WILDERNESS PORTRAIT – Autumn in Algonquin


I know – the title of the film sounds a little presumptuous and all encompassing.  Another option, ‘My Wilderness Portrait’ (to me anyways) sounded too juvenile.  I usually spend way too much time oscillating between titles until I get frustrated and (in this case) just go with my first instinct.  This film is made from the perspective of the canoeist (me) while spending time in the wilderness.  Now before all the hardcore bush craft people out there send me their comments about what is and what isn’t wilderness and how my campsite resembles a hotel room, please don’t!  I have a great respect and admiration for the bush crafters who go to great lengths to ‘really live off the land’.  My enjoyment is more so found in the delight of the senses, when camping in the wilderness – the sound of the waves lapping on the shoreline, the colours of the evening sunset, the feel of a hand made cherry paddle slicing through the water, the peace of relaxing on shore in the quietness of wilderness and the mystery of the dancing flames of a camp fire.  I wanted to show the beauty of wilderness much like one enjoys a well crafted portrait of someone they love.  There are many aspects of wilderness that I have probably not included in this film or ever experienced myself.  Just as a face has many looks to it, this is a very unique portrait of a specific location, time and point of view in the Canadian wilderness.

The last canoe trip I did was all about the firsts that my daughter experienced.  This trip I enjoyed a few firsts of my own!


I have never been on a canoe trip all by myself.  After hearing reactions from people I’ve told, that I spent Thanksgiving weekend alone (just me and my canoe), I can see why it is such a rare event in people’s lives.  I have always wanted to, but I prefer to share the experience with someone else.  As an introvert, I do like my time alone, but I’m not anti-social.  I survived the solitary experience and rather enjoyed it.  I did find that night time was a bit challenging, especially with sunset at 6:30.  The nights were long because of the shorter days so I went to bed earlier than I normally would have, but not until watching a fire for a few hours.  Paddling solo is a bit slower compared with two in a canoe.  This was not a problem though, since I was in no rush to be anywhere by a specific time.  Meal time was rather self indulgent – chilli as spicy as I like, lunch only if I wanted and supper time when it suited me.  One other thing I noticed about camping solo, is that I am not certain whether my thoughts stayed in my head or as the trip gradually progressed, they slipped into the audible realm.  My neighbours were nowhere close, so I guess it will remain a mystery.


I have wanted to try hammock camping for a few years now.  I just recently purchased a D.D. Frontline Hammock with the intent to try it out on this solo trip.  I am a stomach/side sleeper and have been hesitant to rush into sleeping in a hammock.  Not until reading that side sleeping is possible in a hammock, have I been willing to risk the purchase.  It will take getting used to, but it is more comfortable than sleeping on my back in a tent!  I liked the difference in size/weight compared to packing my 3-man tent.  My favourite part of sleeping in the hammock is the ability to strategically place the hammock with the best view with little regard for flat or dry ground.  I set up my hammock close to the shore so as to take advantage of the magnificent view of the lake.  With sleeping on the ground, you have usually only a couple of choices on where to set up a tent and near the shore is rarely an option because of the sloped terrain.  For those of us with a tendency toward the OCD spectrum, the issue of gear storage is a new challenge.  Next time I will need to bring a small tarp to place on the ground below the hammock to place gear and shoes, especially if the ground is wet.  I usually don’t look forward to rain, but I believe I will enjoy packing up a dry hammock, instead of a wet tent when that time comes.


I felt as if I were driving a 1973 Porsche 911 Carrera.  Now, I have never driven one, but I have an imagination.  The Red Chestnut Prospector (rented from Algonquin Outfitters) is a masterpiece of craftsmanship and design.  I found myself numerous times pausing in the middle of the lake and simply enjoying sitting in this canoe.  I have always rented the lighter weight kevlar canoes and this would be my first experience with a cedar canvas canoe.  To my surprise, the canoe was lighter than I had imagined.  Perhaps it felt that way because of the infusion of adrenaline caused by having use of this canoe for the weekend.  The desire to build one of these is now even stronger, after having spent a weekend in one.  Here is a quick link to watch the film.