Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Canoeing on the French River (Wolseley Bay) and in Killarney Park, Ontario, August 21-29, 2011

Blog in Polish/blog po polsku: http://ontario-nature-polish.blogspot.com/2011/08/wosley-bay-and-killarney.html

Więcej zdjęć:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jack_1962/sets/72157627955123754/


Over the past 4 years I have visited the French River several times. Since it is a relatively long river, consisting of numerous bays, legs and peninsulas and dotted with a myriad of rocky islands and rocks, it would take months to explore the whole river and EXPERIENCE its incomparable beauty. Thus, almost each time I canoe on the French, I travel on a different part of the river (please see my other blogs). This time, it was river's Wolseley Bay that I was going to paddle on!

August 21, 2011, Sunday

Canoeing on the French River (Wolseley Bay), Ontario, August, 2011

Our trips to the French River area have almost become a routine: a pleasant drive of 300 km. up north on highway 400, de rigueur stop in the Hungry Bear Restaurant for lunch—and then a quick jaunt to a small town of Noelville, where most of its inhabitants speak French, albeit they have sometimes problems understanding French-speaking people from Quebec. After doing some last-minute shopping in Noelville, we drove to Wolseley Bay Lodge located at the end of road no. 528, loaded the canoe, parked the car at Wolseley Bay Lodge for $6.00 per day fee and began paddling towards south-east.

Canoeing on the French River (Wolseley Bay), Ontario, August, 2011

There were some cottages and lodges, notably Totem Lodge with its colourful totem pole mascot guarding the point along the shores of the bay; the weather was just perfect, a nice sunny day and we leisurely reached North Channel—a popular canoe route for those paddling around Eighteen Mile Island. Most of the land around us belonged to the park, yet there were some swaths of privately-owned land, usually with cottages.

Canoeing on the French River (Wolseley Bay), Ontario, August, 2011

Three campsites were located in that area—one on the shores of very big Eighteen Mile Island (no. 323), one on a small island nearby (no. 322), which actually looked quite nice—and another on the northern tip of an island (no. 321)--which we immediately liked and decided to stay on! The island had a boomerang-like shape, was rocky and heavily forested. The campsite was located on a more-less flat rock, there was another massive rock that at one point formed a level, stage-like field (perfect for impromptu performances!) and the fire pit was close to the rock's vertical wall.

Canoeing on the French River (Wolseley Bay), Ontario, August, 2011

In addition, there was a washroom (the thunder box, as it is called) and park bench. We did not see any other campsites from our site; there were plenty of wood some 200-300 meters in the forest. When we set up the tent, two canoeists paddled by and apparently were planning to stay on this site—well, too late!--but fortunately, there were plenty of other campsites available. While the sun was still up, I cleaned a pike I had caught while paddling on Wolseley Bay and later grilled in over the campfire.

August 22, 2011, Monday

Canoeing on the French River (Wolseley Bay), Ontario, August, 2011

We were up at 11 am. Usually I keep my radio in the tent and try to listen to the news before leaving the tent. When I turned on the radio, I was shocked to learn that Jack Layton, the head of the New Democratic Party, who just in the May, 2011 federal elections in Canada had lead the party to an unprecedented victory and become the Leader of the Opposition, died this morning at 5:00 o'clock. Not long ago he successfully beat prostate cancer; later, he underwent a hip surgery and while campaigning, he was still using his cane—which, by the way, later became one of the symbols of his election triumph, as he was waving it on the election night. Less than one month ago Jack Layton had appeared on TV, quite haggard, and speaking with visible difficulty, he announced he had just been diagnosed with a different kind of cancer and thus was temporary stepping down as the party's leader. He was only 61 years old. Although I had never been a supporter of this left-wing party (NDP) and its socialist ideology, I was, as most of Canadians, quite affected by his rapid and untimely demise. Another news item was about Libya, where the fighters overtook the capital of Tripoli and were looking for Qaddafi.

Canoeing on the French River (Wolseley Bay), Ontario, August, 2011

It was windy, cloudy and only +21 C. We went into the forest to get some wood. It was a very nice area, rocky, with plenty of felled trees, apparently by storms. In the evening we paddled to the Little Pine Rapids, located between Eighteen Mile Island and Commanda Island; the picturesque rapids formed a mouth of another of the French River's channels, the Main Channel, circling Eighteen Mile Island from the south and eventually merging with the North Channel.

Canoeing on the French River (Wolseley Bay), Ontario, August, 2011

Vis-à-vis the rapids was the Lochaven Wilderness Lodge. Live guitar music wafted out from the deck where diners enjoyed their American Plan "all you can eat "fish fry. We pulled up to their dock where . Catherine made a phone call on a good old Bell land-line (the cell coverage was extremely spotty and unreliable) and we talked to a nice young fellow, whose family had apparently owned the lodge for many years.

Canoeing on the French River (Wolseley Bay), Ontario, August, 2011

We departed towards our campsite when it was already dark, but had no problems finding the way; besides, we had left a flashing light attached to a tree which helped us locate our campsite. Soon it started raining; using a tarp, tree sticks and rocks, Catherine built a VERY decent shelter—which we did not have to use that night as it stopped raining. Despite my efforts, I did not catch any fish, so we enjoyed grilled chicken.

August 23, 2011, Tuesday

Canoeing on the French River (Wolseley Bay), Ontario, August, 2011

Sunny, but windy—our plans to paddle to the Chaudiere Dam (and the other end of the Chaudiere Portage—yes, the same portage which we had paddled to during our French River “Dokis” trip in July, 2011—see blog http://ontario-nature.blogspot.com/2011/07/french-river-dokis.html ) were dashed.

Canoeing on the French River (Wolseley Bay), Ontario, August, 2011

In the evening we paddled east, with the wind, reaching campsite no. 316 on an island, but it was too windy to paddled further and we paddled back to the campsite, this time against the wind: it turned out to be a rather difficult task, at some points we hardly moved—it was so disappointing. Once we reached the campsite, we had a nice fire—and Catherine's shelter came really handy: not only did it protect us from the storm and rain, but it also covered the fire pit, thus allowing us to enjoy the campfire!

August 24, 2011, Wednesday

Canoeing on the French River (Wolseley Bay), Ontario, August, 2011

The weather forecast was really bad and indeed, it was windy, chilly, wavy and raining; on top of that, we had a storm with thunder and lighting. In spite of this weather, a number of people paddled in their canoes by our campsite and eventually camped in the area of campsites nos. 313 and 314. Then Environment Canada weather forecast issued a number of weather warnings, even calling for tornadoes and white squalls. Needless to say, we stayed put, under the tarp. Catherine did develop a touch of campground fever in late afternoon and talked me into a paddle, but as soon as we got ready to push off, a dark cloud and rain appeared and we easily changed our minds

August 25, 2011, Thursday

Canoeing on the French River (Wolseley Bay), Ontario, August, 2011

It was our last day on the French River, so we packed and paddled to the Wolseley Lodge where the car was. It was disappointing as we had not done 3/4 of what we'd planned but hey... there is always next year! We had lunch on the terrace of the lodge. The view was awesome! And the food was good too. According to photos at the restaurant, a lot of people had caught huge muskies and pikes (and I mean HUGE!), but from my own experiences and a number of conversations with experienced fishermen over the past years, I am sure that it is becoming more and more difficult to catch fish—after all, I was trolling for hours and then casting and most of the time did not even catch ONE decent fish for dinner—and many others, who had from 10 to 20 fishing rods, expensive fish finders, motor boats and plenty of experience, either did not catch anything or just one or two fish. Well, I am not after that big pike or Muskie—I just want to catch one or two fish that I can later grill over the campfire!

Canoeing on the French River (Wolseley Bay), Ontario, August, 2011

After lunch we stopped in Noelville, went to the LCBO store and the supermarket to replenish our food supplies, as well as visited a small dollar store next to the Beer Store where I bought a pair of nice clogs. We asked the saleslady where we could get water—she incredulously advised us to drive to her house and get water from her garden hose as her well was very deep and had much better water than in other places. Believe it or not, we had some problems finding her house and asked local people—they were very friendly and in no time literally led us to her residence—as well as told us a few things about the town.

Canoeing on  in Killarney Park (Bell Lake), Ontario, August, 2011

Having left Noelville, we drove to Killarney Park (St. George Office), picked up our permits (but wished they were available to print off online), bought a map and drove on Bell Lake Road (9 km) and reached Bell Lake, where we unloaded and parked the car. Unfortunately, it was impossible to drive to the lake—there was a 100 m. 'portage' from the parking lot to Bell Lake (it was not indicated on the map), so we drove to the private area of Blue Mountain Lodge and departed from there, thus avoiding that annoying portage. We had some explaining to do to the 20 year old park guy' who immediately showed up in a motor boat to tell us it was verboten to use the launch site and checking to see if we were on his permit list. There was a number of campsites on the lake, all on the 'first come first serve basis'.

Canoeing in Killarney Park (Bell Lake), Ontario, August, 2011

It was getting a little late and we did not have much time to look for a campsite, yet as we kept paddling north on the lake, we saw campsites on its west and east shores—all were occupied!

Canoeing in Killarney Park (Bell Lake), Ontario, August, 2011

Finally we reached a small bay—one campsite on its outer shores (no. 86) was quite nice, but it was occupied; another one inside the bay (no. 87) was vacant, yet it was somehow dark because it faced the east and then we proceeded to another campsite no. 88—it was located on a rocky hill, near a very small bay with a narrow, sandy beach.

Canoeing in Killarney Park (Bell Lake), Ontario, August, 2011

We knew that it would require dragging our stuff up the steep rocky wall... but otherwise it was excellent and we decided to camp there. The adjacent campsite (no. 89) was on an island; it was also quite nice, but was occupied by a family with children. I brought the tent up the hill and was setting it up as Catherine carried all the rest of the equipment up the hill (she is in great shape!) and later pulled the canoe on the sandy beach in the small bay and flipped it. Soon we were sitting on the top of the rock, just meters from the tent, facing the west and admiring beautiful sunset! Once it became dark, we saw several campfires along the shores of Bell Lake; in fact, during the day we saw the put-in point (where the car was parked), located over 2 km from our campsite. The campsite had a thunder box (i.e., washroom) and there was plenty of wood in the forest, so we enjoyed a wonderful campfire!

August 26, 2011, Friday

Canoeing on  in Killarney Park (Bell Lake), Ontario, August, 2011

We were up at 10:00 am. The weather was nice, but a little windy. We swam, read a little, relaxed and about 4:00 pm went paddling, but due to the wind we only paddled to campsite number 86—the previous campers had left and it was now vacant. It was a very nice campsite, with a great view and plenty of wood everywhere. The family on the island (no. 89) left too, but another family with one kid arrived and now was camping there. We paddled around 'our' bay, picked up some wood along the shores (in fact, the park encourages campers to pick up wood while canoeing and not around the campsite—in addition, we brought one bag of wood, just in case). We paddled inside a very small bay near campsite no. 87 (which was occupied—it was the campsite that we had considered taking yesterday, but found it to be too dark), Catherine got out of the canoe and brought plenty of wood.

Canoeing in Killarney Park (Bell Lake), Ontario, August, 2011

We were back at our campsite before 6:00 pm, unloaded the wood and later sat on the rock, enjoying a glass of red wine and watching the sunset. The 08:00 o'clock news was about the life of Jack Layton and the events in Libya. Once it got dark, we started the fire and with my headlight on, for the next few hours I was absorbed in reading “The Economist”--an absolutely first-class magazine!

August 27, 2011, Saturday

Canoeing on  in Killarney Park (Bell Lake & Balsam Lake), Ontario, August, 2011

The weather was nice, so we were up in the morning and paddled to Balsam Lake—where we had paddled for the first time in August, 2008. There was a beaver dam between Bell and Balsam Lakes, so a portage was required. For many years there had been the 'famous' Bell Lake Tramway—run by Blue Mountain Lodge—consisting of a cart with wheels moving along built-in tracks.

Canoeing in Killarney Park (Bell Lake), Ontario, August, 2011

It was possible to place even a motorboat on the cart—we successfully used the cart in 2008. Unfortunately, for some time the cart has been gone as the lodge no longer wanted to maintain it. Yet Catherine happily carried the canoe and I carried the rest of our equipment and after several minutes we were paddling on Balsam Lake.

Canoeing in Killarney Park (Bell Lake), Ontario, August, 2011

Most campsites on Balsam Lake were occupied—no wonder, it was a very nice lake, had plenty of beaver lodges, swamps, lily pads, lily flowers and fascinating stumps sticking out of the water. It was a very pleasant paddle, but after reaching campsites #117 and #118, we had to turn back.

Canoeing in Killarney Park (Bell Lake), Ontario, August, 2011

While paddling near campsite no. 116, we saw a small black bear on the shore, but it was quite timid and did not want to pose for photos. At the Bell Lake portage we encountered a group of girls, part of the Tim Horton Children's Foundation which organizes camps for kids. They helped us out, without even us asking them, carrying the canoe and some of our equipment—thanks! Catherine was surprised they could travel so lightly; turns out they used dehydrated food. We showed them which few campsites on balsam lake were available. Arriving at our campsite just before the sunset, we could again observe this interesting phenomenon which so many people take for granted and never even think of.

Canoeing in Killarney Park (Bell Lake), Ontario, August, 2011

We also spoke to the family camping on the adjacent island (no. 89), they also had gone hiking to the Crack and saw a bear. Then I started the fire, read another engrossing issue of “The Economist” and listened to the news—in the morning some of the radio and TV stations broadcast live Jack Layton's funeral and we could listen to some of its highlights. We went to bed at 1:00 am.

August 28, 2011, Sunday

Canoeing in the Killarney Channel, Ontario, August, 2011

We were up at 11:00 am and paddled to the put-in point, i.e., the Bell Lake parking. Near campsite no. 86 we saw a family (2 canoes and 1 kayak) asking us if campsite no. 88 (i.e., ours) was empty. We told them this one and the other one on the islands were not available, but pointed to campsite no. 86, just 100 m. from where they were (which they had just passed by), that was very nice and empty—they apparently had no map and had not noticed that campsite's tiny sign. We kept on paddling; it was becoming quite windy and as we approached the put in area, the waves made it quite difficult to paddle—and we were paddling WITH the wind, reaching speeds of up to 9 km/h. In fact, some people, who were about to start their trip, were standing on the shore, unsure whether or not they should go on water. We (that is, Catherine, who by now had mastered the art of portaging and did not want to pass any opportunity to practice it) carried the canoe to the parking lot and put it on the car.

Canoeing in Killarney Park (Bell Lake), Ontario, August, 2011

We then drove to the town of Killarney where we went to the Herbert Fish and Chips Restaurant, bought excellent French Fries, then got beer at the LCBO store and drove to a small park in Killarney (Nancy Pitfield Memorial Park) where we unloaded the car, dragged the canoe and our stuff to the shore, chatted with a kayaking club from Sudbury who warned us it was rough seas ahead, parked the car and started paddling in the Killarney Channel.

Canoeing in Killarney Park (Bell Lake), Ontario, August, 2011

This channel formed between the town of Killarney and George Island, which for centuries has offered a safe passage and excellent docking place (for more information of this area, please see my blog: http://ontario-nature.blogspot.com/2010/08/canoeing-around-philip-edward-island.html ). It was windy, but the channel was quite calm and sheltered us from the wind. We paddled towards south-east and soon left the channel, paddling on more-less open waters of Georgian Bay, towards the lighthouse. The waves suddenly became quite high and we had to paddle very carefully to keep the canoe in the right position. A big yacht entered the channel and its wake almost overturned our canoe. Far away we saw a number of somehow familiar looking islands—of course, they were the Fox Islands which we had visited just a month ago; especially the round and hilly Centre Fox Island was clearly visible.

Canoeing in Killarney Park (Bell Lake), Ontario, August, 2011

Some canoeists do paddle to the Fox Islands from Killarney, but it requires a lot of paddling on open waters. We reached the unmanned lighthouse, located on amazing pinkish rock formation (we had visited the lighthouse and explored the rock with the MeetUp group “TOADS”, later known as “GET OUT”, in August, 2008) and then paddled back into the channel.

Canoeing in Killarney Park (Bell Lake), Ontario, August, 2011

Plenty of motorboats, yachts and sailboats were moored along its shores. We saw a “Lady of Lourdes” cave on St. George Island, with the Lady's figure. We paddled to the other end of the channel and once we left it, we immediately experienced very high and rough waves, propelled by the strong wind.

Canoeing in Killarney Park (Bell Lake), Ontario, August, 2011

Again, we had to be very careful to keep the canoe from capsizing, keeping it perpendicular to the waves. We saw the white La Cloche Mountains in front of us. Soon, we turned back as it was becoming a little too risky (even though we were less than 50 meters from the much calmer mouth of the channel). Catherine visited the Sportsman Inn, I observed impressive yachts moored in front of the Inn (I was wondering, how much do they cost? how much gas do they use? how far do they go? and I was sooooo glad I did not own such a boat!).

Canoeing in Killarney Park (Bell Lake), Ontario, August, 2011

We got back to the Nancy Pitfield Memorial Park where the car was parked and put the canoe on the roof of the car. I read a very interesting inscription on a plaque attached to a boulder in the park:

Canoeing in Killarney Park (Bell Lake), Ontario, August, 2011

Nancy Solomon Pitfield, October 21, 1885—August 11, 1965. For nearly half a century, "Aunt" Nancy Pitfield was Killarney's angel of mercy. Born in this community, she studied nursing in Winnipeg and Montreal, where she graduated from Hotel Dieu Hospital. She returned to this then isolated village and married George Pitfield in 1919. She dealt with grave illnesses and accidents without the aid of a doctor, sometimes reaching outlying patients by dogsled or snowshoes. She expertly set dislocated hips and knees, delivered 512 babies, and once performed an emergency appendectomy, always with an encouraging word and a smile. Remembered always for her dedication and love for people.

Indeed, I can only imagine how difficult life must have been in the past, when there was no road and the town was accessible only by air or water. I found more information on that special individual on this site: http://www.killarneyhistory.com . I find it really fascinating, as it also shows Killarney's history:

Aunt Nancy", as she was known to all of the younger folks, was born here on October 21st, 1887, one of ten children of William and Catherine Solomon. After training as a nurse, Aunt Nancy returned to Killarney shortly after the death of her father in 1913. With no road access to the village, she became our lifeline, serving as nurse, dentist, doctor, surgeon, midwife, and undertaker. She travelled on foot, by boat, horse and sleigh, dog team, and on snowshoes to provide medical care to anyone needing help.
In March 1915, she attended at the birth of three infants in one day --delivering Basil Roque in the morning and the Jackman twins, Catherine and Mary, that afternoon.
One winter a logger from the nearby mills at Collins Inlet had his hand blown off by an accidental dynamite blast. He was brought to Aunt Nancy, who trimmed away the shredded flesh, cleaned the wound, and sewed up the stump of his arm.

CCanoeing in Killarney Park (Bell Lake), Ontario, August, 2011

In an interview with Bruce West, of the Hamilton Spectator, Aunt Nancy remembered the time she was called to attend a Native woman in labour at Beaverstone Bay. She and Father Paquin, the Jesuit missionary serving Killarney, travelled there by dog team. They broke through the ice near the woman's cabin, and were pulled from the water by a man who had been watching for their arrival.
After entering the cabin, she made Father Paquin strip off his clothes and get into bed. She explained to the family, who didn't speak English, that Father Paquin needed dry clothes. A girl named Big Agnes finally gave him a set of her bloomers. "We put these on poor Father Paquin," said Aunt Nancy, "they were as big as a tent, but Father Paquin didn't get pneumonia and the baby arrived just fine".
After years of dealing with a wide range of human experiences, she was well prepared to deal effectively with situations even she could not have anticipated.
In the late 1930s, Aunt Nancy had prepared for burial the body of an elderly man living on George Island, across the Killarney channel. A wake was always held in the home of a family member (as it often is today), for three days and nights of ritual prayer. Several people remained with the deceased throughout each night.
This time, on the last night of the wake, the family went to bed and Aunt Nancy went home, leaving a small group of teenagers to stay the night. The young folks, craving that era's version of junk food, decided to make pull taffy.

Canoeing in Killarney Park (Bell Lake), Ontario, August, 2011

Warm taffy is elastic and very sticky -- pulling it apart as it cools makes it firmer; easier to eat. One teenager was too close to the casket during the process, and a large glob of taffy dropped down onto the old man, becoming entangled in the great thick beard he had worn most of his life. The teenagers tried to pull it off, scrape it off, and wash it off, but it wouldn't budge. Finally, in panic and desperation, they shaved it off. But they didn't remove just the taffy-filled section of the beard. They shaved the deceased clean.
Hoping no one would notice anything wrong, the teenagers said nothing when Aunt Nancy returned early in the morning. Following tradition, she immediately knelt at the casket to pray, and of course saw that the beard was gone.
Fortunately, the family was still in bed. After listening to the group's explanation, Aunt Nancy sent them home, with strict instructions to say nothing about the incident.
It is not known exactly what Aunt Nancy told the family—one of the teenagers thought she closed the casket, and told the family that the body had deteriorated too much to leave it open. In any case, the feelings of the family were spared and the old gentleman was buried with dignity.

Canoeing in Killarney Park (Bell Lake), Ontario, August, 2011

For decades, Aunt Nancy faced dangerous waters, storms, and perilous ice conditions to give us the gift of good health. Until 1951, when electricity came to the village, she travelled to night calls with only the soft glow of coal-oil lamps to light her way and illuminate her work.
In 1965, three years after Killarney became accessible by road, Aunt Nancy died at the age of 80. She had served her people for over fifty years, sharing with us her expertise, her good humour, and her compassion. We have nothing to give her in return but our gratitude and the promise that she will never be forgotten.

We also went to Pitfield's and bought sausages, got a block of ice and excellent smoked fish from Herbert's Fisheries and drove to Killarney Park where we had a quick shower. We left the park at 6:20 pm and drove back to the Bell Lake parking lot. As we were driving on Bell Lake road, we saw a black bear just standing in the middle of the road and looking at us; I wanted to take a better photo of the bear and slowly drove towards it, but then it started running and for a while it looked liked I was chasing the bear with the car, but soon it ran off the road and disappeared in the forest.

Canoeing in Killarney Park (Bell Lake), Ontario, August, 2011

At 07:05 pm we were on the water, paddling very hard (up to 8 km/h) and reached the campsite at 07:28 pm, unloaded the canoe, got the cold beer, went up on the rock and drinking beer, observed the sunset. The other campsites (nos. 86 and 87) were also occupied. We talked to two fishermen who were fishing close by; they said they always stayed on our campsite when it was available. They also caught some bass and said fishing was good in this lake. We had a nice fire and had the sausages.

August 29, 2011, Monday

Canoeing on  in Killarney Park (Bell Lake), Ontario, August, 2011

Last day of our trip... we dragged our stuff down the hill—we wished we could have just thrown it into the water—and paddled towards the parking lot. On our way back we paddled around the Blue Mountain Lodge which had some nice cottages. This time we did not use the Lodge's parking lot, so Catherine carried the canoe as no one offered to help and then we carried the rest of our stuff which required several trips—even such an easy and short portage was quite arduous as we had to carry many pieces of our belongings step-by-step.

Canoeing on the French River (Wolseley Bay), Ontario, August, 2011

We drove to the Hungry Bear Restaurant for dinner, then shopped in the adjacent Trading Post (some of the products were really original) and drove to Toronto. Just past Port Severn we stopped to get gas in Waubaushene and also went to an avant-garde store selling a variety of funny items and candies. Arrived in Toronto before midnight. It was another great, safe and pleasant trip, although the windy weather prevented us from paddling on some days

Blog in Polish/blog po polsku: http://ontario-nature-polish.blogspot.com/2011/08/wosley-bay-and-killarney.html

Więcej zdjęć: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jack_1962/sets/72157627955123754/

Canoeing south of Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, July 31-August 6, 2011

More photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jack_1962/sets/72157627665183933

Blog po polsku/in Polish: http://ontario-nature-polish.blogspot.com/2011/08/philip-edward-island-and-foxes.html



Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, Canada

When last year we went paddling around Philip Edward Island (blog: http://ontario-nature.blogspot.com/2010/08/canoeing-around-philip-edward-island.html ), it was such an amazing trip that at that time we made a promise that we would be returning, especially to visit the Fox Islands—and almost one year later, on July 31, 2011, we were on our way to the Killarney area. The 400+ km trip took us over 5 hours and since we left Toronto early morning, it gave us plenty of time to enjoy the drive and engage in other activities. First, we stopped at the Killarney park office, where we purchased the parking permit; then we drove to the town of Killarney, visited the famous Herbert's Fish and Chips, bought one $14 dinner and shared it, sitting on the LCBO dock. The weather was perfect and after having cold beer, we drove to the Chikanishing Creek parking lot. Now it was a routine—unpacking the car, putting the canoe on the water, loading it... and exactly at 16:16:16 we were paddling on the Chikanishing Creek, towards the open waters of mighty Georgian Bay.

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, ON, Day One

Once we passed the eastern tip of Philip Edward Island, the familiar rock formations started to appear; we maneuvered among tiny rocky islands, submerged rocks, rocky passages... it was our desire to eventually turn south and paddle towards the Fox Islands, but once we approached the exposed and open waters of Georgian Bay, the waves became relatively high—certainly, the wind must have picked up a little! At one point the waves, hitting a string of submerged rock reef, were so high that I decided to paddle backward—well, most likely we could have made it, but it takes only one unusually high wave to cause the canoe to capsize. Considering the canoe was loaded to the hilt with our valuable equipment, such an occurrence could well mean the end of our trip. That's why we quickly decided to find a nice spot and camp there until the weather stabilizes—in fact, we had considered such a possibility anyway.

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, ON, Day One

Eventually we reached Solomon Island, one of the bigger islands in the area. One part of the island was occupied by a group of people, but several hundreds of meters further up we found a very good camping place, which already had a fire pit built of rocks; the whole campsite was one huge rock, but there were some places to set up tents located in a more forested area.

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, ON, Day One

Yet the absolutely the best thing about this campsite was the view it offered: it was breathtaking—we were surrounded by a innumerable pinkish rock formations which looked especially amazing at sunset! At one point I said it was like being in the paradise.

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, July 31-August 06, 2011

Soon I set up the tent, Catherine brought all the stuff from the canoe and we went for a swim—the water was quite warm and very shallow and after a while we were resting on the very warm rock. Just a few times we saw a boat passing by—probably there was a navigable passage—yet otherwise we were enjoying total privacy and hardly even heard the other group of people which camped about 500 meters away from us. Later I got firewood—some trees had been uprooted by the wind and provided plenty of wood (however, we did bring a bag of wood with us, just in case—and to be environmentally friendly!).

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, ON, Day One

Due to the wind, we hardly noticed any mosquitoes, so finally we could enjoy staying around the fire without having to worry about those pesky insects. From afar we saw a number of flashing or just stationary red lights—some were coming from various lighthouses, others from TV towers. We could also enjoy watching the stars, an occasional meteor and later, very faint “cloud” lightning appeared in the area of Sudbury; we did not hear anything, but apparently that area must have been having a major thunderstorm.

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, July 31-August 06, 2011

The next day (August 1, 2011, Monday, Simcoe Day) the wind picked up significantly and we did not even go for a paddle. We just read—we brought a lot of magazines and some books—listened to the radio, took photographs, explored the island a little, swam and just enjoyed the exhilarating, unique scenery. We listened to the weather radio a few times per day and decided to get up early next morning, pack up and head to the Foxes.

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, July 31-August 06, 2011

Indeed, on August 2, 2011 we were up at about 5:00 am, took down the tent and paddled towards the Foxes. There was no wind and we tremendously enjoyed paddling among those scattered islands. From time to time we saw a small tent or a kayak on the shore, but there were very few campers, probably most left yesterday. We paddled past Martins Island , then reached a round and rocky Centre Fox Island and soon were approaching Western Fox Island.

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, July 31-August 06, 2011

We saw two separate campsites; although it was only 8:00 am, people were already up, so we thought that they might be leaving later today. We slowly paddled around the island—it has very interesting rock formations, as well as some small rocks located off this island looked like miniature, round mountains. Once we circled the island, we got to talk to the two kayakers; they told us they and the other group (two couples in canoes) were leaving today. We paddled a little farther, entered a tiny natural port between two submerged rocky ridges, left the canoe there and went exploring the island.

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, July 31-August 06, 2011

There were some fire pits here and there—most likely the island could accommodate up to 4 different groups of campers, giving them a lot of privacy (it was approximately 500 m. x 250 m.). We went to the west north tip of the island, I took plenty of photos of the fantastic rock formations, which were full of smooth shapes carved by the receding glaciers thousands years ago.

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, July 31-August 06, 2011

Such geological formations are almost synonymous with the Fox Islands and we would see many of them! As we were relaxing on the rock, we saw the two couples in two canoes leaving the island, so we paddled to their former campsite. It was very nice, located on a rocky hill—we had to leave our canoe in a bay and then carry our stuff up, but the nature carved almost natural steps in the smooth rock, thus making the job much easier.

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, July 31-August 06, 2011

We took the canoe out of the water and placed it upside down against the rock, as well as left some of our bags there, hoping that in case of strong winds and waves, everything would be safe.

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, July 31-August 06, 2011

The site provided a wonderful view towards north-east-south: we saw Sly Fox Island, Centre Island, the Kits Islands, Philip Edward Island (of course!), as well the three Hawk Island and Green Island, just behind Southwest Hawk Island.

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, July 31-August 06, 2011

We walked for a minute of so towards west, climbed a rocky hill and basically were on the highest peak of the island—in additions to the aforementioned islands, we could also see the mouth of the Killarney channel, Manitoulin Island, the French River delta, Scarecrow Island, two tiny rocks called the West and East Brothers, Papoose Island and Squaw Island. It was such an amazing feeling being there, surrounded by the waters of Georgian Bay—in many place the horizon met the water and we did see the other shore. The previous campers left plenty of wood, plus we had our bag of excellent wood with us.

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, July 31-August 06, 2011

Once we set up the tent and our equipment, we went for a nap. It was hot and humid (like every day), but it was getting windier and in the evening we decided against paddling—in case the wind picked up, we did not want to have any problems getting back to our island! In the evening we had a very nice campfire; we saw some lights coming from the direction of Green Island (probably a lighthouse), once we spotted a faint campfire, but otherwise we did not see anybody else. The weather forecast was calling for some 10-15 knots winds and possible storms, but nothing indicated the weather was going to become bad.

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, July 31-August 06, 2011

It was about 6 am on August 3, 2011 (Wednesday) when Catherine awoke me. It was extremely windy and raining outside and the waves were violently hitting the rocky shores and rocky shoals. In spite of the pounding wind and rain, we got out of the tent to check if the canoe and our stuff were OK. Even though the water was smashing against the rocks where we placed our canoe and washing over them, the canoe and everything else appeared to be intact. As I looked at the foaming waves, I was so glad we were not on the water!

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, July 31-August 06, 2011

The wind was so strong that it literally bent the tent inside—something we still remember from our PEI trip last year—but it did not do any damage. And the funny thing was—or not so funny—that the marine weather forecast did not even mention such a weather—well, the wind was supposed to be about 10-15 knots (or up to 30 km), some possible storms—but what we got was a much stronger wind (well over 50 km/h)—and it was not a storm, as there was no lighting or thunders of any kind. We went to sleep again, only to be awoken a couple of hours later by some voices calling us. We got out of the tent—it was not longer raining, but still very windy. Two kayakers, who were camped nearby and had stopped to explore the island, just wanted to tell us that some of our stuff was floating in the water adjacent to the bay. Apparently some bags, ropes, sunscreen and other minor pieces of equipment got blown by the wind; since it was blowing towards the bay, at least we did not have to worry about later retrieving it from the water. We thanked them and chatted a little.

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, July 31-August 06, 2011

I took a bunch of photos, just to show what a difference a few hours can make! Luckily, the wind was gradually subsiding, yet we were unable to go canoeing that day either, so we explored the island, read books and magazines and simply sat and enjoyed the surroundings.

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, July 31-August 06, 2011

Later that day I took my map, compass, as well as wine and we went up that hill. Once I oriented the map, we could easily identify most of the islands we saw around us. We were observing a very nice sunset—as well as the sliver of the moon that finally became visible in the sky.

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, July 31-August 06, 2011

Catherine tried to call home using her cell phone; sometimes she had reception, sometimes she had to walk around the island before her phone found the network and occasionally the signal was just for emergency only. I always liked listening to the shortwave radio, but the news was mainly about the US debt problems, Barack Obama, possible downgrading of the US bonds and the similar stories—usually after listening to the world news and the weather, I turned it off.

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, July 31-August 06, 2011

Thursday, August 4, 2011 was quite calm and in the afternoon we finally went paddling. We paddled around our island (West Fox Island), around the Kits Islands, Centre Island and Sly Fox Island.

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, July 31-August 06, 2011

We found a very nice campsite on Martins Island and a few other interesting rock formations. From afar we saw the Brother Islands—East and West Brother Island. We did not see any other campers or canoeists/kayakers and most likely we were the only ones staying on the Fox Islands that night!

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, July 31-August 06, 2011

We decided to take advantage of the good weather tomorrow and paddle in the morning to Philip Edward Island, to be close to the Chikanishing, and set up our last camp there. So, as the darkness fell, we were enjoying our last night on that island, sitting around a campfire and watching the surrounding and empty islands.

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, July 31-August 06, 2011

Our plan to wake up before 6 am on Friday, August 5, 2011 did not work out—we were so sleepy that we decided to just continue sleeping and eventually we were up at noon, packed up everything and were on the water at 2:00 pm.

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, July 31-August 06, 2011

This time we paddled more on the open water of Georgian Bay, facing the La Cloche mountains, with their distinct white peaks that could be easily mistaken for snow! There was no wind, so we slowly moved on the open waters of Georgian Bay towards the south-west shored of Philip Edward Island.

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, July 31-August 06, 2011

We hardly saw any campsites in the area; perhaps most people liked to stay in more sheltered locations. As we paddled near the very unique, triangular rock sticking out of the water, we decided to come closer to it and take a few photos—last year we stopped near that rock just to take photos and videos. It looked like a giant Hershey kiss, Catherine decided to even kiss it and christened it “the Kissing Rock”!

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, July 31-August 06, 2011

We passed a campsite with 5 tents on it, belonging to a group of kayakers, and soon were approaching South Point, the western end of Philip Edward Island. We even thought about camping on the same campsite we spent our last night on our PEI trip last year, but eventually found a nice campsite, not requiring any extensive carrying of our stuff just on the south site off South Point, close to a shallow channel between a rocky island.

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, July 31-August 06, 2011

Quickly I set up the tent and got whatever we needed for that night; the rest of the stuff we left in the canoe—we did not even need chairs as the rock had natural-made 'chairs'. Then we hopped in the canoe and paddled to the Chikanishing, put everything inside the car, chained the canoe to a sign post and drove to the town of Killarney. First we went to the LCBO store and got several cans of beer, then went to Pittfield's (quaint but overpriced country store) where we got a pack of sausages. We finally ordered French fries at Herbert's and consumed them, sitting in our traditional spot on the LCBO dock. We also got a block of ice so that I could enjoy the cold beer that last night. We got back to the Chikanishing as the sun started setting, so we had a very nice paddle to our campsite.

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, July 31-August 06, 2011

Although the sun was covered by clouds, they, in turn, created very interesting shapes and I took a lot of interesting photos. Catherine got a lot of fire wood and so we had a wonderful campfire and enjoyed tasty sausages with cold beer.

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, July 31-August 06, 2011

Later, as it became dark, we could see a number of lighthouses and TV tower lights. I set up my camera on a tripod and took many photos of the stars—I hoped to see more meteors (the Perseids), but did not see too many this year.

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, July 31-August 06, 2011

However, another celestial phenomenon awaited me—namely, the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis): of course, they were nowhere as pronounced as those in the north, but still I could see the green light dancing, jumping from one part of the sky to another. I took plenty of photos and just hope some will turn out OK. Engrossed in this activity, I only went to bed about 5 am.

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, July 31-August 06, 2011

We slept till about 11 am on Saturday, August 6, 2011, but heard quite a few kayakers and canoeists passing by—the shallow channel between our campsite and a long rocky island, impassable for motorboats, make it a perfect route for lighter crafts. Eventually we got up and slowly loaded everything into the canoe—because we had already canoed some of our stuff the previous day, we did not have that much to pack.

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, July 31-August 06, 2011

By the way, one of the items that I had left in my car was my fishing rod and tackle—it turned out that the waters of Georgian Bay where we canoed were not really very good for fishing: the water was very clear and we could see everything for many meters, but there were no weeds, just rocks, and it was relatively shallow. Last year, while paddling around Philip Edward Island , I only managed to catch one small pike—and only in Collins Inlet.
The paddle to the Chikanishing took us just under 30 minutes.

Philip Edward Island and the Foxes, Ontario, July 31-August 06, 2011

There were a few other kayakers and canoeists who just returned from their trips; some were from Quebec and we talked to them for a while. Once we put everything into the car and put the canoe on the roof, we drove to the Killarney Park Office, got a refund for the unused parking permits, then drove to the town of Killarney , had (again!) French fries at Herbert's, I bought a pound of excellent smoked fish—and set out for home! Traditionally we stopped at the Hungry Bear Restaurant on highway 69 where we had a light meal and I had two coffees to keep me awake. Then we drove to the Grundy Lake Outfitters where I bought gas—yes, that's the place where we bought the canoe last year, we even talked to the guy who sold it to us! From then it was a straight 300 km. drive to Toronto where we arrived after 1 am.

It was a great trip and the only problem was with the wind—it was often too strong for canoeing and we were forced to spend a few days on land. But so far the summer had been warm and relatively dry.

More photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jack_1962/sets/72157627665183933

Blog po polsku/in Polish: http://ontario-nature-polish.blogspot.com/2011/08/philip-edward-island-and-foxes.html