This is the LONG awaited and much delayed trip log. I apologize for the delay in getting it posted, but I really wanted to be sure all the details were included and took my time doing it. I hope it was worth the wait! Without further delay....here it is!
WARNING: This is VERY LONG...enjoy!
ROCK LAKE SOLO TRIP LOG: JULY 10 -13, 2007 (...at least that was the plan)
Tuesday July 10, 2007- The Trip from Newcastle to Rock Lake
I woke at 3:30 am and went about showering, making breakfast and getting dressed in the clothes I had laid out the night before. I checked the Weather Network site and was pleased to see only a 30% chance of thundershowers. I had already put my gear in the trunk before going to bed, so after giving my wife a kiss (...she woke up just long enough to mumble "love you") then I was off. I pulled up to Tim's and ordered a Large coffee ( 3 milk + 2 sweetener...just in case you're interested) and a toasted bagel. Initially, I was surprised when the girl at the drive-thru told me they don't have bagels yet. "What?" I thought. Then quickly remembered it was in the morning after all! So, with coffee already in hand I settled on a bran muffin and left
I was renting my solo shearwater canoe from Algonquin Outfitters on
I arrived at the AO on
I had not been on Hwy 60 in a long time and I forgot how beautiful it was! As I made my way east towards
I arrived at the Rock Lake Permit office at . The young guy there looked up my reservation and asked all the usual questions,”licence plate number". I responded "XXX XXX". He then asked about my tent colour and I responded with a smile "...I don't have a tent, I use a hammock", trying to make it sound like I did this kind of thing all the time. He asked me a few more questions about the hammock and I told him where I got it and gave him the website. He continued to ask more questions about what it looked like and how it worked, so I gave him the web address for the blog and told him about the video Gerry and I had posted a while ago. He was very appreciative and before long I had my permit in hand and was about to leave the office. As I opened the door I turned back and asked the guy if he could look up the weather for me. He was so eager to help he was almost tripping over himself. He informed me that "... they are calling for a 40% chance of thundershowers this evening". I thanked him again and was on my way!
At I pulled up to
Removing the canoe from the roof of the car by myself proved much easier then I had anticipated. I just lifted it up, took 3 steps back, and then placed it on the ground. Then with relative ease, moved it down to the dock and went about bolting on my cushiony Yoke pads to the removable yoke.
The canoe was light and it was very easy to lift. I was not expecting the removable yoke though, but after seeing that the seat is in the middle (I would find out later that this is standard for solo canoes) it made sense that it had to be removable. Duh! The seat was different as well. It was not fixed and could be slid forward or back....I am still not entirely sure why, but would guess that it would limit the head space while portaging?
This would be the first real field test for several new pieces of gear. The Bent Paddle, Amigo Pro Water filter, Yoke Pads and the Hennessey Hammock.
At I loaded up my pack and took a few pictures before climbing in. I looked back at my car, took a slow deep breath and quietly said to myself "you can do this". I pushed off and paddled south.
I immediately felt the speed and ease of paddling that the bent paddle provided. It was almost effortless and I was impressed with how little energy was needed to propel myself with great speed. The paddle was awesome! Phew....I was a little worried about how it would work and with that load off my mind I weaved my way down the narrow waterway into the expanse of
Before this trip, the only Algonquin experience I had was Access point #27 in Brent. It didn't take long for me to see just how different
As I continued south some very dark clouds moved in. Only a few at first, but soon they were everywhere until I could no longer see anything but a sea of gray. Once I was about half way down the lake it started to rain. Just lightly at first and I remember thinking how it felt refreshing. It was at this point that I remembered packing my rain gear in a now unreachable part of my pack. DOH! Well that gentle rain didn't last long. The sky opened up and it continued to rain hard for the next 10 minutes. Oh well, I continued to paddle south thankful that the rain had not brought any wind with it. Then without warning it just stopped and the rain disappeared as quickly as it had come.
I reached the portage from Rock to
I then collected my gear and walked the portage. I decided to double carry the relatively small 375 meter distance taking my pack first. The portage was easy. Some decent inclines at the start, but nothing difficult. This was my first time using the yoke pads on a canoe (Remember the Yoke pad gear test?) and they were great. Worked just as described and before long I was sitting on the dock on
With lunch out of the way I paddled South on Pen lake and spotted a site with an awesome sand beach. On the Algonquin map it is the 3rd site down on the East shore. A bit of a peninsula that from the water looked much better then the site I had planned on staying on which was further south. I paddled over to take a closer look and it looked great, so I decided to get out. What a great site! It had everything you would want, a beach, 2 spots to put in, hills, trees and even a table that was made by tying a board between two trees. That was all I needed to convince me to make this my home for the night.
It was kind of funny how quickly I was able to set up camp. I guess when you don't bring much; you don't have much to set-up! Within 30 minutes I had set-up the kitchen, found a good spot for the food bag, hung the tarp and converted my thermarest into a chair. All I had to do now was to choose where I wanted to have my hammock. I had one place that was protected by the wind, but would not have much of a view. The other spot was on the crest of a big hill and gave views in all directions, but was very exposed to the elements. After a great deal of thought I decided on the hill top because the chance of thunderstorms was so low and I was sure the hammock could handle a minor storm, even if it was exposed.
With the hammock up I made this video tour of the site. This would be the last time I would use my camera today...shortly after this video was shot this turned into one of the most frightening experiences of my life. Please make note to the time near the end of the video...
Tuesday July 10, 2007, - Mother Nature is one Pissed Off :
I now set about getting diner ready. The fire pit had a great grill so I built a fire and started to cook my meal of Italian sausage on a bun with Pino Grigio. The sausage was just about cooked when it started to rain. A little at first, then an all out downpour. I grabbed the sausage and ducked under the tarp I had set up over the kitchen area. I didn't think much of the heavy rain as I ate dinner. The sausage was a little undercooked, but still good and the wine was terrific. As it continued to rain I decided to read, propped my thermarest chair on a stump and sat with my back to the wind. I continued to happily sip away at my wine as I read, all the while oblivious to what was brewing in the sky behind me.
I had been reading for about ten minutes, when I heard a loud rhythmic crashing. I looked up from my book and to see 2 foot waves smashing into the shore just north of the little cove I was in. It was at this point that I looked around and realized how dark it had become. I was thinking " ...that's weird...it's only ...” when a suddenly a huge gust of wind came out of nowhere and at the time I heard a loud CRACK! I jumped to my feet and looked behind me and was shocked by what I saw. I looked up the hill and witnessed two of the 4 ropes that tie down the tarp covering my hammock being ripped out by the force of the ever growing wind. I sprinted up the hill as the rain started to come hard and the wind continued to become more and more violent. I knew that if the other two ropes holding my tarp to the ground broke before I got there the tarp would be blown into the lake and I would be in real trouble. I was half way up the hill when I hear another loud SNAP and watched as the third rope was ripped away. The tarp, not only held on by one support rope was now being thrashed about by the now gale fore wind. I remember yelling " No....", thinking that it would let go at any moment.
I continued to run up the hill, it felt as though everything was in slow motion. The wind was now so strong that it pushed me back and it took even more effort not to be pushed down the hill. The rain was insane! It was coming down so fast and hard that it actually hurt as each drop struck me like a very truck. It wasn't even raining down anymore; the wind was pushing the rain sideways making protecting myself all but impossible. I reached the flapping corner of the tarp and it slapped me in the face for my trouble. It friging HURT, but I continued to real it in.
It was at this point that I realized three things:
1) I had put my sleeping bag and small pillow in the hammock and it was now as soaked as I was
2) The sky was a dark green colour and this storm was far from over
3) I might be in serious trouble ...
I did my best to hold the tarp over my now wet sleeping bag, all the while fighting with the wind that continued to try and rip it away from me, but I would not let go....no way! I pulled the tarp over my head, desperate to escape the liquid bullets that pounded my body. I had never felt more scared or alone in my life and I questioned why I was here by myself.
I couldn't walk away or seek shelter for fear that I would loose my tarp. After a few minutes I came to the realization that all I could do was to stand there and wait for it to be over.
I could hear faint screams coming from a site just north of me...it sounded like children and I hoped they were OK.
The wind, rain and hail continued to pound away for 35 minutes. I stood there with my upper half covered by the tarp until the rain and wind just stopped. I came out and surveyed the damage. Several trees and broken branches littered the ground. With some trepidation I inspected the tarp. The wind had ripped the ropes and the fabric loop that held them clean through. They appeared to be gone. I then spotted a large knot at realized what I was looking at. The wind had wound the three ropes into a hardball sized ball of knots and I spent the next hour and a half untying them. It was no fun, standing there, freezing cold and wet, but the fear of the storm returning was all the motivation I needed to get it done.
The ball of knots now returned to ropes. I assessed the condition of the fabric loops, found on the corners of the tarp. Three were ripped away and needed to be sewn back on. One was so badly, torn that I only had a tiny piece of fabric to sew back, but with the weather still holding I managed to sew all three back in place in an hour and fifteen minutes. My fingers were raw and bleeding from the countless needle pokes and I was getting tired, but I knew I still had work to do. I started to think about my family and my home and wished I could be transported there. I pushed these thoughts aside...I had to focus. "...c'mon Jim", I remember saying aloud, and then with tears forming in my eyes, I started to dismantle my hammock.
I needed a place with more protection from the wind...make that ANY protection from the wind. I ended up setting up the hammock in the "other location" I had considered when choosing sites just a few hours ago....man...it felt like days ago that all that happened. The bottom third of my sleeping bag was soaked, but my pillow and most of my bag remained fairly dry. Finally some good news! Before long I had set-up the hammock and was preparing to go to bed. I peeled off layers of soaked clothes. They were, so wet you would have thought I had jumped into the lake and it felt good to get them off. I got into my sleeping bag and decided to read to get my mind off of things. I reach into my pocket expecting to pull out my headlamp, but instead a color blotched piece of paper appears. I unfold it to see the picture my daughter had drawn for me, now ruined by the rain. I stared at it for a few moments and I began to feel sad. I missed them. I fell asleep within minutes.
I awoke to the feeling of rain striking me on the face. One of the fabric loops had broken again and the tarp flapped in the wind. It was raining, but not nearly has hard as before and I was thankful. I found my headlamp and my sew kit and got out...I had to sew it back on in the rain. It didn't take me as long to sew this one (only about 15 minutes), but I was standing there in my underwear and was now colder then ever. I had been using a lighter to push the needle through the thick fabric and just as I was about to tie it off the needle broke....my ONLY needle. I had done all I could do. I was about to get back in when I thought I would tie rocks to the corner ropes in case the wind picked up again. That way, the tarp would not be wiped around as much. I made quick work of it and by I was back in the hammock and drifting back to sleep. I would wake-up a few more times throughout the night...mostly when the wind would rattle the tarp.
When I woke I was pleased to see that my tarp had held and was quite proud of my idea to tie the rocks to the corners. (I would find out later that had I read the instructions, I would have already known that this is exactly what Hennessy Hammocks tell you to do in high wind...Doh!)
I was alarmed to see that my canoe had been flipped over by the wind and had a large branch in it. I approached it fearing that it had caused serious damage. The branch was 6 inches around and had landed directly on the seat, crushing it in two. The canoe however, looked fine. I took the canoe out and was relieved that it had somehow escaped without any damage. Phew! I used duct tape to piece it together and then put my nalgene bottles under the broken seat. Presto! It was a little wobbly, but it worked.
The weather was better. Still the occasional dark cloud, but no rain to speak of. I made breakfast (chocolate protein powder and Quaker instant Oatmeal....Yum!) then sat and considered my options. I still wanted to continue, but with a broken seat, damaged tarp and me being more then a little gun shy about the weather, I decided to head back to
After I had my bagel and cheese lunch, I took a few pictures, loaded up my canoe and pushed off. I paddled out a bit and looked back at the site...did all that really happen? Just crazy!
The paddle north on Pen was fine. The wind was high and blew me around a bit, but the waves were still manageable. I pulled up to the dock at the portage going into
The portage was even busier then when I had been here the day before. I put my canoe in the water and pushed off. I had to navigate around some guys fishing from a motor boat. They pulled out their lines, so I could pass and I waived in appreciation.
The trip back was fast. I put the bent paddle to the test and made it from the portage back to the
After a change of clothes. I loaded the gear, strapped down the canoe and before long I arrived back at AO to return my canoe. A young guy came up and began to help me un-strap the canoe and as he did casually asked me "Where are you coming from?". "
As we started to remove the straps again, he asked me a bunch of questions about what it was like and I answered as best I could. I helped him carry the canoe over to the shop and told him about the seat and how it had happened. He didn't care about the damage in the slightest and we talked for a while, before I left to go settle up in the main office.
This was the official tornado warning:
5:20 PM EDT Tuesday 10 July 2007
Tornado warning for
Fenelon Falls - Balsam Lake Park - Algonquin Park- Northern Kawartha Lakes -
At 4:40 PM radar showing rotation in a line of severe thunderstorms from east of clear lake to near bolsover. Storms are moving eastward about 80 km/h.
This is a warning that severe thunderstorms with tornadoes are imminent or occurring in these regions. Monitor weather conditions. Take immediate safety precautions.
The girl in the office had pulled my reservation and had just said "...oh, you're back a couple of days early...", when the young guy that helped me with my canoe burst in saying “He was on
Before pulling out of the parking lot I called Tanyia to let her know that I was OK. My fear was that she had seen the tornado warning for that area and was worried sick about me.
Me: "Hey Tanyia....fist off I am OK and everything is fine."
Tanyia " OK...why are you back"
Me:" There was a tornado on the lake I stayed on last night....you didn't know?"
Tanyia: "No...I didn't want to know, so I skipped watching the weather"
Funny! Well, at least she wasn't worried!
I arrived home and my family was there to see me! I hugged and kissed them all and decided to spare the kids from hearing the details, but spilled it all to Tanyia. After I was finished she gave me a hug and said " ...you smell, go have a shower"...she always knows just what to say! LOL!
What I learned:
My goal was to learn about myself and although I didn't go the full distance, I feel I learned more about myself in 24 hours then at any point in my life. I was able to make decisions on my own, prioritize and when needed fly by the seat of my pants and these were all things I was unsure about before. I have always been an insecure guy and to some degree, probably always will be, but this experience left a positive imprint on me that have changed me for the better. I find I don't second guess myself as much anymore and I answer others with more confidence that my decision is the correct one. When I am wrong, I don't get upset about it like I used to...I just try to learn from it.
I guess the most important thing I learned was not to put limitations on myself, like " I can't do this or that because I know that if I could handle all the problems that occurred on my trip and still come out smiling...then maybe I could handle anything that came my way.