Friday, May 27, 2016

The whole point

I've been putting a lot of energy into my foolish and desperate attempt to ready myself for the Dirty Girls 12hr ultra in July, so it might seem a bit incongruous to take 4 full days off running. As a matter of fact, I ended up only running 4 times in the 9 days after the Seaton Soaker 25k, as I'd taken Monday off as well (due to horrible weather and exhaustion from under 4hrs of sleep on Sunday night). I got in almost 14km on Sunday - the day after the race - and put in another 30km from Tuesday to Thursday, but come Friday I was off the clock.

It is vitally important that I not let running completely take over my life. I'll never be sufficiently good at it to reward that kind of focus, and there are simply too many other things I enjoy doing - backcountry camping and paddling being two that rank high on the list. We didn't manage to get out winter camping since there was either no winter to be found or entirely too much winter happening, so our last trip had been more than 7 months prior, when we paddled at Bon Echo Provincial Park for Campsgiving.

It it also vitally important that I not take myself too seriously, thus after making a small modification to my paddling hat and loading up our kit, we hopped in the car on Saturday, May 21st to engage in the great Canadian tradition of camping for the Victoria Day long weekend...affectionately known to Canucks as May TwoFour.

At last - truth in advertising!

We'd had our concerns about the weather, having booked this trip all the way back in January and what with it having bloody well snowed 6 days prior, but we needn't have worried. We sweated in the sunshine the whole way out to Murphys Point Provincial Park, finally gaining some relief in the wind as we launched our canoe full of gear onto Hogg Bay and headed for Big Rideau Lake.

Yes, all that for 2 nights.
Not exactly roughing it.

After a brief (and I do mean brief - 7 minutes going the "long" way) paddle, we arrived at the Rideau cluster of boat-in campsites and landed on the South side at our tiny sand beach in the lovely, quiet inlet at site # 402. We actually saw a couple of wee minks chasing one another on our way to our little point, and another on the shoreline of a shallow bay behind our site.

Home sweet home.
Our own personal point.

All set up.

With our gear deployed, we settled in for an incredible weekend. Our site on our little point was cozy and surprisingly clean, though admittedly it was only the secon weekend the park had been open. Unexpectedly, we found there was a full-on outhouse that we shared with the one other campsite (401) at the Rideau cluster - we had only anticipated a thunderbox! There was even a nice flat non-technica path to reach it, which really had us feeling lik we were in the lap of luxury. Tanker did some fishing from the point and nearly brought in a big one (over a foot long), but the jerk of a fish spat the hook at the last moment. We lit a fire as the sun set and I got dinner on the go as the wind dropped, then we were treated to a gorgeous blue moon (second full moon in a month) over Big Rideau Lake as we sat by our campfire eating chicken curry. The loons called around us, the frogs sang in the little bays behind our site, and the heat of the day plus some cloud cover kept the overnight temperature in the double digits celsius.

In a word - apart from some noise from cottagers using motorized boats on the lake - it was perfect.

A local swinging by for a visit.

Tanker still hoping on the one that got away.

Dinner view.

My bladder demanded I take a photo at first light.

The next morning, we had a lazy bacon-and-duck-egg brunch with a couple of French press-fuls of Tanker the Wonder Sherpa's amazing camp coffee, then set off to paddle the loop around the park and pick up some more firewood - we'd burned everything we had the night before, pleased to discover the park-supplied hardwood was nice and dry after spending the winter under tarps.

Two small portages to paddle around nearly the whole park!

We began by heading South to have a look at the Feldspar cluster of boat-in sites, which were easily visible from where we were encamped. Larger and with a dock to allow motorboats to moor (as all clusters except the canoe-in-only Rideau have), it was bustling with a large number of campers; every "backcountry" site in the park was fully booked for the weekend! After a quick turn around their inlet, we headed up to the boat launch and hopped in the car to hit the store so we'd have no worries about time later. Firewood acquired and left in the car at the boat launch, we paddled Northeast into a fresh wind toward the tip of the park's lands, pausing near the hike-in beach so Tank could get a line in the water.

Heading out of our site, looking at Feldspar

Up the Eastern side of the point

Rounding the point and turning off the wind into Noble Bay, we passed by the Narrows and Noble clusters of boat-in sites. Cormorants skimmed over the water and loons played by the tiny islands while we gaped at the landscape of Canadian Shield rock and forest around us.

And clear, clear water.

Paddling further along, we stopped at the day-use beach for a snack and to refill our Nalgenes from the water bladder we'd brought with us. It was another hot, sunny day so hydration was important, though the wind was enough to keep us cool on the water.

Day-use beach and my super fun paddling partner.

After a turkey pepperette and a granola bar each, we headed further South and lazed around in a little inlet so Tank could try some different lures. No luck, but it was very pretty.

I live for stuff like this.
Reaching the end of our journey on Noble Bay, we portaged a couple of hundred metres past the park store - with an ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY stop for an enormous grape freezie and a bag of marshmallows - then finished our double-carrying down to Loon Lake where Tank tried hooking some of the numerous panfish we could see in the water.

Ironically, it was about the only place we didn't hear loons.

The fish weren't biting, though, so we paddled across to our second (and final) portage into the South end of Hogg Bay.

With a short pause for some rock god-ness.

Back up through the Bay past the campers' beach, we stopped one more time at the boat launch to pick up our bags of firewood before heading back home for the evening. 

Nowhere I'd rather be.

I think Tanker got a bit of a kick out of me using some found birchbark plus a flint and steel to light the campfire both evenings. It's good to know that at least in dry conditions my bushcraft skills are somewhat up to snuff.

Spark it up..


And of course we put the bag of marshmallows to good use for a post-paddle snack before I finally got 'round to making dinner. The wind dropped completely as the sun set, and while not quite full anymore, we were treated to a spectacular show as the moon rose huge and red over Big Rideau Lake.


The next morning I was awoken again by my bladder just a few minutes after sunrise. I couldn't really complain.

Because it meant I got to see this.

Back to bed until around 9am, we got up and breakfasted simply on oatmeal and coffee before tearing down camp and preparing to head out.

All packed up on the point.

PFDs on and ready to go!

Before jumping in the boat, though, I had to make one last trip to the privy...and finally spotted the first turtle we'd seen all weekend! This little painted fellow climbed up on a fallen tree in our "backyard" to bask in the hot sun that beat down on us.

I got a little too close and he dropped off this log.

But he emerged again on another.

Back to the boat launch again by 1pm, we loaded the canoe onto our car and dropped off all our camping gear in the back. Changing into our hiking shoes, we paused for a bite of lunch before going exploring on the park's trails for the afternoon.

To see things from the other side.

The Point Trail took us out to the hike-in beach and up to the Northern end of the park, with gorgeous Canadian Shield terrain and some lovely views.

Setting out

The bones of the land lie close to the surface, here.

View from the hike-in beach.

Another lovely spot for a picnic

More Canadian Shield

The very Northern end of the park, looking out over Big Rideau Lake

A mix of hardwoods and conifers take advantage of all ecological niches in the park.

We decided we'd do the Sylvan Trail as well, since we're not sure when we'll be back to this park. We really enjoyed our time there, but there are places within a similar distance (it was a five hour journey from KW with long weekend traffic) that are at least as lovely - Bon Echo in particular comes to mind, with the added attraction of Mazinaw Rock and no motorized boat traffic on Joeperry Lake. I can't say that Murphys Point was a bad choice - far from it, and I'm happy to have discovered a new-to-us park with such excellent amenities and scenery - but the drive is a bit prohibitive for a place that is merely one of many wonderful destinations.

In any case - onward through the Sylvan Trail loop! It's actually an interpretive trail with numbered signposts that correspond to a trail guide available from the day use parking area. Not having the guide (and starting oddly from the middle), we merely stopped and looked at anything interesting along the way.

View from near the Narrows cluster of campsites.
The boat-in sites are not accessible from land, though.

View of Noble Bay through a valley.

Boardwalk and more Canadian Shield

Loving the bright greens of spring at last

Returning to the Point Trail, we walked down to the hike-in beach once more and had a snack while watching a pair of loons play around the little island just offshore.

They're both in this photo, unperturbed by the approaching motorboat.

Then it was time to head back to the parking lot, while spending our last few minutes drinking in the beauty of the trail.

More of this, please.

We don't wanna go home!

Back at the boat launch, we both took the opportunity to change into flip flops and wandered down the ramp into the bracingly cool water. The hot, sunny day had left us both sweaty and a bit worn out from our 1.75-hour hike, so wading in Hogg Bay was absolutely delightful.

Saying goodbye.

We left the park around 4pm and didn't make it home until almost 10pm because the 401 is freakin' awful on a long weekend, but the incredible weather and the refreshing of our souls in the rugged beauty of Murphys Point made it all totally worth it. Training? Well, that could wait until Tuesday.


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