Friday, September 24, 2010

Rowing on the Lakes of Canada*: 2008 Trip to Killarney Provincial Park, Pt. II

(Continued from the previous post, “Rowing on the Lakes of Canada: 2008 Trip to Killarney Provincial Park, Pt. I”)

Fall Color

(*With apologies to The Innocence Mission. The song is just really, really fitting.)

On the third day Seth and I were up again at (relatively) dawn to get some great morning light. We hiked back to the bog we had visited the day before but didn't find as much the second day. However, the lake adjacent to it lay mirror still and misty in the blue of pre-morning, and we spent some time clambering about[i]. The landscape was not quite as stark and full of photographic variety as our previous trip to Utah[ii] (a story yet to be blogged), but we managed to find some interesting subjects anyway.

Morning Lake Reflection

Autumn LeavesMorning Mist, Cranberry BogShoreline reflectionMorning's PassageWhite Pine with Vista

From the start: Morning Reflection in George Lake, Morning Mist over Cranberry Bog, Autumn Leaves, Shoreline Reflection on George Lake, Morning’s Passage, White Pine with Vista.

We headed back in time to catch the ladies for breakfast, and geared up to hike “The Crack”[iii] This unfortunately named landmark was a long division in part of the mountainside, with some truly fantastic view. It's not a long hike (about 7 miles combined hiking and canoeing) but it's decently vertical, and we opted to canoe in, rather than drive to a trail head, tacking on several kilometers.

crack trail

We grabbed a couple canoes from an outfitter[iv], and started our paddle from George Lake at the campground. Nina and Seth are expert canoers. Kate and I....took some adjusting[v] But, with a few practice kilometers under our belts we set out for our first portage.

Prepping for CanoeingNavigatingWe're Canoeing!Paddle and WaterNina and Seth

From the start: Prepping for Canoeing, Navigating!, We’re Canoeing!, Paddle and Water, Nina and Seth

The first portage was literally just a matter of 10 feet or so, over a small change in stream elevation between lakes. It was handled, well, handily. The next portion was a longer row down Freeland Lake. We took some time to explore side bays, hoping to see an elusive moose or bear, but had no such luck[vi]. The second portage was a longer affair, but certainly manageable, being by my fading memory, about a quarter to a half of a mile. Here, the lake ended at a raceway that clawed almost without bed through the forest, until it reached the next lake over. The forest torrent was really an amazing sight, and would have been worth the trip itself.

Bay of the LakeForest Watercourse, second portage

Birch and WaterForest Watercourse, second portage

From the start: Bay of the Lake, Forest Watercourse on the Second Portage, Birch and Water, Forest Watercourse 2.

As we set off from the end of the second portage, we were treated to what would be the best wildlife experience we'd have all week...a very up close and personal encounter with a Common Loon. It swam around us for a while, gave some great displays, and then eventually swam off. We continued over the last leg of paddling across Killarney Lake and then began our hike in earnest, heading up to “The Crack”. After adding to our fungi count, we set out across rolling forested ridges to the base of the formation. We encountered a grouse on the way who did not want to yield the trail, so we made our way around it. At this point, several in our party were thinking of turning back, looking at the steeply vertical climb ahead of us. We’d also skimped on water, and some of us were feeling a little off in addition. I bargained with the group, asking for a short amount of time to see if I could get to the summit and back, while they waited at the base. After the adventure in getting all the way there, I really wanted to get to the top.[vii]

Common Loon Common Loon Canoe trip Unidentified fungi unidentified grouse shredded bark

From the start: Common Loon, Loon Displaying, Rowing on the Lakes of Canada, Fungi, Grouse, Trail with Bear’d Tree.

So as our party waited patiently at the base, I scrambled up to the top. Every time I crested the ledge above me, thinking I was done, I would look up and see a towering summit above me.[viii] Finally, after juggling camera equipment as I climbed up narrow clefts in the rock, I scampered to the top. The views were phenomenal. However, pressed for time, I took a hundred or so pictures, a deep breath of air, and prepared to head back down. I did feel pretty great when I put a rock on the top of the massive cairn/pile of rocks at the summit.[ix] I flew down as fast as I could, and met up with our party. I can’t remember what my time limit was, but if I recall correctly, I was close to it. Luckily, on our way back to the canoes, we ran into a group with a water purifier, and were able to restock our water supply for the return trip.

Nearing the Summit, "The Crack" trail. White Pine and Rock Summit Cairn Summit Cairn Summit Vista Summit Vista

From the start: Gleaming Bones of the Mountain, White Pine and Rock, Cairn at the summit, Placing the Stone, Summit Vista, Summit Vista 2.

The paddle home was a bit choppy. The wind had picked up, and we had to paddle almost directly into it. We tacked back and forth for a bit, until large rolling waves started to build. Kate and I had to shelter in a cove for a bit to rest, but eventually made it back in time for a nice supper. Usually I’m happiest getting INTO a canoe. This time, I remember being fairly happy to get out of one.

On our last full day in the Park, we decided to do one of the other shorter day hikes[x], and set out on the Sentier-Chikanishing Trail, which wound down through the woods to a stony outcrop overlooking islands in Georgian Bay. The trail was fairly uneventful, but the views at the end were spectacular. The stony ground swept down to the Bay, opening up to a vista of flowing forms and forested islands in the water.[xi] We stayed for a bit, enjoying the views, taking pictures, and relaxing. There was an abundance of blackberries, so I gathered as many as I could in my bandana[xii] for dessert. We found an old mooring ring on the rock, and there was even some new fungiJ.

Sentier Chikanishing Trail Sentier Chikanishing Trail portrait Sentier Chikanishing Trail portrait Lichens and Rock Georgian Bay Vista Georgian Bay Vista Georgian Bay Vista Georgian Bay Vista Georgian Bay Vista Georgian Bay Vista Reeds and Water Water, Rocks and Sky>

From the start: Trailhead, Trail Portrait, Trail Portrait- Seth and Nina, Lichens and Rock, Georgian Bay Vistas (6 pictures), Reeds and Water, Water Rocks and Sky.

Water, Rocks and Sky Georgian Bay Vista Water, Rocks, Earth, Sky Mineral Colors on Rock Anchoring Ring Lichens on Rock Lichens on Rock Painted Trail marker Unidentified fungi ? gull

From the start: Water Rocks and Sky, Georgian Bay Vista, Water Rocks Sky and Earth, Mineral Colors on Rock, Mooring Ring, Lichens On Rock, Map of the World, Painted Trail Marker, Fungi!, Ring-Billed Gull.

The rain started to come in as we made our way back, so we decided to lounge about the rest of the day. We headed back into the small town of Killarney, for some fish and chips[xiii]. Not just any fish and chips…the best fish and chips I’ve ever had. Ever.[xiv] The purveyor of piscine perfection[xv] in question was a small mom-and-pop place operating out of a renovated schoolbus.[xvi] The great thing, though, was that the bus backed up to a small dockside fish processing place, which in turn was attached to a small…shack, where the fresh fish was delivered right off the boat. It was really fresh, and really good fish…with some trout and other local species…no generic whitefish. It was almost a transcendent experience, especially after a week of hiking and campsite cooking. As we ate a trio of otters climbed onto a nearby dock and played, and pooped a bit, then played some more for 20 minutes or so. It was really a great way to cap off the trip. Later that day, Seth and I were finishing up some business with the canoe outfitter, when we passed a hitchhiker on the road, and gave her a lift to the Park.[xvii] She turned out to be a bit of a vagabond, wandering across the country camping, and we had a really great conversation on the way back.[xviii]

Killarney village dock To the Rescue! Fish and Chips Otters!

Otters at Play

From the start: Fish and Chips Bus!, Canadian Navy to the rescue!, Fish and Chips, Otters, Otters at Play.

On the last morning in the Park, Seth and I got up early one last time and returned to our usual bog photography spot. We’d had pretty good weather all week long, but a storm front was rolling in, which chased us back to the campsite. However, we managed to get some great shots of the clouds roiling and flowing across the sky in incredibly fast, fluid motion. We stopped by French River Provincial Park, but unfortunately were unable to spend any real time there[xix]. After the long slog back to Guelph, including a mandatory stop at Tim Hortons, we unpacked the gear and headed back across the border.

Stormfront Stormfront clouds Stormfront clouds over Bog Stormfront clouds over Bog Stormfront clouds over Bog

Stormfront clouds over Bog Rainy exit French River PP sign

From the start: Stormfront, Stormfront Clouds, Stormfront Clouds over Bog (4 pictures), Rainy Exit, Sign at French River Provincial Park.

All in all it was a fantastic trip. I admit I was originally a little skeptical about going to a tiny provincial park in Canada instead of another set of US National Parks, but it was really a great experience. Thanks again, Nina and Seth, for setting it up and having us along!


[i] Seth and I have different photographic styles. He is slow, methodical, and was working primarily with film at the time, so not in the mood to waste any shots. I tend to be impatient, dynamic, and, since I had upgraded to a dSLR, was firing off reams of shots. I can only guess how much I was an annoyance that morning:). He's like a zen master in shooting. I'm like a kid with ADD, who's just wandered, unattended, into the Bright Shiny Object Emporium.

[ii] Instructions for taking a fantastic picture in Utah parks: 1) hold up camera. Direction does not matter. 2) close eyes. 3) press button. It's that simple.

[iii] Yes, we've heard the jokes. And indulged in them ourselves. Upon return, I often commented on how great “the crack” was in Canada, how much I loved “the Crack”, how hard it was to find “the Crack”, etc etc etc. Shame on us all.

[iv] After a brief misunderstanding about the location of said canoes. We worked fervently to unlock what we thought were out canoes, only to realize they were private canoes. Unfortunately, this revelation came AFTER we broke of the key in the lock.

[v] Both of us have canoed before. But we have not canoed together, and that, like the road not taken, has made all the difference. There was some near collisions with islands, and crossness involved.

[vi] This would continue to be a theme all weekend. We were in one of the more remote places I've been, and I saw pretty much only animals I could easily find in a city park. I would have traded a million mosquitos for a single moose. To be fair, that would have still left plenty of mosquitos to go around.

[vii] I felt a little bad about it in retrospect, though I made it up and back in pretty near record time. I was caught between really really wanting to accomplish this for myself, and trying to be sensitive to what they wer feeling. Since no one raised any huge objections, I went forward. I’m not sure if it was the right decision in retrospect, but I am very proud of myself for making it up to the top and back. I had failed to do this when we all were in Utah, hiking the Angel’s Landing trail (mostly for vertigo issues at the top), so this meant a lot to me.

[viii] This happened at least three times.

[ix] Of course, I took a picture of this too.

[x] We had toyed with the idea of hiking one of the other mountains, but the group was pretty tired from the day before, and elected for a shorter jaunt. Some day, Silver Peak, some day.

[xi] I’m sure there were a great many interesting geological things to note, but the extent of my observation was oh, hey, pretty rocks. This is the usual extent of my geologic observation.

[xii] My navy bandana is one of the bets gifts I have ever gotten. I’ve hiked with it innumerable times. I am actually pretty proud of the stains it has, which represent mud form a dozen different places, blackberry juice, and blood (mine). It has character.

[xiii] This was easiestly, hands down, the absolute best decision we made. Not that the rest were that bad, but these were EPIC fish and chips.

[xiv] I am what you may call a fan, nay, a connoisseur of fish and chips. I am fairly sure, via my love of fish and chips, I am partly to blame for the globally threatened status of some fish species. Even a hearty Poutine is no match for fresh-from-the-fryer fish and chips with malt vinegar and steak fries…

[xv] Alliteration! Also acceptable would be, Fishmonger of fried fantasticness.

[xvi] The great thing, though, was that the bus backed up to a small dockside fish processing place, which in turn was attached to a small…shack, where the fresh fish was delivered right off the boat.

[xvii] I know picking up hitchhikers is not always a great idea, but it was a little rainy, and the road is really in the middle of nowhere.

[xviii] I remember being in no small part jealous of her for her journey.

[xix] Nor was I awake when we passed over the Musquash River. One of our favorite musical acts, Slaid Cleaves, has a song (Breakfast in Hell) that draws heavily from the history and place names of Georgian Bay. Unfortunately after a week of hiking and blood loss to ravaging mosquito hordes, I was dead asleep when we crossed over the River.