Date: Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Weather: Sunny and calm. High of 16 degrees Celsius.
The day started early and we managed to avoid much of Toronto’s notorious morning rush on the 401. But by Killarney both body and spirit had had enough of the car. I needed to be on the water, pronto. There were a few small things that needed to happen first…
As you may have noticed in my gear list I have no boat equipment listed. Irene and I stopped first at Killarney Outfitters around noon where they provided us with a PFD for Irene, three kayak paddles (always good to have a spare!), sponges, and pumps. They had already delivered our two Boreal Design kayaks with skirts to our put-in at Chikanishing Creek.
Next stop: the front gate (George Lake) of Killarney Provincial Park for our permit to park at the Chikanishing for three days / two nights. According to the attendant, we were their first kayakers of the season! I like the shoulder seasons, but being the first out (or last out in the fall) is an unusual spot for me to be in. I wasn’t worried though – I felt great about the gear we brought with us and the weather forecast looked fantastic for our three day trip.
We gingerly drove down the pitted dirt road to the Chikanishing, passing signs warning smelters against alcohol consumption. We finally arrived at our put-in around 1pm and my first thought upon seeing the kayaks on the racks was: hmmmm…they look smaller than I remember. We sat on the rocks to avoid sitting in goose poop, munched on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and trail mix, laid out all of our gear and mentally geared up for the 3D Tetris game of loading sea kayaks.
As it turns out, Irene has an uncanny knack for getting everything in the hatches the first time – a pretty wicked talent to have, considering this was her first camping trip…ever. After the boats were loaded, we chatted with two women who had driven into the parking area about our plans. They had been sailing in and around Killarney for decades and were excited to hear about our trip. They wished us well and moved on. I wriggled into my splash pants and my paddling top. We half-dragged our boats down to the boat launch. Irene got into her kayak and we tag-teamed getting the skirt on over the cockpit. She grabbed her paddle and I pushed her into Chikanishing Creek. I plunked myself down in my seat oh-so-gracefully, took a deep breath, and threaded the skirt around the edge of my cockpit. I dipped my Neoprene-gloved hands into the water, slid myself off the boat launch and into the creek and sighed relief. It was 2:30pm and we were in our happy place.
We paddled silently through the creek, listening to birds chatter and the breeze rustle bare branches. In a matter of minutes the creek opened into the Bay and I smiled. It was all just as I remembered it.
I glanced down at my charts and made mental notes of the island formations at the mouth of the creek. We then headed southeast towards Philip Edward Island’s South Point. Once we reached the point, I turned us eastward along the north shore of the island. While making plans early in the season I figured with the relatively narrow channel between Killarney Provincial Park and Philip Edward Island, we’d be fairly protected on the north side of the island if the weather changed suddenly. I wanted Irene to have a comfortable backcountry experience, to want to do it again.
We found a spot to camp pretty early on and decided to continue to explore the shoreline, popping into little inlets, noticing the odd cabin here and there. I found I had to consciously quiet my mental noise to take in all that we were experiencing. This was all familiar landscape but I was paddling with someone who had never been here before. I worked at seeing it through her newcomer eyes.
Around 4:30 we turned around and headed back to the site we thought would make a suitable spot for our basecamp. Someone had clearly camped here before: two fire rings, a rock set-up that was ideal for my stove, a perfect spot to set up a tent on soft pine needles hidden from the shoreline from anyone passing by. We set out to get camp made and dinner started. We sat on sun-warmed rocks, enjoying our fajita dinner, chatting about life, admiring the sunset over the La Cloche mountains. It had been over 10 years since we spent time together on a regular basis, 5 years since she had been up for our wedding, and it felt like no time had passed at all.
We finished dinner, tidied up the dishes and made sure the campsite was bombproof before enjoying the last rays of sun. As soon as it dipped behind the mountains the temperature dropped rapidly and we retreated to the tent to read and journal by headlamp. The sheer effort of getting us to this point had completely worn me out and after two pages of notes, I waved the white flag and fell asleep.
Be sure to scroll through the gallery of photos for some shots of our first day out. Click here to return to the full trip report.
Up for discussion: What’s your favorite aspect of the first day of a trip?