Posts Tagged ‘algonquin’

Called on Account of Rain

We were sitting at the end of a 2600m portage from Polly Lake into Canisbay.  What had been a steady rain all day suddenly turned into a deluge.  The last of our dry clothes were quickly becoming saturated.  The water was sneaking its way in, wicking up from the bottoms of our long johns and the cuffs of our sleeves.  I gave up trying to hold on to my last dry shirt when a stream of water poured in from off of my hood; a cold gush of water running down my front and pooling at my stomach.  Zach started a round of “put up your hand if…”.  Put up your hand if you wish you could eat some real food.  Put up your hand if you wish you were dry. Put up your hand if you wish you could sleep in your bed.  It was an eight year olds plea to be done, and as I looked around at the hands in the air, I knew that we were all ready to go home.

With the decision made, we sat huddled underneath our canoes turned makeshift shelters to wait out the thunder and lightning.  We watched as great torrents of water washed the dirt down the portage and out into the lake creating a growing cloud of red earth in the black water. When a break finally came, we hustled our way across the lake.  We dug hard, chasing one section of black sky while being chased by another.  We fought to keep ourselves under the one small patch of blue sky that we’d seen in days.  We’d barely reached the shore when the second system hit with a boom and a great downpour of water quickly created pools and waves up and down the beach.  We were done.  We were going home.

low water levels expose rock obstacles

my foot day two

Let me tell you a little bit about what started as a three week, but ended as a two week canoe trip in Algonquin Park.  We experienced some of the most extreme tripping conditions that I’ve ever seen.  Tremendously dry weather prior to our arrival saw a fire ban put in place.  The lack of rain caused the lowest water levels that I have ever seen in the park and turned the creeks into a mix of thick mud and exposed rock.  It was very difficult paddling and in some places required impromptu portaging, dragging, pushing and liftovers of the boats.  It made for very slow and arduous travel and required lots of sterning finesse.  While at times frustrating, it felt kind of awesome working our way through the puzzles.  As friends and family saw us off, we were assured that if we couldn’t have a good old campfire, at least the lack of rain would see little or no mosquitos.  That  was not the case.  At least as the weather turned bad the bites were isolated to my hands and face as the rest of me was covered with a raincoat and pants.

The joke between Fraser and I before we left was that following the recent drought, the first three

rainbow

weeks of August were bound to set a record for rain and guess what… the two days before we called it quits saw more rain than the entire month of August usually does.  This was great for the park, but a soggy mess for us.  The rain began on our first day and only a couple of our days were dry.  The problem was that with a fire ban still in place it was tricky to dry ourselves out.  Mostly we just stayed damp.  With days starting early and ending late, there was very little time to hang out our clothes and gear and we often found ourselves setting up our tent under the tarp because it was still raining when we hit our site for the night.  Wrinkly toes were the norm.  When we heard that the fire ban had been lifted on day 11, we were thrilled!  I then proceeded to burn two holes in my pants and melt Fraser’s socks in an attempt to dry out.  Oops.

big water on Burntroot

I realize that this is sounding like a hellish trip.  It was not.  Algonquin is a gorgeous park in all weather.  The rain allowed for dramatic skies and even rainbows.  The kids loved that we brought along fishing rods and spent hours fishing the banks of our sites.  We got so deep into the park that there were nights when we were the only people on the entire lake.  We listened to the wolves howling at night and the loons calling across the water.  And the frogs!  There were thousands of them.  They were EVERYWHERE and we all love catching frogs.  The highlights of the trip?  We did indeed manage to find the abandoned alligator on Burntroot as well as the remains of the Barnet Depot Farm.  The water on Burntroot was huge with whitecaps and a headwind, but we all managed the paddle beautifully and it was sunny that day so spirits were high.  I also celebrated doing my first 1000m+ portage carrying a canoe without putting it down and then proceeded to smash that by doing a 2200m!  High-fives all around.  We found a moose skull complete with antlers at the end of a portage.  Very cool.  The boys did an AMAZING job.  Their packs were so heavy that I could barely dead lift them high enough to help put them on.  They doubled-back every portage with us and never ever complained.  They pulled hard water in freezing rain, ate freeze-dried dinners huddled under a tarp, played cards by headlamp in a tent getting pushed around by wind and pelted by rain, all the while smiling and laughing and joking.  They are so hardcore it brings a tear to my eye.

alligator

So the trip was not what we had planned.  We are disappointed in not having finished our intended route, but we are not disappointed in ourselves.  We had a wonderful trip full of unforgettable moments and found an inner strength and determination not yet tested to these limits.  Will this experience discourage us in any way from going back?  Just try to stop us.

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Last Minute Late Nights

It happens every trip.  We think that we’re prepared but we find ourselves up into the wee hours putting together the last-minute details.  Yes we’re still adding to our packs and we are supposed to hit the road in seven hours.  Just par for the course.  Sleepy starts…

As long as I’m up, I thought I’d share what our packs weighed in at for our Algonquin Park 20 day canoe trip launch:

Food barrel #1 – 59lbs

Food barrel #2 – 32lbs

Dry bag #1 – 35lbs

Dry bag #2 (Zach’s pack) – 21lbs

Luke’s pack – 31lbs

Day pack – 15lbs

Canoe #1 – 51lbs

Canoe #2 – 61lbs

We will be carrying (at least to start) 305lbs of gear, food and boats…plus pfd’s, 5 paddles and the fresh food that hasn’t found its way from the fridge into a barrel yet.  No small feat.  It’s going to be hard, but it’s going to be wonderful.  If you’d like to follow our progress, check out our SPOT page to watch our progress real-time and follow my tweets on our Facebook page too.  See you in a few weeks!

 

The Escape Route – Algonquin Park July 30-Aug 18 2012

Ahhh. It’s almost time to make our escape. The dogs of work and responsibility are nipping at our heels but I can almost taste the sweetness of freedom.  Here is our escape route:

Put-in at Kioshkokwi L.  P775

Maple Creek  P190, P90, P630, P805, P130

Maple L.  P170

Erables L.  P660, P90, P695

Skuce L.  P450

Little Nadine L.  P955

Little Osler L.  P700

Osler L.  P1830

Nadine L.  P1410

Nipissing River  P850, P1930

Remona L.  P480

Whiskeyjack L.  P25

Robinson L. P1310

Burntroot L.  P75, P40

Longer L.  P300

Big Trout L.  P105, P730

Otterslide Creek  P265, P390, P250

Otterslide L.

Little Otterslide L.  P790

Burnt Island L.

Birdie L.  P160

Alder L.  P2105

Iris L.  P875

Linda L.  P930

Polly L.  P2600

Canisbay L.  P585

Cache L.  P1640

Head L.  P1035

Harness L.  P145

Pardee L.  P10

Lawrence L.  P415

Rod and Gun L.  P510

Lake Louisa  P1725

Florence L.

Frank L.  P320

Rence L.

Harry L.

Welcome L.  P2170, P295

Pen L.  P275

Clydegate L.  P275

Pen L.  P375

Rock L.  P100

Galeairy L.

Take-out at Whitney

If that seems like a long route, it’s because it is. We will be traveling approximately 105km, be doing 49 portages, passing through 39 lakes with the four of us and two canoes over the course of 20 days. There are some small changes that we might make on the fly in order to travel through a couple of extra lakes, but either way it’s going to be an amazing trip! And we’re going to see some parts of Algonquin that we never have before. The only problem with a fabulous extended trip in the park is the part where we have to come home again.

The Biggest Adventure – Kids

So you’re on the fence about having kids.  You’re not sure if you’re ready to give up the lifestyle to which you are accustomed.  You haven’t ticked off all of the trips that you wanted to take down before you settled down. You trip endlessly and you’re good.  Some would call you hardcore.  You shrug it off as no big thing but you secretly tuck those accolades away, pulling them out and rolling them around in your head when you need a boost.  I’m here to tell you that bringing little ones into the fold will only increase your enjoyment and your achievements, not to mention your street cred.  I know this from personal experience.  My favourite tripping partners are my husband Fraser and our kids, Luke 11, and Zach 8.  They make everything more fun and I honestly can’t remember how I entertained myself before they came along.  The soundtrack to my life is one filled with laughter, commentary and endless inquiries.

What is better than coming to the end of a 3k portage without losing my lunch?  Watching my kids complete the same trek with fully loaded packs all the while chatting non-stop about every leaf, snail and rock that they pass.  I marvel at their strength, passion and attitudes.  Relative to their size, they are hauling as much as I am.  Their faces are flush and little beads of sweat form on their upper lips.  The breathing comes hard…for all of us.  It’s difficult, but there is no complaining, just pride in accomplishing what others believed was too difficult, beyond their capabilities.  And I don’t often have to wonder what they are thinking because they share their thoughts freely and without filters.  They are not like other tripping partners…they trust me completely and care about me as much, if not more, than themselves and I reciprocate the sentiment. There are no egos and no competition, just encouragement and a hand up when necessary.

The gift of seeing the world through their eyes is one that I wouldn’t trade for all the first ascents and records in the world.  The truth is we get out far more often now that we have kids than we ever did before.  Their enthusiasm to climb higher, hike farther and paddle longer drives us to attempt ever more ambitious adventures.  This summer saw us hike Pukaskwa’s Coastal Hiking Trail, a grueling seven day slog through some dauntingly rough terrain that had us crossing suspension bridges, wading through ice-cold rivers and sharing beaches with the local black bear population.  And if that weren’t enough, we will follow up this trip with a three-week canoe expedition dissecting the entire maintained length of Algonquin Provincial Park from north to south.

The accolades will still come.  People are even more impressed with what you’ve accomplished when they find out that your progeny were by your side from launch to take-out.  The thing is you won’t need their praise anymore.  You have the best motivation there is…your kids.

Obstacles = Success on Algonquin Hike

The boys are back from their hike in Algonquin Provincial Park. It was a resounding success. While Zach seemed to find the first section tiring, his enthusiasm was reignited when the hiking got MORE difficult! Luke also found that what they referred to on the trip as “obstacles” made the hiking more interesting and took their minds off of their pack loads. Deadfall on the trail, uphills and giant mud puddles traversed by balancing on logs were far more fun than the boring old straight aways.

The weather was perfect and the report back from Fraser was that the gear we have set the boys up with worked perfectly. Zach rocked his new Deuter Fox 30 backpack and Luke took along his trusty MEC Big Squeeze. Both boys were in new hiking boots as well. While they’ve been breaking in them in for a while now, this was the first real hike that they were tested out on and there were no complaints. Luke sported Keen Targhee II Mid’s and Zach’s Timberland’s provided blister free comfortable feet.

With our longest and most challenging hike to date just short of three weeks away, my mind is now at ease that our boys are well prepared and looking forward to the fun. And there won’t be any lack of obstacles in Pukaskwa, the terrain will be one challenge after another. So obstacles beware, we’re coming to get ya!

Now THAT’S an obstacle!

Stone Cold Crazy

As you know, our family booked a yurt up in Killarney with visions of skiing and snowshoeing dancing in our heads. I checked the weather almost hourly in the weeks leading up to our departure. When one website would show a disappointing forecast, I’d bounce to another one. Alas, they all read the same…warm and rainy. Boo.
Much to my delight on the 26th of December, it finally forecasted some snow. My hopes were reignited. Only a few days to go and the white stuff was a happy possibility.

Killarney December 31, 2011

Well things don’t always go as planned. As it turns out, Killarney got a small dusting of snow, turning the landscape picturesque. It was not however, enough snow to go snowshoeing or skiing, and the ice wasn’t even thick enough to support a snowball tossed onto its lacy surface let alone a midnight skate. It did make for a beautiful hike along the La Cloche trail with a stop for lunch perched on the edge of a beaver lodge. Lunch with some beavers? I’ll take it. The yurt was warm and the company was fabulous. All in all, it was the best New Year’s Eve ever.

lunching at the lodge

The second part of my story goes like this. Winter has finally come. A couple of weeks late for our last trip, but as luck would have it, just in time for hubby’s next one. After his weekly hockey game tonight Fraser was filling me in on his plans for a trip to Algonquin leaving first thing Monday morning. He was talking gear, as he often does, and which sleeping bag and clothes he would be toting along. I asked if he’d been checking the weather reports, as I’d stopped my hourly updates after we’d returned from Killarney. He took out his phone and clicked on the weather site, I craned over his shoulder for a peek and burst out laughing. The verdict? -22 at night Saturday and Sunday. I admit that it will be warmer on Monday, but I still couldn’t stop the giggles. THERE was the cold weather I’d been wishing for, but he won’t be in a cozy yurt. Nope, he and his pal will be roughing it open air. Do not consider me jealous. I come from hardy stock, but the thought of -22 is not appealing to me. I told him to take lots of pictures and I promise to share some with you upon his return. I’m sure he’ll have some stories to tell.

ice on George Lake, Killarney

With that, I hope everyone out there is warm and cozy. I know I will be grateful come early next week when the kidlets and I are playing board games by the fireplace, thinking of Fraser enjoying all that a winter in Ontario has to throw at him. And I hope that you all will be thankful for your own cozy beds when the mercury drops. Sleep tight!

Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?

I’m afraid that I’m going to incur the wrath of some with this next statement… I’m so glad that the summer has come to a close.

A gorgeous drive home from Algonquin

Summers can be hectic times.  Schedules are all thrown out of whack.  The kids are off from school and the house becomes a giant clubhouse filled with stinky boys and all of their toys.  And the heat! My god I hate the heat.  My time of year is Fall.  I’m in my element in the Fall.  It must come as no surprise then, that my favourite time of the year for tripping is upon us.  Cozy fleece jackets and bug free nights around a warm fire.  Hot chocolate and frosty mornings.  I’ve been checking out the Fall leaf report for Algonquin, and the leaves they are a changin’.  Break out the calendar, it’s time to start counting down the days to our annual September trip to Algonquin, ye ha!

The view from our canoe access site September 2010 – Algonquin

Next weekend we are heading up for a fun-filled get-away in the park.  We are going to canoe in to a site on Rock Lake for a night and then paddle over to the other side of the lake the next day to meet up with some of Fraser’s family including his folks.  It couldn’t be more convenient.  Rock Lake has both canoe access and car access so visitors of all skill levels and interest can enjoy it together.  It’s become a tradition.  It’s a nice laid back affair with some solitude to launch the trip and family and friends to wrap it up.  Fraser’s mom and dad always cook up a storm and I’m looking forward to bacon and eggs and fried mushrooms and steaks and homemade jam and pies and I’m bringing s’more fixings.  It’s going to be a blast.

Even Lambie needs a sweater in September – Algonquin

So what makes “shoulder” season tripping different from summer trips?  The weather of course.  The thermometer may say 10c but it feels much cooler when it was 30c just last week.  Bring warm clothes, a warm sleeping bag and if possible, plan for cooked meals and hot drinks.  Once a chill sets in, it’s hard to warm up your body and you want to be comfortable.  Also, only the bravest of souls will be

swimming for entertainment, so plan to spend your days participating in other activities.  How about hiking, leaf collecting, art projects, photo shoots, reading…eating?  Personally, I like to take up some yarn and knit up a small project.  I’ve already got a bunch of lovely knitted items named for the parks that they were made in.  I plan on making an Algonquin leaf scarf on this trip.  I swear I’m a lot cooler than I come off in this post!

The Saroyan Scarf – photo and pattern by Liz Abinante http://www.feministy.com

My point is this… Don’t put away your paddles just yet.  Canoeing season isn’t over until the ice is on the lake.  In fact, we have plans to squeeze in another trip to the park before it’s time to trade in our pfd’s for skis.  Stay tuned.

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