The lost Kawartha Highlands Camping Trip

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:

Canoe ✓

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.

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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.

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The Beauty of Banff

Banff, Banff, Banff, Banff, Banff, Banff, this was what I was repeating to myself over and over again after leaving Jasper National Park. Jasper treated us amazing, and we saw some incredible things but it was time to head towards one of the most well known parks in Canada, Banff National Park. It is also the oldest national park, founded in 1855, because of its natural hot springs. (Spoiler alert: We never found any nor went looking for hot springs)

We were only staying in Banff for a single night, so our plan was to pack in as much stuff as possible as we could. We made sure we started the day off with a bang. Since we were coming from Jasper, we got to drive along Highway 93, otherwise known as Icefields Parkway, and we quickly learned why it was called this. While driving along Icefields Parkway, we could see Glaciers like big ol’ thousands of year old glaciers, and it was insane. It’s hard to describe what it is like looking at a glacier because, in reality, it’s just ice. Yet the magnitude of having such a big block of ice hanging off the side of mountains and seeing where it had retreated, and the amount of force it has by the sheared off mountain faces was something that reminded me to never forget how powerful nature is. This is one of the many glaciers we saw:

Did you really think we were just going to drive past all the glaciers? As of 2014, there’s a new attraction in between Jasper and Banff and it’s called the Jasper skywalk. It’s a massive glass semi-circle that hangs 280 meters above the ground below, attached to the side of a mountain. Forget the CN-Tower glass floor, this is where you want to go if you want to walk on glass floors. Looking down and seeing the rock, river, and trees below makes you feel like you’re walking in the air. We even got to see mountain goats in the valley below! (Sorry no pictures I was too busy taking in the moment)

But all good things must come to an end. We were off to our next activity for the day, hiking at Lake Louise. We had planned on doing another big hike like we did in Jasper, to watch the sunset from atop a mountain, overlooking Lake Louise’s turquoise blue water.  Unfortunately, it was impossible to see the surrounding mountains from the lake because of the wildfires in the area. With the dense smoke, we knew there wouldn’t be a good view so we decided on a different option, a much colder option. We took the trail along the right side of the lake all the way to the far end so we were looking back towards the Chateau Lake Louise. When we got there, we decide to go for a dip in the glacier-fed lake. Now if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll remember I did a polar dip back in February where a hole was cut through the ice on the lake at my cottage and I jumped through said hole into the frozen lake. Having done this I thought I was prepared to handle the water at Lake Louise, but boy was I wrong.

The lake at the edges is shallow, no place to dive in or jump so you have to slowly walk in until you’re just far enough where you can build up the courage to jump. It was tough but we managed and all went swimming in Lake Louise. (How many of you can say the same?) I personally would not recommend it. It was freezing, so cold you couldn’t even scream. It was more like a panic of “holy shit, holy shit, this is cold I need to get out.” But all of this is said in your head, as you can’t manage to move your lips as your survival instinct kicks in and you’re swimming for the edge to get out. But don’t take my word for it, just look at these photos as my proof.

Although we were camping in Banff, as we did in Jasper, it was very different. The campground we stayed at (Banff – Lake Louise) had an electric fence around the entire campground and a slotted bridge as the only way in and out of the campgrounds. This was all in place to keep out the bears of Banff, apparently, there are a lot but we didn’t get to see any.

After seeing Lake Louise, we were told by a friend that we had to see this other lake because it was less touristy, was even more of a turquoise blue and was surrounded by more mountains.  How could we not go see that? We were up early in order to make it to the Lake Moraine before having another long day of travel. It was lucky that we arrived early, taking the last spot in the teeny tiny parking lot that was at the lake (so much for less touristy…). Nevertheless, the lake was much more epic than Lake Louise. Lake Moraine was blue, like really blue, I didn’t even know this shade of blue existed. This is Lake Moraine in all its glory (apart from the haze caused by the wildfire smoke):

This was it; the trip was almost over after seeing Banff.  The only thing left for us to do was drive to our destination and fly home. This journey took us across Canada, covering over 4900km, seeing 5 different provinces over 9 days. This was a trip of a lifetime, and I can’t wait to do again. I hope you too get to make this drive at some point.

 

Hiking in Jasper National Park

Rolling into Jasper National Park was surreal. I think it instantly became my new happy place. Coming from Ontario I’m not used to mountains surrounding me or even being within view. Besides in the few times I’ve been to BC I never really got to see the Rockies, yeah I got to fly over them but being able to actually see them on ground level and gauge the real size was incredible. Just take a look at these epic photos before I go any more in-depth about Jasper National Park.

The above pictures were taken along the Pocahontas Campground Trail, which is where we would stay while in Jasper. Jasper would be the only place on our whole trip (other than our final stop before flying home) where we would spend 2 nights in the same place and boy oh boy was it ever worth it.

Heres a bonus from the trial lookout of the view and Tyler.20170904_201400.jpg

Our original plan had us making another stop in the Prairies, to spend a night in Edmonton. But we realized that none of us had any desire to spend a night in a city, and we really didn’t know what we would do in Edmonton other than see the mall. We did still stop at the West Edmonton Mall, to see the largest shopping mall in North America. We grabbed lunch there and saw the indoor roller coaster, but we had been talking about the mountains since we left Ontario so we decided to keep heading towards Jasper. After all, Jasper is home to the freaking ROCKIES!

Being able to set up camp and know that we didn’t have to take it down in the morning was bittersweet. We definitely took our time in the morning, as we had nowhere we had to be. It was just the surrounding mountains and us. However, since we were in Jasper, we couldn’t just sit around all day so we talked to one of the park staff at the campground and he recommended a trail that was a personal favorite. We were told that we were in for a real treat (and a lot of panting). We were set to climb Sulphur Skyline: a 700m+ elevation gain to a total altitude of around 6600 feet, 8+km loop trail, a hiking time of 4-6 hours, a black diamond rating and epic views from the top.

 

Sulphur Skyline was my first hike in the Rockies and the park staff did not let us down. It was an insanely awesome hike. The trail starts off in a small parking lot used mostly for the hot springs, and those hot springs are presumably how the trail got its name… (from the sulfur smell, commonly keep up). The beginning of the trail is dense forest and the elevation gain was immediate. From the distance that we had to cover, I knew I was really in for it. Halfway through the trail the switchbacks start, steep trail then a 180 turn, steep trail then a 180 turn, and repeat. The switchbacks went on for what felt like forever. Then three-quarters of the way up the trees stop, and the trail opens to rock. We were above the tree line. This was officially the highest altitude I had ever walked to. This is when the real climb started, it was loose rock and it was tough going.

Eventually, we made it to the top. First to make it was Neil, then Tyler and last (but definitely not least) me. We had made it up in an hour and a half, and after all that hiking it was finally time to enjoy the view.

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We stayed for an hour at the top enjoying the view, eating lunch, and taking in the sights and sounds the top of a mountain can provide. Getting down was easy and according to our time check when we reached the car, we found out that it had only taken roughly 3 hours and 30 mins to hike to the top, eat lunch, and hike down. Our completion time beat the estimated hiking time, and we were proud of our modest feat.

We still had lots of time left for activities in the day so we piled into the car and headed towards Maligne Lake and Maligne Canyon. We arrived at Malign Canyon first, and it was one of a kind. The heart of the canyon had the raging Maligne River roaring through it, and it had waterfalls and rapids and narrow sections with bridges you could walk over. There were also sections where you could see huge boulders had ground areas away to be smooth and flat. Maligne Canyon is a must see in Jasper, even if it is a little touristy.

The last item was Maligne Lake and just the drive to the lake was worth any effort to get there. We saw everything from wildlife to mountains (bet you didn’t see that coming), and even where the wildfires had hit earlier in the year.

Jasper was a real treat, and spending 2 nights in the park was definitely worth it. I can’t wait to go back, but for now, it was time to head down to Banff.

Good Bye Pocahontas campground!

 

 

 

Crossing the Canadian Prairies

We crossed into Manitoba sometime late on Saturday afternoon, and we were headed straight for Winnipeg. If you’ve ever driven into Winnipeg, you know that Manitoba is the start of the prairies, not quite full on prairies but pretty damn close meaning it’s the start of getting really flat. It feels like you can see a couple days in each direction you look. The speed limit also increases from 90 in Northern Ontario to 100, probably the best part of crossing into Manitoba.

On our way to Winnipeg, we crossed 96 degrees 48 minutes and 35 seconds, meaning we made it to the Longitudinal Centre of Canada. At first with the increased speed limit, we drove right past it. We didn’t really know where it was, just that it was somewhere on the way to Winnipeg and there were no signs to prepare us for the stop. Regardless, we took the first turn around and went back for the sign. There was no way I was making it to the heart of Canada and not getting a picture with the sign to prove it. It’s pretty surreal knowing that you have equal amounts of Canada to the West and East, and you’re just in the center of the 2nd largest country on earth.

After Winnipeg, we left for the booming metropolitan of Moose Jaw, Sk. The drive to Moose Jaw was boring, nothing but flatness and wheat fields. There were these small shrubby plants and small trees but not much else. The sky and the land meet together at the horizon and you really get a feeling that the world may be flat after all… Maybe flat-earthers are onto something there. You can decide for yourself with these pictures.

Did I forget to mention the best part of driving the prairies was seeing the massive farm combines harvesting all the wheat? The clouds of dust they put up and the bare ground they leave behind really makes you appreciate how central Canada became known as the breadbasket of Canada.

On our third day, we finally made it to our 3rd province of the trip, Saskatchewan. Getting around in the prairies feels like you’re just driving and driving… It is very “dull” in the prairies; there is nothing that really keeps your attention. However, when you get closer to the heart of the prairies, the speed limit goes up again to 110 km/h. I guess police realized that you can see for two days into the distance, and allowed for people to get there a little faster. Fine by me.

The only cool thing we saw on day 4 (while still in the prairies) was this massive valley out of nowhere, with a lake covering the whole bottom. A road/bridge went right through the middle of the lake. It was a random hidden gem in Saskatchewan.

Our plan was to hightail it from Moose Jaw all the way to Jasper National Park, to the start of the Rocky Mountains. It took longer than we thought to cover so much ground but eventually, we made it into Alberta. We started to see glimpses of the mountains, but the Rockies deserve their own post.

But I can’t just leave you hanging, so here’s a view from our first night in the Rockies.

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2000 Kilometers of Ontario.

2 days and 2,000 km (Roughly). That was how long it took just to get out of Ontario. No one told me how long it would take; it felt like half the trip was just getting out of Ontario. As we drove further north, the more we saw of the Canadian Shield and the more appreciation I gained for the province I live in. Yeah, Ontario doesn’t have any big mountains, nor are we on the coast. But what Ontario lacks, it makes up for in sheer beauty and size. This became extremely apparent on this long drive.

But wait what drive am I talking about?

Well, from September 1st to September 9th two friends (Neil and Tyler) and I drove through 5 provinces from Toronto, Ontario to Kelowna, British Columbia. We covered over 4,900 km, camping in national parks, hiking mountain trails, visiting emerald blue lakes, seeing wildlife, and having a damn good time.

Our trusty steed for this drive was a 2016 Scion IM. It was a manual transmission because we didn’t want to get too bored in the prairies. The car was decked out with a whopping 137 Horsepower, which struggled to make it up big hills in any gear higher than third, a full ski box on the roof, one seat in the back as the other 2 seats got folded down to help the trunk carry all of our food/clothes/camping equipment and of course beverages for this 9 day trip.

On Friday, September 1st we made it our goal to leave by 8 am so that we would have plenty of daylight and time to make it to our first nights stop in Northern Ontario at Pukaskwa National Park. This drive alone was over 11 hours and it covered a majority of our Ontario travel. We stayed in national parks as much as we could since Parks Canada was celebrating Canada’s 150th Birthday with free admission to all national parks. This helped to keep costs low (I’m still a student after all).

The drive to Pukaskwa National Park was a major kick-off to the trip. We drove the first 4 hours without stopping to Sudbury where we saw the Big Nickel. This was my first time seeing the Big Nickel and it was also the farthest North I’d been in Ontario. If you don’t know what the Big Nickel is, imagine that small 5 cent coin you rarely use but a million times larger (to be more accurate 9 meters in diameter). Pretty freaking big eh? The best part is that it has heads and tails on it, so if you ever get into an argument with a giant there’s a coin that can be flipped.

After Sudbury, we didn’t have any planned stops or anything specific that we wanted to do until the next day when driving through Thunder Bay. But driving up the coast of Lake Superior (the greatest lake of the great lakes), our minds quickly changed when we came across a lookout on the side of the Trans-Canada highway.  We couldn’t help but stop and take in the beauty of the Canadian Shield on the coast and what seemed like a never-ending lake in front of us. It was just one of those times when the landscape puts you in awe, and you can’t do anything but sit there and appreciate the view before you. This happened a lot on this trip.

After the look-out, it was full steam ahead to Pukaskwa, as we were a little bit behind schedule due to a late start (ensuring we had everything), the long stop in Sudbury, and frequent bathroom breaks. Nevertheless, we managed to make it there just before 9:00 pm, after a rough 13 hour travel day. The setup and cooking were all done by headlamp, which is something we would get a lot of on this trip.

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Pukaskwa was the first ever National Park I’ve visited.

DAY 2

After driving and traveling for 13 hours the day before we treated ourselves to an 8:00 am wake up. We managed to organize and implement a morning routine that took 1 hour most days. We would come to follow this routine every morning when camping, which consisted of breakfast, camp pack up and car re-pack. I would cook breakfast, and Neil and Tyler would take down the tent and pack away the sleeping gear. Unfortunately, day 2 weather wasn’t looking good, moments after we started driving out of the park it started to rain. It rained and rained for 6 hours on and off as we cruised up to Thunder Bay and beyond.

In Thunder Bay, we had hoped to do a hike and see the Dorion Tower, but unfortunately, our schedule didn’t have room for a long hike. We had plans to make it to Winnipeg, where we had our one and the only hotel of the trip booked. Luckily we did have time to visit the Terry Fox monument along the Trans-Canada highway, which is something I’ve always wanted to see.

Past Thunder Bay, there really isn’t any big cities in Ontario. A few places that have populations above 5 thousand, but for the most part, it was trees and rock, lots and lots of both. The Canadian Shield was epic! It was super cool to drive through, to see the blasting lines and how they cut a massive chuck of a hill out for a road. Something I feel that is not very popular elsewhere in the world.

Eventually, we made it Winnipeg, Manitoba by crossing our first province border and even drove over a time zone change. Manitoba we would soon learn doesn’t have much to it… But then again it’s the start of the prairies.

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Camping along the Elora Gorge

One day, that’s all I got to spend on this trip camping along the Gorge. I wish I could have spent more time and done everything there was, but that simply wasn’t an option on this trip. I missed out on doing the lazy river tube riding and the hiking trail but I got to swim in the gorge, take in an amazing waterfall, and cliff jump in the Elora quarry.

With the one day we spent there we also spent a night, we car camping in the Elora Gorge Conservation Area, the conservation was right on the gorge and from the site I stayed at it was a 3-minute walk down to the bottom of the gorge where we could bathe in the sun and enjoy the Saturday.

But before we even went down to the Gorge which we knew wasn’t going anywhere and we could visit at any time of the day we made a trip down to the Elora Quarry, and man oh man was it ever worth it! By the time we made it to the quarry it was around 1:30 in the afternoon and you can tell we weren’t the only ones with the same idea of spending the Saturday at the quarry, it felt like everyone within 50km was at the quarry lounging around, swimming, or cliff jumping. With a small beach, steep cliffs and a forest all around it felt like a secret hiding spot and I can only imagine what it would have been like before people knew about it.

It was a pretty good way to spend a Saturday afternoon, swimming in the cool water, laying the sand, and jumping at cliffs that were a perfect height. Definitely a Saturday I wouldn’t trade away.

Eventually, it came to a point in the day where the crowded beach was too much and we headed back to the conservation campgrounds and actually explore the gorge.  We dropped our towels and beach gear off at the camp site and went for a wander down to the gorge and we were shocked with what we came across. A massive 40+foot waterfall that no one even told us about! We just got lucky and came out of the forest at the perfect spot.

Other than a few tubers every couple of minutes we had the area to ourselves, there wasn’t really a trail that leads to the waterfall or any markers so the only way to get to the waterfall was to explore or go on the lazy river. I’m just happy we were able to stumble upon such a gem. We spent the rest of the afternoon down by the waterfall swimming in the shallow rocks and trying our hand at rock stacking.

However, once the sun went down that’s when the real fun started, it was time to cook hot dogs and smores. Whenever smores are involved it trumps all other activities.

Weekend Warrior

I don’t know about you but I’m a weekend warrior, now I’m not sure if there is a real definition of a weekend warrior but to me, it means someone who goes out there and lives every weekend to the fullest, swimming, hiking, camping, boating, and maybe even bungee jumping. The possibilities of what you can get into in just a few days are endless

Since school has ended in April, I’ve done quite a bit of “Intrepid” activities from traveling to the other side of the world the world and learning to scuba dive, white water rafting, and bungee jumping on the Ottawa River, four-wheeling with friends and hanging out and cottaging. The traveling to Australia wasn’t on a weekend but it might as well count as when I got home I was back to work on Monday with less than 48 hours to recover from Jetlag.

Anything can be accomplished in one weekend.

Now this weekend coming up is even longer and more special. It’s Canada Day! 1 extra day to be a weekend warrior so get out there and conquer your weekend whatever it is you decide to do!

Tallest Bungee Jump in Ontario

Before you read this post this is me at the bottom after the jump, its one of my better angles.

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Over my brief span on this earth, I’ve done a lot of different jumping activities. I’ve competed in school triple jump, long jump and high jump (I never came close to winning but I tried my best). I’ve also gone cliff jumping, jumped out of planes, and all sorts of jumps in between. What I’m about to tell you about is a new type of jumping for me. The bungee jump.

This was going to be my first bungee jump and it couldn’t have been a cooler setup. Somewhere along the Ottawa River, you’ll find a crane that swings over it at a height of 150-feet. This 150-foot crane is the tallest bungee jump in Ontario; it stood tall and proud, owning its designation as the tallest.

To get to the top of the beast, I had to climb what felt like a million ladder rungs but in reality, it might have only been 150 or so. There was a small platform to stand on after every 25 rungs for you to look around the beautiful surroundings. As I climbed higher, the view got even more amazing. The climb up was incredible in its own right, but knowing that I had a fast track method to get down, I climbed faster and faster, eager to get to the top.

 

You can just make me out on the ladder

 

Once I got to the top, there was a small wait before it was my turn at the edge. The wait was made easy though with the stunning 360-degree view of the Ottawa River and the surrounding area. There was a constant movement of people, and I got to watch a few of them as they prepared to jump off a 150-foot crane with just a glorified elastic band attached to their ankles. My friend Sam even climbed up to take a jump of his own, and we got to spend time at the top together.

Finally, it was my time. I had to make the walk from the waiting zone to the front of the crane. This is the area where the final jump was going to happen, where I was going to be tied into my harness and have a giant bungee cable attached to my feet. This was the time I thought, ‘why am I doing this?’

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I was here for one reason, and that reason was to jump. No way I was backing out. I’ve gone skydiving after all, how much scarier could this be? While they were strapping me up, they asked me a very important question, if I wanted to get wet. My answer was that I would be disappointed if I wasn’t soaked. They changed some tension settings, and it was finally time to jump. I was strapped in and ready to go, with a long elastic band attached to my ankles.

I got a countdown: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and I jumped. The wait was over, I was doing my first bungee jump.

I was in the air for less than 5 seconds before I hit the water and plunged up to my waist in the Ottawa River. I didn’t even have time to think about holding my breath as I hit the water. The jump was exhilarating and was absolutely worth it to get to jump from the tallest point bungee in Ontario.

This is the stuff I live for, moments where time freezes and you’re just living life. Living for experiences like this is what it means to be intrepid. I think the only logical thing to do next is the tallest bungee in Canada. Anyone know where that is?

White Water Rafting on the Ottawa River

White water rafting on the Ottawa river with 10 friends for my 20th birthday? Clearly, birthday parties only get better with age.

 

Back in March, I was at the Toronto Sportsman Show and came across a booth for white water rafting which is something I’ve always wanted to do. My dad went to the same place when he was younger and always told me it was something I had to do with a bunch of friends. The opportunity finally presented itself, and I couldn’t turn it down. To make it even better, they were promoting rafting for my birthday weekend; it was the icing on the cake! I signed up at the show and went home to start organizing what would be an amazing weekend.

Our trip was for 3 days, 2 nights. Arrive on Friday afternoon, spend Saturday and Sunday rafting on the river and spend each night recovering from the exhaustion of paddling. On Saturday, we were to be in one big 12-person raft with a guide, and on Sunday were to go in smaller 6-man GYOR boats (in case you’re not up to date on your rafting lingo that means guide your own raft)

Now you may be asking which raft was better? Big raft or small raft? There is no winner, they are both awesome rafts and I’d do either one again.

Now the 1200+km river we were on has some of the best rafting in the country, if not the world. Each day we went on different rapids, and different sections of the river depending and what each boat could handle and current water conditions. Just to add some context on what we were up against, rapids are categorized into 5 classes with class 5 rapids being the hardest and class 1 rapids being the easiest. We were going up against class 4 rapids at some points on the river. It was intense water conditions.

With those intense water conditions, came the wipeouts. We all fell.

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Multiple times.

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We spent over 4 hours on the river, going through rapids, paddling across smooth sections, and jumping off the rafts and swimming when we needed to cool off. The best part… other than the Rapids, of course, was that the section of the river we were on was completely natural. There were no manmade structures to be seen; it was just the river and us. It was nice to be out and see the pristine wilderness. Although, when lunchtime came around we saw a small wooden cabin, it looked like it belonged there, nestled between the trees. Having a BBQ lunch on the riverbank was definitely a high point of the day.

Like all things, the rafting had to end. We hauled out the boats and headed back to the resort.

Just because the rafting had to end, didn’t mean that the fun had to.  While back at the resort, there were unlimited options and I chose to go bungee jumping, but I’ll save that story for another time. I’ll just leave you these three photos of me waving at a wave. Enjoy.

 

 

Hanging with Crocodiles

Can you name a famous Australian? Maybe you think of Hugh Jackman (The Wolverine), Keith Urban or the Hemsworth brothers. For me, I think of Steve Irwin. When planning the trip to Australia, I had a goal of going to Steve Irwin’s zoo but unfortunately, the opportunity never arose. If you know anything about Steve Irwin, you know he’s famous for finding and wrestling crocodiles! I didn’t get to wrestle any crocodiles, but I did get to go on a boat tour and see real Australian crocodiles! Here’s a sneak peek at what we got into on our crocodile boat tour.

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Unlike my last post where I went scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef and got to ride in a massive 100-person catamaran with 3 stories, this boat was smaller, more rustic and gave you a true feeling of adventure and a sense of going where you shouldn’t.

 

This boat tour was a pretty good change of scenery, but before we even started the tour and headed down the river, we got a glimpse of what was to come.. Okay not really a glimpse but we got our first look at an actual Australian crocodile and she was beautiful! She was just sitting on the other side of the river, bathing in the sun for all to see. After all, a crocodile doesn’t have many predators. Before the tour started, I didn’t know much about the crocs or that they can reach over 100 years in age! Our guide who has been running the tour for longer than I’ve been alive told us that the crocodile we were seeing was about 35-40 years old, and he also informed us female crocodiles are very territorial and each control a 1km stretch of the river. This was clearly her section.

After seeing this croc, we started going on the real tour, heading down river into the belly of the beast. I have no idea what the name of the river was, all I can tell you is that the river was in the Daintree National Park and was the coolest river I had ever been on.  Australia was turning out to be a place with a lot of the coolest things I’ve ever seen or done. The river was lined with mangrove trees that had huge roots on display with green tree canopies and mountains in the background. If we didn’t even see a crocodile, I wouldn’t have been disappointed. Here are a few of the scenery shots taken on the tour.

We saw a bunch of crocodiles on the tour, ranging in age from young kids to midlife crisis types, each crocodile was in a different spot and they all had unique territories. The whole tour was super relaxed, we’d be floating along in the boat and the guide would yell out “Crocodile ahead.” It was an awesome opportunity to see wild crocodiles just being themselves.

If you’re ever in Daintree National Park (Cape Tribulation) the crocodile tour runs quite a few time during the day and it is plenty of fun!