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8/03/2016 4:56 pm  #1

Three Days - Kioshkokwi, White Birch, Waterclear, Club, Mink

I will preface this by saying "this is long".  Several months ago I started frequenting this site, when gearing up for a father-son trip that would mark my first canoe trip in 16 years, and my son's first trip period.  I rewrote this several times, and this is about as abbreviated as I can make it.  Sorry.  I don't have a blog site to link to. There were some wonderful aspects to this trip, and some less-than-wonderful aspects to this trip. It was a nice trip that I've wanted to take with a son since well before I was a dad.  The trip is at least as much about the father-son aspects as it is the trip itself.  For reference, Day 1 was 7/27/2016.  It was hot.  Very, very, very hot.  Wait, I'll just say very hot.  That will save some space.

If day-dreaming, planning and real preparation count as part of the trip, this trip with my son began in January 2016. My most recent canoe trip was…..June……….2000.  I was 35. 51 for this trip, and Michael 11.  So, I committed to worrying about a work-out regime and then never followed through. 

We decided on a five day trip, trying to be careful of distances, etc., to avoid my son feeling like a trapped mule in endless trudging and paddling.  Day 1: Kiosk to Birch.  Day 2: to Mouse.  Day 3: stay there.  Day 3: to Mink.  Day 4: home. 
Michael would carry as little as possible, and I would carry “the rest”.  Thanks to the great cat-peeing incident of 2002, in which I lost a lot of camping equipment (stupid cats) and never replaced it, I had to go equipment crazy, accumulating in six months what ordinarily takes years.  In all, consumables plus “capital equipment” nearly $2.5K. I can’t blame the cats for all of that, but let me just say #$*(@!&*#!!!   In the end, Michael’s pack was a little over 20 pounds (10 Kg), and mine was around 50 pounds (23 Kg). Too heavy, but we used just about everything we took!
We arrived very late at night at Kiosk and slept in the car.  By 8am or so, we shoved off, and soon after, Michael made his first comment about the park: “this place is beautiful.”

I was determined not to hover over Michael, so he could have some freedom and fun.  So, when he started messing around with his paddle, partially bracing us, dragging, veering, I let it go.  We chatted and paddled, and eventually found the 635M portage to Little Mink.  My first portage in 16 years, and his first ever.  The welcoming committee: deer flies.  This would become a theme.  We got to the other side reasonably, and a brief paddle put us to the next portage.  A 1300M to White Birch and home for the night.  It was a deceptive uphill climb.  We both needed a breather at the “summit”, near the end, though we were getting devoured.  All our carries were doubles.  My canoe is too heavy to do otherwise (68 pounds, 31Kg).

On White Birch, we chose the peninsula campsite, for the benefit of breeze and a lake-exposed shoreline to draw water.  It was noon, I was spent.  The drive, limited sleep, carries, paddling, and preparations were contributors, but more than anything, the heat was just draining.  We filtered some water.  Hey, fun fact.  Platypus bags don’t have the same thread as the sawyer mini.  So, unless I got them semi-cross-threaded just right, they leaked like crazy at the join.  I realized later that I had a “Sawyer” bag (at home), and I mistakenly thought the platypus bags were the same.  Oops.  It made me mistrust our filtering, so I popped a water pill in there every time.  Flavor packets to the rescue!  We went through a fantastic amount of water.  100 oz plus a day I think.  I never felt satiated though.  Michael was doing well in that respect, but I struggled for reasonable hydration.

Here's the view from our campsite looking south toward Waterclear:

I was able to do things with him in short bursts that day, but he got bored.  We explored our campsite and the neighboring campsite.  We found and named a frog.  We played cards.  We went swimming and did “the naked dance” to dry off (we were alone on the lake).  I waited until he had his suit off to yell "Attention everyone, Michael is now naked!"  We watched two pileated woodpeckers tear chunks out of a tree.  We fished from the shoreline (I caught two tinies).  We played with echoes.  After dinner we took the canoe out fishing briefly.  But the heat was oppressive.  I kept activities short, rested afterward, and Michael got bored. I couldn’t blame him.  It was my number one concern going in. 

He worked up to a question:  could we shorten our trip from five days to three.  I didn’t argue with him.  I knew Day 2 would be different, but day 3 was a base camp day (Mouse), and getting there and out had the potential to be shallow-water rough.  The potential for boredom – and feeling stuck there - existed.  With heat, deer flies, a potentially tough paddle in shallow water, I feared he’d spend four days wishing it was over.  We looked over the map, and decided to cut off base camp.  We would head south through Water Clear, to the northern part of Club, and instead of continuing south, we would make the turn there, go to Mink, and camp there.  With the number of campsites on Mink, the chances of messing up somebody else’s reservation were minimal.  Three days just made more sense for us.  Sensibility prevailed.  For once.         

For dinner, Michael selected chicken and rice, and I had stocked myself with sweet and sour chicken.  This had “worked” for my food sensitivities at home.  It was ok at home, but here, it tasted awful.  Just awful.  I kept picking at it for the energy source.  That night was the only time I have ever slept on top of my sleeping bag, and also the only time I have ever slept in a tent wearing only my boxers.  Hot.  Michael is a challenging tent mate.  He talks in his sleep, and is active.  He woke me up many times for various reasons and non-reasons.  Sometimes contextual gibberish, sometimes not, sometimes you don’t know what is going on.  We did get to hear some pretty cool loon tremolos though!
Zero condensation on the tent or equipment overnight.   We slept in a little.  This gave us a later start, which meant arriving at a campsite later in the day, which meant much less opportunity for boredom.  It was, however, a longer travel day than originally planned.  I let Michael take command in the stern for the balance of White Birch Lake.  We had a quick lesson and were off….all over the place.  He caught on quickly, but wasn’t effective.   He improved, but it was a real test of our combined patience.  Then a manageable 345M put us on Water Clear, and what a pretty lake that is.  Here is farewell to our campsite on Birch:

In general, I was feeling much better on Day 2.  Michael hit a wall on Waterclear however.  The sun was in our face, and we baked alive with no breeze.  Michael laid down for much of the paddle.  He had a headache coming.  He gets migraines.  When we beached, I gave him something for it, it resolved soon enough, and he perked up.  Fortunately, this was the only one on the trip.

The carry to Club was roughly 350 meters, and the bugs got worse during the carry.  We wore bug shirts, with repellant on our legs.  The Club end of the portage was as I expected.  Mucky and buggy.  As we approached, I realized too late that Michael was heading into the muddy peat.  He took three steps in, each over his ankles.  He escaped it and fell backward to solid ground.  It gave him a scare.  I knew what that felt like.  In my youth I did it up over my knees.  A terrifying feeling.   Michael did spot a Ruffed Grouse in the undergrowth on this portage however.  Well done!

Once out on Club Lake, we replenished our water supply, just as we had that morning, just as we had on Water Clear, just as we would when we arrived at the Mink campsite.  The sawyer mini works well, but our water usage was way beyond what the mini was intended for. 

We arrived at foot of the Club to Mink portage.  A sandy uphill, probably fifteen meters long and quite steep to a landing.  We staged everything on “the landing”.  I was glad we had changed plans.  It would have been a slugout mission to make Mouse I suspect.  

This was when I discovered that I had busted my camera lens. A piece of plastic snapped off, associated with mounting and focusing.  Poop.  I had to hold the lens very tightly against the camera body to shoot.  We explored the abandoned sawmill then hit the trail.  There was a pair of truck fenders laying there, and I realized that the carry must have been where that truck once traveled.  That’s why it was wide, level, and straight.  Good to remember for future carries next to abandoned sawmills.

About two hundred meters in, I did something for the second time ever, and the first time since I was seventeen years old.  I fell with the canoe.  The nub of the root I turned my ankle on was embarrassingly small, but no matter.  My ankle crumbled, and down I went, in a kneeling position.  I tossed the boat off to the right before I came fully to rest.  It made a horrific sound when it hit, but no damage.  My right shin had a bit of a story to tell though.   Days later I realized I actually dotted it up more than I thought,  but grateful it was scrapes only.  The rest of the portage was completed without incident, and we ate lunch there.  PB&J always kind of hits the spot.

We pushed off into a shallow creek on the south end of Mink.  Soon after was our first view of Mink Lake.  It would take a pretty hard person not to see that expanse, feel that breeze, and not think it was lovely.  We busted out between sandbars, and needed two or three paddle shoves to clear them.  We headed north, toward a cluster of five campsites, which were quite a paddle away.  (Michael rarely paddled on the trip – his stamina is in the carries, and it is impressive for sure, but he’s not so much for paddling at this point in his young life and generally needed the rest).  I was pleased to see that the southern campsites were open.  Since we were off-permit, I was very sensitive to the possibility of impairing other’s plans.  When we did get to a campsite, I kept count of the remaining sites available near us and parties that passed us, prepared to offer to share a site.  The site next to us was never occupied, and there was at least one, maybe two of the sites just south of us that remained open.

We threw some rocks, because that’s what you do when you are eleven.  We went swimming.  We explored.  We played catch with a small plastic football.  We set up camp, and did some shoreline fishing.  A much better day in the enjoyment and non-bored department.  Michael was on the shoreline pounding it cast after cast.  I finished up some chores, and was writing a little when Michael called out that he had caught a fish.  He had grown self-sufficient with fouled lines, etc., and I could hear the pride and joy in his voice.  I was so very happy for him.  I went running down there, and saw the hard won prize.  A little bass about four inches long (10 cm).  Michael asked if we could cook him up, but we returned that little guy to the briny deep.  Later, I took a photo of Michael fishing as the sun starting its’ decline.  Once in a great while I get a photo of my kids that really touches me, and while it may not look like much, this is an image I really like of my son.

Michael chose lasagna for dinner.  Stuff smells great, but I can’t eat it. He did more of the food preparation this time.   I would have been stuck with the sweet and sour chicken again, except this was our last night, so I had a sandwich using the last pouch of our tuna in sunflower oil.  Much tastier. 

The bugs at this site were intermittent, at times miserable, not unlike yesterday.  We played cards in the tent for a little while, and when we went out to see the sunset, we wore the bug shirts.  A lovely evening.  The sun disappeared, giving way to a clear night.  We turned in with Michael promising if he woke up overnight he would look at that starry map of the sky.  He woke me many times, and we did get a look at the sky.  What a magnificent sight.  There are two things I always wish I could bottle and take home.  One is the view of the night sky.  The other is my favorite sound; the wind working through the trees around a lake in that park.  A sound that is impossible to describe, yet impossible to forget.

Day 3, breakfast was entirely prepared by Michael.  He got the food sack down by himself while I packed (an impressive feat considering the knots I used).  We found the key to a tin of sardines at that site.  Recently, I exposed Michael to an old British comedy recording called “Beyond the Fringe”.  One of the skits is Alan Bennett giving a “sermon”, called “Take a Pew”, in which he describes life: “Life, is rather like opening a tin of sardines.  We’re all of us looking for the key.  Some of us think we’ve found the key, don’t we.  We roll back the lid on the sardine tin of life, and reveal the sardines, the riches of life.  We get them out.  We enjoy them.  But you know, there’s always a little piece in the corner you can’t get out.”  The key to the sardine tin of life is now on my keychain.

Here is a sampling of the friends we had around the tent.

Soon after, we were paddling our way off of Mink.  It was a little cool – a welcome change.  Just before our last portage, Michael said he’d need to take a break on the trail, saying “I’ve been giving you my all on these portages”, and I knew he had.  I assured him it was ok to rest, but he didn’t.  On the other end, we encountered a family of four.  The father was trying to hustle off the landing, and I couldn’t figure out why the hurry.  I looked up and out of nowhere, four canoes, all waiting to unload.  Early birds getting a jump on the long weekend.  We got away quickly.

There was cloud cover and cooler temperatures, but it was warming.  The wind was coming in from the starboard bow (northeast).  Not enough to cause chop, but enough to affect paddling.  After the bridge, the wind was right in our face.  It wasn’t difficult, but a little “downhill” would have felt nice.  No matter.  We spotted the access point soon enough, and there was rejoicing on board.  I gave Michael a little paddle splash.  I went easy – just a few drops to let him know he was alive.  We pulled in amidst the bustling activity of people working their way out for the long weekend.  Canoes, inflatable paddle boards, kayaks, rowboats with small engines, everywhere.  It looked like something out of a movie. 

I bought Michael a t-shirt with a portage sign on it, telling him “you earned the hell out of this”.  (At home, I marked our route for him on an extra map I had there.)  I think our total trip distance was 14 miles (22Km).  Roughly 3 miles (5Km) of that was on foot.  With double carries, the “effort” distance was about 20 miles (32Km).  All very unofficial distances, but that’s the neighborhood of it anyway.     

I put the food sack near Michael in the car.  Over the next few hours no food was safe from him.  I reached for a few things and almost lost fingers.  On the access road, we had to stop for a ruffed grouse who was not the least bit concerned about our car.  He really, really did not care.  His road.

We tried to make the visitor centre, but the drive was long and traffic heavy so we gave up on it having done nothing but add to our time in the car.  Oops.  I did spot a momma turkey with about a half dozen little ones she had protected all season.  The smart mommies perpetuate the species. 

Of the roughly nine hours we were in the car, Michael was asleep for about six of them.   For the entire trip, he held his own and then some.  He did not disappoint in any respect.

Unfortunately, with a busted lens I was pretty much the only person who could operate the camera, so no way to get the two of us together for the "we did it!" shot.

All in all, a very good father-son trip.  We both gave it about a 7.5 out of 10.  It left Michael willing to try it again – in a less buggy time of year. Mission accomplished. For my part, I did some things well and some poorly.  I need to ensure that we don’t hit long stretches of inactivity in which boredom can creep in.  That means an easier Day 1 so I’m not spent, and ideally, a little less travel per day than we had on Day 2 so we can commit to some more exploring, fishing, etc., watching carry distances, and watching number of days out.  I need to make sure there’s more food for the boy apparently!  Non-blast furnace temperatures would help, as would going a bit later in the season to let some bugs perish in advance of arrival.  It was a good reintroduction for myself, and a decent introduction for Michael to the park.  We had animal encounters, travel days, bogs, lakes, rocky shorelines, sandy shorelines, fishing, exploring, neat campsites, swimming, naked dances, ruins, frogs, portages that tested our mettle, dry weather, a mini-first aid situation, buggy moments, non-buggy moments, a starlit sky, a beautiful sunset, plus we found the key to the sardine tin of life.

There were times on this trip when I was not enjoying it, thinking maybe I shouldn’t take that solo trip in September.  Maybe this won’t be an annual thing for me like it was years ago.  But two days later I was already looking forward to my fall trip, and was reviewing smarter routes for a trip next year.  Years ago, we had a family friend who had a saying about a beach our family frequented, “Once you get the sand between your toes, its’ kinda hard to get it out.”  The same concept seems to apply to Algonquin.


8/04/2016 6:16 am  #2

Re: Three Days - Kioshkokwi, White Birch, Waterclear, Club, Mink

Great post!!! Thanks for sharing. I think that despite the challenges you had, this trip is one for the books and can only make a positive impact in your son's life. I do agree with your timing comment and that late July can still be a frustrating time to be out due to bugs. With kids, we don't generally venture into the Algonquin interior until late Aug.

I'm actually looking to do this route in a few weeks. I'm hoping that you can chime in on my post.


8/04/2016 6:48 am  #3

Re: Three Days - Kioshkokwi, White Birch, Waterclear, Club, Mink

Great read! I'm already starting to think about my daughter's first camping trip, and she's 10 months old ;). It's a bit nerve-wracking I imagine, taking your own child camping, wanting them to have a good time and love something that you love. 

I'd say you pulled it off despite challenging conditions!


8/04/2016 7:48 am  #4

Re: Three Days - Kioshkokwi, White Birch, Waterclear, Club, Mink

Awesome stuff!  Thanks for the report and the pics


8/04/2016 1:51 pm  #5

Re: Three Days - Kioshkokwi, White Birch, Waterclear, Club, Mink

Uppa - nerve-wracking is the term for sure.  You plan what you can - ok, Michael gets an extra set of footwear so his feet will be dry.  He has a little more clothing than me.  He has foods he likes.  He'd been cub scout camping many times, and had just been to boy scout camp the week prior, so he was definitely ready to try something more involved.  But - the nerve-wracking part - you can't make him like it.  That has to just happen.  So, you set the situation as best you can, and play the hand you're dealt.  The on-the-fly decision to go to three days was key.  That's the length of trip he was ready for, and I'm glad that for once I didn't try to talk him into more.  When he had that migraine on Waterclear, all I could think of was "sure could use a moose right about now....."   

     Thread Starter

8/04/2016 9:34 pm  #6

Re: Three Days - Kioshkokwi, White Birch, Waterclear, Club, Mink

What a great report! It sounds like the trip went as well as could be hoped.

You've captured very well a lot of the thoughts on my head about my trip with my 7 yr old. It sounds like you two did great.


8/05/2016 7:18 pm  #7

Re: Three Days - Kioshkokwi, White Birch, Waterclear, Club, Mink

What a delightful description of your trip, I think you hit it just right, next time your son will better understand what is going to happen and bring his own ideas as what he would like to take along for entertainment. I found a cheap camera very very handy for that, gives them a chance to go looking for ' extinct' bugs, pretty stones, plants etc. A small field guide helped tremendously, since any kind of computer is not available to them.
Take heart in it all, if he likes it he'll ask for more! Out of all my children, one has the camping bug, she is now an adult, and we're off to a long mother/ daughter canoe trip with long portages in two weeks, and I have been relocated to the smaller packs.....


8/06/2016 11:16 pm  #8

Re: Three Days - Kioshkokwi, White Birch, Waterclear, Club, Mink

What an excellent read! You are a very good writer. You caught the essence of your trip very well. Two things that stuck out for me are "blast furnace temperatures" and "You can't make them like it". Those two things are at odds. It's tough to make it fun when you can't endure the heat. Not to mention the bugs.

I have an 11 year old son too. We've been on 3 short trips. He says he enjoys being out there but there is a lot of lilly dipping and boredom. Things that light up my soul don't really create the same spark in him. Maybe one day. 

I think the Barron Canyon area is great for a kids trip. Lots to do and see. Less time to be bored. I like rivers for kids too. I swift current and small rapids can be great for a hoot. Current can also offer up better fishing and the occasional waterfall for entertainment.


8/13/2016 12:10 am  #9

Re: Three Days - Kioshkokwi, White Birch, Waterclear, Club, Mink

I really appreciate a well written post and yours definitely hit the mark. It was witty and touching. Thanks so much for sharing your sentimental journey with your son. I can't wait to hear more from your future trips.


"Anyone can make love in a canoe, it's a Canadian who knows enough to take out the centre thwart!        Bahahaha!
                                                                      - Philip Chester

8/15/2016 7:57 am  #10

Re: Three Days - Kioshkokwi, White Birch, Waterclear, Club, Mink

Thanks for sharing! This is such a heart warming post! 

Reminds me of what a friend of mine says about fun: There are 3 types of fun. 

Type 1: Fun that's fun while it happens but doesn't make a good story
Type 2: Fun that's fun while it happens AND makes a good story
Type 3: Fun that's not at all fun while it's happening but makes a GREAT story!

I think you probably managed all 3 types on this trip. Think of the stories he'll have for his buddies when he gets back to school!


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