Saturday, January 28, 2012

2011 Year In Review

Temagami: The biggest highlight to the 2011
 paddling season  - getting engaged.

Amazing, another year has already come and gone. I recall writing the first Year In Review blog post last January. I even remember feeling pleasantly surprised when I looked back at all those trip pictures to refresh my memory. In the span of a year, it's absurd how much I forgot, let alone remember with pictures to remind me. Even now, as I look back on all the trips in 2011, I find it to be almost cathartic. Canoe trips have been for me (and I'm sure many of you), a treasure trove of powerful emotions, experiences and memories that are a pleasure to relive in our minds, just as long as we don't forget them!

Killarney: Unmistakably, where else can you find
such stunning mounds of quartzite?

At the beginning of 2011 (or any other year for that matter), I never really know how the tripping season is going to turn out. Yes of course I make plans, but really, due to so many variables, they really are just tentative ones until you actually head out. You just never know what may transpire closer to the date (as most of you paddlers know), as they can literally fall apart at the last minute. I certainly wasn't immune to that either as a whitewater trip last September was cancelled the day before we left! As upsetting as that was, I've come to accept it, because that's just a part of any paddler's life. Thankfully, most times it doesn't end up that way!

Kukagami Lake: Sunny, hot, and beautiful, but in
mid-October? Lots to be thankful for!

Tripping in 2011 has indeed turned out to be another spectacular year. A quick tally of the numbers show 13 trips totally 70 days - that's one additional trip and 2 more days than last year, not too shabby. All but one trip was in Ontario, with the other being in Quebec. It was a good assortment of different trips that made for an interesting mix. The most interesting part of tripping in 2011 was all the unique events that occurred during them. Such as celebrating my 40th birthday, baking for the first time with a reflector oven, tripping with a new canoe, catching my first walleye, cooking a bird for Thanksgiving dinner, and of course getting engaged. It turned out to be quite the year to remember! Most importantly, I couldn't have done it without my fellow paddlers - friends, new and old, and now my fiance. Without them, where would all the interesting events, stories and pictures come from? Thanks to you all!

Haliburton: Quietly afoot along the portage trail, you
can actually hear the trees speak to you.

The first trip of the year started at the end of April in the newly formed Kawarthas Highland Provincial Park. It was a little confusing with the permit system that was not yet in place when we arrived at the put-in. Despite heading out without a permit, we were fortunate not to get  fined and luckily got a free trip out of it. This was also consequently Anita's first canoe trip ever, and certainly not her last. My next trip was at another provincial park, Massasauga, in mid-May. It was an opportunity to take some friends on our first canoe trip together. Despite tailoring the trip for them, they still had to deal with inclement weather, our campsite being occupied, a long portage and even tough paddling conditions, but none of it dampened their spirits as they looked forward to the next one. And who said canoeing isn't fun? 

Massasauga: Not only discovering a more scenic route,
but another way to bypass the portage.
Photos: Maral Kodjayan

In the beginning of June, I headed off to Georgian Bay with a new paddling friend to circumnavigate Franklin Island. It was certainly a surprise when the route turned out much shorter than expected, but the extra time gave us ample opportunity to explore around. As this area is popular with boaters and paddlers, we were also lucky to practically have the island oasis to ourselves. By mid-June, I was off again with my previous friends from the Massasauga trip. We were now headed to the French River to paddle Eighteen Mile Loop, a route I had previously done years ago. The weather this time was much more favourable, as we often found ourselves sweltering under the heat and jumping into the river to cool down. Lots of sun, sunscreen, scenery and great food - including a cantaloupe and a watermelon! This was also the first trip I got to try out the reflector oven, which consequently was perfect as it was also used to bake a chocolate cake for my birthday! Mmmmmm.

Quetico: Good times, great memories, and an
incredible place to go on a canoe trip!

At the end of June, I now set off east with some other friends to Quebec for a 2 week whitewater trip down the Coulonge River. It goes without saying that we had lots of fun running rapids, but the oppressive heat and buggy conditions sometimes made it a bit challenging to enjoy at times. However, we were pleasantly surprised by how scenic the area was despite the numerous cottages and lodges along the way. Unfortunately, despite trying our best to slow down, we finished the trip much earlier than expected, which then prompted the next outing. Not wanting to waste the time we had off, a couple of us headed to Algonquin for a few days. It was ironically, a vacation from a vacation! What can I say? 

Algonquin: Solo, dragging my canoe through the mud, 
and wishing for once it was frozen!

With a few weeks to get things ready, by mid-August, we now headed in the opposite direction, west towards Quetico Provincial Park. Participating as An-Artist-In-Residence, I was also granted permission to use the never-before-paddled Nova Craft Cronje that was given to the park to commemorate their centenary. Some of the comments I got as other paddlers saw me take the canoe from the visitor centre made me chuckle. They knew it wasn't coming back in the same condition. I was pretty certain they knew something about the park that I didn't at that time. In any case, despite the canoe coming back with many notable marks, each member of our small group came away with lasting impressions as well. It was hard leaving the park, but even harder to deal with wistful longings to be back in the wilds of Quetico during our long 2 day drive back.

Coulonge: The thrill of whitewater is often addictive
and hard to match for its adrenaline rush.

Come mid-September, a flurry of trips began in earnest. The first one was a trip to the Haliburton Highlands with another new paddling friend. We poked in and around areas where I've never been to before while I took advantage of her facility as an arborist to learn more about trees. Right after came the all important canoe trip with Anita to Temagami. Of course with my luck, the weather conditions were tough and low water levels put a kibosh our intended route, but when I needed everything to come together, it fortunately did. The combination of the amazing weather and the time alone atop the summit made for perfect conditions to propose. Luckily for me, she apparently said yes.

French River: Under a moderately heavy load (unlike voyageurs),
we happily re-trace this historical trade route.

 My next outing was supposed to be a whitewater outing on the Madawaska River, but unfortunately as you know, it got cancelled last minute. Without skipping a beat, I then headed out again at the end of September with a good friend back to Haliburton. We had some tough weather conditions, including lots of long portages, but our complimentary skill set and combined experiences still made the trip enjoyable, even when our first campsite was accidentally taken!

Algonquin: An easy choice to get away
for a last minute canoe trip.

With lots of time to still trip in the year, I headed out with friends in mid-October to paddle a new route through crown land. The very scenic route with the added benefit of abnormally warm temperatures gave us more reasons to celebrate Thanksgiving while on the trip. Of course, the crowning achievement was not only portaging a frozen chicken, but cooking the whole bird and having it for Thanksgiving dinner!

Haliburton: Despite the weather on this trip, moments
like this truly make it all worthwhile.

By November as the season was coming to an end, I quickly took the opportunity to head out on a couple more trips. One with Anita to Killarney Provincial Park where she got to experience the "crown jewel" of Ontario`s wilderness with its towering mounds of white quartzite. Lastly, I headed out on a solo trip at the end of the month to Algonquin. Always a great way to reflect back on the past year's trips and even hope for a 'white' paddle out to close the season. No luck on the latter as I finished the trip soaking wet under a steady rainfall. So much for the climactic ending to finish the 2011 paddling season!

Kawarthas: Not only the first trip of the year,
but Anita's first canoe trip as well!

As we are now well into 2012, the ideas for canoe trips are swirling in my head. Wedding plans may curtail my usual exuberance for canoe trips this year, but who knows? I may need to get away more to deal with all the stress of planning! (Sigh) One of the goals this year is to get Anita more comfortable with whitewater, as she has already gotten a wealth of experience from the previous year. I don't know about you, but I never had anywhere close to what she got to experience when I first learned to paddle. In her inaugural year alone, she got to spend 42 days in a canoe! (Can you read, "I'm a bit jealous!", between the lines?!) In any case, 2012 looks to be a busy year, both in the canoe and out. I'm (bravely) looking forward to all the craziness that may unfold throughout the year, but as always, I'm much more resolute when heading out into the unknown with a canoe and paddle in hand! 2012 (gulp), here I come!

Franklin Island: Time spent exploring the amazing place
and  Lynne 'getting into the groove'!

Wishing you all the best in planning this year's paddling trips!
Hope to see you on the water!