6:50 am on the Piankatank River in Gloucester, VA.
The smell of expedition is in the air. Preparing for a canoe trip in the backcountry of Ontario is no easy feat. We decided to plan a trip to Killarney Provincial Park with our 7 day vacation period. What draws us there is the amazing geography, with white quartzite hills, sapphire blue waters and solitude. The La Cloche mountains run through Killarney and are thought to be some of the oldest mountains on earth. At one point in time, they were taller than the Rocky Mountains. The park owes it’s existence to one of Canada’s Group of 7 Artists, A.Y, Jackson. When he heard that the area was to be logged, he petitioned and lobbied and eventually won his way. The birthplace of the park is Trout Lake later to be named OSA Lake after the Ontario Society of Artists. The region was inspiration for countless paintings by Canadian artists.
To start planning for such a trip, one would need to map out the canoe routes and portages. Thankfully, a ridiculously dedicated outdoorsman by the name of Jeff (not sure what his last name is) has created a series of incredibly detailed maps of Temagami, Algonquin and Killarney Provincial Park called JeffsMaps. They include portage elevations, fishing areas, secret trails, historic sites, old trapper cabins etc. I can’t imagine how much time he has spent in each of these parks to create such elaborate maps. The guy actually even posts ALL of the maps online for free (http://jeffsmaps.com).
Either way, I wanted to plan a relaxing route that was not too strenous. This is the first extended canoe trip I would go on with Sarah. No heroics this time. I planned a Hudson Bay start, basically no portages the first night, we will paddle out and sleep on George Lake on night one. The next two nights will be spent on Muriel Lake. OSA lake and Killarney lake were as expected, completely booked. Still much to prepare to get ready, but this time of year is like Christmas: Duluth canoe packs in the living room, maps sprawled out and camping gear to tune up. Killarney here we come.
On January 13, 2012, we stopped by Zion National Park on a road trip through the American Southwest at the recommendation of one of my friends. I am definitely glad we listened, because the ascent up to Angel’s Landing is one I’ll never forget. The beginning of the 5 mile trail, follows the Virgin River along a dirt path. As we climbed higher, the trail transforms into a paved stone pathway up the mountain. There are a series of 21 steep switchbacks before reaching Scout Lookout (the last point of return). From here on, the ascent to the top of Angel’s Landing would be a treacherous path consisting of steep drop offs on both sides while navigating tiny stone walkways. Most areas had chain-link hand rails to cling on to while scaling the side of the mountain. The national park recognizes five fatalities along Angel’s Landing, but more have been reported. With cold winds and ice in January, it was a test of nerve for sure, but ultimately a rewarding view. Incredible place.