Ever since I met my husband he’s been ranting and raving about how awesome his childhood camping trips to Algonquin were. Now, I finally got to experience it all for myself. I tried to think of one word to sum it all up but couldn’t so I chose three phrases: Gorgeously solitary, adventureously memorable, physically exhausting.
Friday morning at 4 am my inlaws, us and some friends headed to Algonquin. We arrived at the Portage Store where we rented canoes and re-organized everyone’s gear and food into bear bins and backpacks. We started paddling around noon. About ten minutes into the trip my shoulder muscles were burning and I began questioning why the heck I was subjecting myself to paddling for miles upon miles as a “vacation.” Those who know me, know I am super enthusiastic about outdoor adventures so that last sentence may have just shocked you. However, kayaking and canoeing (unless we’re talking white water) have never been my thing because one, the water doesn’t move fast enough for there to be any kind of adrenaline rush, two, there is no view at the top like when hiking mountains, and three, I find it frustrating that no matter how hard I paddle I can never seem to go fast enough to excuse the exertion of my upper body. However, I was super excited about the hiking, camping, adventure part of the trip so I set my doubts aside and carried on. Just like running, the first mile is really always the worst. After the first mile of paddling my muscles were warmed up and pumped, and so was I. Adam and Sarah (my sister) were my canoe buddies for the next four days.
We did a couple small portages (the carrying of our canoe and its cargo between two bodies of water), and then we arrived at what would be our longest portage and biggest test of character. We landed on shore and quickly started divvying up who was carrying what for the next mile and a half. On the first portage we had right away learned that the mosquitos were horrendous as soon as you got off the middle of the lake. So besides divvying up baggage, some of us tore out 100% deet and rubbed the cancer laden liquid on our skin or clothing. Sadly, (and shockingly!) it only lasted the first 15 minutes of the trek.
Sarah and I each carried a backpack, dry bags, tents, and canoe paddles which probably added up to around 50lbs or so of weight. Not too bad. Others, like my husband, got stuck carrying the bear barrels that contained about 75 or 80 lbs of food! Others carried the 50lb canoes. For them the struggle wasn’t the weight of the canoe, it was the fact that the yoke of the canoes dug into your neck while carrying them, nearly cutting off blood flow and pinching your nerves! The mosquitoes were really awful. Since our hands were full none of us could really swat at the mosquitos, so by the end of the trail a lot of were literally dripping blood off arms, backs or faces from their bites. My mother in law’s arms were even swollen from the amount of bites she got on that portage! The struggle was real.
Really AWESOME. haha. Oddly, I kind of enjoy that level of difficulty. It makes me feel like a beast and there is a huge sense of accomplishment. It’s almost safe to say I’d rather do three or four of those portages than canoe all day. haha.
We all made it to the end GLAD to be done with the carry. Once we arrived on the other end of the mile and a half, alot of us stripped down and immediately jumped into the water once we dropped our stuff on the lake shore so we could escape the mosquitoes, cool off and soothe our muscles.
We canoed several more miles and made camp that night ready to eat and sleep. And we did just that. We rinsed off/bathed in the lake, cooked on the fire, and went to bed almost two hours before the sun had even gone down. We were exhausted … and the mosquitoes sucked. Literally.
The next few days contained more of the same. We canoed an average of 12 miles a day, some days less some days more, pitched camp around 3 or 4 in the afternoon and then relaxed by the campfire, swam in the lake, hung in the hammock…. it really was paradise. After the first day, we didn’t see anyone else for two days we were so far into the wilderness. No cell service, no electronics, no obligations, no work, no stress, no one can get a hold of you. It was my kind of perfect.
On our trip we saw a total of 5 moose, 1 bear, and countless loons.
We canoed around 50 miles total and did about 14 portages?
We made tons of awesome memories. It really was a blast and YES I would do it all over again despite my hatred of canoeing.