Trip Planning With Path Of The Paddle
Winter in Northwestern Ontario has come and not gone; instead the frozen lakes and snowy forests are lingering, reminding us that now is the time more than ever to plan a summer on Path of the Paddle. For this reason, we have compiled a short list for April to help shake the frost from our bones and take the first steps in planning for the summer canoe trips we dream of.
The first and most important decision of early spring (or really late winter) is to decide upon an area to visit in the summer. Along Path of the Paddle, sections can be broken down first by the specific trail segments, but also by the experiences you might hope to have while out. If your plan is to travel between lakes with easy access and ample loop options, consider the Northern Lights Lake access on our Omimi Trail. If you’re into the feelings of big lake travel and are charmed by the beauty of ‘coaster’ Brook Trout, your only stop is at Little Trout Bay Conservation Area in Neebing on the Animikii Trail. For those who want to experience the labyrinth of trails that criss cross an area where no motors are allowed, the Quetico Trail is a wilderness paddlers paradise. Maukinak Trailis best described as a blue water oasis, where the lakes are so clear that they give the appearance of a tropical destination, especially along the turquoise Turtle River. Migizi Trail travels through an area of big lakes and small ponds backed by tall cliffs and lovely waterfalls, as well the gin clear water of the Experimental Lakes Area. If you love the pull of a river and camping on bedrock, or perhaps there’s a night of luxury you dream of at a lodge while on the trail, Iinoo Oowan trail travels the Winnipeg River and is fabled in paddling history.
2. Style of Travel
Perhaps the most important factor in planning your summer on the water is exactly how much time you have to devote for paddling. Are you a day trip picnic lover, a weekend warrior, a week long sojourner, a fifteen day traveller, or a two month warrior of the long trail? There’s a place to go, but time is of the essence.
3. Food Over Kilometres
There’s a motto you may hear amongst paddlers who have learned to enjoy the finer details of wilderness forays, and often it is called PEP, which of course stands for Paddle Eat Paddle. Sure, a freeze dried meal might be easy when exhaustion sets in, or when the sunset is too beautiful to spend precious time preparing dinner over an open fire, but this summer, every paddler should try a gourmet trail meal. Packing a little fresh food might slow you down, but food over kilometres is a trade off best enjoyed in camp, so take a rest day and plan a culinary experience. For POP coordinator David and his partner Leah, a day of idyllic eating on an easy trip, one where a frozen cooler is tumped along only to be opened on the designated day, can look something like this: Breakfast: Skillet seared bacon inside of a croissant with melted brie cheese and dark roast hand ground coffee whitened by freshly opened cream. Lunch: Paddle-cuterie. Bring your favourite cheese, meats, vegetables, and fruit with some hummus and crackers for a bed rock feast with a charcuterie inspired feast served on the blades of tired paddles. Dinner: If the cooler trick is new to you, and it was duct taped shut, not allowed to be opened until this day, then the dinner is primed for sunset. A cold beverage of your choice is waiting by late afternoon, just after a refreshing swim, and dinner goes like this. Cajun blackened chicken seared with a little leftover bacon, grilled with onions, peppers, and mushrooms, before adding in the leftover cream then breaking the seal on a fresh jar of parmesan and dumping it in. While the sauce thickens, black pepper added, and a hearty chunk of butter melts in the creamy base, noodles are prepared, the whole lot mixed together, and not long before the sunset there is a debatably gourmet cajun Alfredo pasta on the plate. We might love to travel, but the time in camp keeps us coming back forever and a day, likely because of the meals we’ve dreamed up, so plan yours.
4. To Fish Or Not To Fish?
Not everyone packs a fishing rod while others wouldn’t imagine a paddling trip without the awkward dance of moving a 7ft pole across a portage trail with a heap of other cumbersome gear. To each their own, but fish are a joy to catch and can make excellent table fair to supplement meals on the trail. If one lure can catch everything and are both inexpensive and light to carry, it is an old school jig head with a white Mr. Twister trail. Everything will eat this bait if the feed is on, and it’s much safer than lures with too many hooks. The only real question is whether or not you will drop a line this summer and if so, what you hope to catch. Two notable species of Path of the Paddle unique to the region are Musky at points along the Migizi and Iinoo Oowan sections, and giant ‘coaster’ Brook Trout along the rocky shores of Lake Superior on the Animikii Trail.
5. Look At The Map!
The best part of spring is the point when our sun deprived cheeks feel the first warm days, only to hide back inside when winter roars in once more, and here we find the map calling to us from the shelf. If you do yourself any favour before this season to come, buy a map, plan a trip, and find a reason, a place, to fall in love with the wilderness of Northwestern Ontario before it’s winter again. The summer ahead has so much excitement for Path of the Paddle, but more on that in our next newsletter, for now it’s time to look at the map and plan…