Up North and Off the Grid: First Canoe TripViki Mather May 1, 2011
The ice wasn’t off the lake for more than a day or two before we packed our bags and were out for our first canoe trip of the year. We planned a trip into a lake just north of us, as we do every year as soon as the ice goes out. At least two or three times a year we travel through this lake as part of a three day, 58 kilometre loop trip.
This year we thought it would be interesting to spend the full three days on just one of the dozen lakes of the loop. We set up camp on an island, then did day trips into all the nooks and crannies, hiked up little valleys, and climbed some of the cliffs.
We don’t usually have time to explore all the interesting sights because we have to cover 20 kilometres or more each day as well as set up camp and take it all down again. This year we decided to slow down and take time to smell the flowers along the way.
What sort of wildflowers are out and blooming in early May you ask? Trailing arbutus is my favourite. It has beautiful tiny, pink, bell-shaped flowers tucked in and under the leathery oval leaves. We had to lie down on our bellies to get close enough to smell them. Mmmm such a fine fragrance!
More little green leaves were poking their way up toward the sun: tiny heart-shaped violet leaves, pointed wild lily-of-the-valley leaves, and the thicker, more robust leaves of the corn lily. Spring wildflowers were just beginning to feel the warmth of the sun though the deep duff of the forest floor. Early May might well be the finest time of year to go into the forest. The trees have not yet begun to leaf out, giving an unobstructed view through to the heart of the forest.
One of our day trips took us up a small creek on the east side of the lake. We paddled up to a low beaver dam where just a trickle of water flowed gently over the edge. From there we walked through a towering forest of white and yellow birch. The little stream trickled over sand bars and and fallen trees, tinkled merrily over rocks in tiny waterfalls as it sang its way through the sunny woodland.
An eight-foot-high cliff on one side of the creek had a couple of small caves leading deep into the rock. We were surprised to find an icy floor in one of these. The ice was at least 20 cm thick and stretched back two metres or more to the depth of the cave. Likely this ice will hold well into June.
We continued up the valley, following the stream for nearly a kilometre until it came to a huge beaver dam. We sat in the sun and enjoyed a picnic lunch, then wandered happily down the valley and back to our canoe.
We tucked into our sleeping bags early that night. We found comfort in their warmth as the outside temperature dropped down below freezing. Out on the lake we could hear spring peepers singing, loons calling from just a few metres away – and others replying from a distant lake.
There was just one sound missing – in early May there wasn’t a blackfly or mosquito to be heard under the stars.