Algonquin Park 2009: Another Three Days On the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail

Algonquin Provincial Park. 7630 square kilometers of natural wonders that include huge bodies of water held back by 10 foot high beaver dams, wind swept trees on lonely islands, beautiful lake views, and twisting hilly tiring trails. This and so much more awaits the weekend tripper in the interior, and the intrepid deep back-country explorer.

I fall into the immediate weekend tripper category with reluctance, but not with regret, because three days in Algonquin is much better then no time there at all.

My friends Tom and Ann booked our trip over a month ago. It would be Ann’s first time out to the park and we wanted to show her last years beautiful Little Hardy Lake. That however, would not be the case this year, as the site was booked. Therefore we all decided on the East side of Maggie Lake for the first night, and the South side of Maple Leaf Lake on the second night.

Maggie Lake is a fair sized lake about 13 km into the park, and has about 10 campsites, not including the canoe campsites. Maple Leaf Lake is about 1/3 the size of Maggie, 4 km into the park, and has 10 campsites.

We left on the 1st of August at 8 AM sharp. The weather was forecasted to be sunny for the day, with a 60% chance of rain on Sunday, and 40% chance of showers on Monday. We were prepared for what could be a wet weekend. That being said, the say started out promising, with sunny warm weather.

We got to the park around 1030, and after a length wait in line, we obtained our camping voucher, took a couple of pictures, and headed off to the trail entrance.

Picking up our permits

Picking up our permits

 Parking was a little difficult. Some inconsiderate meat-head took up 3 parking spaces, and the rest of the lot was pretty full already. We managed though, got our gear together, took a few more pictures, and headed off at 11 AM.

 The Trail starts off at a nice level elevation, giving us time to get accustomed to the weight of the packs, and get into a rhythm. About 5 minutes in, the trail splits. We took the West trail heading to Maggie Lake.

From the split, the trail starts to incline upwards, though not too steep, it is steady and long. The hills are mostly gradual climbs and descents, though there is the occasional steep section.

About half way to Maple Leaf Lake, we encountered a very large beaver dam. It was beside the trail in a little gully. The dam itself was about 10-12’ high, and about 40’ across. We climbed up the hill beside the trail, and the water was right up to the top of the dam. It was an impressive amount of water being held back, and a testament to the ingenuity of animals and their ability to alter their natural environments to meet their needs.

(Click on the pictures to enlarge)

Pushing on, we passed Maple Leaf Lake around 1 PM, and I ran out of water shortly after. Unfortunately, you have to wait until you get to Little Hardy River before having a good chance to get water. It was a long hike…

We arrived at Little Hardy River just before 3 PM. We refilled our water canteens, had a good 30 minute rest, ate a little, and headed off.

Little Hardy Lake was just around the corner. We were pleased to see it was just where we left it, and that some other campers were lucky to be enjoying the lake all to themselves.

We climbed Steep Rise Lake next, and the top of Steep Rise is well worth the effort. Soft pine needle laid trails flanked by tall trees, rocks filled with moss, and a steep drop down to the lake, await our visit. It’s beautiful up there, and it’s a great place to take 10 and rest up a little.

Pushing on, there are a couple of more hills to go down and up, and next thing you know, Maggie Lake is around the corner.

We arrived there at about 5 PM. We think we did pretty well. 13 kilometers in 6 hours, including about 1 hour in breaks, means we did that 13 km in about 5 hours! Considering how beat we were suggests either we are really out of shape (not a complete impossibility), or we really pushed ourselves to get there quickly. Regardless, we were there.

There were 2 campsites beside each other on the side trail we camped on. One of the sites was a complete dump. Campers had left a great deal of garbage strewn all over the place. Gloves, lumber, rope, pants, bottles, and even a roll of duct tape. It was disrespectful and disgusting. Our site was respectfully clean. The ground was beautifully soft, there was a small sandy beach, and the view was nice.

Dinner consisted of 3 packs of MEC beef stroganoff, bread, coffee, and a wee bit of whisky. Not so much as to inebriate ourselves and miss out on the park!

We did get a lot of wind that evening, and it did rain for about 15 minutes. Not a big deal. It was nice, though someone on the lake was playing music until 1 in the morning. Incidentally, we went to bed around 10, and apparently we all lay awake in our separate tents until 1 am until we all discovered we were up! It was a little comical, though none of us slept well that night unfortunately.

We got up around 7 AM. Ann and I packed up right away, and Tom soon followed. It was then that Tom and I discovered our injuries from the previous day’s hike. Tom slightly pulled a muscle on his inner thigh, and I did something to my knee that made me cringe in agony with every descending step (though not ascending, oddly enough- and I’m still hurting from it). That being said, there was nothing we could do about that but take a few Tylenols, pack up, and head off. And head off we did.

We left Maggie Lake on the 2nd, at approximately 10 AM. The weather was over cast and we hoped to get to Maple Leaf before it rained. The 4 hour hike from Maggie to Maple Leaf went by quickly and painfully enough. But things really started to pick up from there.

Just before we arrived at Maple Leaf Lake, we found out that the weather was taking a turn for the better. The skies were clearing, and no more rain was forecasted. We took the first side trail into Maple Leaf, and after passing a few campsites, we found ours.

Tom thinks that Angels must have camped at our site the night before. It was beautiful and stunning. The site was just off the trail, backed by tall, mostly coniferous trees, with a healthy dose of deciduous. The lake-front was covered in rock that slid down about 15’ to the lake and down into it’s gorgeous depths. And there was Beer….

Someone left us, (yes, us) 2 tall cans of Beer!

Tom didn’t believe me at first. I was the first into the site and when I exclaimed that there was Beer, Tom thought I was being a fool, but then the look on his face was terrific as it went from disbelief to sheer pleasure.

This is certainly one of the best campsites we’ve been to, and we fully enjoyed the a day consisting of splitting firewood (already at the camp- not collected as per park regulations), swimming in warm water, lounging under trees in the sun, and of course enjoying our perfect camp fire in the evening. Dinner that evening consisted of chicken flavoured rice with chili and bread. It was an awesome meal that cost $10 in total for all 3 of us.

We had a full moon that illuminated the forest in a cool dark blue, though we still had a nice star filled sky. The ground was on the hard side, so I would recommend padding here.

Morning was cool and looked like it would rain, but that soon cleared up a little. We had our breakfast, packed up, and left at 1015 AM.

The trail leading out of Maple Leaf Lake is a little perplexing if you don’t possess any sense of direction or memory of the trail map. There are a few side trails that split off the main trail, but if you just keep the lake to your right and stay off the side trails, you’ll be fine.

There is a little boggy area that consists of walking across split logs. You have to watch your step as some of them our like a teeter-totter.

After leaving Maple Leaf Lake, there are just a few hills, mostly down hill, a couple of creek crossings, and next thing you know, you’re on the level path out to the parking lot. We arrived there at 1130 PM. 1.5 hours from Maple Leaf to the exit. Not bad for a 4 km hike in the woods.

So the rest isn’t too terribly interesting. A 4 hour drive (thanks to traffic) to Toronto to drop off Tom and Ann, and another 1.5 hours back to Alliston for me. It was a long drive, but well worth it.

I’d rate this camping trip an 8 out of 10. On the down side: my gear is old, heavy, and falling apart; there was too much garbage in the park; and campers playing music. On the good side: the weather held out; the camping was good; the food was plenty; the sites were terrific; and of course, the company was good!

I look forward to our next trip.

Feel free to contribute to the comment sections Tom and Ann.


N.b. I think a super computer must be needed for adding multiple pictures on WordPress, because it took hours. Adding all the captions was taking an enormous amount of time, so I just stopped doing it. You’ll note that I also grouped all the pictures together into one gallery, as opposed to placing the pictures in context with my comments. That too was taking too much time. WordPress can be quite frustratingly slow, and I’m having ongoing format issues.

I’ve also tried to edit a photo in the gallery where I perplexingly switched “damn” with “dam”… Oh well. However WordPress is indeed geared to the written word, because trying to access the photo in the gallery is worse then getting a tooth filling. It bogs my computer right down. So I’ll live with the error for now.


6 Responses to “Algonquin Park 2009: Another Three Days On the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail”

  1. patrickivan Says:

    It was a lot of work, but I was able to make some of the changes to the picture captions.

  2. PiterJankovich Says:

    My name is Piter Jankovich. oOnly want to tell, that your blog is really cool
    And want to ask you: is this blog your hobby?
    P.S. Sorry for my bad english

  3. Andrew Says:

    Great blog. My friends and I made it to North Maggie in 5 hours total including breaks, but we were keeping a fast pace. We had problem with music. The people turned it up as the night went on. We also noticed garbage on the trail the second day, but we have our suspects. Overall the trip was great other then the rIn on the way out.

    Keep posting!

    • patrickivan Says:

      Thanks for the positive feedback!

      I’m sorry to hear about the music. I don’t get why people have to be so inconsiderate. And the garbage… All we can do is pick up what little we can along the way if possible.


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