|Kosker family canoeing through Killarney Provincial Park|
Hello world wide web :) If you happened to stumble upon this dusty ole blog, welcome! If you received a surprise email about a new blog post and you wondered if it was 2010 for a moment, HELLO AND WE'VE MISSED YOU :)
We returned a week ago from an incredible family vacation and I absolutely MUST tell you about it! Sometime this Spring, Jake started dreaming and researching family vacations that would be easy on the pocketbook, high on the adventure. Last year we stretched the girls with 2 nights backpacking in the Adirondacks. It was such a positive experience, we knew they were ready for something a little more physically demanding. Enter....northern Ontario and a 3 night backcountry canoe trip!
|We followed the White Line route.|
One of our all-time favorite adventures (pre children) was kayaking for 3 nights in the San Juan Islands. That trip really affirmed my love of backcountry camping PLUS.... I didn't have to carry things on my back! A match made in heaven :) I knew that a family canoe trip would be a hit, I was just a little nervous about portaging, which I had never done before! "Pour taj" as they say in Canada, is when you lake hop and carry your canoe and belongings through the woods to the next lake in the region. The Killarney region is a swiss cheese landscape of lakes. We started at George Lake, portaged to Freeland Lake, then portaged to Killarney Lake.
|This was our FINAL portage! By our last portage, we had it down to a science. It took Jake and me two trips and each girl walked the portage once with a small, but mighty load in their arms.|
We rented an 18.5' canoe from Killarney Outfitters. That size canoe comes with a 3rd seat that was plenty wide for both of our girls (age 7 and almost 9). By the end, we even figured out how to attach our Crazy Creek chairs to the seat, and they fit side-by-side! We realize that we will not be able to do a trip like this again until the girls are big enough to paddle their own canoe (well, they might be small enough to comfortably fit for another year or so).
Killarney Outfitters were really helpful in the planning stages of this trip. Jake called them countless times to ask questions and bounce ideas off of them. When we arrived, we purchased the map and a waterproof phone case. Jake's phone has an amazing battery life, so all of these pictures were taken through the waterproof case.
|Pushing off from George Lake...ready to start our adventure!|
The first portage, between George Lake and Freeland Lake is a mere 50 meters and very easy. HOWEVER, our 2nd portage, between Freeland and Killarney, was 430 meters. Not far....but we started our trip in the mid afternoon and so it was pushing dinner time when we were heading in. About 1/2 way through the hike, THE MOSQUITOS DESCENDED! It's slightly uphill and we were all heavily laden (this was before I figured out how to use my canoe paddle to carry more items). The girls were crying/ whimpering/ miserable as they must have been mighty delicious. It didn't occur to us that this might happen, so we hadn't applied bug repellent before starting the hike. We passed a day tripping family portaging their 2 canoes and picnic supplies when we were in the crux of misery and when Jake and I went back through mosquito valley for our 2nd trip, we about fainted when we quickly came upon ALL OF OUR BELONGINGS already more than 1/2 way down the trail! Clearly, that wonderful family each grabbed a few of our items and ran them 2/3 of the way down the trail for us! Thank you so much kind strangers! We will pay it forward, someday :) It's little things like that which make me feel so much love for the human race. The first 24-hours of our trip were quite unpleasant (car problems, trailer problems, late starts, high heat, yada yada yada) and that was just what I needed to pull through and make the final leg of our entry positive.
You must prepurchase a backcountry permit to sleep on the lake. The passes open up 5 months before your anticipated date and you want to snag them immediately! The lake we stayed on has 11 campsites, with a 4 night maximum stay. We LUCKED out by choosing site #21. We were tired and hungry by the time we arrived to Killarney Lake and we wondered if we were crazy for passing up the first 2 campsites. However, I wanted a VIEW of the amazing granite rocks, so we passed the first two and then hit the JACKPOT! I'm not positive what the campsites look like at the far end of the lake, but our site was PERFECTION! We named it Kosker Cove and there was a lot of shallow area with little rock islands for the girls to play on. They played for hours and hours on our private beach.
|Killarney Lake, Campsite #21. This is the "cove" where you dock the canoe.|
While they swam and rock hopped, I read and napped in my hammock. For at least 2 hours each afternoon, I enjoyed my hammock (a Christmas gift from this past year). It was JUST what the Doctor ordered after a busy school year.
|While I had a few hours to read and rest in solitude, I also had a lot of snuggles in the hammock :)|
|One afternoon, Jake enjoyed a long nap and the girls, tired from their swimming, both climbed in. I had preloaded my Kindle with Harry Potter 1...so the girls and I read aloud to each other and I don't think I will ever live a more perfect afternoon!|
Further proof of just how much time I spent in my hammock. Here was my view one afternoon while Jake and the girls attempted to start a fire with a magnifying glass (They achieved a lot of smoke, but no flames).
|hiking to "The Crack"|
It was a lovely hike (after another short walk through a mosquito zone, this time we had applied bug repellent!). As we climbed up, the trail turns to boulders. The girls and I only had packed one pair of shoes that are suitable for water. Our treads weren't great and we would have preferred tennis shoes, but we were fine. Hazel, in particular, proved to us that she is part MOUNTAIN GOAT! On the way up, she just TOOK OFF! Jake was in the back with Heidi, her sandals were particularly slippery. So, I tried my hardest to catch up to Hazel, but I simply could NOT! She was basically running over the rocks and it is treacherous terrain. Every few minutes I would stop and yell for her. At one point, a man hiking down had a good chuckle and reassured me that Hazel had run by him not long ago. Finally Hazel heard me yelling "STOP" and she waited for me. I was getting more an more worried that she would slip and become injured. So, she got a stern lecture on hiking safety :)
|Kosker family at the top of The Crack in Killarney Provincial Park.|
|Heidi and Julie relaxing at site #21 (Kosker Cove) as Jake and Hazel paddle through the crystal clear water for their evening adventure.|
|Hazel on Killarney Lake|
The girls did SO well on the canoe! They paddled and enjoyed gazing while letting their fingers and toes dip into the water. The water is so clear that you can see the rocks, lily pads, and fish (though there are not many fish) DEEP DEEP down below.
|It's a rough life ;)|
|Our girls are so delightful and talented...they can WALK ON WATER!|
And a tradition that stems from my first backpacking adventure with Mount Union College Wilderness Trip/ University of Mount Union Wilderness Trip. I taught the girls THE BEAVER SONG!
|Any Wilderness Trip friends reading this? If so, I guarantee you're smiling right now! Boy did we have fun together!!!!|
If you're on the fence about what would be a good introductory backcountry adventure, head on up to Ontario. The landscape of the drive is breathtaking...but the lake region is truly wonderous. One thing is certain....WE WILL RETURN!