Part I of our canoe trip to Killarney ended with a beautiful night by the campfire. Part II starts with some rain. Three millimetres of it, to be exact.
A little rain never hurt anybody
For the second day of our trip we planned a hike to Silver Peak, the highest point in the park. We knew there were occasional showers in the forecast for Friday. But as the guy at Killarney Kanoes pointed out, it was supposed to be no more than 3 mm so we weren’t worried.
We woke up in the morning to a steady patter of the rain on the tent roof.
It will stop soon, we said as we reluctantly got out of the tent. We put up a tarp over the campfire and made breakfast.
It continued to rain steadily.
It will be over any minute now, we said. We quickly finished our breakfast, washed the pot so we could make coffee (we got the order wrong that morning, coffee should have been there first, according to my friend).
The rain intensified. Not that it stopped our son from going for a paddle around the lake.
By the time he returned, happy and dripping with water, coffee and hot chocolate were ready.
At least it’s not like that trip to Quetico, with wind and rain coming at a slant, we said as we were sipping our hot drinks by the campfire under the tarp. That’s when the sky opened up and it started to rain in earnest.
Tent time, we said together. Three millimetres, yeah, right, I thought as I was zipping up the door behind me.
Of course, as soon as we got ourselves into dry clothes and warm sleeping bags, it stopped raining. We decided to stay inside a bit longer – just chilling, reading, studying the map, listening to the forest and napping.
Change of plans
About an hour later my son and I emerged from the tent. The sun was already breaking through the clouds, the forest filled with bird song and intoxicating post-rain smell.
Since there were no signs of our companions, we decided to go for a paddle. We circled the lake marvelling at the views. Silver Peak isn’t visible from the campsite but it emerges in all its glory once you get on the water. Which was a reminder that our hike was still awaiting.
After a quick paddle back and hastily constructed and devoured tuna wraps, we were ready to go. By then, it was already after five.
The trail to Silver Peak can be accessed from the portage between David and Boundary Lakes. Both times we crossed the portage, there were at least ten canoes and kayaks on the David Lake side waiting for their owners to return from their hike. With the help of Jeff’s Map, we calculated that it would take at least two hours to hike to the Peak. Double that, plus add paddle time to the portage and back, and we were looking at a five-hour excursion. Didn’t seem like a sensible thing to do so late in the day. We were hoping to start at the point where the trail connects with Boundary Lake, shaving off about an hour off our hike. Unfortunately, hard as we tried, we couldn’t locate the spot. The eastern part of the lake is all marshy and there was no way to get out without drowning in waist-deep mud. We discovered very cool pitcher plants, though. (By the way, pitcher plants are also carnivorous, just like sundew mentioned in the previous post.)
Eventually, we had to give up and head back. I must admit I was disappointed but the beautiful evening we spent on the lake more than made up for our missed hike. We made ramen noodles with peas and mushrooms.
Once we finished dinner, we hopped into our canoes again and set out in search of a sunset. We paddled a bit, but for the most part we just sat in the canoe, watching, listening, enveloped by the sky both above and under us, waiting for the sun to drop behind the white hills.
Onto new adventures
The next morning it was back to cloudy skies and a bit of rain.
Luckily, it didn’t last. By the time we finished breakfast (this time coffee was there first but not strong enough) and were done packing, it cleared up. So we went for a swim before heading to our next destination.
At the portage we met a group of young people heading to our campsite. Lucky, we thought wistfully.
We cast one last look at Boundary Lake and Silver Peak and made our way to David Lake.
As I mentioned before, David Lake is quite big with lots of twists and bays so we made a few wrong turns here and there. It was a windy day with choppy waters so no pictures to show except for the final stretch before the portage where it got a bit calmer. A loon on the nest was quite a reward.
Unlike previous portages, the one from David to Balsam was very buggy. The rain from the day before must have been to blame or they could have been waiting to ambush us the whole time. Even with all the mosquitoes, I couldn’t help but stop and take a few pictures of fungi along the way.
The site that wasn’t
Once we got to the other side, we set out in search of a campsite on Balsam. We were worried that all the sites would be taken but as it turned out we didn’t need to. Only one was occupied. We had our sights set on #116. It was closer to the end of Balsam located on a small island. There is something romantic about living on an island, even if you could walk to it from the shore.
Site 116 was nothing but romantic. It was pretty, I’ll give it that, surrounded by water lilies, with lots of level space for tents and good access to water.
Unfortunately, its previous inhabitants had treated it very badly. There was lots of garbage everywhere: coffee cups, empty juice boxes, toilet paper all around, some towels. There was a garbage in the thunderbox and lots of things that should’ve been in the thunderbox just lying around. Plus there were fish bones scattered along the shore with some white powder we couldn’t identify. We cleaned the site up, packed the garbage (most of it, we didn’t touch the thunderbox contents and didn’t know what to do with the white powder but we did inform the park office upon return) and then left. While the site looked much cleaner, we couldn’t shake off the unwelcome feeling. Just hope our efforts helped restore some of its aura.
A beaver showed up at the last minute to say goodbye.
The last night
We ended up at site 115, the last one on the lake. (We checked out 114 as well. It was a pretty good site, even had a bench near the firepit. It was deeper in the woods, though, and we were concerned about bugs and lack of light.)
Site 115 quickly became our favourite. It was clean to start with. Moreover, it had a nice big pile of chopped fire wood waiting for us. The put-in was a bit challenging but, as we discovered the next day, there was a much easier way to get on shore from the other side. That side also had a beautiful water lily patch.
Part of the site jutted into the water and was quite windy, but we found ample space for tents in the wooded area. The fireplace had some tall rocks around it on the lake side to shield it from the wind. And the view of the setting sun was gorgeous.
(The next day my husband spent half the morning finishing the fireplace. We also left a pile of wood for the next campers. Hopefully, they enjoyed the site as much as we did.)
We ended the night with some hot chocolate and fiery views.
The next morning, it was time to pack and leave, my least favourite part of the trip. So we lingered, slowly enjoying our coffee (we finally got it right), then minestrone.
We took time packing tents and gear. All the while, my friend was teaching our son to say “Go away, wild animal” in Yiddish. I wonder if bears understand Yiddish?
We then went swimming. Swimming, I must say, isn’t the best at this site. The shore is all boulders and sharp-edged rocks so getting into water was accompanied by endless ‘ouches.’ But once in the water, it was bliss. I wish I could package that feeling and carry it around like a safety blanket for when things get busy at work.
With a few final shots of water lilies, we were off.
The first and last portage of the day was only a five-minute paddle away. And at 40 metres didn’t take long to complete. If only all portages were like that. The portage also featured remnants of a marine railway, which, we decided, was a great spot to launch our new segment – Portage Tunes.
For those who don’t understand Russian, the song is about despair, loneliness and yearning to be heard, hence all the shouting in the end. Sorry for my tuneless signing in the background. Next time I’ll just stick to filming and taking pictures.
Moving on. Our paddle on Three Mile Lake was quiet and peaceful. There were more lilies and floating grasses, skies reflected in the water and rocky islands. We tried to absorb as much as of the surroundings as possible and store those visions for later.
And then we hit Bell Lake. You’ll find no pictures of that stretch of our trip. I was too busy paddling and trying to make sure the waves and wind didn’t turn us around or, worse, turn us over. My friend said she knew things were serious when I stopped taking pictures. Also when I screamed “We are screwed!” and “Don’t stop paddling!” Once we were on dry land, she mentioned that I was a different person on water, whatever that’s supposed to mean. I guess I did forego niceties in all that battle against the elements. At one point, we almost crashed into a campsite while its inhabitants watched us listlessly from the shore while munching apples. We didn’t give them the satisfaction of enjoying our defeat, and eventually managed to reach the dock near Killarney Kanoes without any major incidents. I think we make a pretty good paddling team.
We couldn’t leave Killarney without stopping at Herbert Fisheries, Killarney’s world famous fish and chips. We polished it with an ice-cream and were on our way home.
As we were trying to remember all the wildlife we’d seen, a bear emerged on the roadside as if to ensure he was included. Quite a farewell!