Sunday, September 28, 2014

Algonquin Park Canoe Trip Reflection by Amy Phillips

On our first day we had two long portages and two shorter ones. In my opinion, the teamwork of everyone was really good as we crossed the portages. I thought we were very efficient. Many of us went back two or three times to help others bring everything across. Next time I would recommend bringing dry bags instead of barrels to reduce the weight of our bag. Also to pack as light as possible, would be a smart decision. On our first portage, we tried to cross with backpacks but since we weren’t used to walking over tree roots and rocks yet up and down hills we ended up tripping and sliding down a hill but with some help we got back up and successfully made it across. Thursday was the day we had to paddle through the Barron Canyon. It was a beautiful scenic view. During this summer, I took a day trip to Algonquin Park and got to see the Barron Canyon from the lookout trail from up high on the rocks. It was very different to get to see the rocks from down on the water looking up. During the canoeing, I switched paddles with our guest teacher because my paddle was too long for me. I found that a shorter paddle made the canoe ride much easier. On Thursday night when we arrived at our first campsite, it was our food group that made tacos. We accidentally brought salsa in glass jars, that’s something we should make sure doesn’t happen again next time because glass isn’t allowed. Also, my fork, spoon and knife got misplaced and I never found them. Next time I would have kept better track of my stuff. Other than that, the dinner went well. We made the tacos with two options, beef, and vegetarians. Both options were a success. There were cinnamon buns for desert. I liked how we had a tall fire pit, built up by rocks with a grill to cook on; it made cooking a little easier. However, on our first night I was unable to sleep because it was extremely cold. For future camping trips, I would recommend bringing even warmer clothing even though I was wearing as many layers as I could possible wear. In addition, I wish I had brought a warmer sleeping bag because mine was brand new and I didn’t check how warm it was before I brought it on the trip. I bought it because it was the one that compressed into the smallest size but that feature probably compromises warmth. We spent most of the night on Thursday by the campfire trying to stay warm. In the middle of the night we came into our tent to find that a mouse had gotten in. We chased it around the tent for 15 minutes before it finally got back out. We had left our tent open because we figured nothing would go in because we didn’t keep any food inside but we learned that the tent should always be kept closed anyway. I’m just thankful it wasn’t a something worse like a bear.

Our second day we had French toast for breakfast before we packed everything up and left the campsite. There was a lot of fog on the water in the morning because the air at night was cold against the water, which was still warm from summer. There were four portages in total and we started with a 750m one, which was our longest portage of all. There was a challenging portage where there was a mini lake in the middle of the trail. We ended up figuring it out though in the end. In my opinion, our second last portage was the hardest because I carried a very heavy food barrel. The barrel is uncomfortable to carry on your back because of its round shape. There was one food barrel without shoulder straps, which had to be carried by two people by the handles, that was also a challenge. However, there were always people nearby to help out. We arrived at our second campsite much later than expected and our group was responsible for making soup and garlic bread for a late lunch. Next time maybe we should try to be more efficient to keep up with schedule. Because there was only one fire for both group A and B we didn’t get the chance to heat up the bread. We did however heat up the soups. We had both vegetarian and soup that contained meat. I didn’t know how to eat my soup without a spoon but I ended up eating it with a slice of pepper and overcame the difficulty. We set up our tent in one place and ended up moving it because it was in a low place where water would collect if it rained. We learned many new tips about setting up a tent. We had wraps for dinner that night and the only thing that went wrong was that one teacher didn’t get to eat. We learned that we should keep better track of saving food for everyone for next time. I had a really fun night with the group at campfire B. Campfires at night are one of my favourite things about camping trips. It was much warmer on Friday night, I was finally able to sleep.

Saturday was my favourite day out of the four. The only thing I didn’t like was having to wake up early to cook breakfast but we started the day by making pancakes with chocolate and blueberries for everyone. It was our turn to do the dishes. I found it was difficult without a sink but I defiantly learned a lot about cooking and cleaning in the wildness after all of the meals we did. Saturday was the day we went swimming in high falls. The water was extremely cold, but it was also extremely fun. I started by jumping in off the cliff and couldn’t help not to scream really loud. It was also scary because we saw a water snake swimming in the same place we were. I have never water in water that cold before, it was defiantly and experience to remember. I also did that water slide were you slide down and are rescued by someone throwing a rope out to you. We paddled there and back with a lady named Veronica who was camping in the campsite next to ours. It was nice that we got to meet someone new. We had grilled cheese for lunch. Later in the day, we took a walk back to the falls further down from where we swam. It was a difficult climb down but it was worth it to see the bigger waterfall. We got a chance to take some nice pictures and it was really fun. For dinner, we had stir-fry and this time the group made sure there was enough for everyone to eat. There was another fun night around the campfire. We played a game where everyone around the circle says one word and together we tell a story, which turned out to be really funny.

On our last day, Sunday, we had our biggest struggle. We packed up and for the last breakfast, we had waffles. We had one last portage before our last long canoe in the pouring rain. When we got on the water, we realized that we were missing two of the extra paddles. For next time we should remember to always check that we have everything before we leave a portage. That was one thing we could have done better. On the canoe to the end, my arms started to hurt and I found it much harder to paddle by the fourth day than it was in the beginning. Despite how hard we were trying to paddle, we were falling behind. Our solution was that we attached a rope from our canoe to the canoe of one of the teachers and our guest that joined us. We canoed in a mini train and it helped us move along. As we approached the finish line, the rain started coming down hard. My clothes were soaked right through. Next time I’ll remember to bring rain pants and more water proof clothing, unlike the clothing I was wearing that soaked up the water and made me colder. Also my makeup washed off into my eyes and since I didn’t have anything to wipe it away, it was stuck burning my eyes and it made it even harder to see. Our canoe was filling with rain water which was adding more weight and sinking us lower but we pulled through and made it to the ending. I felt very proud afterwards.

Overall, I thought this canoe trip to Algonquin park was a great experience and a lot of fun. I learned a lot and I’m sure that on my next canoe or camping trip I will be a lot more prepared. I hope to go on another trip someday as fun as this one.

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