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ALGONQUIN PROVINCIAL PARK ADVENTURE ~ By Bill hilts Jr.

Algonquin SignAlgonquin is located in the eastern region of Ontario, northeast of Toronto and northwest of Ottawa. It can be reached from either centre in a just a few hours and is only a couple of hours further from Montreal. All of these cities have International Airports

 

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Niagara Outdoors for Tuesday, July 29, 2008 ~ Reprinted

Algonquin Canoe Trip Filled with Thrills, Spills and More

By Bill Hilts, Jr.

         A group of 14 outdoor adventurers from Pendleton Center United Methodist Church set out into the wilderness of Algonquin Provincial Park in Northern Ontario, Canada to canoe a path of water, extreme nature experiences and a unique faith journey for a total of 31 miles - not counting portages.

        This Second Annual Canoeing With Christ trek into the wilds of Canada was met with excitement, anticipation and a little bit of trepidation of what the future would hold in the way of stamina, bugs, weather conditions and the like. Some people, like Jeanne Prendergast of Pendleton, have never canoed to any significant extent so there was an element of uncertainty - could she make the long paddles or could she deal with the "roughing it" element of such a hard trip? The answers wouldn't be very far away. We arrived at Mew Lake Campground on Monday afternoon to meet up with the entire gang of canoe enthusiasts ready to take an outdoor journey that could best be compared to the same journey we deal with every day as we meander down life's path.
     
My canoeing partner was Scot Jaynes [L]
of Pendleton and after spending a week with him, we just might have to follow this up with a "Canoeing with Scot" column at the very least. Jeanne was accompanied by her husband, Tim. We met up with Dave Pasisz of Pendleton and another woman who asked to remain anonymous. For the sake of this story, let's just call her "Connie." Scott Dabb of Cheektowaga and Brenda Case of Lockport formed another canoe tandem. Yvonne Bova of North Tonawanda and her 20-year-old daughter, Bridgette, were another canoe duo. Phil Bova and one of Bridgette's friends, let's just call him John, were a canoe team, as well. Gary Duchscherer of Cheektowaga and Paul Crawford of Lockport was another pair of paddlers that rounded out our little group. Dave, "Connie," Scott, Brenda, Phil, Yvonne and Bridgette were all part of the first canoe trip in 2007 when they paddled a modest 17 miles. The plan was to make the one in '08 more of a challenge ...we found out later. It wouldn't be our last surprise, either.

        We headed out Tuesday morning from our Canoe Lake access point and Jaynes headed over to the canoe rental station. It was a good 5 to 10 seconds that the canoe was in the water before Jaynes flipped the 16-foot water vessel and he was submerged before the water's surface. It wasn't a very good start - this could be a long trip. We proceeded to load all our gear for the next five days. Immediately, the Bob Seger song "Against the Wind" came to mind as we paddled to the first portage leading to Joe, Little Joe and Baby Joe lakes. Luck was with us as we were able to paddle or pull the canoe through two more portages with a final destination of Burnt Island Lake. However, no matter where we stroked our way forward, the canoes seemed to be against it. Another song that came to mind was Herman Hermit's "Hungry." We kept waiting to stop for lunch only to find out that there was no lunch and everyone should have had snacks to tide them over. We found this out as we set up camp. We ended up eating an early dinner of freeze dried chicken and rice. Case was the lucky lottery winner by finding the piece of meat on her plate. Still, it was food and there was plenty of it. Actually, the freeze dried meals, for the most part, came out surprisingly well.

       Camping was divided into two groups and two separate campsites. Our group consisted of Dabb, Case, Jaynes, Pasisz, "Connie" and me. The remainder of the CWC group was the second site. We were close enough to see each other and convene each evening for a devotional lesson around the campfire. One of the reasons that songs come to mind was because Crawford surprised everyone by bringing along his guitar on the trip. It was a most welcome addition around the campfire. Pasisz and Bova led each of the respective groups. Each had a pulley system outside camp to hang food and any "smellables" to avoid any chance for animal conflicts - especially black bears. Bova's group needed to improvise a little that first interior night when their bag branch broke and they opted to keep their food in a canoe that extended out into the water. It helped that most of the male contingent had Boy Scout experience, with Pasisz also contributing some military background that involved outdoor survival. It was a diverse group that worked well together for the good of all. Teamwork was an important factor, especially along the portages. That became evident on day three.
   
Picture on left is Tim Pendergast [L] & Phil Bova

Our next destination was Otterslide Lake. Before we headed out, we cast a line to take some nice bass off a rock point on worm harnesses and floating jig heads. While they initially told us no live bait was allowed, worms were still acceptable and they did the trick on fish up to about four pounds. After a communion celebration on the water, off we went - against the wind - to our only portage of the day. It was 780 meters long and a good test of our strength. This is when you question why you brought certain items along, like the tent, a canoe and anything else that weighed more than a pound. Just when I was starting to feel good about myself, down the path comes Bridgette - carrying our canoe! And she had a pack on! Well, she is much younger. That's how the portages went, everyone helping each other and making the trip that much more enjoyable. Some of the lessons that were taught around the campfire deal with fellowship, how to fix broken relationships and taking time to enjoy the little things in life as we travel on our journey.

        In the fast-paced world of today, take the time to experience all of God's wonders by slowing down. This trip was a good example. The next two days we stayed on Otterslide, a lake that Jaynes and I were convinced that its Indian name was "land of small fish." On one expedition, we encountered a portage that led to a marsh and small lake that just the two of us decided to explore. It turned out to be a bug-infested swamp that had no mercy on our exposed skin. On the way back to camp, Jaynes had the bright idea of picking up some firewood for camp. One thing led to another and the next thing I new I was underneath the canoe as Jaynes looked on chuckling.

       Did I mention that Jaynes failed to realize that his ground mat blew up to give him a cushion until the second night? I could have let him go the whole trip that way, but I opted to be a nice guy.

       Author Bill Hilts Jr. w/ Bass
       Notice Loon in background
It wasn't until Friday, when we started to head back out
- against the wind, again - that we were able to get into some good bass fishing on Burnt Island Lake. Worm harnesses did the trick, but we had to carefully pick our spot as a breeze of about 25 miles per hour was hitting us head on. You don't want to be caught sideways under those conditions. Again we caught fish up to four pounds and kept a few for the frying pan. That final Friday included not only the 780-meter portage but also a
1,140-meter hike that had everything you ever wanted in a portage - hills, rocks, a variety of insects, roots and mud holes. After carrying your gear through there in two trips, it really makes you feel like you've accomplished something.

        We were now in Littledoe Lake that would bring us through Teepee, Joe and Canoe lakes. A little 290-meter portage seemed like a cakewalk as we headed into the final stretch. Did I mention that we were paddling into the wind? The journey was complete, a total of 31 miles on the water as we made our circle tour to the constant sounds of the tremelo of the loon. That was another constant no matter where we went or what we did. As we sat around the campfire, the tremelo turned to a wail as they     started to settle down for the night.

       Despite a sore butt, aching muscles and a driving thirst that was craving for a cold drink, the trip was well worth it. It took us on several journeys that helped to give us a different kind of nourishment for both the body and soul. It recharged our batteries and gave us all a greater appreciation for the big picture. We'll be back, to answer the call of the wild. The final song? "Looks like we made it!" by Barry Manilow.

 


Algonquin Provincial Park Video, Sounds and Song [5 min]


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