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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SUP Camping 2014: Lakefield to Stoney Lake Day 2

I was up at 6 and on the verge of leg cramps.  Could have sworn that I’d hydrated well yesterday, but my legs were telling me otherwise.  I downed some water, washed up and walked over to Foodland to pick up a few things for my trip.  Grabbed a coffee from McD’s on my way back and sat by the water to enjoy it.  It was nearly 7am.

a clear and quiet morning at Lock 26 in Lakefield.

a clear and quiet morning at Lock 26 in Lakefield (looking south)

I had a washroom key to return but the lock operators wouldn’t arrive until 9 so there was no hurry.  I packed up slowly and finally handed in my key around 915 before setting off.

As you put Lakefield behind you, the Otonabee River opens up into Lake Katchewanooka.

Lake Katchewanooka

Lake Katchewanooka

Only an hour in and I was ready for a break in the shade.  I stopped in this exact spot last year….  I downed a full litre of water before I was on my way again, through this weedy section, and back over to the main channel.

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I arrived in Youngs Point, it was just 1130.

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I brought my gear ashore and began the short walk over the foot bridge to Granny’s Restaurant for breakfast.  The place was packed, but I was seated quickly and a hot cup of coffee arrived soon thereafter.

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It was nearing noon of the 2nd day of my camping trip and I hadn’t even struck a match yet, this was feeling a little strange…  Grandpa’s #2 (uh, that doesn’t sound quite right) breakfast special filled me right up; 3 eggs, 3 sausage, 3 bacon, some home fries and 2pc of gluten-free toast!

If you’re not in a huge hurry, and up for the scenic route back, hang a right as you come out of the restaurant, walk 100m, and enter the trail on the left hand side of the road.  This will take you to the dam.  Cross the dam and you’re back at the lock.  While you’re there you might as well take a stroll through Lockside Trading – no visit to Young’s Point is complete without it.

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The trail through Young’s Point Conservation Area

It was 1pm before I set off from Young’s Point and headed into Clear Lake.  There is a continuous flow of high-speed boat traffic on Clear Lake on this beautiful Sunday afternoon.  I look up to see 4 boats abreast coming straight towards me and decide it’s time to cross to the east side of the lake in search of calmer waters.

By 2pm I’m at the north-east end of the lake and passing amongst the many islands. I tour the area briefly and arrive at my island camp site by 330.  The garbage in the fire pit is still warm.  I spend the next 20min clearing the site of broken glass and garbage 😦  The next thing I do is tend to the fire pit.  Most fire pits are around 3″ deep and 4 feet across.  Not much good for anything but wasting firewood.  I cut the firepit into a 1/4 of its original size and build up the sides.  This will protect the fire from the wind and reflect the heat where you want it.

Cut the fire pit into a quarter of its size and build up the walls.  This will protect against wind and reflect the heat where you want it.

Cut the fire pit into a quarter of its size and build up the walls. This will protect against wind and reflect the heat where you want it.

…and here’s today’s route if you want to check it out, just click to enlarge:

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530 and my hammock is up and enough firewood gathered to get me by.  Not much left to do now and lots of time to do it.  I enjoy my dinner, clean up and take a sunset tour on my SUP before settling in by the fire to reflect on a wonderful day.  The full moon shines upon me and it’s time for bed, uh, time for hammock?

 Check out Day 3 of my trip.

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 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.