Bonnechere River Trip

Algonquin Park, May 10 to 15, 2005

Day 6

Sunday, May 15th, Turner's Camp, on the Bonnechere River

Well, we made it. John, John Terry and I are sitting amidst a heap of canoe trip debris while Nigel's chatting up a couple of cottagers. Scott's on his way to Basin Depot to get the car to begin the shuttle.

We're all in varying states of undress and I can see we all look a tad worse for wear. It's as if our uncle Eddie's friendly, playful Saint Bernard got a bit carried away with us at the weekend.

We got into Turner's Camp about 10:30 after an 8am start. (Or close to it). It had started raining last night around 9pm and hadn't really stopped until around four or five this morning. I listened to it for about an hour, or so it seemed.

The sound of rain on the tent is actually beautiful, if it happens to be the last night of your trip and you happen to have no more portages.

From Lake Couchain to here is a portageless excursion through small lakes connected by channels and then back to a much wider Bonnechere River. It's pretty but settled territory. Fairly modest, fairly numerous cottages, trailers, sheds and what not punctuated one shore, with marsh on the other.

I don't imagine you could count on camping anywhere past Couchain Lake. There was at least one "no camping sign" I saw and no friendly orange triangles.

Post facto note: someone commented in August 2005 that there are campsites on Beaverdam Lake. One is across the lake from a lodge.

What was thick fog, obscuring the opposite shore of Couchain lake, possibly 300m away, burnt off to blue sky 8am and by 9:30 we were paddling in short sleeves.

It was the first time all trip I'd taken off my fleece, Scott observed.

At about 80km, one way, it was going to be a while before the rest of the cars came back so we busied ourselves with drying out our gear, made lunch and pondered why we do this.

As I write these words, I notice blackflies hovering. They're not biting but I imagine they will be soon. So the window between ice-out and bugs-in is very narrow indeed - to be safe, the first two weeks of May. I could not imagine doing this trip with bugs.

The other cars rolled up around 2:30 and Scott the beer fairy made an opportune and appreciated stop in Madawaska before heading back up the road. We were packed up and gone by 3pm, and back in Ottawa around 5pm.

FRS radios: blessing or curse?

I have never tripped with them and I was, at the outset, a little dubious. I could see how they'd be handy - checking out camp sites, scouting portages, and what not. And in truth they were handy for the latter. But in the hands of a gadget-obsessed overgrown child - not that we had anyone like that on our trip - they're an irritant. You're in the middle of this wilderness park and suddenly there's a snap, crackle zzz and someone making some stupid joke - in theory.

I think I would use them if we were likely to, or could think of a use for, getting separated. Picking campsites on large lakes in Killarney in summer, for example. "Uh this is canoe one. The site I'm at is the pits. How's yours, over?" Scouting is another good example. But I would want severe punishments for gratuitous use.

What is lightweight camping?

It seems everyone has their own idea about what constitutes camping necessities. And they wrinkle their noses at the unnecessary junk that others bring.

Really, it comes right down to pack weight and whether or not you can carry what you've got without holding the rest of the group back. My luxury items were a thermarest chair (358g) and a huge honking camera (1154g). I didn't weigh my pack, but it wasn't very heavy. And it was maybe 60 per cent full.

Scott had a small, folding aluminum chair. Terry... well, I don't know what Terry had but his pack was about as tall as he was, so he must have had some stuff. John G had enough food to feed an army. Mind you it was all power bars and salami, but desperate times...

Who's to say what all is essential. I am a big fan of back support. Maybe naked John has a real fear of going hungry. Who knows.

The fall back seems to be, "if I can carry it and keep up with everyone, what's it matter?" That's fine if you don't switch loads, like Scott and Terry. But what about a canoe where the paddling parnters swap portage loads? I made Nigel carry my camera for half the portages, for example. Am I ever glad I left my good luck brick at home.

Wisdom for today

"You're never lost - you just know your position with less accuracy." Nigel Ward, 2005.

Nigel, is never lost, maybe. Me, I can get lost. Nigel went on to explain that you may not know exactly where you are, but you always know something about it. Earth, Canada, Ontario, Algonquin Park, "Somewhere around Turner's Camp." But he added later, If you know exactly where you are to the nearest metre, but don't know in which direction to walk, are you lost? I don't know. But I'm signing up for Nigel's navigation course next year.