Sunday, January 9, 2011

2010 Year In Review

Getting close with Gravel Falls, Oxtongue River

So here I am, one week into the new year as I find myself in front of the computer wondering what to write. Its not for lack of ideas, as I have too many of them, rather it's just figuring out which one to write about. Also being a new year, I thought I'd write about something 'new' as well. Something I haven't wrote about before, but would be relevant this time of year, kind of like my new leather chair that I got for Christmas. I love my original faux leather computer chair, but the many hours it spent cushioning my puny rear end, it has succumbed to death through compression and tearing. (I don't want to hear it!) Sadly, its time to move on. Just as paddling in 2010 was amazing and memorable as well, its time to move on; so in this post, I like to touch on the past year's highlights and trips before starting the new paddling year. Its surprising to find out all the things you forgot when you have a chance to look back.

View from atop a cliff, Big East River

Canoeing in 2010 turned out to be a great year. First off, I was lucky enough to head out on a dozen different trips that started at the beginning of April and ended near the end of November. (8 months out of 12 is pretty good in our parts!) These trips ranged from lost crown land routes to ones in our most popular provincial parks, to re-experiencing routes previously travelled to paddling routes I hadn't canoed yet. It certainly ended up being a year of variety. Even more surprising was tallying the number of days I was away on these trips - 68 days! (not including any travel time or day trips) That was a bit of a surprise as I thought for sure it was less than that. Maybe I'm just getting "use to it"? No complaints here, as I would have easily opted for more. In any case, it's truly a blessing and privilege to get out so often to see, experience and share my travels on these liquid highways. Hopefully 2011 will bring just as many opportunities and time out on the water.

Portaging around Island Falls, Moon River

Canoe trips usually involve other participants, which I thoroughly enjoy having. I am truly thankful for those who joined me on my various excursions - despite being tough at times. Like the variety of trips, I was also able to experience the various trips with different partners/combinations, new paddlers and of course my girlfriend. Its always lots of fun with fellow paddlers and the memories created are truly for a lifetime. As much as I still head out on the odd solo trips, I do cherish company - something about having someone else to share in the experience. What does 2011 hold for me in terms of partners? Well, I know for certain I have the usual stalwart paddling friends that I can count on, but there is already several new friends I know I'll be paddling with this year. I even had a request at work to take my colleague's kids paddling! (hmmm, that could be interesting) Maybe I'll even venture so far as to take a person that has never been on a canoe trip before? (could be detrimental to my health) In any case, I know for a fact it will certainly be an exciting year of new paddlers and old ones! (relax!, I'm not talking about your age!)

Taking a moment in the morning, Phillip Edward Island

2010 started with the earliest canoe trip ever on the Big East River (Apr 1-4) - at least for me. In big part by our incredibly mild winter that included the earliest recorded ice-out on Canoe Lake (Apr 3). It was soon to be followed by a paddle down the Oxtongue River where I got to show my girlfriend Lisa (from Huntsville) that local rivers are worth paddling. It was my second time through there, which also gave me an opportunity to experience some things I missed out the first time through. The month of May was a mess due to the record low water levels (compliments of the lack of snow and hot temps), therefore several river trips were cancelled. Instead of giving up, I opted to go to Lake Superior with my friend Ben where we were assured lots of water and paddled her incredible shoreline. Lake Superior was just that - superior.
Whether it was its scenery and gorgeous waters, to its unrelenting winds and intimidating swells, we came away awed and inspired, knowing we would definitely go back for more.

Mesmerized in the canyon, Barron River

Surprisingly, June was a dud for canoe trips, but by July, they were back in full swing. It started with a trip to Kirkpatrick Lake (Blue Lakes system) where we were challenged by a long lost crown land route. It was a beautiful place to paddle through, but we had to work hard for it. First trying to get access to the put-in, then trying to locate some portages, as well as clearing and maintaining portage trails along the way. Was it worth it? Definitely. This trip was followed by a short getaway to the Magnetawan River where I was able to re-visit a small gem-of-a-lake where I told myself years ago I would come back to camp there. Then came the mad rush to prepare for the big trip of the year - the Bloodvein River. Unfortunately, we couldn't recruit our friends to join us, so Lisa and I took just under 3 weeks to paddle this Canadian Heritage River. What we didn't expect was a river totally flooded - even above spring-melt levels! We witnessed myriads of pictograph sites, ran challenging whitewater, and was hunted by the notorious Manitoba mosquitoes, but it was a wonderful trip, including being the second river trip to cross 2 provinces!

Scouting a large rapid, Bloodvein River

Since the Bloodvein trip finished midway into August, there was no other canoe trips that month, but by September a flurry of trips began in earnest again. First with a trip to the Kawarthas with a new paddling friend Becky, which allowed her to experience and enjoy a totally new paddling destination. Then came the crazy whitewater weekend on the Lower Madawaska, where the events before the trip over-shadowed the trip itself! This was followed by a trip to the Barron Canyon where I got to show Lisa another local paddling gem and re-experience the area again for myself. Then came October as I set off with Lisa to circumnavigate Phillip Edward Island. Similar to Lake Superior, I was left blown away at the beauty of the area and promised myself I would go back. The last trip of October found Lisa and I shuttling ourselves so that we could experience the Moon River. Knowing how popular this route is during the regular paddling season, we were lucky to have the whole river to ourselves.

Lost in the lilies, Magnetawan River

Finally to end the paddling season, I set off in the 3rd week of November on a solo trip to Algonquin. It was a fitting end due to my unique experience with wildlife, but also with ice. Looking back, it really was an amazing year of canoe trips. Of course I'm not even touching on canoe related events such as the multiple presentations I gave on the Romaine trip, MEC's annual Paddlefest, or even day paddles. 2010 can easily be summarized as not only a great year, but even more worthy as a fitting end to an incredible decade of paddling. I found myself thinking how even more privileged and honoured I am to live in a province/country with such a varied and beautiful landscape/waterscape. We are truly blessed to have such an abundance of freshwater and spectacular natural places to see, visit and experience. Hopefully it will stay that way for future generations.

Route-finding to the next lake, Kirkpatrick Lake Loop

What's the trip plans for 2011? Too early to say, but the cogs are slowly turning and ideas are pouring forth. Our group of paddling friends recently met and the topic of canoe trips quickly emerged. Now its just a matter of deciding who, when, and where to go. The canoe - an effective and efficient water craft that conjures up our wanderlust that takes us to places we want to go, places we want to see, and places we can only dream about. It all starts in that mass of grey matter atop our head, and hopefully becomes an experience that's permanently imprinted in our hearts - yes, all because of that simple humble canoe. What a truly amazing invention. 2011, here we come with a canoe and a paddle in hand! A toast to not only this year, but to another decade of amazing canoe trips! Cheers everyone!

Marveling at the magnificent shoreline, Lake Superior

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