16 Sep Killarney Outfitters Paddle Found and Claimed
This year there were two paddles hidden in Killarney – the Happy Camper Paddle and the Killarney Outfitters Paddle. The Happy Camper Paddle was found first and soon the race was on to find the Killarney Outfitters Paddle. The clues started adding up and the paddle was finally spotted and claimed by Marissa Dolotallas and her paddling partner (a.k.a. the love of her life) Chris Scerri. This was their second attempt this season at seeking out the location of a PITPC canoe paddle, their first attempt had them coming up short by mere hours! (They had attempted to find the special GIRLS PORTAGE paddle from Algonquin Outfitters but it was another who was crowned at this year’s Portage Queen). However Marissa and Chris were not to be deterred and set out to find the last paddle hidden in Killarney.
Here’s their story…
This was a tricky paddle to find! Good tricky. It ‘tricked’ us into doing a loop and go where we’ve never gone before. Not that we minded as we were planning a 4 day canoe trip for my birthday anyway. The French River will have to wait. Killarney is my favourite park (to date), especially in its stunning splendor of fall colours.
Day 2 of 4… As we prepped for the 2010 metre portage from Grace Lake to Nellie, I felt confident that there was no one close behind us. BUT the unknown was whispering thoughts in my head… Is someone ahead of us? Will this be a repeat of last weekend at Rock Lake where the paddle was found before we even put in? Oh well. We’ll soon find out. Here we go!
Hiking along the portage was challenging with roots, rocks and river crossings – magnified grossly by heavy downpours the night before. But we were prepared for anything. Determined. Rain or shine. Our paddle – and camp site – was waiting for us.
Up, up, and up. Slow and steady. Sweaty. Slogging through muddy pockets. I used our paddles as trekking poles to lessen the workout on my quads and glutes. My challenge was to not burn myself out and be forced to take unnecessary breaks. But deep down I wanted to burst into a run! This was a race after all. Hard to do when carrying a 50lb canoe pack that was too big for me. I felt like an underpaid sherpa but as Chris was portaging the canoe, I thought it only fair game that he carry the smaller pack.
At the top of one of the many climbs, we stopped for a breather (much welcome) and to pump some water from a nearby stream and refill our water bottles. THUMP! We turned to look at each other. “Did you hear that?”
We looked around for any sign of imminent danger, i.e. bear. Saw nothing. My spidey senses weren’t tingling either. Sawyer didn’t seem fazed at all – just sniffing trees and chewing sticks. Business as usual. Then I heard voices. Muffled at first.
That’s when it dawned on me that someone was coming up the trail – and fast. There were two of them. I could now see their canoe. That sound we heard must have been the canoe hitting a tree while trudging up the hill. Uh oh. We’re not alone. Were they here hunting for the same holy grail?
A piece of me wanted to panic and rush off ahead. That paddle was mine! But another piece of me played it cool. Plus, I could see that Chris was pumping away without a pause. Clearly, he was intent on water and I wasn’t about to leave him alone. We were in this together, for better or for worse, with or without a paddle.
I cleared our bags out of their way and said hello as they neared. At this point, I noticed they were only carrying one small day pack between the two of them. “Day trip?” I asked. I think they said yes as they smiled and walked by briskly. Yes, briskly – and I mean really fast! With a heavy rental canoe! Who does that way out here in the boonies? Ah ha! Yup – it’s game on!
It was time to change up our strategy. Plan B. Drop the canoe, i.e. leave it aside, and only carry packs to the end of the portage. This way, we’ll cover ground faster and we’ll have three chances to look for the paddle. One to the end of the portage where we’ll drop our packs. Second pass will be when we walk back to grab the canoe. Third pass (and last chance!) for a final ‘search and rescue’. Let’s do this!
We switched packs (thank goodness) and off we went. The guys were long gone by now.
There was a chance they would find it first of course but that’s part of the fun isn’t it?!
As the trail started to level off, the scenery changed. So pretty. So green. Everywhere. This was it. Clue #2 “At the height of the pass and on the saddle, you will find two girls hiding a paddle”, i.e. between Grace and Nellie Lake.
And guess what? Those guys were nowhere in sight – or sound. Interesting…
We slowed our pace and kept our eyes peeled on trees and anything that looked out of the ordinary. On this first pass, we were quite casual in our search, knowing we’d have another go of it soon. Looking right, left, up, down. Nada
Soon, the trail started heading downhill. With the saddle behind us, a tad dejected (I was anyway), we picked up speed. Watching and waiting for that first glimpse of the lake – and there it was. That’s always a good feeling!
We stashed our packs off to the side. Ready for the second pass. Grabbed our granola bars and water bottle and off we went back up the hill. This time as we reached the ‘saddle’, we picked a side to scope. Chris on the right. Me on the left. Military-like, we marched and took our sweet time.
As slow as we were, I have to admit I was starting to have doubts. Maybe it wasn’t here anymore? Or maybe I got it all wrong? Wrong lakes? I pushed those thoughts aside to focus. Keep looking – cuz maybe it is! There’s no point in quitting now. So true. Good call. I’m back in the game.
Minutes ticked by and we checked in on each other once in awhile. Keeping tabs on our whereabouts as the gap between us grew (I’m super slow).
While scanning each and every tree, a butterfly caught my eye. How pretty! Then I stopped in my tracks to give my head a shake. Hey. Take it easy and chill out. Look around you at all this beauty – and have some fun! And that’s when I thought… Where would I be if I were a paddle? So of course, a song popped into my head and I started singing “Where oh where can my paddle be…” Then my jaw dropped. I just… stared.
My eyes were drawn to something out of the ordinary. All of a sudden, it seemed as if I had developed tunnel vision. My eyes zoomed in on a long black sliver between two trees!
“I FOUND IT!!!!!!!”
I started screaming, squealing, laughing – and bounding over plants (trying not to hurt or trample anything). I still replay this moment and giggle. Reminds me of the cheesy movie moments when running in slow motion towards your loved one lol!
Chris and I gave each other a high five and big hugs! Still laughing. I felt delirious. The search is over! Triumphant!
All this time spent humming and hawing over clues, changing parks, 4 am wake call, 5.5 hr drive, being side-lined for a day due to rain and thunder (i.e. Day 1)… all of it so worth it! Oh – and Chris suffering a broken rib on the last portage on Day 4 and still having to paddle non-stop for over 3 hours… well, that’s another story (stay tuned!).
This totally made my day. Day 2 will always be the Day of the Paddle In the Park Contest!
The rest is history with two more nights of camping bliss under the stars and watching the Supermoon in the making at Nellie Lake.
We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
P.S. As we were about to paddle out onto Nellie Lake with Badger Paddle in hand, the two guys who passed us on the trail were canoeing back into this portage. It was then when they revealed that they were here for the Paddle in the Park Contest! I felt bad giving them the news that we had actually found it. They must have walked right by it! Unlucky for them (lucky for us), they went to look on a different portage route. That means they would have traversed 3 portages in one day! Wow that’s determination to a whole new degree. Andrew’s determination finally paid off as he set out two days later to hunt and finally capture a paddle of his own – the Algonquin Outfitters Paddle. Woohoo!
Written by Marissa Dolotallas
Thanks Marissa, for taking the time to slow down and enjoy the moment which ultimately led to many rewards! You can follow more of Marissa and Chris’ adventures here Birch and Bannock and see what Marissa won below:
Prize package for Killarney Outfitters Paddle Finder:
Prize package for Killarney Outfitters Paddle Draw: