Shark Lake, Kawartha Highlands, May 2017

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!)

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Little Turtle Lake

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Thus far the green shades of spring have not yet fully come to Kawartha Highlands, with most of the hills being shrouded in a drab sort of grey. But if you look there are some signs of colour- promises of the summer to come. 

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Our campsite.

 

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.

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Paul making scrambled eggs.

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Bacon! Need I say more? 

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A lake, coffee, and relaxing. Perfect Saturday morning! 

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.

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We’re not sure what this creek is called. Buzzard Creek?

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The first part was a touch steep.

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Shark Lake.

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Our campsite.

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.

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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.

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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.)

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Shark Lake in sunshine! 

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.

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Emmy, the newest member of our burgeoning fleet. 

 

 

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2017 Update

Hey everyone! I’m sorry for the dearth of posts and content- we absolutely have not forgot about this blog or our canoeing videos, and as I write this I’m also just finishing up the editing of the videos for our summer 2015 trip to the French River. We have a new Youtube channel dedicated completely to our canoeing videos (as opposed to the personal youtube channels that we have been uploading to in the past).

Probably the biggest news (though perhaps not, because our readers are friends who knew this already) and the biggest reason for our relative silence on the blog is that Paul and I got engaged this past August (on our canoeing trip up at Ranger Lake), and then married this winter, so naturally we were rather pre-occupied planning the wedding. I shall not bore you with details, though we had our reception at the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough, Ontario. It’s an awesome place, museum and venue wise, and we’d absolutely recommend it to anyone.

As a wedding present to ourselves, we also purchased a new canoe! It’s our fifth canoe between us, but our first canoe purchased jointly. It’s a Swift Keewaydin, and we’re fairly excited to take it out as soon as possible.

Other than that, we weathered the winter well, and we’re excited for spring, and of course, summer! Happy (thinking about) paddling, everyone!

 

 

Hearing the Silence

One of my favourite things to do on any canoe trip is to seek out some quiet corner of our campsite, and have some introvert time. After a day of paddling, and after camp is set up and dinner done, normally I need to have a few minutes of alone time. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to find some big rock to sit on overlooking the water, perhaps even facing the sunset.

As I sit there, I think of many things- how the day went, what tomorrow will be like, my fellow paddlers, and so forth. But gradually my mind quiets down and my thoughts rest, and I truly begin to notice my surroundings. But not just notice them with my eyes- really, it’s noticing them with all of my senses and my inner being. The water lapping gently on the rocks, an occasional bird or two flying high overhead, the warmth of the sun-baked rocks on which I sit, the golden rays of the setting sun as they fall on my skin, the blue, then gold, then pink colours of the sky and clouds above as day ends. I might hear the laughter and happy voices of my fellow adventurers, and if they are Mia and Becky, you’ll even hear Becky’s singing voice or Mia’s snooty old lady voice, which never cease to make me smile. As all of me, including the inner Krystina, starts to relax, I realise that the rocks, if big and flat enough, make an excellent place on which to stretch out and rest tired muscles.

But while it is all of these wonderful things that I seek out and are reasons why I go on canoeing trips, the thing that will actually soon make itself known to me is not so much something, but the absence of something. It’s the absence of noise itself. It’s as close to a natural, wholesome silence as anyone can get, I think. It’s silence.

And silence, as they say, is golden. Much has been written by others about how it is a needed and important thing in one’s life to leave behind the electronics and internet, and even the city, and escape. To go beyond the reach of cell signal and wi-fi. And I am here to attest it is absolutely true. If you work in a job with constant noise and hurry and, as I have for the past 3.5 years, with multiple timers and things beeping at you at constant and short intervals throughout the day, silence and quiet are something that you soon might need to add into your life, to choose to seek out and what you may crave. Especially too if you are also on the introverted side of life. It’s not even just to get away from people, sometimes it’s just the noise that you must escape.

I am an introvert, and regardless of that, a person who enjoys one-on-one time with those I love best, and so one reason why canoeing trips are treasured times is because on the one hand, you get to escape from noise and stress and so forth (and the masses at large!), but on the other hand, you can develop great relationships with your fellow campers, and deepen ones already existent, because you are given so many opportunities for quality time. There’s nothing like lying out under the stars at night, pondering anything from the deep perplexities of life to issues of no great importance. You make memories and create inside jokes and secrets. You then go through life sharing those memories and stories with really only those select few that saw the same things as you- for even if you tell those stories and adventures for years to come, those who weren’t there won’t really, fully understand in quite the same way.

And then, if you want to immerse yourself in quiet, you can slip away to some corner of the camp site, and let all of nature make you think and feel as if you were the only person on the earth. Then, sometimes, you can reflect and think deeply about things in ways that you cannot often properly do when you are in the middle of every day life and routine. I have found it handy to keep a journal at these times, largely because over the past years, most of what comes out in those quiet moments is stuff that can become anxiousness- causing and worrisome if left to float around in my head. Writing it down helps. Even in my own relationship with God, I have found those quiet moments to be when I have come in very real contact with my Saviour and friend. Things that up to that moment I had really struggled with were dealt with in those times, and never bothered me the same again. But it’s because I had time to think and re-evaluate, which I would not have gotten had I stayed at home.

And so, whatever you have to do, and however you have to do it, go out and find some quiet. Maybe even go canoeing! You may even find me sitting on a rock enjoying the silence, or trying to figure out how to bottle the scenery on these trips and bring it back so people will understand why I do it.

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Photo credit to the amazing Anna Maria, who wrote an article about our last trip, which you can read, here. 

A Pre-Canoeing Trip Update!

Hey all! Sorry for the relative lack of new posts, things have been a bit busy with other, non-camping life events, but this weekend is our first trip of the year, and we’re pretty excited! We’re going for 4 days in Algonquin, with 3 of our friends, 2 of whom have gone on trips with us before.

Paul and I did get my canoe out and go for a paddle on the Trent canal- essentially along the same course that my uncle and I had hiked not too long before, but this time we were on the water. It was quite good to get back out, and we were able to test out some of our new gear.

My new Salus paddling jacket worked well- I appreciated the frontal zipper and the design of the jacket which has less bulk around the arms, thus allowing for greater comfort when paddling. I also rather liked that there was no zipper to catch my arm on (my old Wind River jacket had a zipper that made it so my arm or shirt sleeve would catch on it, when paddling on a certain side).

We each had bought Misty Mountain brand rain jackets- they made excellent wind breakers, and we’re hoping they’ll hold up in the rain. I bought a Misty Mountain outdoors hat, from Winners, for $15, which I was also pleased with. It was more a matter of personal preference, but I liked the stiffer brim and deeper crown.

I have also finally acquired a larger Sea-to-Summit dry bag + compression sack. I had the large sized one (20 Litres) but found it was just a tad bit too small. We stopped in at Wild Rock in downtown Peterborough, and bought some last minute camping equipment, and the extra large sack was one of our purchases. At 30 litres, it’s so far the perfect size!

We’re almost all packed and ready to go, we’re not sure how much we’ll be filming on this trip, we certainly want to just enjoy it, but if we get photographs at least we’ll post them, and I’ll be keeping a trip journal again.

Until next time, then! Have a safe and fun Victoria Day weekend!

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First Hike of Spring!

So to get myself in shape for the upcoming canoeing/camping season, and to slowly test my leg to see if it’s recovered from an injury last fall, my Uncle and I took a hike along the Trent canal in Peterborough. We ended in sight of Trent University. It was definitely a beautiful day!