29 April 2008

Algonquin Adventures-"Park Opener" Rock Lake, Spring 2008

In Rock Lake, Out Rock Lake (Paddle access campsite on Rose Island)

Wow ... to start off, I will say that this past weekend couldn't have been better! In the scope of 3 days and 2 nights, I was able to, pick up my brand new 15" Langford Prospector, give it a test paddle, get back into Algonquin park, camp at Rock Lake on Rose Island, see Native Pictographs, out paddle a mean wind (barely mind you), meet some wonderful Algonquin Adventure people, and make what I hope will become long time friends.

It all started off back in January, when I started "shadowing" Algonquin Adventures, in an attempt to ward off the winter blues. For 2 months I read, posting nothing, until finally I came across something that got me going; a spring trip back into the park. Having been reading, the forums for some time, I had gotten a feel for who was on it, and I decided to place a post. To my initial surprise, I found that people were incredible quick to respond, and very open to having new people join in the discussions. After a few weeks of participation, and knowing I was interested in going on the AA Opener trip, I asked if "Newcomers would be welcomed," to which I got a unanimous yes.

Well, to say that got me kicked into high gear would be an understatement, as I adamantly went about checking what gear I had that was appropriate, and what I would need to acquire. I learned everything I could about the Rock Lake, where the trip was to be held, and became addicted to watching the ice conditions over the past four weeks. In short, I was like a kid in a candy store, only my candy, while not sweet, was just as wonderful.

I left Toronto Thursday afternoon, and headed to the park, arriving at the West gates just after 5:00pm. I knew I wouldn't be staying there that night, but with the Rock Lake reportedly still frozen, I decided to take a look for myself prior to picking up my canoe at Langford.

Along the highway 60 corridor, I saw 13 moose, a beaver and a wild turkey; in short the animals were out in droves. I've been told that the highway corridor is moose and deer central in the spring as they are attracted to the left over road salt after the melting of the snow and ice, and this proved to be an understatement!

Upon reaching access point #9, I knew it would be fine, as clear water flowed down the Madawaska River on what was a beautiful evening back at the park. When I reached Rock Lake, I wished that I had already picked up my canoe, as I was ready and able to start my journey to Rose Island, but that would have to wait till the next morning. Satisfied in knowing the water conditions, I returned to my families cottage, where I spent the night.

That night I think I slept a total of maybe an hour, as my mind couldn't stop thinking about having been back in the park, and that in a few short hours I would be getting my very first canoe. As such, I was up by 7:00, and out the door at just past 8:00. I stopped in Huntsville for breakfast, and was at the Langford head office in Dwight by quarter to ten. Seeing my baby for the first time brought quite the grin on my face, as my heart sped up, and my eyes gleamed with satisfaction. The canoe was perfect, and I knew it would be a joy to paddle. Upon taking ownership I asked its weight, and after a few minutes of balancing it on a scale, learned it weighed in at a mere 46 pounds. I was very happy, but the Langford people were sorry it was over their 42-44 pound estimate for my canoe, and gave me free car straps and a full year day seasons pass to any Provincial Park I wanted to visit for the next 365 days!

After learning how to properly tie down the canoe to my car, I was off and running. This was the first time I had driven my car with a canoe on it so I was a bit nervous at first, but it stayed in place perfectly, as I enjoyed my drive back to Rock Lake.

I arrived at access point 9 in great time, and after a quick detaching of the canoe, and loading of my gear, I was off and enjoying every minute of the paddle. From Access Point 9 you journey down a short portion of the Madawaska River, where the Pines of the region smelt absolutely wonderful, reinforcing that the beauties of the park are not always seen but smelt.

The Paddle to Rose Island while short was a great experience, as it gave me the opportunity to get my first feel of my canoe on the open waters. Since it was a bit breezy that day, I stayed close to the west shores of the lake, where I was protected from much of the wind, and only had to keep the boat on coarse through some periods of waves. For those who have never been to Rock Lake, it offers wonderful scenery of mixed forests, high cliffs, interesting rock formations, a view of Booth's Rock Trail, as well as several historical sites. My mind was primarily on my new ride, but I must admit that the sights and sounds of the park took a close second as I paddled. Surprisingly enough, I was met at the opening to the main portion of the lake by a flying military plain that I swear passed the tops of the forest by a few mere meters, as it dove towards I can only assume, the Canadian Forces Base Petawawa on the north-eastern boundaries of the park.

Just as I was about to reach Rose Island, I was also greeted by another flying object, this time a Loon landing near by, as it offered it's familiar cry and another sound that I had missed this past winter.

As I paddled closer to the Rose Island campsite that would be my home for the next two days, I was greeted by long time Algonquin Adventures members Markus, Stainless and Jeffrey M. All were very inviting to me, and offered up the last tent spot to me. While a bit nervous at first, as I was meeting them for the first time, they all offered a hand in unloading my canoe, as we chatted a bit about my new canoe, being back in the park, and the other usual camp chat. In short, I was made to feel right at home, and I new that my fears about joining in the trip while natural were also unfounded.

Later that afternoon, after setting up my tent and gear, we were joined by Paddlin (also known as Dave and Jeanine), as well as Bo Knows and Shelia shortly there after. Since the site I was on had the three-tent limit, Dave, Jeanine, Bo and Shelia occupied the "site next door" that was accessible by a short path along the shore of the island.

That evening we had on and off rainfall, but under the tarps that surrounded our campfire we stayed dry and warm, as we enjoyed a dinner and good conversation. Later that evening we were visited by another AA member, "The Sweedish Pimple," which I later learned was also the name of a fishing lore. By midnight it was lights out, but I didn't sleep much, as we encountered long, distant and gentle thunder storms throughout the area; the type that you'd expect in the summer months, and not this early in the year, the type that offer long booms of thunder follower by the occasional flash of a light show.

The next day, I enjoyed the solitude of the camp, as the others ventured to either near by Pen Lake or "Bo's secrete lake." For me, it was the first time in about four years that I was totally alone, and I let the afternoon pass by as it would, as I enjoyed the solitude of my surroundings. I did venture off later in the afternoon to the adjacent historic site of the Jefferies Cliff, where after about an hour of searching I was able to spot a few native pictographs. The etchings I saw are thought to have been drawn by the neighboring Ojibwa tribe's members in and around the 1600's. I'm told these pictographs were the result of "vision quests" that the tribes members wound partake in as they entered into adulthood.

Towards the end of my paddle, the rain started up, so I returned to camp, to find that the first of the Pen Lake ventures, Stainless, had returned as well. We chatted a bit, and he promised to give me some pointers on my "J-stroke" (So if you're reading this Stainless, know that I'm anxious for a tutoring session in the near future.)

Everyone else returned within a few hours, and I was surprised to learn that Bo had caught enough Speckled Trout for everyone, while Dave also was rewarded with his efforts, with the catch of a nice Speckled as well. With the rain stopped, and the wind dying down, I decided to take another evening paddle, this time to the shores south of Rose Island, where I saw a fantastic series of melt water waterfalls; of which I could hear from camp that afternoon as I was enjoying my "quiet time" in the park. On my way back though the winds picked up, and even with my up wind launch point across the lake back to Rose Island, I was pulled a long way down wind, just managing to make it to the tip of the island, where I rested prior to finishing the paddle back to our site. I must thank both Markus, on foot and Bo on boat, for coming out and checking up on me, it was much appreciated, as I could have just as easily ended up missing the island, ending up on the far side of the lake. It's nice to know that everyone was out to have a good time, but also to keep each other's back safe.

That evening we gathered at the neighboring site where Bo, Shelia, Dave and Jeanine camped, and enjoyed a wonderful communal feast including the days catch, as well as an assortment of nice beverages. The weather cooled considerably, with the stronger wind off the lake, but despite the chill, we managed to have a great evening. In fact, Algonquin trivia became the focus of much of the evenings conversation, where I learned that Bo and Jeffrey, know pretty much every thing about the park that you could ever dream of knowing. To say I felt a bit out of my league would be an understatement, but I was informed that given a few years, it would be flowing from me, just as easily. Never the less, I pulled out my Canoe Routes Map so that I could picture at least where in the park the adventures told had taken pace.

The next morning we all packed up, and returned to the access point where we had embarked on our journey. While the wind was still heavy, it pushed me in the right direction this time, making my paddle more of a sail, as I returned to my awaiting car. While everyone arrived back at varying times, we all seemed to procrastinate the inevitable car ride home, as the conversations picked up again, and we continued to exchanged our summer plans for the park, it was obvious that while satisfied with our short trip we would have liked it have been a bit longer.

Alas all good things do pass, but with the end of one good trip comes the anticipation of the next. As I returned out of the park I was treated to 7 more Moose, and a single deer, a first in the park for me. As I drove home with my canoe on the roof, I grinned as I reflected back on the past weekend that I had so thouroughly enjoyed. While the acquisition of my new canoe was fantastic and being back at the park great, I can honestly say that the people I met were the best parts of the trip. Everyone was so warm, welcoming, exciting and fun to be around. People took each other for who they were, and simply embraced the moment and company that was there to enjoy. This is a type pf experience that I have missed since moving into the suburbs a few years back, but one that I know I can look forward to revisiting the next time I venture back into the park. To Bo, Shelia, Dave, Jeanine, Mark, and especially Jeffrey and Markus, thank you for making the "newbie" feel so welcomed, and know that with the coming summer months, and trips being planning, that I'll be back and until then anxiously await the next Algonquin Adventures gathering, and the growth of new friendships.

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1 comment:

Barry Bridgeford said...

Hi Jeff

Glad to read you had a good time at Rose Island. The folks you met are amongst the best. I wish I'd been there. We'll likely meet sometime this year.

Barry B.