(click on pictures to enlarge)One of the highlights of summer in Canada for many people, is canoeing in the wilderness. I’m a bit of a wimp and a feeble paddler but I’m lucky to have my friends Jocelyn and Jeanette who are intrepid outdoor enthusiasts and who organize a canoe trip every summer for whoever might be interested in joining them.
Last weekend was a long weekend here, Monday being Labour Day, and they organized a trip to Georgian Bay along the Key River. We were a group of 10 people in 5 canoes. We drove up the Trans Canada Highway past Parry Sound on Friday and camped close to our starting point. Early on Saturday morning, we set off and paddled down the river to the Bay, a distance of about 10 miles. Georgian Bay is a large body of water sometimes referred to as the 6th Great Lake. It has 2,000 km of shoreline and is dotted with around 30,000 islands mostly consisting of Precambrian rock.
The weather was gorgeous, not too hot and not too cold with sunny blue skies, and the scenery was beautiful. I would be lying if I said that it was an easy run for me. Already tired by the time we reached the mouth of the river, canoeing against the wind in open water a few more miles across the Bay to one of the islands close to the French River Provincial Park was exhausting. However, we found a great spot to camp with good spots for our tents and for swimming and once we got there and set up our tents, it was worth the effort.
Jeanette organizes wonderful meals and dinner around an open fire with a couple of glasses of wine left us all feeling relaxed and happy. Before retiring to our sleeping bags, great care was taken to pack away all our food and even toothpaste and toiletries into a sealed plastic barrel to prevent nocturnal bear visits. There is something wonderful about being in total darkness in the wilderness with the stars of the night sky clearly visible and the sound of the wind rustling through the pines and waves lapping on the shoreline.
In the morning, seeing the sun rise over the water was spectacular. The air is fresh and clean and it is a good time for contemplation. One has to remember though that it is the wilderness. I was terrified out of my wits coming upon this snake as I walked from my tent to the breakfast area. It disappeared under a pile of rocks as I approached but from then on, I was very careful about where I stepped. The snakes in this area are generally not venomous except for the Massasauga Rattler and the markings on this one did not convince me that it wasn’t one of those, not that I hung around to examine it closely!
We did more relaxed paddling on Sunday, exploring parts of the Pickerel River and stopping for a relaxed lunch and swimming. On Monday, we paddled leisurely back up the Key River to our starting point. By the time we had unpacked our canoes, loaded them onto the cars and organized ourselves, it was almost time for dinner so we stopped at Pizza Hut in Parry Sound. Imagine the shock we got when having spent three days in the wilderness with no sight of any bears, we saw this one on the edge of the restaurant carpark. Apparently, they wander around the outskirts of the town looking for food. All I can say is that I’m glad we saw the bear here rather than on the island upon which we had camped as between snakes and bears, I wouldn’t have slept a wink.
Since I’m on the subject of Canadian wildlife, I’m including this picture of a beaver lodge. Beavers feed on wood, sedges and water lilies. They store sticks and logs in a pile and in winter, when snow comes, it remains on top providing insulation and preventing the water underneath from freezing.
I returned from the trip refreshed and happy that I had been given this opportunity to experience the great Canadian wilderness in a canoe. To Jocelyn and Jeanette, thank you.