Wandering Around Out There With A Canoe On My Head

Better Than A Good Day at the Office – Part 1: Bogs, Bugs and Broken Canoes

by Preston
May 27, 2016

So I should probably talk about that broken canoe seat picture I put up a few days ago, but I’m still trying to figure out how that happened. What I do know is that it happened at probably one of the worst times it could do so. (Well, I could try and think of worse scenarios, but this one happened lately…to me. 😉 )

I spent the long weekend in Algonquin Park doing a little solo trip. (Well, not solo, with Nancy.) As everyone knows, the weather was perfect. I spent the first day leisurely paddling and portaging up through Canoe Lake to Burnt Island. Normally on a long weekend this route would be filled with people, but after dodging a big group at the first portage, it wasn’t feeling crowded after that.

Nancy enjoyed the company on the portages, having more people to check up on and catch up to. She likes that. She also likes the added attention. (I’ll talk about that in a later post.)

But on day 2 we had more portaging to do, which again, Nancy prefers. Just before our last portage of the day (a series of 8 shorter portages), we came across the bog filled puddle that you see pictured. Not a big deal in August, I would *prefer* to keep my feet dry in the spring if I can help it. I did my best to balance on logs to avoid the muck, and thought I had perfectly placed the canoe that would only require a little bum-shimmy (technical term) to launch into deep enough bog-water.

But I guess not.

With a perfect combination of solid-enough bog and the logs stuck beneath, I was stuck before I even got going, and all the bum-shimmying in the world wasn’t going to help. I pulled off my shoes and socks and gave a little prayer that the ground beneath was solid enough to hold me above enough water (read: goo) as I slowly moved the canoe forward, carefully feeling out solid ground with my feet.

Finally free, and again trying to balance on submerged, slippery logs below my feet, I was ready to hop back into the canoe. Unfortunately, I had to be in pretty deep goo to be free and so my entry manoeuvre was awkward. I needed to stick the landing or I’d be flying face first in filth. While not exactly graceful, I managed to get in without incident. “All right,” I said out loud, “things are working out for us now, Nancy. … Nancy?”

Yep. Nancy had taken the opportunity to jump out, run and roll around in some fun mud, and was behind me, waiting to get back in the canoe, and of course, out of reach. (She refuses outright to swim.)

And that’s when the bugs came.

Take 2 was quicker but much more dirty. It’s funny how fast you can be when being eaten alive, swatting black flies from your eyes, snorting and “pwah pwah”ing the little jerks out of your orifices. (Why do they do that?!)

When we got stuck again, poor little Nancy was not amused, chomping at the air and shifting in place to cope with the bugs. I managed to finally get back into the canoe, this time with Nancy in place, this time in a more confident entry but with an awkward land.

That’s when I heard the snap of wood. I had that feeling you get when you expect a stair that doesn’t exist, my bottom falling much further down than normal. It’s a minor miracle the jolt and subsequent action to right myself didn’t send me back into the bog. #Grateful ( #GratefulNoOneSaw )

Sadly, we hadn’t gotten that far, and there was plenty more low water areas to navigate through, all while not having the leverage of leaning on the seat or a thwart. If the seat had broken before we launched, I would have been able to get myself into a better position. I could have moved the gear back or jammed the pack under the seat (which is how I wound up paddling out the rest of the trip).

I got my knees and legs into the best position I could to be able to better control the canoe, but it made for an awkward paddle through the dense muck, to say the least. After getting stuck 3, maybe 4 more times, pleading with the bugs to just give me a little break until I got across this little pond, we made it to (solid) shore.

I tried my best to clean my legs of the bog mud to attract less bugs, but as you can kind of see in the picture, it wasn’t happening completely. (You can also see Nancy sensitively rubbing up against me to get herself dry, thank-you-very-much.)

I was pretty exhausted, so much so I let the bugs have their fill while I rested a bit, checking my slimy feet for leeches. It was over though. I just needed to get across this portage, figure out how to jam the pack under the seat, and it was just a few kilometres of paddling to get to camp. Nancy had a good time though, so that was good. So too the bugs. So much so that since they were enjoying our company they thought they’d follow us for the day. Them and their friends.

Thankfully, Swift Canoe & Kayak and Johnny’s Boat Shop was on the way home, so rather than bring back a broken canoe I dropped it off right there. Mike Ramsey was there too to help, and to his credit, didn’t even laugh that hard at me when I told him what happened. They’re so nice there.

But with all the stinky goo, bugs and equipment failures, I gotta say, I’d still rather be out there than back in the city. The weather was really nice and it was great to get a good dose of Nature.

Next time: Part II – Paddles after sunset and why routine is so important when it comes to not forgetting your stuff.

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    Preston and Nancy the dog pose with a Paddle in the Park Contest paddle
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