14 Sep The Fat Paddler’s 2011 Grab Life By The Shaft Tour – Algonquin Park Edition
As I walked with the canoe planted on my shoulders towards the water, I could hear Sean’s excited declaration “It’s so Canadian!”. Sean was about to really paddle a Canadian lake for the first time*. It would also be his first taste of Algonquin. And he was more then ready for it.
“Thinking of a brief side-trip into Canada again”
When the email came thru from author and paddler, Sean Smith (a.k.a. The Fat Paddler), that he was thinking of coming to Canada again, this time with hopes to do some paddling while experiencing a much warmer season, it was hard to contain my excitement. His last attempt to paddle in Lake Ontario was during one of the coldest of our months (January) and, although it was beyond freezing, the very tough & hefty Auzzie did live to tell the tale. But this was the end of our summer season this time, and The Fat Paddler was about to be in for a real Canadian paddling treat!
He was picked up by my mom (a.k.a. Gramma Badger) at the Husky station in Bradford (on Saturday morning) and finally arrived around noon to be whisked away in the Badger® Paddles truck for a tour that included a stop at Algonquin Outfitters in Huntsville… and the very Canadian(??) Pizza Pizza franchise for a quick lunch.
“Can’t take you to Algonquin without a trip to the Outfitters“
When we finally arrived at AO, Sean was delighted by the store and all it contained. Of course, he was able to sniff out the paddle section just like he can sniff out those sausages, and was soon drooling over the many paddles in the Algonquin Outfitters’ racks.
|Service with a smile:
Randy from AO –
Huntsville sports his
new Fat Paddler hat!
With Sean about to take on the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic again this October (111 km paddle thru-out the night, people!!) he was keen on getting a bent-shaft wide bladed paddle that was made from timber. He really liked the warmth and feel of timber over some of the other materials he was using and was wishing for the perfect paddle for this monster marathon. So it wasn’t long before his eyes landed on a Whiskey Jack bent shaft paddle. But not just any Whiskey Jack. This particular paddle was laminated with some pieces of uniquely burled redwood. It was absolutely stunning!
When Randy offered Sean a deal he couldn’t refuse (there are so many great sales going on at AO right now you wouldn’t believe it!! Seriously, you gotta check it out!) Sean had to take the paddle home with him. Even though there was a distributor for Whiskey Jack in Australia, Sean knew he wouldn’t come across a special paddle, as perfect for it’s Hawkesbury purpose as it was beautiful, and so this one had to be his. So you can imagine how eager he was to put it to the test as soon as possible! (Check out FatPaddler’s website for pictures and more details … I don’t want to ruin it for Sean… he’ll want to show you all, himself!!!)
So we threw a Badger Paddle Sock on the paddle to protect his new (and beautiful) purchase and made our way to Algonquin Park. But first we had to make a stop at Swift Canoe at Oxtongue (just outside the Park) to pick up a canoe. Sean was not only lucky enough to be experiencing clear sunny skies, but he was also fortunate enough to meet Bill Swift, the owner and founder of Swift Canoe & Kayak. Bill took some time with us and showed us some of the new Barracuda cloth samples (there was a turquoise that was to die for!) while we looked around at the canoes. Then Beth, from Algonquin Outfitters, gave Sean a tour of the facilities which included a glimpse of the tripping/guiding gear rooms.
|Upon arrival at the sunny Rock Lake Access Point.|
Eventually, we picked up a Keewaydin and tied it down on the racks of the Badger® Paddles’ truck. We were both hoping for a Swift Winisk but the boys were busy with lots of customers so Sean & I took what we could get and got on the road. There was a lake waiting to be explored, after all!
Blue Lake & Rocky Shore
When we arrived at the Rock Lake put in, we were both ready for a little paddling adventure. We packed the paddles (lots of ’em!), a safety kit, some drinking water, put on our PFD’s and hit the water. Between the fresh air and the sunshine, Sean soon settled in as best as he could while I prattled on in the bow. But Sean, ever the gentleman, politely matched my conversation while he tried to take in all he could of his picturesque surroundings.
|Enjoying the beauty of Rock Lake, Algonquin Park.|
As Sean tested his new Whiskey Jack paddle, he also tried out a Badger® or two as well, as we paddled along. I used my Butternut Tripper for the entire trip as I always enjoy it’s weightless feel. However, I was a bit disappointed when, as we made our way across the lake, I realized that we had yet to be lucky and spot any wildlife. As we crossed the second bay we were greeted by some ducks and a couple of loons. We also spotted a small heron as well, on the river to the take out, but no beavers or moose. There was a chipmunk later in the day, but it was so small & fast that Sean could barely spot it before it scurried away. At least we didn’t see any bears! (However there is a black dog at the Wolf’s Den that, at a quick glance and with the right Canadian accent warning of it’s approach, could easily be mistaken for a Black Bear…. right Sean?!!) *giggle*
Unfortunately I started to feel a bit queazy around this time and suggested we head back, trying to steer the canoe in the straightest and therefore quickest route possible back to the take out. I had yet to share how bad I was feeling with Sean but he had a good sense of humour about being steered from the bow and voiced no objections… but perhaps there was a bit of laughter on his part… but only once, okay… maybe twice! But that had more to do with my “oversteering” then anything else! *giggle* What can I say… I was woozy!
|The Beaver Cabin at the
Wolf’s Den Hostel & Retreat
The Beaver (Cabin, that is!)
Once we arrived back at the truck, we were on our way to the Wolf’s Den. Sean grabbed a quick nap en route, crink-ing his neck a bit in the process (poor guy!). When we arrived at the Beaver Cabin/Wolf’s Den, Mike was there to meet us. His big truck was empty of the canoes and without the large trailer that he had been pulling all day (doing the canoe transfers for the big Petawawa Ironman Challenge this week), but Mike was full of excitement to see his Australian friend again.
It didn’t take long for the steaks to be cooked on the BBQ and the Canada Dry Ginger Ale (special ordered by the Fat Paddler) to be mixed with a little bit of rum and a lime or two… to “keep the scurvy away”.
After some great conversation, lots of laughs, and even some guitar playing by Sean (who was awesome by the way… make our ears bleed, indeed! Pish Posh!!!), we eventually retired for the evening. Sean took the bunk beds (what are the chances he chose the top bunk, anyone?!!) and Mike and I took the bedroom with the queen sized bed. We were all quick to fall asleep as Sean was completely jet-lagged, Mike was exhausted from a week of canoe transfers, and I was now under the full influence of some sort of cough or virus.
|These two trucks and trailers are carrying 94 canoes!
(And that was just one transfer of many this past week for Mike.)
Change of *cough* Plans *cough cough*
The morning came soon enough with Mike on his way out the door before the sun was up. Sean and I slept in past nine and made haste to get our things packed and on our way before checkout time. Unfortunately, we had to change our plans for the day as I didn’t have the energy to paddle to Ragged Falls as we wanted due to the way I was feeling. Instead, we headed to Buck Lake (our local lake) and Sean paddled around cottage country in Poppa Badger’s kayak , while I feel asleep in the sun. But not before a quick stop at a local tourist trap for a short shopping trip… ’cause that’s just tradition, right?!!
|The only bear that Sean encountered on his first
trip to Algonquin Park, Canada.
Note the complete lack of fear in his eyes.
In the end, we wished Sean could have stayed longer, and in my foggy muddy mind (I was really feeling the cold/cough by this time) I know I failed in my hostess duties that day. But Sean was the perfect guest and road-trip companion. Never a complaint or frown. And before I knew it, with a quick hug and a gentlemanly kiss on my cheek, Sean was off with Gramma Badger to find his next adventure with Alan Drummond, the crew of LearnToKayakdotCA, … and beyond.
Roll the Credits
I would like to thank Jim of H20 Paddles for dropping Sean at the Husky for pick up on Saturday as well as the staff at Algonquin Outfitters (especially Randy, Lynn, Beth and Gord) and the boys at Swift Canoe (Bill and Brian) for making Sean feel so welcome on his first ever visit to Algonquin. That goes for Ben (and the visitors) at the Wolf’s Den too!
Also, a great big fat THANK YOU to my mom (a.k.a. Gramma Badger) who graciously stepped up to help out with not only watching Makobe but with watching over Sean, as well. We couldn’t have done this awesome tour of Algonquin & area without your support and talent for driving! *wink* I hope you enjoy Sean’s book… I know you have it with you somewhere on Opeongo (Algonquin Park) right now!
Plus a big thanks to Rebecca (Grace and Ella too) for sharing Sean with us for a few extra days with a side-trip to Canada. But the biggest thanks is to the Fat Paddler, himself, Mister Sean P. Smith…. your friendship is something that I will cherish forever, as well as the memories of your visit. Please know the pleasure was all mine but I do hope you enjoyed Algonquin as much as we all do. Mike and I both also hope your remaining travels are enjoyable, fruitful, and that you arrive safely back into the arms of your family at your tour’s end.
So What’s The Fat Paddler Really Like?
To those of you who wonder what Sean is really like: Well… what can I say, really, other then read the book… and just know that you would love him if you ever meet him. And never doubt, regardless of the adversity Sean has faced, that this is a man who truly knows how to grab life by the shaft!!! Paddle on, Fat Paddler! Paddle on!