2015 - My Year In Review (Part 2 of 3)

2015 - My Year In Review - Part 2

McCrae Lake – July 2015
For all my years canoeing, McCrae Lake is the one location that I make a habit of visiting every year.  McCrae Lake offers up nearly 20 years of memories for me, including my first backcountry trip, multiple Gibson-McDonald loops, bachelor parties and several weekend fishing trips.  McCrae is far from the most serene and majestic place to camp.  The lake’s proximity to Toronto and the ease by which it can be accessed causes it to see high volumes and a lot of inexperienced, and quite frankly, ignorant campers.  Garbage is frequently left on the sites and a lot of live growth is cut because of the lack of deadfall found within a close distance to the sites.  Despite all of these issues, I look forward to my McCrae trips every year.

In July of 2015 my wife Lori and I once again packed up the car and headed up to McCrae Lake.  Mother Nature treated us to some of the best weather of the summer; hot and humid, perfect for being lake side.  The trip in was uneventful and we tackled the first portage (a modest 250m of somewhat difficult terrain) with ease and within an hour of dipping our paddles, we arrived at our desired campsite.  I am also cautiously optimistic when I am approaching a campsite that I really want to stay on.  Too many times have I paddled up to a wanted site only to find that another group has already claimed it.  This was not the case (the benefits of tripping mid-week vs weekends) and we put about setting up camp. 

The next 2 days brought more fantastic July weather.  We kept our camp craft to a minimum and just enjoyed the experience. We had a front row seat as other paddlers entering and exiting the lake.   We just sat back and watched the world go by with a friendly wave or the tip of a can.

As with any trip it went much too fast.  Just as we were hitting our stride it was time to pack up and pack out.  As bitter sweet as this moment can be, I can quickly look past it because I know that before long we'll be returning for another great outing. 

Hay Lake - August 2015
Hay Lake is located on the far east side of Algonquin Park, just a 15 minute drive from Whitney.  My parents had arranged for a cottage rental for 3 nights from Hay Lake Lodge (http://haylakecanada.com/).  In attendance were my parents, Glenn and Arlene, my Sister Carla and her husband Paul along with their two kids, Andrew and Tristan.  Filling out the roster were Lori and I.

The drive to Hay Lake was relatively uneventful.  We stopped off at The Lookout hiking trial and went up to the top.  This area has a special meaning for both Lori and I as we were married in the park not quite a year ago and this was one of our locations for pictures.  The weather was less than ideal and with strong winds and rain coming in we decided to forego our plans to bike the Minnesing bike trail before heading over to the cottage.  A smart move as we found out later that a tornado had touched down in the park just a few kilometers away.

We arrived without further incident and when we met up with my nephew's they were completely bouncing off the walls with excitement. 

Besides the overall experience to catch up with my family and enjoy the time together I had 2 distinct experience from that trip that I can recall. 

The first was being able to paddle with my father again.  It had been about 4 or 5 years since out last trip which was up to Killarney Provincial Park.  Since that time we had talked about doing some tripping, even some day trips, but things just never worked out. 

On the second day there my dad and I met at the dock at 6am.  It was early and the lake still held onto it's early morning fog, but neither of us seemed to notice.  The lake was like glass and we set out, as always with dad in the stern and me in the bow. 

That first morning we covered a large portion of Hay Lake and made our way to the eastern boundary of Algonquin Park.  We were kept off the lake the following morning because of nasty weather but on our final day we headed back over to The Park and portaged into Cauliflower Lake.  It was another great paddle and we were able to see a part of the part that we had previously never seen before. 

The second vivid memory that I have was taking Lori out paddling and 'teaching' her to stern a canoe.  The ability to properly steer a canoe seems to be a dying art.  Lori and I had previously had some unsuccessful tutorials on previous trips.  Mostly in part due to my inability to patiently teach from the front of a canoe, but with a renewed vigor, we were both determined to succeed. 

Our third and final full day at Hay Lake the weather wasn't ideal.  90% of the day was spent indoors keeping warm and dry.  In the evening though, the storm clouds cleared and we were able to safely get out on the lake.  With Lori a stern we headed out for an hour's paddle.  After a short while, regardless of my inept coaching, Lori was getting the hang of it. 

The following morning we said our good-byes, packed up and headed for home.  A cottage experience was certainly a different type of quick escape for me.  Sleeping in a bed while so close to The Park was a bit of a foreign experience for me but certainly a nice change. 

It seems like a family trip back to Hay Lake for 2016 is in the works.  We'll see how that goes. 

Epic August - August (duh!) 2015
With a name like 'Epic' August we're certainly setting the bar pretty high.  This event is our annuals guy’s mountain bike weekend.  What makes it so epic is that we cram as much biking (and drinking) into 48 hours as possible.

This year the Epic team consisted of Pete Koller, Mark Highfield and Michael O’Sullivan.  We set out early on August 25th and made our first stop Swiss Meadows and Loree Forest in the Blue Mountain Area.  Once again Mother Nature was trying her best to mess up our plans by giving us cool temperatures and rain. 

Swiss Meadows and Loree Forest offered up a great starting ride for us.  Mark and I had an opportunity to showcase some new trail systems to both Pete and Michael.  The highlight of this was a wild downhill rip into 13 Valleys that leaves even the most skilled and experienced riders white knuckled. 

16 kilometers later we were tired, covered in mud and on our way to our next ride location, Kolepore Uplands. 

Kolapore offers over 50kms of varied terrain from tough, nearly impossible to ride single track to fast ripping section that flow for kilometers.  A few years earlier Mark wrote off a bike in Kolapore and this was his first time back and he was out for vengeance.

The tough weather conditions created a challenging series of trails but we completed our 10km ride without incident and Mark’s bike lived to ride another day.  Both Pete and Michael were first time riders through Kolapore and even with all the mud, rock gardens and technical sections they finished with a smile. 

A big part of Epic August is the food and drink.  Once we completed our Kolapore tour it was time for a quick tailgate.  We broke out the portable BBQ and enjoyed a few smokies and craft beer.         

Faya Lake – September 2015
On September 3rd, 2014 my wife and I were married in Algonquin Park.  In celebration of our 1st anniversary we returned to Algonquin for a backpacking trip on the Highlands trail.  This is our story:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efjIOee-ILw                 

Faya Lake - Algonquin Provincial Park