Navigating to Snake Island – Paddling Beyond Handrailing!

Before taking the Level 2 Sea Kayaking course with Ontario Sea Kayak Centre , I would’ve never attempted to camp out in the middle of Georgian Bay, on crown land, without being with someone who was experienced in doing so.  During my entire history of backcountry camping, I have used a method called handrailing and never knew how to use a compass.  I basically brought the map for the area I was in, and used landmarks, campsites, inlets and anything else I could, to find my way.  It always worked just fine, but I was always in a park of some type or another where you could get lost, but eventually, you would figure it out and be found again.  It is also far easier to handrail in the places I’ve been in the past, as opposed to being out in the open water of Georgian Bay. There are so many islands there,  and they all really do look alike, so putting the navigation skills I’ve learned the past few months to the test, I decided it was time to hit the open water and try not to get lost!

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I recently purchased a new kayak from Whitesquall Outfitters, the Delta 15S, and am totally in love with it.  I also recently put a rack on my truck .  As I now have two kayaks, I am able to invite friends, who don’t have kayaks, or friends with kayaks less suitable for big open water, to go on adventures with me. Fitting both boats on the one vehicle would be a huge bonus for that.  I tested out the situation and was happy to find that I could indeed now put 2 kayaks on the roof of my truck.  It took a lot of work and I used all of my straps, but eventually, I got them up there and they were rock solid on the vehicle.  WOOHOO!!!!!

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I saw a post from my friend Joyce who was looking for an adventure this weekend.  We had already planned to go on an adventure later in August, but I so happened to have my weekend plans for August long weekend revised about 4 or 5 times now, and I found myself with the weekend open as well.  I contacted her and we decided we would do a last minute camping trip…. to crown land!!!!  I was terrified, but excited at the same time.  I got out my map for the area and started to plan which island we might camp on and write the coordinates on the map, as I learned this is much easier to do, on land ahead of time, than on the water.  We planned out who would bring what and before I knew it, it was 8am on Saturday morning and Joyce was at my place in Port Carling, ready to go on an adventure!

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We drove the hour to Killbear Provincial Park from my place. This would be our starting point for our adventure!  We had a great forecast, low winds and pretty much perfect weather for paddling on Georgian Bay.  I couldn’t ask for anything better and we were both elated to be out on this last minute trip, exploring Georgian Bay!

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We packed our boats at the car, then carried them together to the shore.  After a few checks and double checks, we put our maps on our laps, and off we went! It was the first time using my compass on my kayak and I was still really nervous about the whole thing, but with Joyce’s great attitude, my nerves were easily calmed.  I mean, really, what’s the worst that could happen?

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We paddled for quite some time, passing cottages, checking and double checking our location, using the compass, the map, Joyce’s Garmin and google maps.  Everything worked well together and even though I still had the uneasy feeling, I was getting less and less worried and feeling more and more confident!  Everytime we did a check to make sure we were where we thought, all sources would confirm. SWEET!

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We were initially aiming for the Pancake Islands but we ended up passing them and realized just afterwards.  We saw a cool looking island off in the distance ahead and as Pancake had a cottage on it, and from what we could tell, this island didn’t, we decided to go for it and check it out.  The distance ended up being about 3 km’s farther but it was totally worth it. We landed on an island called Snake and it was awesome!!!! Although we saw a few of these puddles with what looked like blood in them?  Anyone know what this is? I touched it and the red came onto my fingers. YUCK!

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The island was good but after we took a walk around, we decided we would see if another side of it was a bit more suitable.  Where we had landed didn’t have the best place to set up.  After we paddled around the side, we found the island had another right next to it in the one area and this created a wind block making the water calm, possibly a bit warmer to swim in, and much more scenic, if that was possible?  We both decided this was the spot and pulled up on shore and got to the job of finding the perfect spot for our tents and setting everything up.  Neither of us could stop smiling and felt incredibly lucky. We got a site, on a long weekend, that could possibly be the best site I’ve ever had in all my years of camping. And, we found it navigating without anyone elses’ help.  Happy camper indeed!

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I had brought a chair for Joyce as she didn’t have a compact camp chair.  I had 2 and only used my newer Joey chair these days as the Treo was a bit hard to sit on with 3 legs. I figured, better 3 legs than none, so I brought it for her.  I guess it was kind of a waste because, well, it wouldn’t stand up quite right. Well, it did stand up but it wasn’t super stable.   When Joyce went to sit on it, she fell on the ground!!!  BAHAHAHA. sorry, you had to be there, it was sad, but really really funny!  So Treo chair update, it’s done!  LOL

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Once we were all set up, we decided to go for a swim.  It was extremely hot out and the water felt great. Swimming in Georgian Bay is sometimes a bit chilly but here it was pretty fabulous!  Again, very happy camper!

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Soon, it was time to make dinner so we set up our stoves and cooked up our food. Joyce had some rehydrated chilli and I made crab penne with a package of sidekicks, some green onions and fresh dill from the garden at home and some cheese mixed in. It was pretty tasty!

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After we ate, we explored a bit more and checked out this huge beaver dam that was right by our site.  It was quite incredible how the beavers weave all the sticks in between each other so intricately.  I was impressed and hoped we would get to see a beaver at some point during our stay.

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Slowly the sun started to go down and the show began.  How gorgeous it was out here and how lucky we were to be given such a display!

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After the sun went down we got a wee fire going and sat by it chatting away.  It was warm and so lovely out and even though I was tired, I could’ve sat there all night.

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We waited for the night sky and received a great view of the milky way, but sadly no northern lights. One day I will see you!!!! Eventually we headed to bed, an end to a wonderful day and I had a great sleep!

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I woke up around 5am to a gorgeous sky. The horizon was lined with red and the colours were glorious. It just got better and better as I walked around in awe taking as many photos as I could!

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Soon the sun came up and it was still so beautiful.  I took a few more pics and then went back into my tent to lie down for about a half hour.  I had only had about 5 hours sleep and even though I wanted to get up, I thought I should try and get a bit more sleep so I wouldn’t be a waste the entire day.

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When I got up a half hour later, Joyce was up sipping on her coffee. I made a hot chocolate, poured us each a generous amount of baileys and we sat and enjoyed the quiet of the morning.

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It was supposed to be a nice sunny day but mother nature had other plans.  The sky was full of clouds and neither of us felt motivated, nor, had the need to be, so we just sat and enjoyed doing nothing. It was lovely.

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I made a yummy egg sandwich with some precooked bacon I’d brought and then made one for tomorrow as well as we would be leaving very very early and I didn’t want to have to cook.  After breakfast, we lounged a bit more and then I showed Joyce some of the navigation stuff I’d learned in my level 2 course with Ontario Sea Kayak Centre.  I always find showing someone else something somehow enforces your own knowledge and helps you learn more as well. Joyce caught on quickly and was happy with what she learned.  We wrote down our bearings for our paddle back to Killbear and put the maps back on the boat.

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After that I walked around for quite a while looking for a place to hang my hammock but the only trees I could use were about a ten minute walk away, so I decided I’d not use it this trip.  I did see some pretty wildflowers en route though.

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Then, we did all the things, collected firewood for a small fire later, explored the area, sat around chatting, relaxing, enjoying the sun, the gorgeous day and the amazing spot we were in.  While Joyce was out collecting wood she found us some yummy little blueberries, and also decided to take a shot at climbing a nearby tree.  She was pretty high up there!

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The sun came out for a while and we got really hot again,  so we went swimming again.  It was a very lazy relaxing weekend for sure and it was really enjoyable!

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Around 4 ish it started getting really dark out and it was apparent that it would rain.  We both decided we’d rather be safe than sorry and if we put the tarp up, it wouldn’t rain. You know, Murphy’s Law and all!  Dying to use my brand new tarp, I jumped at the chance, but where to hang it???   We had no trees…. well, we had one!!! LOL

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My new tarp from Aquaquest had a loop in the middle of it for circumstances just like this, and this is part of why I bought it.  It was also a really good deal and the staff I’d talked to were very friendly, so that was another bonus.  We first put the centre up in the middle of the branches that were accessible to us. Then we put lines going to a few of the branches, one to another tree very far away and 2 to the rocks that were also holding down Joyces tent.  VOILA! And I used all my cool slider knots I learned at my level 2 course as well, which I love so much!  Super duper!

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We were ready for the rain, but it wasn’t coming just yet, so we took a tour of the island by foot.

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On our walk,  we came across some very bad campers who had set up a picnic for  the animals!   Even though we hadn’t seen any, that didn’t mean they weren’t around and you should never leave food unattended like this.  I was glad we were far away from this site for sure but that didn’t help whomever camped there next if an animal did come across this and knew humans=food source.  I wish more people would educate themselves before going into the backcountry to camp so they would keep not only themselves safe, but other campers safe and also the animals!

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One other thing we came across on our walk….

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We returned to our site as the rain slowly started to fall. It was actually kind of pleasant and refreshing as it was still so hot and we sat out in it on and off.  The bad part of it was that the wind completely stopped blowing and due to this, the bugs came out in full force. They loved swarming us under the tarp and so cooking dinner, was a bit of an issue, until we suited up! LOL

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After we ate, we played a game of washer toss. Well, my own version of it as I brought the washers, but obviously no box.  I made a play board out of some rope, sticks, rocks and an orange cutting board  I always bring with me on trips.  Orange was 3 points, on the line was 2 and in the square otherwise was 1.

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As it was very very buggy out, we played in our bug jackets and hoods!

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It was alot of fun, but, eventually the bugs got to us and we couldn’t take it any longer.  We both decided to go into our tents and chill out there for a bit, do some reading and just let the bugs stay outside.

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I caught a few shots of the tiny sunset before going in and a few more later on, but that was basically the end of our night. Since we had the alarm set to get up at 6, so we could head out at 7ish, it was a good time to get some needed sleep!

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I woke up just before the alarm and took a few sunrise pictures. Then I got started on packing up my things so we could get on our way asap. Joyce had to drive 3 hours to get home in addition to the hour we had to drive to Port Carling and the two to three hours we had to paddle.  It was also a holiday and I didn’t want her to get stuck in tonnes of traffic.  I was quite happy with the weather when I got up. We were expecting 28km winds and rain all morning but we didn’t have any of either so far! 🙂 Yipeee!!

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A bit after 7am we were on our way back and I prayed my navigating skills would get us back to my car parked at Killbear!

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A few hours later, we made it back and I was pretty happy indeed!  It was still a bit frightening to me to head out into large water like this, sprinkled with islands everywhere and be able to find my way, but with my newly learned skills, it was a bit more settling and with this successful trip under my belt. it made it even better!

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Joyce’s garmin told us we had paddled almost 12 km’s which I thought was pretty awesome.  We unpacked our boats and put them back on my truck and headed back to Port Carling.  I am very happy I have put my new skills to use and succeeded with them!  Now, the sky’s the limit!!! I feel like I could go anywhere and be okay and that is a pretty incredible feeling for sure!

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Before we knew it, we were back at my place and Joyce was on her way home.  I took the boats down off the truck and unpacked all the gear, then enjoyed the day off, still smiling at our amazing trip!  I can not wait to do it again very soon!

A huge thank you to James Roberts and Dympna Hayes for teaching me the skills I needed to go on a trip like this.  A great big thank you also to my friend Joyce for coming on this trip with me last minute and making it fabulous!!!!  Joyce also has a blog and you can find it here.  She made up a great slideshow of all our pics from the trip and it is pretty awesome so make sure you check it out!

I hope you enjoyed my post and you come back and visit again soon.  If you have any questions, comments or just want to say hello, please send a message and I will get back to you as soon as I am able to!

Happy Navigating!

Camper Christina

 

 

 

 

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14 thoughts on “Navigating to Snake Island – Paddling Beyond Handrailing!

  1. Great post and pictures. Looks like you had a great time. I’ve always wanted to paddle to some of the islands in Georgian Bay but haven’t gotten around to it…yet.

    Where do you get your maps from? It looks like they are printed on 8.5″x11″ paper.

    I was also wondering how you go about leaving your car in a park if you’re not staying there?

    Looking forward to reading about your next adventure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Dave! thanks so much for the comments and for checking out my posts. I just googled the printable maps and printed them. As for parking, you have to get an overnight pass for as many days as you’ll be parking there. Let me know if you have any other questions? Happy exploring!

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  2. I am quite jealous of your your experience here! Were you able to positively identify that snake? It doesn’t seem like a Massasauga, so I was thinking either milk snake or black rat snake (especially by the face vis a vis the large photo at the 2nd link).

    http://www.scisnake.com/download/snakesreferenceguide.pdf
    http://www.fcps.edu/islandcreekes/ecology/black_rat_snake.htm

    I would also like to salute your anger with those sloppy campers. I have read a fair bit particularly about bears and their habituation to human food. This stupidity results in injuries and even death on rare occasions to humans (not to mention shredded property and missing meals) , and obviously a bear will be killed in many cases of aggression towards humans.

    I suspect that I would have packaged up their stuff and given them a tongue-lashing when they came back for it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Derek! Thanks so much for the amazingly awesome comment! I believe it is a Eastern Milk Snake? What do you think? As per what you said regarding the sloppy campers, agreed. Although the island I was on did not have bears, it is always possible and you should always take precautions. I really appreciate you checking out my post! Happy CAmping!

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