Monday, 28 July 2014

Day 1: Opeongo to Red Rock

It was the beginning of a 7 day solo trip, and I was excited! The route plan was:

Day 1: Opeongo Access Point to Red Rock
Day 2: Red Rock to Red Pine Bay
Day 3: Red Pine Bay to Catfish Lake
Day 4: Day trip from Catfish to the Brent Store on Cedar for a food resupply
Day 5: Rest and Relaxation
Day 6: Catfish to Big Crow
Day 7: Big Crow to Opeongo Access Point

The weather forecast was calling for 15 km/hr winds in the morning and 25 km/hr winds in the afternoon. Opeongo is the biggest lake in Algonquin and can get rough on windy days, so I decided an early start was in order. Gear loaded, kayak on the roof, I left home around 5 AM, much to my wife’s chagrin (at waking up that early, not at me leaving). The drive was peaceful, the roads virtually deserted.
 9:30 AM, permit attained, kayak loaded and car parked, I was ready to go! Despite it being Saturday morning there were few people around at the Opeongo put-in. A couple loaded their gear into a small motorboat and sped off. A water taxi left with a load of campers and four canoes on top, and a handful of other people were milling around, preparing for their own trips or perhaps just enjoying the beautiful morning. I slipped into my kayak and pushed off from the dock. I was on my way!

Pushing off from the Opeongo Dock. The GoPro goes for a Swim.

As I passed Bates Island into the more open parts of the South Arm I realized the wind was a bit stronger than I thought, but it was still reasonable. Out of the Northwest, it was just enough of a crosswind to force me to put down the kayak’s rudder. My cause wasn’t helped by my insistence on filming my progress for short stretches, interrupting my momentum as I started and stopped the camera.
 There were very few canoes on the water, although I saw a number of campsites in use. Windy Point, and then the Western Narrows came and went. Having already used up a camera battery, I pulled up on a little dot of land next to Hershey Island. Stepping out and stretching my legs was a welcome change of pace. Often stricken with “Get-there-itis” on backcountry trips, I forced myself to stay and relax for a few minutes, enjoying the sunshine and the break from paddling. I changed GoPro batteries. I took out my digital camera and filmed a short segment for the video I’ll start working on any day now. Really, any day now. I had a snack. Finally, it was time to get back on the water.

Paddling Opeongo.
The rest of the paddle was windy but uneventful, aside from a motorboat that pulled into the bay at the Red Rock portage just as I was reaching it, as if to mock my hard work. After the long paddle I was actually looking forward to my first, and only, portage of the day. Even more, I was looking forward to seeing Red Rock for the first time. Despite beginning many trips on Opeongo I’d never been to Red Rock before. It’s not on the way to anything – either it’s your intentional destination or you have no reason to be there. Today I finally had my reason, and I couldn’t wait.
As I was pulling up to the portage I was wondering: bug jacket? No bug jacket? Within moments of landing the question was answered, as there were enough mosquitoes around to give me an idea what I might expect. I tossed on the jacket to protect my arms, but left the head net down. Little did I realize at the time, but my bug jacket was to become the MVP of the trip. The portage itself wasn’t overly memorable, but I was thankful I wasn't walking it it in the opposite direction. I reached Red Rock in short order, and pushed out onto the lake. What a beauty!

Portaging. My First View of Red Rock.

 Paddling northwest along the shoreline, I had my eye on the site east of the main island. As I paddled closer to the site, the so often played game played out once more: is that a canoe on the shore? No… I think it’s just a rock. Or a tree. Is that a tent over there? You know, I’m pretty sure that’s a canoe. But maybe…
Crap. It’s a canoe.
Changing plans, I continued to follow the shoreline to scout sites further west. As luck would have it, the mainland site south of the island was open, and was pretty nice to boot. Any site in a storm, and the wind was still gaining strength.
It was around 2 PM and I was already on my campsite for the day. While I had lots of time to work with I always prefer to get my chores done first, and soon enough my tent was set up and organized, a decent stack of firewood was waiting by the firepit, and the remainder of my gear was stashed away in case the weather turned. Finally it was time to relax!
The rest of the afternoon passed by in lazy Algonquin fashion. The wind was keeping all but the most determined bugs away, and I took advantage of it. Swimming, lying in the sun and a bit of book reading caused the next few hours to slide past as quickly as the clouds overhead. 

Wind on Red Rock Lake.

Nothing makes food taste better than hard work, and I’d put in a few solid hours that day. Burgers were my first evening meal, and soon the pair of them were sizzling on the grill. With sharp cheddar cheese and all the fixings, they were heavenly.
As is so often the case when I’m camping, my day began early and ended even earlier. Not long after dinner my yawns started becoming more frequent than the lulls in between. I brushed my teeth, went for a walk into the woods to stash the bear barrel, then crawled into my tent and called it a night. The sun was still shining, but hey – it was night somewhere!
One of my last thoughts before losing consciousness was: this is only day one. I have six… more… days. If I wasn’t smiling as I fell asleep, I was certainly smiling in my dreams.

Next: Day 2

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