A Few Days in Algonquin 9/16 – Opeongo and Hailstorm Creek

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September 24, 2016 by Doug Webster


No matter how old we get, the Laurentian Highlands just keeps calling us back.  Bogie and Swanick are two alumni who make it a point to get back to Algonquin as often as possible, and that includes annual trips to the Park.

This summer, Bogie sent me a note asking if I wanted to join him for his annual campout at the Rock Lake campgrounds along Highway 60 inside the park.  He brings up a large tent or his trailer and spends a couple of weeks just relaxing and enjoying the peace and quiet of the Park in the Fall.

Back in 2013, Bogie, Larry Rublee and I made the pilgrimage to Rock Lake and the story of that trip, the year before the 2014 Dorset Alumni Reunion can be found here.

I was having a busy fall, but really wanted to make the trip, so I called Bogie and said, “You know what I really have been wanting to do for a long time….go up to the upper end of Opeongo Lake and camp there for a few days and explore over to the west into the large bog at Hailstorm Creek.”

Opeongo Lake – We traveled to the North Arm
at the tip of the point across from the entry to Hailstorm Creek, shown in white in the upper left quadrant of the map.

Bogie’s response…”Funny thing…I was thinking exactly the same idea.”  Must have been fate, so I told him I would get up there and let’s do it.  (Larry had hoped to join us again this year, but as fate had it, a large summer rainstorm and wind dropped a tree on the roof of his Maryland house, requiring that he stay home to oversee the extensive repairs needed.)

Bogie headed north from Buffalo with his trailer on Sunday the 11th of September, towing his trailer overnight to Dorset where he parked and hung out all day Monday and overnight.  On Tuesday he drove on to the Park and reserved a spot in the Rock Lake campground.

During that period, Bogie was able to get together with another Otter alum….Peter Hitchcock. Peter was in the area with a friend and they were planning a fishing trip of several days on Kawagama, but stayed at Bunny Hollo along Lake of Bays and were able to get together with Bogie.

I set out early Tuesday morning from home near Pittsburgh and after a long 10 hours of driving, including a brief stop in Dorset, got to the campground late afternoon.  We camped out in his trailer Tuesday night…it rained a bit, but by morning skies were clearing and it looked like some good weather ahead.

We organized our gear…tents and sleeping bags and food, much of which I had bought to bring up including some freeze dried meals, breakfast oatmeal and cocoa and lots of PB&J.

We loaded my car with the gear and set out for Opeongo, arriving there in the early afternoon and renting a canoe and reserving space on the lake water taxi to take us to the North Arm of the Lake.  (Opeongo is nearly 15 miles long and can get rough quickly if the wind picks up, so we decided we could make better use of our time than slogging back and forth…given our advancing age, a good choice.)

Opeongo Store

Opeongo Store

Easy to take lots of stuff for comfort when you know you won't be portaging

Easy to take lots of stuff for comfort when you know you won’t be portaging

Geezer guys ready for a swift boat ride up Opeongo

Geezer guys ready for a swift boat ride up Opeongo – Doug Webster and Jim Boguslawski

We loaded our gear and rented aluminum canoe on the water taxi and sped north…a roughly 25 minute ride, arriving at an open campsite across the bay from the entrance to Hailstorm Creek around 3 in the afternoon.  We set up our tents and organized our gear.

Area of our North Arm campsite

Area of our North Arm campsite

Tents set up and gear stored

Tents set up and gear stored

Then, while Bogie took a brief afternoon nap, I took our canoe and paddled over to the entrance to the Creek on the far side of the Bay.  The approach, as usual, involved a lot of winding shallow waterways framed by fields of lily pads and care was needed to avoid running the canoe onto floating beds of vegetation, raised to the surface by gas bubbles formed in the mat of roots and leaves that made up many of the lily pad beds.

Lots of lily pad bogs en route to the creek

Lots of lily pad bogs en route to the creek

Mats of vegetation raised to the surface by gas bubbles..don't try and paddle through them.

Mats of vegetation raised to the surface by gas bubbles..don’t try and paddle through them.

Beaver lodge

Beaver lodge

I got up as far as a substantial beaver dam across a narrows and took pictures and videos before turning back and paddling home for dinner.

Beaver dam blocks the creek and raises water levels behind

Beaver dam blocks the creek and raises water levels behind

The beavers used everything they could lay their paws on for this substantial structure.

The beavers used everything they could lay their paws on for this substantial structure.

We had a nice campfire at our site and cooked dinner (lasagna, soup and crackers).

Preparing dinner. The campsite had a nice log and plywood board surface to work from.

Preparing dinner. The campsite had a nice log and plywood board surface to work from.

As night fell, we were ready for bed, so settled in for the night.  Bogie awoke the next morning complaining of the cold and said he hadn’t been able to sleep well.  I was quite comfortable however.

We had a nice breakfast and hung our gear to air out in the sunshine.  We then took the canoe and headed back to Hailstorm Creek to see if we could get further back into the boggy creek beyond the beaver dam and hopefully see some wildlife including a moose… if we were lucky.

Hailstorm Creek Drainage

Hailstorm Creek Drainage

Great Blue Heron looking for a meal as it walks across clumps of vegetation and lily pads.

Great Blue Heron looking for a meal as it walks across clumps of vegetation and lily pads.

We paddled deep into the bog behind the beaver dam, hoping to see more signs of wildlife. We did see ducks and young swimming in groups, but alas, no sign of the much desired moose, despite the fact that the drainage is ideal for them in terms of food and shelter.

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We returned to the campsite at mid afternoon and enjoyed another great supper and campfire.  While we did not see any moose, we were graced by the presence of a surprisingly tame rabbit at the campsite

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…and some very aggressive mice and chipmunks who had to be firmly ordered to get out of our food sacks lying on the makeshift table where we were cooking.  They did manage to chew a hole in a bag of chocolates, but we hung everything from a tree at night and had no further problems.

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We must have been exhausted…both of us slept nearly 12 hours…very restful sleep with a full moon shining over the lake.

In the morning, we awoke to find mist rising off the water

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We had deliberately scheduled the return water taxi for late in the afternoon to give us another solid day on Opeongo and enjoyed the warm sunshine and the quiet.

Beauty is all around you if you look carefully:

This fungus was growing on one of the big logs of our cooking area and it seemed to be sweating moisture...the sun made the drops sparkle

This fungus was growing on one of the big logs of our cooking area and it seemed to be sweating moisture…the sun made the drops sparkle

A small clump of mossy growth on the ground near the woods

A small clump of mossy growth on the ground near the woods

Bogie tends the campfire as we use up the last of our wood

Bogie tends the campfire as we use up the last of our wood

Doug tends the fire.

Doug tends the fire.

After lunch we began packing our gear and taking it down to the small beach near the campsite in readiness for the return of the water taxi.  It showed up at 4:29 PM and we were quickly loaded. (In one of those strokes of coincidence, there were two other men already in the boat who had just been picked up and it turns out both were from suburban Pittsburgh…one of them the town adjacent to Doug’s home in Monroeville.  Also joining us were a young couple from Lyon, France.

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The guy in the distant red kayak, we learned, was from Germany…works for GE Electrical Systems in the railroad division and was in Canada on business, so took a few days for a solo trip around Opeongo and a few adjacent lakes.  The Park is very popular with Europeans.

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Within the hour we were back at the Opeongo store, loaded my car with our gear and headed into Whitney for a delicious meal at The Musher Restaurant on the Madawaska River.  We then returned to Rock Lake in the dark, used their handy shower facilities to remove the grime of a few days in the woods, and then went back to Bogie’s trailer to unload things and head for bed.

It started raining overnight and since the forecast called for a full day of rain, I decided to change my plans to stay another day, and after a great breakfast of bacon and eggs cooked on the trailer stove, I finished packing my stuff and headed homeward.  It was quite a drive….with over 10 hours on the road, over eight of it was in rain and in some cases rain so heavy that I had to slow down to a crawl and put my flashers on.  There were very strong thunderstorms south of Buffalo and reports of a tornado in western Pennsylvania, but I made it home safely by about 9 PM.

Bogie at this writing, still has a few more days at Rock Lake. He claims the Opeongo trip was his last canoe venture.  Somehow, I find that hard to believe.  Algonquin always calls you back.

In the meantime, we both hope we will see many of you at the next reunion, now set for July 15, 2017 at George and Barb Hills Walkers Yorkshore Hall facility near Buffalo.

And a final reminder….we welcome your stories about trips back to Algonquin, reunions with other alumni or updates.  Send them along to dweb23 at aol dot com and be sure and include any good pictures you have to go with them.

Also….if you are planning a trip to a given area, whether it be Algonquin, Buffalo or another region and want to try and arrange mini-reunions, Larry can be a resource for that.  Let him know and he can advise other alumni of your plans.  Sometimes it helps facilitate another reconnection.

Doug Webster/Jim Boguslawski September, 2016

 

One thought on “A Few Days in Algonquin 9/16 – Opeongo and Hailstorm Creek

  1. Chris Duchscherer says:

    Looks and sounds like a great trip. Thanks for sharing your story and pictures. You are a great story teller Doug!
    Chris Duchscherer

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