Day 6 of my SUP camping trip began in Lakefield Ontario at Lock 26. I’d already gone for a swim, had breakfast, enjoyed a coffee and packed up, and it was only 8am. The lock operators wouldn’t arrive for at least another hour and my plan for today was to purchase a lock pass for an easy trip back to my put in, just 18km downstream. To pass the next hour I went for a stroll through town. Walking past a couple of restaurants serving breakfast I decided that next time, and there will definitely be a next time, I’m going to take advantage of my urban route and eat at least one meal in Lakefield and one in Youngs Point on my trip, allowing me to pack even less food and experience a bit more of each town that I pass.
Parks Canada charges by the foot for lock passes. My 12ft SUP day pass came to just $19.20. It was $10.80 for a two-way ticket through Burleigh Falls a few days earlier so this day pass was a heck of a deal given that I’d be skipping 7 portages for that price!
It was 938am as I was lowered down through Lock 26, I was not alone. There was a couple from Hastings in a boat heading downstream as well. The next 4 locks were quite close together and I knew they’d make this couple wait for me each time, so I felt the need to hustle to the next lock. When I arrived at Lock 25 panting it was just 9:58. I had a nice break while the lock closed behind me and lowered us to the next level. I would hurry again to the next lock, and the next… A couple of these locks are so close together that 2 operators will run both of them. They let us through one lock, hopped in a pick-up, drove to the next lock and let us through that one as well. They would go back and forth all day as boat traffic dictated.
A brief but torrential rain finally cooled me off as I sat waiting in Lock 23. Lock 22 was just 800m away. Once through Lock 22 there was an 8km stretch before Lock 21, so that was the last I was to see of the Hastings couple as they powered away. 8km would take me nearly 2hrs to cover, so I could relax into a steady and comfortable pace at last.
Just after you’ve passed Trent University, the Otonabee River is divided into two branches, one forming a canal. The canal takes you away from Peterborough’s downtown, through a beautifully undeveloped area, and finally to Little Lake where the two systems are joined again, but not until you’ve passed through the Peterborough Lift Lock and Lock 20.
I arrived alone at the Lift Lock. It was a very quiet day on the waterway and it would be a few minutes before the Lock Master would realize that I’d even arrived. He knew I was coming as the upstream Lock Master had radioed for him to expect me, but I arrived much earlier than he’d expected. The cloud cover and rain thwarted most of my sightseeing efforts and I simply paddled steadily downstream. It was only 1:55pm and I was on the homestretch. He noted that I would have the honour of being the 1st SUP paddler to go through the Peterborough Lift Lock! Being lowered down 6 or so stories as you stand in the middle of the caisson (big bathtub) on your SUP makes for quite a grandiose entrance to the area below. On this cloudy and rainy day there were only a handful of tourists around the base of the lift lock to ignore this historic occasion.
I cruised back into Millenium Park by around 230 and my trip came to an anti-climactic end as I portaged the 300 or so meters back to Wildrock Outfitters to drop off my SUP and paddle.
In his 1944 essay ‘Exhaustion and Fulfillment: The Ascetic in a Canoe‘ Pierre Trudeau, Canada’s 15th Prime Minister, wrote:
“What sets a canoeing expedition apart is that it purifies you more rapidly and inescapably than any other. Travel a thousand miles by train and you are a brute; pedal five hundred on a bicycle and you remain basically a bourgeois; paddle a hundred in a canoe and you are already a child of nature.”
I doubt Trudeau would have included SUP paddlers in his vision of paddling and fulfillment but I have rarely, in my adult life, felt more at peace than I did during this 100+km journey. The next time I need to be “rapidly and inescapably purified”, I will set off SUP camping again, by then perhaps, SUP campers will be a regular sight on our waters.