Turns out the last hint published for the hidden Happy Camper paddle was enough to clue in more than a few folks and the challenge was on. By the end of the evening there were at least two individual parties seeking the hidden paddle on opposite ends of the 1500 m portage just off of the famous and beautiful Mazinaw Lake in Bon Echo Provincial Park. But after a few attempts and a misinterpreted clue, the first to find and claim the 2016 Happy Camper Paddle was 5 year old Hiker, along with his mom and dad, Johnny and Kelly Stinson. Okay, okay, the paddle was really found and claimed by Hiker’s dad. But Hiker was there every step of the way, and loved every minute he was “Out There”! Here is how Hiker’s dad tells it (complete with video footage and everything!):
This has been an overwhelming experience for my Wife Kelly, son Hiker and I. We sincerely thank everyone involved in the Paddle in the Park Contest for allowing us such an amazing experience. We have always been an outdoor family but this year wanted to take part in the “Paddle Points” submissions to be a part of something that promotes health and wellness in the outdoors. We had no intentions of trying to find a paddle and had decided we would leave that up to the die hards like Chris Hocking 😉 I had told my Wife and son however, if we were to find a paddle that I would love to find the “Happy Camper” paddle as my son and I are big fans of Kevin Callan and how he portrays his message. All the other paddle hiders and sponsors have positively impacted us in some way but the KC Happy Camper paddle was the holy grail for us. This prompted me to keep an eye on the clues that were released regarding his hidden paddle.
Fast forward to August 10th, 2016
It was around 5:15pm and I had just arrived home from work with my son Hiker. I picked him up from day camp on the way home. I quickly check my Facebook as I roll through the front door of our house and like it was destiny, there was Clue#4 at the top of my feed, staring me right in the face. The picture that instantly sparked butterfly’s in my stomach and caused me to feverishly click on the link for the clue. I began to read it as I made my way up to our bedroom where my Wife was waking up from her sleep after a night shift. I reached the top of our stairs and the image of the pictograph hit me like a ton of bricks as I realized it was from Bon Echo, a beautiful Provincial Park we have camped at a number of times. As I read the clue it all came together. The first clue had eluded me, the second had let me know it would be tied to a birch tree, clue #3 was where the route to find the paddle all came together. I ran it by my Wife who asked me if 145 had to do with the highway number, and that was the catalyst to get my wheels spinning and this is where our micro adventure would begin.
“Out of bed,” I frantically bellowed. We are going to find that paddle in Bon Echo as I ran down the stairs to grab the canoe, strap it on the van, throw in the safety equipment and round up my family for the road trip. It wasn’t long before we were on the road bouncing clue #3 off each other. We knew the paddle was in Bon Echo, I clued in that the 2-3 hundred in from the one forty five’s side had to refer to the campsite numbers and we were to put in 2-3 hundred feet down from there, or anywhere for that matter, just as long as we were heading in the right direction. “The 1500 is as long as it is known to be wide”… well I had remembered that the last couple of years I had been wanting to paddle the Kishkebus route at the park and if you paddle clockwise as recommended you would hit a 1.5km portage first. “Twenty from the wooden trail” is what would have us hung up once we arrived at our destination.
We arrived at the park, at what our day permit would confirm, to be 7:26pm. We drove straight to the put-in. It was a quick transition into the canoe and we were fortunate enough to have calm waters and no real boat activity for our paddle. I would be lying if I said it was a scenic paddle. With the anxiety of finding the paddle tugging at me, the scenery was the hard to take in with the tunnel vision. I had to remind myself a couple times that this was a pleasurable experience that I was sharing with my family.
As we neared the portage I could see tents to the left of it. I asked Kelly and Hiker to keep their voices down about what we were doing so that we wouldn’t alarm others in the area of our intentions.. We were in stealth mode and crept up to the shore that we would share with another empty canoe…. Empty canoe???!!! Why was it there?
This question quickly vanished as we exited our canoe and began to scramble up the portage trail. We quickly came to a wooden sign that read “Trail”. Was this the wooden trail Clue #3 was referring to? 20 from this sign? We began to search 20 meters from the sign, looking for a birch tree. Not too many in the area that would hide a paddle. We extended our search down the trail eventually coming to a boardwalk. Thinking we had gone to far, we back tracked, searching behind every birch tree we laid eyes on. We eventually found ourselves back at the beginning of the portage. Where could it be? Bingo!!!! The boardwalk! 20 in from the wood trail. I sprinted back up the trail and told my Wife and son. As I passed them on route to the boardwalk my son Hiker gave chase, just as eager to find the paddle as his pops. He and I searched every birch in the area of the boardwalk and time was ticking as my Wife had to be back to work at 11pm, leaving a very condensed window of opportunity.
Almost at the verge of calling it quits, I turned and there it was. A massive birch tree. the kind that a “Happy Guy” could easily hide a paddle behind. I tiptoed my way to it through the ground cover and noticed a white rope. My heart leaped up into my throat , and before I had laid eyes on the paddle I was yelling to Hiker who was right behind me that I had found it. My voice echoing through the surrounding, dimly lit forest. I quickly dislodged the paddle and began to fist pump it in the air like a lunatic . Hiker, instantly feeding of my energy began to do the same with a look of elation. My Wife yelled to me “Stay put, I would like to see where you found it”. Then another voice “did you just find the paddle”. Another voice? Another canoe?
“It was a great time last night and even though my heart dropped significantly when I heard the shout of “found it!! I found it!!” from not even 100m away, my smile grew and my heart was happy when I saw Johnny and Kelly’s son Hiker step out of the trees with the biggest grin on his face as Johnny held the paddle. To me, as it is to you guys, that’s what the contest is all about. Last night, second place truly was far more rewarding than first place.”~Cory Seaman, via Facebook messaging.
Editor’s note: Read Cory’s full inspired story about the night that another hidden paddle slipped from his paws in beautiful Bon Echo in his tale: Another Summer, Another PITPC Adventure (Editor’s note: As of this date, there are still the Nova Craft Canoe & Portageur.ca paddles “Out There” waiting to be found! We still have faith in you Cory!)
This is the moment where we met Cory. Cory had put-in at around 7pm back at the mainland of the park and had been searching the other side of the portage. Making his way back our way, he had heard the war cries of Hiker and I. Despite not finding the paddle himself, Corey was gracious and kind enough to take our picture with the paddle and congratulate us on our efforts. After relishing in our finding we chatted with Cory on our way back to our canoes. I had mixed emotions during our conversations. Excited for finding the paddle for our son but some sadness crept in at the thought of Cory’s hard work to get here and missing the opportunity to claim it for himself. It was clear to me however that Cory was sincerely happy for us and that sat well with me. So did the fact that my son will be paddling with this special paddle for years to come. Such a special moment, added to by an amazing sunset and moon lit paddle back to the mainland, where we would part ways with our new found friend. Thanks again Cory!
Time to kick it into high gear and haul butt home and get my Wife to work and exhausted but excited son to bed. My Wife and I discussed the experience with each other during the drive and Hiker would end up falling asleep. Every so often he would stir and wake briefly mumbling ” I want to hold my Happy Camper, Badger Paddle”. This warmed our hearts. The effort was worth it. The prizes are an added bonus but the experience, well words cannot express the impact that evening had on our family as a whole. We were three kids on a treasure hunt and Fiona, Mike, Preston, Kevin, Hap and Andrea have hit the nail on the head with the hashtag #RewardsAreOutThere. They certainly were for us beyond the material sense and we thank all of you!
The Stinson Family- Johnny, Kelly and Hiker
See some of what Johnny and his adventurous family have won below:
The Happy Camper Canoe Paddle:
This well hidden, oiled cherry Happy Camper paddle, with custom laser engraving, comes with a Badger Paddle Sock and a wood PITPC collector’s tag. (Paddle builders note: The shaft of this paddle is the same length as the 54″ LaBonga)
The Happy Camper Paddle Prize Pack:
Once you lay official claim to the paddle, you will also be awarded the following gear and prizes from our generous sponsors (minus the paddle already found and claimed!):
THE HAPPY CAMPER PADDLE PRIZE PACK
|Badger Canoe Paddle (Oiled) 51″ Cherry LaBonga – Badger Paddles||$139.00|
|Laser Engraving – Badger Paddles||$75.00|
|Kelty Kettle – The Happy Camper/Kevin Callan||$80.00|
|Portageur Decal – Portageur.ca||$8.00|
|Portageur Hat – Portageur.ca||$29.95|
|OR Swift Cap – The Happy Camper/Kevin Callan||$26.00|
|OR Swift Cap – The Happy Camper/Kevin Callan||$26.00|
|Canoeroots 1 Year Subscription – Rapid Media||$19.95|
|Set of Temagami Maps – Jeff’s Maps||$75.00|
|North 49 Pack Towel – KO||$29.95|
|Paddler’s Guide to Killarney & French River – book – The Happy Camper/Kevin Callan||$19.95|
|Paddler’s Guide to Ontario Cottage Country – book – The Happy Camper/Kevin Callan||$19.95|
|Wilderness Quest – DVD – The Happy Camper/Kevin Callan||$25.00|
|GoToob set of 3 – AO||$24.98|
|TOTAL HAPPY CAMPER CANOE PADDLE PRIZE PACK VALUE||$602.71|
Photo of the actual Happy Camper paddle before being hidden:
Paddles up and congrats to the Stinson family from all of us at the PITPC! (We just hope that Kevin doesn’t mind that you didn’t sleep in your tent for this one! 😉 )