September is proved to be a month of Stroudies!! This started promptly at the end of August with the arrival of Joe and Soph! Two of my best friends from home. I rushed to the airport, on the ever-tardy TTC (Toronto Transit system) and once we’d got back from the airport and dumped their bags I gave them a tour around my neighbourhood, and Kensington Market, my old one.
Over the next few days we went around all the popular areas of the city. Joe and Soph did a lot of their own exploring in the mornings, as I was still working at Edgewalk. My shifts were all 830-3 however, so I was able to go off and do stuff in the afternoon with them. They got to meet all my Edgewalk palls at a work get together too, and it was really great to see my two friendship circles mixing. We had plenty of walks around the city and enjoyed a fair bit of time on my roof, gazing at the city skyline and enjoying some fine whisky that Joe had brought over! We also went over to the islands, we had the intention to get dinner, but this didn’t happen, so we enjoyed a night walk watching the city skyline instead.
The main part of our trip was yet to come however, for the weekend in the middle of the visit we had decided to go on an adventure up in the lakes of Algonquin National Park, we would explore the lakes by canoe, doing a loop for 4 days.
We left early on the Friday and took the Park Bus service up to our outfitters at Lake Opeongo. From there, after packing all our food and equipment (as lightly as possible!), we took the outfitter’s water taxi service up to the north arm of Lake Opeongo, and made the first portage into Happy Isle Lake. Here we would spend the night, and after circling the island in the centre of the lake in our canoes we found a campsite on the northern shore to rest and prepare for a long next day. That evening we had our first challenge of the trip, our tent had been given to us without a ridge pole!!! Much searching and whittling occurred, and we were able to fashion one from a study stick we found nearby.
The next morning we awoke early, and left the campsite after a hearty breakfast, heading for the southern shore of the lake. We were making for the Otterslides, a river system that ran into Big Trout Lake, where we would spend the second night. The morning progressed well and we made 3 long portages to the lake. The going was hard work, we had a heavy pack each, and me and Joe also carried a canoe each, but at the end of each portage we were rewarded with picturesque ponds and streams, and the occasional swig of whisky!
We took lunch on the northern shore of Otterslide Lake, and with 3 portages and a couple of long paddles under our belts, we were ravenous! As the afternoon wore on we made another series of short portages under the hot Algonquin sun. Between each portage we paddled the Otterslide creek, which meandered through marshland and swamps, ending in a waterfall. At this point we were looking for a place to set up camp. Believing our odds to be good for finding an empty one in a cluster of 4 we pressed on a good way up Big Trout Lake, with the shadows lengthening, but unfortunately with the weekend being busy all 4 were occupied. With the sun setting, and all of us tired, we were fortunate to be pointed to a small spot to the side of an occupied campsite, and hastily set up camp to rest and recharge. It had been a long day and we’d all made a mammoth effort at the end, but in paddling so far we’d given ourselves a very easy next day.
The next day we awoke before sun came up, and after another good breakfast we set out towards Merchants Lake. This involved crossing a large marsh at the north east end of Big Trout Lake, and then portaging into Merchants itself. The marsh was expansive with a number of smaller rivers leading into it so I had to be careful when navigating to avoid us canoeing the wrong way!
We achieved this with ease by 11 and by 1130 we were enjoying a lazy lunch at an empty campsite near our short portage back into Happy Isle Lake.
After the portage we made straight for the island that gives the lake its name. By this point the winds had picked up, and we were paddling through choppy waters, I was having fun trying to surf my canoe on the waves!
We reached an empty campsite by 2, and then enjoyed a laszy afternoon of swimming, chopping up way more wood for the fire than we needed, food, and whisky of course. As the sun set we let the fire burn down and had a go at making that campfire favourite, smores!
On the last day of our trip we once again woke before the sun, we had to reach our water taxi pickup on the other side of our first portage by 1130. Our last paddle was relaxed, and we took the time to enjoy the sensation of paddling in open water on last time before we completed our loop at the landing for the portage. We paused to look back at the lake before we donned our gear and made our way to the water taxi, bus, and eventually back to Toronto.
After our trip we took a day to relax, and Joe and Soph did some more exploring of their own around Toronto (I had a few shifts at Edgewalk). We visited Ripleys Aquarium, the islands again, and Joe and Soph made the obligatory trip to Niagara Falls. They decided to treat themselves, and got an amazing hotel room overlooking the falls, and they also did the Hornblower, and the behind the falls experience, like I had over a year ago, when I first arrived in Canada.
Soon it was Saturday and we began to pack for the return journey to the UK. We had a nice afternoon to relax before the flight, and enjoy some more whisky on the roof, and plenty of time to negotiate the TTC on the way to the airport. At the time of writing I’m somewhere over the Atlantic with just 2 hours to go before I touch down in the UK for the first time in 15 months!!!