Wednesday, August 31, 2011

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

3 comments:

  1. Two great things. Cant wait to see it!

    ReplyDelete
  2. awesome report. we love it up there also. but you gave us an idea to explore your campsites 'further out'. thanks!

    ReplyDelete