I woke up to the sound of raindrops hammering the tent fly. While my get-there-itis was suggesting I take down camp in the rain and get moving, my rational side won the battle that morning. I knew it was a shorter travel day, and so had the luxury of burrowing back into my sleeping bag to see if the weather improved. I decided I could hang out for a few hours and still have plenty of time to make Catfish that day. While I was happy to wait out the rain, breakfast couldn't wait – I was hungry! I'd set up a tarp the evening before and that morning it came in handy. After a walk through the wet brush to recover my bear barrel, I had a dry area to hang out and boil water. With a full stomach and a cup of coffee in my hand, I headed back to the tent to wait out the weather.
Waiting on the Weather
Leaving my Campsite on Red Pine Bay
Approaching the first portage of the day from Burntroot into Perley, I decided to quickly scout the rapids on the off chance I could run them. They looked entirely paddleable! The volume of water and force of the current, however, meant that striking a hidden rock could result in a badly damaged boat. I decided that saving ten minutes wasn’t worth the risk and returned to the portage. I stepped out onto shore and was quickly reminded that the bug jacket wasn’t optional equipment. I hastily pulled it out of a dry hatch and zipped it up. It was to remain on for the rest of the travel day. The trip down Perley and into the beginning of the Petawawa was uneventful. As I approached the next portage, 380m, and with thoughts of the last rapids still bouncing around in my head, I made a truly foolish decision. While I wasn't willing to risk running the rapids, knowing I was far from help if something went wrong, I decided to walk my kayak through them rather than take the portage. Not lining my kayak from the shore – there was no walkable shore – but literally wading down the rapids hanging onto the boat.
Wading the Rapids
In the end I succeeded with no major mishaps, but it took me three times longer than the portage would have as I carefully felt for footings in the current. Tired, wet and annoyed at myself for making such a poor choice, I travelled the remainder of the Petawawa in more traditional fashion, with no attempt to skip the remaining portages. At the end of the Pet I reached a split in the waterway. To the right was Sunfish Lake, which I would be passing through in a few days’ time. To the left, hidden around a few more bends, was Catfish. After a long glance to the right as if I could divine my future, I turned left and resumed paddling.
Catfish Lake was as beautiful as I had hoped. It probably didn't hurt that after an entire day of overcast skies, the sun made an appearance just as the Catfish opened up before me. Open water and windy weather allowed me to take off my head netting for the first time since I left Burntroot. At the recommendation of a fellow Algonquin Adventures forum poster, the campsite on Shangri La Island was my hoped-for destination. While my map suggested Shangri La could be cockroach infested, I figured I’d take my chances if it was available. As I paddled closer to the island I could understand the recommendation: a massive, sloping slab of Canadian Shield, with a view of more than half the compass. And as luck would have it, it was mine for the taking!
Walking from the waterline to the firepit area of Shangri La felt like an uphill portage, but knowing this was my home for the next three nights, a first for me in Algonquin, I was practically floating up with my gear. On a typical solo trip I'm on the move every day, but I was very much looking forward to putting down roots, especially with such a gorgeous campsite under me.
Shangri La Island, Catfish Lake
The skies finished clearing, the wind kept the bugs at bay, and I was had a peaceful late afternoon and evening of sunning, swimming, and relaxing in paradise.