Canoe 42's first adventure

Photos by Carole Gerow

Photos by Carole Gerow

CAROLE GEROW -- Special to CANOE Travel

, Last Updated: 4:58 PM ET

Well, to begin with, you must understand that our group has a name. It is "Canoe 42." Any group that has a name must have a certain importance, right? Not exactly.

Let me explain further. The group consisted of four middle-aged (being generous) women, who liked to get out and enjoy the quietness of nature and decided to do so by canoeing together during the summer. Let me also enlighten you further by telling you that two of the women had canoed all their lives and two had never canoed before. That didn't seem to be a deterrent for any of the participants involved.

As the women were all from an age and a background that included planning in their lives, they began the adventure by having a planning meeting. What was first on the discussion agenda? Why food, of course!

We were all willing to try some "over the fire" camp cooking, but just in case fire regulations were in effect along the canoe route, it was decided that some prepared casseroles might come in handy. So that meant such things as chili, fried chicken and lasagna which could provide some quick, tasty dinners. We all knew, for sure, that we didn't want to be hungry!

Unfortunately, the weight of all this prepared food was not taken into account. By the time the canoes were loaded with tents, sleeping bags, coolers for the prepared food, assorted baggage and the paddlers themselves, there wasn't much leeway between the gunwales and the water!

Departure day dawned sunny and clear. The chosen route was to be along the famous Trent waterway system in Southern Ontario. The experienced paddlers took their places in the stern (that's the back for all you non-boaters) of the canoes, while the novices sat, a little hesitantly, at the bow (obviously, that's the front).

Things went well for a good part of the day. Congratulations and back patting expressed our pleasure at the good work that we were doing. The well-prepared first picnic lunch really gave us the energy we needed for the afternoon paddle.

Again, the planning committee had done their homework and by four o'clock in the afternoon, when the wind started to pick up on the water and the participants' arms started to ache from the days paddling, the night's campsite conveniently hove into sight. Well, it was supposed to be a public campsite; that is what our information had told us. Unfortunately, the information was outdated. And this is where and how, the real adventure started. While paddling into a gale-force wind across shallow Sparrow Lake, we were faced with waves washing over the bow and no campsite in view. Following a two-hour paddle under these conditions, a small, rocky island resembling a camel's hump was spotted. The paddlers, exhausted and slightly shaken, decided this needed to be home for the night.

The challenge of pitching tents on this type of terrain was problem number one. Dinner... no problem; we had the prepared food. Really good planning after all. Washroom facilities were non existent, and the scrubby bushes did not provide adequate cover for even a three year old.

The early morning rush from the tent proved a little embarrassing when squatting behind low huckleberry bushes, we realized that fishermen in small boats encircling the island were part of a local fishing tournament. Were they looking up at us? It certainly felt that way, trying to hide inconspicuously behind small bushes!

The second day of the trip progressed as planned, until late in the afternoon. At that time, my paddling partner and I decided to take a short break to allow the second canoe to catch up with us. Lolling in the shade of the overhanging trees, relaxing and discussing the merits of favourite books we had read that summer, we realized suddenly that the waves of passing yachts were wildly rocking our canoe. The waves quickly swamped our small craft as we desperately tried to save the canoe from overturning. Within a very quick minute, everything in the canoe was wet! Sleeping bags. clothing, and coolers all needed to be rescued from the shallow water.

As the sun shone brightly and no one was hurt, the humour of the situation prevailed . So amid our laughter, we set off again for the next campsite in order to spread all our wet belongings out to dry.

As the second canoe approached, we realized that the camp site looked more like a Chinese laundry than the Northern Ontario wilderness. We looked more carefully and realized we were not the only embarrassed paddlers. The second canoe was being towed by a power boat, the kind driver taking pity on two tired paddlers overcome by the strong wind.

"Canoe 42" went on to share more adventures, both that year and in the following years. Someday our grandchildren will be able to laugh at the adventures of their canoe-tripping grandmas!