Friday, 25 July 2014
Kayaking in the 1000 Islands!
Guest Post by: Kendra Lorimer of Brockville Tourism
Recently, due to the great relationship that our office has with Parks Canada and Thousand Islands National Park, I was invited to tag along with one of our summer tourism ambassadors on TINP’s annual kayaking and camping trip. This isn't just any camping trip, it’s a 2-day guided kayaking adventure in the 1000 islands with an overnight stay camped out on an island with the chance to test-drive one of the new Parks Canada "oTENTiks". An oTENTik is a permanent tent-like structure that sleeps six that was introduced to the region just last summer and has been a buzz word in our office ever since. An opportunity to try one out for myself was too good to pass up.
The morning of our trip we met up with Parks staff at 1000 Islands Kayaking in Gananoque to get outfitted with our kayaks and gear. Luckily the Parks boat was taking our camping gear across to our campsite so that we didn't have to pack lightly – otherwise I would have had an issue stuffing my “essentials” into my kayak to take with me. We were a large group, so the kayaking company provided us with two guides to take us on our paddling tour. After a brief lesson on water safety and what to do if our kayaks flipped (yikes!), we were ready to get out on the water. Our guides led us quickly out of the harbour and to a more secluded area near the shore where we were taken through Kayaking 101 to get us all more comfortable in our kayaks.
After Kayaking 101 we crossed the channel and went for a light paddle around a number of small islands, finally coming to a stop on McDonald Island for lunch, which would also be where we would be camping for the night. While our guides prepared us a delicious gourmet, local flavours lunch, we took a tour of the island and started setting up our campsites. McDonald Island has boat docks, a picnic shelter, a number of campsites including two oTENTik sites, and green composting toilets. With well-worm paths, access to the water on all sides, and plenty of picnic tables and docking for boats, it is easy to see why this would be a popular island in the summer for both day use and camping.
After lunch we got back in our kayaks and pushed off for the second half of our paddle and guided tour. We paddled around more islands, a mix of privately owned and National Parks islands, making our way to half-moon bay, affectionately referred to as the “cathedral with the highest ceiling”, where islanders meet in their boats for a Vesper Service on Sundays in July and august – a tradition since 1887. We paddled back towards McDonald for the night, stopping to learn about ship wrecks and island history from our guides, fighting high winds most of the way back. By this point most of our arms were getting tired, and I was quite envious of the guides who seemed to coast along with very little effort.
Back on the island for the night we settled in for the evening and unpacked our belongings. Our oTENTik not only had room to sleep six, it also had an indoor table and chairs, plenty of floor space, and wall hooks to keep your items out of the way. Thinking back to the days of camping trips with my family, that amount of space would have been very luxurious in comparison; it would have been so nice to play cards in there on a rainy day instead of on top of our sleeping bags on the floor of our tent! The oTENTik also had lights, and each sleeping area had its own thick mattress. All you had to do was roll out your sleeping bag and pillow and you were done. That’s it. Makes camp life a lot simpler and it really cuts down on the gear and equipment you need to bring with you (If you don’t have your own gear, you can now rent everything you would need, and even hire a shuttle from 1000 Islands Kayaking to take you and your gear over to the islands).
After a full day of fresh air and exercise, I slept very well that night, but I certainly enjoyed sleeping in the oTENTik. It was clean, warm, had comfortable mattresses, and best of all – no bugs! (There is nothing worse than being trapped all night in a tent with a rogue mosquito). In the morning we had a lovely breakfast, packed up, and got back out onto the water. Soon after we got out there it started to rain, and we were all thankful that we had gotten in while everything was still dry and we were now protected inside of our kayaks. The rain wasn't a deterrent; in fact the water was much calmer than the day before which made for a much easier and smoother day of paddling, and the grey water and sky really made our bright kayaks stand out on the water. The senior Parks staff took us west to one of their favourite islands, Beau Rivage (or “Beau” as they called it), to show it off to us and to their new summer staff. It was a beautiful island with picnic shelters, trails, and campsites and was a nice island to stop on despite the rain. Unfortunately, after we stopped our kayaks and seats were all wet from the rain, but at that point we were all soaked anyway, so it didn't really matter. After that we headed back to the mainland to turn in our kayaks, finish our trip and most importantly, change into dry clothes!
I am so glad to have been invited to tag along. While I have been out kayaking in the beautiful 1000 Islands before, I am always happy for an opportunity to get back out there, and having guides share some of the history of the islands really added to the experience. It also helps to have people with you who are familiar with the area to keep you from getting lost! I am looking forward to my next opportunity to get back out on the water.