What could be better? A canoe trip with a new lover into the back country. The smells of the clean, northern air. The cool mornings. The complete desolation of camping on a deserted island.
Arriving at George Lake campground in Killarney, Ontario we booked in for 8 days of “day pass” parking. This means the vehicle can stay at the park, but we cannot. This was planned as the idea was to head out into Georgian Bay through Collins Inlet and camp on the islands that dot the area. At the time of this writing the cost to leave your vehicle at the park was $14.00 per vehicle, per day.
A few km from the George Lake park office was the Chikanishing Trail. The truck was parked in the lot, canoe unloaded, and ready to go. The unfortunate part about this dock is that it can often be busy. Most times power boaters believe they are “better” than canoe and kayakers, and will often ask kayakers and canoes to wait while they use trucks and trailers to load and load in the dock area.
After setting sail in the Chikanishing river inlet, we paddled out into Georgian bay. The bay was beautiful, filled with glorious flat water with no waves. Huge chunks of smooth pink granite rock with quartz veins rose out of the water. In the distance the calls of northern birds could be heard echoing into the forest.
The Chikanishing inlet opens into the northern section of Lake Huron known as “Collins Inlet” near Phillip Edward Island. Our plan was to head into Collins Inlet and towards the West Entrance. The lake was a little rough, compared to the inlet. There wasn’t much wind, and the weather said we would have two or three days before some light rain would move in.
Heading westbound through Collins inlet revealed dozens of smooth, weather battered small islands of solid pink granite. Some as small as a compact car, others the size of a house. The waves gently pushed up against them as we paddled by. There was very little noise except for the the roar of the wind pushing through the white, red, and Scotch pines that lined the inlet on both sides. When wind hits these pine trees, it roars like a waterfall. It’s a beautiful and haunting sound.
Stopping on one of the many islands, we took a well deserved break. Paddling can be challenging, especially when there is a little bit of chop to the water.
My girlfriend, Amanda took some time to relax on the island, we had some food, and let the dogs run loose to explore.
This is the point where most of the troubles on our journey began. After spending time on the island, we decided to leave and head westbound for a few more hours paddling.
Upon entering the water, she slipped and landed right on her butt, with a hard thud. This caused her extreme pain. She rested for a moment. I was sitting in the stern of the canoe, helpless. She then attempted a second entry into the boat, and again her bare feet slipped on the smooth, slimy rocks causing another set of injuries.
Angrily, she decided that it was a mistake to be barefoot and put her shoes on, which made the situation significantly worse and she not only slipped, but slid into the water and under the bow of the canoe. At this point, I exited the canoe which was in chest deep water and clambered up to assist her.
Sore, soaked, and banged up we headed along the inlet to find a great little bay. In the bay was good sized island. The best part of camping on a deserted island is there is no chance of bears harassing us or stealing our food.
Like something out of a storybook, the island was incredibly beautiful. Large, smooth rocks jetted up out of the water. Porous grey rocks dotted the landscape. Thick, lush moss covered the ground and was a real pleasure for bare feet to walk on. The centre of the island had a large set of Scotch Pine growing in a circle around it. Perfect for camping.
Sleeping on deserted islands in a remote wilderness is an amazing experience. The stars are incredible and hang light light bulbs suspended from an eternal ceiling. The quiet is something that few people can comprehend. The secluded bay allows many freedoms including the opportunity to go skinny dipping, and basically do whatever you wish. The lack of human traffic allows these islands to stay in their natural state. The moss grows thick. There is rarely any rubbish from visitors, and a certain calmness will befall you spending time there.
Three days into our trip, the weather report said slight rain. Lies. Large, dark clouds loomed overhead. The air was alive with electricity. It made our situation feel very ominous. There was very little wind, but the electric air and dark clouds spelled trouble. We packed up and headed towards land.
Heading out into the Collins Inlet towards the Chikanishing inlet the waves started to white cap. The canoe was thrown about on the water like a paper cup. While paddling as hard as we could, the boat repeatedly got thrown up out of the water, and slammed down, bow first. We took on some water. My canoe instructor once gave me some of the best advice I have ever heard for canoeing: Never be further away from shore than you want to swim. Follow this advice.
No one was on the water. The waves crashed hard against the shore. We could actually hear the waves hitting the rocks. Paddling as hard as we could, we took rest in some covered bays between paddling the rough waters.
At one point, we were approached by a small aluminium fishing boat. He said he had rescued a couple of people already, and asked if we would like to be towed back to the inlet. We graciously accepted his tow as he threw out a stern line and towed us back into the dock.
Unloading the canoe we heard stories of other canoers, kayakers, and other adventurers and travellers who said that the lake was angry. It had capsized several canoes, pushed kayakers into the rocks, and just wreaked havoc on everyone on or near the water that day.
The trip was incredible, the views stunning, the nature amazing. Just be sure not to be on the water when the lake is angry.