & greet his new canine friend. Soon we paddled into the sunset and arrived at our campsite.

On Friday another couple paddled in and set up camp on the adjacent campsite, yet they were quiet. We enjoyed a delicious dinner of salad & corn topped off the evening, although the mosquitoes were hungry too.
Paddling in the morning mist

Since the weather report said the next morning would be foggy, we got up very early in the morning and spent 2 wonderful hours paddling in the mist-filled bays, it was magical! Initially we could hardly see anything; everything was enveloped in fog, only later it gradually dissipated. Once we were back at the campsite, we had breakfast, sat in our chairs, began reading… and fell asleep, only to be awaken by a flotilla of multi colored canoes which were HEARD long before they were SEEN, no doubt because their very inexperienced paddlers. We watched as they zigzagged to the group campsite about 1 km away—but not far enough! Well into the evening we could hear shouting. Later we paddled by and saw that they had set up a number of tents and were enjoying the swimming immensely.

We paddled to the nice site beyond where one lovely wood canoe was moored. The camper was having a final rip roaring fire before he told us he was departing due to rain forecast. A few hours later, at dusk, he did paddle by our site with a farewell wave. The adjacent site (87A) had also been vacated, so we were looking forward to a quiet evening. After a quick grill of steak and corn we were off for a good night rest.

Sunday, August 28, started out cloudy and it would have certainly been a good day to visit Huntsville. But the skies cleared and we decided it was best to wait till Monday. Catherine assumed that the Asian group would be leaving today and did not want to get wrapped up in any chaos at the landing—as well as we decided that the store hours might be better in Huntsville on Monday. We spent the day at our campsite, waving to day-trippers and mysterious canoeists who had portaged in from other lakes. It was changeable weather by only 40% prediction of rain. New campers occupied site 87A—we later saw them across the lake jumping off high rocks. We paddled back to the ‘waterfall’ (at the end of the lake), took several photos and listened to the 6:00 pm news. There was a beaver lodge and marauding ducks, as well as a fallen tall tree, whose huge root system had been totally dislodged and fully exposed. We were back at the campsite just in time to sit on sunset point for post-sunset libations, then had a tasty sausage & beans grill.

The next day we drove to Dorset in the afternoon and headed to the Library/Community Center, where Catherine checked her emails and I bought more books & movies. We also took showers ($2.50 each) and drove to Robinson’s General Store. Instead of buying just a few scoops of ice cream at “Zachary’s”, Catherine purchased a 1.5 l. container of ice cream at the store—a much better deal! After consuming it (and probably gaining enough calories to keep us going for the next few days), we drove to Huntsville, where we visited the Trading Post, Thrift Store, Dollarama and a Metro Community Garden.

 On the main street, I spotted an awesome larger-than-life bronze statue of Tom Thomson, unveiled in 2005. It depicts the artist painting an outdoor sketch in Algonquin Park, the paint box on his lap. A canoe sits alongside Tom Thomson a dedication on the canoe reads as follows:

To the Memory of Tom Thomson 1877 – 1917

An artist, woodsman, guide and dreamer, whose brilliant vision defined the Canadian wilderness and captured the majesty and many colourful moods of Algonquin Park.

We also went to the Deerhurst Resort where the 36th G8 summit was held on June 25-26, 2010 (its participants included Stephen Harper, Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, Dmitry Medvedev, David Cameron and Silvio Berlusconi) and drove back to Herb Lake. It was past 10:00 pm when we started paddling, in total darkness, save for the millions stars in the sky; because of the clear sky, we could admire them while on the water.

The next day we just spent most of the time at the campsite, reading and talking. In the evening we paddled by the waterfalls and talked to a camper.
Our rain shelter!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016. The day was cloudy and at 2:00 pm it started raining and soon we heard thunders and saw lighting, so we sat under the tarp and had a very tasty white borscht (Zurek). At 3:12 pm we saw a powerful, blinding lighting and just seconds later heard a deafening thunder; apparently, it must have struck very close to our campsite. We quickly sneaked into the tent and fell asleep, soothed by the pitter patter of the rain. We heard suspicious noises around the tent, but probably they were just caused by the rain. Our neighbors had just left before the rain started.
At the waterfall

August 31, 2016, Wednesday. In the morning we paddled to the parking lot where we met a family that had just left campsite #107—they had a beautiful hand-made wood canoe. The previous day lighting had hit a giant pine tree just meters from their tent (yes, the same one we saw and heard so distinctly!). They said that they were in the tent because of the rain, saw a flash and heard a big bang. Later they realized that the pine tree, some 40 feet long, was struck by lighting and exploded, scattering large and small pieces of wood around the campsite and the bay and leaving resin in the water. It was a miracle that nothing happened to them!
The campsite struck by lighting

We drove to Port Cunnington, visited a small cemetery and church—there were plenty of graves of people with the surname of “Cunnington”. We also visited a resort, saw a Tesla electric car and talked to the owner for a while, it was certainly a great conversation piece! We went to Robinson’s General Store, Catherine checked her emails in the community center and then had a bucket of ice cream from the store for just $2.99, as there was a long lineup to the ice cream parlor. I also picked plenty of mushrooms which I later dried over the fire.
Before paddling to our campsite, we also paddled to the campsite struck by lighting and found an very unique piece of wood chipped off by the lighting.

On Thursday, September 1, 2016, we packed up and paddled over to the parking. Before leaving, I spent a while collecting mushrooms which were plentiful. We drove to Minden, stopped at the library and picked up a few interesting books. Later we bought a grilled chicken, consumed in on the banks of the Gull River and walked along the river (Minden River Walk).

It was a very nice, relaxing trip and I am glad we also ‘discovered’ a new place to paddle!

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