Notes from the trip can be viewed here.
“This is so the best day ever” my daughter exclaimed as she watched the popcorn kernels explode into their white, fluffy glory. The handle for the Jiffy Pop was much too short and I had to set it on the fire. I should have known better. She paid no attention to my apology for burning the popcorn – just continued to selectively work her way through eating as much of it as she could. I guess the experience of making popcorn, while camping, was more important than my ability to produce a perfect bowl of camp ‘Jiffy Pop’.
I love how excited the kids get when I tell them we are going camping, how we get to sleep in a tent, with our sleeping bags and special camp pillows, that I brought hotdogs to cook over the fire and of course how they get to go to the bulk food store to pick out their own snacks for the canoe trip. They were even more excited, after we all gathered firewood, I told them they could help me place sticks on the fire. That was a first for them after always being told no, up until this point in their young lives.
Watching my kids as they participate in a canoe trip is inspiring. They are never bored. There are times when I need to lead (when to go to bed, brush your teeth, don’t hit your sister – parental type stuff) but most of the time I follow their lead. They seem to move along seamlessly from one activity to another and from one discovery to another. I just tag along and join in on the sense of wonder they exhibit at each new experience. Our campsite (#56) was high up on a rocky peninsula with views on three sides. It was very large with a lot of area to roam – even room for small children to run. The site had an expansive view of the lake with views of both sunrise and sunset. If we were quiet, we could hear the sound of a waterfall located across the lake from us to the north. This was a site that would need a stay of a few days to fully enjoy every aspect of it.
I guess the next time I bring popcorn, I will have to lash a stick to the Jiffy Pop handle so I can safely hold the popcorn out over the fire. I don’t intend to burn the popcorn twice in a row, despite my daughter’s gracious gesture.
There is no such island in Killarney, but in my daughter’s mind we were on Mosquito Island for the duration of our shortest canoe trip to date.
We drove up to the park for the weekend to host a film screening of Wilderness Trails at the park amphitheatre. Scott (co-creator of the film) and his family joined us for lunch (fish & chips) in the town of Killarney before we headed to the park to set up our camp sites. After supper we headed over to the amphitheatre to set up equipment and do a sound check. What a perfect setting to watch the film we made of our hike on the La Cloche Silhouette Trail. Thank you to Rachelle from K.P.P. and the Friends of Killarney Park for bringing us up to show our film!
Since we were already in the park we thought why not a short canoe trip. The following morning we set off to the Bell Lake access point to canoe to the only lake we could reserve (last minute planning) that was close enough for our ‘one nighter’ – Grey Lake.
This was to be the kids (ages 3 & 5) first experience with a portage – 595M from the east side of Bell Lake into Grey Lake. They were excited about the hike because each of them had been allowed to bring their own backpacks. So off they went, down the path, deeper into the forest as I walked close behind them, weighted down with a pack on both my back and front and a camera in one hand. Thankfully I had one free hand because the mosquitos did not take very long to zone in on the two inexperienced mosquito swatters. So with that free hand I swatted mosquitos away from my son and daughter while they walked as fast as their little legs could go. When we finally arrived at the end of the portage, I dropped all my gear and quickly retrieved the bug spray while I listened to my daughter confidently announce, “I do not like Mosquito Island, this is the worst day of my life!”
Site 239 on Grey Lake is a fantastic spot to camp! Nice views down the lake to the east, a couple of good tent pads and a few different options for swimming. We swam for an hour or so that afternoon, enjoyed a supper of salad, steak and potatoes, the kids wandered all over the site, looked for frogs, climbed rocks and later we all enjoyed a warm fire & conversation on a cool summer night with good friends. I know that my daughter had earlier said that it was the worst day of her life, but from the looks of the activities from the rest of the day (watch the film), I think it might have been one of the best days of her life – even though she seems to mostly recall the mosquitos.
This was my daughter’s third canoe trip. This one was a little different – just the two of us – father and daughter.
She loves camping – in fact she often tells me that, “Daddy … I love camping!” She’s my little helper. She volunteers to help gather firewood, chop firewood, set up the tent, filter water from the lake, cook the meals, build the fire, do the dishes and load/unload the canoe. She especially likes exploring around the site, swimming in the lake, playing with sticks, pine combs, rope or anything she can get her hands on and throwing rocks in the lake.
At 3 years old she did great! For the first time (on this trip) she paddled by herself, roasted her own marshmallow, jumped in the lake unassisted and helped prepare the meals.
A canoe trip alone with a young child does have it’s challenges. Paddling on a windy lake is not an easy task, portaging requires much more effort and time and supervising her (by myself) so that she does not wander off becomes a full time job with one that is so adventurous.
I’m not sure when her and I will head out into the wilderness again just the two of us. But when it does happen, I know that I will cherish it as much as I did this trip. Hopefully she will be able to carry more than just her paddle by then.
How do you plan a canoe trip with a 5 month old and a 2.5 year old (still in diapers)? Unless you plan on portaging a sack full of used diapers, you pitch the tent and stay put for the duration. So that’s what we planned way back in March, 5 months before the actual trip. In the back country of Killarney Provincial Park, you call that far ahead to ensure you get the reservations you want and hopefully on the lakes you want. Bell Lake had plenty of sites to choose from and is one of the few access points into the park. That meant we could go from the truck to the canoe to our site with no portages.
We arrived fairly early in the day so we could afford to be a little picky about the site we would occupy for 5 days. After turning down site 79 ( a beautiful view from high above the lake, but not very kid friendly) we agreed on site 79, just across the narrows where Bell Lake mysteriously turns into Three Mile Lake. The weather forecast predicted rain everyday of our trip so the large tarp was brought instead of the more compact version that usually accompanies us. Thankfully our paddle in was warm and sunny – very inspiring – despite the gloomy forecast of cold and wet. The site was large and open, yet sheltered enough to have a sense of privacy. It was a great site to be at since we would be here for 5 days. It was at the south west tip of what used to be an island, but now (due to lower water levels) it is the end of a peninsula, with a beautiful view from 3 sides of our camp site. You could watch the sun rise and set, all from the same spot by the fire. We had one open shoreline to the east as well as one facing west. So when we did have sun, we could go to either side to enjoy the warmth of the sun and the corresponding view.
During the evening on our first night, I was setting up the camera to take a family portrait and then the unexpected happened. No bears, no broken bones or the realization that we’d forgot toilet paper, but something much worse – my daughter and I were in a bit of battle of wills and the tripod got knocked over with the camera firmly attached at the top. The camera survived but the lens did not. My only other lens was a 100mm macro – not very useful for filming the family canoe trip!
On our second day, we experienced something brand new to our canoe trips. We had guests stay with us for the day and over night. Friends of ours had booked their trip back in March and it coincidentally overlapped on Bell Lake for 1 day. It was a lot of fun having good friends pull up in their canoes, share a site and have a sleep-over. The visit got even cozier when the rain started and we moved under the tarp by the fire to cook our homemade pizzas and tell stories until we could no longer keep our eyes open. My friend also resurrected my family canoe trip video that evening, by loaning me one of his camera lenses.
Our guests did not have to tear down and paddle out in the rain. The rain had stopped over night and that was to be the end of the rain, but not the end of the cloud cover. We decided to paddle with them to the end of the lake and then head back for some lunch. My creativity had found new hope, so while the family rested after lunch, I took my newly borrowed lens and spent a few hours exploring and filming from the canoe. Killarney is already a very quiet place (except for the flotillas of canoes that pass by with kids singing as if no one else can hear), but during the rainy times it is measurably more quiet. It was so quiet that from out in the lake, the present gentle breeze seemed louder than usual. As I explored the coastline around the north part of Bell Lake, the lack of sounds seemed to enhance every sound that I made with my paddle. Speaking of my paddle – this was the one I carved this past February at a workshop taught by Bruce Smith. I really enjoyed using this finely crafted piece of cherry wood, instead of the usual rented blue and yellow plastic paddles.
We didn’t bring much of anything for the kids to play with. They were quite well entertained with whatever they could find such as a pile of rocks to move, birch bark to chew on, frogs to chase, stones to throw in the lake, firewood to collect, dishes to throw in the lake, my daughter washed her hands in the lake close to a hundred times and the list could go on. Since we were not portaging, we could afford to pack a bit more food than usual. We ate very well! Swimming wasn’t an every day activity because of the cold, wet weather. We still found plenty to do, even with staying on the same site for the entire trip. We really got to know that site very intimately, as you would with anything or anyone you spend so much time with.
Another first for this trip was the notable absence of my 2 oldest boys. This was the first time in many trips I have been in Killarney without them. From their point of view however, this was a summer with no Killarney canoe trip. There’s always next year, another chance for new adventures and to create new memories once again.