After many day trips and countless outings on our neighbourhood lake (retention pond), this was the summer that all that paddling practice would become a full-blown canoe trip. While I would do essentially all of the planning, packing, paddling, and portaging, I would not be alone. This would be the first overnight canoe trip for my five-year-old son Milo and me.
Milo’s first trip had to include all the elements of canoe camping. It had to have portages, remoteness, and everything else that goes with a backcountry adventure. While I had not been out myself for quite a while, this was not the time to start exploring new routes. Familiarity was key for me as a parent, as was tradition. My grandparents tended the White Lake campground for more than 20 years and I spent many summers visiting in that area. Heading to the same area seemed natural. Ultimately we ended up on an in-and-out route in the Whiteshell, going from Lone Island Lake to Malloy Lake and back.
Departure day gave us grey skies with drizzle and wind, but the forecast was for clearing skies and calmer winds. We headed out later in the morning, making a stop at the Whiteshell Museum at Nutimik Lake to give the weather more time to clear.
We arrived at Lone Island Lake around noon to an empty parking lot, and managed to get underway shortly after. The wind was westerly, but it worked for us as we stayed sheltered in the lee of the shore. We kept our rain coats handy, but we never did need them. We stopped to explore an island (not the Lone Island) and had a snack. From there we continued on to the portage.
We had bagel sandwiches and cucumbers for lunch at the portage. Sitting on the rock to eat was certainly a highlight for Milo. Less of a highlight for me was the 500 metre portage. Packing for yourself solo is one thing, but I had gear for two of us, including extras like crayons and toys. It took two trips to get everything over.
The put-in at Malloy Lake has a nice smooth rock. The area was spoiled by the fish cleaning cast-offs that had been left on shore. As they say, kids hear everything. Milo was murmuring about it as much as I was!
Malloy Lake had less favourable winds. We were headed to a big island in the middle of the lake. We stayed close to the shore and then crossed a small narrows to the protected side of the island. From here we paddled to the other end towards the campsites. There were three to choose from and after investigating them all, we settled on one on the north side of the island.
The site had a raised rock, about one metre above the fire pit and shoreline. This was a great place to put a tent and became the “second floor” of our campsite. We set about establishing a camp. Pulling everything out of our bags felt like a clown show. Five-year-olds are not light packers.
We had one of the few mishaps of our trip while we were setting up the tent. Milo was putting together the poles and was moving back as they got longer. This was okay until he moved back off the edge of the raised rock. Thankfully he slid straight down, landing on his feet, but with a rather surprised look on his face (and on mine!).
For Milo, the best parts of the campsite were the trails here, there, and everywhere. I had brought toys, crayons, and some books, but they never even came out of the bag. Exploring the trails was the priority right until bedtime.
I included my son in as many tasks as possible. Even after the tent pole incident, he was eager to help out with filtering water, stirring supper, gathering firewood, making a fire, and laying out sleeping stuff. It was great to have him involved in it all.
By the end of the day, the wind had calmed and the sky cleared. Milo fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow and he didn’t wake until morning. I, on the other hand, was up a few times, perhaps overly sensitive to sounds because of my partner beside me. And sounds there were - loons singing, barred owls hooting, Canada geese honking, and busy beavers chewing and slapping right behind our tent.
We are morning people and it was no different in the woods. It was a great time to rise and shine! The calm persisted into the morning, giving a glass-like lake with a mist rising off the water. Surely this was the best view we could ever have while eating our oatmeal.
After packing up camp, we headed to the far shore to explore a huge rock rising from the water. There was a great view from the top. We had to head back across the lake to the portage, but the calm conditions made it easy. We stopped again for lunch at the end of the portage . We were no longer the only ones on the lake; in the distance we saw a camp set up on the lone island of Lone Island Lake.
We made our way back to the car, passing a couple of motorboats on the way. We loaded up, changed, and headed for home, with a stop at White Lake for fries and freezies, of course. It was a quiet ride home, both of us dreaming of more trips to come.
Long-time readers might remember Milo’s first appearance in the Ripple or the first time he and Dusty hit the water