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Pushing the Canoe Trip Envelope

Pushing the Canoe Trip Envelope

Algonquin Park is so many things to the millions of people who have spent time here since its inception in 1893. For its early lumbermen, it was a chance to provide for their families far away in the Ottawa. For its artists and photographers, it’s a place of endless inspiration and creation. For its day hikers and car campers it’s a quiet and enjoyable weekend vacation to escape the hustle of the city. What Algonquin is really known for though, is its hundreds upon hundreds of remote interior canoe routes waiting to be explored, and what better way to explore these than a seven plus day canoe trip.

Don’t get me wrong, a weekend canoe trip a few lakes in from your access point is a fantastic way to hone your skills and get a taste of what the region has to offer, however the true thrill of an Algonquin Park canoe trip is the feeling of solitude and remoteness only a canoe trip a week of more can offer. Canoe trips of this length not only allow you to fully explore interior lakes and rivers such as the Nipissing or the Petawawa, they also form lifelong bonds constructed from mutual hardships and challenge.

The route of least resistance from Canoe Lake to Cedar Lake is often referred to as Algonquin’s main street and you’re rarely alone along this route during the busy summer months. The portages are clear, the landings are immaculate, and the campsites are very well established. This sounds like an ideal canoe trip, but without the challenges a remote canoe trip offers, you may not get as much out of the experience. In my experience the best memories on trip are created in the face of adversity.

During my almost decade long canoe tripping career in Algonquin so far, some of my most memorable and life changing trips were the ones that pushed me to my limit. I have very fond memories of a 13-hour day from Phillips Lake to Eustache lake, an almost 40 km journey with 12 km of portages. This challenging day allowed my trip to have a rest day on Algonquin’s deepest lake, which we took full advantage of before bushwhacking to White Partridge creek the next day for 6 hours. Another fond memory I have of a challenging trip was when I was first learning how to portage a canoe on a 7 day western boundary trip. The route didn’t seem all too intimidating at first, but once we started to recognize a pattern of hilly, muddy portages with practically nonexistent landings we knew we were in for a fun ride. There’s certainly nothing fun about being stuck waist deep in mud with a canoe on your head, at least in the heat of the moment. However when the sun is setting and the day is done, we’re motivated by what we’ve accomplished in the face of adversity and proud of one and other.

I can attribute an immense amount of my emotional growth to the adversity I’ve face on the many canoe trips I’ve partaken in and therefore I am a strong proponent of pushing your boundaries of canoe tripping. The next time you’re considering planning a canoe trip, pull out the map and point to somewhere you’ve never been, or maybe somewhere you never thought you’d be able to go, and get out there. Good luck.