Yesterday I arrived in Montreal after 11 consecutive days alone on the water. At times I had a feeling of freedom and saw some amazing scenery, and other times it was challenging and repetitive. But overall I really enjoyed the experience and I’ve definitely become a better kayaker as a result of the range of weather I had paddled through.
The trip has served several purposes – firstly, it gave me an opportunity to raise some money for Noah’s Ark in the Philippines – secondly, it gave me an adventure and an opportunity to be close to nature, and lastly it taught me many life lessons that are difficult to learn in our society.
Traveling is a great way to meet some great people, and I was fortunate enough to cross paths with many amazing people who went out of their way to make sure that I was safe and comfortable. I was completely amazed at how helpful people were as soon as they saw that I was camping alone with my kayak.
This article provides a great deal of information about my trip, so I have created categories so you can easily browse to the sections that you’re interested in:
- Overall Trip Statistics
- Daily Log
- Random Observations
- Equipment / Food
- ‘Thank God’ list
- ‘Wish I had’ list
- ‘Didn’t use it’ list
- Fundraiser Details
- Total Distance Paddled: 560.03 km
- Total Distance Covered: 611.41 km
- Food costs: ~$93 (groceries), ~$30 (restaurants)
- Camping costs: $75
Day 1 (12 July 2009)
- Start: Toronto, Ontario
- End: Darlington Provincial Park
- Facilities: Full-service campground facility ($35)
- Today’s Distance: 63 km
- Cumulative Distance: 63 km
- Today there were strong winds that were creating very large waves.
- I was a bit nervous at times while surfing waves but didn’t roll the kayak thankfully.
- A provincial parks employee took my photo with my kayak because he thought it would look good in the Ontario Parks guidebook. I had to sign a “model release form” – hah.
- I was unable to bring my kayak to my campsite and had to walk 30+ minutes just to get a campsite because Darlington Provincial Park was made for cars – not for crazy kayakers.
- Next stop will be somewhere past Cobourg
Day 2 (13 July 2009)
- Start: Darlington Provincial Park
- End: Near Cobourg, Ontario
- Facilities: Lakeside makeshift campsite – no facilities (no cost)
- Today’s Distance: 46.8 km
- Cumulative Distance: 109.8 km
- Today was pretty scary – the day started out calm but most of the day included extreme wind gusts.
- The wind was strong enough to tip my boat if I was unlucky enough. To be as safe as possible, I stuck very close to the shore (as you can see from the GPS tracking in the image above).
- Some of the waves I saw today could have been surfing waves on the Pacific Ocean.
- I setup camp along the lake near the train tracks a few KMs from Cobourg. My plan was to go past Cobourg and my body felt good for another 2-3 hours but the waves and wind were extremely dangerous so I called it in short of Cobourg.
- As I was ready to pull up on land, a huge wave broke on top of my kayak and filled the entire boat full of water (my skirt was off because I was about to jump out).
- I setup my tent so I’m only a few meters from the water. I can hear the waves crashing as I lay in my tent.
- The plan for tomorrow is to camp somewhere near Trenton – I haven’t decided exactly where yet.
Day 3 (14 July 2009)
- Start: Near Cobourg, Ontario
- End: Trent-Severn Waterway (Historic Murray Canal) – Trenton, Ontario
- Facilities: Canal-side makeshift campsite – no facilities (no cost)
- Today’s Distance: 61.17 km
- Cumulative Distance: 170.97 km
- I set out this morning at 6:45AM. As expected, the morning was relatively calm, but the wind picked up again in the afternoon.
- Although the wind gusts weren’t as strong as yesterday, there were some very difficult waves to navigate.
- The waves would be going in one direction and then the wind would blow perpendicular to the waves, creating waves that collided with waves. You can imagine the outcome.
- I passed through Presqu’ile point and found my way to the Trent-Severn waterway – also known as the historic Murray canal.
- After almost 12 hours of paddling, I found a flat spot right on the canal to pitch my tent.
- Although I’m starting to feel aches and pains all over my body, I feel like I’m in great shape now and I’m ready to keep moving.
- The plan tomorrow is to pass through Belleville and setup camp somewhere near Hay Bay.
Day 4 (15 July 2009)
- Start: Trent-Severn Waterway (Historic Murray Canal) – Trenton, Ontario
- End: Bay of Quinte
- Facilities: Backyard of cottage – water service but no bathroom or shower ($20 donation)
- Today’s Distance: 53.64 km
- Cumulative Distance: 224.61 km
- Today was pretty tough. Now that I’m away from the wavy waters of Lake Ontario, things just aren’t as exciting.
- I passed through Trenton and Belleville and crossed through the Bay of Quinte.
- While in Belleville I picked up some food and water. The water is warmer in the Bay of Quinte so it was much hotter and more painful to paddle – Lake Ontario always managed to cool me down because the water is so cold.
- After about 8 hours of paddling I started looking for somewhere to camp but everything around me is cottages. It’s tempting to setup camp on some vacant cottage property, but you never know who you might piss off.
- Luckily I stumbled across a rental cottage property and they let me setup camp here.
- The person running the place isn’t here however, so I don’t have access to the shower or bathroom yet. I’m really hoping I can get a shower in before leaving tomorrow since I haven’t showered since Sunday. I might bathe in the bay if I have to.
- Shortly after arriving here a very thoughtful man named Art from Elmira Ontario brought me some fried fish and an ice cold coke. His son does similar adventures so he wanted to show hospitality that he would hope someone would give to his son.
- My wrist is really swelled up right now – I think something happened to it a few days ago while carrying my boat or my gear. It’s still not preventing me from paddling so I’m still trucking along.
- Tomorrow I’ll be back on the open water as I approach Kingston. The nice thing about being on Lake Ontario is that you don’t have time to worry about body pain, time just flies by because you’re constantly battling the waves and the wind.
Day 5 (16 July 2009)
- Start: Bay of Quinte
- End: Amherst Island
- Facilities: Lake-side makeshift campsite – no facilities (no cost)
- Today’s Distance: 42.62 km
- Cumulative Distance: 267.23 km
- Today I had a great time. I was back on wavy water, the wind was blowing for most of the day, and I stopped to go for a 15 minute swim – it felt amazing and it was the closest I’ve come to a shower in 5 days. Too bad I can’t say I’ve used a toilet in 5 days either.
- Things were going really well but after about 7 hours of paddling the wind really picked up and the waves became violent, so I quickly found a spot on Amherst island not far from Kingston and setup camp.
- It gave me a lot of free time to relax and rest my body. The wind just died down about an hour ago, but it’s too late to go out now, so I’m going to make it an early morning and aim to be on the water around 6AM to head towards the thousand islands – probably landing somewhere near Ganonoque.
Day 6 (17 July 2009)
- Start: Amherst Island
- End: St. Lawrence Islands National Park – Gananoque, Ontario
- Facilities: Partial-service campsite (bathroom facilities) ($15)
- Today’s Distance: 53.93 km
- Cumulative Distance: 321.16 km
- Overnight I had a visitor at my tent – by the way it was sniffing I assume it was a coyote, a wolf or a wild dog. I grabbed my knife and made a loud noise to scare it away and that was the end of his visit.
- I had a great day of paddling – the clouds gave me good coverage from the sun, and the wind and rain cooled me down.
- When I arrived at St Lawrence Islands National Park I met 4 really great people from Bronte Ontario who had sailed in their 28 and 32 foot sailboats along the same path that I paddled.
- Joan, Sam, George and Alex had me in their sailboat for some food and conversation, so for the second time on my trip I was spoiled.
- It’s great to have friendly and hospitable people around when you’re traveling – it’s something that you never forget.
- I’m really looking forward to the scenery as I paddle through the 1000 islands. I should end up somewhere near Brockville by end of Day 7.
Day 7 (18 July 2009)
- Start: St. Lawrence Islands National Park – Gananoque, Ontario
- End: Island in Brockville, Ontario
- Facilities: Non-serviced campsite – public daytime use island (Free)
- Today’s Distance: 48.78 km
- Cumulative Distance: 369.94 km
- Today I paddled from 7:45AM to 5:00PM and it was the most amazing scenery I have experienced thus far. The thousand islands are amazing to see up close. I’ve toured through the islands on a big tour boat but it’s just not the same as going through the little islands on a kayak.
- I stumbled upon a public island in Brockville thanks to a tip from a friendly boater who was docked at the island with his family. So tonight will be the third night in a row that I’ll be sleeping on an island.
- The afternoon was very windy again – there were some heavy waves on the St. Lawrence river, otherwise I probably would have paddled for another hour or so.
Day 8 (19 July 2009)
- Start: Island in Brockville, Ontario
- End: Between Iroquois and Morrisburg
- Facilities: Camped on private lawn after asking landowner Gary for permission
- Today’s Distance: 52.67 km
- Cumulative Distance: 422.61 km
- Today was a pretty amazing day. I had a good paddle along the St. Lawrence River and I made a stop in a friendly little town called Prescott where I had my first real breakfast in a very long time. I went to Bobby’s restaurant and ordered “Bobby’s Big Breakfast” – wow did it ever taste amazing.
- My second fortune came when I stumbled upon a nice open property on the side of the river. I was pretty tired after paddling for 8 hours and so I pulled up on to the grass and walked up to the landowner across the street and asked if I could pitch my tent on his lawn for the night.
- That evening, the landowner (Garry) and his grandson (Curtis) invited me in to have dinner with his whole family (Garry, Della, Susan, Butch, Lindsay and Curtis).
- What an amazing dinner it was. They were the most hospitable and warm family I could ever dream of stumbling across. They took me in as if I was one of their own.
- They had the most amazing cheese I’ve ever eaten, the roast dinner was great, and the variety of fruits and pastries for dessert tasted amazing too.
- If it wasn’t enough that I was fortunate enough to spend the night with these great people, they went out of their way to pack me food to take with me. I couldn’t believe it and I will forever be grateful to the Murphy / Whitteker family. I hope to see them soon and I might just have to make a stop on my way home Sunday night to thank them again. I was extremely fortunate to have stumbled upon Garry that evening.
Day 9 (20 July 2009)
- Start: Between Iroquois and Morrisburg
- End: Island across from Glen Walter, Ontario
- Facilities: Makeshift campsite on island – no facilities (Free)
- Today’s Distance: 63.24 km
- Cumulative Distance: 485.85 km
- Today was a rough day. Everything was going well until I hit the Eisenhower lock – the first of two locks that are 2 miles apart.
- The lockmaster told me that I could probably portage beside the 2nd dam and that would put me beyond the second lock. Taking this advice was a HUGE COLLOSSAL MISTAKE.
- I paddled for an hour or so to the 2nd dam as the lockmaster had instructed. The problem was that there wasn’t anywhere to get out of my boat. Everything was fenced off and there were no trespassing signs everywhere because it was Ontario Hydro property.
- I found a spot that didn’t have any No Trespassing signs – but I knew I wasn’t supposed to be there anyway because the whole area was fenced off.
- So I quickly unloaded my kayak and packed up my backpack with all my gear. It was about a 200 foot steep slope down to the lower part of the dam. After getting down the hill I had to go around the fence and through a wooded forest area. Once I got through the forest it was about another 3km to where I needed to rendezvous again with the St. Lawrence river.
- After dropping off my gear not far from the river, I ran back to get my kayak, knowing full well that Ontario Hydro security would probably be intercepting me shortly.
- So I quickly grabbed the kayak, portaged it down the 200 foot slope and through the forest, and out to the road. But at that point I couldn’t carry it any further. The kayak is not good for portaging – it digs into the shoulder and the hip and my shoulder was already sore to begin with.
- I left the kayak near the road – but in the safe non-restricted area, and I searched for somebody who might be able to help me.
- I think my recently deceased Grandpa was watching out for me throughout my trip, because guess who shows up at the perfect moment? A wonderful French man named Andre was pulled over with his wife and looking at his map trying to figure out where he needed to go (he was visiting a relative in Cornwall).
- Andre and his wife had a kayak sitting on a trailer, so I asked them for a huge favour to help me bring my kayak the 3 kilometres to the river.
- Andre knew exactly what I was going through – having motorcycled across Canada in the past. I honestly think that Andre is a 10 years older version of myself. I tried to offer him anything for going out of his way to help me, but he wouldn’t accept money or a dinner or anything because he’s been in my position before. I’ll forever be grateful to Andre and his wife (Marilee?) for helping me that day. Thanks Andre, wherever you are!
- 3 hours after reaching that second dam I met up with the lower part of the St. Lawrence river. I then managed to get a good few hours of paddling in before settling on an island past Cornwall near Lake St. Francis.
Day 10 (21 July 2009)
- Start: Island across from Glen Walter, Ontario
- End: Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague, Quebec
- Facilities: Makeshift campsite on public daytime use area with bathroom facilities (Free)
- Today’s Distance: 52.76 km
- Cumulative Distance: 538.61 km
- Today was a nice relaxing day. I paddled from 7:15AM to 6:30PM but I managed to get a good 1.5 hour break in between in a nice little town in Quebec.
- Given my recent cravings for real food, I purchased a burger, fries and a Pepsi from a burger shack near the water in a little town called Saint-Anicet.
- People were really friendly and I made a friend named Gilles. Gilles plays bass guitar in a Blues band in Mont Tremblant. Gilles and I went for a swim together while he told me about the Quebec lifestyle – it’s very relaxed laid back. Everything is very European in small-town Quebec, and it’s actually much different than small-town Ontario.
- After my swim I headed up through Lake St. Francis and ended up near a town called Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague where I met a nice French couple who were in a dinghy and having a picnic in the area where I was camping. I had to ask yet another favour – since my phone had died, I wanted to let my family know I was okay, so I wrote a text message down on paper so the French couple could send it when they got home. They were very nice and even helped me get some of the French back that I had studied so many years ago.
Day 11 (22 July 2009)
- Start: Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague, Quebec
- End: Montreal, Quebec
- Facilities: Montreal downtown international hostel
- Today’s Distance: 21.41 km
- Cumulative Distance: 560.03 km
- Today was a difficult day that will probably haunt me for some time to come.
- It rained all night, and I packed up my tent this morning in the rain for the first time since I started the trip.
- I paddled for a couple hours in a hard downpour first thing this morning before stumbling upon yet another lock.
- Given my experience at the previous locks, I wasn’t going to waste any opportunity to ask for help, so along came a sailboat – so I begged for them to let me on, paddled my ass off to catch up with the sailboat so I could board before the lock gates opened.
- On the boat were 4 native Quebecers who had purchased the sailboat in Chicago and were sailing it back. The captain, Alan, helped me lift my heavy boat up on to the deck of the sailboat and fasten it so it wouldn’t fall off.
- We got through the first two locks, but they had told me that there were 2 more locks before Montreal. This is the decision I made that I am unhappy with. Instead of making Alan dock his boat and help me unload the kayak after the 2nd lock, we decided to proceed through the 4 locks.
- The problem with this decision was that I completely bypassed Lake St. Louis, which connects to the Island of Montreal. What I should have done, was get out of the sailboat after the second lock, then paddle through Lake St. Louis and reach the island of Montreal somewhere near Dorval and then lock up my boat there and take a taxi or transit to downtown. Then I wouldn’t need to get through the remaining 2 locks, and I wouldn’t need to risk my life going through the dangerous Lachine rapids.
- But instead of taking this approach, I ended up staying on the sailboat and bypassing Lake St. Louis (you can see in the map above the red is where I traveled in the sailboat).
- I also would have had a better handle on the situation if I had studied the maps the night before, as I had previously been doing prior to my phone battery dying. So it was a combination of several factors that led to the decision to take the sailboat through the 4 locks.
- Anyway, I had a great time with Alan, Jean, Lise and Doris and I even ate lunch with them en route. Once again, they treated me really well and satisfied my curiosity about all-things-sailing. You’ll see a photo of me in the photographs section where I’m captaining the sailboat at one point.
- They could see it in my face that I felt like I had made the wrong choice in staying on the sailboat, so we decided that they would drop me off down river and I would paddle against the 20 km/h current to reach downtown. That would be punishment enough for bypassing Lake St. Louis.
- That part of the river was flowing extremely fast, so I battled it as hard as I could for those 2 hours before reaching the Montreal Yacht Club. Just imagine paddling a kayak as hard as you can and you’re actually moving backwards. It was pretty insane.
- So the one final favour I received was the Yacht Club allowed me to tie up my kayak alongside the beautiful yachts. They told me this was the first time they have ever had a kayak docked there. I felt honoured.
- What better way to end my trip than to dock my kayak beside a $750,000 boat 😉
Day 1 Photos
Day 2 Photos
Day 3 Photos
Day 4 Photos
Day 5 Photos
Day 6 Photos
Day 7 Photos
Day 8 Photos
Day 9 Photos
Day 10 Photos
Day 11 Photos
- It’s pretty amazing how seagulls are able to dive-bomb into the water to catch fish.
- I saw dozens and dozens of huge fish jumping above the water
- When the wind was blowing really hard it was fun to watch the hawks soaring above – the hawks would be gliding extremely fast on a 90 degree angle without flapping their wings. It was neat to watch all 19 hawks gliding at the same time.
- There are countless middle-aged men who race over the water in their giant 2-seater race boats with dual 400+ horsepower engines – seems ridiculous to me.
- Some Yacht captains would slow down before passing me in order to avoid creating waves for me. I appreciated the gesture – however, I don’t mind big waves.
- I love sailboats – it’s amazing that a 27HP engine can push a bit 32-foot sailboat with 5 or 6 passengers, and it’s even more amazing that the wind can also push these boats along. What a great environmentally-friendly way to spend time out on the water (next to kayaking of course).
- Some people in the thousand islands have so much money that they don’t know what to do with it. Living a life of excess.
- Paddling gloves
- Floating kayak tie rope
- Water pump
- Kayak lock
- Sport sun glasses
- Spare paddle
- Fox 40 whistle
- Kayak deck compass
- Dry sack for clothes
- Dry sack for easy-access food/snacks
- 1 roll of toilet paper
- First aid kit
- Sleeping bag and tent
- 45SPF sun block
- Wind-up lantern/flashlight
- Tarp, rope and bungee cords
- Hand sanitizer or hydrogen peroxide for wounds
- Insect repellent
- Dry matches / lighter
- Large-sized backpack
- Knife/hand saw
- Mini camping chair
- Reading book(s)
- Biodegradable camping soap
- Camping pots and pans + utensils
- Blister treatment (band-aids)
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Ontario map
- 2 x 1 litre stainless steel water bottles
- 1 x 3 litre water bladder
- Cellular phone + cables (includes GPS)
- 7W solar panel + spare battery pack + connectors
- Digital camera
- MP3 player (fully loaded)
- Baseball cap
- Rain coat
- Velcro sandles and running shoes
- 1 pair of jeans
- Kayaking shorts / top
- 1 x t-shirt
- 1 x tank top
- Mini camping towel
- 1 sweater
- 2 pairs of underwear
- 3 pairs of socks
Food (includes brought food and food purchased along the way)
- Smores granola bars
- Nature Valley peanut butter granola bars
- Vector energy bars
- Cashews / peanuts
- Swedish berries
- Fruit bowls
- Mild pepperoni sticks
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Vitamin C pills
- Canned brown beans
- Canned green peas
- Instant noodles
- Cheese strings
- Apples, bananas, grapes
- Canned beef ravioli
- Compass – it helped navigate me through the right rivers and canals
- Google maps – prior to my phone dying, Google Maps v3.0.2 was amazing – especially using the satellite view.
- Solar panel – the solar panel worked great prior to my battery pack dying
- Velcro sandles – this was important to let me feet air out versus using running shoes – and flip flops wouldn’t have worked out well at all.
- Sun glasses – these worked great not only for the sun, but also to keep those pesky bugs out of my eyes in the early calm mornings.
- Flares – this would have given me some peace of mind on Lake Ontario
- Waterproof radio – I shouldn’t rely on a cell phone for an emergency
- Mini propane stove – making fires wasn’t an option most of the time, so a propane stove would have been great.
- Backup chargers – I learned the hard way that you shouldn’t rely on a single electronic device to charge your other electronic devices. I should have brought my phone charger with me as a backup measure. Then I could have charged it in a restaurant or the like.
- Map of Quebec and Montreal – I was relying too much on my cell phone, so when my phone died I wasn’t able to navigate very well without a map on hand. A backup map of Montreal or Quebec would have been handy.
- Roller wheels for the kayak – Day 9 was horrible for portaging – so roller wheels would have been a little bit helpful (though it still would have been a pain).
- Pots and pans
If you’d like to contribute to Noah’s Ark home for children, please make a donation online through http://www.paoc.org/donate.aspx and choose to submit your payment by Missionary. Choose “Linda Veldhuizen” from the drop down list and then fill in your information and make your payment. Your donation will go directly to Noah’s Ark and you will receive a tax receipt in the mail.
*Important – Please make sure you let me know how much you donated so that I can add it to my tally. This will allow me to figure out how much my company will match because it’s based on how much I raise.