Sometimes Mother Nature blesses you with the things you need most. A swift breeze and an occasional shower on Day 2 of our 5 day adventure south of Smoke Lake in Algonquin Provincial park, kept the bugs at bay for most of the day. After being serenaded to sleep by the buzz of a fleet of blood sucking bugs, we awoke refreshed and ready for another rather ambitious day on the water.
Breakfast, true to form, was a luxurious feed of bacon, eggs and fried potatoes. Sometimes hauling 50 pounds of food up a portage named Devils Staircase can have its upsides (this is what we told ourselves as we cursed all 590 meters of it). Fueled and ready to get out on the water (and away from the bugs), we turned our paddles on to power mode and hit the lake.
DAY 2: Big Porcupine Lake to Harness Lake
- Total Distance Paddled: 11.5 kms
- Total Portage Distance: 1.3 kms
- Total Lakes Crossed today: 5
- Total Portages today: 5
- Total times the Game of Thrones Theme Song was chanted: at least 20
Day 2 on the water, while having the most portages, was one of the best paddle days of the trip. The series of small, isolated lakes along the chain from Big Porcupine to Harness felt extra backcountry. There was a peacefulness on the water that only can come after two days of paddling this far away from reality. Birds were singing, frogs were croaking, turtles were sunning themselves on logs, bugs were buzzing and the loons were swimming along side of our canoe like we were one of them. It was pure Algonquin magic…the only thing missing was a moose sighting.
We didn’t see other humans once we left Porcupine until we arrived at Harness. The campsites we spotted along Phipps and Kirkwood lakes had us wishing we would have known in advance to plan a night here. Instead we settled to stop at one for a sweet picnic lunch of Buffalo Chicken Wraps (click for recipe) at a campsite at the far end of Kirkwood and enjoyed a generally bug-free lunch spot thanks to a stiff breeze.
The portages today felt easier, with most of our fresh food consumed and a few pounds of adult beverages emptied, our packs felt lighter and we had the rhythm of the portage locked in.
One of the bonuses of working a bit harder at getting off the grid, is having your selection of campsites on the lake when you arrive. We used some extra time before dinner to paddle around Harness lake and scope out the best sites. We selected one that not only had the best sunset viewing platform, but had a rather unique nature feature. We shall call this campsite: Summerfell. Complete with a wooden tree throne, it made for some hilarious photo opportunities. Lady Glynis and Lady Sarah of the house Summefell ruled this island campsite for the night and kept watch over the lake for invaders. Only the blood sucking variety of invaders threatened us that night.
But Seriously, this campsite was the best one on the lake. It boasted two camping and cooking areas, one for good weather, and one nestled back in the trees in case of foul weather. The only downside, is that this lake also has hike-in-only campsites for the highland trail backpacking loop. If you are looking for guaranteed solitude, consider stopping at Kirkwood instead of this lake. Harness will likely always have hikers sharing it with you.
We went to our local bar on the rocks and ordered up some queso rico, and a nice glass of cab sav. We special requested the most epic sunset, before enjoying a feed of our most favorite; backcountry wood fired pizzas. Life is Good.
It was certainly another epic day in the park. The red colors painted the sky as we said goodbye to another day. “Red sky at night, canoers delight,” I said to myself and smiled. Sometimes it takes trips like these to remind us of the joy and beauty in life’s more simple pleasures. This is what getting back to the basics is all about.
Stay Tuned for Part 3 of our Algonquin Adventures ! More bugs, food and misadventures await !
Harness Lake Reference Map: