My first solo backcountry trip was 2 years ago at the Massasauga Provincial Park. It was by kayak and since then I’ve done many solo kayaking trips and a few solo winter camping trips both by tipi and by tent. I had never gone on a solo canoe trip, however, until this past weekend.
At the 150 for 150 event on Canoe Lake the weekend before Canada Day, Jon from Backcountry Custom Canoes answered my distress call. I had arrived on the beach at Canoe Lake after being at registration over at Smoke Lake all morning and was overwhelmed with emotion at seeing all the canoes gathering. I wanted to be on the water but I did not have a canoe. Jon yelled out to me to use a solo he had on display and later asked me to take it home and use it on some trips. I was elated and knew I had a weekend open just after the Canada Day long weekend when I could do just that…. and this is that weekend.
I was actually a bit nervous about the trip. I hadn’t done a solo trip since my kayak trip on Bentshoe Lake in the Haliburton Highlands in May. I also had not paddled this canoe more than an hour or so and had no idea how it would handle in wind or rough water or with gear in it etc. It was only 27 lbs and very light and therefore would also be different to paddle than other canoes I’d used in the past. I had also never paddled a solo canoe other than a few testers and at the 150 for 150 in this exact boat so it might be a bit of a challenge. I guess I would find out?
I wanted the perfect place to camp so I contacted Pete at the Haliburton Water Trails office and we had a long chat. He recommended a site on McEwen Lake where I’d only have a small amount of portaging to do and also had some great day trip options. I was sold and elated when I arrived to find only one other person camping in the area on another lake. My site was truly gorgeous!
I arrived at site around 530 and had no issues paddling the canoe. I used both a canoe paddle and my kayak paddle, using the kayak paddle in windy spots to get me through, and the canoe paddle when it was calm. So far I loved the canoe and was looking forward to day tripping the next day.
I set up my site and took a bunch of videos. In the process, I dumped the canoe, lol, and actually got it on video and have a copy of it (will explain the missing videos and pics a bit later in the post). I wanted to make some videos of me paddling the canoe and take some screenshots of those as well to make photos of me paddling. I set up my phone on the rocks and when I paddled up on the canoe to turn on the video, I had to reach over really really far. I hit the button to record and then lost my balance and dumped. LOL. I had just been swimming and as I didn’t have my phone on me, it wasn’t an issue. I actually found the whole thing pretty amusing, hope you do too!
After I took some videos of me paddling, I swam out from the site with my waterproof camera and took a photo of the site. Here is the video I took from out there.
After I was sufficiently cooled down and refreshed I got changed and started dinner, chicken and rice stirfry already precooked. I heated it up and sat enjoying the beautiful view.
I had lots of loons near the site and owls as well. I sat out for hours just listening and enjoying the peace and quiet. I was all alone on the lake and I couldn’t have been happier about it.
I stayed up pretty late, feeling like it was earlier. I sat by the fire and listened to the sounds of nature, so excited to be back out alone in the forest. Eventually, I headed to bed, ready to get up and explore the area on Saturday.
When I woke up Saturday, it was raining and damp out. I decided since I’d stayed up so late I would have a little sleep in. I stayed in bed until 8 and then got up, had breakfast and then packed my day bag to do some exploring. By the time I was ready to go, the sun was out and it was a beautiful day!
I headed to the end of McEwen Lake where there was a portage, less than 300m into Horse Lake. It would be my first solo portage as the water was so high coming in, I avoided the one I was to do then. As the canoe has no yoke yet, I carried it on my head and it actually worked really well. It was so light it was really easy to carry and I flex over the portage in no time.
I explored a bit on Horse, saw a turtle and a heron and puttered around. Eventually I made my way to the next portage, again, just under 300 metres and found myself on the Black River. I went to the right where there was a portage located going further up the river and eventually to Wren Lake. There was a nice rock beach there and I decided to stop there for lunch and do some fishing. I caught nothing but enjoyed my time just relaxing and listening to the waterfalls next to me.
After some time relaxing, I headed down the Black River towards Black Lake. There was a 700m portage that ran along some waterfalls there and I walked a bit of the ways in to get some photos. The falls were really pretty but one of those things that looked better in person than on camera. I couldn’t seem to get a good shot (sadly I can’t see them regardless, details at the end of the post) so I just sat enjoying them in person for a while and slowly made my way back over the 2 portages and back to my site.
Upon returning to site I dropped off my day trip bag and packed just a very small bag with fishing gear in it. It was time to go fishing and I was super excited. As I had finally learned how to clean a fish myself last weekend I was determined to catch a fish, clean it and cook it while camping on my own. It was my main goal of the weekend besides dumping, which I had already gotten out of the way, (lol). I wasn’t sure if I caught a big fish in this canoe while it was empty, what would happen, so I didn’t bring much and even bagged my phone just in case I ended up in the water.
I fished from 4pm to 730pm on Saturday night and then from 7am to 3pm on Sunday and sadly I did not catch one fish. I tried and tried and even fished for 3 hours Sunday morning in the rain, but nothing.
After failing at fishing Saturday night, I headed in to camp to make dinner. I wanted to be cleaning and eating a fish but as I had no luck at all, I made the dinner I”d planned. It was quite delicious and I shouldn’t complain, but I had just wanted something else. LOL. Dinner was rehydrated Morel mushrooms I’d found in my yard in the spring, asparagus, also rehydrated and then cooked in butter and a bit of olive oil and put over angel hair pasta with a bit of garlic. It was really simple but very delicious and the taste of the morels came out so nicely.
I sat eating dinner under my shelter watching the most beautiful lightening storm accompanied by thunder. I would run out of the shelter to the shoreline, take a video clip, then run back, afraid I would get electrocuted. It went on for over 3 hours before the rain came and it was quite the show. I wish I had more to share then just the small video clip, but again, this was one of those things where being there and showing a photo or video just didn’t really suffice.
When the rain finally came, it came down hard. I battened down the hatches and climbed into my tent where I was safe from the storm. It was fun to listen and watch from inside the tent, hearing the loud booms of thunder, the rain hitting the tent and tarp and watching the lightening illuminate the walls of the tent was pretty cool too. Eventually I headed off to sleep and had a good nights rest, regardless of the storm outside.
When I woke up Sunday it was overcast and raining on and off. I got dressed in my rain gear and hit the water still determined to catch a fish before I went home. I was lucky enough while fishing to capture this loon playing in the water. When I went up the lake farther, I discovered a loon sitting on its’ nest camouflaged by the bushes, but still slightly visible. I’m assuming the loon in the video below was putting on a show to keep me from moving towards the nest and was calling to the mother to let it know I was in the area? Regardless, I was grateful to capture this special moment.
I fished from 7am-10am and then went back to the site to make breakfast, which was a bacon and tomato sandwich (pre cooked bacon) and then headed right back out onto the water to continue fishing from 11-12:30. I came back to the site then, had some lunch and packed up the site. My plan was to head out of McEwen Lake and fish on Dan Lake, as I had to pass through it to get to the car. This is when the accident occurred.
Unfortunately, as I was attempting to get into the canoe without getting my feet wet at the shore, canoe fully loaded, I ended up doing the splits as the canoe attempted to leave without me. I had one foot in the canoe and the other on land and at that point, I had two choices, stay in the position I was and dump the canoe with all my gear in it, or, jump out of the canoe and into the water and avoid dumping the canoe. I chose the second option, and it worked, but sadly, my phone was in my pfd, for the very first time the entire weekend unprotected and it went in the water with me. I took it out and it seemed fine. I’d dunked this phone several times last year without any ill effects so I was somewhat confident it would be okay and so far, it was. The phone continued to work and I was pretty happy and went on my way unaffected.
I went to Dan Lake and fished for another 2 hours, soaking wet but I didn’t care. I wanted that fish badly and I was going to fish as long as I possibly could. I continued taking pictures and videos the whole time and even talked to my mom on the phone for a half hour on the way home. Then, it went black…
My phone is currently sitting in a big of rice and I am hoping it comes back to life so I can get the content off it from this trip to make a video. This is why this post is a bit lacking in photos in comparison to other posts. Thankfully, I posted some videos and photos while I was away and sent some clips to my mom which she sent back to me to use for this post. At least I have some small visual reminders from the trip and a waterproof phone is on the way, so this will not happen again.
Thanks so much for checking out my post. I hope you enjoyed it and it inspires you to get outside.