Paddle In’s 12 days of Christmas
Day 3 : DJ McPhail Photography …… In the Kawartha Highlands…
When it comes to tripping partners DJ is world class. He’s a genuine riot to have on trips and as the years have progressed he’s become a good friend to the whole Paddle In crew. He’s a great paddler, an amazing photographer and an okay fisherman. We met DJ years ago when we started exploring the Kawartha Highlands and have been tripping together ever since. His passion for the outdoors is only outshone by his passion for photography which comes out in all his amazing nature shots. Those that know me know I love to laugh, a trip with DJ is a trip full of laughs and it’s hard to not have a smile on your face when you’re hanging out with this guy. He’s won my kids over, my wife and he’s even run the gauntlet that is tripping with my Dad, which is no easy task, and come out on top.
So head on over to his page and check out his photos. You will not be disappointed they are fantastic. And keep your eyes glued to our page for future trips and projects with this guy. If there was anyone who we would call an honorary member of Paddle In it’s DJ. So Merry Christmas DJ to you Jamie and Levi. Get your winter gear ready it’s time for another trip.
Day 2 “A view FROM my canoe”
Okay day two isn’t a person but a group. Our buddy Josh started up this page a little while ago and it’s grown into a pretty cool little page. The idea of the page is very simple. You can only post pictures which were taken from inside your canoe, no exception. Does that mean the page is just full of your typical bow shots? No way! The range of shots is pretty astounding and the calibre of photos are as well. If you like canoeing ( if you don’t why are you here 😬) and you like great photos make sure to sign up! With members from all over the world there are some pretty amazing “views” to be seen. Some come on over and join us.
Check them out here https://www.facebook.com/groups/viewfrommycanoe/
Paddle In’s 12 Days of Christmas!
Okay! Normally we talk about gifts around Christmas, this time we thought we’d shake it up a bit and spend the next twelve days telling you about some great Blogs/Companies/Organisations that are special to the Paddle In team. Most of whom have become great friends and who deserve all the recognition they can get.
Day 1 – Algonquin Basecamp
These guys are just the absolute best. I know you’ve seen us talk about them before but it’s true. The folks at Algonquin Basecamp have been fantastic to us over the years. From canoe rentals, to hot tent rentals, and everything thing else inbetween, they have everything you need to outfit a backcountry trip. They are located in Kearney right across from the permit office. Which makes it a no brainer that if you’re headed to the west side of the park you’ll have to stop in and say hi. Forgot a water bottle or need to pick up some freeze dried meals? They have a store loaded with all kinds of gear. Coming up to the park late? They have a wonderful lodge with all the amenities you’d need for a comfortable nights sleep before your big trip. We really can’t say enough about these guys and truthfully if you talk to anyone that has ever dealt with them you’ll hear the same thing.
Winter is here which means its time to dust off those snowshoes and head out for some winter camping. Make sure the first call you make this year is to Algonquin Basecamp and let them set you up with one of their snowtrekkers and anything else you’ll need for your trip. And to those of you who have expressed interest in winter tripping with us this year be assured that our first stop before heading in is always Algonquin Basecamp because it wouldn’t be a proper trip to Kearney without popping in.
So Happy Christmas to the whole gang at Algonquin Basecamp. Hope you guys have a great holiday, we’ll be seeing you soon. Maybe we’ll actually get Chris out on a trip this year.
There was no confusion as to where I was when I awoke around five a.m on day three. The sound of the Nipissing rushing past my bivy , over rocks and under logs and spilling into a dark inky pool just feet from where I lay, was unmistakable. I had mixed emotions as I packed up camp and started to boil water for breakfast. I was leaving the river and would spend the next few days portaging through a series of lakes. On one hand I was happy that I wouldn’t have to contend with water levels anymore ( or so I thought). On the other hand though I was really enjoying my time on the river. I still hadn’t seen a soul , it felt like my own private Algonquin.
So I sat in silent contemplation eating instant porridge. My thoughts soon changed from the river to my breakfast. Have they changed the recipe for porridge? I feel as if I loved it as a child. I can’t stand it anymore, honestly typing this is giving my the shivers. Written in my notebook here is “has porridge changed or have I” . I think that will help you understand a little more just what kind of mind set you can get into on a solo trip. But it has to be the porridge…Quaker is messing with me.
Bags packed and canoe on the shore I paddled out into the river. I had five portages on the docket for today starting and ending with the largest. Making quick work of the first 2 km portage which runs along Allens Rapids . Then paddling and winding along the river to pass Graham’s dam and spring camp. Along the spring camp portage a black bear spooked me . Now in reality the way he/she took off running I think I did the actual spooking. It was easy to see why he’d been here though blueberries and raspberries everywhere, I grabbed a few handfuls and left him to get back to his feast. Eventually I ended up at a 1300m portage that runs around High Falls. I stopped to filter water and have a snack. The sun was still beaming down, it hadn’t gone away in three days and with the lack of clouds in the sky it didn’t look like that would be changing anytime soon.
The portage is fairly straight forward and if you are ever in the area make sure to take the side trail and check out High Falls. Even with the low water the waterfall is a sight to behold. As you crest the top of a hill the sound of the water crashing hits your ears, the temperature changes and you can feel the power of the falls. I decided to have lunch here. I can only imagine what the falls are like when the water is up in the spring. As even now they turn that quiet lazy slinking river into a raging , frothing beast. I stayed longer than I should along the waterfall, eating cured meat and baked cheese. I could tell I was dragging my day out, I didn’t want to leave the river. I didn’t want to run into anyone. With these thoughts in my head I paddled away from the portage. A short while later the big bend in the river where it heads north towards Gauthier’s dam, and then east again to Cedar lake came into view. Along with that the yellow sign showing me the way to Remona lake. This was it, I would leave the river behind and trudge just under two kilometres to my camp for the night.
I’m not sure if it was the heat, my frame of mind , or just the rocks and hills, but this portage challenged me. I’d been fine all trip never stopping once. This time though I slowly leap frogged my gear along this quiet never ending trail, stopping and resting fairly frequently. I gave myself a small pep talk while sitting on a downed pine tree. Some of it was in my head but I vividly remember saying a few lines out loud which startled me as it was the first time I’d heard a human voice in a few days. With a smirk on my face I soldiered on down the portage. At the crest of a hill I saw the calm waters of Remona Lake. I made my way to the shore and looked around, I was still alone. Both campsites sat vacant. I loaded my gear , gathered some water from the centre of the lake and proceeded to my camp.
These three days I definitely did not feel like I had been missing out on anything. That changed instantly as I settled into bed. The haunting call of a pair of loons came drifting through the forest. They weren’t on my lake , but they were close. Such a staple sound on most camp trips I had not heard it along the river. So maybe leaving the river wasn’t as bad as I had made it out to be. I went over tomorrow’s paddle in my head as I lay in my bivy. It was a day of rest with very little travel. I closed my eyes and listened to the loons, hopefully I’d see them tomorrow so I could thank them for reminding me of the little things that make trips so good.
It was dark when I awoke. Dark and hot, where was I? Slowly the smell of decaying aquatic vegetation made its way to my nose, I was still on the river. It was just after five a.m, the temperature must of dropped in the night as I’d closed the clam shell to my bivy and pulled my sleeping bag on. It was so quiet. I made a bowl of instant porridge and went to sit by the river side. A bull moose was sprinting along the banks , I’m amazed at how quiet an animal that large can be when it wants to. I looked around, the sun was now pouring over the river, two other moose were busy having breakfast around Grassy lake. I had already seen more moose in under twenty four hours than I had in the last two years. I broke camp , which is small and takes just a few minutes, packed my canoe and headed of down the river.
The time spent on the Nipissing on day two has got to be some of the most fun I’ve had paddling in a while. The river was still low, but it had widened and deepened allowing much easier travel than the day before. I quickly made my way past Loon tail creek and down to my first portage. I had camped here three falls prior with a friend. You could barely see the campsite with the long grass and the grown in fire pit. I’m surprised more people don’t travel down here. Seven portages and a big stretch of the Nip is what I’d be traveling today. My destination was a site in Browse Creek Junction just before a two kilometre portage.
The Nipissing’s scenery is constantly changing. One minute you’re surrounded by alders, the next cruising beside giant white pines on the forest edge. My favourite though is the grassy sandy banks with just a few alders mixed in where muskrats and otters scurry along the banks. I’m transported back to my childhood and to one of my favourite books then, The wind in the willows. Each time I turn a corner I fully expect to see Mr.Toad or Mole paddling their small boat. My imagination has run wild this trip and I guess it’s a side effect of being solo and not seeing a single soul. I stopped for lunch on a large dead pine that was blocking the river. Though the river was wider and deeper there were still many dead falls and beaver dams to contend with but they allowed me to stretch my legs so I wasn’t complaining.
Walking the Portage past the Highview Rangers cabin definitely slowed me down. No it wasn’t terrain or bugs that did it. It was the sheer amount of wild blueberries along the side of the portage. Wow there were thousands! I couldn’t walk more than a few steps before my eyes would be drawn to the deep blue colour taunting me from the bushes. If I was a bear I would definitely live near this portage. Large open fields on one side a cool refreshing River on the other and enough blueberries and raspberries to last me all summer. Sure enough there was quite a bit of bear sign along the trail and try as I might to catch a glimpse, no animals were about as I made my way back and forth on the portage.
Back on the river I started to notice remnants of bridges, logs with nails ect and realized I was nearing my destination for the evening. The site is gorgeous nestled along the side of the river on a portage beside one of the biggest white pines I’ve ever seen. I set camp, made dinner, and then tried my luck fishing. An hour later and dozen or so brook trout later I was ready to crawl into my bivy and drift off. Tomorrow would be my last day on the Nip before hitting the lakes and I was excited to see what it had in store for me.
I felt like a traitor as we rolled into the Kearney permit office. Which was made even worse as I walked in and the girl at the desk exclaimed ” oh wow haven’t seen you in a while”. We used to spend a lot of time on Algonquin’s west side but the last few years we’ve been paddling further and further north. Her next statement made me smirk she said “I hope you have reservations cause everything is booked” . It was the beginning of the long weekend, what was I doing in one of Ontario’s busiest parks. I grinned and replied that I doubted anyone would be camping where I was headed. Sure enough an hour later my canoe hit the water at the Tim River access point and I paddled out, my destination for the day would be a campsite just east of Grassy Lake on the Nipissing River a river which I would have all to myself for the next three days.
The morning went by in a flash Tim River into Tim Lake. Then a quick series of portages and small lakes. Chi-Bia-Bos, Indian Pipe, West Ko-Ko and Big Bob. At the end of the last portage from Big Bob to the Nipissing my biggest fear was confirmed. The put in was dry. Not just low water but no water! I had to walk my gear anther few hundred meters through mud, over a log and down into a low lying field till I could find enough water to put my canoe in. My stomach sunk a little as I stated out at the Nipissing and saw only aquatic vegetation and muddy shoreline. I had known that water levels would be down, but this was really low.
My quick progression was instantly slowed as I creeped along getting stuck on floating mats of vegetation and everything else that resided on the bottom of the river. Saving grace being the absolute lack of people. The portages are grown over, campsites fairly pristine, thunder boxes empty. Smalls signs of people seen here and there but all in all an amazing place to get away from the masses in Algonquin. The amount of wildlife is astounding as well. The first few hours on the Nip had me passing by fifteen moose and almost the same amount of otters. Beaver activity seemed to be at an all time high. I lost count of all the dams as I hopped out and pulled my boat over each one. It was these dams which were allowing me to continue paddling though. The joy of not hitting my paddle against the bottom was something I experienced very little of on day one and the pools created by these dams were life savers. The last obstacle before Grassy Lake is a winding section of alders which reach out from the bank trying to grab everything in their path. Twisting and turning along the shoreline they slow your travel considerably. But just when you feel like they will finally reach out and pull you in, the scenery changes. Grassy shores pop up and the river deepens. I stood up in the canoe to peer over the banks and could see the calm flats surface of Grassy Lake, I’d made it. I could tell by the sun that it was getting late, I was hungry and tired that was for certain. I hit shore , quickly made a small dinner. Set my bivy up and was out like a light by 7:30.
This first section of the Nipissing had it’s challenges. Low water being the main one. But as I stated above it is one of the most private and gorgeous areas , I feel, in Algonquin.
Tomorrow day two and deeper water!
Let’s talk a little safety since we’re sitting here at the start of a long weekend. More importantly let’s talk specifically about the importance of leaving a trip itinerary with friends/family when you leave.
I have a decorative chalk board which hangs in the living room (yes it has a canoe on it) before I leave I write down when and where I’m headed, for how long , and where I’m supposed to be for each day of the trip. I then jot down the park number, or location of my parked car. Why do we do this? Simple, accidents can and will happen, setting up a system like this will allow your loved ones to have an idea of where you are and when you should be returning. So that if you don’t arrive at your destination at the end of your trip you have details on where you were supposed to be so a search can begin for you. You can work out a set date with a friend/family member about how long to wait after the determined return date to start looking. If you don’t have a chalk board that’s fine. Leave a note on the fridge, email your schedule to a friend, or etch it in stone tablets and place it in your garden. It doesn’t matter how you do it, just that you do.
Hope everyone has a great long weekend. Wear your PFD and keep the suds on the shore. Have fun and enjoy your outdoor experiences. Also if any of you are going to be in the Algonquin area over the next week or so let us know. I’ll be leaving Saturday on a solo trip from the Tim river access and ending it the following Thursday at Opeongo. As always it would be good to connect with anyone in the area.
Everyone seems to be posting pictures of their adventure dogs this week, so we figured we’d throw some photos of our guy up.
Whisky is an extremely important member of our team. What does he bring to the table you might ask. Well for starters he keeps all camp sites squirrel free, he has the ability to bring as much sand,dirt and water into the tent each night, he’s a big help in our “leave no trace” camping style as any snacks dropped by the kids are quickly devoured. But all joking aside he’s the best dog I’ve ever had in a canoe. Every once in a while he’ll peek his head over the gunnels and stare out at the water straining to see where the next portage is so he can stretch his legs. Other than that he can be found snoring at the front of the canoe or laying between my feet in the stern. He sleeps for as long as we are on the water. I sometimes forget that he’s even in the canoe with us. When he’s tired of being in the canoe or if he’s to lazy to join us for an evening of fishing, or for a quick day paddle. He’ll sit and watch us intently from the shore, ready to swim out and save us at any sign of trouble. The kids have noticed this and have taken to leaping out of the canoe when we/re headed back in so that Whisky can come and rescue them. Most importantly he never complains about portages, bugs, lack of fish, or how crappy the freeze dried meals are. He plods along with a huge smile on his face enjoying every minute of it.
I’ll be leaving my furry partner at home for my solo trip this week and I feel awful. He’s seen me get all my gear out and he gets very excited each time I head for the door. He knows what’s going on but unfortunately he doesn’t understand that he won’t be coming this time. But don’t worry Whisky we still have lots of trips planned this year. You’ll have plenty of time to kill evil sticks, chase fish, and clean dishes for us.
Quick post today as I’m headed out the door.
Our first stop was Gargantua Bay on Superior. We used the area,which was fairly empty,as a jump off point to visit areas north and south of us. We had the kids with us so we limited the distance traveled to make sure we didn’t get caught up in anything. My wife and I have plans to return and paddle a much larger portion of the coast.
It was amazing! The lake itself is awe inspiring. The ragged shorelines and crystal clear waters left us speechless. We were extremely lucky to have a few days of very calm (almost no wind) days. This made travel very easy and allowed us to really explore every nook and cranny we could. A lot of time was spent just quietly paddling along soaking it all in. I have not been able to stop thinking about Superior since we’ve had to leave. It has been sitting there in the back of my mind the whole time. I often develop attachments to places we paddle. This time is different though, Superior is a special place and I really look forward to exploring more of its shoreline.
That’s it for today I’m headed out the door to pick up my solo canoe. Will be heading to Algonquin for a six day solo trip this saturday. So I have lots to prepare for.