At Achray we donned our rain gear and headed out. Everyone was in great spirits, so it didn't really matter that it was raining. We loaded the boats and headed off on Grand Lake. It was so peaceful. We were the only ones on the lake. In fact we only saw one other boat all day.
|The Lake to Ourselves|
I don't mind camping in the rain, but it's really difficult to setup in the rain when you're already soaking wet. We setup a tarp and started unloading some gear (tents and dry clothes for the kids) but found it difficult not to get everything wet. Fortunately, the rain let up a bit as we were ready to setup the tents. While we were setting up the tents our son thought he'd try to get the stick stove going. Everything was so wet that it was going to be a challenge getting any kind of fire going. It's a skill we should practice more someday, but late in the day with a bunch of cold bodies didn't seem like the right time. We fired up the stove, cooked some pasta, cleaned up then got into the tents to get away from the bugs. It was quite late by the time we got into the tents. This has a lot to do with the fact that this was our first trip with two boats. We move a lot slower with one adult paddling in each boat than with two in a single boat. I'm sure we'll get faster with practice.
It was an amazing feeling to waken to the sun streaming into the tent on the second day. What a relief. We would be able to hang all of our wet gear out to dry. The morning was a little cool but the sun was quickly warming things up. We slowly had some breakfast and cleaned up. The plan for the day was to head to the 'water slide' to play in the water. We packed a lunch and headed off. We retraced our steps into Stratton Lake and started paddling towards High Falls.
|Off to the Water Slide|
After sliding for a bit the kids wanted to swim in the lagoon upstream from the slide. I took this opportunity to head down stream to see High Falls. There were far fewer people downstream but High Falls was spectacular. If you visit the area do yourself a favour and hike the extra couple of hundred metres to see the falls.
|Further Down Stream|
|Heading Back to the Campsite|
|Back on St. Andrews Lake|
On the third day we woke up to sun and lots of wind. Thankfully the wind would be in our favour. We had some breakfast and packed up and headed out. The paddle down St. Andrews was a breeze, thanks to the wind. Then came the first long portage of the trip (the first of three for the day). It was a 595m portage into High Falls lake. The kids did great on the portage and we were rewarded with a beautiful water fall near the end of the portage. The very end of the portage was a very steep and rocky decent to the water. Watch your footing!
|Waterfall Along the Portage|
|Burnt Tree Overhanging the Water|
|North End of High Falls Lake|
Setting up in the rain was a little easier this time. It had only been raining lightly and we weren't completely soaked.
|Looking South On Opalescent|
The plan for day four was to do a day trip to the Barron Canyon. The girls, however, were insistent on staying put for the day. Sarah said that she would be happy to stay with them if our son and I wanted to go to the canyon. Our son thought long and hard about what he wanted to do and eventually decided to stay at the site. It was probably a good decision by all, given that the following day we would need to retrace our steps all the way back to the access point.
Once I completed the portage I was leisurely moving along the Barron River taking in the amazing sights of the canyon. Unfortunately, the battery for one of my cameras died and the other was giving communication errors between the lens and the body. I didn't get as many pictures as I had hoped but did manage to get some.
|The Barron River|
As I paddled along I could hear water rushing. There was a waterfall flowing into the canyon. I made for the shore, pulled the canoe up and realized I was thigh high in poison ivy. Thankfully I was wearing pants. I should have landed about 30m upstream to avoid the poison ivy.
|Waterfall into the Barron Canyon|
After paddling through the canyon I figured I should turn around and make my way back to the rest of the family. Upon my arrival the girls were lying in a hammock while Sarah read a book out loud. They had a good restful day.
|St. Andrews Lake|
It was an incredible trip. We had a great time connecting with nature and to each other. The rain on the first day was a bit of a downer but the rest of the trip was great. The only other negative part of the trip were the bugs. They were really bad. At one point we counted 39 bug bites on our youngest daughter. Everything else more than made up for these two negatives.
If we were to do the trip again I would add an extra day so that there could be a rest day at Opalescent Lake as well as a trip to the Barron Canyon or I would pay the $55 to have our car shuttled from Achray to Squirrel Rapids. This would allow us to paddle the Barron River on our way out of the park.