Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Free Trip!

Kawarthas Highland Provincial Park, Ontario's newest
fee paying park. Still worth it!

There's nothing like finally getting out on your first canoe trip of the year. With all that has been going on, I haven't even had the chance to get out for a day paddle so I was eagerly looking forward to this inaugural trip. Even the weather forecast didn't phase me as rain was called for during the whole time we would be out. As it happened, (as usual) things changed and the first day we were treated to a day full of sun, blue skies and 18 degree temperatures. Couldn't have asked for better conditions! It was totally invigorating as it really felt like I crawled out from beneath a rock.

Our small party headed to the Kawarthas since I knew for sure the ice was out. Reports from Algonquin then indicated that some areas were still not accessible due to ice, so I was a bit reluctant to head that way. And no, that was not what was stopping me, you kidding?!! It was just that my paddling partner, a colleague from work whom has never canoed before was joining me, so I had to be mindful of the type of trip I was leading. I learned well enough from previous experiences to keep people from being turned off by my types of canoe trips!

Looking out across Cold Lake and enjoying the view

First off, permits are now needed for camping at Kawarthas Highland Provincial Park starting May 1st. April 30th was the first day of our trip, but since we were going to be there until May 2nd, I checked the park's website to find out where to obtain permits. The only instruction was to call the MNR office in Bancroft. I called the day we left, but no one was there to answer the phone. When we arrived at the access point, the info on the display there gave the same instructions. I tried again to no avail. With all the notices about park permits and the resulting fines, I was a bit leery about not having one, but with no other recourse, we left with a note on my dash about our dilemma and hoped for the best.

Enjoying an unexpected whitewater run on Ansthruther Creek!
Photo: Anita DeVries

The trip turned out to be lots of fun, sometimes unexpectedly, like when I didn't pay attention to the map after the first portage. We completed the short carry as expected in the right area, but when we came upon rapids, I knew something was very wrong. Absent-minded while caught up the group's conversation and in the splendor of the beautiful day, I didn't realize we should have paddled across a small pond rather than down a pretty creek. We certainly didn't mind as it was a really scenic area, but I now had to figure out where we were! (Oops!) Luckily, we were headed in the right direction as this creek also ended up at Gold Lake, our intended destination. (from Ansthruther Lk) The best part of that was, it now gave Ben and I an opportunity to run both boats through a tight twisty section of C2's that had us grinning from ear to ear, not to mention wet our pants! (No, not what you are thinking!) We were more than pleased to get this unexpected whitewater run out of a flat water trip.

These bugs were found swarming at the put-in by the water.
Does anyone have any clue as to what they are?

We also had fun on a small adventure when we decided to see if we could find a way into Cloudy Lake from Cold Lake. I had no information regarding this route, but based on the topo map and the higher water levels, it looked feasible. The only real challenge was navigating upstream through the marsh with multiple liftovers, but surprisingly it was a beaver that stopped us in our tracks,.....er, in our boat. As we came upon another mat of sticks in the narrow channel, a beaver appeared on the opposite side and swam towards us. Of course we stopped and watched with delight as the beaver approached us, but couldn't believe the audacity of this rodent when it waited in front of us, wanting us to move out of the way! Of course there was no way we could turn the boat around nor could we navigate all the way back in reverse, so we made a stand and stayed there. In the end, the beaver slapped its tail in disgust and headed back up. I felt bad, but soon after we passed over the clump of sticks, my partner shrieked when her paddle almost came in contact with the beaver as it swam beneath the canoe and continued downstream. I'm sure the beaver had the last laugh! In any case, we did make it to Cloudy Lk. It is a pretty place and worth the effort to get there, also evidenced by the fact someone else was already camped there!

The search for the passage to Cloudy Lake. Did I
mention it was also cloudy that day?!

We didn't come away unscathed by the weather as it progressively got worse towards the end of the trip. By the last day, we were trying to stay dry under a tarp from the driving rain as we packed up our wet gear. Despite this, it didn't dampen our spirits as much as the thought of heading back home. We did find the right portages this time on our way out as we had to double back through the same area. Just like the creek on the first day, this small body of water ended up also being a nice tranquil sanctuary to paddle through. Although lucky enough to experience this place in solitude, I could definitely see this area being far from silent and isolated in the summer as it is very close to cottages, a road and a marina. Glad to have experienced it this way!

The beaver waiting for us to pay the toll before letting us pass.
"Anita, do you have any fresh twigs on you?!!"

When we got to the access point, as a bonus I didn't find a ticket on my car - phew! I was also surprised to find the parking lot empty, since on the first day it was full of vehicles. I guess everyone wanted to take advantage of the last opportunity to camp free before the permit system came in effect. We also found that all the information inside the display had been changed with instructions on how to fill out the permits provided in a cubby below. This definitely takes care of the headaches and worries of obtaining a permit to camp in the park now. Thankful that the park warden spared me a ticket and gave me a free pass for the opening day of the new park, I took it as a good omen to start the paddling season on the right foot!
Let the canoe trips begin!


The last vestiges of winter to stick around.
Darn, no beer to cool in the snow!