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Family camping on the Gatineau River PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 03 July 2010 19:00
Aline and I have been wanting to give the kids their first taste of camping this summer so with good weather forecasts on the horizon and a lower than normal bug season thus far, we chose this Canada Day long weekend to go camping near her parent?s cabin on the Gatineau River.

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Suppertime!
JG and I scouted out a nearly ideal campsite a short 15 minute paddle away from the dock on a secluded island and after claiming it for ourselves with a tent, Aline and I returned with the kids in tow later that afternoon.

Hazel immediately set about tossing sticks in the water and Sam copied her while Aline and I set up camp. The tent site was lumpy and we had no sunset view but otherwise the site was perfect. A shallow wading area for kids. Decent rock ledge to sit on. Trees for our hammock. A cool breeze and virtually no bothersome bugs.

Not having a bathroom didn?t faze the kids. Sam discovered leaning over the hammock gave him a good position for an easy to clean number two. Hazel found great glee in counting the ants who invaded her potty after a pee.

Sam was ravenous and foraged through our cooler for snacks while we prepared corn followed by cheese and macaroni for dinner testing out our new wood burning Vital Stove for the first time. Eager to see it in action, I nearly caused a forest fire as pine needles caught fire outside the stove forcing us to hastily beat the flames back. It was an impressive display of heat caused by a small battery powered fan which fed the flames in the stove and pretty much incinerated any dry material you gave it.

Aline?s folks paddled over to join us for a smores dessert which Sam smeared all over his face. He was easy to clean and the kids then played pretend canoe before Hazel waded into the water searching for clam shells with JG.
Bedtime came with sundown. Aline stood by the water rocking Sam to sleep while I told Hazel some of her favourite bedtime stories doing my best not to forget the storylines ? unsuccessfully. With Sam successfully asleep, Aline took over and retold Hazel the story of our day leading up to bedtime.
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Hazel's Beaver River trip PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 07 August 2008 06:52
Looking for a lazy afternoon canoe paddle suitable for a kid?

Try the Beaver River in Grey Bruce County.

The gentle flowing river is perfect for novice paddlers like our 22-month old daughter as well as my 60-ish folks who wanted an easy ride. Carved through a pre-glacial valley, the route offers panoramic views of the Niagara Escarpment and the surounding countryside. The river valley provides excellent habitat for heron, great horned owl, white-tailed deer and beaver - though all we saw on our trip were a couple of blue herons.

Named by the Huron First Nations people for the numerous beaver found along its banks, the Beaver River indents the Niagara Escarpment for a distance of 40KM from Georgian Bay to Flesherton. In the mid-19th century, the river was used as a transportation route. Steep gradient in some sections, provided a source of water power for mill operations The first stretch from Kimberley to Epping is 15km and takes about 2-3 hours. This stretch is rugged and scenic with mature trees along the banks that completely envelope river in some locations. Because of likely debris, logjams and beaver dams we skipped this section and put in at the second access point.

From Epping to Heathcote is about 10km and 2 hours. This stretch is more winding. The tree canopy opens up considerably. Area is ideal for families althoguh swifts and fast currents may be encountered depending on water levels.

Hazel was a great passenger. She sat in front of both Aline and I during stretches and seemed to enjoy herself.
 
Algonquin Park: Canoe Lake PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 05 August 2007 19:00

How far is it?

We all looked from our campsite across the sparkling blue water at the little island taunting us in the near distance.
400 meters.
No way. 200!
No it must be 300 meters.
250.
No, it's got to be more. Maybe 700 meters.

We all looked again and tried to envision the distance in our minds. A couple of football fields? No. It was further than that. A kilometer. No, it couldn't be.

 

And then little Joe spoke out. I have a GPS cellphone. Let's go find out. Was there a better way to spend some quality family time on a hot summer afternoon in Algonquin Park? Nope.

Our three-day Vesely family canoeing trip had started noon the day before. Our group included my wife Aline and I, my dad Joe and stepmom Jarka, and Jarka's daughter and husband Petra and Joe. I had promised to take my dad on a canoe trip a couple of years back - even though he's more of a Club Med kind of guy - and he's been reminding me about my promise ever since. So with Jarka's family visiting from the Czech Republic, we thought it'd be a perfect opportunity to organize a group outing and introduce them to a Canadian wilderness experience.

Our route was a three-day August long weekend 30KM loop beginning at Canoe Lake, heading north through Joe, Little Joe and Baby Joe Lakes to Burnt Island Lake and then back again through Tom Thompson Lake.

On a mid-summer weekend - and particularly the August long weekend we were there - any backcountry traveller starting out from Canoe Lake is likely to think they're paddling through a suburb of Toronto - that's how many inexperienced paddlers crowd the lake. But it's a popular spot for many reasons including its easy access from southern Ontario, its varied route options and its place in Algonquin history.

Around the turn of the century, when the Ottawa, Arnprior and Parry Sound Railway offered the main means of access to the park, Canoe Lake was the commercial center of Algonquin. Artist Tom Thompson lived here for much of the year, making extended trips into the interior in the spring and fall to paint. Thompson's body was found in the lake in 1917; many believe he was murdered here. A cairn dedicated to Thompson is located under an incongruous totem pole on the north shore of the lake.

After leaving behind the launch crowds and stopping briefly at the cairn, we soon found our paddling rhythm and spent the next six hours paddling and portaging our way through the Joe chain of lakes (yet another reason why this route was chosen seeing as how we had a pair of Joes on the trip!) until we finally reached Burnt Island Lake around 6PM. It took us another hour to realize that all the sights in our near vicinity were already taken and we we would have to make due with a makeshift camp on Caroline Island.

Lucky for us, the island had a flat enough grassy space with room for three tents and enough rocks and dead wood to make a campfire. Supper was our staple pasta and sausages meal and we washed it down with a bottle I had made my dad carry among his personal baggage - an apple slivovice.

After a breakfast omelette the next morning we backtracked to our last portage point and walked the 1140 meter portage to Littledoe Lake which connected to our destination at Tom Thompson Lake. Originally the plan had been to pond jump and portage our way through the Sunbeam Lake loop over to Canoe Lake but after the difficulties finding a campsite the previous night, it made more sense to make sure we found a new spot earlier today.

It was a wise choice.

We reached Tom Thompson Lake by 2PM and found a large group site on a point which we snagged and then had the afternoon to ourselves to contemplate life's great mysteries - like the distance from our site to that elusive island in the distance.

Petra, my dad and I decided to swim it while Aline, Jarka and little Joe paddled alongside. It took Petra and I about 12 minutes to swim the distance. My dad took the easy way out and grabbed the painter line from the canoe and urged the canoeists to drag him along. Needless to say, that slowed them all down. Though as my dad proclaimed throughout the weekend whenever it was convenient:

"You married me not only for this (pointing at muscled arm) but also for this! (pointing to brain)"

That's my dad for you. Finding the least physical way out wherever possible. Though, for a 62-year-old on his first overnight canoe trip foregoing the comforts of a soft mattress - I'll cut him some slack. He and Jarka were troopers and carried their fair share without complaint the entire weekend.

It wasn't as the crow flies but the distance was approximately 490 meters. Give or take a little. After a leisurely swim we back, Aline and I tested out a new supper - dehydrated ground beef and a dehydrated spaghetti sauce we had dried ourselves earlier that month on pasta and zuchini. Delicious. And light! Definitely something we'll try again. For the second straight night we had some fun trying to raise our foodpack to a safe spot before turning in as the sun set.

Monday morning's breakfast was pancakes before we closed camp and headed down Teepee lake back to the launch at Canoe Lake. The weather, which had been hot and sunny for the weekend, was a shade more crisp today and there had been rain forecasts - but we managed to get off the water and return our equipment around noon before the weather turned.

 
Gatineau River PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 04 August 2006 19:00
Aline's folks have a little cabin in the woods that just happens to be a two-minute walk to the Gatineau River up at Low, Quebec.

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An early start to the kid's canoeing education!
And they have a canoe.

Throw in the fact it's a sunny Saturday in August, and well, it was about time Aline and I introduced the baby to a light paddle.

We spent a couple of hours meandering about the long bay near the access point paddling around the various islands. Hugging right brings you to the Paugan Hydro Dam whereas turning left and heading upstream brings you to the main channel of the Gatineau River en route to Lac Sainte Marie. Once past the launch site, the cottages melt away and the countryside is mostly forested with the occasional farm. We saw three campsites en route and I hear there's many more further up the river.

Sounds like a perfect family vacation next year!
 
Temagami: Falls Route PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 03 August 2005 19:00
Mention the word honeymoon and most folks will start dreaming of a luxury cruise or an all-inclusive Carribean resort or perhaps a sightseeing trek across continental Europe.

Me? I like to think of my wife carrying a food pack on a rain-drenched four-kilometer portage in the middle of nowhere. With me carrying a canoe and happily humming a goofy tune beside her.

Now that's paradise.

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Yikes. I have to climb up there?
At least it was to Aline and I who celebrated our June 10th marriage vows with a Canadian honeymoon in the Temagami wilderness over the August 2005 Civic holiday weekend.

Our plan was to splurge a little and hire a bush plane to drop us off in the middle of Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park and canoe 40KM through the picturesque falls route on the rugged north and south channels of the Lady Evelyn River.

We missed our 2PM Friday liftoff but our Beaver de Havilland float plane was available to pick us up again at 5PM and a short 15 minute flight later we were dumped out at the south end of Sucker Gut Lake.

With only a couple of hours of sunlight left we filled up on blueberries at Frank Falls and made camp on a rocky slope with Center Falls in full view.

Saturday we made our way through the other four waterfalls en route - Helen, Twin Sisters, Bridal Veils and Fat Man's Falls' - hoping to make up time from our late start the previous day. Many of the online posts I had read about the route indicated the portages could be quite gruelling and I was relieved to discover they weren't quite as bad as they could have been. Steep yes. Awkward sure. But doable. Though the look in the eyes of the camp troop we met on the southern channel indicated they probably thought otherwise.

We camped on a point off Willow Island Lake Saturday night. But misty rain and the occasional thunder roll Sunday morning made us rethink the wisdom of spending lots of time on the water so we decided to take a shortcut to Diamond Lake - through a four kilometer portage. It took us a good two hours but saved us twice that time on the water and allowed us to paddle swiftly all the way back to the sandy beach at Ferguson Bay access point where we spent the night before putting out Monday morning.
 
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