Friday, September 16, 2016

A Short But Good Weekend At Sandbanks

At the beginning of September we decided we should head to Sandbanks for a weekend. Luckily for us the park had just opened up reservations for the Outlet B campground the day before. As a result we managed to get what might be the best site in the entire park.

Perhaps the Best Site in the Park
We arrived in time for a late dinner Friday. We dug out the food and began preparing dinner as the kids played in the sand. The view from the site was great and being outside made the busyness of the first week of school disappear. Summer holidays were least for a couple of days.

We setup the tents and got ready for bed. Just before turning in we spent some time admiring the moon and the stars. One of the nice things about the sun setting earlier is that the kids get to spend a little more time observing the night sky.

This was the first time that we brought two tents. We thought that the kids might like to sleep in a tent while we slept in another tent. They decided it would be better to have a boy's tent and a girl's tent.

Site at Night
Once the kids were asleep I decided to walk to the main beach. The moon was out and was fairly bright. The walk was very pleasant. When I arrived on the beach I only saw one other person. You could hear the waves crashing but the wind had died long ago. Although the crashing waves were quite loud it somehow still seemed very peaceful.

The boys tent was the first to be vacated in the morning. We decided to go for a paddle until the girls were awake. We paddled the Outlet River until we got to Lake Ontario then turned around and made our way back to the site where the girls were playing in the sand. With everyone awake it was time to get the fire going so we could bake cinnamon buns for breakfast. We had intended to bring a cast iron frying pan to bake the buns in but we forgot it at home. Instead we just used the foil pan that the buns were placed in to rise. It worked great. The buns couldn't have turned out any better.

Cinnamon Buns
After breakfast we loaded the family and some toys into the canoe and paddled to the main beach. It was warm and a little cloudy, which made for a great morning to be at the beach. We played on the beach, swam and just enjoyed being outside.

Hard at Work
As the morning wore on, more and more clouds rolled in. We decided to pack up and head back to the site for lunch. As we got into the canoe it started raining a light rain that seemed warm. It didn't seem to matter to anyone that we were getting wet since we were all in our swimsuits. By the time we reached our site it was pouring. We sat in the screen room and watched the rain just come down. It rained on and off for a good part of the afternoon but there were lots of sunny periods mixed in with the rain. We played in the sand when it wasn't raining and played games when it was raining. Around 3:00 (I'm guessing since I don't wear a watch) the sun was back out. The kids were having a blast in the water so I decided to paddle up the Outlet River to East Lake and paddle a bit in East Lake. It was getting late so I headed back to the site. On my way back I could hear, very faintly, thunder in the distance.

Upon arriving at the site we quickly started to put dinner together. The thunder and lightning was now much closer but it looked as though the worst of it was passing to the north of us. We were just on the edge of the cloud bank. We finished cooking our dinner over the fire by which time the thunder and lightning seemed to be constant, but still north of us. It was an amazing show of light and sound. It poured for a bit then stopped. The thunder, dark clouds and rain all seemed to have moved east and it looked as though we had avoided the worst of the storm. As we finished eating the park wardens came by and informed us that there was a tornado watch and that we should seek shelter immediately. This seemed odd given that it looked like the worst had already passed, but I'm not a meteorologist. We got the kids in the van then quickly packed up (it must have been record time) our wet, sandy things and threw them into the van and headed for home.

As we drove north we passed through lots of heavy rain and noticed the signs indicating that high winds had been present. The worst of the damage was definitely in Bloomfield. There were downed trees and the emergency crews were out. We had certainly missed the worst of the storm. It was certainly our slowest drive home from Sandbanks but we were happy to be safe and dry.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Algonquin: Canoe Lake To Burnt Island

We figured we, as a family, were ready for our first back country trip where we didn't just setup camp on one lake and stay there. Canoe Lake in Algonquin seemed like a good place to start. It was meant to be a four day trip but our oldest daughter was sick the day before we were set to leave and the day we were to leave. We shortened the trip by a day but kept the root the same, which meant our first day would be a long one.

We put in at Canoe Lake which was extremely busy on a Saturday afternoon. We had lunch at the access point and I couldn't get over the number of canoes in the water. While we ate, there were never fewer than a dozen canoes visible on the water at once. At one point we were able to count eighteen canoes in the water. There was a time I might have been discouraged by such a large crowd. I might have liked to enjoy the peace and quiet that would come with an empty lake. In recent years my perspective has changed a great deal. I was ecstatic to see so many people. It means that people (and lots of them) are getting out there doing the things that I love doing. We saw young families, university students, couples, seniors all out in canoes and kayaks. Some were out for the first time, others were bringing friends and family out for the first time and still others were on their way to much quieter lakes. Rather than being frustrated at the crowds, I had a huge smile on my face the entire time. I hope more people take some time to explore this great park.

Ready to Launch From Canoe Lake
After packing away our lunch we headed off. We knew that we'd have to work hard to make up for not arriving on the Friday. but I was really hoping to see the Tom Thomson Cairn since I had never seen it. I knew we were pressed for time but decided to stop anyway. The Cairn was easy to locate due to the totem pole at the site. The kids were able to pick it out from a distance. We stopped and I had a quick peek while the others waited in the canoe.

Tom Thomson Cairn
We continued north towards the portage. As we neared the portage we could see a traffic jam of canoes. We took our time gliding into the portage and by the time we landed the others were on their way. We blasted through the 260m portage without issue. Upon arriving at the other end of the portage we saw more boats and people than we had when we arrived. While many of the others took their time and lingered at the portage, we were quick to get back on the water.

Off He Goes! Looks Like the Girls Are at a Parade.
We enjoyed a beautiful paddle through Joe and Little Joe Lakes. The sun was out, there was a bit of a breeze and there were lots of people enjoying their sites. We skipped the 120m portage along the creek at the north end of the lake. There were a few shallow rocks at the beginning but they were easy enough to avoid.

We made very good time in our paddling. We managed to pass a few groups also headed to Burnt Island Lake. This would prove beneficial later as all the sites on the lake were booked that night and it was getting late. Getting ahead of a few groups would make it easier to find a site.

Along the portage from Little Joe Lake to Baby Joe Lake we met a couple with adult children who were on their first canoe trip. Great to see!

After arriving on Burnt Island Lake we spent some time paddling in and out of different bays looking for a site that was available. We eventually found a vacant site which turned out to be great. It had a nice spot for landing the canoe, a good swimming spot and was quite flat. The only downside is that there was another site very close by. It started drizzling shortly after we arrived so we set up the tent and the rain stopped. After a tough day of paddling we were all very hungry which made our simple pita pizzas seem extra delicious. The kids had a great time playing on the spacious site. As we settled in for the night it began to rain a little. The pitter patter of rain drop on the tent made for a great sound track to fall asleep to.

Home For the Night

Favourite Camp 'Chore': Tending the Stick Stove
Playing Outside
The next day was a little cool and quite windy. We had a leisurely breakfast and took our time getting ready to go. As we were leaving our site the kids noticed a very small island with what looked like a single tree. They wondered if this small island was in fact Burnt Island, that had burned at one time leaving a lone dead tree. They wanted to check it out so our first order of business was to paddle the short distance to the island.
Little Island on Burnt Island Lake
We had a quick peek then turned around started paddling into a very strong headwind. It was at this point in the trip that I appreciated the fact that we had travelled in one canoe rather than two. On our way to the portage to Little Doe Lake we noticed about 10 canoes heading in the same direction. The portage was quite busy, but everyone else seemed to be going to the Joe Lakes, leaving us on our own to get to Little Doe. We covered the 1340m portage much quicker than I though we would. A good sign for future trips. As we loaded up the canoe on Little Doe it was a little misty. We thought it might rain but before long it started clearing up. We paddled past a couple of sites that looked okay and thought we could come back to them if we didn't find anything else. Before long we came upon what looked like a great site. It was a little tough to get the canoe out of the water but other than that the site was great.

We setup our site, went for a swim, did some paddling as well as some relaxing. It was a great day.

Touring Around
Campsite on Little Doe Lake
The soundtrack that we fell asleep to on this night consisted of barred owls hooting back and forth to one another.

Looking Out Over Little Doe
I was hoping to go for a swim on our last day before leaving the site but it was quite cool in the morning. The swim would have to wait. We had breakfast and packed up. We decided it would be fun to paddle into Tom Thomson Lake just to see it. We paddled up the short creek from Little Doe to Tom Thomson. We hoped we might see a moose, but we did not. Tom Thomson was a beautiful lake. It would be a good lake to camp on for a future trip.

Lots of Lily Pads
Beaver Dam En Route to Tom Thomson
Friendly Loon
Eventually we decided we should start making our way back to Canoe Lake. We paddled down the Little Oxtongue River to Teepee Lake. We noticed that we seemed to be paddling slower today than we had on the other days. Were we just tired and suffering from sore muscles? Perhaps. Is it possible we were subconsciously paddling slowly in order to extend our stay in the park? Perhaps. Either way it was a great paddle. As we paddled we noticed that the wind had died entirely. We decided to find a campsite on Joe Lake where we could stop for lunch. We found a vacant site across from Joe Island and unloaded our lunch. The site had a ton of garbage in the fire pit. I was pleased to hear the kids ask "Why would anyone leave all this garbage here". We had bagels for lunch. I finished quickly and went for a swim while the kids were finishing their lunch. They decided that they didn't want to swim so we cleaned up the site and pressed on.

The paddle across Canoe Lake was interesting. There still wasn't any wind and the lake was as flat as glass. It was beautiful and there were far fewer boats on the water than when we had left. What a great way to end the trip. When we arrived at the access point we discovered that it was 4:30, which was much later than we had anticipated. We loaded our stuff up and headed for home. Before we got to Highway 60 the kids were asking if we could come back. A good sign that we had a successful trip.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Bon Echo's Hidden Gems

When we visited Bon Echo Provincial Park last year we did the typical things a family might do including: playing at the beach, watching the sun come up over Mazinaw Rock, hiking the Clifftop Trail, visiting the Visitor Centre and taking in some of the programs offered. It was great and we all loved it. 

This year we wanted to add some variety to the trip so we thought we'd explore some of the lesser known parts of the parks.

We were visiting for three days and had hoped to do the Kishkebus Canoe Route on our full day. Just before leaving the house we noticed that there was a chance of thunderstorms on our second day so we modified our plan to do the canoe route on our first day.

We arrived at the park and were registered by 11:00. We unpacked the canoe, the kids, some water and snacks and headed out. It was a gorgeous day with very light winds which made for an easy paddle to the portage into Kishkebus Lake. We paddled along the rock and admired it's utter size and the amazing pictograph located along the water. Even though we've paddled here before, it hard not to be struck by the shear magnitude of this rock. If you visit the park make sure you take an opportunity to paddle the base of the rock. You won't be disappointed.

Paddling Along Mazinaw Rock
We had lunch on the water just before starting the portage into Kishkebus Lake. The portage is 1.5km in length. There are a couple of ups and downs but overall it's not a bad portage (though I'm a little out of practice). I actually walked the portage three times: once with the family to give our youngest member a ride should she need it (She did take a ride a couple of times but it was very brief.), once to get back to the start and once with the canoe. Our three year old daughter did a great job. She could totally do the portage on her own. If we were to do it again we'd do the portage in a single trip, which would speed thing up a great deal.

Finishing the Portage
 Upon completing the portage we were treated to an amazing lake. Lake Kishkebus is only accessible by portage. There are no cottages on it and the only other people we saw were the two canoes that we had seen on the portage. It felt as though we had left the hustle and bustle of Bon Echo Park behind in exchange for a remote northern lake. We loved paddling the lake. We were so busy taking it all in that we forgot to take pictures. I guess we'll have to go back. Since we had started so late we didn't think we had much time for playing on the lake but it looked as though there was a nice sandy beach on south west portion of the lake. We all agreed that we'd have to come back and spend more time here. 

The Put-in at Kishkebus
The portage out of Kishkebus was a quick and easy 60m leading into Shabomeka Lake. Shabomeka Lake is not in the park but was still a nice lake to paddle. There were very few cottages at the north end but as we made our way south we saw a lot more cottages. Since it was Sunday afternoon many of the cottagers were packing up and getting ready to leave. It looked as though there was a large (and very busy) beach on the east side of the lake. The portage out of Shabomeka is 40m around a small dam. We didn't look to hard for the portage trail. Instead we crossed the road the dam was on and put in on the downstream side. As we paddled down stream we noticed where we were supposed to have ended the portage.

Although the body of water that we portaged into was called Semicircle Lake, it seemed more like a meandering creek at first. The passage was somewhat narrow in spots and there were lots of lily pads but the water was very clear.

Semicircle Lake
Looking for Fish
Not too far into our paddle on Semicircle Lake we came to a large beaver dam. We probably could have found a way around it had we looked, but instead we decided to go over it. Sarah and I got out and lifted the canoe down. The kids enjoyed the ride down and we didn't loose anybody. We estimated the drop to be 40-50cm.  

Looking Back at the Beaver Dam
Shortly after the dam we came to another dam that was entirely submerged. As Sarah got out to pull us over she must have stepped off the pile of sticks because before we knew it she was chest deep in mud. She got back in the boat (we all had a good laugh) and we pushed ourselves over the dam instead. We meandered through the reeds and lily pads until we came to the open part of the lake. Though not large, the lake itself was peaceful and clear.

Open Portion of Semicircle Lake
The map shows a 40m portage from Semicircle Lake to Campbell Creek but as we approached the creek it appeared as though we might be able to bypass the portage. The portage was a small bridge over the creek. We figured we could just paddle under the bridge, which is exactly what we did.

Small Bridge Over Campbell Creek
The paddle through Campbell Creek was nice. Again the water was very clear and we spotted a number of fish. A large fish even broke the surface close by and startled many of us. The short paddle along the creek led us to another beaver dam before dumping into Mazinaw Lake. There's a short portage around the beaver dam, but we chose to go over the dam instead. This one was quite a bit higher than the previous one but we managed just fine. 

The paddle up Mazinaw Lake was long, but luckily the wind was at our backs. We stopped at the day use beach for a quick swim to cool off. This was a fantastic canoe route. It's a great day trip and a fairly safe way to see if you like canoe tripping. That being said it is a pretty full day. The group of inexperienced trippers we came across likely took in the neighbourhood of eight hours to complete the loop. The most challenging portion is the 1.5km portage, but if you take your time and rest as needed, it's totally doable. The downside to the route is that once you complete the portage you're committed to finishing the loop unless you want to do the portage again.

The next day we were hoping to do some hiking on the Abes and Essens trail but we were all pretty tired. We slept in then had a leisurely pancake breakfast. We hung around our site relaxing, reading, writing and napping. After lunch we headed for the beach and spent the rest of the afternoon there.

On our final day we packed up and decided to paddle Bon Echo Lake. We headed down the road past the cabins and discovered a dock with some parking nearby. When we arrived we saw another beautiful, wilderness lake. We were the only ones there. While we got things ready the kids hopped into the canoe and were ready to go. They decided where they would sit and where we would sit.

Kids Ready to Go
Once we rounded the corner of the bay with the dock the wind was strong and blowing right down the lake at us. 
Bon Echo Lake
Keeping Us on Track in a Strong Wind
We paddled to the western edge of the lake and found a marshy area. There was a small path through the marsh that we attempted to follow, but we didn't get far. 

After exploring a bit we turned around and had the wind at our backs. Some of us decided we didn't need to paddle on the way back. Paddling Bon Echo Lake was great. There was nobody on the lake and despite the fact that the cabins are close to the lake we didn't see them or their occupants. There's something quite special about being the only ones on a lake.

Who's Steering This Boat?
After paddling we headed for the day use beach where we spent the remainder of the afternoon.

Bon Echo is a fantastic park with lots to do. On this trip we really enjoyed getting off the beaten path and exploring some of the lesser known and less frequently visited portions of the park. We will certainly be back to spend more time in these more remote sections of the park.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Family Biking

I would consider our recent adventures as micro-adventures. In fact they were such a small change in routine for us that we might not have even thought about writing about them.

Since the month of June was Bike Month I decided to think carefully every time I  needed to leave the house. I wanted to use the car as little as possible and ride our bikes as much as possible. Every trip was accompanied by the question "Is there any reason we can't bike?". It turned out that many of the trips were totally doable on a bike.

Our youngest daughter rode in her bicycle seat on my bike to get to preschool. Our middle daughter rode on our 'trail-a-bike' to get to and from school and our son rode his own bike. It was a great way to see things that you miss while in a car.
Ready to Go!
An Old Trail-a-Bike Picture
Coming Home From School
 Here's what I liked most about our month of biking:

  • The kids kept asking if we could bike.
  • We helped the environment - a little. We would normally drive our youngest daughter to preschool so we reduced some driving there. The other kids ride a school bus that comes by our house whether they're on it or not. Removing their combined 100 pounds from the bus probably doesn't do much  for the environment but they understand that biking in general is better for the environment.
  • We immersed ourselves in bike culture. Every day was about biking. How far would we go today? What route would we take? Could we make it home before the bugs came out? Would we beat the bus home?
  • Fitness. We all got a ton of exercise as a result of all our biking. It feels great to be in better shape.
  • Being outside. It's no secret that as a family we love being outside. This gave us a way to sneak in more outdoor time on school days as well as other days. In addition to just being outside the kids got to see more nature. It was great to watch the older kids stop on to watch a rabbit that was up ahead on the trail on the way to school. Perhaps the highlight of the month was biking our youngest daughter home from preschool and seeing a deer bounding along side us as we rode, then watching it stop to watch us pass. Who knew a three year old could be so appreciative and respectful of nature (complete with her little whisper so as not to scare it).

I really liked how biking seemed to enhance some of our outing. As an example, one day the kids wanted to go fishing so we decided to bike to the river. We biked along the road to get there but on the way back we took the multipurpose trail. I think they enjoyed the ride along the trail as much as they did the fishing. Everyone was smiling, happy and well worn out just in time for bed.

Our bikes helped us realize the fact that you don't have to go far to have a good time outside.

What are your favourite micro-adventures or family biking stories?

Sunday, June 26, 2016

National Canoe Day 2016

What better place to be on National Canoe Day than in a canoe. We decided to head to Peterborough to participate in the Trent Severn Lock 'n Paddle event. Parks Canada wanted to see how many canoes and kayaks they could squeeze into the Peterborough Lift Lock. The lock is the highest hydraulic lock in the world, rising (or falling) a total of 19.8 metres. The previous record was 101 boats.

We decided to put in at Roger's Cove which is a very short paddle from lock 20 (one lock downstream from the Lift Lock). Roger's Cove is a beautiful park overlooking Little Lake. The park has some great play structures, a splash pad, picnic tables, a nice beach and a portion of paved Trans Canada Trail running through it. Our goal for the day was to participate in the Lock 'n Paddle but also to make sure the kids had fun for the rest of the day. This was the perfect spot to start and finish. I could see us coming back to explore more by canoe or possibly by bike.

We arrived and had lunch in the park then loaded up the canoe for the short but adventure filled paddle.
Water Fountain on Little Lake
The paddle to our first lock took less than five minutes. The lock masters wanted to lock as many canoes and kayaks together so we waited at the lock for quite some time.

Tour boat Coming Through the Locks as we Waited
Lock 20 Ashburnham Loaded With 60-75 boats
Lock on its Way Down
Loading the Lock
Long Way Up
Boat Count 
Loving It!

In all there were 138 boats that made the trip up in the lock, with another 15 boats that went up on the next trip. 

Here's what it looked like from above.

We had an uneventful trip back down to Roger's Cove (if such a thing is possible when surrounded by dozens of other boats). We packed up all of our gear then the kids played at the splash pad and park.

It was such a fun day filled with incredible experiences!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

First Family Trip To Algonquin

Kearney Lake
We don't make a habit of camping on the Victoria Day weekend. This could be for many reasons: the weather can be awful; the bugs can be bad; the parks can be crowded; etc. This year we decided that we really wanted to camp for the long weekend. We made a decision a few weeks before the weekend but decided we would check the weather before booking anything. I don't mind camping in terrible weather but I'm not sure how much fun it would have been for the kids. A week after we made the decision to camp we checked the long range forecast. It looked decent so we decided we should go. My wife and I were really hoping for an interior trip but when we checked the parks close by there weren't a lot of sites left. We decided this would be a great opportunity to take the kids to Algonquin for the first time. For whatever reason, they were not excited about the Algonquin backcountry. We decided to compromise and do some front country camping in Algonquin. This way we could take the kids to see the park but they would also be excited to go.

We looked online at the Ontario Parks Reservation page and discovered (to no one's surprise) that the best sites were all booked. We're generally not too picky about sites and noticed that there were some non-reservable campsites on the water available. We decided on Kearney Lake but had some alternatives in mind just in case. My wife was a little apprehensive about just showing up and hoping to get a site on the long weekend. I showed her some maps and the number of sites available. This combined with the fact we would be arriving early Friday seemed to set her mind at ease.

Friday of the long weekend was a P.A. Day for the kids so we left Friday morning and were on our site before noon. The weather was amazing. The sun was shining, the temperature was in the mid twenties and it didn't look as though there was anyone in the campground. Our site was perfect. We stayed at K238. It was certainly one of the best sites in the whole campground.

Home for the Weekend
We setup our site and discovered there was a boil water advisory for the campground. My first thought was "We should have brought the Katadyn Base Camp Filter. My second thought was to bike to the Pog Lake Campground and see if there was a boil water advisory there. It turns out the water there was fine and the bike ride was only about 400 metres, although biking with 10 litres of water in one hand (and not the other) created an interesting balancing situation. Physics and free-body diagrams came to mind. Later it occurred to me that perhaps we should have check the Ontario Parks Alerts page before we left the house. In the end it didn't matter. Everything worked out just fine.

While I was sorting out the drinking water, the kids were checking out the beach. There was a nice sandy area for playing and the kids even ended up in the water. Brrr. Ice out in Algonquin was about three weeks prior to our visit.
In the Water 
Beach Visitors

Time for a Dip
Running Along the Beach
Once the kids were cold from being in the water they decided they wanted to bike. We biked around the campground and then biked across the highway to the Pog Lake campground. We saw some nice big sites right along the water. Pog Lake seemed busier than Kearney Lake.

The next morning we put the canoe in the water and paddled the lake. We found a swampy area on the south east corner of the lake. We followed it towards the highway as it narrowed. We lifted over a couple of beaver dams but the path narrowed so much that it was going to be a tough go. We headed back to the lake paddled around until we came to the north west corner. As we neared we could hear the sound of water flowing. We discovered that it was the sound of a stream emptying into the lake. Our son really likes to explore streams and waterfalls so he and my wife got out and headed upstream to see what they could find.
Up a Creek
Our daughters and I stayed in the canoe and all took turns paddling the canoe around by ourselves.

Hanging Out
We didn't stay for too long but my wife and son were very keen to come back and explore further. We paddled over to the portage leading to Pond Lake so we could check it out. We made it a couple of hundred metres in before we realized the ground was too muddy for the footwear we were wearing. We did manage to find some scat that looked like it could be from a wolf. The girls were quite interested in having a look.
Checking out Some Scat
We headed back to our site for some lunch, then packed up and headed for the Lookout Trail. The trail was only about 2 km, but it was a bit of a climb to the lookout. The black flies were out in full force (much more so than at our site) but they didn't seem to be biting much. We enjoyed the view, found the geocache at the top and headed back down.

Glacial Erratic
View from the Lookout
On the drive back to our site we spotted cars pulled of to the side of the road. We figured that meant there was a moose close by. Normally I would have kept on driving. I'd much rather see moose as I'm paddling or along a portage than next to the highway. However, given that none of our kids had ever seen a moose I decided we'd have a look. Our three year old was very intrigued. She was very good about being quiet. She really didn't want to scare it off.

The Kids' First Moose
We spent the rest of the day paddling around the lake, doing some fishing and enjoying being outside. After dinner my son wanted to paddle down the creek that divides the campground in two. I didn't think we'd get very far given how shallow it was at the bridge but once we lined that section it was pretty good. We pulled over some beaver dams, went under the highway and eventually decided to turn around. We had a great time exploring.

The next morning we had a quick bike ride to Whitefish Lake. We discovered when we got there that Whitefish Lake is a group campground meant for large groups. The beach looked great and when we arrived there were about a dozen canoes just leaving. We biked back to our site then headed for the Visitor Centre. It was amazing how busy it was. That being said the displays were great and we spent quite some time there. The kids (and adults) were curious to learn more about the park.

After the Visitor Centre we headed back to our site so our three year old could have a nap. Our son decided he wanted to further explore the creek we had paddled the night before. So off we went. Again, I didn't think we'd get too far so I didn't bring any snacks, water, a map or a camera. Next time I'll know better. We paddled and paddled and paddled. There were lots of lift-overs, some downed trees and some tight spaces but we managed to make it all the way to Whitefish Lake. Our son's draw, pry and cross draw strokes improved a great deal, but even better he started to know when to use the strokes.

The creek meets Whitefish at a meandering river that runs from Pog Lake to Whitefish. As we moved from the creek to the river my paddling partner asked if we could take the portage to get back. It had been a tough, lengthy slog. The portage would be much quicker.

Not having looked at a map, I wasn't sure which way to head where the creek met the river. We paddled up river and ended up at the dam that leads to Pog Lake. We opted not to portage into Pog Lake. So we turned around and headed downstream to Whitefish Lake. The lake was very picturesque. At the one end of the lake there was a narrow passageway into another section. Over the narrow passage was a bridge; presumably the Rail Trail. We located the beach we had seen in the morning and managed the 1175 m portage without any issues.

When our youngest awoke from her nap she wanted to go for a bike ride. My wife and other daughter stayed at the site and painted while the rest of us headed for the Rail Trail. I thought it would be fun to bike to Whitefish Lake and check out the bridge. It was a cool looking bridge and we were not disappointed. We stopped to look in the water. We saw a few fish, then in the distance spotted what looked like a beaver swimming towards us. We were very quiet and watched as it got closer and closer. We confirmed it was a beaver and it looked like it was going to swim right under us. Just before it got to the bridge it noticed us. It tried to turn and swim the other way but the passage was too narrow. Frightened, it smacked its tail and dove. It was so neat for us to see this beaver up so close. Too bad I didn't bring the camera.

We went back to the site dinner and then paddled the lake as the sun was setting. What a great day of adventuring.

Messy Dessert
Paddling at Dusk

The following day was our last day so we did a bit of everything. We biked around the campground. Then we paddled to the creek at the north end of the lake. Both our son and my wife wanted to explore further. They made their way upstream and found the remnants of an old concrete dam. We headed back to our site, had lunch and packed up. By the time we were ready to leave it was almost 2:00 (checkout time). We were among the last to leave the campground. 

On the way out of the park we had enough time to hike the Spruce Bog Trail. It was a hot day and the sun was beating down on us while we were on the boardwalk. It was a little reminiscent of being on the Serengeti.  

Leading the Way

Spruce Bog
We had an amazing trip. We were able to see and do a ton and there is still so much more for us to explore. We're all really excited to go back. One of the things that surprised me the most was the writing the kids did. We never asked them to but whenever something interesting or exciting would happen they wrote about it in their journals. I'm sure our son wrote more in the four days than he did at school the week before. Cleary he was inspired!