When I camped with Sue in December of 2017 in the new winter backcountry hot tent I’d made, we had an amazing time. We decided we would do another trip soon, but schedules conflicted and events arose and even though we hung out at the Outdoor Adventure Show and kept in close contact, visiting each other etc, the earliest trip we could plan together was labor day weekend. We discussed it and put it on the calendar way before summer even began and the time had finally come.
The plan was to do a canoe trip in the Haliburton Highland Water Trails, an area that was remote but still not too hard to get to. We would use Sue’s Swift Canada canoe and head out Friday afternoon, staying until Monday.
Not only was it labor day weekend, but Saturday September 1st would be Sues birthday. Not any birthday either, but an epic one, her 40th.
We met up at the put in for Wren Lake on Friday afternoon around 3:30. I managed to get off work an hour early so we would have plenty of time to get to our site and get settled before dark. We said our hellos, got our gear and the canoe to the water and headed down Wren Lake with big huge smiles on our faces.
Our first portage ended up being just a small liftover, a 5m portage over a few rocks beside a waterfall. It was pretty and easy and we were back on the water in minutes.
The next portage a 40m portage was just a short paddle from the first, also, going around some pretty waterfalls.
From there we paddled for a little while through a lovely serene area. The water was calm and perfect mirror and I really enjoyed it.
Soon we came up to the 405m portage that would take us from the upper marsh to the lower marsh.
There was also a waterfall here and a bridge. After we took our first trip across the portage we followed the small trail that went to the bridge We began walking and I didn’t even look down at first. This was a very big mistake as I soon realized, but noticed just in time.
The bridge was missing many of the boards and my foot could’ve easily fallen through many of the hole.
I was a bit scared walking over it but had to take some photos and a video, of course. One area was missing a few boards and there was a very large opening. After this I walked back to the other side and decided to stay off the bridge. I wasn’t ready to go for a swim quite yet.
We completed the portage fairly quickly and made our way through the lower marsh towards our last portage into Black Lake.
The water was super calm, the sun was hot and it was a gorgeous day out.
Soon we arrived at the portage, 757m to Black Lake. We were warned this portage was a bit tough and mostly uphill. When we passed by a cottage, a group of people asked where we were headed and advised us that we could get off the portage and go mostly along the river.
We weren’t sure we would give it a try until we actually walked the entire portage with our packs. It was pretty tough and we thought if there was an easier way, why not give it a go. Plus, it was an adventure we were both excited to take!
On our way back to get the canoe and barrel, we scouted the river and found a good place to put in. We carried the canoe and barrel about 1/3 or 1/4 of the way and then put the canoe into the water. It was pretty smooth sailing at first.
Then we began to run into obstacles. We took each one on as they came and did a fairly good job getting through.
We got in and out of the canoe where we needed to and as the packs were already on the other end, the canoe was fairly light and floated over most of the very shallow areas with a bit of help. The water levels were quite extreme, sometimes we would carry the canoe fully and other times we would be walking up to our hips in water. It was a beautiful day though, the water was a nice temperature and very refreshing and it was a fun experience.
At one point, we came upon some rocks and had to get out of the water to get around. The rocks were very slippery and I warned Sue but it didn’t matter much, they were still slippery. She did a small slip slide dance and I thought she would smack her head on the rocks, twist her ankle, break her leg or worse. She managed to stay upright some how shuffling her feet and keeping her balance until she fell sideways right onto the canoe seat!
After ensuring she was okay, we both had quite a laugh over it and continued the giggles about it for most of the weekend. Shortly after, we went over a beaverdam and a bit of a shallow area and the were finally on Black Lake! Pretty cool!
It ended up taking us longer to go through the water, than it probably would’ve to portage, but it was much easier and way more fun to go the way we did and try something different. We were both happy we went the way we did.
We had a beautiful paddle across Black Lake and except for spotting a cottage on the lake with speed boats docked there (boo) the paddle was pretty uneventful. We moved fairly quickly and in no time we were at our site, which at first didn’t look so great.
But ended up being a spectacular site that we were both extremely pleased with! We quickly checked it out, decided where things would go and got to work setting up. The sun was going down and we would be in darkness soon.
Once we got our tents up, the tarp up and a bit of firewood collected, we finally made ourselves a drink and settled down beside the fire to get dinner going. It was after 9pm when we finally sat down to eat, but the food was delicious and being super hungry made it even better.
We had made some nice striploins on the fire with some asparagus and a potato vegetable medley. It was yummy!
We sat and enjoyed the fire and after a bit made up dessert, peanut better s’mores, a creation invented by Chris & Julia Prouse which I started making last year and continue to make as they are so good.
We went out around 10pm to see the stars and it was a good thing because they were fabulous. Also, when we went back out later, the moon was up and it was so bright, we lost a good amount of the stars we’d seen earlier. We sat by the fire enjoying our time together and I gave Sue one of her little presents I got her, a package of flame coloring that you put into the fire and it makes the fire different colors. I’d seen these many times in the store but had never actually used one so it was as much fun for Sue as it was for me. We tiredly gazed into the fire watching the flames turn all different colors, it was pretty neat. We finally headed to bed around 12:30am, staying up long enough to start Sue’s birthday, but not much longer as we were both wiped.
I woke up several times in the night to walk the long distance to the privy. My colitis had been an issue the last few weeks and unfortunately, that was just the way it was right now. Around 6:15, I went to the water to check out the scene. It was very mysterious and eerie with a large covering of fog on top of the water. I could not see across the lake at all but it was really pretty what I could see.
As I finally received an internet signal, I went online to do all the things, put some posts up and check Sue’s page for her birthday. I took some screenshots for her as we had only gotten a weak signal yesterday and only last night standing on the big rock on our site and I wasn’t sure if she would be able to get online when she got up.
Around 7, Sue got up and we went up to the big rock to see if she could text her family and get some of her birthday messages. Today was her 40th birthday and we had big plans to do all the things. We watched the fog rise slowly and give way to the sun, which was desperately trying to peak out. The forecast orignally had it raining most of the day, but now was showing it wouldn’t rain until around 6-7pm tonight. PERFECT!
Sue’s first request was to go for an early morning paddle on the small creek near our site.
We got our pfd’s and a few items and off we went paddling down the creek.
The creek was very shallow but super pretty and my favorite, total mirror. We just coasted along hoping to see some type of wildlife but didn’t see more than a gaggle of geese which neither of us found very exciting.
We managed to get down pretty far but then came upon an obstruction neither of us was ready to conquer and decided to head back to our site for breakfast as we were both starving by then.
We made up some hot drinks to start with and then I got breakfast started.
I made something I had never made in the backcountry before and it turned out great. French toast with cinnamon and bacon along with the very last drops of my homemade maple syrup. I had been saving it for a special occasion and thought Sue’s 40th birthday definitely made the cut.
After breakfast we cleaned up and went back up to the rock. I watched Sue take endless selfie’s and post them to facebook (haha totally kidding) and we sat on the rock checking social media and all the birthday messages Sue was raking in.
We watched the sky start to clear and eventually the sun began to poke out and we were both so happy. We headed off to collect our firewood for the weekend and warm up in hopes that when we finished, the sun would be out and we would be able to go lay out in the lake on the air mattresses we brought. YUP, we did! LOL
We spend about an hour collecting and processing wood and we got a pretty nice sized cache. I put a garbage bag tarp over the wood in preparation of the rain later and we were pretty much set for the weekend. I also tarped the privy while I was at it as Sue has lactose intolerance’s and I have colitis and we both hated being at the privy in the rain. Yes, this was a backcountry glamping trip and we were both okay with that considering the special occasion.
As we had hoped, the sun was out and it was nice and hot by the time we were finished with all of our chores for the day. We quickly ate some lunch and then headed down to the water with our floaty’s and blew them up.
My friend Tom had created a product called Drink Island that I had brought along with us as well. They were unsinkable drink holders and even came with a string to tie them to your wrist, leg, body or in our case, an air mattress (aka floaty). The plan was to lay about on our floaty’s and sip on our drinks and enjoy Sue’s birthday. We tied the Drink Islands to the air mattresses and then even tied the air mattresses to the shore with about 25 feet of line so we could be out in the water, but not have to worry about drifting across the lake. It was brilliant and worked great!
We were both in heaven. First we tested out the other floating drink holder Sue had got at the dollar store just to see how it compared. End result, it tipped over within about 15 seconds. I made a little video for my friend Tom and then we put it away and just enjoyed lying in the sunshine on Black Lake in the summer sun. We stayed out there for hours and when the sun finally starting dipping behind the clouds and our skin started to shrivel up, did we finally make our way back to shore.
So much fun! We were both pretty pooped though so we changed into dry clothes and headed for a rest in the hammocks.
Eventually we both fell asleep and had a wee nap and when we woke up we were refreshed and ready for more fun!
We sat enjoying the beautiful weather and began getting ready for dinner. Tonight I was making one of my pasta dishes. This one would have angel hair pasta, basil pesto, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, tomatoes and proscuitto. Since we also had some asparagus leftover from last nights dinner, I threw those in to.
Everything was cooked over the fire and it was all really tasty and we both enjoyed it a great deal!
After dinner, Sue tried her luck at fishing and caught one, but as we already ate dinner and were both full, she threw it back into the lake.
We had some drinks by the fire and enjoyed listening to the loons and around 7:30, it started to get dark and we knew the rain would be coming soon. We put everything away that we could, pulled the canoe up on shore and flipped it and got out our rain gear. We put everything under the tarp and then waited and just before 9pm, the rain began to fall.
We were nice and dry and cozy under the tarp and the rain had very little effect on our evening.
We enjoyed our cocktails and when it came time for dessert, we had peanut better s’mores again. When Sue wasn’t looking I took out the candle I’d brought that plays happy birthday and lit it and put it into the marshmallow. It was super pretty and we both went to take a photo, me taking a video and barely noticed as the candle began to fall. LOL. I caught it just in time and put it back up and told Sue to blow it out quickly, which she did. Fire averted! LOL and wishes made!
We managed to sit by the fire having drinks and enjoying the sound of the rain on the tarp until Sue’s birthday was technically over, then we headed to our tents for a good nights sleep. Please check back for Part 2 and the rest of this fun trip!
I hope you enjoyed this post and take a few minutes to check out the video on youtube that goes along with this blog post. If you have any questions, comments or just want to say hi, please leave a message. Sue also has a wonderful blog under the name of Sue’s Outdoor Crew and you can find it by clicking here.