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4/17/2018 1:50 am  #1

Daisy Trip 1991

Freesince83's 1990 trip report reminded me of a Daisy trip I had in 1991.  I was 25, and a friend and I decided to take a canoe trip to Algonquin.  Early in the year we planned a September trip.  We worked at the same place, and built up vacation time at the princely rate 1.53 hours per week.  So, I cut summer vacation short, and saved up just enough vacation time for a trip of four or five days.
About two weeks before the trip, I stopped by Tom’s desk to talk details.   He told me very sheepishly that he and his wife were taking a trip to Ireland, and he had to save vacation time, so…no canoe trip.  Ugh.  Irritating.  We are still friends nearly three decades later, and did take a couple of Algonquin trips together later on, so choose your grudges carefully or you might sacrifice a great friendship.

What to do?  Well, why not ask dad to go?  So, I talked to him, and dad was in!  Problem was the trip was about a week away, and dad had no hiking boots, credible socks, rain gear…..

I took him to a sporting goods store just days before the trip, found some hiking boots, some extremely attractive white/black horizontally striped wool socks that only a clown could love, rain gear, and other junk.  We stuffed everything in and on two frame packs, and were set to go.

We left Buffalo in the middle of the night in my new-ish 1990 Nissan Sentra 4-door (easy ladies, I’m married now). Mounted on the car, a true wilderness battleship – a 17’ Grumman aluminum canoe, the “lightweight model” that weighed 72 pounds.  We arrived at the Magnetawan Access point mid-morning, pushed off under grey skies, and started breaking in dad’s boots.  The Acme to Daisy portage I remember.  It was fairly level, but rode along the side of a hill and was slanted downward as a result.  The end of the portage is a pretty significant downward shot toward Daisy. 

We settled on the campsite on the northern shore of Daisy, (today referred to as site #5 on the PCI project!)  It had sloping rock access. 



I set up the tent in the most root free, level zone, but it was on the downward side of a little hill.  (Look in the photo at the left side of the tent.)  I was concerned about rain, so I dug a little trench around the area to guide water around the tent, which I probably wasn’t supposed to do.  This is where I learned…through error. 



My Coleman Peak 1 Feather Light stove prepared a lovely dehydrated dinner, and after the warmth of a campfire, we turned in.  A mist was starting, and it had been a long day. 

(Oh man I'm so young....)

Dad slept on the trench side of the tent.  I kept feeling like “he’s gonna get it”, but somehow I couldn’t make myself offer to switch spots with him.  Shameful self-interest coupled with thinking “hey, that’ll never happen.”

Well, it rained.  A light, long-lasting rain that overcame the trench, which was easy since the trench was maybe two inches deep.  In the morning, we had a little water in the tent, which dad’s fabric sleeping bag soaked up.  I don’t know how wet it was inside his bag, but I’m guessing is was pretty moist.

We broke camp, and before long we were on the Petawawa, bound for Misty.  Speaking of misty….the rain never stopped once it started.  It was always with us, in one form or another, ranging from very light mist to legitimate rain, but never stopping.

We worked our way down the Petawawa, through the portages.  The river travel itself was fairly uneventful.  It rained, and dad took photos. 


We cleared the 930-something meter from Little Misty to Misty, home for today, and none too soon, because we were both tired and wet.   It was kind of late in the day, like 4pm maybe, so we must have gotten a late start in the morning.  We took the very first campsite we saw, which was on the island with three sites. 

Some of the details escape me, but I think this was the sequence of events for my next mistake.  We got the tent set up, and then I fired up the stove to make some hot chocolate.  Then I turned my attention to making a fire for some warmth.  This did not go as planned because of my terrific foolproof idea.  Instead of matches (who needs those things?) I brought two “Bic” lighters.  They were double-bagged and dry.  So, when I had the tinder all set to get a fire going, it surprised me that, “huh, the lighter isn’t working.  It did a few minutes ago when I made hot chocolate.  No problem, that’s why we have two lighters.  Uh-oh…..this one isn’t working either.”   Could it be that my pruned, shriveled, soaked hands had gotten the inner workings of the lighter wet so there was no way they were going to light?  Yes.  I soaked something or other in a little fuel, setting it by the tinder, and hoping I could get a fire started with just a little spark from a lighter.  If I did get any flames, they were gone quickly.  So no fire, and no flame to even restart the stove.
I walked around the island, embarrassed and disgusted with myself (whoever heard of an Eagle Scout who couldn’t start a fire) hoping to find another camper with some extra matches, but we were enjoying solitude.    We were cooked, but our dinner wouldn’t be, and I wasn’t inclined to do the rubbing sticks routine.  The result in terms of dinner was a long soak in cold water (or whatever semi-warm residual water we still had) for dehydrated food.  A light mist continued.  The forecast called for pain.
That particular error (the lighters) is why today I carry laundry lint, flint and steel, an enormous number of matches in three or four waterproof containers, and fire starters.  I try to carry less, but I can’t make myself do it, though all I ever use is the lint and matches.

So, damp and spent, with our bellies full of cold dehydrated food, we turned in early.  Dad’s sleeping bag had all day packed away (in double garbage bags) to soak in the moisture from the night before, very pleasant.  Neither of us with a pad beneath the bag because what are those things?  I do recall offering to switch sleeping bags, but dad declined – because that’s what dads do.  Light rain pitter-pattered on the tent.  The perfect end to a perfect day.

That night, we decided to call it a trip if the rain continued.  So, we awoke to continuing rain, had a quick breakfast, broke camp, and reversed course, escorted by our ever present companion, mist.

With each portage, I noticed that the canoe was getting heavier in the stern, which I attributed to me wearing down.  At the Daisy-Acme portage, I hauled the canoe out of the water, flipped it so I could get under it (I have always used a stern-on-the-ground-then-get-under-it approach), shouldered it, took a few steps and realized the back end really was heavy.  Oh.  The water exit in the stern was plugged with mud.  A thin stick did the trick there, and we chuckled watching the canoe pee (it doesn’t take much to entertain us). 

As you can see, I had a song in my heart the longer the day went.

The canoe felt much better after relieving itself, and so did my shoulders.  Thanks to my high quality hiking boo….cruddy worn out sneakers, I managed the uphill portion in good shape in spite of the wet conditions.  On the level part of the carry, I was tromping along, when suddenly the world turned brown.  I raised the bow of the canoe up a little bit, like a little veil so I could see, and there was a cow moose, five or ten meters in front of me, crossing from left to right.  Just as I was thinking why on earth did you cross in front of me, I spotted her calf off to my right.  She showed no aggression, (I usually tell people “she was cool about it.”), she just didn’t want me between them.

I had seen a moose or two in the past, but dad never had.  I didn’t know how far behind me he was, so I turned my head and whistled for him, hoping he’d quickly catch up before they disappeared.  Now, of course, whistling made no sense at all, but that’s what I did.  Soon after, dad was there, taking it in.  I’m a little out of sequence here, in that I already had taken a pack to the other side of the portage – and my camera was there.  I dashed ahead, wearing my aluminum hat, grabbed the camera, and returned.

The scene upon my return was memorable.   The cow and calf were maybe 20-30 meters off to the side.  Dad was on the trail, cooing at the moose, saying in his most soothing voice, “It's ok moosie, moosie, it’s ok….”.  This was a man nearly 60 years of age.  Very funny.  We took some photos, watched for a moment, and then sallied forth.  We joked about dad’s “Moosie, Moosie” call.  Suddenly, the difficulties of the trip became anecdotes, and the trip was worth it.  I had shown my dad a place I dearly loved, and somehow had put him in front of a moose.  Winner.

Here's the calf.

We crossed Acme without incident, then Hambone.  I took a photo of dad on the Hambone side of the Hambone/Magnetawan portage – our last portage.  (It is also the area where I very famously, and very unintentionally, peed on a moose on the last night of my first Algonquin trip.  I call myself the only living person who has peed on a moose because I figure anybody else who ever did it got killed doing it.)


Awesome rain gear.

In any event, we reached Magnetawan.  This will sound incredible to anybody who has started from the Magnetawan Access point, and nearly thirty years later I remain embarrassed to admit this, but I could not for the life of me find the access point once we were on Magnetawan.  There.  I said it.  We paddled all over.  I was relying on my flawed memory, and when I did finally consult the map I was turned around and still didn’t see the access point.  Infuriating.  How do you lose an access point? It had been a pretty long haul from Misty, our pal, light rain, was still with us, and there we were, a few hundred yards from the end of the trip, floating around like morons.  Well, we found Waldo and hauled out. 

As we finished changing our clothes in the rain next to my sexy little Nissan Sentra, two gents approached us.  They were from Poland.  They were there with their wives, and had made a little mistake.  They exited at the Magnetawan, thinking it would be a fairly short walk to the Tim River access point (where their car was).  They asked for a lift, and we obliged.  It was nice to be with somebody else making mistakes. 

We had just started down the access road when a bear popped out of the woods.   The first bear any of us had ever seen.  We all stared in wonder through the windshield.  The bear was running the same direction we were going, 30 or 40 meters ahead of us.  I clocked it at 28mph (45kph).  Then, it turned on a dime, a right angle turn at full speed, and vanished into the woods.  You can be told about the speed and agility of bears, but until you witness a bear at speed, it won’t register.  The speed was one thing, but the right angle turn at speed was jaw-dropping.

In time, we dropped our new friends off at their car, and departed the park in search of lunch.  We settled on a McDonalds and filled up on warm junk.

Now, years later, I realize how tough dad was on that trip.  When a guy tells you I was in the army, I can sleep anywhere, I can eat anything, I can survive any conditions, don’t you doubt it.  Dad was 58 or 59, carrying a little spare tire, with the same painful ankle/joint condition I have, yet carried a pack over that terrain.  He paddled like a champ.  He wasn’t in poor health, but he wasn’t exercising either.  His shoes and socks were brand new.  It rained for 36 hours.  He slept two nights in a wet bag.  He had no relief from the dampness, including a cold dehydrated dinner.  Our last day was our longest day of canoe travel.  He must have been sore.  Never a word of complaint.  He didn’t want the memory to be me feeling like I had led him to points of misery.  How can I not admire him?  Wanna know why he bought that canoe in the first place?  A friend of his told him where he could take me to catch northern pike, but a canoe was needed.  Days later, there’s a brand new canoe in the garage.     

I learned a lot of camping skills that trip, the hard way, and dad was the patient victim of my inexperience.  I had been in Algonquin several times, but never as “the lead guy”, and brother, that is  a learning experience.

The moose made a shortened trip complete and gave the adversity some perspective.  The bear was like a big piece of cake for dessert when you have room in your belly.  If Tom hadn’t bailed, I would never have had even one camping trip with my dad.  If Dad and I hadn’t cut it short, we wouldn’t have had those great sightings.
Dad is still around, but at 86 his memory is not ideal, nor is his mobility.  He does remember the trip pretty well, confessing that it was pretty miserable.  We had a nice visit reminiscing on it.  With a little prompting, he remembered the rain, the lack of fire, and the wet sleeping bag.  I mentioned that his lack of complaint contributed to our positive memories of the trip.  He said he had always made it a point not to complain about things, because it served no purpose.  Thirty years later I finally had the guts to ask “How wet was the sleeping bag?”  “Very.”  When I reminded of the moose and the bear, he pointed to one of the pictures in his little independent living apartment – momma moose, looking back over her shoulder at us.


4/17/2018 7:03 am  #2

Re: Daisy Trip 1991

Great story! Those trips can be miserable while you're in it but they make for great stories afterwards.


4/17/2018 8:32 am  #3

Re: Daisy Trip 1991

Yes very good story and brought back a lot of memories from my first trip to the Park 35+ ago,  Rained for 7 days, no dry clothes to speak of  and fun finding dry wood,    and we did run into to Ladies from the states with their Brothers Grumman 17' freighter canoe,   met up with 2 guys who met them at the bottom of the Ragged to Big Porc Portage and of course they offered to carry the canoe for the Ladies,  guys said their knees buckled when they picked it up.      we also saw a Group of about 10  people, ( early 20's) across from us jumping in and out of the water most of the day,     then later canoed over to our campsite to borrow a lighter or matched,   they had 1 lighter between all of them,    think we had 10 lighters and matches.       when we canoed out after 7 days of rain we canoed over top of the docks at Smoke Lake, they had been sitting out of the water by at least 8"  when we put in.   


4/17/2018 10:35 am  #4

Re: Daisy Trip 1991

A great read, and the pics are a fantastic window into the past. I can appreciate the 'lead guy' comment. I took a friend into Algonquin when I was still pretty green (and he'd never camped in his life) and hoo boy that did not go as planned. 

Amazing how a moose at the right moment can redeem an entire trip, isn't it? 


4/17/2018 8:56 pm  #5

Re: Daisy Trip 1991

Priceless! What a memory to have....
My own peak 1 stove died last year after 30 years or so.

I hope to read more of these kind of stories from the past, for me they sure bring back memories, and in my own case, a first trip that I think included the kitchen sink....


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