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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

Wild Edibles: Wild Strawberry

In the area of the Kawarthas where I usually hike, Wild Strawberries are a very rare delicacy.  I am lucky to find 1 every year!  Well, this past weekend, amongst all of the other abundant edibles, I was lucky enough to find a single Wild Strawberry bearing fruit.

Woodland Strawberry

Woodland Strawberry

This plant, a member of the Rose family, tends to grow to 3-5 inches.  Its 3 leaves are coarsely toothed with hairy stalks.  There are two varieties, the Common Strawberry
and the Woodland Strawberry, Fragaria virginiana and Fragaria vesca respectively.  If you care to distinguish them, you can do so by their fruit and the tooth at the end of the leaves.

This tiny fruit packs  big flavour compared to domestic strawberries

Common Strawberry
Common Strawberry

The Common Strawberry has seeds that rest in little pits on the surface, and the tooth at the end of their leaves is shorter than those on either side.  The Woodland Strawberry,
by contrast, has seeds that sit slightly raised on the fruit’s surface, and the tooth at the end of their leaves are slightly longer than the teeth on either side.

The fruit are tiny compared to domestic Strawberries, but they taste much better!  Adding to its taste, at least for me, is the fact that I’ve had to work to find one, and since I find them so seldomly where I hike and camp, I eat it mindfully, savouring it for as long as its flavour will last.

Here are two great resources to bring on your hikes to help you with plant identification:
•    Forest Plants of Central Ontario; Lone Pine Publishing
•    Peterson Field Guides – Edible Wild Plants, Eastern/Central North America

As with any wild plant:
•    harvest/consume only those that you can identify positively
•    when in doubt ask an expert in the area
•    Learn to distinguish from any similar poisonous plant (if applicable)
•    Sample sparingly at first to gauge individual sensitivities/allergies
•    Understand which parts of which plants may be consumed as many edible plants have toxic parts/structures
•    Harvest only when/where abundant
•    Do not harvest plants that are endangered or in need of protection

Happy Trails!

Wild Edibles: Serviceberry

service_berry

Smooth Serviceberry – Amelanchier laevis??

One of the current items in nature’s cupboard is the Serviceberry, also known as Juneberry, since they ripen in June.  There are several wild varieties (Amelanchier spp.), but in less you are looking to plant some in your garden, the differences seem irrelevant as all are edible.  Like the strawberry and dwarf raspberries, that I was also picking this past weekend, these are members of the Rose family (and the fruit is referred to as a pome if anyone asks).

This perennial shrub seldom seems to exceed 1m in this area

This perennial shrub seldom seems to exceed 1m in this area

According to my Peterson Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants, this perrenial shrub can grow up to 10m tall.  Where I hike I’ve never seen it grow higher than 1m (3 feet) and I tend to find it along open rocky sites, growing in amongst blueberries and one of my other favorites, Sweetfern.

This is an unappreciated fruit, to say the least.  The ripe fruit are round, blue, dark purple or almost black when ripe and are slightly juicier, sweeter and larger than wild blueberries, at about 8-12mm.

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Amelanchier canadensis?

Here are two great resources to bring on your hikes to help you with plant identification:
•    Forest Plants of Central Ontario; Lone Pine Publishing
•    Peterson Field Guides – Edible Wild Plants, Eastern/Central North America

As with any wild plant:
•    harvest/consume only those that you can identify positively
•    when in doubt ask an expert in the area
•    Learn to distinguish from any similar poisonous plant (if applicable)
•    Sample sparingly at first to gauge individual sensitivities/allergies
•    Understand which parts of which plants may be consumed as many edible plants have toxic parts/structures
•    Harvest only when/where abundant
•    Do not harvest plants that are endangered or in need of protection

Happy Trails!

Wild Edibles: Dwarf Raspberry

The prickly, shoulder high Wild Red Raspberry bush that you may be familiar with won’t bear fruit in our cottage country for 4-6 more weeks, but the dwarf raspberry is ready for the picking, if you know where to look and what to look for.

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“Leaves of three – let it be”?  That’s a good rule to keep your kids away from poison ivy, but there are so many plants with 3 leaves out there that it is worth getting to know a few of them.  The Dwarf Raspberry, Rubus pubescens, is one such example.  This low, trailing member of the Rose family tends to grow to about 3-5 inches in height and with its 3 sharply toothed leaves it is easily mistaken for a wild Strawberry.  I tend to find them in shaded woods in moist soils.  Their tiny fruit is smaller than the Wild Red Raspberry and more difficult to harvest, as it tends to cling to the stem more fiercely, and of course, since the plant is so small, there tends to be only 1 berry per plant.  They are ripening right now, so don’t delay!

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Here are two great resources to bring on your hikes to help you with plant identification:
•    Forest Plants of Central Ontario; Lone Pine Publishing
•    Peterson Field Guides – Edible Wild Plants, Eastern/Central North America

As with any wild plant:
•    harvest/consume only those that you can identify positively
•    when in doubt ask an expert in the area
•    Learn to distinguish from any similar poisonous plant (if applicable)
•    Sample sparingly at first to gauge individual sensitivities/allergies
•    Understand which parts of which plants may be consumed as many edible plants have toxic parts/structures
•    Harvest only when/where abundant
•    Do not harvest plants that are endangered or in need of protection

Happy Trails!

Wild Edibles: Blueberries

Blueberry

We went for a hike this past weekend on Crown Land just south of the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park.  Blueberries tend to be in season around Canada Day, but with some seasonal variation you just never know if you might be too early or too late to take advantage.  30 minutes into our hike, as the trail lead us out of the moist and shaded woods and up onto some exposed rock we found some blueberry plants at last.  Most of the berries were just tiny green nubs though.  We marched on.  We were about to sit down for lunch when we found a patch of blueberries that has been receiving a lot of sun.  We were in luck at last!  We collected berries in a coffee mug and after a few minutes we had all that we needed and settled down for lunch, saving the berries for dessert.

Cup full of blueberries

Cup full of blueberries for dessert

In our area blueberries tend to ripen in late June to mid July.  They can be found in dry, acidic soils and need some direct sunlight.  Find them near pine stands, edge of thickets, and in sandy soil.  Get to know this low deciduous shrub from the Heath family.  There are a couple of varieties to be found and they are all edible.  Serviceberries tend to grow right along side the blueberries, ripening at around the same time, so get to know them as well and mix them all together.  Sweet-fern tends to grow in amongst the blueberries also, making the blueberry patch your one stop shop.

I’ve posted about Sweet-fern before, but that was in the fall when the leaves are already dry.  This time of year you can throw the leaves fresh into your pot or you can dry them quickly over a fire before steeping:

Step 1: Harvest Sweet-fern leaves

Step 1: Harvest Sweet-fern leaves

Sweet-fern step 1: Harvest

Step 2: Dry leaves over coals or low fire

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Step 3: Steep leaves for several minutes (preferably covered)

Here are two great resources to bring on your hikes to help you with plant identification:
•    Forest Plants of Central Ontario; Lone Pine Publishing
•    Peterson Field Guides – Edible Wild Plants, Eastern/Central North America

As with any wild plant:
•    harvest/consume only those that you can identify positively
•    when in doubt ask an expert in the area
•    Learn to distinguish from any similar poisonous plant (if applicable)
•    Sample sparingly at first to gauge individual sensitivities/allergies
•    Understand which parts of which plants may be consumed as many edible plants have toxic parts/structures
•    Harvest only when/where abundant
•    Do not harvest plants that are endangered or in need of protection

Happy Trails!

The Ride to Conquer the Ride to Niagara

I was planning to ride from Toronto to Niagara Falls last summer after I’d heard about GO Transit’s bike train.  GO Transit offers, amongst other destinations, service to/from Toronto and Niagara Falls through the summer with a couple of train cars dedicated to carrying bikes.  For folks in Toronto it’s a great way to get to Niagara for a day/weekend of cycling and wine tasting.  I figured I would ride there and take the train home.  The problem for me was with the schedule.  I could start my ride at 4am and take the 1230 train home, or leave later, after the traffic and temperature had ramped up and then return on the 840pm train.  Neither schedule seemed appealing.  I had ramped up my riding to prepare, but I didn’t make it happen in 2012.

This weekend my wife and I were going to Niagara-on-the-Lake for a night for a friend’s birthday, so it looked like I could finally make this riding dream a reality.  Saturday morning I took the subway to High Park station and at 8am I was on my way.  The ride is 150-160km so I expected it to take around 6h30.  Here’s my approximate route, minus some washroom break detours (Toronto-Niagara Bike Map).

Looking back from the Humber River

I decided to capture the moment as crossed the Humber River and looked back at Toronto’s skyline.  I was about 10min into my ride.

Burlington Skyway

By 9:55 I had put 60km behind me.  I was slightly ahead of schedule and beneath the Burlington Skyway, crossing the lift bridge.  You’ll want to stop soon thereafter at the trail side rest stop and washroom.  This is your last chance to fill up on water for a while.  The temperature would soon reach 29C and I had already downed 3 water bottles.  I filled one, drank it and filled all three again before setting off.

There were more than a few stops that I wanted to make along the way.  From the QEW you can never get a good look at the sunken ship around Jordan Rd.  So, about an hour after my last stop, I stopped again and climbed down an embankment, around the base of the Jordan Harbour (because road shoes are perfect for climbing down embankments), to quickly snap this shot :

Sunken ship

…riding on I was rather puzzled by this:

Antique Factory Outlet??

How do you have a “factory outlet” for antiques?  Anyhoo…

Believe it or not I was already out of water again at this point.  Another 30km and another 3 bottles of water!  So I pulled into Charles Daley Park for a refill, only to find a sign saying “Water not potable”!!!  Ugh!  So hot, so dehydrated already, my quads were beginning to seize!  I think my 29kph average was about to take a hit!

It was 12pm as I rode on into the scenic town of Port Dalhousie and made my way to the nearest Starbucks.  Time to fill my bottles again and wash down an energy bar with a well deserved latte!  Setting off again, and anxious to make up for lost time, I was forced to stop minutes later as the drawbridge rose to allow the huge Algocanada tanker to pass along the Welland Canal.  I figured I might as well read this sign to pass the time…

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George Nicholson Trail Section along the Welland Canal

Once past the Welland Canal you’re out of St. Catherines and into farm country again.  It’s nothing but vineyards and orchards all the way to Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Vineyards through the Niagara region

Once through Niagara-on-the-lake you take the Niagara Parkway along the Niagara river  all the way down to Niagara Falls, for the last 22km of the ride.  Here you face the only significant climb on the whole ride, up past the Brock’s Monument.

Brock Memorial

The hard work is all done but there are still some nice views along the way.  The Lewiston-Queenston Bridge seemed like a worthy stop:

Lewiston-Queenston Bridge

…it’s 2pm, 6hrs have passed and I’m at the Falls!  Time for some cheesy tourist pics of the Falls and the downtown.

Niagara Falls by bike

My trusty Specialized Roubaix handled the ride with ease

Downtown Niagara Falls

So I was clearly riding alone here.  My wife rented a car and drove to Niagara Falls.  A one way ride is enough for me so I would be driving back to Toronto the next day with her.  I asked what she rented and she answered happily “a Fiat”.  “Oh no!” I thought. “A Fiat 500? There’s no way that will fit my bike”, “I’m going to be riding home tomorrow”!  Well, for all of the doubters, myself included, here’s a 58cm bike, plus our overnight bags in the back of a Fiat 500 (with the seats down of course):

Fiat 500

What a ride!  So much to see along the way.  It was getting a little intimidated by the loop as I began mapping it out but I’m now anxious to do it again.  Any takers?

Kona Humu humu Nukunuku-A-Pua’A, the retro ride

Seriously, my bike is called a Humuhumu-Nukunuku-A-Pua’A, but you can call it the Humu 1 for short.

Kona Humuhumu-Nukunuku-A-Pua'A

Back in 1998 I had a road bike and a nice mountain bike and I didn’t really feel comfortable leaving either of them locked up around town while I was running errands, so I picked up a red 19″ Kona Humuhumu-Nukunuku-A-Pua’A as a “beater”.  This retro ride is named for the state fish of Hawaii and styled on a 1950’s cruiser.

Here it is in the original catalog entry, borrowed from Konaretro:

Konaretro catalog 1998

For years I rode this bike to work, to get groceries, to putt around town, ride some light trails etc.  The paint job was pretty much destroyed after 6-7 years of locking it to a thousand different posts and bike racks.  Eventually I thought it would be nice to have it stripped down and re-painted.  A friend of a friend, who worked in a paint shop, offered to paint it for a low price and suppose I got what I paid for.  There were runs in the paint, inconsistencies in the coverage etc.  Long story short it was a bit of a let down so I put the frame and the parts aside and wondered what to do about it.  Through 3 moves and 7 years the parts sat in storage!  A few weeks ago, when I could take it no longer, I finally had it all put back together, although I was missing a few parts (anyone seen my non drive-side crank arm?)…

2013 and it’s back on the road at last!  This bike is a joy to ride.  It doesn’t exactly beg to go fast, it just wants to cruise around and help you soak in the sights.  Coast, don’t pedal down hills and stop and smell the roses once and a while.  If you see an orange Humu1 in town you’ll know it’s mine as I’m quite sure it is the only one!

Happy riding.