I have to confess: I am a complete campsite snob. I live my life by constantly looking on the bright side of things, although when it comes down to picking a campsite, I never settle for less – unless I absolutely have to because someone else has stolen the perfect campsite that I had been drooling over for weeks. I always get over it but it’s an intense mental struggle when I initially discover that someone has already settled camp on the special site with the best view of the sunset, the perfect Canadian shield rock outcrop, and the beautiful pines towering over the shoreline.
So it’s May 2-4 weekend, 2013. The water in Algonquin Park is far from swimmable due to the fact that the ice left merely 3-4 weeks ago. The bloodsucking bugs are just beginning to get nasty. What do we have to lose in trying out a campsite that doesn’t meet my unfair expectations? And that’s exactly what we did. I went ahead and booked two nights on a tiny little lake (my wife corrected me in calling it a “pond”) not too far from Access Point #2 in Algonquin Park – the Tim River Access Point.
The lake is called “Papukeewis”, just about 2 kilometres south of Tim Lake. The beauty of the site is that it’s the only one on the lake so the privacy is great. Without going too far into the park, it feels like a “wild” site because there aren’t any other sites on the nearby lakes. On top of that, Papukeewis isn’t on a popular route that connects to other lakes so we never saw anyone go by our site while we were camping there. The lake itself is also home to some extremely active beavers. We heard splashing and all kinds of animal activity during the night – quite creepy but still very cool! We also saw 2 beavers (I was lucky enough to snap a photo of one). And the other huge bonus: the most incredible chorus of frogs that I have ever heard. The frogs started singing at around 7pm and continued until around 2am-3am in the morning. They were so loud at some points I thought my ears were ringing the same way they do at rock concerts.
Drawbacks of the site – depending on how you look at it, there are three unmaintained portages to get down to Papukeewis, a steep 295m portage, followed by a very picturesque 490m portage, and an average 300m portage. Tim Lake had a lot of people on it for the May 2-4 weekend, but with every portage south to Papukeewis you could really feel yourself getting further and further from civilization. That was a really cool feeling. Also, Papukeewis Lake is not pretty at all. It’s more like a glorified bog. We were more careful than necessary with the water by filtering it and then boiling it. Luckily there was plenty of firewood everywhere – probably because of the time of season and location of the site – so we had some solid bonfires.
Did I mention that we saw 4 moose? We saw one on the way into the park on the Saturday (our first day). We did a day trip on Sunday and saw three other moose on the Tim River enroute to Rosebary Lake – where we ate lunch. For the camera nerds out there – I bought a Canon extender for this trip specifically with the intention of getting some decent moose pics. The extender provides me with a maximum of 400mm focal length when mounted on the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. Although you lose a little bit of image quality and a couple of F-stops, the investment definitely paid off. The moose got easily spooked by us and we weren’t able to get that close at all. It’s kind of hilarious and cute that such big fearsome creatures are utterly terrified of humans. Every moose would retreat anxiously into the woods like the feral cats you see sometimes around the city. On our last day (Monday) we slept in, had an afternoon campfire at our Papukeewis site, packed up/portaged out, and then spent a couple of hours on the toe site of the Tim River island before heading back to the access point. According to the map the “toe” of the island is a campsite although there wasn’t an actual campsite sign on the site. I’m assuming that the site has been closed for maintenance since there are a couple of massive trees that have fallen near the firepit area.
Nevertheless, the Tim Lake toe site made for an excellent last lunch and Andrea even jumped in for a brief 30 second dip – twice! It was hard to leave but the whole trip made for a fantastic weekend. We didn’t cover nearly the same amount of ground that we did with our other massive Opeongo kayak expedition although it was a great way to experience the young spring season. After that experience I have to say that the spring bugs honestly aren’t that bad if you are 100% prepared for them. Wear a net when necessary, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised when the bugs go away throughout the day for various reasons (wind picks up, night falls, you’re around the fire, etc.)
Until next time, I’ll be dreaming about my next trip into the wild woods!
Map depicts route. Day 1, red line: from access point to campsite on Papukeewis Lake. Day 2, lime green line: day trip to Rosebary Lake and then back to Papukeewis. Map used under the Creative Commons license from Jeff’s Map.