Antostogan Loop, July 31 – August 3, 2015 (Leader – Tony L.)
Prior to the trip, I reserved group campsites which are only available for 10 campers or more. The campsite reservation fee of $30 is charged in addition to the daily camping fee for each person. The group campsites guarantee a large site with good landing capacity with at least 7 good tent sites.
It should be noted that if the group size falls below 10 people, the $30 reservation fee is lost and the group must compete with other groups to find a large enough site not already occupied.
There are a lot of camp sites, with beaches or islands, on the Antostogan loop, but only one with 4 tent sites, most having only 3 tent sites or less. With our group of 10, we needed 6 tent sites. Not having reserved sites, we would have had to split up for camping into two groups, with lots of logistical challenges.
The camp sites I reserved were: R 11-118, a short 5 km. paddle from Le Domaine, good site, open to the dominant wind, but poor swimming; R 11-48 at the bottom of Lake Antostogan – a large site with a nice beach but weedy and difficult to get good water (11-55 would probably have been better); and R 11-99 after the last portage – good access to water for drinking, and good swimming.
Travel from Ottawa to Le Domaine is about 220 kilometers, not 180 as suggested by Google Maps, which only calculates to the entry to the park where the Quebec government office. The minimum time for the drive is 3 hours.
Fishing licences are available from the government Office but they are expensive for non- residents. One of our members bought a fishing license at the entry to the park and then a fishing permit for the park at Le Domaine for one day – an expensive purchase. Five members of the group shared the cost, although the license/permit is individual.
Launching from the beach at le Domaine is easy from a nice beach, although subject to the prevailing wind. After paying the camping fees, everybody must make sure to register their cars. Many of us wanted to change clothes before and after the trip, but change facilities (with showers, toilets and wash basins) are limited to the main bathroom building located near the Park Office.
With loading, logistics of departure, travel time, arrival, registration, unloading the canoes and grabbing lunch before we launched, we did not get away from Le Domaine until after 2 p.m. It would have been better to leave Ottawa by 8:30 on Friday morning.
The first challenge of the trip was canoeing on the Lac Péré with fully loaded canoes. The lake is very shallow and wide. For example, there is no swimming off the beach at Le Domaine for at least 200 metres from shore until the water gets more than waist high. Large waves, often cross-winds influenced by a wide lake with many islands, can make canoeing on this lake very difficult.
Most of the group taking a break on the water
We got caught in a significant thunderstorm, about an hour out of Le Domaine. The storm suddenly swept across the lake, forcing us to take cover, unfortunately on a very thickly wooded island. The only available camp site was about 1 km away. Landing on such an island, with some of us tripping and getting bruised, was perhaps not the best choice. But our group rose to the challenge, putting up a tarp to protect us from the rain.
After the storm abated a bit with the thunder in the distance, we resumed paddling, racing a bit to our reserved campsite (11-118) on the southernmost tip of an island. The campsite was difficult to find and we arrived later than anticipated. With the storm, and the many islands on the lake, we had a bit of trouble finding the campsite. Each canoe was provided with a laminated photocopy of the main map, but the scale of the map and the rapidly varying terrain of the shoreline makes landmarks difficult to find. Map reading and orienteering was a challenge throughout the trip.
The second day, we left camp site at 8:30 in order to have enough time to paddle 15.5 km and get to our next reserved camp site (11-48) by mid-afternoon. Heading due west, we came to the headland with the campsites (10-75) on our left, and (10-75) on our right to find the portage out of Lac Péré diagonally along the shore from the headland with (10-75).
The portage (180m) is quite steep climbing 100 metres before going into the small lake Lac Choisel. If slippery, the portage can be quite tricky.
Keeping to the far right, through a narrows, and then left on this next small lake, is the next portage of 330m, flat and fairly easy. Coming out of this portage, the channel is quite narrow and the water shallow. It was difficult to navigate through tall grass and water plants for about ½ km until breaking out into Lac Antostogan itself.
The lake is quite narrow with islands in the middle. We decided to avoid the 50m portage going down the west side of the lake. We followed the shoreline on the eastside but if you do this it is easy to miss the narrow passage on the west shore between the island and a headland. A similar predicament presented itself about 1 km later. Canoeists should hug the west shore to find the next narrow passage on their right. After that, we followed the east shore to find our camp site, (11-48) with a protected beach, in a wonderful pine forest, but near a deciduous marsh, so there were many mosquitoes at night and early in the morning.
We had worked hard on that Saturday, covering our nearly 15K well, all of us deserving a Sunday relaxed morning. Some slept in, rocked by the quite strong wind in the trees. Others left to fish early that morning, but no fish for breakfast. Some of us sat on the beach, slept and read. We had an incredible 3-course meal for lunch, gradually and somewhat sleepily getting away from the camp site just before 2, thinking that we only had to travel for 2 hour for about 7K, but I had forgotten how difficult the portages were.
Navigation is tricky in La Verendrye; we did not hug the east shore and missed the headland to turn north and paddled an extra kilometer by mistake. We ended up paddling 2 extra km and finding the route with a lot of consultation!
The next portage (265m) was tricky with the landing for the portage being on the left of the main stream, but some current still going to the left as well, with little space for 5 canoes. As well, there is a 2 foot ledge at the beginning of the portage, making unloading difficult on slippery rocks, and with congestion implications. At the end of the portage, all canoes should be facing downstream to easily use the continuing current in the river to get away from the portage landing.
The final two portages are relatively easy, the latter with a significant ledge. It is somewhat annoying that the two portages are so close together.
It was nearly 6 p.m. when we reached our next camp site (11-99), quite late, partly because of the extra 2 km in Lac Antostogan, but also because of the portage difficulties, especially with a large group. We should have calculated at least 3.5 hours from the bottom of Lac Antostogan back into Lac Péré (about 7 km with 3 portages).
The return trip to Le Domaine across Lac Péré was uneventful with early morning relative calm. After cleaning up and changing clothes we headed to the Lachapelle restaurant (819)-467-5568 on the highway from Gracefield before Kaz for a good home-cooked warm meal.
As discussed during our debriefing at the restaurant, highlights of the trip included:
The excellent team work putting up, and taking down the tarps at every camp site. (It rained every night and most days during the trip, but stayed warm.)
The way in which some individuals were super helpful in supporting the group and helping others with unique challenges.
The tremendous cooperation among all members of the group in the preparation of meals, clean up, pot scrubbing and other tasks, including map reading.
The great camp sites.
The excellent way that the Club`s camp two-burner stove worked (tested before the trip), with several back up stoves.
The conscientious effort of group members who set up hand washing stations at each site.
Various acrobatics during the trip.
Appreciation to a group member who provided a gravity-fed water filter for drinking water during the whole trip. (We all agreed to chip in $0.50 a day towards filter replacement.)
Friendships that started or developed during the trip
Thanks for being well-fed with great meals.
Jerzy and Tony
All photographs provided by Helen R. and Marie-Reine F.