Friday, May 26, 2017

May Long Weekend Canoe Trip

Got to spend the May Long Weekend on the first overnight trip of 2017. One of my son's classmates has an experienced, canoe-tripping dad and we were graciously invited to join them on Big East Lake. In fact, at one point in the planning we had a total of 4 dads and 9 kids committed to going. The other two families had never been canoe camping before so our host rationally decided to choose a site relatively close to the access point in case a quick exit was needed.  

Unfortunately, the other two families later backed out so the trip involved a much more manageable group of 2 fathers and 3 children. Being just  a short 1.5 km or so from the safety of the parking lot with a mere 175m carry to the lake meant we could bring more luxuries than we normally would take.

Arriving on a sunny Saturday morning, the parking lot was filled to the brim. We ended parking next to a pickup truck where the occupants had brought 10L jugs of water, giant coolers, multiple bags of firewood and even a gas powered electric generator! They were bringing in their supplies by making a trail with ATVs and wreaking havoc to the already muddy 175m trail to the shore. Luckily our booked site was farther down the lake and really only accessible by water. 

My son and I arrived first that morning so we set off to get some camp chores done. Here he is "stabilizing" the canoe for me to enter. 



For this trip, he was using his new 48" sassafras paddle for the first time. He used the lateral grip for comfort as we cruised across to the opposite shore.



Once across the the bay, we entered the narrow part of the lake known as "The Cut". High slopes on either side make this area a bit more protected from the wind. Our campsite was near the end where the channel opens up to the wider part of the lake to south.



We arrived quickly to site 6, a sloping site that climbs up from the rocky shoreline. Gear was quickly unloaded and the site explored. 


Apart from a 2x2 sheet of plywood left by the fire pit, the campsite looked well maintained and clean. Our camp mates arrived and began setting up their gear as well. One of the luxuries included an extra tarp and bug net that was rigged over the thunderbox. Given the amount of rain and bugs we experienced, this setup allowed this special private time to be stress free and comfortable. I'll be spending a few bucks on a similar setup for future trips.



By this point we were surprised at how numerous and active the mosquitoes were this early in the season. My Eureka VCS13 bug shelter had been slung up between some trees close to shore for the view. The kids would later pretty much take over the shelter for the duration of the trip. 



It was also nice to see and learn from other people's methods of camping which tend to be more high tech and modern than my own. Our companions brought along a set of Helinox Zero chairs (which my son loved) as well as the collapsible Helinox Table One - very convenient! I brought along my wanigan for a table, as well as the homemade Basmati Rice Bag chair for a seat. Over the winter, I made a second version of this tensioned chair but never posted it on the site. Version 2.0 is a bit higher off the ground and made with 1x2 poplar for the frame, poplar slats for the seats, some left over canvas strips and paracord for tension. It was stained using an old walnut gel in the basement paint collection. While the kids sought relief from the bugs in the screened shelter, I headed to the shoreline for the view and and the breeze. 



We had a lovely campfire that first night but sitting by the fire meant full on bug jackets...



Morning coffee and a breakfast of pancakes were prepared on the wanigan. I really like having an elevated surface for  food prep instead of laying stuff on the ground. Where appropriate the wanigan will be coming on more trips.



Unfortunately, darker clouds rolled in and  light drizzle began mid morning. This didn't deter the two boys and little sister. I took out the bushcraft camp toys and the trio began taken turns to work on a fallen log with axe, saw and crooked knife. Here are the boys practicing de-limbing and trying to remove some of the bark.



Later, little sister had a turn and did a marvelous job marking off where the adults should cut the trunk for manageable firewood pieces. 





The drizzle unfortunately turned into full-fledged heavy rain that would last until early the next morning so our plans for fishing were skunked. Luckily both dads had brought along additional tarps, so the space in front of our tents was covered. However, the tent pad locations were in such an open space that tie off trees were quite far apart. In the end, we had a tangled jumble of lines everywhere and some saggy tarps but at least we had a comfortable space where everyone remained dry for the rest of the trip.



Luckily the rain let up by the morning of day 3 but all the tarps and flysheets needed to be put away wet. Still, the kids did well during the torrential downpour and when we got back to the parking lot by noon, there were only 3 vehicles left, two of which were ours. Everyone else must have bailed earlier but we and the kids stuck it out.

Once settled for the drive back I asked my son if he had any complaints about the trip. I was thinking he was going to say the rain or the hordes of bugs, but he responded that the trip was too short and he wanted to stay for longer next time!



1 comment:

Doug Burns said...

Great trip report. When the kids can enjoy a more difficult trip than the better weather trips are over the top. Doug

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