Thursday, January 22, 2015

Grade 11 Canoe Trip Reflection - Arpad

Grade 11 Canoe Trip Reflection
by Arpad Pihes

            This trip was likely the greatest adventure I ever had in the Canadian outdoors. Between September 18th and the 21st of 2014, our large group of over 40 people covered more than 20 kilometers in canoes and portaging. During this trip the group learned to bond with each other better, and work faster together. My most memorable moments were cutting down my first trees, jumping into water that was so cold you lost your breath upon hitting it, and getting completely soaked in the downpour we got on our way out of the park.

September 18th
Most of us were at school and packing our belongings into waterproof bags by 08:00. We left the school about an hour later with exited faces all around ready to take on this adventure. We were in the park by 11:00. The group quickly unloaded the canoes and we were ready to go in under an hour. We headed downstream towards our first five portages. Along the way we saw beautiful small lakes, swamp wildlife and birds that seemed to escort us along. The canoeing was all fun and games but when we had to put those bags and canoes on our backs nobody looked as pleased. The longest portage of the day was just over 700 meters. I managed to complete four rounds, carrying the barrels and bags while my group partners Jacob and Matt carried the canoe. At around 19:30 after these painstaking portages, we got to the lake that was going to be our home for the night. The group was told to split up into two. We stayed with group A and found a relatively flat area to set up our tent on. While the people currently in charge of dinner prepared, Jacob, Matt and I followed Mr.Brouwer across the lake to collect firewood. It was nearly dark when we got back to the camp with two canoes full of firewood! The dinner was much needed and delicious. They made tacos with ground beef, veggie beef, cheese, salsa sour cream and lettuce. After dinner the most of us were very tired. As we were going to bed I looked up and saw more stars than ever before. It was beautiful, but it also meant that it was going to be a chilly night. In deed it was!

September 19th
Sleep was difficult in the tents, partly because it was a record breaking -2 that night but for me it was mainly because I chose to sleep with many layers. I’ve learned that the more layers you wear in a sleeping bag on a cold night, the colder you will be. I spent most of the night either being cold or suffocating because I’d tucked my head inside the sleeping bag. We got up at around 08:30 and packed our tent while the current cooking group made breakfast. They made a delicious meal of French toast. As planned, we were out on the water with bags packed, food eaten and garbage cleaned up by 09:30. The first portage was to be the longest one of the day; about 700 meters in length. In the middle of that portage, we had to make it across this swampy dam-like natural structure, which slowed us down quite a bit. Fortunately, as on the whole trip, people got together and completed this obstacle with no major problems. After this long and muddy portage, we found ourselves on a swampy lake. After a quick paddle we struck land again and did a 100 meter portage to a much larger body of water called the Barron River. This lake was long and narrow with parts where we could test our maneuvering skills. This meant avoiding rocks and logs that were just below the surface and making sharp turns between these objects. We decided to drop me off at one of the rocks that were barely sticking out of the surface. It was interesting to see water all around you without sinking or getting wet! They quickly came back for me because we didn’t want to be the ones at the very back of the group. Soon after this, we came to these huge cliffs on both sides of the lake. The top of the cliff must have been 40 meters high! I later found out that this magnificent place was called Barron Canyon. Once we got back on land after the longest paddle of the trip, we stopped to eat lunch. The food group brought dried fruits and chewy bars. After this short break we got started with the second longest portage of the day, which was around 500 meters. After this portage we paddled across another large lake before arriving at our final and shortest portage of the day. It was only 45 meters, so Mr.Brouwer told us to change things up and work together to take everything at once. We misunderstood his orders and thought that he wanted everybody to grab their own belongings and quickly head back into the water on the other side. We waited awhile until Mr.Brouwer approached us in his canoe with a disappointed look. He told us that this was the worst portage he has ever done with a group. We then entered and paddled across Stratton Lake to our final destination, were we would be staying for the next two nights. The group was asked to collect firewood, water and make lunch before settling into the campsite. Jakob, Matt and I went to collect water. Our food group had soup, salad and some garlic bread, but the other food group was kind enough to share their hotdogs with us! After setting up our campsite further down the river Jakob and I went to collect some firewood. I followed the sound of Mr.Brouwer’s saw and found him cutting up multiple trees! After taking all the wood back to the main campsite Mr.Brouwer showed me which trees to look for. We headed back deep into the forest with Jakob and I found a tree that looked perfect. It was basically a 40 foot tall, dead, branchless stick in the ground. I cut a triangular shape out of the tree and then began to cut it from the opposite side. This was the first tree I ever cut, so I was a bit worried about something going wrong but before I knew it the tree was falling over! We cut it into five more pieces and headed back. Jakob told me that I should be a tree cutter instead of a meteorologist. After some good laughs about the tree we realized that we were lost. Jakob turned west despite me telling him that the camp is east of our location. It took five minutes of walking to convince him that we were going the wrong direction. We headed back east and popped out higher up the lake where Ms.Trumpower camped. Unfortunately we ran out of time and dinner was ready as we got back, so we could not prepare our fire. For dinner we had some much needed tasty fajitas. Most of us went to bed by around ten a clock. I undressed properly this time, but it got slightly cloudy so we had our hopes up that it was not going to be as cold as the night before.

September 20th
We got to sleep in because we were not going to change locations for the next night. I slept until about nine, and the breakfast was almost already gone when I got to our cooking group’s fire. Everybody seemed happy that there would be no portaging for the day! We had delicious chocolate chip pancakes and bacon for breakfast. Near noon we changed into our swimming clothes to go to a place called High Water Falls. There we spent much of the time jumping off ricks into cold refreshing water. (I forgot what happened after)

September 21st
This was the day that we had to head back to civilization. We woke up a bit earlier and started to pack our things into the waterproof bags. For breakfast we had waffles and maple syrup. Right after breakfast my group took our tent down and managed to wrap it up after great difficulty. Once that was over with we put our bags into the canoes and rafted with some of the other canoes. When all the canoes were on the water we did a bag count, none were missing, and then a paddle count. It turned out we had somehow lost two of our best paddles. My group and another one decided to paddle back to shore to try to find the lost paddles. We swept through the entire campsite but all we could find was someone’s flashlight. On our way out of Stratton Lake, the rain began to fall first slightly, then gradually more as we were beginning to reach an exit of the lake. It was raining quite hard by the time we got to a stream where we had to maneuver the canoes through rocks and logs once again, going upstream. By the time we were leaving this stream and docking on land everyone was soaked to the bone. Most of us realized that we weren’t going to get much more wet so we just stepped straight into the water and pulled them out. This was only a 40 meter portage so at least that was not going to be an issue. Once we took our own canoes to the next body of water we ran back in the rain that was now beginning to become a downpour and helped the others  take the canoes. There was about six of us for each canoe towards the end. I was so happy to see everyone working together taking all the equipment across, running back for the canoes and running back to the new water with them. Canoe by canoe we progressed and in no time we were all in our own canoes on the other side. It felt great to be a part of this team. When we entered Grand Lake the rain was really starting to come down hard, and the canoes got separated. We were not worried though because we knew that we knew how to handle the situation in case a tip occurred. It was a long a tiring 1.5km paddle to the other side. Once we got to the beach we quickly got out and ran to the bus with the canoes. By now the rain was so heavy it was beginning to be hard to see the lake itself and water was beginning to flood the area. We got all the canoes out of the water and waited for Mr.Brouwer to arrive with his car. We had the option to change during this waiting period but we knew that we would have just gotten soaked again when packing the canoes. The rain did not let off even when we left the park. Lunch was handed out and we began to soak in the experiences of this great trip.

Overall I learned a lot of new things during this canoe trip. I learned better social skills in potentially dangerous situations, but my proudest achievement was learning how to cut and collect good firewood. I would love to do this trip over again! 

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