For years we talked about staying on Canoe Lake in Massassauga Provincial Park. We would often stop and walk the portage between Spider Lake and Canoe Lake. You can only see a small part of the lake from the put-in, so the rest of the lake remained a mystery. It is a very pretty portage, fairly flat and it starts with a small beach landing on the Spider Lake side. Finally we booked it for three nights with our long time friends and paddling partners.
Because of the pandemic we each booked a site. We booked the two sites at the far end of the lake. When we booked in March we didn’t know if it would be safe to share a site. Last year we had to cancel a trip with them because of the pandemic, this way we knew we could go and have a visit with them even if things were still locked down.
We were watching the forecast leading up to the trip. It was calling for storms the day we were to booked to paddle in so we decided to wait and paddle in the next day. But after thinking about it a while my husband and I decided to go ahead even if it meant not paddling in with our friends. We had new waterproof packs so no worries – right? We also decided that we would rather deal with rain than doing the Spider Lake portage on a Friday when it would be very busy. Our dog hates people which slows us down a lot on a busy portage. Besides, how bad could the rain and storms be? This was our first trip in a year and we were anxious to get going. Why do rain and storms seem like a small inconvenience when you are at home and a big inconvenience when you are actually at the put-in. On the other hand, we have, more than once, stayed home or left a site early, only to regret the decision. The forecast is wrong as often as it is right. So we packed up and prepared to go.
The night before we were leaving a friend posted on Facebook that they had just survived a terrible storm coming off Georgian Bay. She was camped at Killbear. We were having some second thoughts. Note: more on storms in the post called Storms. This post details a storm we faced this same year.
Anyway, off we went. It pored rain on our entire drive to Perry Sound. At one point I started to laugh – I had left my rain gear hanging at the back door – how did I forget rain gear when it was raining as we were packing up? It is important to be able to laugh at yourself. With a quick Google search we found a Marks Work Wearhouse on the way. We stopped and I got a rain jacket and pants- on sale, a great colour. Great way to force yourself into buying new stuff.
We were very happy when the sun came out as we were checking in at Ostler Park. By the time we were unloading the car it was sunny and beautiful. We didn’t want to tell our friends just how nice it was, but they knew because they had been watching the forecast. Turns out waiting a day was just fine for them, it meant they didn’t need to rush their packing and could have a nice relaxing day getting ready. They left very early the next morning and had a lovely paddle in as well. We paddled out to meet them half way so we had a bit of time paddling and portaging with them.
As mentioned, our paddle in to Canoe Lake was actually beautiful, however, the portage not so much. The Canoe Lake put-in is always mucky, but never seemed too bad with the boardwalks available to get you through the worst of it, however, this was a very wet year. We found the last 1/3 of the portage was all water, mud and broken boards. The mud was so slippery my husband slid sideways on a hill while he had a canoe on his head. On his way down the canoe hit a tree which kept him from falling to the ground. The mosquitos were wild too! I had to stop and put bug spray on. Only my second time ever putting on spray during a portage. As we paddled away from the portage we talked about the time we saw a group paddling toward the Canoe Lake portage in the dark. They stopped to ask us directions. I would never want to do a portage in the dark, especially one I have never done before. This one would have been very dangerous in the dark.
Our site on Canoe Lake was #102 and got a “poor” rating but I loved it – my husband not so much. The view was amazing, the swimming pretty good, the trees huge, the tent pad was high and dry and flat. Although, it is important to note that there is really only one good tent site. The site is rocky, small and overgrown and there is a rock path across a wet area between the site and the KYBO. If you stepped off the wiggly rocks you got a wet foot, it happened, but I still thought it was fun. Our dog loved crossing on the rocks, I guess he likes a little adventure as well. The site is also near a portage, something we usually avoid, but luckily this was a very quiet portage. We only saw one group crossing the portage the whole time we were there.
We were close to our friends’ site #103 but a long way from the other site on the lake (#101) which is very close to the portage. Site 101 looks like a really nice site but it wouldn’t get any sunshine. I prefer sites with a bit of sun. The proximity of our two sites (102 and 103) was perfect, however, it would be a problem if you had bad neighbours. The two sites are so close our friends son had no trouble swimming between them.
Site #103 was very open, great swimming and they got the afternoon sun. I would pick that one over the one we stayed at – only for the better swimming and the sightlines. It was a bit of a climb to the KYBO but not bad. Even though it was open, flat tent sites were not as plentiful as it would seem.
Canoe Lake is a very small lake but the shoreline is pretty and we saw a lot of flowers. There is a small creek that leads into ‘Mud Lake’ but we could not see a way through and it looks like the lake didn’t open up for a long way. It is likely accessible for people who are more adventurous than us. Having a wiggly canoe dog also complicates things. We also discovered a small creek flowing into Canoe Lake that we hadn’t even noticed earlier when we paddled past. It flows out of Jack Lake.
One day we walked the portage to Georgian Bay. The put-in at Georgian Bay (Squirrels Cove) is next to private land and the bay has lots of boats, jet-skis, dogs and cottages. Hard to believe how close we were to all that activity but our site was still pretty quiet. The portage is short but very steep and there were some trees down. We also noticed the dreaded Gypsy Moth eggs on many of the trees.
We had a lot of rain one afternoon and evening – a real downpour. We realized the error of having two sites – you can’t visit when it is raining. We were thankful for our tarp but it didn’t do much when the wind blew. Luckily we had one night visiting with our friends at a campfire before the rain came in. We had lots of laughs and ate lots of brownies and marshmallows. Watching them paddle back to their site at night was magical and for them, an added adventure – with some additional laughs.
On the way out on the last day the portage was even more of a challenge because of all the rain. We just decided to walk through the mud. It was much easier than trying to stay clean and dry. We are also aware that the alternative is to walk on high ground on tree roots, likely not ideal for the trees.
I was telling our friends about seeing a family on a Chinoguchi River portage. The son was about 19, and the mom was sitting at the end of the portage reading while her son and husband went back to get a second load. So my friend said he was going to wait while his 16 year old son went back to pick up the final load. Guess he liked my story.