Wednesday, April 21, 2010

First Canoe Trip of the Year

Taking a break during a portage to enjoy some of the
beautiful falls found on the Big East River

Normally when you head off on a canoe trip, at least the first one of the year, its not a cause for a major celebration. (Unless it's me!) It would have to be a milestone of some sort, which as you'd expect is probably why I'm posting this blog. For argument sake, I could technically canoe trip on the West Don River next to my house (Toronto) in probably early March, but I'd have to be crazy. Floating in questionable murky brown water tainted by urban waste and garbage, I'd be gawking at homes and apartments and wondering where a safe place would be to overnight! No, I'd have to be pretty desperate!

So, what's the big hoopla for the inaugural trip this year? Well, those of us in Ontario know that we've been having extremely warm weather recently. So much so that ice in northern lakes are going out in record time. For example, Canoe Lake in Algonquin had the ice go out on Apr 3! That's almost 2 weeks earlier than the earliest recorded ice-out in 1953!! It didn't just beat the record but literally blew it out of the water!

The pull of the paddle and the flow of moving water
after a 'long' winter is "music to the ears"!

So with these conditions, you can probably guess my head was swirling with thoughts of a very early canoe trip. With the approach of the Easter long weekend, my girlfriend and I had our hearts firmly set on paddling the Big East River that starts in the park and flows westward to Lake Vernon. My earliest canoe trip to date in Algonquin was on Apr 21 2007, so if successful it would be the earliest trip ever by a huge margin. Yes, some of you may say its a river, but it starts from Canoe Lake and has several more along its route. Ice would have to be out in order to finish the trip.

We came across the largest burl we'd ever seen on a tree!... large in fact that I could actually sit on it!
Photo: Lisa Riverin-Thomas

Well as it turned out, the trip was partially successful. We headed out on April 1st except Canoe Lake was still iced over, despite similar lakes in the vicinity to be free of ice. Luckily we had a Plan B, but that got thwarted when we couldn't get access to Finlayson Lake due to the really rough road that definitely needed a 4X4. We then resorted to Plan C which meant trying to get access to Distress Lake, - how fitting as that's what we started feeling at that point! Thankfully this road wasn't as bad, but it still was nerve-racking driving through huge pools of water, ice, snow, and muck. Thank goodness we didn't get stuck! Phew!

We scaled a sheer cliff that suddenly presented itself along
the river. The view from atop was spectacular!

Relieved to be at the put-in, all the building anxiety finally melted away as we pushed off from shore to begin the inaugural trip. If I wasn't already beside myself, I still couldn't believe I was tripping on April 1st! By all accounts it probably should have been an April Fool's joke, but it wasn't. There was still some ice on the lake and snow under the forest canopy, but for the most part you wouldn't know it was early spring. The temperature that weekend was so hot that Lisa and I were actually paddling in tank tops! I can't say I would necessarily be happy if this was the weather trend due to our own doing, but for those next 4 days I admit I was totally immersed in enjoying my earliest trip ever! Now that's a cause for a major celebration!
Hope you get to head out on your own trip soon!

t (very happy) PP

Like "two peas in a pod", all you have to do is send these
two paddlers on a canoe trip and you are
guaranteed to get smiles!

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