Beautiful silence – Lake Opeongo, Algonquin Park
My fascination with nature began during Outdoor Education in high school. As a class, we took a trip to Big Trout Lake which, for most of us, was our first experience with the great outdoors. We had an incredible teacher who thoroughly prepared us for a four-day excursion into Algonquin’s backcountry. I loved every minute of it.
The difference between now and then is my mentality towards any trip that ventures off the beaten path. As a teen and young adult, I always thought of wilderness trips as group activities whereas, now, I know firsthand that the magic is in going solo.
Embarking on my solo getaway
On July 7th, 2020, I arrived at Algonquin Outfitters to gear up and head out. In 2019, during my first solo canoe trip in Algonquin Park, I took a water taxi through Lake Opeongo – the largest lake in the park – and missed everything it had to offer because I sped right through it. This time, my whole trip revolved around Lake Opeongo and I gave myself seven days to canoe around this stunning body of water. Little did I know, I was in for a little more adventure than I’d planned…
Added excitement I’m not sure I’d want to have again
One of the most incredible parts about solo canoeing is the tranquility of isolation in nature. While the woods have a serenity about them, they also have the ability to release their wrath; it’s up to you to be equipped and ready. On the fourth night of my trip, I found myself smack in the middle of a severe wind storm with hard rains, intense winds, roaring lighting and thunder. I can’t say my nerves didn’t get the best of me in some moments (and rightfully so, given the fact that I later found out tornado warnings were in effect!) but my tent was secured tightly and my boat was well tied.
All there was for me to do was relax (as much as possible) inside my tent. Talk about some forced R&R! The wind carried on relentlessly for three days. Needless to say, it was a relief on the morning of my sixth day to see the sun and blue skies peering through the remaining cloud cover.
When you’re solo canoeing, you find yourself in a continued pattern of risk-reward assessments. Making the best decisions for your safety is imperative. When it’s you and only you, there is no other option. Following my stormy night, the winds were so strong, I had no choice but to remain at my island campsite for another two nights. On day six, the wind finally settled, and I was able to canoe to my next destination.
Why I love the Swift pack boat
The pack boat, a canoe-kayak hybrid, has made quite a big comeback in the solo canoeing community recently. While this type of boat has always been around, it’s less prevalent in big box stores. Not surprisingly, Algonquin Outfitters does offer a pack boat and it’s my personal favourite. I love the fact that, although it still has the body of a canoe, it’s equipped with a kayak-style seat that sits lower inside the hull. It’s compact, lighter and very easy to carry, which is a huge bonus for a solo canoeist!
Finding peace alone in nature
Hectic, crowded, fast-paced, noisy – these are a few of the words I would use to describe modern-day city life. Your alarm is always set, your to-do list is never-ending, your phone is always bleeping some notification that perpetually interrupts your day, and you hardly ever find yourself alone in peaceful silence. It’s nearly impossible to disconnect.
What I love most about my solo canoe trips is the solitude. With that comes a natural focus on my surroundings. In other words, I’m in the present – something so many of us talk about endlessly but rarely practice. Deep within the sanctuary that is Algonquin Park, there’s no cell service. The decision to disconnect is easy because you have no choice. All that’s left is you and nature. And, then, the real magic begins. You observe, experience and live what happens around you.
The wrath of a wind storm. The mysterious and breathtaking mist atop the water as the sun rises at dawn. The strong, majestic beauty of a moose by the lake.
I highly recommend it.
Get out and explore, Jay’s Way!
Other Useful Links
- Algonquin Outfitters Lake Opeongo
- Algonquin Park
- Algonquin Outfitters Canoe Rentals
- Swift Pack Boat solo canoes
- Lake Opeongo Water Taxi