Canoeing in Algonquin

 

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On September 3, my brother and I did a four-day canoe trip in Algonquin Park.  During our small adventure, we faced a wide range of weather conditions starting the morning we arrived where heavy fog snuggled the area like a thick down blanket.  We could not see or hear anything, but by the time we left with our rented gear from The Portage Store the morning air was fresh and the sky was clear.  Rusty, my brother and I paddled the canoe like drunks trying to walk a straight line.  Loons welcomed us with their calls as they watched us with more curiosity then fear.  Throughout the trip, loons would come within a paddle length of our canoe.  Never before had I been so close to these iconic birds – it was fantastic and a highlight of the trip.

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By the time we reached our destination at the eastern end of Burned Island Lake, 5 ½ hours of paddling and four portages had passed.  The high cirrus, then cirrostratus clouds hinted at the weather to come.  Tired and sore we rushed to set-up camp while, close to shore, a loon feed its young.

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The rain waited patiently until we started cooking dinner.  The first night left us tired with stiff backs and in bed by 8:00 pm.

On the second day, we emerged from the tent to brilliant blue skies.  After breakfast and always in the company of loons we explored the lake in our canoe.  We moved camp having stumbled on a more idyllic spot among a stand of tall pines and chattering red squirrels.

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We relaxed our aching muscles around the small crackling fire as the day wore on and by late afternoon, the clouds returned with the threat of rain.

After another sleepless night on hard ground, dawn welcomed us with light rain.  As morning passed on, the clouds darkened and rested on the treetops.  The wind, out of the south, whipped up to hurricane force.  The trees screamed under the strain, the lake frothed with anger, and our small tent looking like a balloon trembled with fear.  Our moods sagged under the strain from the lack of sleep and foul weather so we wasted the hours trying to sleep.

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Then by mid afternoon, the wind changed direction – coming from the southwest.  The new current of air blew our dark mood away revealing the surroundings in a new light.  No longer menacing the clouds danced atop the trees showing off their many glints of silver.  The trees sang with the wind and the waves added rhythm by crashing on the shore.  The musty damp earth and decaying detritus of our campsite now had a sweet smell.  All around us, vivid colours came to life.  The moss and lichen, covering the rocks, were an intense green against the rusty brown pine needles littering the ground.

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With moods buoyed, my brother grabbed his sketchbook to capture the beauty of the dramatic scenery while I played with my camera.  The evening finally brought an end to the wind and we enjoyed our last night sitting next to the bright fire watching the flames dance in the darkness while the loons sang their beautiful songs of the north.

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