Rain, Rain, and more rain. This was the weather report for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday on the weekend Tyler and I were to go backcountry canoe camping in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park. Luckily for us, the weatherman lied (like usual) and the weather was better than we could have asked for, but I’ll get more into the weather later on. I first had to make sure I was properly packed; this was my mental packing list:
Paddles and Life Jackets ✓
Backpack full of Gear ✓
And most importantly Food! ✓
(I later learned that I should have been more detailed)
It was just about time to hit the open road and start driving to Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park.
By the time 6 o’clock rolled around on Friday, the anticipation was finally starting to die down as the trip we were embarking on was becoming a reality. Before this trip, I had never done any canoe camping, backcountry camping, or anything that was close to this, but this was going to change in a matter of hours.
But first things first we had to get to the park and that meant strapping a 50ish pound (felt heavier) canoe to the top of my Rav4. I think strapping it down was the hardest part of the trip, but hey we got it done.
Friday night was a little rough. We arrived just as the sun was starting to set and the start of our trip had the longest portage of the entire trip! But before I go into details of what actually happened, I’ll give you a rundown of our travel route. We were to start our trip from the Coon Lake Access on Coon Lake and our plan was to traverse the south section of Kawartha Highlands from Coon Lake up to Lake Vixen going through several lakes and over multiple portages. We were booked in to stay at Little Turtle for the first night then on the second day travel all the way up to Lake Vixen where we would stay Saturday night. Then we would head all the way back to the south point of the park to complete the trip. Let’s hope things run smoothly.
With the canoe in the water and paddles in hand, we paddled across Coon Lake with the sun setting. We made our way to the first portage and we were about to realize what the whole trip was really about. Our goal was getting to our Friday night campsite as fast as possible since neither of us wanted to set up in the dark. I guess the saying ‘go big or go home’ really comes to mind as we came set foot back on the ground and looked at the trail ahead of us. Well, I should actually say looked up, since in front of us was easily a 100-meter hill (okay… I guess like 20 meters). We soon realized this trip was going to be a lot of physical work, as we both had bags that weighed around 30 pounds and an ancient canoe that weighs 50ish pounds and is just awkward to carry. After putting one foot after another and taking several breaks, we managed to survive the 600+ meter portage of muddy, rocky, uphill terrain. It was a rough go. Eventually, we made it to campsite #471 and settled in for the night.
I always hear the best part of arriving somewhere in the dark is waking up and getting to see where you spent the night, and this was no exception. The forest was dense and green, there were no clouds to be seen in the sky, and the water was calm. There was a light misting on the lake as it had rained a bit during the early morning and it was looking like it was going to be a beautiful day. We tore camp down, ate our breakfast and headed back out to the water to start heading deeper into the park.
With so much ground to cover, it was inevitable that we got into a rhythm. We knew what side of the canoe to paddle on, when to turn, who was navigating, and who carried what end of the canoe at the portages. We went through a lot of lakes and each had its own characteristic that made it stand out. One lake had an island, one had huge rock cliffs on the edges, one had a small hunting cabin on the bank, another seemed like it was perfectly round and alternatively one had a beautiful lily pad section we had to paddle through. I wish we had time to explore the whole park.
After 6+ hours of travel, we made it to our second campsite on Lake Vixen. We were rewarded with a pristine site that had a rock to swim off of, another rock to watch the sunset from, and wood left by previous park goers! It was going to be a great night at campsite #433 on Lake Vixen.
But this is where the bad news comes in. It started to rain, hard. I guess the weatherman wasn’t completely lying after all. It rained for over 2 hours but we got smart out there, we napped. There is just something about sleeping in a tent in the rain; it just makes it easy to nap. When I woke up though I was alerted to a problem. I had set up in a low spot and quite a large puddle had formed under my tent. With a bit of panic in my voice, I called out to Tyler and he and I got to action. He dug a trench from under my tent to a small drop off while I pushed all the water out from under my tent. This was all while it was still raining so I couldn’t just move my tent yet. After feeling like my tent was Noah’s ark and surviving it, the rain stopped and we got to see what it had left us with. We found a large amount of water in our canoe and a massive rainbow.
Night came fast, and with full stomachs and headlights to guide our way through our campsite we said goodnight to the fire and went to bed. After all we had to travel all the way back to the car tomorrow and leave Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park. Till next time Kawartha Highlands.