100km SUP trip – Paddling Peterborough to High Falls

High Falls is my favorite place to camp.  Why go all the way to Algonquin when beautiful places like this exist all over southern Ontario.  Over the last 20 or so years I’ve camped there on Crown Land countless times in nearly every month of the year (having somehow missed November and May).

Your 55km water route from Peterborough to High Falls is going to end up looking a little something like this, depending on how much exploring you’d like to do along the way:


If you read any of Kevin Callan’s canoe route books you may have come across his entry for High Falls.  A popular route is to put in at Haultain at #28 and paddle downstream to the falls, and then onto Northey’s Bay road.  Or to do an up and back from Northey’s Bay Rd.  These routes are popular because they are are relatively quick.  If you don’t feel like staying the night you can get up there from Northey’s Bay Rd in less than an hour, stay for lunch and be home in time to make dinner.  Who would want to make this a 100+km trip?

To make things more interesting I decided a Stand-up Paddle Board would be best.  Kelly over at Peterborough SUP seems to be the only one around offering proper touring (displacement hull) SUPs for rent and from his store on George St you can carry your SUP to the water to begin your journey from Millenium Park.


Starting with Lock 20, just a few minutes into your trip, there are 8 locks along the way, which, if you’re on a SUP, means 8 portages, that is until Parks Canada’s Health and Safety Committee reverses their decision to ban us from the locks.  Canoeist/Kayakers can purchase a lock pass.  The biggest portage is past the Peterborough Liftlock.  It does offer a commanding view of the surrounding area, but getting your stuff up there will slow you down.

liftlock (2)

The number of nights you decide to camp along the way is obviously completely up to you but there are quite a number of considerations to your stops in this urban/rural/wilderness kind of trip.  If, for example, you only want to do 10km one day and that lands you right in the middle of a string of cottages, you have no place to stay, so you do have to plan accordingly.  Lock side camping is available through Parks Canada for the incredible bargain of just $4.90/night!

IMG_6565Expect to pay quite a bit more if you want to stay in comfort on your 1st night at Lock 24 (Douro) where they offer 3 small cabins that they call “oTENTik“.  Be sure to book well in advance for one of those!

From Lock 24 you’re 14km into your trip and just 4km to Lakefield’s Lock 26, where you can buy the rest of your groceries, as Foodland is a short walk from Lock 26 and open 24hrs.

My plan was to make it to Young’s Point for my 1st night.  I made it to Lakefield by 430pm and went for dinner at a local restaurant before provisioning up at Foodland.  Young’s Point is, for me, another 2hrs upstream.  I figured I could make it there before sunset, but I’d never get there before they closed.  From Lock 26 I paid in advance for a camping permit for Young’s Point and the lock operator even had a washroom key for me that someone had dropped off on their journey south, having forgotten to hand it in at #27 when they left.

I arrived in Young’s Point late on a Monday night, approx 28km already behind me and the sun well hidden behind the trees along the western shore of Lake Katchewanooka.


Lock 27 in Young’s Point is one of the nicer stops for paddlers.  Rather than the usual 3-4ft break wall to climb up/down, there is a set of steps to the water

Arriving exhausted, but having eaten 2hrs prior, I simply set up for the night, went for a swim after sunset and was asleep at a reasonable hour. I would recommend swimming with water shoes.  These waters are now infested with Zebra mussels and they are razor sharp!  Never thought much of them until I sliced my foot here two years ago on another trip. There were just 2 boats moored for the night and no campers.  It felt like I had the place to myself.  I camped close to the dam so that white noise would cover any sounds from Highway 28, just a few hundred meters to the south.  If you stayed at Lock 24 on night #1 then this could easily be the 2nd stop of your trip.

While you’re at Young’s Point, be sure to check out Lockside Trading, the local General Store for any other provisions you may still require, Young’s Point diner for a nice breakfast (formerly Granny’s Restaurant) and take a stroll through the Conservation Area on the other side of the dam.

When you set off again you’ll be heading north into Clear Lake, where you have about 9km to cover before you enter Stoney (often spelled Stony) Lake and the land begins to transition to the Canadian Shield.


Stoney is dotted with islands, most of which will have cottages on them, but some of the smaller ones may offer you a place to rest/lunch along the way.  I had an incredibly strong tailwind on this leg of my journey.  The waves rising to 1.5ft or more in the middle of the lake.  I eventually took refuge on the leeward side of a small island, maybe 20ft across.  I noticed a strong smell of onions from it as I passed.  I climbed ashore to stretch my legs and sure enough, much of it was covered in a kind of wild chive (and quite a few Closed Gentian, the purple/blue flowers below).


Things get rockier as you get further east towards Upper Stoney.


It will add a few extra kms to your trip, but if you have time, swing by Doe Island.  It is a small island rising about 3 stories out of the water, offering a great place to stretch your legs, go for a swim, get a bit of shade and a get great view of the surrounding area.


Okay, time to get to High Falls.  Eels Creek spills into Upper Stoney rather undramatically.  Even the dog in the background seems uninterested (photo on the right), but there it is, that’s what you’re looking for.  A local cottager pointed the way for me when I didn’t feel like pulling out my charts to find the correct channel from Stoney.


Where Eels Creek spills into Stoney Lake

You’re on the home stretch, just 1 more hour and a few portages to go.  For reference, that bridge in the photo below is Northey’s Bay road.  Both sides of the portage on this side of the bridge are private land, so no camping until you cross the road into Crown Land, even then there are a few restrictions posted.


And there’s High Falls.  A set of rapids really, but a nice focal point for your camping trip.


I chose a spot to camp downstream from the Falls on a small kettle lake with easy water access, and a nice patch of sweetfern.


There’s my (rented) ride, with all of my camping gear aboard

I spent only 1 night at High Falls.  The threat of thunderstorms pushed me to get at least a little closer to home.  So, for day 3 I paddled about 20km, taking the long way to an island site on Stoney Lake to camp, passing St Peter’s on the Rock on my way.


I’d camped on this island before but my island site now had a dock!  It was a bit rotten, but still floated (mostly).  Not sure how it got there, but it did make unloading gear a bit easier, offered a nice spot for my morning coffee and even had a solar powered light at the end of it that still worked!


… and from there, on day 4, I paddled all the way back into Peterborough.  It was 35km and while I had planned to break it up with another night of camping, I was just cruising along, making good time and the closer I got the less sense it made to spend another night on the water.

I’d love to hear from you if you give it a go.

SUP Camping 2014: Peterborough to Lakefield on Day 1

Find yourself in the Peterborough area and fancy getting out on the water?  Rent a SUP from Wildrock Outfitters or Peterborough SUP and get out there, both have similar day rates.  With something slightly more ambitious than a day of paddling in mind, I carried my rented SUP down to the water and set off on a 6 day SUP camping trip.


A fountain rises out of Little Lake, in the heart of Peterborough.

It was on Saturday just after noon when I set off from Millenium Park in Peterborough’s downtown, on the edge of the Otonabee River.  From there it was about 35min over to Lock 20 where I picked up a 6 day lock pass ($60).  This allows lock usage for any 4 days over a 6 day period and seemed like it would be the best value for what I had planned, although many other lock pass options are available…

The lock pass is worth it to avoid this one portage around the Peterborough Lift Lock:

The 65ft Peterborough LIft lock

The 65ft Peterborough LIft lock

Heading north up the Trent-Severn Waterway offers an interesting mix of urban, rural and wilderness paddling.  The waterway is quite undeveloped as you slip quietly through town.  It feels immediately like you’re out in the country.

...slipping quietly through town

…slipping quietly through town

Last year I stopped for the night at Lock 24.  It’s a beautifully secluded spot.  Lock 23 isn’t bad either if you’re looking for options.  On this day I paddled on to Lakefield’s Lock 26, about 18km upstream from my put-in.


It was only 530pm as I brought my gear ashore.  Still plenty of light left, but the end of the road for me on this warm and sunny day.  Though my energy level was still good, my hands were shot, even through my new paddling gloves!  This is what I find tough to prepare for.  I made sure to get out on the water a number of times before this outing, but the place in Toronto where I rent offers blades with a palm grip.  The paddle from Wildrock has a T-handle.  A 1st world problem if ever there was one, but my callouses are in the wrong spot…

Getting camp setup early, I found two trees appropriately spaced, and hung my hammock, before wandering through town looking for a place to eat.


On the map above you’ll find Foodland marked off.  This grocer is open 24hrs, so if you want to paddle light on the 1st day, you can pick everything up once you get to Lakefield.  Most of the town’s restaurants can be found along Queen street.  I stuffed myself with a full rack of ribs at the Thirsty Loon before heading back to “camp”.

Camping lock-side is incredibly cheap.  I think they charged me $5!  I suppose you could just show up after the lock has closed and camp for free, but then you don’t get a key to the washroom…  4-5 boats called this lock home for the night also.  It seems a strange place to camp, on the edge of town, next to some boats docked for the night, but it is a quiet spot, quieter than I would have expected…

The 1st day was coming to a close as a full moon rose over head.  Dinner in a restaurant, running water, a washroom.  Didn’t feel quite like camping, but my trip was underway….

Check out Day 2 of my trip.

SUP Camping: Day 6/6

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.

Paddling the Trent-Severn Waterway, Lakefield to Peterborough

Paddling the Trent-Severn Waterway, Lakefield to Peterborough

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.

The beautifully undeveloped shores of the Trent Canal

The beautifully undeveloped shores of the Trent Canal

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.

Happy Paddling!

SUP Camping Trip: Day 5

Day 5 of my SUP camping trip would be my longest day of paddling yet.  I would eventually cover over 30km, with the last 20km into a strong headwind, but there was no reason to hurry, at least not at first.

30km SUP route for day 5, taking me from Lovesick Lake to Lakefield

30km SUP route for day 5, taking me from Lovesick Lake to Lakefield.  – Click to zoom in

I was on my way by 830am and began by exploring the northern area of Lovesick Lake, before returning to the main channel and passing through the Burleigh Falls Lock (#28).

Another incredibly vocal Osprey drew my eyes up to the sky.

Osprey nests dot the area

Osprey nests dot the area

There was still much to explore on Stoney Lake.  Getting away from the main channel, I made my way through a narrow passage formed between some islands.  10min in, and the water full of lily pads, I was beginning to wonder if this was even a navigable channel.  It was like paddling over a wet carpet.  Making my way out at last, I rounded a corner into the open water and some cottagers came down to their dock to say ‘hello’.  If I recall correctly their last name was Finley.  They asked if I’d found the lost lagoon guestbook while I was in the channel.  I hadn’t.  Someone maintains a logbook of the “lost lagoon”, and it is wedged between the rocks to be signed by anyone who happens upon it.  Was it a geocache?  I had no idea.  They offered to take me to it and quickly hopped in their canoe to lead the way back through the thick lily pads.

The guestbook for the Lost Lagoon

A sliver of red is all you’ll see of the guestbook for the Lost Lagoon

I hope some of this cottage country hospitality makes its way to Toronto.  It’s not that people aren’t helpful in the big city, but these folks are really willing to go out of their way to help someone out!  I wrote of my SUP journey to the lost lagoon in the guestbook and was on my way after another chat with Greg Finley as he shared his stories of paddling in the area and the 1000kms he once completed for a voyageur re-enactment.  Amazing!

My next stop was St. Peter’s-on-the-Rock, an Anglican Church on Stoney Lake, only accessible by boat.  I wasn’t on my way to a service, I just felt compelled to check it out while I was in the area.  Interestingly it is to be found between the areas known as “Devil’s Elbow” and “Hell’s Gate”.  Hmmmmm….

St. Peter's on-the-rock Anglican church on Stoney Lake

St. Peter’s on-the-rock Anglican church on Stoney Lake

I liked my campsite on Stoney Lake from Day 3 so much that I made my way back there on Day 5 for my lunch break.  My journey home was officially underway and I had been saving a celebratory snack for this vary occasion.  I had portioned and separated all of the ingredients that I would need to make my favorite gluten-free cookies.  Making them in the field would be a first!  My only substitution was some OvaEasy powdered egg mix in place of a fresh egg.

Gluten-free cookies, baked while camping!

Gluten-free cookies, baked while camping!

They turned out great!

Fresh baked gluten-free cookies

Fresh baked gluten-free cookies

While I was indulging, the wind was picking up.  I got underway at last, and as I entered Clear Lake a strong head wind turned the waves into white caps.  Standing on a board in a strong headwind is brutal!  I knelt down for the next couple of kilometers until I was across to the west side of Clear Lake and past the worst of the waves.  It was 430 when I reached Youngs Point.  I went for a quick swim, gathered some water and relaxed for a few minutes when it hit me – I didn’t really want to camp at Youngs Point again.  It was 5pm as I set off again, the sun still high enough in the sky that I figured I could make the 10km to Lakefield, even with a strong headwind, before the sun would set.

A strange thing happens after a few days of repetitive activity.  A switch is flicked in one’s body and suddenly you feel indefatigable (or maybe it was cookie power at this point)!  I made it to Lakefield by 715, kneeling part of the way to battle the headwind, but arriving full of energy.

Arriving in Lakefield well ahead of the sunset

Arriving in Lakefield well ahead of the sunset

30km were covered today and it felt great.  A week ago I was wondering if this trip would be possible, or if my board would sink under the weight of me and my gear.  5 days in and not only am I starting to think about a ‘next time’, but  I’m starting to see the potential for a much longer journey.  Anyone care to join me?

Stay tuned for the last day of this adventure, Day 6 of my SUP camping trip, an easy 18km journey into Peterborough.

Happy Paddling.

SUP Camping Trip: Day 4

Day 4 of my SUP camping trip began a little later than usual.  I was only planning another 14km route so I enjoyed a slower than usual breakfast, a 2nd cup of coffee and sat by the water for a while before packing up and setting off from my island campsite around 11am.

Day 4 SUP route: Stoney Lake to Lower Buckhorn through Burleigh Falls and Lovesick Lake

Day 4 SUP route: Stoney Lake to Lower Buckhorn via Burleigh Falls and Lovesick Lake

I would eventually be heading west through Burleigh Falls, into Lovesick Lake and finally to Lower Buckhorn by the end of the day, but Stoney is such a beautiful lake that you’re going to want to take the scenic route.  I paddled along the east side of Juniper Island and made my way towards the north shore of Stoney, generally avoiding the main channel, and then traveled west.  Rounding Horseshoe Island I found a quiet and deserted section of the lake.  There is at least a kilometer of undeveloped shore and a number of cottage-free islands.  The sign I found on one of the islands suggest that it is camping friendly:

A camping friendly island towards the north west end of Stoney Lake

A camping friendly island towards the north west end of Stoney Lake

Burleigh Falls, just around the corner at this point, is another popular stop along Highway 28.  I stopped for a swim at the base of the rapids, before heading through Lock 28.


Lock 28 in Burleigh Falls is a big one.  I was not feeling like a portage, so I paid $10.80 for a lock pass and sat in comfort on my board as the lock lazily lifted me up 7 or more meters to Lovesick Lake.  According to the lock operators I was the first one to ever pass this lock on a SUP.  They took my picture as I passed, hoping to put in on the Parks Canada website.

Lock 28 - Burleigh Falls, definitely worth the lock pass fee to avoid the portage

Lock 28 – Burleigh Falls, definitely worth the lock pass fee to avoid the portage

I made my way to Lock #30 at the western end of Lovesick Lake, the smallest lock in the system, rising just over a meter, and I wasn’t planning on going any further but the portaging efforts of my first day were now well behind me and I was feeling like I really should go a little further each day.  I left my gear at the lock and set off into a powerful headwind to explore Lower Buckhorn Lake.

Lower Buckhorn Lake

Lower Buckhorn Lake

Lower Buckhorn is definitely worth exploring!  It is a beautiful lake, dotted with islands and, at least the eastern end, isn’t as developed as most lakes in the area.  The non-operational Wolf Island Provincial Park separates Lovesick and Lower Buckhorn to the north and camp sites are available on a first-come-first-served basis.  I had planned to camp in the Park but the allure of running water and a picnic table won me over on that day and I set up camp next to the lock.

Also of interest here by the lock is a canoe/kayak ramp built by the local cottagers association to make for the easiest portage ever!

An ingenious canoe and kayak roller/ramp between Lovesick Lake and Lower Buckhorn

An ingenious canoe and kayak roller/ramp between Lovesick Lake and Lower Buckhorn

…and with the tale of any camping trip you might want to ask “So how were the mosquitoes?”.  Well, I’m glad I asked.  They weren’t bad except somehow this happened to the back of my left arm:


Had I slept with my arm against or outside of the mosquito netting?  I have no idea!  The rest of me was fine…

Tomorrow would be by far my longest day yet.  I would travel at least 30km on day 5 of my SUP camping trip, most of it into a headwind…

Happy paddling!

SUP Camping Trip: Day 3

Day 3 of my stand-up paddle board camping trip began early once again.  Without feeling rushed I had enjoyed my breakfast, packed everything up and was ready to launch by 8am, but it would be 30 more minutes before I was actually underway.  I was speaking with Dave and Kate, a couple from Toronto who were sailing and camping their way up the Trent-Severn.  They too were looking for a spot to camp on Stoney Lake and we were comparing notes on our maps when a cottager, on his way to Granny’s for breakfast, overheard our conversation and offered some advice.  He knew Stoney Lake well and pointed out an area on the map where he was sure we’d find an island to camp.  Like many that I would encounter on my trip he was incredibly generous with his time and very helpful.  I left Youngs Point behind and set off in search of my next camp site.

Leaving Youngs Point behind I entered the south end of Clear Lake around 9am

Leaving Youngs Point behind I entered the south end of Clear Lake around 9am

I entered the south end of Clear Lake before 9am, again it would seem that I’d have the whole lake to myself for a while.  By 1030 I had reached the other end of Clear Lake and the Canadian Shield began to reveal itself as I made my way between some islands into the lower end of Stoney Lake.  I rounded Davis Island, passed through another channel and could see the not-so-subtle McCracken’s Landing way off to my right.  Based on the directions I’d received I knew I’d gone too far.

McCracken's Landing on the south shore of Stoney Lake

McCracken’s Landing on the south shore of Stoney Lake

I made my way south towards McCracken’s Landing and then west along the shore, doubling back towards my destination.  I found the island at last and it had 4 designated campsites.  This island is free of cottages and can be found just south of Stock Island, but I have yet to come across a map where it is identified.  I was paddling around the island, exploring each campsite when Jack, the cottager I’d met in Young’s Point, came by on his boat to make sure I’d found the spot.  As I’d mentioned, the people I encountered this week were incredibly helpful, hospitable and generous with their time.

I chose my site, left my gear behind and explored the area a little further when Dave and Kate came along and chose a site of their own, we’d be neighbours again for the night, with a few hundred feet of forest between us.  I toured around some more, eventually making my way over to McCracken’s and enjoyed a cold refreshing coconut water on their patio.  Glamping at it’s best!

I think the photo below sums up how I felt by late afternoon.  Camp was setup, firewood collected, water purified and it was time to enjoy my hammock for a while before some swimming and supper.

It had been a long day, and it was only 3pm!

It had been a long day, and it was only 4pm!


After dinner it was time to enjoy a quiet campfire and to reflect on the incredible day that I’d had.  As the sun set over Stoney Lake I reviewed my day’s route and planned one for the following day.

SUP route for Day 3

SUP route for Day 3: 14km + some uncharted exploring of the area

August sunset on Stoney Lake

August sunset on Stoney Lake

Stay tuned for Day 4 of my SUP camping trip.

SUP Camping Trip: Day 2

Day 2 of my stand-up paddle board (SUP) camping started early.  I was up by 6 and greeted by a beautiful day.  A thick fog rose from the water into the cool air as I prepared my breakfast over a fire.


The water was incredibly calm and the air still as I set off to the north.

The calm morning waters of the Trent-Severn Waterway at Lock 24

The calm morning waters of the Trent-Severn Waterway at Lock 24

My plan for today was to cover just 14km which would take me to Youngs Point, and I had all day to do it.  I still didn’t know what my limit might be and I didn’t want to exceed it early in my voyage.  Something as simple as a blister on your hand on day 2 can make for a miserable trip…

Day 2 - 14km route from Lakefield to Youngs Point

Day 2 – 14km route from Lock 24, through Lakefield and finally to Youngs Point

I took advantage of my urban route and made my first stop in Lakefield, just 4km upstream, to top up my groceries before continuing on my way.  The temperature would rise to 30C so I stopped often along the next 10km, to cool down in the waters of Lake Katchewanooka, usually along the shaded side of an island, and to enjoy the many sights and sounds of the area.

Chilling out along a shaded shore of Lake Katchewanooka

Chilling out along a shaded shore of Lake Katchewanooka

I arrived in Youngs Point around 2pm.  I was going to camp by the locks, but this wasn’t my usual camping trip.  I had a picnic table, washrooms and the chance to stroll over to Lockside Trading for an Americano.  This was glamping!

Lock 27 – Youngs Point.  Lockside trading, on the left, is a popular stop for boaters and tourists

After my coffee break I replenished my water supplies – the water is not potable in the washrooms here, or at many of the locks north of Lakefield, so there is some work to be done to stay hydrated.  By then I was beginning to wonder what I would do with the rest of the day.  The boaters seem to have this figured out.  They are well accustomed to sitting around at the locks, waiting, and are quick to strike up a conversation.  Before I knew it the sun was low in the sky and it was time for dinner.

Getting my stove fired up for dinner.  Highway 28 crosses overhead and my gear dries in the background

Getting my stove fired up for dinner. Highway 28 crosses overhead and my gear dries in the background

I barely noticed the sound of traffic from Highway 28, but I did have some noisy neighbours, a family of Osprey perched atop a telephone pole nearby.

My noisy neighbours, an Osprey family, nesting nearby

My noisy neighbours, an Osprey family, nesting nearby

The day time crowd disappears soon after the Lock closes at 6pm.  Only those moored for the night remain, most sleep on their boats, a few setup tents.  Everyone stops by to say ‘Hello’ and to ask about stand-up paddle boarding (I can hardly believe the interest in SUP)  and to share the stories of their own journeys on the water.  I quickly realize that I have taken this waterway for granted all this time!  This waterway draws people from around the world and I was beginning to see why.

Stay tuned for Day 3 of my SUP camping trip as I set off in search of a place to camp on Stoney Lake.

Happy paddling.

SUP Camping Trip: Day 1

As I mentioned yesterday, 10km of paddle boarding tends to leave me rather exhausted, so for day 1 of my trip I planned a route up to Lock 24, a distance of 14km with 5 portages.  This I estimated to take about 3hrs.  I would realize later that I really hadn’t thought this through very well…

Day 1: 14km route with 5 portages

Day 1: 14km route with 5 portages, from Wildrock Outfitters in downtown Peterborough to Lock 24 in Douro Township

I left Wildrock Outfitters with my rental SUP around 330pm, walked it the 300m or so over to the river and already I had discovered a bit of a problem with my plan.  These boards, weighing in at around 40lbs are a pain in the butt to carry over any distance.  They have a hand grip in the middle of the board, making for an easy one-handed carry, freeing up your other hand for your paddle.  This is great when you carry it from your rack to the water at the cottage when you’re only going 50ft or so.  After a few hundred meters your forearm is on fire!  Problem #2:  As I was leaving late, most of the locks would be closed as I approached so I figured I would just portage every lock and skip on a Lock pass.  I didn’t think much of it, until I arrived at the mighty Peterborough Lift Lock, my third portage of the day.

Lock 21: The Peterborough Lift Lock

Lock 21: The Peterborough Lift Lock

The Peterborough Lift Lock is huge!  The portage is only about 400m, but it is like walking up an 8 story building twice with 1/2 your gear each time!  Oh well, the view is quite nice once you’re up.  I had already emptied two water bottles paddling here, so I filled up with a hose at the top of the Liftlock and was on my way after enjoying the view for a moment longer.

The steep climb was worth it for the view!

The steep climb was worth it for the view!

The waterway was all mine for the next 11km

The waterway was all mine for the next 11km

The other bonus of late day paddling is that, with the exception of 1 rower and 2 guys fishing, I’d have the waterway to myself for the next 11km.  Once past Lock 21 this urban waterway has a very country feel to it.  There are very few buildings on its shore until you get to Trent University, so you easily feel like you’re in cottage country already.  I had just 2 more portages to go (Lock 22 and 23) and I arrived happily at Lock 24 around 830pm, as the sun was setting, about 90min behind schedule.  The portages had taken a lot out of me.  My forearms were fried from carrying the board over each lock but I would sleep very well that night!  🙂

Stay tuned for Day 2 of my SUP camping trip:

Stand-up Paddle Board Camping

Stand-up paddle boarding is the fastest growing water sport around.  While a few have taken it to competitive levels, most are looking for another fitness tool and treat their SUP as a beach toy, never venturing out of sight of their cottage.  I rent a board occasionally along the Toronto Harbourfront and paddle out to the Toronto Islands but even then I have rarely exceeded 10km, which usually leaves me exhausted.  I knew these boards must have more potential.  So, last week, I roughly planned out a route, packed some gear and set off on a 5 night, 100km SUP camping trip!

The first thing you’ll notice about a SUP is their complete lack of storage compartments.  Any gear you’d like to bring will have to sit on the board behind you (or in front) and had better be in a water-proof bag in case it goes overboard.  I crammed all of my gear, and most of the food I would need, into a 30L barrel bag and a 10L water bag.  40L is not a lot of space when you consider that you’ll have to include a sleeping bag, shelter, cooking supplies, a stove, dry clothes for the evenings, rain gear (just in case), towel, food, toiletries etc.  And of course you’re going to need a LOT of water!  Despite some otherwise careful planning I have never tried paddling with gear on board, so once I got my SUP I was really just hoping for the best.  I also used a 4L Seal line waist pack to keep a few essentials dry like my phone, map, wallet and to store a few things that I would want easy access to such as an energy bar or two.

Here’s the basic setup as I launched:

A huge SUP and a week's worth of gear!

A huge SUP and a week’s worth of gear!

Normally when I go camping in the Kawarthas I rent a car in Toronto, drive to the area where I camp and the car sits around all week several kms from my site, a real waste of money.  This time around I got to Peterborough on GO Transit, rented a Starboard SUP from Wildrock Outfitters and carried it the 300m or so down to Millenium Park, where I launched into the Otonabee River.  No car meant a huge savings!

My gear and I will definitely weigh in over 230lbs, so I wanted a SUP with plenty of volume, even if that meant a bigger, slower, heavier board.  I think the model I had was called the Atlas.  This 12′ Starboard SUP is huge!  This board also has rubber (EVA) all the way around the rails for a bit of impact resistance, meaning I shouldn’t have to worry about inflicting any damage as I bring it into shore.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post when I get my trip under way, paddling north up the Trent-Severn Waterway from Peterborough to Lock 24, the first 14km of my 100+km SUP camping trip.

Happy paddling!

A beautiful day to Paddle The Don

There are two major events wrapping up right about now in Toronto, the huge Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon and the lesser known Paddle the Don event.

It’s not often that you see a canoe in the Don River.  Most of the time it’s just too shallow (and smelly).  Once every spring however the TRCA floods the river and offers a unique opportunity to ‘Paddle the Don’.  The current leads you about 12-15km from Earnest Thompson Seton Park (around Leslie/Eglinton) to the Don’s outlet into Lake Ontario at the Keating Channel.  Those who brave the cold waters, currents and portages are treated to unique views at the heart of Canada’s largest city.

I was out early for a relatively quick 80km bike ride to Port Credit this morning and took advantage of some of the quiet roads that were closed for the marathon.  Eventually the runners took over the streets and I had to re-route up the Don trail to make my way home.  So I stopped a few times to snap a some pics and cheer on some paddlers.

Don_river_canoe (5)

See the guy in the red canoe below?   Me neither.  These guys dumped their boat in some rapids.  The water must have been cold!  They looked well dressed for the occasion though and some fellow canoeists were quickly upon them to help them gather their gear.

Capsized canoe

Capsized canoe

Click on any of the pics to see them full size.  Surely no picture will do justice to the experience but each shot seems to put you into a wilderness far removed from the city.

Don_river_canoe (3) Don_river_canoe (4)

Go to http://paddlethedon.ca/ to sign up for next year or to sponsor a paddler.