Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Trip report from England

Earlier in July, a brave "fifty-something" couple from England brought six young men from England on an eight day canoe trip starting at our Opeongo Lake store. The patriarch, Victor, is a transplanted Canadian who gamely offered to take his sons and their friends on a trip-of-a-lifetime to Algonquin Park.

With permission, here are some exerpts from his trip report:

Dear Gordon,

Before time moves on too far and makes this email somewhat irrelevant I'd like to say thank you for putting together the makings of a successful canoe trip into Algonquin Park for myself and my party.

Bringing out 6 somewhat rowdy and exuberant youths, young men who had never before been out of reach of Macdonalds or Kentucky Fried Chicken, was always going to be a bit of a risk...

Moving on, the trip was absolutely superb. The first evening ended in rain... which didn't help the great steak dinner, but didn't stop anyone from eating them either. If I had any problems with the trip it was rousing them in the morning early enough to get them on their way in time to make camp before sunset the following day. Here my wife was heroic in motivating them to get packed up each day. The day spent going down the Little Crow River was beautiful and only marginalized by the minor and momentary irritation of the Park Ranger going about his job and destroying the serenity with an outboard motor. The price to pay.... And he was more than apologetic about the disruption.

That particular day was long. As was our trip down the Crow. You were right in that the Crow River was an 'all day trip.' But none the less at the end of the longest portage (p1220) when we stopped for lunch, we fished and caught a half dozen small but very pretty Brook trout, saw a couple of moose and muskrat, caught snakes (Garter and Algonquin Brown snake), and in general had a great day.... albeit tiring.

As for the Dickson/Bonfield portage, the 'bark' was worse than the 'bite.' Everyone of the party, from the smallest upwards did that portage without a moan or groan (I lie). Nonetheless we did it in one 'fell swoop,' in a time of around 3.5 to 4 hours. A comment made by one of the biggest and strongest of the lads was that "today has been without a doubt, the hardest day of my life!" and then went on to say to my youngest son Christopher "I'm impressed with your old man... he carried the canoe the whole way..." (the unspoken words being ...without collapsing or having a heart attack....) I think they all thought (hoped) that I was going to have a heart attack, then the source of their pain would go away.....

For myself I enjoyed not just the whole trip, but the portage itself. I too had not had a day as hard or difficult (physically) as that in probably 40 years... it's been a long time since I used to do that regularly (military).

My youngest son Chris carried my pack and I wouldn't have wanted to carry it. It was heavy, I was 'blessed' with having to carry the canoe, believe me. As for the youngest in the party, Michael B; Michael carried both a pack on the back, and the 'bear keg' as did my other son Matt some of the way on this portage and on the other portages, but at 17 years of age, it was no mean feat for Michael, he was an absolute stalwart and impressed me immensely. Not a single complaint, just comments more like "anything else?" Yeah I can carry me! One of the other youngsters, James R, had never had a holiday outside of England before this...! I can only imagine that he must have thought that this was the holiday from hell, and that if this is what holidays were all about, then forget it, he'd stay home in future. But he swears that he enjoyed it. We'll see when I ask him if he wants to do it again next year.

In all I don't think any one of them will forget this trip in a long time, and I can only hope that it left an impression that will one day make them all want to do it again.

The only minor downside was really the last day when the wind began to rise as we were making our way out of the East Arm at Opeongo and down through into the main lake. The wind was gradually increasing, and as it was hitting the canoes broadside didn't leave a wide enough margin for safety. The 3 man canoes were just that low in the water to lack comfortability so it was a reluctant decision that was taken for us to pick up the water taxi just before half way. We really would have liked to have finished the trip off with that long tiring paddle down the lake and not have had to take the easy way out.

However, it was just after starting the trip that morning that half way through the East Arm that I finally caught a decent sized fish. A nice Lake trout around the 3.5 - 4 lb mark I would guess. As it was the last day of the trip it was returned to the lake and hopefully survived to live another day. Unfortunately there wasn't more time to fish Lavielle the day we came through, and I remembered your words about the planning and the route, that if we took a longer route then it would be all paddling and no time for relaxation and fishing. Well, even though we shortened it, with my lot it more or less ended up as such anyway...

Nonetheless I believe a good and memorable time was had by all.

Again, many thanks and best regards

Victor P.....


I wouldn't say it was easy, the trip with the boys I mean. I'm somewhat 'strong-minded' myself and rather intolerant of what I consider to be bad manners, rudeness, and so on... So yes, it was at times difficult and there were times when I did take people to one side and quietly read the riot act.

However, they are all people in their own rights, have their own opinions, and are in fact decent young men of a rather exuberant nature... I knew the situation when I took it on.

Would I do it again with them? Yes, without a moments hesitation... and it's already a thought process with them. The fact that there was from time to time hard and heavy work involved, in the main made the trip. Each one of them had something to prove to themselves (and their friends) and each did that successfully and came out -- I believe -- a much better person for it.

No comments:

Post a Comment