The Brent Run by Darren Smith and Mike Parna
Ever heard of the Brent Run?
For those unfamiliar, the Brent Run Race is a 162 km round trip, with 22 km of portaging. The rules are pretty simple. You are to leave from Canoe Lake, paddle to the Algonquin Outfitters Brent store (located on Cedar Lake, access point #27, in the northern part of the park) on Cedar Lake, take a photo of yourself in front of the store, and then paddle back to Canoe Lake in 24 hours. The first official record of the run between Cedar Lake and Canoe Lake was completed in 1934.
Darren Smith – Biologist (MNRF) from Harkness Laboratories and Mike recently completed the Brent run with an epic 22 hour and 56 minutes, 157 km long day trip using one of our canoes!!
Read below to find out how they did!
Remember to always wear your Lifejacket/PFD while on the water.
I started thinking about the Brent Run in 2020 after years of canoe tripping and marathon canoeing practice to reach fishing destinations faster. It’s an incredibly long trip at roughly 160 km meant to be done without stopping. On top of it all the rumoured record time of 23 hours using a cedar strip canoe was set in the ‘90s from camp Ahmek.
Mike and I first started tripping together for crazy fishing adventures and I soon realized he would be the best partner possible for me given his uncanny ability for not needing sleep and for extreme physical activity. To my surprise, Mike sounded as excited about the Brent Run as if I’d told him about some new epic Brook Trout lake and real the planning began during the summer of 2020.
After roughly 1.5 hours of sleep or so Mike and I hopped into the 16’ Swift Keewaydin provided to us by Algonquin Outfitters Opeongo and were finally starting the Brent Run at 01:45 Saturday, July 10. It took a few minutes for me to get settled in the dark but soon enough we were cruising at 8 km/hr with relative ease. This was faster than our planned speed but we decided to stick with it as long as we could. A couple of logs were clipped in the night giving us some good scares, near swims, and a few laughs.
We kept up our pace and jogged the first few portages reaching Otter slide Creek about 15 mins ahead of time! The creek was flowing well and I luckily remembered the whereabouts of all the rocks so it was smooth sailing to Big Trout. By then the sun was rising and it was a beautiful calm paddle across Big Trout with mist all around us. Trout were jumping like crazy and our realization of how good the fishing would’ve been was perhaps the most difficult pain of the trip.
We continued making great time through Longer and Burntroot and finally decided to stop jogging the portages. We reached Perley in about 7 hours – a third of the way there – but knew that we had been going with the current and downhill for most of the route so far.
It was more smooth sailing through the Petawawa and on Catfish a big group in green Langford canoes cheered us on and reiterated that we were on record pace! We continued on and made it to Brent at 12:45, exactly 11 hours in. We were even lucky enough to have a 10-minute chat with Jake at the Algonquin Outfitters who has spent many of his 80+ years in Brent and knows as much as anyone about Algonquin.
As we started back we were eager to try and maintain our speed against the current and uphill. We did pretty well back to Perley only being about 5 minutes slower than our way in. By this point, Mike had taken the canoe on almost every portage and that was quite ok with me! Months of biking around for kilometres on end with his ~ 1-year-old son in tow must have helped because he was still going stronger than ever.
We kept up the pace until Longer where I began to feel tired for the first time. I didn’t want to, but forced myself to eat a couple more wraps and drink lots of water and was back to normal by the time we hit Big Trout. We eventually reached Otterslide Lake only 10 minutes behind our morning pace between there and Perley for a total of 19 hours and 20 minutes in.
I think this was the first time we both really began to realize that under 23 hours was possible. We made it through Burnt Island in good time but the Joe Lakes was another story as the lack of sleep and sheer distance covered caught up to us. This was the lowest point of our trip by far as we struggled to stay awake and slowed down to 6.5-7 km/hr paddling. Even Mike admitted he was tired and that is saying something!!
Eventually, we crossed the last portage into Canoe Lake and split the final cliff bar. It must have helped because when we realized we had only 38 minutes to make it before 23 hours we paddled harder than ever. The boat was surging forward at 8.5-9 km/hr as adrenaline carried us on. We rounded the final bend and saw the Portage Store lights and were able to pick up the pace, even more, pushing 9.5-10 km/hr until we made it to the beach at 12:41, ending our epic 22 hours and 56 minutes, 157 km long day trip in Algonquin.