Long Point Paddle
Judy Mahoney and Cheryl Tompkins organized this trip as a three day event leaving Friday, paddling Saturday and hiking Sunday. After numerous emails, phone calls and two meetings, the group was finalised: eight men, four women, two dogs, two travel trailers, one canoe trailer, six tents, four campsites, ten kayaks, and one canoe travelling in eight vehicles. Most of us managed to check into Long Point Provincial Park at the same time on a cool 12C blustery day with cold north winds of 30km/hr gusting to 50km/hr. Nick's trailer site with hydro served as the base camp with Cheryl's site and Judy's site nearby with three tents on each. Roy's trailer was on a hydro site at an adjoining campground.
Supper was prepared ahead of time thanks to Judy's culinary skills. We all enjoyed a delicious curry chicken meal heated up in the trailer and served in our outdoor kitchen made from Joe's gazebo. The sky had cleared enough to create an amazing sunset on the south beach side of the point. Dressed up in our warmest layers, we enjoyed our campfire with lots of dry wood. We sang, talked, joked and made gourmet Smores with specialty chocolates from Shelley under a spectacular, clear star lit sky.
The next morning Nico had coffees underway followed by a breakfast of hot oatmeal, most welcome on a cold 2C morning. Today was our paddle day and we planned to leave by 10 am. Lunches were made and we drove to the 3rd Concession road where there was a good spot to put in our boats and park vehicles. It was a beautiful sunny day expecting a high of 18C. We were all on the river by 11:30 drifting downstream with a good current and lots of water. To add to the Amazon feel of the Big Creek, there were a lot of low hanging branches and vines along with trees that had fallen into the river.
Lunch spot was found by a former railway bridge that was part of the trail system of the Backus Woods (our Sunday hike). We were all hungry as it was 1:30 pm and we had traveled 6.5 km or halfway to our destination by the marsh.
The paddling resumed with even more log obstacles. One overhanging tree resulted in a sudden capsize of one of our more experienced kayakers. Winston got hooked on a branch, his kayak went broadside, and he ended up in the water. Judy, Joe and I were all nearby and able to secure his boat while he managed to climb back in. Winton had a pump to empty the cockpit of water as well as a drybag with a change of clothes. A successful rescue with only a loss of sunglasses and water bottle.
The rest of the paddle became more physically challenging as the river entered the marsh area and we headed into the strong easterly head winds. There was not much protection from the wind, so especially for Ivon and Shelley in a canoe, it proved quite difficult for the final few kilometres. Nico's truck finally came into view and with everyone ashore, the drivers were shuttled back, boats secured on trailer and vehicles, we were back at the campground by 4:30 pm.
Supper was at a local waterfront restaurant that served up fresh pickerel and all kinds of craft beer. Winston headed home as he only planned on coming for the day of paddling and the rest of us went back to our campsites. The East winds had shifted to the south so it actually felt warm for our evening campfire. The rains came just as we were ready to turn in for the night. It was quite the stormy night; the tough tenters were fine except for the gazebo that flipped over.
Sunday was our hike day in Backus Woods. Most of the group were heading back to Sarnia after the hike so everyone packed up, and made lunches after breakfast. The hike was in a beautiful Carolinean forest with lots of maple and beech trees. This was a nature conservancy and there was a well-maintained trail system. We managed 13 kilometers, the same as our paddle, without much of a lunch break as it was somewhat wet and the only shelter was near the trail head.
Saying goodbye to our fellow campers, three of us, (Judy, Ivon and I) returned to Long Point. Ivon and Judy set up their tents on my campsite and we enjoyed Ivon's Mulligatawny soup, a delicious creamy curry soup, perfect for dipping bread along with all our leftover hummus, cheese and salami. Everybody contributed to the food and my trailer was still overflowing with all kinds of supplies on our last night.
Rain forced us inside the trailer from the campfire, so it was a time to play games before everyone headed to their tents. Monday morning was dry and Ivon was already packing up while I made coffee. After a light breakfast he left and Judy and I were able to explore the campground. We met the park host and realized we were only halfway down the length of Long Point. The rest is a protected wildlife refuge area not even accessible on foot as there was a gate across the trail.
We all certainly enjoyed this trip and want to plan another similar trip next year. The mix of trailers and tents and having campsites close together would require reservations through the Provincial Park system. There is a wide variety of activities possible in a close area that would appeal to a lot of members. Thanks to everyone for organizing, contributing food, expertise and friendship to make this event extra special and getting to know each other better.
Nico van Dyl