The Happy Camper Paddle – Found and Claimed!

The Happy Camper Paddle – Found and Claimed!

Nathan Schmidt and gang with the Happy Camper paddle

Well, the Happy Camper Paddle has been found by a group of PITPC enthusiasts, with the official claim going to Nathan Schmidt. Paddles up to Nathan!  However, much to Kevin Callan‘s dismay, one of the paddle seekers in this adventurous paddling-finding group was Chris Hocking: two time paddle finder and Kevin Callan’s worst nightmare. Well, okay, maybe not worst nightmare. But it does drive Kevin (more than a little bit) crazy that Chris is always the one to find his paddles, and always during a day trip too. No matter how far, how secluded of an an area, or how difficult we make the clues, Chris seems to have a super power of some sort that gives him the ability to leave his home in the early hours of the morning, find Kevin’s paddles and, as Kevin puts it, still be “home for supper”.

In fact, Kevin has called Chris out more than once for not spending a least a night or two while he is “Out There” for the PITPC…  at Kevin’s trade-show presentations, on his blog for Explore Magazine, and even in his latest Youtube video. It’s quite hilarious, actually.  But in the end, it’s all just in good fun, because the important thing we all agree on is the PITPC gets Chris “Out There” every year… even if it is just one day at a time… and every year he is rewarded for it.

This year, however, Chris was rewarded even more than in the past. By sharing his passion for the PITPC with his family, they were all able to reap the rewards and benefits of spending time in nature together, and no doubt made some memories during their outdoor adventures that will last a lifetime. So paddles up to Nathan, as well as Chris, Britt, Kira and Hudson. So now, without further adieu, here is their fabulous story…

Note: Nathan Schmidt is the official finder of the paddle, but Chris Hocking did the write up for the group.

First, I would just like to thank Fiona and Mike (Badger Paddles), Preston, Hap and Andrea and all of the generous sponsors. Of course a big thank you goes out to Kevin as well, who seems to leave a trail of breadcrumbs straight to his hidden paddles each year, thanks for that.

The search for The Happy Camper began a number of weeks prior to the actual find, on September 5th. Armed with the knowledge that the paddle was hidden in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park and hidden behind a birch tree, I set off with Hudson on search 1 of 3 for this paddle. Thinking that maybe the wording of “hides this Badger from the sun” was a reference to Cloudy Lake, the route took me from the Cold Lake Access to the portage to Cloudy Lake. With no paddle found, I decided to continue on towards Cox, Triangle, Cherry, Turtle, east into Buzzard, completing the loop through Long and back to the access. And yes Kevin, this was a day trip haha.


Of course, after this weekend adventure, a second clue was announced early the next week, stating to try the alternate trail. After staring at the clue for a couple of days, suddenly the silhouette of a turtle became visible in the picture associated with the clue. The following weekend it was back to the park, knowing that there was a low water portage between Cherry Lake and Turtle Lake that I hadn’t searched on round one. After thoroughly searching the low water portage with no success, it was back to the drawing board.


With The Happy Camper paddle now the last remaining paddle, a third attempt had to be made. With some searching of various maps, it was realized that a Little Turtle Lake was hidden in the south east corner of the park, although this lake was unnamed on many maps, including Kevin Callan’s A Paddler’s Guide to Ontario’s Cottage Country. The maps showed a portage of 68m from Little Turtle to Adams Lake on the west side, however the east side of the lakes were also very close together, maybe there was a different way? A quick message to my brother in law, Nathan, and a bit a rearranging of plans and we were ready to make one more attempt for a paddle.


With our basecamp in Coldwater on Friday night, Nathan, my sister Britt, their dog Kira, Hudson and myself prepared for the adventure the following morning. Up before 4am, we arrived at the Coon Lake access point and were on the water by 6:30am, catching the sunrise as we paddled across Coon Lake. Once on Little turtle lake we made the decision to first try the east side of the lake. Paddling through the low water and lily pads, we didn’t hold much hope that there would be any sort of secondary portage. With no portage sign around, we finally caught a glimpse of a small trail leading towards Adams Lake, no more than 20m long. Nathan had thought he had spotted a birch tree from a ways back, but as we explored the trail, there did not appear to be any within a clear view of the portage. Britt and I looked out over Adams Lake, debating whether the water was too low to float a canoe, discussing that it might be easier to paddle on Little Turtle to the other portage.

The hidden Happy Camper paddle found!

As we discussed this, we could hear Nathan somewhere off in the bush with Kira say, “I don’t think it matters”. Not understanding what he meant, he again said, “I don’t think we’re going to have to portage”. At this point Britt and I started to clue in, Nathan had found the paddle, a ways off of the tiny portage, tied to the one and only birch tree that he had spotted from the middle of the lake. We took some pictures and slowly paddled back, stopping at a campsite to have a snack and enjoy the early morning find.

Nathan and Britt

This was a great way to cap off the summer after having had a number of great days of Getting Out There. Britt and Nathan purchased their first canoe earlier in the summer and had made a couple of attempts at the KO paddle prior to this find, logging 40km of paddling and portaging in total while searching for a Paddle in the Park paddle. I had also made quite a few attempts, driving over 7000km in total and paddling/portaging 150+km. I am so glad that I was able to share this adventure with Nathan and Britt and a special congrats to Nathan for finding this well hidden paddle. We’re all looking forward to many more adventures together!

Thanks to Chris, now a true PITPC legend, for sharing his passion for the PITPC with his family and for submitting their incredibly rewarding story with us. And an extra hearty paddles up to Nathan, for finding the Happy Camper paddle (before Chris did)! Check out some of what Nathan has won below:

The Happy Camper Canoe Paddle:

This well hidden, varnished cherry Happy Camper Badger Canoe Paddle, with custom laser engraving, comes with a Badger Paddle Sock and a wood PITPC collector’s tag.

Happy Camper Paddle - Badger

Badger Paddle Sock and PITPC Wood Tag

Total MSRP $234.00 CAD from Badger Paddles

The Nova Craft Canoe Prize Pack:

Once you lay official claim to the paddle, you will also win the following gear and prizes from our generous sponsors:


KOP Keynoe

Keynoe: MSRP $5.99 from Kingdom Outdoor Decal decal: MSRP $8.00 from

Johnny's Boat Shop Mesh Baseball Cap

JOHNNY’S BOAT SHOP Mesh Baseball Cap: MSRP $20.00 from Johnny’s Boat Shop

AO Spork

Spork: MSRP $2.98 from Algonquin Outfitters

Top 50 Canoe Routes book from Kevin Callan

Top 50 Canoe Routes of Ontario – book: MSPR $30.00 from Kevin Callan

Adventure Medical Kit from Kevin Callan

Adventure Medical Kit – first aid kit: MSRP $40.00 from Kevin Callan

Becky Mason's Classic Solo

Downloadable Classic Solo Canoeing Basic video: MSRP $6.49 from Becky Mason

CCM Invention of the Board Canoe Book

Invention of the Board Canoe – book: MSRP $7.14 from the Canadian Canoe Museum

Canoeroots Magazine Subscription

CANOEROOTS Subscription: MSRP $20.00 from Canoeroots Magazine

Kelty Kettle from Kevin Callan

Kelty Kettle Trekker: MSRP $80.00 from Kevin Callan


1 Comment
  • CronjeOlive
    Posted at 22:54h, 18 September

    I must say a massive congratulations to the paddle finders! This paddle droves us CRAZY this past summer – lost sleep, continual strategizing, and wondering if the competition had found it. We can rest easier now knowing this paddle has found a home! However, I will allow who ever would like to read the below to be privy to our first paddle hunting quest.

    Exhilaration, defeat, frustration. Three words that describe our first paddle hunt. Our introduction to Badger Paddles began in 2014 when we purchased a Nova Craft Canoe and accompanying Badger Paddles from Wild Rock Outfitters in Peterborough. We didn’t become familiar with the PITPC until I was researching how to care for our “oiled” paddles. I came across the PITPC icon and we were hooked – a big kid’s treasure hunt! At this point the second clue was already posted and fellow paddle hunters already had a month of searching on us, but the challenge was on. The first place we looked was at the Cherry and Turtle low water portage – the same place as Nathan’s clan. After scouring that portage and then all other portages leading out of Turtle we came up empty handed. On another excursion we went in through the Coon Lake access made a 13 hour day of exploring portages. Our last paddle hunting venture took us to Serpentine Lake. Fellow paddle hunters may think it odd that we went there, but there were two reasons the clues led us to search Serpentine. The first being that Serpentine has three separate portages with one of the portages only being added to the new Kawartha Highlands map. Secondly, we took the “Tips to Deciphering the Clues” a tad far and looked further into the turtle image. After doing some research we learned that the scientific name for a snapping turtle is Chelydra serpentina. We thought this was a super clever clue and headed out on the water again and continued to come out of the bush empty handed. All in all, we had a great first year of paddle hunting and even though we did not find a paddle we did enjoy some beautiful night paddles and took advantage of all the rewards that are out there. Not to mention our dogs had many a swim and were more exhausted than we were after our solid efforts. I think the most frustrating part of it for us was that prior to knowing about the contest we were in the general vicinity of the paddle three times (and crossed over 6 times as we did the portage in and out) when we canoed into Shark Lake from Coon on three separate occasions this past summer. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be, but we did always wonder about the east end of Little Turtle Lake. So, for all of the successful 2015 Paddle Hunters congrats on your find and we hope to join your ranks in 2016!
    Happy Trails!