Behind The Tent Screens – Happy Camper Paddle

Behind The Tent Screens – Happy Camper Paddle

While a canoe trip to anywhere could be considered challenge enough by many, there are always some “Out There” who are willing to take the adventure just a little bit further. They are the Paddle Seekers and Paddle Finders of the PITPC. They are the people who are able to take the almost impossible to decipher (at times) clues that we so carefully create, and then go out and find that proverbial needle in a haystack. Except in this case it’s a canoe paddle, and it hidden somewhere in the vast forests of Ontario.

The Happy Camper Paddle just before hiding!

For those of you who have been following the 2016 clues for the hidden Happy Camper paddle, you have probably heard by now that Kevin’s paddle has been found and claimed by the Stinson family in Bon Echo Provincial Park. But what you probably are not aware of is just how much we love to hear how the clues were interpreted (or in some cases misinterpreted) as paddles are completely missed, passed by, and then finally claimed. This year, Preston thought it would be fun to give you a little behind the scenes look at how and where we decide a paddle is hidden, as well as a complete explanation of all the 2016 Happy Camper Paddle clues. So, be sure to read on if you want to know a little bit more about what goes on behind the scenes tent screens here at the PITPC!

Photo credit: PITPC Hero, Cory Seaman

Photo credit: PITPC Hero, Cory Seaman

Who, What, Where, and When

This year, we wanted to take the PITPC beyond the usual places we have been in the past (Temagami, Lady Evelyn, Killarney, Kawarthas) and branch out to a few more unexpected places. One of those places turned out to be Bon Echo Provincial Park.

But how did we even start contemplating Bon Echo in the first place? Well, apparently, some of those who are part of the Friends of Bon Echo organization are fans of the PITPC campaign and had brought the Paddle In The Park Contest to Bon Echo Superintendent Clark Richard’s attention, and he was keen to participate after talking to us and learning what the Paddle In The Park Contest is all about. So a few emails and a couple of phone conferences later between Clark, Preston, Kevin and myself (Fiona), plus with Kevin Callan’s cheerful agreement, it was decided that Kevin would hide The Happy Camper paddle on the 1500 m portage off Mazinaw Lake. (Editor’s note: Kevin fully offered and even suggested, himself, to hide the paddle on the longer portage. We did NOT make him chose the 1.5 km portage as the trail to hide his paddle on, and that is the truth –  no matter what he tells you! 😉 )

Anyway, after speaking with Superintendent Clark, we all knew that it was going to be the perfect place for PITPC families to seek and find the rewards that are truly “Out There”. For those of you who are not aware, Bon Echo Provincial Park is one of the most beautiful, family friendly places to see in all of Ontario, is rich in cultural and historical significance as the site of the Mazinaw pictographs (which is a designated National Historic Site of Canada), and should really be on everyone’s list of places to go. We highly recommend that you visit this beautiful place – regularly if you can!

Cory Seaman deciphered the clues which took him to the historical Mazinaw Lake in beautiful Bon Echo Provincial Park

Cory Seaman deciphered the clues which took him to the historical Mazinaw Lake in beautiful Bon Echo Provincial Park


So after a bit of discussion, The Happy Camper Paddle was hidden in Bon Echo Provincial Park on July 6th, as part of a day trip, and the emailed messages from Kevin Callan on that date read as follows:


Subject: I’m off to hide a paddle

I have some time today before I go traveling for a week. So, it’s a good day to head off and hide my paddle. I’ll drop by the office to see if you’re around Clark. Should be there around 11:00



And then later that day, he emailed us all again from his car just after hiding The Happy Camper paddle.


Subject: it’s hidden

A successful paddle. I did the loop – but decided this would be the best place for it. It’s about 200-300 metres in on the 1500 m portage from the Mazinaw Lake side. There’s two boardwalks along a wet area. I tied it to a big white birch at the end of the second board walk – southwest corner of the boardwalk – about 20 metres off the trail. The climbing club cabin is still at the end of this portage if you want to use that in your clue. I’ll send pics when I get home.


Kevin hiding his paddle.

The pictures, as promised, came later that day and we quickly went to work writing the clues. The first clue proved to be trickier for all of you than we thought it would be, but still, the entire time we believed the Happy Camper Paddle would be found quickly. It turns out that it was not found until August 10th, with a happy and successful conquest for one party, and a bit of a bitter-sweet second place victory for another. And in the end, it all came down to clue interpretation and their perception of the information found in those leads. See how close you got to interpreting the Happy Camper Paddle clues by reading our clue break downs below.


Behind the Scenes Tent Screens – The Clues

Happy Camper Paddle CLUE #1
The old, long-eared tales may be new to some.
But for those who remember, the answer will come.
This clue seemed to stump a lot of people. The first line refers to “old, long-eared tales”. That is a reference to the Ojibwe trickster figure and culture hero, Nanabush (also known as Nanabozho, who (according to Wikipedia) is the “unofficial mascot” of Bon Echo Provincial Park and is depicted among the 260 plus pictographs found in the area. Nanabozho most often appears in the shape of a rabbit and is characterized as a trickster – thus “old, long-eared tales” was the description we used in our clue to refer to Nanabush (when he appears in his rabbit form). Again, according to Wikipedia, when he appears as a rabbit, he is called Mishaabooz (“Great rabbit” or “Hare”) or Chi-waabooz (“Big rabbit”). The second line, in the first riddle we published, refers to the fact that those who remember or know the tales of Nanabush, would know the answer – that the paddle was hidden in the Bon Echo area, perhaps even “clueing in” to the fact that it was somewhere near Mazinaw Lake where Mazinaw Rock and the pictographs are located. The last hint given in this clue can be found in the filtered and flipped image. If you notice, the area that looks like a the outline of a tent symbol, in the image above, are actually the ears of Nanabush- but they are upside down.

The second clue for The Happy Camper Paddle came in the form of a personal video from Kevin, but the clue was written as such:


Happy Camper Paddle CLUE #2
Go to the southwest corner as part of your search.
There’s a BADGER® there, tied to a big white birch.

This clue refers to the location of the hidden paddle in reference to the portage (southwest corner), and the species and size of tree that Kevin tied the paddle to (a big white birch). The image is a filtered (and flipped) photo supplied by Kevin, and taken at the actual location where he hid The Happy Camper Paddle in Bon Echo PP.


The Happy Camper Paddle CLUE #3

Two to three hundred in from the one-forty-five’s side.
This fifteen hundred is as long as it is known to be wide!
But just twenty from the wood trail, there a Badger waits.
Hidden by a happy guy, it’s just one of half of eight.

This clue proved to be just as tricky as the first! The “Two to three hundred in” refers to the fact that is is 200 to 300 m in from the start of the portage. From the “one-forty-five’s side” actually refers to the depth of Mazinaw Lake (which is 145 m). Thus, the paddle was hidden 200 to 300 m in from the Mazinaw Lake side. “This fifteen hundred is as long as is it known to be wide!” refers to the 1500 m portage as well as the length of Mazinaw rock which is 1.5 km long. The “just twenty from the wood trail” reference is, indeed, in reference to the paddle being just 2o m from one of the wooden boardwalks found along the portage. “Hidden by a happy guy” means that the paddle was hidden by The Happy Camper, himself. And “it’s just one of half of eight” alludes to the fact that this paddle is one of only four paddles hidden “Out There”. The image is a cropped and filtered picture of a small part of Mazinaw Rock.

Happy Camper Paddle CLUE #4
Somewhere in the land of “Beautiful Water” there lies,
Her second deepest, reflecting a painted granite rise.
This clue was the last clue that we published before the paddle was found and claimed by the Stinson family, and it also proved to be the one remaining bit of information that you paddle-seekers were waiting for.  The quoted “Beautiful water” is a direct reference to the etymology for the name Ontario, and the possibility that “skanadario”, which means “beautiful water” in the Iroquoian languages, is the root of the name for our scenic province. “Her second deepest,” hints at Ontario’s second deepest lake (not including the Great Lakes) which is Mazinaw Lake at a depth of 145 m. And “reflecting a painted granite rise” alludes to the great Mazinaw Rock and its historical pictographs. The image is a filtered image of a pictograph of Nanabush in his rabbit form as found on Mazinaw Rock.


The Stinson Family found and claimed the Happy Camper Paddle in Bon Echo PP in August.

Okay now, put the above clues together and you have all the information you would have needed to locate and find the Happy Camper Paddle in Bon Echo Provincial Park! But take note, little 5 year old Hiker Stinson and his family already did that, so you will just have to seek all those rewards and look for the hidden and Nova Craft Canoe Paddles instead. See the clues here and see the paddles here, but most importantly,  just get “Out There”!
Rewards Are Out There
1 Comment
  • Kindred Wanderings
    Posted at 01:42h, 17 August

    It’s great to read the stories of the paddles being found and the behind the scenes information as well.

    We attempted to find this paddle not once but twice.

    Our first attempt was after the first clue was released but before the second. My wife and I both read the clue and nothing major jumped out at us. When we read it to our nine year old son he said something along the lines of “It’s the story of the Nanabush. The paddle’s at Bon Echo. When can we go?”. Obviously, he was paying attention when we visited Bon Echo last year. The logical place for the paddle to be at Bon Echo was along the 1500m portage. We knew that finding the paddle would be a long shot knowing nothing more than that it was on the portage but we figured at the very least it would be a fun adventure.

    We booked a couple of nights in the park (yes we did spend the night). We decided to do the Kishkebus canoe route on our first day. We arrived at the park a little before lunch, hopped in the canoe and paddled to the portage. We began searching right away. It sure is hard trying to locate a paddle in a forest. We searched the length of the portage then I headed back to get the canoe so that we could complete the canoe route. On my way back with canoe I stopped about two thirds of the way through and noticed that our bailer had fallen off. I headed back towards the start of the portage only to find our bailer lying on the south west corner of the boardwalk. I remember thinking that maybe I should search a little more here. I decided against it thinking that it was just as likely for the bailer to fall off here as it would anywhere else. I guess I should have looked. Perhaps the Nanabush was trying to give me a hint.

    We had a great time doing the canoe route despite not having found the paddle. The trip allowed us to see just how capable our kids are of doing a full on backcountry trip.

    We did notice more signs of PITPC while in the park. There were posters up around the park and the Friends of Bon Echo were raffling off a Badger paddle. It seemed like too much of a coincidence for the paddle not to be here.

    Clue #2 stumped us a bit. The 1500m portage was not in the south west corner of the park and the portage headed south east. We began questioning whether Bon Echo could be the right place after all.

    Clue #3 had us convinced that the paddle was not in Bon Echo. We had mis-interpreted the “Two to three hundred in from the one-forty-five’s side” to mean that the paddle was 200-300m along the 1500m portage but from the side that had a 145m portage. This almost worked if you added all of the other portages from the south together but not quite. Could we be wrong with Bon Echo? The only other park that seems to have anything to do with the Nanabush was Petroglyphs, but it doesn’t have any portages and is a very sacred place.

    It wasn’t until clue #4 came out that everything fell into place. Our house is about an hour and a half from the park. It would have been an easy trip to make on the afternoon that the clue was released. As luck would have it we were visiting a cottage in Parry Sound and I was driving some relatives to the airport in Toronto that afternoon. We decided to wait until the morning to head to Bon Echo. My wife and I (we didn’t think the kids would be up for 8+ hours of driving) began our journey at 5:00 and arrived at the park around 9:30. As we were in line to rent a canoe the couple in front of us mentioned to the attendant that they were going to do the canoe route. Could they be searching for the paddle? We gathered our stuff and raced off to the portage, passing the couple who as it turns out just wanted to do the canoe route. We searched for a bit where we thought it would be, then extended a little further along the trail then came back to scour the 200-300 m in from the side of the lake that was 145m deep. Overall we spent two hours looking and came up empty handed. As we conceded, my wife was convinced that the paddle had been found. I wasn’t so sure.

    Upon returning to Parry Sound we discovered that the paddle had been found the night before. We were actually relieved to find that we hadn’t missed it and we were so happy for the Stinson Family. It’s so great seeing families “Out There”. I was also excited when I heard that Cory Seaman had deciphered the clues. He seems to be “Out There” all of the time. I’m convinced he’ll find a paddle one of these days.

    Although we did not find the paddle, we had fun trip. The drive through Algonquin Park as the sun was rising was absolutely spectacular. I highly recommend it.

    Thanks for all the great clues. We loved the fact that Clue #1 was not something could be Googled.