Back in 2012, we bought a beautiful new canoe. The day we picked it up, I noticed a little display of paddles set up alongside all the shiny canoes. Those paddles called out to me…. They were Orange! Teal! Purple! I’d never seen paddles like these, and all of those colours mixed in with beautiful hand-oiled natural woods were impossible to resist. I ended up walking away with an orange paddle for myself and a purple and teal one for my daughter Emma. What does this have to do with the Paddle in The Park Contest? A lot. Stay with me here….
Buying those two paddles to accompany our brand new canoe was the start of a true love for paddling in Ontario’s parks. While the functionality of gear is important, I also strongly believe that if you genuinely enjoy the tools you have to get outside, you will also enjoy the experience of getting out there much more. Owning these paddles – and the two that have followed that initial purchase – has strengthened that belief. By now, you may have figured out the little display and those beautiful paddles were my introduction to Badger Paddles.
As we ventured out as a family in our new canoe with our beautiful paddles that year, I delved into starting a blog and followed a number of well-known bloggers in the Ontario outdoors community. You might know one of them… his name is Preston and he has this amazing dog named Nancy. I also started to develop an online “fanship” with Fiona. (To be clear, I was the fan and Fiona was the recipient of my smitten Twitter and Facebook tags.) Back then, I never dreamed that my blog would grow to a point where I had a few more readers than my immediate family. And I definitely didn’t think my online fanships would turn into real-life friendships.
And then, in 2013, the Paddle In The Park Contest was launched. This contest completely drew me in. It stood for everything I believed in and tried to promote in my blog: getting outside, exploring and doing stuff. I could never figure out the clues. At that time we were not backcountry campers. I knew I’d never find a paddle. But I was inspired to learn more about the places where the paddles were hidden, the people who were hiding them and the people who found them. I was a PITPC fangirl.
One of Gayle’s PADDLE POINTS photo entries from 2015, titled “Packing The Food”.
When the contest introduced Paddle Points for photos in 2015, it was a complete game changer. I still thought I’d never be able to find a paddle. But pictures? I could TOTALLY do pictures. And I did…. My husband Alex and daughter Emma became the PITPC flag-holding subjects of many, many, many pictures. It was thrilling to finally be an active part of PITPC! Was it possible to become even more of a fan? YES! And that excitement for the contest spread to Emma. By this time, we had also started tripping into the backcountry of Ontario’s park and my 10 year-old Emma had started her Portage Queen training. Did I mention I was a PITPC fangirl? To say I love this contest is an understatement as I have watched it grow and evolve over the years. The excitement! The mystery! The intrigue! All of these captured my interest. But ultimately, it was the dedication of Fiona and Preston as advocates of getting outside via a fun and unique way that made my heart grow two sizes each year when the contest launched.
So, here we are in 2017.
This contest has contributed to great online AND off-line friendships with people who are paddle hiders and paddle finders and advocates for getting outside. My little family has become a part of a community where most members are only one degree of separation away from the PITPC.
It’s been five years, and I still haven’t found a paddle.
But I hid one.
When Fiona asked if I’d be interested in hiding a paddle, I almost passed out from the excitement. I think I actually did black-out for a moment when she told me that the Sometimes Eventful logo was being partnered with my long-time friends Algonquin Outfitters on the PORTAGE QUEEN paddle.
How perfect could this be? I had already scheduled my first-ever mother-daughter canoe trip with Emma this summer. We were heading to Algonquin Park. We were using an outfitting package from Algonquin Outfitters. It was serendipity that Fiona chose us to hide the AO PORTAGE QUEEN paddle, months after our trip was already booked. She had no idea about our plans until she invited us to be paddle hiders.
It became clear right away that it had to be a secret WHO was hiding the paddle. Emma and I had already talked to a lot of people about our plans. If it was revealed early in the game that we were the hiders, the paddle location would be far too easy to find. Let me tell you…. Keeping this secret was a hard one.
Emma and I were already excited to be going on our trip. Adding the task of hiding a PITPC paddle put us over the moon. Our trip was a short one of just three days and two nights. We put-in at Rock Lake and paddled Rock to Penn to Clydegale. We chose to do this trip as a linear route, returning the same way we came. Our plan was to scope out possible hiding locations on the paddle in to Clydegale, and then hide the paddle on day two – our only full day on the lake.
Our trip had a few challenges, the biggest being rain and a headwind for nearly the entire paddle on day one. Of course, constant rain equals muddy portages. And a constant head-wind means no rest for the paddlers. It was hard work for this momma who’s on the backside of her 40’s and her 12 year-old daughter to get across three lakes and two portages that first day. But hiding the AO PORTAGE QUEEN paddle was a huge motivator for us, and helped keep morale high as we plotted a hiding spot and imagined who would find our paddle. On the way home, with better weather conditions and the paddle successfully hidden, we smiled as we passed “the spot” and chatted with a few dads and their young daughters – future Portage Queens, we hope – playing in the water. While the hide was complete, the mystery and fun of the contest really kicked-in as we spent the paddle home wondering who would find the paddle and how long it would take to claim it.
In 2012, paddling Ontario’s lakes was a new adventure for us. In 2017, we have become the type of outdoor family we only watched from a distance when PITPC launched five seasons ago. There is no doubt that PITPC helped us get outside, explore and do stuff in a way we never imagined when we first dipped our beautiful Badger paddles in the water. And there is definitely no question at all that after our mother-daughter, paddle-hiding canoe trip this summer that Emma rightfully earned her own title as a PORTAGE QUEEN.
Would you like a chance to earn your very own PORTAGE QUEEN title (meaning a PORTAGE QUEEN T-shirt, a GIRLS PORTAGE BETTER Decal, a GIRLS PORTAGE TOO poster, and a Sometimes Eventful Sticker)?!
If you are able to decipher the following official clue (used as one of this year’s clues for the AO PORTAGE QUEEN paddle) and tell us the length of the portage given in the clue expressed as the actual number of metres, then you’re in for a chance to win this little royal prize package guaranteeing that everyone will know that you are indeed a true PORTAGE QUEEN!
Everything you need to figure out the number we are looking for can be found in this clue, we promise! So just comment here or on our Facebook page with your best answer, or tweet us to be entered. But you only have until 5 A.M. (EST) this Friday, November 3, 2017, to get your answer in for consideration.
Winner will be chosen randomly from all eligible entries (meaning from those who gave us the correct answer – which will take some thought and skill to determine) and announced around 9 AM. on the same day (Friday). We will also start announcing the winners for this year’s Paddle Points event at around 5 P.M. on Friday as well.
How exciting is that?! So good luck, Ladies (and Gentlemen) and keep on getting “Out There”!