Monday, July 20, 2015

Great Canoe Trip for the Family

Day 1

This year we were looking for a good family friendly canoe trip that wasn't too far from home and we found a great option. Our trip started in the town of Bala at the beach on the Musquash River. From there we went to Go Home Lake, the Gibson River, Gibson Lake and finally ended the trip at Six Mile Lake. We took 2 cars and parked the first at Six Mile Lake and left the other in Bala. It works out perfect as Six Mile Lake Provincial Park is on the way to Bala anyway so there is no backtracking.

First, we picked up the canoe I rented from Swift canoes in Waubaushene. It was a 17 foot prospector and was under 40 pounds. It was a real treat and easy to portage.One of the best things is it has a third seat which was great for my son and there was still enough room for my big pack, my wife's 90 litre pack and my kids 2 small backpacks. They offer a reasonable rental price with discounts for midweek trips.

Below is the map I have on my phone. I have the Navionics app that I use for fishing and I tracked our progress. The trip was 52 km long from Bala to Six Mile Lake.

We used the GPS on my phone along with the maps in a book by Hap Wilson, "Canoeing and Hiking Wild Muskoka." My buddy picked it up at Mountain Equipment Coop. The book offers several different routes within Muskoka and this trip was a combination of 2 routes.
The trip started out great with a slight tailwind pushing us down the river. There are a fair number of motorboats on this section, but they all slowed down if they were close to the canoe. Our first portage was around Ragged Rapids dam. It was a pretty tame portage down a gravel road. There was lots of poison ivy near the end of the portage (easy to avoid) so be careful. We went about 4 km down the river after the portage to where the river widens. We checked out a few campsites and decided to shay on one with a sign that said, "Barge Island." On the one side of the island there was a huge wire and a cradle made of wood in the water where a large boat, or barge could be tied up. There was a great swimming area and lots of blueberries all over the island.
We caught a few bass trolling in the area, unfortunately the only fish I caught was small so 
no pictures of the bigger fish that were caught in the other boat.
Day 2

As we continued down the Musquash River and passed under the 400 highway, we saw a deer in 
the distance eating along the shoreline. We quietly made our way closer and got a great close up experience with a young deer. It nibbled away not really worried about us at all. It was an awesome sight.

Later on in the day, we came to some rapids just before Gray Lake. These were class 1 rapids and looked intimidating. We paddled through them, but did consider a short portage along the shore.
It would be very easy portage if you decided not to paddle through. Next, we came to Gray Rapids and Falls. Our map indicated that you could run the rapids down to a short portage around the falls. We scouted these rapids and decided to turn back to the longer portage. The rapids started with quite a drop which we did not want to do with kids. The portage was good, but buggy. We paddled a few more kilometres and stayed the night at the falls entering Go Home Lake. It was a great campsite and the falls were beautiful. We fished the bottom of the falls in the evening and caught a nice walleye. We tossed him back to fight another day.

I decided to buy a filter this year to make drinking water instead of boiling. Last year, my buddy bought the hand pump model from Katadyn, but it required a lot of crouching next to the lake, so I decided to go with the Katadyn Gravity camp 6L filter system. Fill the bag up with water, hang it from a branch and that's it. It did get clogged on the last day, but it was an easy fix. 
Day 3

After moving our canoes to the bottom of the falls, we loaded up and headed South on Go Home Lake. Somehow we had the wind to our back again. The kids were excited because they knew at the end of the lake there was ice cream at Go Home Lake Marina. I told my wife that we should plan all canoe trips so that there is a marina on the route. A cold treat hit the spot.

After our treat we headed back onto the Musquash until it met Gibson River. After a portage around a dam, this is where our journey headed upstream. We passed a group of girls on a trip who looked like they were having a blast. As we headed west we came to the steepest portage of them all around bottleneck falls. The portage is not long, but tough to navigate with a pack or canoe. My buddy and I carried the canoes together over the steep part to make sure we didn't loose our footing.

After the rapids we started looking for a place to camp. There are a lot of sites along the river but none of them were great. When we started hearing the cars on the 400, we turned around and chose a nice site far enough to be quiet. We were all ready for a peaceful night, but it was going to be down to 8 degrees, so we all put on our socks and jammies to try to keep warm. Joanna woke up early and got this picture of the river giving up its heat.

Day 4

Our last day was going to be our longest. We needed to paddle down Gibson Lake and portage over to Six Mile followed by a paddle down to the Provincial Park. I decided to serve the family a big oatmeal breakfast and make extra bannock bread for lunch. We have a great bannock recipe that we put all the dry ingredients in a large ziplock freezer bag and just add water on the trip and knead it in the bag. It saves bringing a mixing bowl and keeps your hands clean. The key to good bannock is cooking it slowly. Add some peanut butter and your in heaven. Some salami and cheese work as well.

The paddle down Gibson Lake was quite nice. It was a much quieter lake than Six Mile and Go Home. The boaters even slowed down to lessen their wake something we did not experience on the other lakes. Once we found the creek that connects Gibson to Six Mile we ran into a big beaver dam.

Once we got into Hungry Bay on Six Mile Lake, we saw one of the best sights of the trip, four trumpeter swams. The two adults had tags so I did some research when I got home and found out 
about the reintroduction process of the swans into Ontario. I reported our sighting to the website and even saw a Youtube video of the swan family from ealier in the year.
After a few more hours, we were at the Provincial Park and packing up the van. It was a great trip and I would highly recommend it to any family. 

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