This past weekend, Paul and I took our first trip of the year (and, incidentally, the first trip that we’ve taken being married to each other!)- a quick weekend trip up to Kawartha Highlands. It’s only my second time canoeing in the park, which feels like a shame, because it’s so close to our hometown. (Though Paul’s been there many times so perhaps I can be forgiven for the lack of trips in what is practically my backyard!)
Day #1: Friday, 05/12/2017
Our destination was ultimately Shark Lake- a lake that Paul went to as one of his first canoeing trips when he was younger. We left Friday afternoon at 4 pm, and by 5 pm where putting in at Coon Lake. It was a grey, overcast sort of day, though earlier it had been sunny. Still, we were not to be daunted- and anything was better than the past weekend (our original camping date) when it was rather cold and rainy for camping.
Our first campsite was on Little Turtle Lake, which was one portage from Coon Lake. (By the way, official maps vary in the length of this portage, some saying over 1000m, however, we can confirm that it is only 664m, and not a bad portage at that. The worst part is probably the really steep hill that immediately confronts you once you get off of Coon Lake.) We single portaged this one, which was awesome! Camping with two people (my first time) is a much different dynamic than with a group, as we were able to pack everything into our two canoe packs and single portage everything. (And our packs were only sitting at around 50 pounds, so also awesome!)
Our campsite was right after the portage, so we were setting up camp after a short paddle from the portage landing. (I think you could actually walk from the campsite to the portage, actually, though we didn’t!) At this point the blackflies started showing their presence, so we donned our bug nets. (Surprisingly, I didn’t mind wearing mine, normally I find them bothersome and would rather just go without and come away with some awesome bug bites to tell stories about!)
After our traditional first-night-of-camping dinner comprising steak, boiled vegetables and rice, we relaxed around the fire, though darkness came soon, bringing with it rain. However, we passed a dry night in our new tent (MSR Elixir 3, a 3 person tent), and were on the whole quite happy with our purchase, as it was easy to put up and take down, and the right amount of space for two people + gear.
Day #2: Saturday, 05/13/17
When we woke up in the morning the skies were overcast, but the rain was minimal. (As it would pretty much be for the rest of the trip- small sprinklings and light showers, nothing too heavy or not to be managed.) We had a breakfast of bacon and eggs and on the whole it was somewhat more of a relaxed morning, which was definitely nice! I think we broke camp by 12:20 pm or so, and ahead of us we had three short portages and a couple of small lakes before we reached Shark Lake.
Our route took us immediately to one short 68m portage into Adams Lake. Adams Lake itself is quite small, so we were soon portaging into Sawmill Lake. This portage, 168m according to the map, was more muddy than the rest, as it bordered a swampy beaver’s dam area, but there were a couple small footpaths that ran parallel to the worst of the muddy parts, so it wasn’t the worst portage in the world. (At this point I carried the canoe, and I must say, Swift does an amazing job at making canoes easy to carry!)
From Sawmill Lake it was again a quick paddle to the last portage into Shark Lake. This one was slightly steeper to begin with, as it portaged along a creek, which despite its inauspicious entrance (or exit, as it spills into Sawmill Lake and we were essentially portaging up the creek), soon turned into some rather pretty rapids bordered by high rock walls. There was also a nice waterfall along this route, and because the trees had not yet grown their summer foliage, the portage felt open and one could see down to the falls without having to go off the beaten path.
We reached Shark Lake mid-afternoon, and camped on one of the sites more towards the far end of the lake from the portage. The day remained overcast and the skies dark and grey, but as yet we did not have much rain. After a late lunch, we decided to take precautions and strung a tarp up over the kitchen area, which turned out to be fortuitous, as the clouds soon let loose upon us. I don’t recall it lasting long, as soon Paul went out fishing in the canoe, and I puttered around camp. I read some of my book (currently reading the Complete Collection of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton, excellent if you enjoy mysteries!) and set up the tent and did some other things to ready the site for dinner.
Our dinner was chicken curry which we had previously dehydrated and stored away, rice, and peas, also previously blanched and then dehydrated. It was good, though the jury is still out on the chicken curry. We’re still trying to perfect our recipe.
After dinner, the clouds parted enough in the west for us to see even a part of the sunset, and shreds of blue sky! It’s amazing how much you enjoy the sight of even a bit, after a day or two of cloudy skies.
Day #3: Sunday, 05/14/17
Our last morning dawned, cooler and very foggy. Everything was shrouded in grey, with visibility over the lake being low. After some fishing and our breakfast of scrambled eggs and muffins, we packed up to head home. Our goal was to retrace the lakes of days #1 and 2, all in one day. It promised to be only a paddle of three or so hours, including portages, so we knew it wouldn’t be a taxing day. It was somewhat cooler this morning than the last, and though we had slept warm and dry, the warm coffee felt good.
As we packed up, though, the sun began to peek out from the clouds, and we eagerly watched the patch of blue sky grow larger and larger. It ended up that it turned into a remarkably sunny day! It was cheering to see the sun and feel its warmth, which stayed with us pretty much the entire trip home. (Though there was some sprinkles of rain and we heard thunder, so we took a lunch break on one of the portages to wait it out should the storm grow worse. Thankfully it passed us by and was nothing more than a few rumbles.)
We reached the put in at Coon Lake at about 1 pm or so, and were soon hitting the road home. It was an amazing first trip of the year, and I’m happy to say that canoeing with Paul was even more amazing than it was when we went canoeing simple as friends/dating/engaged.
We were also very well pleased with our new canoe- it felt stable in the water and was easy to paddle, and light to portage. Definitely well worth the investment, and we’re incredibly grateful to everyone who so generously gave us wedding money for our canoe. It’s the best gift we could’ve asked for.