The Pop-Up Pub on The Pig Portage

The Pop-Up Pub on The Pig Portage (AKA Alliteration is Altogether Awesome)
By Kirsten Graham-May

I love looking at maps and have been known to obsess over them for hours, preferably from the comfort of my hammock while chilling at a campsite. During one of my map-studying sessions, I crafted what I affectionately refer to as The Bucket List Canoe Trip, a loop that would circumnavigate the entirety of Killarney Provincial Park. The plan was to complete the loop in nine nights with my best friend, Vicki – the same gal with whom I met ManCamping Junior way back in 1997 (, although they continue to deny it was them – paddling many kilometers each day and traversing some of the most difficult and lengthy portages in the park. After much deliberation, we had decided that due to the length and difficulty of the trip we needed to make a (huge) sacrifice and not bring any alcohol; in other words, we were not tripping ManCamping-style.

Planning The Bucket List Canoe Trip from my hammock on David Lake.

For the longer portages on this trip, Vicki and I mastered what we call the one-and-a-half strategy: I took the canoe over while she followed with the food barrel; she would drop the barrel at roughly the halfway point and return for our second pack while I would finish with the canoe and return halfway to take the food barrel over the last half of the portage. (I got the better end of this deal considering most portages are uphill for the first half and downhill for the second half but don’t tell Vicki!) We travelled this loop in August of 2016, the same summer where there was so little rain in Ontario that a fire ban had been in place for weeks. (Of course, as Murphy’s Law would have it, it rained every day of the trip but I digress.) As the trip progressed – and with it eclipsing the summer Olympics, another poor planning decision – we got into the habit of asking three questions to pretty much everyone we met on the portages who had been in touch with civilization more recently than we had:

  1. What’s the weather forecast?
  2. Has the fire ban been lifted yet?
  3. How many Olympic medals does Canada have?
Oh look! It’s raining. Again. Fire ban, my ass… (Also, Howry Creek is still beautiful in the rain.)

About two thirds of the way through the trip we portaged over The Pig, perhaps Killarney’s most notorious portage. While not the longest by any stretch, The Pig is the tallest portage in the park, spanning far too many contour lines for anyone in their right mind. That said, many are of the opinion that The Notch, particularly traversing southbound from Murray to Nellie Lake, is more challenging; we’d already conquered The Notch on this trip – in the southbound direction, to boot – and I couldn’t agree more.

Our reward after completing The Notch: more rain on Nellie Lake.

The day we slaughtered The Pig – mmm, bacon! (That pun’s for you, ManCamping!) – was also the day the purchase closed on Vicki’s first ever home so we were in the mood to celebrate. As I was coming down The Pig with the food barrel I met a couple heading up to Topaz Lake for a day trip. They were fresh off their fancy-pants sailboat moored in The Pool of Baie Fine, a famous destination for yachts, creating a bizarre dichotomy – or a wonderful opportunity, as I was soon to discover – for canoeists who’ve been out in the wilderness for days on end.

I asked our customary barrage of questions and found out our friend Murphy was calling for more rain, they had no idea about the fire ban since they weren’t camping, and that they were American and therefore only knew the medal count for the US team. On a whim – and with Vicki’s new homeownership top of mind – I asked one last question: “Have you got any beer?” I forgave them their patriotism when they answered in the affirmative and generously said they’d donate a couple of cold ones to the cause. The plan was for us to paddle out to their boat as they sailed past our campsite later on and they would hand over the goods. As I was delightfully skipping down the trail I heard them call after me; the man was coming back down towards me with two sweating cans of beer in hand.

After quickly conferring, they figured it would be easier to simply give me the beer they had packed for their picnic. (Either that or they got a whiff of me as I hiked downwind from them and agreed that I needed a cold one far more than they did.)

We made a beeline for our campsite and set up to wait out one of the more aggressive downpours of our trip. In the meantime we tried sinking our precious – not to mention illegal, although of course we diligently packed the empties out – cans of beer in the channel in a pathetic and futile attempt to cool them. When the rain finally let up we enjoyed our lukewarm Labatt Blue (Hey, beggars can’t be choosers.) on the shores of Baie Fine and toasted Vicki’s new digs, our fantastic Bucket List Canoe Trip, and all of our new friends: the Americans, Murphy, and Mother Nature. It was quite possibly the best beer I’ve ever had. Cheers to the pop-up pub on The Pig! (Now to convince Jeff to add it to the next version of the Unlostify map…)

Bottoms up on Baie Fine!

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