Archive for September 21st, 2016

September 21, 2016

Portaging with the Family

At the end of August our family went portaging together in the Algonquin Highlands township. Al did all of the logistical planning and Mom and Dad prepared all of the meals. We decided to take it easy and do two nights at one campsite and two nights at another. We all met up at the canoe rental near Minden because we were all coming from different places. We put the canoes on the three vehicles, and were on our way to the launch point when mom texts Al with the realization that we had forgotten to take the oars! That was a funny mistake on our part and the part of the rental guy! Al and I turned back to fetch them and we didn’t lose too much time.

By noon we were at the launch at the Oakview Marina and headed out over Little Hawk Lake bound for Clear Lake. Clear Lake deserved its name because it was remarkably clear! When we arrived at our campsite in the early afternoon we discovered that it was still occupied! There was a girl and her dog. When we asked her to show us her papers (campers are required to have a printed copy for this very reason), she made excuses that she had it on her phone but that her phone was dead. Two guys eventually came to shore in a bare-bones motor boat. They knew that they were camping illegally but still asked us if we could go take one of the campsites nearby. We refused and started dialling the park registration office. That was enough to get them packing! We went and canoed around while they packed up and left. Thankfully they cleaned up the campsite before they left! The campsite was very nice. Our tents were a bit spread out to find flat spaces. There was a convenient little counter that had been constructed by spanning a 2×8 between two trees! After we set up and had a delicious dinner of chicken fajitas, we walked up a nearby hill to the top of a cliff to watch the sun set. Later that evening back at camp we laid on the flat rocks by the water to watch the stars. It was magnificent!

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The next day we all decided to go on a day trip to some smaller lakes and ponds nearby with several portages that make a loop. We left in the late morning. It was nice to pack lighter for this journey though we were pretty tired by the end! There were beautiful wetland areas but we didn’t see any big wildlife. We passed a beaver dam but we were making so much noise that we probably scared them all away! There were some areas where it was hard to get in and out of the boats from the portages. Chris accidentally tipped the boat once while trying to launch! I thought I saw a heron that was ready to catch a fish in the water and had the whole family watching it intently, only to discover it was sun hitting the tip of a log sticking out of the water! Back at the campsite we prepared a dinner of pasta. While washing out the French press in the lake I noticed a large snapping turtle just off the shore! It looked so old with lots of wrinkles and overgrown toenails. Once in a while it would stick it’s nose up for air. What an amazing creature! We went back up to the cliff to watch the sunset again and this time played a new card game called Code Names that I brought along.

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We packed up camp the next morning and were off before 10am. We left Clear Lake, and crossed Red Pine lake. We came across some rocks far away from shore that were only just an inch or two beneath the surface of the water. Al decided to climb out of the canoe to get a “walk on water” shot! It turned out pretty well! Next we came to a portage that goes around a dam. We had the choice of either putting our canoes back in the water on the other side of the dam and canoe through some small rapids, or else portage the boats further to avoid them. Al wanted to go through them! We got through the first set okay, but a more difficult challenge came when we came across a fallen tree across the river. We had to get out onto the log, pull the boat over, and get back in. I make it sounds so sequential, but it was easier said then done. There was a moment when Al was trying to help Jen and Chris and was holding my boat by a rope as the rapids were pulling me. I must admit though it was exhilarating to get so much speed! Once we reached Nunikani Lake it started to look like it might rain. At one point we even pulled our canoes under some trees at the shore when we heard some thunder. When it subsided we headed on again. As we approached the campsite it began to drizzle. We quickly got out of the boats and rushed to set up camp! If we had been even a half hour later we would have had to set up camp wet. After the tents were set up we set up a tarp near the fire pit to have a sheltered place where we could sit. It rained and it rained and it RAINED! I was tired of sitting and there was really no place to stand and so after we made some tea I went and laid down in the tent until dinner time! For dinner we decided to have the chili because it was the easiest meal to prepare. The heat of it was also warming! We all went to bed early! It rained for ten hours until around 11pm! I had a fitful sleep because our tent was on a slope and I kept sliding down and waking up when my feet touched the damp edge.

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Coming to the rescue

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Attempting to stay dry

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Drying out camp

Thankfully the next day it was a bit overcast but dry. We laid everything we had out onto the rocks to dry! Al, Mom and Dad decided to do another day trip to another pond, but Jen, Chris and I decided to stay put. I spent time just laying in the sun for a while and then in the afternoon Chris and I went on a short canoe trip to check out if there was a grill at the nearby campsite. We followed the south edge of the lake and got out when we saw a good swimming spot! When the others returned, Al, Dad, and Chris got it in their heads to build a table out of stones. They made it quite expansive but it allowed us to play a game of wizard after dinner! Our final meal was rice and sausages and we got to enjoy a fire unlike the night before.

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And finally it was the last day of our trip! We packed camp early because we wanted to be at the car by a little after noon. There was another dam we had to portage past at the south end of the lake and another small group of rapids. This time we made it through much easier! We saw a blue heron and got pretty close as we followed along the river. To get back to the starting point we had to cross Big Hawk Lake. It was windy and the water was choppy, but luckily we had the wind on our side! We arrived at the cars tired but content! I hope that we will do more trips like this in future! Jen and Chris split ways early, but Mom, Dad, Al and I met at the first McDonalds we could find! What a contrast between nature and our consumerist culture!