Sunday, June 14, 2015

Canoe Trip - Algonquin Provincial Park

 The canoe trip to Algonquin Provincial Park was the one thing I was looking forward to the most and it turned out to be one of the biggest highlights of my stay here in Canada.
It was not only an experience from which I discovered that I am able to push myself a lot further than I thought when it comes to portaging a canoe, but also an experience that taught me how important it is for everyone to work together and to make sure that everything is done before the first person leaves. The trip enabled me to get to know my classmates closer and to discover great friendships that will hopefully last beyond my Canadian school year.
Looking back, there were many things that went well and better than I expected, but also some things that will need improvement for the next trip.
The first aspect I would improve is the organizing of the food menu. The planning of the menu went well and it included everything from breakfast to dinner and dessert. However, I think that we lost our overview after all the groceries were bought, maybe due to lack of communication, and therefore we found out too late that no one had thought of organizing the ingredients for the bannock, which was a part of our menu. This could have easily been avoided by proper communication, but luckily we had also brought cookies which replaced the bannock.
Setting sails on the first day
On the trip itself the biggest problem occurred during one of the longest portages. It was at the end of a long day and the second of two challenging portages in a row. We were not only confronted with about 700 meters of carrying packs and canoes, but also with an infinite amount of mosquitoes. Personally I felt very overwhelmed as they accumulated under the canoe that I was carrying, attacking my face and my hands. This plague lead to the point at which many of us jumped into a canoe after we had just portaged one way, leaving not only the mosquitoes but also a lot of gear behind. In the end everybody had to come back to help with the left over gear and to collect firewood. If everybody would have portaged more often till no gear was left, to begin with, than we could have saved a lot of time. I really do regret that I gave in that easily and I pledge myself to be stronger next time and to face the challenge no matter how hard it may be.
French Fries from left over
Despite that mistake I find that overall most of the things went very well and better, compared to the hiking trip in grade ten. Something that stood out the most to me is the cooking quality and quantity of our menus. As far as I know every cooking group prepared the food quickly and efficiently, providing great nutritious meals for the whole group, thinking of allergies and food preferences. Personally I can say that the menus included nothing that I wouldn’t eat and additionally did not leave me hungry for the rest of the day.
Packing our gear in the morning
In general everything relating to the campsites was done very nicely and cleanly. We always burned our organic garbage in the fire and held the campsites clean during and after our stay. Honestly, I cannot remember seeing any trash lying around. Even the smelly thunder-boxes were somewhat bearable since everybody used them properly. My tent group also did very well with setting up and taking down our tent, so that we were packed up every morning before breakfast had started.
"The perfect weather for canoeing"
The canoeing part of the trip did also have many positive aspects. Except on the first day, when wind and waves made canoeing a lot harder, the group never fell too far apart and we were easily able to keep up with our time schedules. Switching up canoe seats and partners I got the  full perspective of the different responsibilities and was able to improve on my paddling techniques in both, bow and stern. As it came to the portages our group showed immense improvement following the bad experience on the long mosquito portage. Having learned from our mistakes everybody showed the great ability of working together as a team, helping each other out and going back till nothing was left. This way we finished each of the portages during the last two days, quickly and smoothly, never leaving anything behind.
Our trip was blessed with the perfect weather for canoeing, warm enough to wear shorts and t-shirt during the day, but also with a slight breeze that cooled us down. We were able to face challenges like two little rapids and the wind and waves of the first day. Afterwards we could enjoy the fun experience of rafting up and setting sails, allowing us to just lean back as we sailed over the whole length of the lake. The second day was great to go for a swim at high falls, which included a water-slide and cliff jumping. To enjoy the trip to the fullest a few others and me even went for a little night swim on the last night of the trip.
Water-slide at Highfalls
Although I did really like the hiking trip, I have to say that the canoe trip gave us a lot more opportunities to relax after long and exhausting days. Having only one group cook for everybody, instead of many small groups, made it a lot easier to sit together at the campfire and to get to know each other. For me, going on the trip was additionally a good opportunity to admire the great and beautiful wild nature of Canada’s National Parks. It was not only an opportunity to get to know people better, but also one to learn a lot about myself as well.
I would always do it again and I am already looking forward to adventures like this that I will hopefully get to do in the near future. A huge thanks to Mr. Brouwer for organizing most of it and for being patient with us in the mornings. Thanks to Mrs. Trumpower and Mrs. Lalonde as well, for coming on the trip with us, helping out and giving advice when needed.
It was an unforgettable experience from which I have learned many great life lessons.

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