Backcountry: Got Me Shook, Got Me Hook’d

Let’s keep this women’s week rolling with Nat from PolishtThePaddle! If this doesn’t aspire first time paddlers, I don’t know what will. lol Make sure to follow along with the rest of Nat’s adventures on her Instagram

I’ve hiked through a summer solstice alone in Iceland, I caught my first pike when I was 10, I glamped through Cape Breton, and made many a spider dog on a car camping site – but never had I ever attempted “backcountry”, that is until my now husband, Martin, entered the picture.

My birthday was approaching and what do most people do to celebrate their birthdays? I bet you’re thinking… get belligerently drunk? I definitely did that, but also asked that instead of giving me a gift, Martin could plan a weekend getaway for us. That was my first mistake. Martin is many things, most prominently though he is a master procrastinator. In my head we could’ve been doing anything from skydiving to staying at a romantic hotel or going on a road trip but naturally he left planning to the last minute for the August long weekend meaning options were limited. The trip was kept a secret for a while, but I don’t do well with surprises and eventually discovered my birthday adventure was… backcountry camping. Not just any backcountry camping, a 25k paddle in and out with two portages for my very first time. Needless to say, this was not the getaway I had in mind.

I read all I could beforehand, acquired bear spray, and mastered our first grocery haul and food pack. We hit the road early and eager, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Thanks to his last-minute planning, the canoe pickup was a long detour away from our launch point and we “didn’t have time” to stop for breakfast – a grave error. We finally got to our launching point just past noon and put our paddles into the lake. A treacherous 30 metres later… I was already complaining. “You grossly overestimated my abilities… I’m already tired. How could you do this to me?! This is not the birthday I envisioned.” And then I realized… I was hangry. Friendly note to anyone reading – pull over for breakfast. Hanger, you ugly.

We unpacked our sandwiches in the middle of the lake and all was right in the world again. We paddled through the lake and a long windy boggy river and got through our first portage without issue or so I thought. After a quick trail mix break our paddles were in the water again and that’s when Martin realized he lost his sunglasses. No big deal, right? BUT these of course were his brand-new Maui Jim shades that I bought him a month ago, that I specifically told him to leave at home because who brings $500 sunglasses on a canoe camping trip?! There was a backpaddle and quick search but with no glasses in site, we moved on. I’m going to put it out there – this lake was HUGE, and I was not in good shape. As is always the case when paddling, the wind was against us, but we persevered and made it through another lake and another portage. At this point I was feeling on top of the world, this was the homestretch and I made it (okay we made it… I was still bitter about Martin’s glasses). Just like that we were onto the next lake and good thing too because it was already 6PM at that point. Exhausted and hungry we spotted a campsite next to the portage but nahhh. Who wants to stay on a campsite next to a portage, amirite? So we paddled on and site after site was occupied. It was a gentle dance between paddling close and pulling out the binoculars only to move on again and again. Hope dwindled and I was done. I exchanged some words I’m not proud of with my then boyfriend, he still married me though so couldn’t have been too bad, haha.

We headed back hoping no one wanted the campsite next to the portage and for once, something went right. We settled in – Martin was setting up camp while I got to making dinner, not without a quick trip to the lake to wash my hands and man WAS IT A QUICK TRIP. I slipped. Fell backwards, smashed my head and elbow on that great Canadian shield and just started crying like a little kid. Martin ran over, his face aghast worried how we would make it back if I was hurt and it just started to pour out of me. I laid there in between sobs and yelled… “I hate this! I hate you! How could you do this to me??!” Again, I was just hangry. We had dinner (nothing a good burger can’t fix) and climbed into our tent for some shuteye, which being next to a portage didn’t last long. This is exactly why campsites next to a portage aren’t ideal but desperate times. We had a permit on the previous lake for the second night, so we took our time packed up and portaged back. The day before we noticed an amazing beach campsite next to another portage… I know I was just harping on portage campsites but this portage was 2 km so we figured it wouldn’t get much traffic. We figured right. The second day was sweet bliss, hammocks and relaxation.

The weekend was over, and we had to pack up and head back on another long paddle to the car. The headwind was brutal, the waves were choppy all the way through. The winding river provided little reprieve and at this point we weren’t even talking, discouraged and tired. The final lake paddle was not kind to us either, the headwind picked up even more and we literally could not stop paddling or we would drift backwards. With the wind and lake spray in our face there was nothing to do but close my eyes and just paddle. According to Jeff’s Maps this should’ve taken us only 25 minutes but with the headwind it took closer to an hour. With my hands paddled raw, my arms shaking, and my legs stiff from the canoe we were back on land and within arm’s reach of our car. I have never felt more accomplished in my life. I take back everything I said when I was hangry. I was shook, but now… I’m hook’d.

6 Responses to “Backcountry: Got Me Shook, Got Me Hook’d

  • Lol! And you actually married the guy???? Kidding😂

    • Right?? What was I thinking 😅 (but actually what a great way to test a relationship)

  • Note to self: keep an eye out for free Maui Jim’s in the backcountry.
    Note to self 2: send a note, and snacks, as thanks to Nat…if Maui Jim’s are found

  • Love it! (And the fact that you hauled in wine — now that’s classy!)

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