I’ve now completed the quintessential Canadian experience – a 5-day canoe trip through Algonquin Provincial Park. It was my first overnight canoe trip and one hell of an experience. This trip had it all – wildlife, epic portages, constantly changing weather, and great friends who were still fun to be around after 5 days without bathing.
The hardest part of the trip was the portaging. Carrying all of your gear and a 50 lb canoe is hard work. Some days it felt like we spent more time canoe hiking than paddling. We had two portages of around 1500 meters that were particularly painful. Luckily, the route we took had us descending Devil’s Staircase, a long hill that would have been gruelling to portage up.
Before we left, I publicly declared that the trip would only be a success if A) Everyone survived and B) We saw a moose. The mosquitoes took some blood and there were a few cuts and bruises, but I declare victory on both counts.
Most days we started paddling around 10 am and finished around 2 pm. We took frequent breaks to eat and relax. We would often bunch up the canoes and snack on the lakes (blissfully bug free).
I was impressed with the backcountry campsites. They all had large cooking areas, with fire pits and log benches. Often there was a view of the lake and a breeze to keep the bugs down. Away from the site there was space to pitch tents, hang bear bags, and a box toilet. It was nice having time in the campsites to relax, eat, and stretch.
Most of us packed for the hot, muggy Ontario summers we remembered, but we ended up with a lot of Vancouver weather – cool and drizzly. I would have preferred warmer weather, but the cooler days were good for paddling. We only had one heavy rainstorm. It only lasted for an hour but it soaked everyone and everything and created one messy portage. Luckily the sun came out after and a nice fire helped to dry out our gear.
It was a great trip for unwinding and reconnecting with nature. Each day was focused on getting to the next campsite, setting up shelter, and eating enough calories. Hard, physical work but blissfully simple.
Our route covered over 50 km, including 14 lakes and 11 portages. The longest portage was 1640 meters; the shortest only 60 meters.
Day 1: 10 km / 3:30 hours (Smoke Lake to Tanamakoon)
Day 2: 8 km / 2:20 hours (Tanamakoon to Head)
Day 3: 11 km / 4:15 hours (Head to Kirkwood)
Day 4: 12.5 km / 5:30 hours (Kirkwood to Big Porcupine)
Day 5: 13 km / 3:15 hours (Big Porcupine to Smoke)
Note: Times include breaks for eating and swimming. We took lots of breaks except on Day 5 when we rushed to get back so some people could make it to Toronto for dinner.
More pictures on Flickr.