The Happy Camper: A Canoe Trip Around Killarney, Family Style (Part 5)

Kevin Callan, on the final leg of last summer's family canoe trip around Ontario's Killarney Provincial Park.

Credit: Kevin Callan

Our last few days of our canoe trip around Killarney Provincial Park were bittersweet.

Time was spent scrambling up high pinnacles like Silver Peak and The Crack (one of my preferred summits in the park). We also spotted two bears, a moose, a family of otters and a gathering of a dozen loons. But we also saw lots of other people enjoying the park. That’s the only real disadvantage of Killarney. Its size — and popularity — doesn’t really justify its wilderness park status at times. 

Mind you, the people we met were kindred spirits. There were families enjoying their first trip in the interior and park regulars revelling in returning to it once again. On one of the remaining lengthy portages we even had two camp councilors from a youth group help out with our second load across. Their reason was simple — a chance to give back to such a magnificent wild place. That’s what they told us when we asked why they were shouldering our heavy, stinky packs across the portage. It was one of the most unselfish acts I’ve even seen.

True to any real canoe trip, our last day would also end up not being completely flawless. We decided to take a shortcut along a creek flowing into the second last lake — Freeland. A lengthy portage was another option, but we heard rumours that as long as the water level was up, we’d be able to paddle straight through. It wasn’t, and we didn’t. I counted seven colossal beaver dams that we needed to lift the canoe over, an endless wall of giant water plants to push through and a mere trickle of water to drag ourselves along. We should have suffered on the portage.

It also started to downpour on our last portage of the trip, a short carry linking Freeland to George Lake. It was here, however, that the magic of a long canoe trip showed itself. We were off to the side of the trail having a late lunch. Kyla didn’t want the trip to end, so she insisted we stop. It was day 12 for us and we were in our comfort zone. Other paddlers, who were just heading out, were dragging themselves across a mere 300-metre trail, complaining about the rain, the bugs, their overloaded packs. Kyla was complaining about going home.

It’s true what they say. A canoe trip can transform you, make you a better person, even change your life. The key to making this happen, however, is the proper amount of time spent out there. A weekend jaunt may get you through a bad week at work. A week of paddling may even help your anxiety level during moments of crisis. But a two-week canoe trip, especially with the family, can give you that Zen moment for the rest of your life. Seriously!

To quote the famous paddler and filmmaker, Bill Mason: The path of the paddle can be a means of getting things back to their original perspective.”

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