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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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… 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.

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2014 SUP Camping Trip: What to pack

I learned a thing or two last year on my 1st SUP camping trip, or at least I hope I did. What to pack, what to wear, where I could camp, how far I could go in a day, how much food I needed etc.

For a SUP camping trip, or canoe/kayak trip for that matter,  you’re going to need quite a bit of stuff.  I’ll break it down into some categories:

Equipment – the obvious stuff 1st:

  • SUP
  • Paddle
  • PFD/lifejacket
  • throw/tow rope
  • Waterproof bag or Barrel
  • Sleep system (I go with a the Mosquito Hammock) and sleeping bag
  • Topo map (in a waterproof case)
  • Compass
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SUP and gear, all ready to go!

Cooking/Eating

  • Pot, as in a pot, not some pot, but I’ll leave that up to you
  • Stove – I use the Bushbuddy wood burning stove (or cook directly over the campfire)  It doesn’t charge your phone or make frozen yogurt, but a few sticks will cook your meal, so you will never run out of fuel, not around here anyways.
  • Steel wool (for scrubbing pots/dishes)
  • Campsuds
  • Utensils (I just bring a spoon, but it will depend on what you’re cooking)
  • Bowl – or eat out of the pot?
  • Coffee mug
  • Water bottle
  • Water purifier/filter/steripen
  • Grill – again, depends what you’re cooking and how you tend to cook
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Buy a cook system like the GSI soloist/dualist, or shop wisely, making sure you can nest one item in another to save space and keep organized. This pot was $6 at Honest Ed’s, I drilled a couple of holes and added a pot hanger and made a little bag for it…. Good gear doesn’t have to be expensive

Within my pot I carry a bowl, stainless steel mug, some sugar, campsuds, steel wool, some instant coffee (2/day) and some tea.  In this case I also included 1 Vitamin C drink.

...here's my stove in action.  It ways 6oz and fuel is renewable (and free)!

…here’s my bushbuddy camp stove in action. It weighs 6oz and fuel is renewable (and free)!

Paddling clothes

  • hat
  • Sunglasses
  • long sleeve sun shirt (I went with the Sol Cool Hoody)
  • Board shorts
  • water shoes (you may consider these optional until you slice your foot on a zebra mussel – as I did last summer.  Ouch!)
  • paddling gloves
  • Seal-line waist pack (to keep a few essentials that you want on you at all times)
  • Additional water bag?  Optional
  • Sunscreen

Clothes for Evening / off the board

  • Pants
  • hoodie
  • t-shirt x?
  • rain coat, or rain gear
  • mossy net (optional, but I usually bring this instead of bug spray)
  • socks x?
  • underwear x?

Camping equipment:

  • saw
  • head lamp and flashlight (1 is none as they say, build in some redundancy or risk going without)
  • camera
  • Fire kit (I go with 3 types, all stored separately: matches, lighter, ferrocerium rod)
  • laundry line, rope/cordage
  • towel
  • TP
  • Toothbrush / toothpaste
  • Campsuds
  • sunscreen
  • bug repellent
  • 1st aid kit
  • camp knife and sharpener
  • a bunch of extra zip-lock bags
My toiletry bag takes up a bit of space, but keeps everything organized. I add some extras in there: a garbage bag, emergency blanket, mosquito wipes, firestarter (cotton ball soaked in Vaseline seen next to my razor in a white round container)...

My toiletry bag takes up a bit of space, but keeps everything organized. I add some extras in there: a garbage bag, emergency blanket, mosquito wipes, firestarter (cotton ball soaked in Vaseline – seen below the middle in a white round container)…

…and then there’s food.  OMG that’s a lot of stuff!!  Did I miss anything?  So, this is the gear that I packed for a 6 night SUP camping trip.  I went solo on this trip, so everything had to go my barrel.  If you’re with another paddler, you can obviously split up some common items (pots, tent, fire kits, first aid…).

What not to bring:

  • Anything that you’re not willing to carry back out.  There are a lot of broken lawn chairs littering the woods….
  • Glass bottles or jars.  Do not bring beer, wine or liquor in glass bottles.  You Will break one and you will not clean up after yourself.  You will try to burn them in the fire and they are not combustible.  Seriously, just do NOT bring glass bottles, ever!  There is not a single thing that you might want to bring in a glass jar that couldn’t just as easily go in plastic.  Get a platypus for your wine, or choose from wines available in a tetra pak for camping.  Bring your beer in cans if you must bring beer at all, just don’t bring glass bottles!  Nearly every backwoods site I have visited in recent years is littered with broken glass.  I even see broken glass in the water along the shore in remote areas where one might want to swim.

This is now the average fire pit in a site on crown land:

A beautiful view spoiled.

A beautiful view spoiled.

Okay, with that little rant about glass/garbage out of the way, lets hit the water!