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Algonquin Provincial Park – Ontario, Canada

21 Jun

Algonquin Provincial Park is one of the most beautiful provincial parks in Canada.

I’ve been there 3 times. Once for a weekend of hiking and twice for canoe trips.

Algonquin was stunning; however, not only was Algonquin swarming with mosquitoes and black flies, but canoeing and portaging through its lakes and forests were some of the hardest physical challenges I’ve had to face in my life.

But, I somehow kept coming back for more.

Although it was swarming with mosquitoes and black flies, it was nature at its finest.

And although it was very physically demanding, the challenge was something that made me feel so accomplished after it was over.

I love Algonquin. It’s one of the reasons I love Canada so much.

Here are a few of the many beautiful pictures (plus a few random shots) taken during my trip to Algonquin a few weeks ago.

I hate waking up early. Sunrises like this one make it worth my while though.

Even the place where we rented the canoes was beautiful.

The starting point. Second time using my backpack. It served me well on this trip.

These two canoes look like they’re in love.

Most canoe-goers will pass under this bridge. Make sure you tap it with your paddle because it’s a ritual at Algonquin!

As we were portaging, we came across these beautiful rapids. Notice the creeper in the background. Yes, Steven, I’m talking about you.

And then Chris climbed a tree and couldn’t get back down.

Around every corner – in this case, above – there were opportunities for photos like this one.

And random shots like this one. Good times with good friends. This was taken on our campsite on Sunbeam Lake.

There’s something that’s just so calming about canoeing, especially through beautiful parks like Algonquin.

There’s also something that’s just so awesome about pictures with reflections.

One with nature with my green sombrero. Life is good.

Algonquin – one of the many beautiful spots to see in Canada.

If you can deal with a few (or a lot) of bug bites and if you can adapt to changes in weather (like rain and wind) with a positive attitude then Algonquin is a place you should consider visiting if ever in Ontario and if ever looking for a little bit of physical activity.

It’s big and beautiful (and a little intimidating). It’s a great place to challenge your strength and endurance. It’s a great place to relax and chill out with friends by a bonfire and at the end of each day.

I already want to go back.

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5 Things I Learned From Canoeing in Algonquin

17 Jun

Yep, I lost my canoe.

But before I get to that, here are five of the most important things I learned while on this canoe trip.

1) Don’t drink and drive canoe.

We considered this idea for about 30 seconds before realizing that it was the stupidest idea imaginable. Not only is it a bad idea because you might hurt yourself and you might (I’m thinking there’s a 90% chance) tip your canoe, but it will also dehydrate you at a time that you need to be VERY hydrated.  By all means though, go crazy when your on your campsite. Just avoid jumping through campfires and climbing trees. Before drinking, make sure you have everything all set for overnight. i.e., hang up your food bag! Getting mauled in your sleep by a bear because you were drunk and stupid is not a good way to go. And please, don’t drink and swim. That’s how people drown!

2) Expect to eat like a horse and remember, food and bears do not mix well.

Jiffy Pop fail

Bring more than you think you’ll need, especially if you’re on a canoe trip (rather than a camping trip). Your energy will drain so quickly, trust me. I felt like I was going to pass out at times. So stock up on the carbs and sugar because you’ll need them. Also, like I said before, hang your food up at night! That is, unless you’d like to outrun a bear. Keep in mind, bears can run, climb trees AND swim. So you’re pretty much screwed if you find yourself head to head with a bear. Don’t put yourself in that situation.

3) You cannot wear enough sunscreen or bugspray.

It was overcast for 80% of my trip. Cloudy and slightly rainy. UV rays are just as strong on overcast days as they are on sunny days. I didn’t put on any sunscreen and the only part of my body that was exposed was my legs and I got SO severely burned. I’ve never had a burn this bad. This trip was 3 weeks ago and one of my legs is still so red. It looks like I got burned in a fire or something. Be careful and don’t forget to apply sunscreen. The other thing you shouldn’t forget to apply is bug spray. I wore a bugnet most of the time and I still got tons of mosquito and blackfly bites. They’re vicious little bloodsuckers. Lucky for the people of the United States where deet can be sold legally! It’s banned it Canada!

4) It is really easy to tip a canoe.

I found it difficult to keep our canoe balanced. We almost tipped a few times. There are a few precautions you can take though. I cannot stress how much you NEED to balance the weight in your canoe. On the first day, my friend’s pack was at the tail end of the boat because he was using it as a backrest, while mine was in the middle of the canoe. I couldn’t believe how much harder it was to paddle with the weight so unevenly distributed. I had no idea this would make such a difference. For a while it got really windy with the waves getting bigger and we almost tipped because the weight in our canoe was pushing us sideways. Afterwards, we recovered by putting both our packs in the middle which made such a difference. Also, be very careful when getting in and out of your canoe because this is where you would most likely tip.

and lastly…

5) Don’t lose your canoe.

My canoe partner and I got out of our canoe at a portaging stop and as we were taking a break to relax and drink some water our canoe drifted off into the lake. Luckily, we both had a sense of humour and, luckily, we were with another two people who had a canoe and could paddle out a retrieve ours. But, what if it was just the two of us? We would have to swim out a get it, without tipping it because our bags weren’t tied into the canoe! They would’ve sunk to the bottom of the lake if we tipped it. Learn from our mistake. Don’t lose your canoe.

Click here to see the video!

And those are the five most important things I learned from canoeing in Algonquin Provincial Park (in Ontario, Canada).

Stay tuned for more pictures from Algonquin, a place that reaffirms the love I have for my home and native land.

Packing Tips For Camping or Canoeing

14 Jun

Okay, I know that what you would need to bring on a camping trip may seem obvious, there are A LOT of things that are easily overlooked.

I’ve been camping many times in my life and I’ve been on canoeing and hiking trips a few times as well. I’ve always had someone with me who knew what gear to bring and what was important for survival.

But it really depends on where you’re camping. If I’m at a campground that pretty much consists of lot beside lot of campsites then there really isn’t a lot to think about in terms of survival. There’s usually public bathrooms with showers, water pumps with clean, running water, and an in-site store with all your camping needs.

If I’m camping or canoeing in an area where I’m pretty much fending for myself, then there’s a lot more to consider, especially when you’re canoeing to your campsite (an island) leaving you with little access to anything except what nature has to offer.

I’ve been on a canoe trip in high school to Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. But, I had teachers who knew what equipment to bring and basically what was necessary for survival. I also met two amazing people that I ended up becoming great friends with.

That was three years ago. Now, three years later, those two friends, one other person, and myself decided to start our own tradition – a yearly canoe trip.

This May we did our ‘trial’ run with only four people. Each year afterwards we’ll add more and more people and hopefully start a tradition that lasts a long time.

It was a success, that’s for sure. That success was definitely based off of being prepared with proper equipment.

Luckily, my friends Steven and Chris had done our school’s yearly canoe trip every year that that attended high school, so they had a good idea of what we needed.

Anyway, here is an idea of what you should pack if ever participating in a trip similar to the one I made.

The Basics

Backpack: Obviously. The thing that sucks about going on a trip like this is that although you will be likely going for a week or less, you need more space for packing than you would need for months of backpacking. Three reasons: sleeping bag, food, and extra equipment.

Clothes: Especially warm clothing for the night! It gets really cold. Don’t forget a bathing suit too because you’ll be bathing in the lake most likely. Also, don’t forget a waterproof jacket.

Shoes/Sandals: If you’re going canoeing, you will have to portage no matter what. Sandals won’t cut it. So bring shoes that you don’t mind getting wet or dirty because they will get wet and they will get dirty. Sandals are good for around the campsite.

Tent: Self-explanatory I would think. My only advice would be to bring a tent that is as light as possible. Ours was a BIG ASS TENT making it really heavy and awkward when it was packed in its bag, which was terribly difficult to carry when portaging during the first day before setting up camp and when heading home on the last day.

Food: Carbs. Carbs. Carbs. Sugar. Sugar. Sugar. And lots of it. Canoeing and portaging will drain your energy so incredibly quickly.

– Lighter, matches, pots, utensils, flashlight, bug spray, sunscreen, sleeping bag, life jacket, carabiners, water bottle, toiletries, towel…

CANOE and PADDLES: If you forget these, then I’m not sure you’re cut out for canoeing.

The Not-So-Obvious

Water-purifer: If worst came to worst, you could boil water if you had a pot, but if you don’t want to drink hot water then you should bring something to purify the lake water. If you have some extra cash, then a water pump works great. We were on a budget so we just bought some iodine tablets. Although the water didn’t taste very good, we didn’t get sick once so I would say that they worked great.

Tarp: In case it rains. We put all our bags under the tarps every night. It actually did rain on one of the nights and all of our stuff was dry in the morning.

Stove: Only if you want to cook food, which you will.

Back-up stove: In case you need to boil water in emergencies or in case your primary stove doesn’t work. The type of ‘back-up’ stove you should get is good because it doesn’t involve propane/gasoline. Instead, it uses warming gel. Ours was a compact, folding stove . You light the warming gel and it heats — albeit slowly — your food! Pretty cool invention.

Fire starters: You light these and use them to help start a fire. Makes it a lot easier.

Rope: Multi-purpose. You can use it to tie things, use it as a clothesline, and, most importantly, to hang up your food at night! Bears WILL come if you leave food around. Don’t be stupid and forget to hang your food. Use carabiners to create a pulley type of system to hang the food.

Dry bag: Also for hanging your food. If it rains at night and you don’t hang your food in a dry bag you’ll wake up to wet, soggy food, which will suck big time. A dry bag will also come in handy if you have electronics. When I was canoeing I usually kept my camera around my neck because I was confident that our canoe wouldn’t tip, but when we were canoeing on windy days I kept it in my 10 L dry bag.

Saw: We brought a mini saw with us. Got wood? How else are you going to chop fire wood?

Map and compass: This is 100% necessary for a canoe trip. Unless you’ve completed the same route several times, you will need a map to navigate the lakes. A compass is essential even if you know the route well.

Walkies: If you’re traveling with a pair or more canoes bring walkie talkies. We got so much use out of these (especially when we were portaging) because everyone goes at their own pace so it’s easy to get separated. Also, you can pick up signals from other people in the area who have walkies, which would come in handy if you were lost or in some kind of trouble. A whistle would be good for this purpose as well.

Yoke pads: For portaging. The wood of the canoe takes a huge toll on your shoulders and yoke pads relief that pressure.

Bug net: Other than the obvious fact that bug nets are extremely fashionable, as much as you think you won’t need one because you have bug spray, BRING a bug net. Even if you won’t get bitten much while wearing bug spray, mosquitoes and black flies will swarm around your face, guaranteed, which is super annoying. Every time we had to get out of our canoe to portage, they would swarm around us. Every time we had to get back into our canoe after portaging, they would swarm us. It is not a good feeling. My bug net was a lifesaver.

And that’s how I made it through my first self-organized canoe trip through the amazing Algonquin Provincial Park. It was difficult, but highly rewarding, and being prepared made it that much less stressful.

On another note, don’t forget the booze! Nothing better than sitting back with good friends, drink in hand, while viewing a sunset after a long, hard day of canoeing.