Happy to report that I finally managed an overnighter with my 7 year old son. He's been comfortable in the canoe for years but only showed interest in camping overnight this summer. Wanted to give him a nice experience for his first trip so planned a 3 day, 2 night simple loop in a familiar area that involved a combination of large lakes, marshy rivers and easy portages. We ended up in the Frost Centre just southwest of Algonquin park, a short 40km away from our cottage. I had assumed that given the relative proximity of the route to Highway 35 and the town of Dorset there would be cell coverage to ease my wife's worried mind. Once at the access point however, there was no signal so we would be in communication silence for the duration of the trip...exactly what I wanted!
The route started at the Deer Lake access point, down Raven Lake, a 360m portage to Gun Lake where we would camp on a peninsula point (campsite #94). The way out involved going up the narrow channel north of Gun, through another short 160m portage and loop back into a marshy area of Raven Lake before returning to the access point. Wanted to make the exit closer in case it was needed and get the longer portage out of the way on the first day when we were energized for the trip.
Packed relatively heavy because I wanted him to have some of the comforts for his first time. Our 15' wood canvas Langford Trapper would be the transportation for the trip. The portages were simple anyway and the double carries were a welcome time to stretch our feet. Here is the shot of our gear at the Deer Lake access point.
A little over an hour and we approached the first portage. The map said 360m, the sign 343m.
The little man was ready for his first carry. He's using the wool blanket pack I made for him earlier in the year. He's got the Stewart River kneeling pads rolled up on top voyageur style
His favourite part of the first portage was the wooden boardwalk setup over some soggy areas.
A huge rainstorm the night before made the place extra mucky. The mosquitos were out in full force and showed the poor guy no mercy. But on the walk back for the 2nd load, we spotted this young snapping turtle right in the middle of the path so that was a nice treat.
Another 45 minutes of paddling and we eventually made it to our elevated rocky site. He was eager to get out before fully unloading the canoe to explore our new home. I dropped him off and took this shot...
Just before the trip, I ended up getting a tent for the family that was 25% off. It's the Eureka Midori 3. Good enough for our family needs and the dimensions fit our super comfy double sleeping mat. Here's the tent setup with rainfly rolled out of the way. The canvas pack in front is the recently repaired Woods 200.
Eureka Midori 3
Here's our tarp setup in our living area. The natural rock edge served like a countertop and someone placed a flat slab on top for an even better cook surface. You can just see the tent in the far left of the photo.
Dark clouds rolled in for our first evening, but he patiently waited out the hour long rainfall in the tent, content to draw pictures of the day's events. We had also made a leather case for his coloured pencils in anticipation of the trip.
The rain let up later that evening so mealtime was under the comfortable tarp. Brought along some more homemade gear, including the folding tripod stool and the collapsible bucksaw chair. Re-using one of the kneeling pads as a cushion made it super comfy and he pretty much hogged the chair for the rest of the trip.
A new gadget for camp was a little device called the SaveAqua tap. It is a self closing gadget that can attach to virtually any plastic container lid to serve as a hand washing station. I attached it to the lid of an un-used 64oz Sawyer Squeze bag and suspended it from a nail left on a tree. A quick push up of the ball tip and water would flow out allowing you to efficiently wash hands or pots. Once released the water flow would shut off tightly.
The "faucet" at camp
closeup of the SaveAqua tap
The next morning was grey but serene. Woke up to my son missing from the tent. He had gotten dressed and was watching calling loon in the distance with his binoculars.
Breakfast was some pancakes made with mini trangia set and some homemade utensils carved a while back.
The campsite featured a wonderful flat rock right at the water's edge that we called the "dock". We lounged around camp that day wondering if the drizzling rain would persist, but thankfully sunny skies were in for the rest of the trip
Just around the bay, is a small waterfall - Brandy's Falls. Last time I visited here it was completely dry, but the deluge from 2 days before raised the water levels enough for us to hear the falls from our tent. We hopped into the canoe and went to explore...
Creek section and sunny skies...
At this point in the trip, I gave him the option of bailing out early if he was bored and wanted to go home. He said "No way" and wanted to start on an early dinner. We made dehydrated soup and he dug right in.
After playing some cards and more drawing I was wondering what he this restless 7 year would do to entertain himself. He decided to spend the next hour finding and throwing small rocks off the ledge.
Then he grabbed the camera to photo document our campsite. Snuck up on me to capture this shot.
We learned from a passing group that the regional fire ban had been lifted given all the rainfall so it was off in the evening to collect some dead wood along the shore for a small fire.
He had a pair of water shoes for paddling but to be comfy in camp, I had made a pair of father and son mocassins from oil-tanned leather using this tutorial here. They held up well and he noticed how quiet they were while walking around camp. He spent even more time wandering around the peninsula silently tracking a persistent woodpecker going from tree to tree.
We fell asleep easily the 2nd night and woke up to a nippy morning where the full moon was visible in the horizon.
By now the food barrel was considerably lighter so he wanted a go at carrying it. Here he is retrieving it from out stash point on the far side of camp. The straps needed to be adjusted but he was willing to carry it on the next portage.
The morning ritual included filling up our water bottles. I've modified the Katadyn base camp filter with a quick hack learned online to eliminate the constant clogging of the filter.
After a leisurely breakfast and breaking camp, he helped load up the canoe by the shore dock before the paddle back to the car.
I had anticipated an hour to paddle out, but the river and marshy section was choked with lily pads that slowed us down considerably. Ended up being about the same amount of time as it took to paddle in. Managed to get one more photo of the stillness on the paddle out before the camera's batteries died. Wanted to get more pics of the 2nd portage but the batteries were at the bottom of the pack and not worth the hassle. We had all the great memories we needed.
Now he wants to help design and make his own paddle and go for a longer trip next year! Stay tuned for that project in the near future