This past week, the grade 11's headed to Achray in Algonquin Park for a 4-day canoe trip. The trip was supposed to cover about 26 km, with about 10 lakes and 10 portages, but the weather forced us to change the plans a little. As soon as we got on the water, we got hit with a thunder storm that ensured we were good and wet. Add with that the chill that showed up on the third day and you could very well have the overview of the trip, but that is only if you are the glass is half full kind of a person. There were some fantastic highlights on this trips that make it stand out as one of the best I have done with students.
It is true that 3 days of rain wears on you, especially when the third day was relentless in the rain and the temperatures dropped to make it bitter cold. That said, on the second day, we started off with a bit of sun trying to peak through the clouds and with a lack of wind, the lake was like glass. We had also decided to hang out for the day, as another 20 mm of rain had been promised to us. So instead of breaking up camp and trying to charge to the next one before the rains started, we made sure tents, tarps and firewood was in place to ensure our comfort.
The students enjoyed a rare opportunity to sleep in, some even made it to 10 am. After a nice breakfast, we headed to the waterslides and were treated to the highest water level that I had ever experienced. This made the waterslide very powerful and a lot of fun. The water was still a bit chilly, but the air was very warm and the sun was trying to peak through. After a good swim, we had chicken caesar salad wraps as we enjoyed the powerful High Falls as our backdrop. That was also the end of our nice weather until the end of the trip. It started to drizzle and by the time we got back to camp the heavy rains had returned.
Expecting the rains to stop overnight, it was a real disappointment when the rains just seemed to get heavier on the 3rd day. The rains were relentless and the wind, with the drop in temperatures, made it seem bitterly cold. It was time to huddle under the tarp with a good fire, lots of food and a good game of liars dice. There was also a battle of crazy eights happening in one of the tents. By lunch time it was obvious that the weather was not going to change anytime soon and we decided to stay put for our last night. Having almost been at camp for 24 hours, some of were getting stir crazy and wanted to go do something.
This is where the trip got really interesting. Five of us headed out to St. Andrews Lake to explore a little creek. It was an area I had never had the opportunity to explore before and the high water levels allowed us to paddle up a tiny creek to hit a couple of lakes. On the way in, it was against the current and we had to make our way up a number of beaver dams. It was hard work, in the pouring rain, but so much fun. We made our way to Rouge Lake and then continued up the next little creek, this is where we had a wolf barking and howling at us. He was very close by and not happy we were in his neck of the woods. The wolf followed us all the way to the other lake, continually howling and barking at us. This is where the wolf came out to an open cliff just long enough to allow us to get a glimpse of him. The way back was much easier, with the exception of some strong headwinds on the more open lakes.
The final day saw the rains end and the sun show up as we finished our paddle. Our paddle across our final lake, Grand Lake, was the hardest paddle of the students' lives. The wind was funnelling directly upon us, creating good size waves and making progress quite challenging. I was glad to have the students face some physical challenge on this trip, the mental one had been won and on this final day, so was the physical one.