07 Aug Paddle #5 Found in Killarney – A 14 Year Friendship Solidified Forever
When we first started this whole thing, we wanted to re-enforce something that we truly believe and feel passionate about – getting people “Out There”. There are rewards after all, and to do this we added more reasons to get out into nature (well, six actually). While we were planning, we would often daydream together about how cool we thought the idea of a hidden paddle was, and what we’d do if we found out there were hidden paddles around the province. We hoped all the paddles would be found, and maybe, just maybe, there’d be some people who would plan a trip specifically to go out looking for them. (I know I definitely would have if I was eligible.) We talked about how cool it would be if even just one person out there was scouring the clues, pictures and posts, thinking they figured out a location. In fact, we talked about it a lot. We agreed that even if we got one person to get out into the wilderness because of the contest it would be a success. What we did know however, was that on-purpose or incidentally, anyone passing by a paddle was going to reap the rewards for getting out there. We’ve been waiting for stories of adventures from the paddle-finders, and up to this point we’ve been graced by 3 great stories (so far).
Then, suddenly, we got an email that included a story so moving that it validated everything we’ve done – and written up in such a fantastically poignant way. (I for one, can’t wait to see everyone’s reaction to this great story.)
But we’ll let Doug Gordon and Tim Doherty tell it (and checkout their video below):
Near the end of July, my friend Tim Doherty and I found paddle number 5 from The Paddle In The Park Contest on the west end of the 455 m Killarney Lake – O.S.A. Lake portage in Killarney Provincial Park. The paddle was tied to a tree about 50 feet off the path. Anyone who was unaware of the contest would have walked by unknowingly –as dozens surely have since it was hidden on June 29th.
I have been following the clues throughout the contest and knew when the latest clue came out for Paddle # 5 that it was likely to be hidden on O.S.A. Lake. My thinking was based upon the work A. Y. Jackson did in the 1930s to ensure the preservation of what was then known as Trout Lake and the surrounding forest. This preserve was expanded into Killarney Provincial Park in the 1950s.
I was pretty sure that the paddle was hidden on O.S.A. Lake. But how to get it? I had plans to trip with my family in Killarney’s northeast at the end of July, but would not be in the O.S.A. area. I thought through my options and felt that doing a day-trip to the O.S.A. area was the only possible option – reserving a last minute campsite for an overnight stay in mid-July in Killarney is about as likely as winning a lottery!
Tim lives in Zurich, ON. We have been friends for about 14 years and share a common passion for the outdoors and specifically for wilderness canoe trips. For about 5 years we worked together in Stratford with high school-aged young people running leadership development programs. For at least the past dozen years we have been talking about doing a canoe trip together. Joint plans for several trips had been started but always unraveled for one reason or another. Last month, Tim accepted a job in Edmonton. He moves there with his family in August. I suspect that after the move our chances of going on a canoe trip together will be significantly reduced.
And so, last Sunday, I called him to see if he would like to do a crazy day-trip to Killarney with me to find the paddle – if indeed it was there. I proposed that we leave Thursday morning around 2:00 AM; drive to George Lake; canoe in to O.S.A. and back; and then drive home. His initial response was “This sounds like something we would have done when we were 26.” But, he was intrigued and asked for a few hours to talk it through with his wife. He called back that night saying he was “in” and we started making plans. The next day, he became aware that the dynamics of his move conflicted with plans for the trip. He called me back saying that it wasn’t likely that the trip would be possible for him. He was with the idea in spirit but… Tuesday night we spoke and the barriers had been figured out. One of the realities for Tim that day was that he and his wife had just made the tough decision that they would need to cancel their planned annual trip to Killarney which had been set for the end of the month. This would truly be Tim’s last chance to enjoy Killarney before his move. Thus, our day-trip became both a first wilderness canoe trip together and a last hurrah. It promised to be great, even if we returned home paddle-less.
Coffee in hand, we left Stratford at 1:56 AM, after packing and managing less than two hours sleep. On the drive north we shared philosophies, stories and driving stints. Our discussion on the cyclical vs linear nature of time culminated in watching the sunrise from start to finish. I told Tim about the Anishenabe (Ojibway) belief that for a few minutes each dawn emptiness balances fullness and each individual is reminded that they have a choice about how they will live. This concept is exemplified by a unique purple-blue-grey colour that results from the balance of sunlight and darkness. It was fun trying to figure out which shade of day-night showed that “impossible” colour. About halfway along the Killarney road we met a young red fox, pulled over and spent about 10 minutes taking photos and interacting with him. By the time we got to George Lake, it had already been a memorable day.
We left the beach on George Lake at about 9:30 after buying our vehicle day permit. An occasional gentle rain shower and mainly cloudy skies kept the temperature cool. We kept a good pace and arrived at the 455 m Killarney Lake – O.S.A. Lake portage a few minutes after 11:00. Our strategy was to cross over the two Killarney – O.S.A. portages looking for the paddle first, then canoe to the western end of the lake and check out the portage there. If the paddle wasn’t on either of these 3 portages we would continue down the chain of river and lakes towards The Pool on Georgian Bay. Apparently it was here that A.Y. had first heard about the plan to log the area around what is now O.S.A. Lake.
As it turned out, we found the paddle at the end of the first portage. I was carrying the canoe in front, while Tim carried a pack, paddles and lifejackets and did a thorough scan of the surrounding trees behind me. The pictures indicated that it would be tied to a tree which was surrounded by hemlocks and large birch. The first 3/4 of the portage is through mixed hardwoods and though I scanned for the telltale ropes it seemed obvious that the paddle would be hidden elsewhere. Tim stopped for a minute about halfway across to make some adjustments while I continued on. As I rounded one of the last curves in the trail heading down towards O.S.A., I saw a large stand of hemlocks ahead and thought “Now this looks better.” As I neared the final curve I noticed the ropes dead ahead but well off the trail. I put down the canoe and let out a “whoop.” I stayed by the canoe until Tim arrived, all the while encouraging him to hurry. It seemed appropriate to approach the prize together. As a result we were both able to shoot video of the discovery. Watching the videos again brings back the intense excitement of the moment for us. When we unwrapped the paddle we were struck by its simple beauty and thoughtful design. Branded as “Sliver,” it is a beautiful, light weight, narrow-bladed ash deep water paddle. The moment seemed slightly surreal to both of us probably because of the intense effort we had to put forth in order to get there. And of course there was the reality that we never quite knew for certain that it was on O.S.A. or if someone else had already found it until that moment.
For the next few hours we played on O.S.A. Lake. Tim is an accomplished Ironman Triathlete, so our first activity was swimming. We swam out to two islands and picked blueberries there before returning for lunch. While eating, a large northern water snake came by. I love snakes and decided to pick it up Steve Irwin style. She was a beautiful dark colour with red belly markings. Then we climbed the ridge to the north of the lake where we snapped some photos and offered tobacco in gratitude to the Great Mystery for the fact that we were there. We left the lake sometime after 3:00 via the shorter portage and headed home.
The trip home involved managing our fatigue. It took us at least half an hour longer to paddle out. En route we had a wonderful encounter with a loon family on Freeland Lake. The family’s two chicks were probably little over a week old and stayed very close to their parents. Sliver performed beautifully as Tim and I took turns paddling with it. After swimming and showering at the George Lake campground we reluctantly got back in the car and alternated driving and snoozing our way home. By an odd twist, we arrived home at 1:56 AM on July 19th, Tim’s 46th birthday. Our adventure had lasted exactly 24 hours – one complete rotation of the planet which ended on a day where the planet was in the exact position relative to the sun that it had been on the day Tim was born. Fitting metaphors that help to give personal meaning to our earlier philosophical discussions on the nature of time – the mysterious 4th dimension.
As to what to do with Sliver, Tim and I came up with a unique idea while we were on O.S.A. We discussed how ownership could look however we wanted it to. We decided to make the paddle part of our personal “Paddleshare” program. I carved an ash ottertail paddle several years ago which we also paddled with in Killarney. On that paddle I copied a rock painting representing my own personal mantra of “Peace & Safe Passage” – a human figure standing with his arms outstretched, palms up and the sun overhead. The two paddles are comparable in length and colour. We decided that one of us should always have either “Sliver” or “Peace” to trip with. In future years we plan to exchange the paddles until the next time we see each other. Both paddles will become a legacy of our friendship and of a wonderful day spent together in a beautiful part of Ontario.
Thanks so much to Doug and Tim for sharing this with us. At the risk of sounding a little corny, all the stories from the paddle-finders have really made all the work that went into this contest worth it for us. But specifically ever since this message was sent, we’ve been renewed by a sense of pride and accomplishment. When we spoke of the “Rewards for getting ‘Out There'”, then the extra one we’d hide for someone to find, we never considered a completely new reward that we and all the sponsors have received from all of this. So thank you again for that.
Check out Doug and Tim’s video, including their heart-warmingly genuine reaction: