Algonquin – It’s all about the stories
August 1st, 2001 marked a major milestone in my life. It was 6 pm. My sister and I were waiting for my dad to return from work so we could strap the Canoe and kayak to the top of the car, pack the rest of the gear and hit the road. This was not our first backcountry outing; we had already gone backpacking in the High Peaks Region of the Adirondack Mountains in New York. But this trip was different: it was my first real backcountry canoe trip.
Growing up, we didn’t have some fancy motorboat or a luxurious cottage. Instead, we spent our summers in a trailer on a modest campground at a small lake. But, we did have a canoe, a red prospector fibreglass vessel. If my memory serves me, I was 7 or 8 years old the first time my dad “accidentally” flipped the canoe while we were out on the lake. I remember intentionally dropping my paddle in the water, repeatedly, thinking it was so funny. My Dad would reach out to grab it and give it back to me. Each time I dropped it, he would have to lean a bit farther out to pick it up until we all ended up in the water, all the way at the other end of the lake. We were fully clothed and it was early July. I guess this was my dad’s way to teach me how to rescue a canoe. From then on, for years, I spent most of my days out on the lake, flipping that canoe, playing with it capsized, discovering the best method to right the canoe again and ultimately making myself really comfortable with the whole process. I then became obsessed with learning how to paddle it solo. Sitting at the pivot point of the boat was hard since I was so small and I also didn’t quite have the strength and the coordination to steer properly. Although it took me years to master, at a very young age, I could solo that old red canoe. It was beyond liberating to venture onto the water on my own.
Dad finally made it home from work and off we went. The plan for this trip was very simple: drive up to the Outfitter’s on Friday night and pitch the tent; catch some sleep before waking up at the crack of dawn Saturday morning; paddle all day Saturday and all day Sunday; finally, head back home on Monday after a short paddle out. You can imagine my excitement as a 13-year-old boy leaving on his first wilderness canoe trip. The Black River runs over 238 km long starting from Lac Saint-Pierre in Quebec and runs until it meets with the Ottawa river in Waltham, Québec. The section we were doing is known for its meandering fast running water with dunes at every turn. We would have to run small C1 and portage the bigger and longer C2 and C3. Experienced canoeists usually run the rapids, but we had very little experience canoeing down rapids, so we played it safe.
The bugs on this trip were nothing short of disturbing. By day, horse and deer flies left with chunks of our skin and at night, mosquitoes were sucking our blood like vampires feasting on Halloween night. Sunday night came about and we were camped on a beautiful beach. The sun was already setting when my dad, sister and I were gathered around the campfire to enjoy our last night. After an hour or so, my sister decided to turn in; dad and I decided to stay out for a little while longer. The temperature dropped and suddenly the mosquitoes disappeared. It was a pristine night. The moon wouldn’t rise for a couple of hours; there were no clouds, no light pollution and you could count the stars by the billions. Dad and I always shared a love for stargazing so we let the fire die down and laid in the sand, resting our heads on an old drift log that had been washed up by the spring floods, staring up into infinity. This is not only my favourite memory from this trip but it might very well be my most cherished memory with my Dad. We chatted all night about the vastness of the universe and of course wondering if there were extraterrestrial life elsewhere. We were simply mesmerized, hypnotized by the splendour of the universe and the infinite possibilities that laid before us.
Here I am, 20 years later, sitting around a campfire on day two of a three-day canoe camping trip in Algonquin Provincial Park reminiscing about my first wilderness canoe camping experience. A canoe trip is a lot more than eating dry food, sleeping on the ground, getting devoured by bugs, getting rained out or being cold. It’s about a desire to explore the land, a drive to witness unimaginable landscapes and wildlife with your very own eyes and connect with what we have to fight for and protect. It’s staring at the night sky like you are a passenger looking out the window on a moving train and, more importantly, creating long-lasting memories. Algonquin Park is nothing short of the perfect place to write your own stories.
Because it really is, all about the stories.
A note of caution always needs to be taken with planning a late or early season canoe trip and should only be considered by experienced paddlers with proper cold water training and experience. At Algonquin Outfitters our typical rental season for the general public is May to Oct, weather pending. – Algonquin OutfittersAlgonq
Other Useful Links
- Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario
- Algonquin Park Maps
- Swift Canoes
- Algonquin Outfitters Canoe Rentals