This past week, we published a “triple clue alert” on Facebook for the AO PORTAGE QUEEN Paddle, the Happy Camper Paddle, and the Portageur.ca Paddle. Let’s just say that the 4th Happy Camper clue seemed to light a fire under more than a few canoe seats. We received a message from Cory Seaman, just before he left to find the Happy Camper paddle in beautiful Bon Echo Provincial Park. Cory ended up making it to the correct portage, but he wasn’t the only one. The Stinson Family was on the portage too. And while both parties hadn’t fully interpreted the clue correctly, only one of them was lucky enough to be on the right side of the portage at the right time. But this wasn’t Cory’s first PITPC rodeo, and he tells us he had a really great ride. Read his account of what happened that evening, on the 1500 m Mazinaw Lake portage, below:
Having come so close to finding the Killarney Outfitters paddle and the Happy Camper paddle last summer, I’ve really been looking forward to finding a paddle this year. I still can’t believe that we walked by the KO paddle twice and even took a short break on that tiny little 25m lift-over portage. With the clues this year seeming tougher than usual, I focused early on locating the Algonquin Outfitters paddle. After 3 unsuccessful trips to 2 different access points and having been certain of the general area, I decided to turn my focus elsewhere for the time being, at least until a third clue came out.
I noticed very early on in the contest that the map was different than usual and included an area ranging almost to Ottawa. Knowing that Kevin Callan lives just outside Peterborough, I knew his paddle would be somewhere in either Silent Lake, Puzzle Lake, Frontenac, or Bon Echo. I searched the maps for three of the four parks immediately, but for some reason I figured Bon Echo only really had the car campgrounds and the interior backcountry sites. I had set this one aside because the clues weren’t exactly leading me anywhere, although the third clue did give me pause to wonder.
When it was announced that three new clues were coming out, I didn’t expect a Happy Camper clue to be amongst them. However, the second I saw that picture I had a strong feeling of Bon Echo. A quick google search of “Beautiful Water” returned that it means Ontario in Iroquois and I remembered that Mazinaw Lake is the second deepest lake in the province.
A quick chat with another searcher and I had the Weekend Adventures book off the bookcase and sure enough, there was a 1500m portage atop Mazinaw Rock. There was also a 45m portage on the lower half of the loop, so I interpreted the third clue to mean that the paddle would be at the south end of the 1500m portage. It was 2:30pm and I flew outside to load the canoe up for the 3 and a half hour drive. By the time I hit the water, it was approaching 7pm. My goal was to hit the portage by 7:30, get to the far end as quickly as possible and work my way back. That way I’d have enough daylight left to do the entire portage.
It was a beautiful and peaceful sunset paddle across Mazinaw Lake and I worked my way north along the massive granite wall so that I could see the pictographs along the way. I managed to see quite a lot of them, but I really can’t wait to come back and spend more time looking at them and exploring the park.
Upon arrival at the portage I quickly took note of two tents ominously set up at the take-out… I searched until just after 8pm and was less than 100m from a footbridge which was maybe 300m from the take-out at Mazinaw Lake when suddenly I heard voices shouting “Found it!!! I found it!! It’s over here!!” up ahead. My heart sunk. Immediately I began to jog ahead and I knew it was the paddle which had been found with all the excitement I could hear. I figured for sure it was the campers whose tents I’d seen when I began the portage.
To my surprise, when I got into view, it was two parents and their young son. I didn’t see the son at first and then he stepped out from behind the tree and he had the absolute biggest grin on his face as his dad held the paddle. Suddenly, I wasn’t as sad as I’d been a second earlier and I was smiling as big as they were. We chatted for a while and they all simply exuded excitement. As it turned out, they’ve been taking their son on backcountry trips since he was 6 weeks old and the paddle will be a perfect size for him to grow into and learn to paddle with.
We paddled out together, which was nice as darkness was quickly setting in and I had never been to Bon Echo before. I arrived at the access point in total darkness and had a big smile on my face on the long drive home. The entire journey was made worth it by seeing how happy Johnny, Kelly, and Hiker were with their new paddle, the memories they made in finding it, and the future adventures they’ll enjoy with it. You don’t always need to win the prize to win the contest and sometimes second place really is better than first place. #rewardsareoutthere
A special paddles up to Cory, from the PITPC team, for truly embodying the real spirit of the PITPC. It’s not about the prizes, or the bragging rights that may come with finding a paddle, but about actually spending time in nature and respectfully sharing that experience with others – in this case, new found friends on a lengthy portage in Bon Echo. Thank you, Cory, for being part of the PITPC and for sharing your rewarding experiences with us. For those of you who missed it, read the Stinson family’s story about the night that they will never forget: Happy Camper Paddle: FOUND & CLAIMED (Editor’s note: As of this publish date, there are still the Nova Craft Canoe & Portageur.ca paddles “Out There” waiting to be found! We still have faith in you Cory!)