< Chris > We've been on our fair share of canoe trips. Some are strictly meant for relaxing and taking it easy. Others are for taking in the fall colours in Killarney or the beauty of the 30,000 islands. But one of our favourite trips has to be what we call "The Moose Trip".
Throughout Algonquin park around the month of June, moose will come out of the woods to escape the bugs and feed on catkins and tall grasses growing in the water. They even eat the leaves of water lilies. This is the best time to get a close look at these majestic creatures.
Every spring, Marissa and I try to get away for a few days to spot some of these moose. This year we weren't sure we would go till the very last minute. So on the Saturday morning of the July long weekend, we set off on our adventure.
< Marissa > When we say last minute, it's true! We booked a campsite late Friday thinking no way we'd find a spot but woohoo! That's the beauty of back country camping :)
After a short stop in Huntsville for some supplies, we made our way to access point #1 on the west side of Algonquin to start our paddle in. We were even lucky enough to see our first moose on the way to the put in.
Things got even better when we got to the lake and the site we wanted was open! Time for some more moose spotting... That evening we headed out with Sawyer in the canoe and paddled towards the back of the lake. As soon as we turned the corner, we were greeted by a couple of young males grazing in the shallows.
It was probably only around 7pm but for some reason it was getting dark fast. Looking behind us, Marissa noticed a dark cloud moving in. We barely had a chance to spin around before it started pouring. That was a fun paddle in the warm rain.
< Marissa > And dark it was. I recall glancing to my left - dark clouds coming. Ok, no worries - we have time. But when I looked behind us, that's when I gasped! Another set of dark clouds was just about on top of us and closing fast. We were trapped. There was no doubt in my mind that we had to turn back ASAP. We had just spent part of the afternoon under a tarp watching a thunder and lightning show. The last thing I wanted to see was more lightning - while we were on the water!
As Chris mentioned, the rain was coming down hard, thunder clapping everywhere. So yeah, we were soaked to the bone. On the up-side, the rain was really warm. Despite paddling hard and fast, motivated by my fear of one of us being struck by lightning, I had bouts of giggles and smiles. I felt like a kid dancing in the rain!
That night we were woken by some hoofing type sounds. Sure enough, the next morning, there was fresh moose scat less than 10 ft from the tent. It's always a good feeling to see moose scat, rather than bear scat!
< Marissa > Amen. I'm typically a light sleeper on the first night of camp - thoughts of bear make me jumpy. So when I woke up suddenly not knowing why, my first thought was - bear! I heard - rather felt - a hoof pounding in the dirt. Something big was in our campsite! I was hardly breathing at this point. I would have reached for my knife but left it outside - for the first time (and the last ugh) - and not that the knife is a life-saver against a ferocious and determined beast - but at least it's better than nothing. There was nothing I could do but listen with all my body... and wait...
I looked over at Sawyer and he too was alert - ears perked - listening and assessing at what could be on the other side of the millimeter tent wall. But within minutes, his once tense demeanor had relaxed and he was snoozing in no time. I breathed a sigh of relief but still somewhat tense - what if he was wrong? I was still hearing noises like branches breaking. To ease my over-imaginative mind, that's when I decided to squeeze Chris' hand - to wake up - and make me feel better - like he always does... so I can peacefully nod off again.
The next morning we were greeted with a calm sunny morning and managed to spot another 8 moose. An afternoon swim and dinner. After that we went for an evening paddle and saw a few more. They didn't seem to mind us all that much and Sawyer stayed quiet even though he was very curious. By the end of the weekend the count was up to 12!
We did spend some time under the tarp waiting out the rain and didn't leave without a few bug bites, but it was so worth it!
< Marissa > Note that we were quite prepared for a full-on swarm of bugs as last year, with bug shirts ready on-deck. But for whatever reason, they were manageable. No complaints here!
With Canada Day coming up and to commemorate this next chapter in our life, we wanted a truly Canadian experience - and we couldn't have asked for a more perfect setting. In many ways, this was one of my favourite camping trips because it had a bit of everything: an entire lake all to ourselves for 3 days, a wildlife encounter on-site, 12 moose sightings, swimming under hot sunny skies, sudden downpour while paddling with fierce determination (praying that we make it back in time), being stuck under a tarp for an afternoon watching the rain rise up around us and under our tent, and then there's Sawyer - our amazing dog - who not only isn't at all frightened by storms, but was exceptional in the canoe even when in the presence of our mighty moose friends.
I am sooo lucky and grateful to have the best paddling partners ever!
Happy Canada Day - and cheers to new beginnings!