Starting the Hike. Photo by Kelly Gray
This week’s featured geocache is GCG4RN – Algonquin Western Uplands. It was hidden on May 19, 2003 by Vexorg & Fallen Angel & company. It was later adopted by PitSauerland in 2008. The cache is a traditional and is considered a 2.5 Difficulty/1.5 Terrain. As of today (August 8, 2011) there has been 198 finds logged on the cache. You can drive up here (about 2.5 hours north of Toronto), or take the Park Bus from Toronto.
As you may have guessed by the name, the cache is located in the western part of Algonquin Provincial Park. To be more precise, the cache is located on the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail – a multi-day hiking trail. There are loops that range from 32 km to 88 km in length.
Since the cache was placed in 2003, it pre-dates the Ontario Parks physical geocache placement ban. Hopefully, this ban can be removed in the future, but for now it is very difficult to have a new physical cache approved (on Geocaching.com) inside a Provincial Park.
Since this geocache is placed in an Ontario Provincial Park, you must have a permit to visit the cache.
There are two ways you can visit, both start from the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail / Oxtongue River Picnic Area parking lot.
If you want a quick smiley, you will need a day pass from the park and you will have a short hike of about 1km total round trip. The cache is very close to the parking lot when accessing the trail system from Highway 60.
Chris-Mouse and one of the bridges on the 1st Loop. Photo by Gregory Pleau
Or, if you want an adventure, find this cache as part of an interior hike trip.
There are three major loops on the backpacking trail, starting at the Highway 60 access:
Start -> Maggie Lake -> Ramona Lake -> Start
This is also referred to as the “1st Loop”. The trip will take a minimum of three days. Follow the Blue blazes for this loop.
Start -> Pincher Lake -> Rainbow Lake -> Start
The “2nd Loop”. You’ll need about five days to visit this loop with your backpacking gear on. Once you get to the second loop intersect point, the trail blazes change to Yellow.
Start -> Islet Lake -> Loft Lake -> Start
This is a 6 day trip, and known as the “3rd Loop”. This loop uses red blazes to distinguish it. This is how I visited the cache, with Chris-Mouse
You can also take a few different versions as there is a “shortcut” trail between Otterpaw Lake and the Third Loop (Double Red Blazes), or you can cut across at Weed Lake. However you choose to visit, you will need to have your interior campsites booked, and a valid permit on your car (or it won’t be there when you get back!).
The trail can be rugged. Photo by Gregory Pleau.
Now the cache is at the start of the loop … so you can find it at the beginning of your hike, or the end of your hike. We did both – we signed in on July 25th and then signed in *again* on the 30th as we were exiting. This makes flipping through the logbook all the more enjoyable as you can see the before and after impressions of the visitors. Another alternative is to start in from Rain Lake and make this cache your halfway point.
The Western Uplands Backpacking Trail is a rugged trail that is not recommended for day hiking. If you decide to head on in anyway, make absolutely sure you know how to get back to your car. Once you get in a kilometre or so, cell service dies right off (though I did manage to get a signal on Maggie Lake, Loft Lake and Susan Lake). Getting lost inside this trail system is more than an inconvenience, it can become life or death.
You’ll climb rather large hills (I wouldn’t call them “mountains” but they are quite memorable with a pack on). There are at least two major “Lookout” points that are signed. You’ll cross wetlands, in fact thanks to the resident beaver population, you’ll probably cross more wetlands than you expect. A lot of the bridges are crumbling in the interior, and the trail gets overgrown in the summer. You have a good chance of seeing Moose, Deer, Bears, Beavers and more. I spied a Red-Tailed Hawk on Ishkady Lake.
Me And the cache. Photo by Kelly Gray
If you’re taking a GPS, make sure you also bring your map and compass. The trail is also included in the Ontario Trails Project, which is a handy reference for your hike. Plan your trip accordingly. While the sign at the entrance says 25km is “reasonable” I would be more inclined to say 12-14km is “reasonable” in the summer. In the winter you cannot ski this trail, or pull sleds so this would be a particular challenge that time of the year. Hiking this trail in autumn would be absolutely breathtaking, so I will be back in the future for an autumn hike.
Camping on Maggie Lake. Photo by Gregory Pleau
If you’d like to take a break from the 100 cache-a-day power trails, may I suggest taking up to a week for one cache.