Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Canoeing in Algonquin Park

On Thursday, my best friend from childhood, Anne-Marie, drove over four hours, straight from work, through Toronto traffic, to meet me in the middle of the woods. We hadn't seen each other in 27 years.
These two big city girls...

..are equally at home in the back country.
Anne-Marie brought a selection of cheeses and charcuterie.
Dare I mention the decadent chocolate ganache cake?
Friday morning, we set out on our canoe trip and promptly got lost...on the first lake. Sad but true.
Salvation came in the form of two guys looking for the same portage entry.

Erik and Jason, two seasoned outdoorsmen, eager to lend a hand.
...and navigation skills, fire building skills and nonstop entertainment.
I consider myself to be most fortunate, but sometimes my cup runneth over. In the woods for four days with my dearest friend and two kindred spirits, indeed this was the best birthday weekend EVER. 
The first night, Anne-Marie and I were on a camping site separated from the guys' by a peninsula. We survived, but did not thrive. All the warnings about the nuisance bears coming into the camp sites had us preoccupied.
We spent an hour trying to get our food barrel up onto the tallest limb-- all the while, one of us held on to the bear spray.

That night, after a day of intermittent rain, we went to bed cold and wet without even an attempt to make a fire. 
The next morning, we paddled past Erik and Jason's site, they invited us to join them for the remainder of the trip. It took us only a split second to accept.
Here's the part where I admit that I may have planned a trip more suited for experienced canoeists than for two beginners. I seriously doubt we could have pulled off four rainy, windy days in the middle of nowhere; strong head winds and white caps on some of the lakes; one section with a rapid; many, many portages, one being a mile and a half long; broken lighter and wet matches; blistered hands from the average 20 km per day of paddling... without seriously damaging our friendship.
On the contrary, our friendship is stronger than ever and we've made two lifelong friends.  Exploring Algonquin Park's remote interior lakes and forest, with the changing Fall color, in spite of the pouring rain every day, in spite of freezing temperatures, was a once in a lifetime experience.
Burnt Island Lake.
Cole on a portage trail.
Blessed camp fires morning and night.
The girls' tent (tarp corner rope was snapped by a large creature on the last night...).
Baggies inside our shoes made a world of difference.

Cole wearing thermals, a coat, a raincoat and his life preserver... plus his hat.
Anne-Marie demonstrating the proper technique to portage one's canoe.
Admission: the portages where my favorite part. It would take two trips to carry all our gear. I'd get the canoe to the next landing site, then chase Jason full tilt through the woods back to the start. A fellow trail running nut, how perfect can it get?

Rainbow after another soaker.
Miles and miles of breath taking beauty.
And hour after hour of free entertainment courtesy of the Boys of Southern Ontario.
Tomfoolery on the water.
Wildlife everywhere:  loons, fox, otters, beavers, ducks and even mice trying to steal our food.
Cole would like to mention that the chipmunks were very plentiful too.
No better way to end an epic journey than by planning a reunion of the four of us in Algonquin next year.