Have you every wondered what it’d be like to camp with the famous Happy Camper, Kevin Callan? I did too, so I decided to find out!
When we met at the Outdoor Adventure Show this spring in person, we shared a few stories and some laughs and thought a camping trip would be a total blast, so we started planning…..
The day before the trip, Kevin called in sick. He had the flu bug and was very ill and even though I was disappointed, that weekend we were expecting 70mm of rain. Although the weather would’ve made for a great story, featuring water wings, (on Kevins gear list! LOL) in the end, I was glad we had rescheduled to this past weekend.
We met up at the marina on Big Hawk Lake in the Haliburton highlands. We had originally planned on using 2 solo canoes, but due to strong winds on Friday when we were about to head out, we settled on tandem paddling one canoe. With 4 portages to the site, I was good with that decision.
We hit the water around 1pm and got into a good paddling groove, both chattering away, telling stories and sharing experiences. If my canoeing sucked, Kevin didn’t comment on it, which was greatly appreciated. I have done a fair share of canoeing and love to canoe, but I am mostly known as a kayaker and do a good number of my adventures by kayak.
Our route into Blackcat Lake had 4 portages, none of them were very long, and after the first one, it felt like we were pond hopping, literally. We would paddle for a very short time, then get out and portage, then repeat. We went from Big Hawk Lake to Snowshoe Lake (supposed to be 97m but due to log blockage in the water it ended up being a hilly 200-300m). Snowshoe Lake to Midway Lake (97m), Midway Lake to Chico Pond (292m) and Chico Pond to Blackcat Lake (70m).
Along the way we saw some pretty waterfalls, a dragonfly being hatched (thanks to Kevins’ keen eyes), a leech, some rare ducks, neat looking trilliums and lots of mushrooms.
We also saw lots and lots of bugs, close up, as they seemed to love flying into our eyes. URG!
When we arrived at the site we were both happily surprised. It was a beautiful site, very large and lots of places for all the things. The first thing that went up was the bug shelter where we both resided for about an hour before setting up our tents. It was a great break from the blood sucking creatures and I wanted to stay there all weekend!
After our bug break, tents were set up and wood was gathered, water was filtered and then we returned back to the bug shelter for a cocktail and to chat bugfree for a bit and get started on dinner.
When splitting up our duties and gear for the trip, I originally had the task of making one dinner. As our trip was changed to a 2 day trip when it got postponed, I opted to make both of the dinners. The dinner for the first night was drunken shrimp and you can see Kevins’ video on it here.
It was basically shrimp sauteed in butter and garlic, then drowned in scotch and reduced. A bit of sour cream was added and then rehydrated morel mushrooms, asparagus and green onions were thrown in.
The sauce and goodies in it were poured over some pasta and voila. As I had forgotten the flour to thicken it, we used a bit of the pancake mix that Kevin had brought for breakfast and it worked fairly well. It was pretty tasty and I think Kevin really enjoyed it. I knew he loved scotch so I figured it was a no brainer. I did not realize when thinking up the dinner that he’d possibly prefer to drink the scotch instead of eating it!
The ice the shrimp was being kept cold in, doubled for drink ice which was a nice bonus!
We were lucky enough to have a lapse in bug activity around sunset as the temperature was dropping fast, so we made a nice fire and sat sharing stories of our trips and chattered away into the night.
I woke up to the sound of loons around 5am and headed down to the water, lucky to get a short video of the loons calling their friends. There were 5 of them swimming in front of the site, and I was quite surprised to see so many together. What a treat!!!
I waited patiently for Kevin to get up as he was in charge of breakfast. He also brought all the kitchen items and I didn’t want to use anything without asking. He advised me the night before that he is an extremely EARLY riser…. but….. hour after hour went by…. as he snored away. I took it as a compliment that he felt relaxed and not anxious or needing to get up and take care of anything or anyone. His last trip just a few days ago was with his students so I can imagine how little sleep you must get on a trip like that and how much ‘taking care of’ is needed.
Just after 9am, Kevin woke up amazed at how late he’d slept and it definitely turned into one of the main jokes of the weekend. He promptly started breakfast and I gathered some firewood for later and assisted when needed. We had toasted english muffins with a fried egg and bacon on them and they were delicious! Especially after the long wait for them!! HAHAHA!
After breakfast, we decided to go fishing. We knew it was a bit late to fish and most likely wouldn’t be very successful, but we thought we’d give it a shot regardless. It was warm and sunny and the bugs weren’t too bad in the early afternoon, thankfully.
On the water, we had just a slight breeze which helped shoe the bugs away from us and also cooled us down.
We decided to portage into Chico Pond and see if there were any fish there. We found beautiful scenery, another little waterfall and some very calm water (CALM WATER=BUGS) but sadly no fishies.
We were a few hours past lunch and since we weren’t getting anywhere, we decided to head back to camp and have our lunch there. First on the menu: BEER!
Which was then followed by some sambuca and then followed by the filming of the whiskey fireside chat. If you think I might be a bit tipsy in this video, there is a good chance you are correct! Although, the slow pronunciation of The Haliburton Water Trails, in the Algonquin Highlands actually goes back to my first cold camp trip on St. Nora Lake where I had the hardest time remembering all the names of the area and I was saying it slowly to finally get it right! Sorry guys, I did my best, again. LOL
After the taping of the fireside chat, sans fireside due to bugs, we had a little dance party to Boney M, Rusputin. This was due to Kevin singing it Friday as ROCKS -HOOTEN, as he loves to sing little songs while he’s out tripping, but doesn’t actually know the words to any of the songs. LIKE NONE OF THEM!!
It was quite entertaining to say the least. I explained to him what the song was actually about and he didn’t seem to believe me so I read the lyrics to him and then played the song which ended up turning into a wee dance party for me (post beer and 3 shots of sambuca! LOL) You can see the live version in Kevin’s’ video Canoe vs Kayak.
The afternoon was full of fun and hilarious antics, like most of the weekend! Kevin had a great time trying to get into my bear vault (full video in my you tube video posting soon.) I also let him try a tip given to me by my friend Joyce, of brushing your teeth with peppermint oil instead of toothpaste. From what I could tell, Kevin did not like it at all. (video will also be in my you tube video coming up soon!) Thanks to Joyce from Go Outside for the great tip! I, unlike Kevin, love the peppermint oil toothbrush trick!
We were hoping day two dinner would be some fresh fish, but as we didn’t fare well in that adventure, we went with plan B, pesto pizzas.
Kevin made a great video on the creation of the pizzas which can be found here. They were truly delicious and I can not wait to make them (eat them) again soon! Although the cheese isn’t the best for me, it was totally worth the risk.
After dinner we were rewarded with some gorgeous scenery. Blackcat Lake was so calm it reflected a perfect mirror image.
Unfortunately, that meant there was no wind and that meant the bugs were out in full force. I tried to take a video to capture just how many were outside of the shelter just waiting to feast on us. All you could hear in the air was buzzing. I was so grateful to have the shelter here with us!!! Big HUGE thanks to Kevin for bringing it and to Eureka for making such a great product!
We spent the evening having a few more drinks in the shelter. We opted not to have a fire and not feed the bugs and around 11pm we headed to our tents for a good rest before heading back out to Big Hawk Lake in the morning.
It was a gloomy morning Sunday, and it was supposed to start raining at 5am. Thankfully, when we got up just before 6am, it wasn’t raining yet. We quickly packed up our tents and their contents and headed to the bug shelter to get breakfast going.
Kevin succeeded in some perfect pancake flipping and they were totally tasty. A great way to start the day indeed!
By 7am we were all packed up and ready to head out, just as the rain started coming down. Neither of us seemed to mind, except that it didn’t make the bugs die down? Not sure what happened there??
On the way out we were fortunate enough to once again see the male and female merganzer ducks. Kevin told me we were very lucky to see them as they are only here for a very short time, so we took a few minutes to try and get a photo of them with my zoom on my phone. Then we continued on our way out.
The last portage was the one that was supposed to be 97m but ended up being about 2 or 3 times as long. Just for fun, I asked Kevin if we could try and get through the area where the logs were and see if we could get in somehow. With a bit of fancy paddling, we made it close to shore and got out and got the canoe landed safely. It had been my least favorite portage on the way in, due to the steepness of it, and in some spots it was hard to find a way through so this made me super duper happy!
Once we got out on to Big Hawk Lake we had to stop for a minute to figure out exactly which way to go. I found this a bit comical as Kevin has written a guidebook about this area and he had to check and double check the map. He, being someone who laughs at himself very easily also thought it was worth a giggle. There have been many many times on my trips that I have gotten lost and have questioned where I was, sometimes wrong, and sometimes right. It was comforting to me, to know, that it happens to everyone, even people who know their stuff!
We eventually made it back to the take out safe and sound and just a tad bit wet, both happy and smiling! I have received many messages from friends and people on my social media asking… “What is Kevin Callan really like?”
Kevin Callan is a wonderful person. He is kind and generous and incredibly funny and almost always a little crazy. His enthusiasm for the outdoors is contagious and whether the bugs are biting his butt through the seat of the canoe, or the sun is shining and he has a dram of scotch in his cup, he always seems to be smiling and happy. The videos that have been posted were not scripted or rehearsed, they were taken as they were, and off camera or on, the antics and comedy continued throughout the entire weekend from start to finish. I have nothing but good things to say about my canoe trip with The Happy Camper and truly can not wait to do it again… next time… by kayak ! Let’s see if Mr. Callan will accept the challenge?
If you have any questions, comments or just want to say hi, please leave a message and I will get back to you as soon as I am able to!
I will also be posting a video from this trip on Thursday on my you tube channel, so be on the lookout for it. It is full of lots of great clips of The Happy Camper at his finest!
Thanks for checking out my post!