Why I Went Out Alone in Algonquin Park [video] – Part One

I had a lot of people rooting for me and I received an overwhelming response of positive words of encouragement and advice for my first solo canoe trip through social media. But then there was this one comment by someone who wasn’t as supportive.

I proceeded to ask why and his reply was:

I could have gotten caught up in the one negative comment I received on being open about my first-ever solo canoe trip, but I rationalized with myself the reasons why I was going and how prepared I was. Was I being “not too S M A R T”? And I wondered why someone might say that I (assuming me, or maybe he meant everyone) should never go into the bush or waterways alone.

To prepare for this adventure in my life, I have endured many kilometres of paddling my canoe; Singing Wilderness, with my husband; have carried our gear through many kilometres of portages over the past 6 years; have camped in shoulder seasons; was certified by ORCKA in Moving Water Level 1 Canoeing; received some instruction on solo paddling; and was recently certified in Wilderness First Aid. What could stop me now? Could I be any more prepared to go? At this point in time, it was only a matter of just going out and doing it.

So, here is the story of my first-ever solo canoe trip in Algonquin Park:

My Planned Route

My route as shown on Jeff’s Map.

Paddling My Own Canoe

Taken just before I embarked on my first solo canoe trip.

I barely had enough time to pick a route, let alone get my act together to go. I had been extremely busy with school, work, my blog and photography since September 2016 that I didn’t even give myself time to think about this trip.  The next thing I know, it’s Monday morning of my trip and I hadn’t even started packing up my gear. It was almost like it wasn’t happening. Finally around 2pm, I hopped in Bo Bo Ska Diddle (our Sube) and headed north on Highway 11 to Huntsville and then Highway 60 to Oxtongue Lake where I would pick up a Swift 15′ Keewaydin canoe at Algonquin Outfitters. Algonquin Outfitters were awesome enough to give me a canoe to use for the week. They’re such supportive and awesome people! I can’t say enough great things about them.

It was almost like I was in a dream when the Keewaydin was being strapped to the roof racks. I was completely living in the moment, not giving myself time to work up irrational thoughts in my head that could lead to fear and anxiety. When I arrived at Canoe Lake to pick up my permit and push off from shore around 4pm to get my solo trip started, I felt nothing again. I wondered what was wrong with me. I imagined my limbs would feel weak, a racing heart and fear, but nothing. It was raining, in fact there was a rainfall warning in effect that day, not even the fear of weather made me feel anything.

The first few paddle strokes gave me a world of confidence. I was outfitted with a pack-style canoe where the seat is fastened to the bottom of the canoe, and kayak paddles are used. It was a lot easier than I had imagined.

I knew that just getting to my first portage was my main goal, and that my sense of accomplishment would be tremendous even at that point. If I could get there, then I could do this whole trip. But, getting to my first portage took a lot longer than I had hoped. When I paddled between two islands on Canoe Lake, the wind kicked up and with it white caps. I felt very unsafe. I stuck pretty close to shore most of the time in case of any incidents swamping the canoe. So, I paddled myself to a set of docks that I believe belong to a camp. I got out of the canoe and waited for what seemed like forever until the wind died down. When it did, I got back in and paddled to the end of the lake and to my first portage.

Even just getting myself here was an incredible sense of accomplishment!

Canoe Lake to Joe Lake, the paddler’s highway of Algonquin Park! The route I picked seemed pretty reasonable and easy for my first time. I would spend a night on Joe Lake, Burnt Island Lake, Tom Thomson Lake, and back on Joe Lake.

When the bow of my canoe landed up on shore I hopped out with excitement. Finally, I felt something inside! Some emotion! I portaged the canoe first, then went back for my food barrel, and back again for my pack. I did it. I portaged my first portage! I paddled out to Joe Lake and I couldn’t stop the huge grin on my face. I was happy! I was excited. I felt unstoppable! And even the rain and wind died down.

I paddled under this bridge to Joe Lake. Shot with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-G85 camera and 35-100mm f2.8 lens.
Paddling my own canoe. Shot with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-G85 camera and 35-100mm f2.8 lens.
Joe Lake. Shot with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-G85 camera and 35-100mm f2.8 lens.

I wanted to paddle to the east end of Joe Lake to give myself a good start for the next day. I was getting tired and I knew it was getting late, but I wanted to find the perfect campsite for my first night. And then there it was.

First campsite of the trip! Shot with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-G85 camera and 35-100mm f2.8 lens.

I landed the canoe and stripped off my dry suit! Because it was late, probably around 8pm, I went to put the rope up for my food barrel. I didn’t realize that the campsites on Joe Lake (and perhaps others) had ropes already there put in place by the park. But the rope and pulley at my site was missing the rope. So I hiked back into the forest to find the perfect tree. I tried throwing my pulley over the branch many times and almost started cursing when I stopped myself. I knew that frustration was only going to make matters worse. I gave myself a pep talk and on the second throw my pulley made it over the branch. “Yes!” I yelled. I felt on top of the world.

I put my tent up, had a drink and called it a day. I woke up to gusts of wind and my fly blowing around. I had to re-peg it twice throughout the night before I decided to get up and move my tent. Aside from that, I had an amazing sleep! I thought I would be scared of night noises, and I already knew that I was probably not going to get any sleep the first night because of that, but it was so windy that I couldn’t hear a thing. So I slept incredibly well.

I was up really early the next morning to get a good start on the day before it got too windy, but when I got up, the wind was still blowing. In fact, it was gusting. There was no way I was paddling in that. I didn’t feel safe doing so. The ice just melted off the lakes a week or so ago, and the water is freezing. I wasn’t taking any chances. So, I had to stay at the campsite for another day. If the wind died down later in the day, I’d consider paddling to Burnt Island Lake where I was going to spend my second night.

At 5:30am, it was too windy to even think about paddling on my second day. Shot with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-G85 camera and 35-100mm f2.8 lens.
Breakfast of champions. Oatmeal with dehydrated strawberries, a dollop of crunchy peanut butter and a hot drink with Irish cream.

My second day brought a lot of rain and gusty wind. I tried sawing up some wood to have a fire, but it was all wet and too windy to have a fire. I spent a lot of the day reading in my tent.

I always bring an R.D. Lawrence book to read on canoe trips. Shot with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-G85 camera and 8mm f3.5 fisheye lens.

I didn’t even bother to make dinner. It was my second night not making dinner. Honestly, it was good to relax because I have been so busy, but it was also extremely cold. Shortly after the photograph was taken of me reading my book, I crawled into my sleeping bag and put my mitts and hat on. Every so often, I would emerge from my cave to move around to get warm, and then I would crawl back in to read some more.

Daylight eventually faded and I was reading by headlamp. I wanted to fall asleep so that day three would arrive and I could get moving. I woke up to brushing sounds against my tent fly. I wasn’t sure if it was mice or what, so I turned my headlamp on and peeked outside the tent. It was snowing! Snow was sheeting off my fly. It was a long, cold night.

Day one and two shown on Jeff’s Map.

Part two comin’ right up!


There are some shout-outs that I’d like to make. I’d like to thank Panasonic Canada for lending me camera and video gear to try out and review. I’m excited to post some reviews on my website of the camera, lenses and video cameras I used. Thank you SO MUCH, Panasonic/Lumix!

I’d also like to thank Randy Mitson from Algonquin Outfitters for being an awesome person! It seems like he’ll do anything to get people outside and to experience Algonquin Park. Thank you SO MUCH for giving me a canoe to use for my solo canoe trip!

I want to thank Heidi from work for giving me solo canoe lessons, and Jenny from work who covered a 3-hour shift for me. Thanks, Heidi and Jenny!

And, I’d really love to thank everyone who offered support with words of encouragement and advice through social media. It truly means the world to me!

I also think it’s important to note that it is a major no-no to not stick to your original route (booked lakes). But, I knew at this time of year there wouldn’t be many people in the park (I didn’t see anyone) and that would enable me to camp on a different site than what was reserved. In the summer time, most of these lakes are completely booked up, so I would have had no other choice than to make it to my planned destination.

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51 Comments Add yours

  1. Awesome write up and beautiful photos, as usual. You are a very talented photographer. Looking forward to reading part 2.

    Don’t get too caught up in the Twitter-bums comment. If you spend any time looking at his tweets you’ll see that he just complains about everything. What a sad life it must be for him.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for the comment, The Bric! Yes, it’s easy to get caught up on the negative comments, but you’re right, they must not live a fulfilling life if they can’t fathom going into the woods alone.

      Thanks again! I appreciate it! 🙂

      Like

  2. Trip Douglas says:

    Awesome post and video! Congratulations on your accomplishment.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kimbo says:

    Thanks Cobi for your Part I “Canoeing Solo” Great rea/pic’s thus far! Awaiting Part II

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Mama Bear! Probably next week 🙂

      Like

  4. Tricia says:

    Cobi, this is incredible! Great video and pictures are fab as usual…. I loved reading your post and am looking forward to part II I’m living vicariously through you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Tricia! I was really surprised with how I felt. I thought I’d be terrified, but it was far from the truth. I tried to do a solo last year, but just didn’t feel ready. I guess I really was this time around. I’m already planning my next solo trip! xo

      Like

  5. Hey girl! Great Job! Congrats again. I don’t want to take away from what you did at all, but I want to address the comment you received. Being a woman who solo’s often, probably 95% of my trips are alone. I hike alone, I kayak alone, I camp alone, I adventure alone. I want you to know, I get it. I get the comments all the time. I get the people who say, you are not being safe. You should take a friend. You shouldn’t go alone. You are crazy. etc, etc etc. I have had many of them, and I will probably get lots more.

    I have talked to many people about this over the years and it is not uncommon at all. I have been told by men they often get the same comments, but they do not get them nearly as many, as we do, as women. Some people are truly concerned and they worry about us, they really do care and think they are helping in some way. Some people are jealous of what you are doing and will try to get in your head and stop you. Only YOU and YOU Alone, know your skill level and what you are, and aren’t capable of. You are not crazy, You are not stupid. You are prepared. You are experienced. You are safe, You are S M A R T! You are doing everything you should be doing and you are most likely being even more safe than many people who aren’t soloing, due to the fact you are going out alone and are extra cautious because of it.

    Social media is awesome! You get to share your passions and excite others to do the same. You get support from complete strangers right along with people you love. You get words of encouragement and many people will even be in awe of what you are doing, call you brave and make you feel like you truly are amazing! That is the best part!!! Sadly, that also opens you up to the criticism and the negative people who have nothing better to do than try and make you doubt your abilities. Sometimes it is hard to shut them down, or turn them off, but it is all part of it. With the good, always comes a bit of bad.

    Never let them make you doubt yourself and your abilities. I”m so glad you didn’t let them stop you. There will be more of them, believe me, people you won’t even expect, who you thought would be on your side, but you have to do what you know is right for you and that is exactly what you did. You should be very very proud of yourself. You accomplished your goal. You did it safely and you overcame your fears and each time it will get a little bit easier. Those comments will still come in, but you just keep proving them wrong. You are strong, you are awesome, and you are doing what you love. Never let them stop you!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow, thank you so much for this wonderful, inspiration comment, Christina! It’s all very true. I’m thankful for social media too, where women can continue to show their confidence in the wilderness and their capabilities to be out there alone. Alone isn’t a big, bad, scary word or experience!

      I like being on my own. While I really love paddling and camping with my husband and dog, but I need extra time with my camera on my own. It’s the whole reason why I went out on my solo trip, why I went back to school and why I write this blog. It’s for my well-being and if others are inspired to do the same, that’s awesome!

      At the end of the day, I want to show how wonderful the out-of-doors is to those who don’t spend much time in it. I want those people to connect with nature, so we can start respecting it so much more.

      It’s also really amazing to have the incredible support from others through social media. I’m overwhelmed. It’s so important to share and inspire each other. We’re all in this together with the same ideals and love for nature.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. You’re amazing! Pumped to see what’s next.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate your comment, G! 🙂

      Like

  7. Laura says:

    Great photos and write-up. I am excited for part 2.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for the comment, Laura!

      Like

  8. mmpalepale says:

    I’m in anticipation of the next segment! Good for you that you didn’t let that one comment deter you. 👍🏼

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for the comment, mmpalepale! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. kyrapaterson says:

    Love everything about this post and the video. I do wonder though… if your bear bell is disturbed in the night, are you going out to check what’s investigating your food?! I do the same thing, but would never get up in the night on my own to check it out!! 🙂 (I don’t really want to know!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Kyra! I wonder about the bear bell, myself. I lay awake in my tent at night with a sleeping dog and husband next to me and ponder this all the time, and I actually make myself believe that I can hear the bell back in the forest (mind tricks0, but then I go out on my own and have the courage of 10 men! I wasn’t scared, nor did I think about it. A bear, I can handle it. 😉

      Seriously though, I have bear spray and flares that I would use. I guess it would depend on how far in the backcountry I am. If I’m days in and I couldn’t get out without having some food, I’d be more inclined to actually follow-up with the trigger of the bell. I guess maybe one day I’ll find out! 😛

      Like

  10. This looks like so much fun! I would have chickened out, I’m envious of your courage. Looking forward to reading about the rest of the trip!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for the comment, whitemountainmama! I thought I’d be scared, but I wasn’t at all. I guess I really was ready for this trip!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Anonymous says:

    Cobi, as one of your parents, I suppose I had very small reservations about this trip originally, when you first proposed it. But, in retrospect, I also know you and your capabilities. When you got your canoeing certification and began telling me about how you were preparing and knowing how extremely determined you were/are, those feelings commenced to subside. Your passion for the outdoors is inspiring and the fact that you want to share it with everyone, and want to have them physically experience it, is commendable as well. Once I realized how you were preparing and you informed me of the equipment and safety precautions you had in place, I was not feeling nervous about it at all. After our phone call that day, on my way to work, I thought more about how special, and brave you were, and how determined you are to succeed at everything you attempt. You are brave, strong, compassionate and very intelligent. All the rights ingredients required to succeed in anything you do. I knew you would be excited and maybe a little apprehensive at first, as you should be, but also knew that once you got into it you would have that giant grin on your beautiful face. I will finish by saying, I love your blog, and specifically the wonderful photography that makes everyone reading and seeing it, feel like they are actually right there along with you. That’s the whole idea, right? Keep on doing these adventures and enjoying what Mother Earth has to offer. As your Father I couldn’t be prouder, or love you more… my little Waboose!!! XOX 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Dad! I think it’s important to push ourselves in order to grow as people, but mostly to make wonderful life experiences.

      This was one of them. B had nothing to do with any of it. I just told him what I was doing and he was supportive. It was something I wanted to do on my own. It’s always amazing to have the support of family and friends. xo

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That’s so sweet! My dad and mom worry about me too, but they also know that I am safe and have taken every precaution. Sometimes, I actually feel safer alone than being with someone who is not as experienced. Example: A few years ago I was car camping in Algonquin and a neighbor threw a hamburger into the forest behind their site. It’s things like this that make me feel safer being in the backcountry alone. I know my food is stored properly and I’m doing everything right, but we never really know if others are doing the same?

        Like

  12. true_north says:

    Bravo, what a great read! Makes me even more impatient for my first canoe trip of the year – but unlike you I’ve never worked up the nerve to do a solo!

    Looking forward to Part II and more pix. I see that smile in that second photo and I read “confident, glad-to-be-here, got-this-covered”.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for the comment, true_north! Yes, when the snow melts, the itch comes on pretty strong. I wanted to get out there before the bugs. I would have liked to have gone during the warmth of the summer, but I had a window of time and just went for it.

      I attempted to go on my solo trip last year, but just didn’t feel ready. And yes, I’ve never felt so confident! I love it! 🙂

      Like

  13. Kelly says:

    Awesome!! That’s so inspiring that you did this solo. How gorgeous, thank you for sharing. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for the comment, Kelly! I appreciate it 🙂

      Like

  14. Joyce says:

    I love this! I’m glad you didn’t let the comments stop you!

    I trip solo a lot and have never really had any negative feedback yet. But, then again, as a rule I never post about trips until they’re over so maybe that helps? Either way, all I ever get are those “wow! You did that solo? How bad ass! ” kinda comments 😊

    I have to ask… as a relatively new photographer myself, did you use anything to protect your camera when you were in the canoe taking a picture? I’ve got a pelican case, but not sure what I’ll do in the canoe. I might be too paranoid to take it out! And those waterproof dslr covers are the price of a whole camera lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Joyce! No, the comments would stop me, but it made me wonder why someone would think it is not okay to be outside alone.

      Good idea about not posting until you’ve completed it, but there’s so much excitement in sharing photos of camping gear all packed up waiting for an adventure!

      In terms of the camera gear, I only use the Pelican Case. I’m not afraid of using my camera in the canoe. When I open the case, I immediately put the camera strap over my neck and close the case. I have had a couple of “almosts” when the case slid off my knees! So, now I shut it immediately while I’m using my camera. I think you just get confident and used to it. Cameras can endure a good amount of “handling” and a few drops of rain. Don’t be scared, you might miss out on an amazing shot! If it’s down pouring, I don’t bother taking it out, but light rain is okay.

      Generally with all our gear, the dog and my husband and I, our canoe is very sturdy, so I’m not worried.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Joyce says:

        Good to know! Thanks! I haven’t used mine yey, but that seems like good advice 😊 I’ve got some events coming up this summer I want to photograph from my kayak and was wondering how it’s done!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Just don’t be scared! The Pelican Case is awesome. I have no worries with it. At first I was a bit timid with bringing my camera out in risky situations, but not so much anymore.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Joyce says:

        Definitely good to know! Thanks!
        It feels pretty indestructible!

        Like

    2. I always carry my Nikon with me, even in the canoe. No fancy cases, just a regular camera bag, Although I do put it in a plastic bag first. It takes a bit of time to take it out and then put it back in but I don’t mind. The only thing that I’ve ever dropped was a lens hood. Luckily it wasn’t too deep and it was summer so my son got into the water and fished it out for me. Would be harder if I was alone 🙂 Probably wouldn’t bother then. My husband always makes fun of me that I am paranoid about tipping over because of the camera, which is mostly true. Although I would want to end up in water even without one.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Shanna says:

    Way to go Cobi!!
    All that moose poop made me laugh.
    Shanna

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Like I said, “an unbelievable amount.” 🙂

      Like

  16. This is amazing! Congrats! I did my first solo backpacking trip to a cabin this year so I understand how scary it can feel to start off on your own and to try to fall asleep at night (especially when you’re cold). I personally think it’s awesome that you did a solo trip. People who complain about it just don’t get how awesome it feels to be able to do something on your own like that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for the comment, Run Away With Me! Yes, the cold in the morning was hard, but that’s about it. I don’t ever mind rain.

      Like

  17. Lori says:

    So Cool!! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment, Lori! 🙂

      Like

  18. C says:

    I think it’s awesome you did this solo! I am heading out on my first backpacking trip solo this summer. Sometimes you just have to try it to see if you will like it or not. I am, though, bringing my dog. My biggest worries is that something will happen to her (and will I have the right things in my first aid kit to help her, because she’s 80 lbs, it’s not like I can carry her…) and will I sleep at night when I hear every little twig snap (I’m thinking of bringing ear plugs)

    Like

  19. flatwooders says:

    Way to get out there and simply enjoy life, play a lil and show some grit! I read your post twice and was truly glued to the video soaking in all the scenery. Wish your video was a little louder though. Overall just thoroughly impressed and can’t wait to read part II. Just curious Cobi, did you do a Tarzan yell while you was out there? Lol

    Like

    1. What an awesome comment, flatwooders! Thank you so much!

      I appreciate your kind words. It was an incredible experience and I’m already thinking about the next. Since I’ve posted this I’ve had many say that once you go solo, you never go back.

      And you know, I did do a Tarzan yell! LOL. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  20. John says:

    Awesome job!! Out of curiosity, I was wondering you came about getting gear to review from panasonic? Thanks for keeping me in touch with Ontario, awesome blog.

    Like

  21. Congratulations! Your trip sounds amazing and way more adventurous than what I did. And don’t worry about naysayers. There will always be those who’ll say “not smart,” “crazy,” etc. for doing something like this. At the very best they say “so brave,” which is often a nicer way of sayign “insane.” And my reply is always “not really.” I like going into the woods alone because that’s when I can really connect with nature and just be with myself, wcich is a luxury these days. There are way braver people out there, people living through a disease or dealing with loss or having to overcome all sorts of systemic barriers. Going into nature is natural, but I guess we are afraid of what we don’t know and most of us don’t know nature any more, hence so many warnings and fears. It is inspiring to see more women go on solo trips and I believe that the more women do it, the less “crazy”/”not smart” it will seem. Look forward to reading Part II.

    Like

    1. Thank you so much, Oleksandra! I still can’t believe it did it. Almost like it didn’t really happen!

      I feel the same way, it wasn’t that hard, and I felt completely prepared for what I did. I could just be a matter of our comfort levels and confidence. Mine is through the roof now!

      Thank you so much for the comment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  22. On the subject of solo canoe tripping, I think Bill Mason said it best “A lot of people have told me I’m crazy for canoeing alone but the funny thing is, I’ve never been told that by anyone who’s actually done it.” To my mind it’s all about knowing your limitations and not tempting fate by over estimating your abilities. As you’ve noted being well informed regarding route and conditions as well as being sure to build your skills is of paramount importance. Solo canoe tripping is not for the novice but once one has acquired the skills and knowledge on how to be self sufficient there is nothing more enjoyable than to be out in nature on one’s own. Another useful item to take along is some form of communication device, I take a SpotOne with me which gives my wife peace of mind as I can let her know each day that all is well and she can see exactly where I am. The device works with satellites and should a rescue be required, it sends a GPS coordinate directly to the nearest rescue service. I think it’s great that you undertook this adventure and I thank you for sharing your experiences.
    Regards,
    Tim

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Tim!

      I had seriously thought about going on this adventure last year but just didn’t feel ready. I felt so ready this year and my confidence is through the roof!

      I did take a Spot device with me too. Should have mentioned that in my blog. And I agree, it is good to let family and friends know where we are during our adventurous to minimize the worrying. And, for me to have it is a great comfort as well.

      Like

  23. What a great adventure!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for the comment, borntobeadventurous!

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Aunt Jane says:

    Wow Cobi amazing adventure I knew you could do it but it was to early cold snowingvoh my and u still went ahead , you are brace I would be scared but u did itvand I love your blogs and keep doingvthem you can write books your photos are amazing to makes me feel like I there with you thanks for sharing

    Like

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