I felt like a traitor as we rolled into the Kearney permit office. Which was made even worse as I walked in and the girl at the desk exclaimed ” oh wow haven’t seen you in a while”. We used to spend a lot of time on Algonquin’s west side but the last few years we’ve been paddling further and further north. Her next statement made me smirk she said “I hope you have reservations cause everything is booked” . It was the beginning of the long weekend, what was I doing in one of Ontario’s busiest parks. I grinned and replied that I doubted anyone would be camping where I was headed. Sure enough an hour later my canoe hit the water at the Tim River access point and I paddled out, my destination for the day would be a campsite just east of Grassy Lake on the Nipissing River a river which I would have all to myself for the next three days.
The morning went by in a flash Tim River into Tim Lake. Then a quick series of portages and small lakes. Chi-Bia-Bos, Indian Pipe, West Ko-Ko and Big Bob. At the end of the last portage from Big Bob to the Nipissing my biggest fear was confirmed. The put in was dry. Not just low water but no water! I had to walk my gear anther few hundred meters through mud, over a log and down into a low lying field till I could find enough water to put my canoe in. My stomach sunk a little as I stated out at the Nipissing and saw only aquatic vegetation and muddy shoreline. I had known that water levels would be down, but this was really low.
My quick progression was instantly slowed as I creeped along getting stuck on floating mats of vegetation and everything else that resided on the bottom of the river. Saving grace being the absolute lack of people. The portages are grown over, campsites fairly pristine, thunder boxes empty. Smalls signs of people seen here and there but all in all an amazing place to get away from the masses in Algonquin. The amount of wildlife is astounding as well. The first few hours on the Nip had me passing by fifteen moose and almost the same amount of otters. Beaver activity seemed to be at an all time high. I lost count of all the dams as I hopped out and pulled my boat over each one. It was these dams which were allowing me to continue paddling though. The joy of not hitting my paddle against the bottom was something I experienced very little of on day one and the pools created by these dams were life savers. The last obstacle before Grassy Lake is a winding section of alders which reach out from the bank trying to grab everything in their path. Twisting and turning along the shoreline they slow your travel considerably. But just when you feel like they will finally reach out and pull you in, the scenery changes. Grassy shores pop up and the river deepens. I stood up in the canoe to peer over the banks and could see the calm flats surface of Grassy Lake, I’d made it. I could tell by the sun that it was getting late, I was hungry and tired that was for certain. I hit shore , quickly made a small dinner. Set my bivy up and was out like a light by 7:30.
This first section of the Nipissing had it’s challenges. Low water being the main one. But as I stated above it is one of the most private and gorgeous areas , I feel, in Algonquin.
Tomorrow day two and deeper water!