I have always loved the beauty of Georgian Bay. You see, I have a thing for rocks. I just love them and Georgian Bay is full of them, in all different shapes, sizes and colors. Then there’s the water… it is this deep deep blue color… so pretty! I spent some time on Georgian Bay during my Level 2 Sea Kayaking Course and I have wanted to go back ever since. The problem was, like many of my desired destinations, I had no one to accompany me on the trip, and so I continued asking people most of the summer, without any positive replies. My last kayaking trip with Kevin Callan, The Happy Camper, was actually supposed to be a trip to Georgian Bay, but due to time restraints and scheduling conflicts, we had to reroute to another location.
One day while chatting with my kayaking coach Dympna, she told me about a place call the Cathcart Islands. I had never heard of them, but they were out in Georgian Bay and a place that people crown land camped on. Since that day, I’d always wanted to go there. Last summer I went to Snake Island, which is also out in Georgian Bay, but I was with someone and the destination wasn’t quite as far. So, not only did I want to do a solo out on Georgian Bay, but the plan was to go to a destination I’d never been to , that was also a bit of a challenge to get to. I was actually very very nervous and afraid of this trip and had put it off for many weekends this year, but with a great forecast predicted, I was ready to conquer my fears, regardless of how many nightmares I’d had prior to my departure.
I had decided to go bright and early on Saturday morning. I usually take off for my trips on Fridays, but with paddling across the bay and not knowing how long it would actually take me to get to my destination, with the days being shorter, etc, I decided it’d be best to go in the morning. This sadly made me miss the Aurora Borealis on Friday night, something I’ve yet to see, but I didn’t know they were forecast until after the fact. I arrived at Killbear where I’d be launching from. I got my parking pass for the night and headed to the day use area, which I used as an access with the permission of the warden at the park.
It was incredible what a week or two of time passing does. It was 9am on one of the hottest days of the year, and I was the only person on the beach. After labor day the crowds die down in many places and I was enjoying the peace and quiet. I loaded my kayak and had lots of extra room, so I put a few pieces of firewood in my hatch to make life even easier. This trip was not about the duration, it was about the journey to and from the destination and no matter how anxious I was about it, I was going to do it and I was both excited and scared to get started.
The water was very calm when I launched from Kilcoursie Bay, but the swells appeared fairly quickly, only about 10 minutes after launching. I had paddled in waves much bigger and wasn’t too concerned, however, I’d never done that alone.
I had prepared a few nights before the trip, calculating all my bearings for the destination I was aiming for. I watched my deck compass to ensure I was always heading in the right direction, handrailed according to my map and also used the gps on my phone now and then to ensure I was exactly where I thought I was. I did my best not to rely on any one thing, but to use each navigation tool to ensure I was using the others correctly.
Slowly I made my way across the bay. Just after I passed the shelter of Rose Island and paddled out into open water, I got a bit freaked out. The waves started coming at me from every direction and my kayak was bobbing up and down. I even got splashed a few times with waves landing in the cockpit. It was actually refreshing as it was really hot out, but still somewhat unsettling. The marine forecast had advised waves up to a half metre and they were there. During this part of the paddle, I did not take any photos or videos, as it wasn’t safe for me to do so. I also experienced a bit of nausea from the bobbing around, and some panic, asking myself exactly why I was out here alone and what was I thinking? I gave my head a shake, took a few deep breathes and continued on.
After a bit more paddling, the waves began coming from just one direction again and I felt much better. I was ecstatic to be out here and was glad I didn’t freak myself out too badly. I could do this and I knew it, but sometimes, self doubt comes in and has it’s say. I just pushed it away and did what I needed to do and shortly I was smiling again and looking around in amazement at the beauty all around me.
The funny thing about Georgian Bay is that one minute you can be in very deep water, and the next minute, your kayak is on a rock on a shoal in the middle of no where. The water sometimes is only a few feet deep and you look around in amazement, like really? It’s that shallow here and over there, the bottom is no where to be found. Part of the magic that invites me to visit here, but also something you have to be very careful of. It is no fun trying to wiggle yourself off of a shoal out in the middle of nowhere in a fully loaded kayak, that’s for sure!
After two and a half hours of paddling, I finally arrived at my destination. Cathcart Island!!! I was so excited and happy and I was beaming. I’d actually found them and made it to them and here I was! WOW! Pretty awesome indeed!
I had not seen a boat or a person in hours and believed I was all alone. I landed the kayak and got out, happy to stretch my legs and walk around a bit. It looked like a good spot. While I was checking out the site, however, 2 kayaks passed me by and landed just a bit down the rocks. I don’t know if they were now camping there, or had already been set up as I couldn’t see into the area well, but I decided I would look for another spot. I got back into my boat and headed around the other side of the island finding an amazing site, even better than the first. I initially thought I was still on Cathcart, but found out later on I was on Cripps Island.
The site was awesome. It was on a point facing South with views to the East for sunrise where there was a protected bay that was calm and good for swimming and views to the West, with open water as far as the eye could see that had crashing waves along the shoreline.
I set up camp and then had some lunch, anxious to get into the water. YUP! I was swimming in Georgian Bay today, It was about 30 degrees out and I could not wait!
I was so happy. It was September 16th and I was swimming! WOOHOO! Summer is not over yet! We still had 5 days and I was going to enjoy every single one of them! The water was a bit cool but very refreshing! I spent the day sitting in the sun (getting burned a bit) and reading Kevin’s book on the Top 50 Canoe Routes of Ontario, doing some research for my next big trip!
I also spent a lot of time exploring the site and the rocks all around me. They were truly spectacular!
I rebuilt the fire pit as it was missing quite a few rocks and set it up so that it would be in line with the sunset later on. It was too hot to have a fire, but I brought sausages for dinner. They didn’t have to be cooked on the fire, but would be best on the fire so I would have a small one for a bit.
I had a hard time finding a place to hang the water filter. Georgian Bay has trees, but not many and not in the best locations for things like hanging water filters, tarps or hammocks. I ended up using this dead stump that was near where my kayak sat and it worked good enough for what was needed.
Upon setting up my site, I also set up my special privy. As some of you know, I have colitis and sometimes this makes camping a bit difficult for me but I do my best to overcome it and live as normally as possible. As Georgian Bay has no privys, I always pre set up a place to, uh, do my business so there is no panic first thing in the morning. This set up is not completely done as I need to dig a hole still, but I wanted to show an example of what I do. Most places I find a remote location, far from the site and from the water source that is private. I either use the assistance of a log (basically you sit on it and hang your butt over the back end), or, in this case, I used some very flat rocks I found. I have knee problems and squatting for the amount of time required, isn’t always feasible so this works great. I know it’s kind of gross to talk about it, but some people have asked to see this. If it’s not your cup of tea, just move to the next paragraph. I apologize for any awkwardness but we all have to do it, so I thought I would include it this time.
The day was amazing and it went by far too quickly. The sun was starting to drop and I was still in my bathing suit sweating and doing my best to make my own shade to get the heat off my somewhat burned face. I had 45 sun screen on and still it got through. It was so hot and I was loving it but my skin, not so much!
I made a small fire with some sticks I’d collected from the site. I was surprised at the amount of dead fall lying around considering the time of year. I set up a spot to put my grill on and cooked my snow peas and roasted my Grill Ems on a stick I’d prepared with my knife. The food was great and simple, but I was happy when I was done cooking so I could let the fire die down for a bit. It was just too hot for fire.
I headed out in my kayak to catch some different views of the amazing sunset that I was lucky enough to view. It wasn’t the Aurora’s, but it was magnificent all the same and I felt pretty special to be viewing it.
I went back to camp and sat watching the colors continue to change. It just kept getting better and better and I was so grateful I was here.
Once the sky turned into darkness, I got the fire going a bit better and decided it was time for dessert. I brought a light dinner for the purpose of making and eating 2 peanut better s’mores, created by Chris and Julia Prouse. I had made them last weekend on my kayaking trip with Kevin and they were so delicious, I had to make them again this weekend! If you have not yet tried them, I highly recommend it!
After my tasty treats, I sat by the fire for a bit and decided I was ready for bed. I had had a rough sleep the night before with nightmares of me getting lost out here, among other things and had a long day in the heat and was pretty tired. As the Aurora Borealis had been seen in this area last night, I had asked some people on facebook if it may reappear tonight. The chances were good but not great, but I didn’t want to miss out, so I did another first! Sleeping with my fly off.
It was really hard to fall asleep at first because I kept opening my eyes to see outside, but after I while I dozed off. Then I woke up to my alarm. I set it for every 2 hours to check the sky for the Auroras. Sadly, they didn’t show up but I saw lots of stars that night.
I woke up to an amazing sunrise. I walked around the site taking lots of photos and then headed back to my tent to watch from there. As the fly was off, I had a great view from my cozy spot in my sleeping bag and even though it wasn’t cold at all, I was still comfy cozy inside it.
I went back to sleep for a bit and then got up to start my day. I packed up all my gear and then made some breakfast. The day was expected to be similar to yesterday, but with a bit of wind and I was in no rush to leave.
I made over easy eggs on toast and ate staring at my gorgeous views. The temperature continued to climb as the house went by and finally around noon, I decided to head out on my journey back to Killbear. I was a bit worried as they were forecasting 30 km wind gusts but turns out the water was fairly calm most of my trip back to Killbear.
A beautiful heron even visited me on my way out of the little bay I’d camped in, which I took to be a sign of good luck and a good journey home.
The water was wavy in spots but not nearly as bad as the way in and I enjoyed my paddle out.
Even though I stopped en route for a refreshing swim, I still arrived back to Kilcoursie Bay way too soon for my liking. It was around 230 and the beach was packed with people, swimming, picnicking and enjoying the gorgeous day. I unpacked my kayak, put it up on my car and made my way to Parry Sound to visit with my friends Sam and Shylo and have a little after trip feast!
We chatted about my adventure that I was so very proud of completing. Now that I’ve soloed Georgian Bay I would hopefully stop having bad dreams about it and would be much more confident the next time around. I didn’t get lost, I didn’t drown and I had the best time ever. Big thanks to Mother Nature for the amazing weather! And thanks to you for checking out my post! If you have any questions, comments or just want to say hi, please leave a message! I am planning another big adventure so stay tuned to check it out!