As previously stated I spent this past long weekend in Killarney. I brought my netbook with me, with the thought that I might post from the lodge on Monday evening, but decided to just chill out and lick my wounds instead. Anyone who witnessed my grand display of camping skill this weekend would have thought it was my first weekend in the woods. I managed through a total lack of foresight to get a rather spectacular sunburn on the tops of my hands, and a healthy array of black fly bites on my hands, behind my ears, and on my scalp. Coupled with a bruised hip from a slip on some wet rocks and I managed to get myself fairly well battered on this particular voyage, and am feeling a bit embarrassed about my display of general woodcraft.
All that we shall come to in time. Let's get on track though and tell this tale chronologically. Dad came up to Toronto on Thursday night. It's a nice way for him to cut the drive to Killarney in half, and also a chance for a nice meal in Toronto. We went with Gray and Susan to Cava, a local tapas restaurant which was a new experience for both Dad and I. What a meal! The entire affair consumed the whole evening, but it was just a constant parade of great food and wine. I can think of few better ways to pass an evening.
Well fed and well rested Dad and I set off on Friday morning for Killarney. We made a planned stop about half way up, just outside of Parry Sound, at White Squall. This is a huge Canoe/Kayak store and we spent a good amount of time perusing the wares. The nice thing about White Squall is that they are on the shores of a substantial lake and this provides to opportunity to "test drive" any boats that you have the intention of buying. I got a picture of Dad in the boat that he eventually ended up deciding on:
That shot was actually taken with the camera on my new phone! The Google Nexus S takes a pretty nice shot for a phone! I'll have to do a more in-depth discussion on that piece of hardware in a product review post some other day. As you can see though it was a beautiful day, and it made for a really nice drive. Also, Dad managed to get a pretty cool boat! We actually left it at White Squall and picked it up on our way back through on Tuesday, so it didn't make it out for a paddle this past weekend. The boat is a hybrid of fiberglass and kevlar; combined with the fact that it's a short boat it makes for an unbelievably light kayak.
I also made a purchase there, though on a much smaller scale. I've been shopping for a PFD for awhile now, intending to get my own for the sake of comfort, and just because I go on enough boating trips with Dad that I shouldn't really expect him to have to provide a lifejacket every time. I ended up getting the same vest that Dad always wears, just in orange to distinguish myself a bit.
After our shopping spree we got back on the road and finished the trek up to Killarney. The rest of the day was spent lounging about enjoying the good food and hospitality of the Killarney Mountain Lodge, which was exactly what the game plan called for. It's unsurprising to see that Dad has become a familiar face at the lodge, but I was surprised to see how much recognition I'm starting to get by association. I guess I'm starting to become a regular up there!
We started the next morning with a good breakfast at the lodge, and then made our way down to the boat launch at the Chikanishing Creek. Here I was introduced to something I'd only really known in legend: The Bloody Black Fly. Black flies live in infamy throughout the North, but I've never had anything more than brief, mildly annoying run-ins with them. This weekend gave me a small taste of the menace that they can truly become. Any attempt to hold still and stay in one position causes the little buggers to land and proceed with the feasting, which made loading the boats an irritating task. One of the reasons that we tend to camp in the Spring and Fall is that the bug populations are significantly reduced, but apparently this was a good year for them and they decided to come out early. I've been informed that what I experienced in terms of black fly harassment is nothing compared to what can be encountered further North and down East, but I still can't recommend them as a thrilling experience.
The presence of the flies was entirely unexpected because the forecasts leading up to our trip indicated foul weather from beginning to end. This turned out not to be the case since Saturday was absolutely beautiful. This, however, brings me to my learning experience for the trip: the term "always be prepared" does not refer solely to being prepared for the worst. While packing for the trip I looked right at my bug shirt and thought "oh well, the weather will be terrible, there won't be any bugs." Yeah. That worked out great. Also, being caught totally by surprise by the onset of good weather I forgot to cover my hands. With the backs of my hands facing up for the entirety of the paddling voyage I managed to procure a fairly magnificent sunburn which persists to this day. Thus my feelings of camping inadequacy. I was beating myself up pretty good for my lack of preparedness on this outing.
Okay, now that I've explained my earlier self-belittling, let's get back to the story.
The Chikanishing Creek (really hope I'm spelling that correctly) leads by a short paddle out into Georgian Bay, right off the Western point of Philip Edward Island. Here's a picture of Dad on the Creek:
Once we were out of the Creek we quickly got into the channel between the mainland and the island and began an eastward journey along the North coast of the island.
That's Philip Edward Island on the right, Killarney Park on the left, and my backpack in the middle.
We made our way casually down the channel, always keeping an eye out for a likely camping spot. We even got out at one point to check out appealing prospect but decided against it for lack of level space for the tents. Our only real criteria was that we keep a reasonable amount of shelter to the South since the weather reports were calling for some storms to be heading from that direction on Sunday.
After a couple hours of leisurely paddling we settled on this point.
The water below that jutting point of rock to the left of centre appeared quite deep for the channel, and I think that our site would make a beauty spot for a swimming in the summer. You can't see it in this picture, but just to the left was a pre-built fire ring, which made the spot even more appealing. It's nice to know that we can have a fire without causing any additional scars to the landscape.
It didn't take us long from the point where we landed to turn this:
With the fire ring and our boats out on the rocks, and our tents tucked safely amongst the shelter of the trees we had ourselves a pretty cozy little spot.
The rest of the day was spent mostly in getting a fire going and then standing around in the cloud of smoke that it provided to discourage the relentless feasting of the flies, who took approximately a millisecond to be alerted to our presence.
At one point I wandered down to the area where we'd taken the boats out. There was a long rock that was low to the water that I could stand on to wash my hands. As it turns out there was a particular spot, free of any visual indication to its difference from the surrounding rock, that became very, very slippery when moistened. As a motorboat had just passed and provided the necessary hydration I, quite without warning, found myself deposited on my backside. It has been noted that I'm hard as rock, but whatever rock that may be, it's clearly no match for Georgian Bay Granite. Thus the previously mentioned bruise to my right hip, and further embarrassment due to my clear inability to even walk about without injury.
We went for a walk later in the day, and as you can see the skies did begin to get cloudy as the day wore on:
Still, it was a lovely end to a day of unexpectedly beautiful weather.
Our tents didn't end up on perfectly level ground, and Dad and I both found that we were up frequently in the night pulling ourselves back up from whichever corner of our respective tents tended to be at the lowest point in the slope. Still, we were both using brand new and rather spectacular ground pads (which shall be the subject of their own glowing reviews in another post down the line) and got a great night's sleep. I awoke the next day with just enough time to get dressed and slip out for a few early-morning photos before the rain started.
Given that the forecast was calling for grim, rainy weather for the remained of the weekend we prepared ourselves for a rainy day. To be honest I was thrilled with the drizzling rain since I'd packed appropriate clothes for it and found it to be entirely more pleasant than the affections of the flies.
We spent most of the morning in the difficult lighting, and continued maintenance of a camp fire. The fire right was pretty soaked, so it was no easy task getting the fire going, but once lit a good camp fire takes a whole lot of rain to be put out. I carefully tended the fire for the rest of the day since it provided an excellent way to dry out, even while the rain persisted.
Surprisingly the rain didn't last past the morning and we were left with a dry (if cloudy) and bug-free afternoon. This gave us ample opportunity for a good lunch, and if there are any people out there who doubt our ability to make a good lunch at camp, I would like to refer you to Exhibit I:
Yeah, that's right.
One funny thing happened in the afternoon. Please note the presence of the substantial rock which Dad's hat is resting on. Please also note that it is entirely intact. Through the constant bombardment of fire on one side and rain on the other we apparently weakened this great piece of the earth so that, later in the day, when I just casually rested my foot on it, this happened:
I have every intention of spending the rest of my days claiming that I kicked a piece of granite in half.
The break in the weather gave Dad and I an opportunity for an exploratory paddle, the beginning of which I was able to capture through the miracle of the camera timer:
You will observe how the section of this rock directly under my elbow looks no different from the rest of the slab? Yeah, that was the "fun bit" that caused me to go hurtling through the air the day before. Just trying to justify my clumsiness here.
After dinner we started to get signs that the day's rain was not entirely finished, and as we sheltered under the tarps I even began to hear thunder. We ended up with some moments of heavy rain, some strong winds, and some ominously close thunder, but never a sign of lightning or anything that really made us feel threatened. Intermittent breaks in the cloud and rain also made for some great evening photos:
A brief respite from the rain. Followed by a lovely sunset:
You can just make out where the sun has dipped below the hills to the right of the photo. Interestingly I found that the sunset was much more spectacular in the Eastern sky:
With the help of our fine tents and a couple quality tarps we spent the night in dry comfort and woke up the next morning ready to pack up and make our way back in to town. It was a drizzly morning which made it pretty difficult to get things packed up without them ending up soaked. Unfortunately it also made things very slick, and just as I was rushing to get my boat packed up I forgot about the infamous stretch of our boat-loading rock. Yup, slipped again. This time I went right into the water, not catching myself until I was in right up to my waist. As I went down I managed to knock my kayak out into the channel as well, so Dad had to get his boat into the water to go retrieve it. Why not end the trip with further embarrassment I thought. Might as well make it a hat-trick. As it turns out we'd forgotten to grab the spray skirt for the boat I was paddling, and just as we were finishing things up it really started to pour, so my legs would probably have ended up soaked anyway.
Despite the rain it was actually a really still, beautiful morning and it made for a great paddle back to the Creek.
The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful. We made it back to the lodge without further mishap and enjoyed the comfort of warm showers and good food. It's always an excellent way to end a camping trip, and the promise of such reliable comfort always makes any amount of cold and damp tolerable. We got up Tuesday and headed back towards Toronto, pausing at White Squall to retrieve Dad's new boat.
That concludes my (rather lengthy) log of this trip. In hindsight I probably should have taken the time to write something on Friday when we arrived at the lodge so that I could have shortened this beast of a post up. I'm intending to really get a good start on my new tradition of Sunday posts (no pun intended there) this week. Sometime Sunday afternoon I'll get something posted, and I hope to continue the momentum and really get into that new habit. Until then, I hope everyone had a great long weekend, and I'll talk to you all soon.