02 Nov The Last of the Hidden Paddles: History Made & A Mystery Solved
It is official! Paddle #1 has been found and claimed!
As those of you following along already know, the last hidden paddle in the Paddle In The Park Contest remained unclaimed for weeks and weeks after being found. We only knew it had been taken after being informed of a very fortuitous meeting that took place upon a Temagami portage when paddle hiders, Hap and Andrea Wilson, came across the path of a young boy carrying the very blue Cub WaterColour children’s canoe paddle they had so cleverly concealed among the rock cuts, not far from their famous Cabin.
“Did you find that paddle?” Andrea inquired, as she stopped along a portage trail near her wilderness home.
“Yeah!” an excited boy answered back, “It is part of a contest or something, that writer Hap Wilson hid it and there are more prizes from him too!”
“Well, actually…. this is Hap Wilson!” Andrea smiled back, bringing the young boy’s full attention to her husband who had joined them.
While we were delightfully entertained by the story Andrea and Hap shared with us when they returned from one of their many visits to their private Cabin Falls retreat, unfortunately for us that was the last we heard about the last remaining unclaimed paddle – just one conversation relayed to us in passing. We waited to officially announce that the last paddle was found, giving the young paddle-finder a chance to claim his prizes. And thus we waited. And waited. And you all waited too… wondering if the paddle had been found and not claimed… or if indeed, the last paddle was still “Out There”.
We started getting more and more anxious about the last paddle hidden in Temagami – we were worried that when the paddle-finders didn’t follow through with contacting us, would they not adhere to the rules and leave the plastic and cardboard tag behind at their campsite too? Did they just forget to contact us? Will we ever know what happened to Paddle #1, the final remaining paddle in the contest?
When the Paddle In The Park Contest came to a close and we still had not heard from the final paddle-finder, we went to work tracking down the last unclaimed prize. Certain it had been found, thanks to Andrea and her portage tale, we were able to track down the camp with whom the young paddle-finder was traveling that day: A Temagami youth camp named Northwaters and Langskib.
[***Spoiler Alert*** ] Scroll down to Pascal’s story below if you do not wish to know the full outcome before reading his story
Upon contacting Langskib we were met with the most delightful reception and wonderful people, and before we knew it we had Jennifer (from the Camp) on the case of the unclaimed paddle. As it turns out, the young paddle-finder was a “Viking” named Pascal, and he did not end up claiming his find with us as he donated the paddle and all the accompanying prizes to his camp and troop before he left to go back home!
Hailing all the way from Los Angeles, CA., Pascal made his mark, not only in the pages of Paddle In The Park Contest History, but in the minds and hearts of the fellow paddlers he journeyed with as well. By dedicating his find to his canoeing group – the “Vikings” – Pascal reminds us of the importance of unity and trust in your friends while in the backwoods. Being hundreds of miles away from a hospital or the nearest city can turn even a pleasant day trip a into a survival nightmare. By using the paddle to unify the “Vikings”, Pascal showed a true respect for his teammates and journeymen. They shared the trials and tribulations of the trail together… and they shared the rewards too.
When the young lads all signed the paddle with their names and other remarks, the paddle became an true emblem of the very journey that Pascal and his troop experienced in the wilds of Temagami this past summer… but it also became a symbol of something else. It marked the summer and year when the “Viking” group became a team … a team of adventurers… and a team of (young) men.
Thanks to Pascal, his Mom, and his family for allowing us to share Pascal’s story with you. You can read Pascal’s own words about finding Paddle #1 below. Thanks as well to paddle hiders Andrea and Hap Wilson, for keeping their eye out on the portage trails for any elusive paddle-finders. We would never have sleuthed out Pascal and known of his wonderful story if not for your quick thinking and your attention to detail (like what camp name the canoes/gear had on them!). A special thanks as well to the rest of the “Vikings” and to good people of Langskib. We could’t have asked for a better ending to the story of the first ever Paddle In The Park Contest. It was well worth the suspense and wait!
Paddle #1 Found, as told by Pascal:
My paddle treasure adventure in Canada, Langskib camp in Temagami, summer 2013, thanks to Hap and Andrea Wilson, the people and crew who organized The Paddle in the Park Contest.
Twenty minutes after we settled into a campsite on mainland where our August 2013 “Viking group” had been planning to paddle to, I started heading out trying to find a suitable amount of firewood. It was late afternoon, the sun behind the clouds was getting low, for once it had been a day without rain. With our six canoes, the few hours of paddle to arrive at the campsite were rather uneventful. I had gotten used to living in the present without a watch and to rely just on light. We had had so much rain this year, most of the time we didn’t get to see the sun and by now we probably were all already smelling moldy! But nobody cared anymore and after alI, I was not wearing my French Lycée school uniform!
The campsite was quite large, and had two abandoned canoes leaning against a tree near the campfire. About a dozen yards behind that tree was a pile of rather large boulders.
Feeling somewhat lazy, I started searching for appropriate wood near the boulders. Wandering around them, I suddenly noticed a plastic bag. With an arm full of wood I grabbed the blue bag and had a glance at it’s contents. To my surprise, the plastic bag contained… a blue paddle much too short for anyone to use. [Editor’s note: The paddle in question is a Badger® Paddles Cub, designed for use by kids and often used for decorative purposes by adults.]
I resigned myself to finding more firewood, while holding the paddle along with my wood. I was dying to look at the object more closely though but forced myself to wait. I was wondering if somehow had lost it or maybe just trashed it?! Either way I wanted to take it away to leave the place clean.
A little later a few of my friends noticed the paddle and one offered to bring it back to camp for me, as the paddle kept slipping out of my woodpile. Back to camp, I started to closely examine the paddle and noticed a slip of paper tied to it! The note explained what to do when it was found as… it was part of a contest! Imagine! “The Paddle In the Park Contest”… in parks across Ontario “created to remind people of the many rewards of getting outside,from our health and well being, to supporting parks and wild places.”
It said that Hap Wilson had put it where I had found it in Temagami. It was a handcrafted “Badger” paddle and I understood later that six canoes paddles only had been put around three different canoeing areas in whole Ontario! I had no clue, and I didn’t use clues that had been apparently given out very carefully around, including maps and access to information on a webpage – not that we had access to webpages in Temagami!
I wasn’t even looking for the paddle and I stumbled upon it: I guess for once in my life I had been very lucky. How memorable would that become for me and Langskib? Ignorant about the contest, at first I had not even been excited about finding the paddle. I had just noticed it because I had felt bad that someone could have thrown some plastic in the scenery I happen to be in!
I was so joyful that it turned out to be a symbolic paddle of a contest that I felt it was a Christmas gift arriving a bit too soon. But I also felt a bit sorry about informed folks looking for that paddle probably for days… Later after talking with my two group leaders and my nine friends, I came to realize that my discovery was going to be symbolic of “the Langskib Vikings’ journey” I was taking on my way to becoming an adult: far from home, discovering the outdoors and sharing with friends some amazing and unique moments in untouched nature. For me the meaning of the contest was from far exceeding it’s purpose.
I listen to my intuition and took the decision to offer the paddle to Langskib and not to take it back home to Los Angeles – no matter how happy that would have made me. It belonged to Langskib and it would always be there. It would become even more of a reason to return to the beautiful place called Temagami in 2014, for my third trip! My whole group and I signed the paddle and Ryan took it back to Langskib. Victory!
Written by Pascal (of The Langskib Vikings)