Sunday, April 22, 2012

Review: Bartlett / Tom Thompson Lakes, Algonquin Interior

Fantastic site on Bartlett Lake
Location: A day's paddle north of Canoe Lake put-in (which is 60 km E of Huntsville on Highway 60)
Website: Friends of Algonquin Ontario Parks
Map: Canoe Routes Map Google Maps
Camping Facilities: Backcountry exclusively
Grade: A-
Stargazing: Excellent.
Summary: A quiet corner along one of Algonquin's busiest routes

Thoughts: I showed up at Canoe Lake on a weekday at the end of July to find myself a suitable solo trip.  I had been hoping to get a site on Tom Thompson or Little Doe, but to my surprise, everything was booked.  The only available site was on Bartlett Lake, just off of Thompson.  The park attendant assured me this was a good way to go; not only was it secluded, but it also had some really nice sites (the one in particular he suggested I aim for was on a point and it was large and secluded - you can see it in the photos below immediately left of the name "Bartlett" on the online map provided above.
Lonely gull on Bartlett Lake
Seeing as this was only my 3rd ever solo trip (and I was still having nightmares about my first, when my muscles seized up on my first night after a hard paddle against the wind), I was a bit nervous about some of the more open parts of the trip.  In the end, the worries were needless, and the trip was pretty smooth.

Sailers from Camp Arowhon on Teepee Lake
 I suggest you do your best to get to the Canoe Lake put-in as early as possible; it is a very popular lake, especially with newbies and motorboats, so it can be a bit of a fiasco.  The line-up to pull your canoe out of the portage to Joe Lake probably took longer than the act of portaging itself (a minuscule 300 m).  Then you make your way up Joe to Teepee, which hosts camp Arowhon (there were lots of kids out puttering around in their laser sailboats).  Try to get to the western shore as soon as you've passed the bay, it was useful as a windscreen.  After Teepee, the paddle is pretty easy when you're solo, not much in the way of big water to really let the wind pick up speed.  You'll come to a lift-over, which can be a bit tricky when paddling solo, but totally manageable.  It was on the other side of this lift over that I came across a moose grazing in the lily pads on my way back out (see video below).   The paddle across the bottom end of Thompson is pretty easy, not much of an opportunity for the wind to bother you.  Then once you arrive in Bartlett, you're not only sheltered from the wind but all the canoe traffic in this busy part of the park as well.  During my two night stay here, I might have seen half a dozen canoes roll by (perhaps on their way to Sunbeam Lake or Burnt Island Lake.  Bartlett feels like a refuge within the refuge, a great place to relax, enjoy the water and get some reading done.   

Moose on Tom Thompson
My trip to Bartlett was also the first time I've ever fallen out of my canoe.  I've got a Watson Canoe Prospector, 15 ft, and what I thought was a sufficient tumblehome to keep me vertical when I leaned into my strokes in the centre of the canoe; turns out I was wrong on that count.  Even with the calm, peaceful waters of Bartlett Lake, I found myself in the drink on my paddle to harvest a fallen pine on the other side of the lake. Not Bartlett's fault, purely me being too ambitious in getting to know my canoe.  

In summary, a great solo paddle trip, giving you a sense of seclusion and a relatively smooth paddle if the wind cooperates.  And even if it doesn't, there aren't that many opportunities for it to bother you.  

1 comment:

  1. I'm going to stay on Bartlett Lake in May/June 2013. I visited that lake in 2007 and 2010; I hope to get the same campsite as well as see a lot of moose. Thanks for sharing your experience!