My Paddle Adventures During Covid: Summer 2020

Story and photos by Emmy Hendrickx

No fancy tripping or extensive portages this year. No fancy rapids, or out with small or large groups. But a great year with a whole different kind of paddle adventures. I paddled this year on about 20 new lakes and rivers that I never heard of or have been on. As with so many others, Covid19 changed a lot of things, personally and work wise, and my emotional well being was not the greatest I have to admit.

Crowe River: dragonfly emergence

In October 2019, I got re-introduced to Geocaching. For people not familiar with what that is, it is sort of a treasure hunt. And it is popular with millions of people all over the world. I had tried it 5 years ago, but I just didn’t quite understand the game or find any joy in it. This time I got introduced to more aspects of Geocaching than just looking for coordinates and finding a traditional container. There are mysteries to solve that can take hours to get the correct coordinates and then you need to get out and find that container. Earth caches teach me about certain features in nature. Adventure labs and Virtual caches provide a different way of learning about the history of an area than by reading up and learning in town. There are events and CITO (Cache In, Trash Out) but due to Covid19 a lot of these events were cancelled this year. Then there are a lot of statistics that I enjoy. There are challenge caches that motivate me to reach for new goals. But what interested me most were geocaches hidden on rivers and lakes and only accessible by canoe or kayak.

For an interactive map of Emmy’s adventures, including summaries and pictures, see below. For a more traditional experience, read on!

May 2020

Seymour Lake

Never heard off this lake before, but I was informed about a bald eagle nest with young here. Received specifics from fellow geocachers when and where to go/ launch. Start early! So there I was at 6.00 am at Nappan Bridge for my first Geo Paddle. Solo canoeing in my tandem Souris Quetico 17ft canoe, enjoying the peacefulness, the osprey nest, and my first boat geocache at Grayfish Cove. Enjoyed several times seeing the bald eagle and eventually the bald eagle’s nest.

In August, I went back to this lake and explored past Hardy Island into the Trent River. Surprisingly calm on the lake.

June 2020

Indian River from Warsaw to Warsaw Conservation Area

Another fun aspect of Geocaching is being the first one to find a cache and claim a FTF, a First-To-Find, another fun way to keep myself motivated. This time I was off to Indian River in Warsaw. A nice little river from Warsaw to Warsaw Caves Conservation Area on the Indian River. Much better prepared this time, with a more comfortable seat in the middle, GPS preloaded before I left, and extra weight to help with balance and wind. It was a tough paddle as the wind had significantly increased by the time I started. A big plastic beetle with the container attached and I was the FTF. I wasn’t able to explore the caves as too many people were near the boat launch. I paddled back up the river, richer with another experience.

Chippewa Creek with Geocaching Paddlers

Crowe River near Marmora

The Crowe river is much wider and had a stronger current, so I stayed on one side of the river and would do the other side on my way back. Saw some local boys catching a fish and saw a few  minks. There was an island with a flooded forest in it, like a mini Minesing exploration. The strong current caused some issues when I had to stand up in my canoe to reach for a cache. Using my bow and stern lines, I tied up my canoe and carefully climbed out and up the shoreline. But then reaching the container was another challenge as I had to lean over to reach it. 

But another smiley, the little smileys that show up on the map after you claim a geocache as found on the map. Took an easy lazy paddle back and enjoyed seeing the emergence of a dragonfly on a lily pad.

The strong current caused some issues when I had to stand up in my canoe to reach for a cache

Ouse River towards Trent River / Rice Lake

Chippewa Creek

Another day solo out on the water. Started south first on the Ouse river. It was pea soup to start in, lots of weeds and algae, but it cleared up. I love exploring the small creeks on the side of the river. The nature is just extraordinary there, so far away from civilization while being so close. When I am there, I really can find peace and calmness in my heart and true happiness, especially with all the stress at work and surroundings with the Covid19 infections. It is like a recharging of my batteries, getting new energy for another couple days in the big world.

I went south first as I wanted to grab the newer geocaches put here in the river, first because they were newer (FTF) and supposedly easier to get to. Afterwards I paddled back up the river and thought I would explore the caches on the north part of the Ouse River. This was the warning the CO put out for these caches:

This is a T5 geocache (T5=Terrain 5, geocaching is graded in Difficulty levels and Terrain levels) for a good reason. Please don’t complain if you have trouble or hurt yourself. There are 2 log jams to find this last geocache. Getting here is a little tough. You have to maneuver around downed trees or get out and balance on the logs. Can a canoe get in here? There is NO way I’d take my good Kevlar canoe in there and get it all scratched up”

After reading this, you can understand my hesitation as I was here in my good Kevlar canoe. I went just up north to check it out. But it was easier than I thought. Saw a couple of deer in a pasture ahead of me. Yes, there were downed trees, but I was able to paddle around them, even with a 17 ft canoe. I never had to go out or climb over the trees or get out of my canoe to pull it around. I was able to get to the last cache without wet feet. But what a feeling of accomplishment that was.

Twenty Mile Creek: playing limbo

July 2020

Chippewa Creek – end portion of the Welland River, West of Wellandport

This time I went out with a group of paddlers. Most paddlers were in kayaks. I paddled solo and it was tough keeping up with them. But people were grateful for my canoe as I could stand in my canoe and reach the caches which were higher up in the trees, and I was faster to get out and grab a cache. More teamwork. Great creek for adventure. Once we reached the end, we had to paddle back to the take in and continue further east. At this point the kayakers just took off, and it was tough to stay with them. But I met up with some other stragglers as we chatted and kept each other company. But by 16.00 I was near my car and glad I was done. This was a super long day for me paddling and geocaching.

Round Lake and North River – North of Havelock

Due to road construction I wasn’t able to launch into the river. Instead, I started from Round Lake. A bit windy, but geocaches are mostly close to shore. North River was very picturesque, like the Ouse River with lots of small creeks to explore. Blue herons, eagles, lots of frogs and little birds. Great wetland flowers. On my way back the wind had picked up on Round Lake so I got my sail out. But trying to solo my canoe parallel with the wind direction and holding a sail was a struggle. Instead, I held my sail, partly open. I kept going backwards, but I was not paddling. Definitely an advantage and a lot of fun.

In August I went to the other side of Round Lake to North River. It is wider there, more meandering with curves and ends up in a lake that has several cottages.

The old Maple tree

Pigeon Lake and Big (Boyd/Chiminis) Island near Bobcaygeon

We started from the Lakehurst area. Another group paddle, but I was solo in my canoe. We had to cross Pigeon Lake, which was extremely busy with motorboats that didn’t even slow down near kayaks and canoes. Around the island there were large groups of boats partying. Luckily, most of the caches were around the other side of the island and on the island itself. But on that side there were lots of lily pads. And a 17-foot canoe has a lot of friction area to slow down, so bend down and paddle hard. Huge workout for me. But meeting new geopaddlers, and I found my 2000th cache on the island.

20 Mile Creek – South of Vineland

A windy creek, but my first paddle with a partner this year. Lots of laughs as we had to help the kayaks over muddy shallow areas. Playing limbo under logs. But it was so much easier steering with a partner.

Martindale Pond – St Catherines

This was much easier, a big pond, no motorized boats, paddling around the pond and into a creek where people were fishing. Martindale Pond itself is a race field for kayaks and solo canoes. Must be an immensely popular area as it had a big walking bridge to watch from and a viewing area.

Martindale pond was much wider and easier to paddle

Lots of laughs as we had to help the kayaks over muddy shallow areas. Playing limbo under logs.

Holland River, between Holland Landing and Bradford

As this river was close to home, I was able to do this river in parts and teach a friend how to paddle and geocache after work or before a PM shift. This river consists of a West and an East arm, so with a little shuttle easy to do in one day. There was some motor traffic but much less and not as fast. We had to do some swamp walking in order to get some of the more difficult caches. But it is a bigger river, no small creeks to explore or they were covered in pea soup or lily pads.

Holland River: getting close to the reeds

August 2020

Spence Lake – Bracebridge 

This was a surprise paddle today. I showed up at work this morning to hear that my schedule got adjusted and I was actually off. As it was a weekday, I decided to go north bound, to Muskoka. Had no idea where I was going. Had not researched it properly. But it was a lake and there were about 25 caches. When I arrived, there was a kayak just coming in from a paddle. He told me it was an easy quiet lake with no traffic. What a treasure this lake was. Love the log art floating in the shallow part of the lake. Found a stump in the lake that had sundew growing on it. A surprisingly relaxing paddle.

Welland River – Welland

A big rural river, no rapids, an occasional motorboat. An easy paddle with lots of laughs, going from one site to another. With geocaching we explore the banks, bushes and trees. A great river to paddle with family and young kids. Grassy areas to pull out and have a break. There is one huge log jam near the old railroad bridge and a small rock dam. There are several areas to launch your canoe.

Big Forks Creek: obstacle course

Otonabee River – South of Peterborough

Went out for a morning paddle. Nice landing and parking area. We went up the river to see how it would go. Into a nice creek and found a nice Earth cache here. It was really interesting to learn that there is a difference in shorelines on both sides. On the south side there was a steeper shoreline with logs and rocks and deeper water. The other side was sandier, shallow and showed more erosion. What is the cause? When we turned around and paddled the other side of the river, we got shocked by 2 high speed motorboats almost floating atop of the water, hardly any wake waves. But the captains were wearing helmets on their boats. About a kilometer from the car, the rain came down hard and flooded the canoe fast. Barely made it to the boat launch before thunder broke out.

In September we went back to Otonabee River and also explored Squirrel Creek. But the water there was really low, and it was a tough, hard paddle to get through muddy areas. And it was just digging and pushing. No way we could get out and pull the canoe. Traffic on the main river is crazy here. We were just out of the water and a large number of super fancy boats came racing by  for some kind of event.

Big Forks Creek: looking for a cache on an old bridge

Grand River from Glen Morris to Paris

Normally we have our lunch break here when we do a WCA trip with the Ashton family in June. Today we started here. Nice to be on a familiar river, but much lower water levels. Collapsible ladder in the canoe. Rest of the group were in kayaks. We climbed some crazy trees on the shoreline. There was some current, but it was more a matter of knowing how to steer and avoid the big rocks. We even found a spring coming out of a rock

There were odd pink things in the water on top of algae. It was like a deposit on the algae that dissipated, when you touched it.

Waterford Ponds – Waterford

A fun paddle in a pond, crossing roads to go to the next pond, or going in a culvert to Indian Lake and under a bridge to Middle Pond. We paddled to the end of the ponds where the weeds, lily pads and logs were. This was a fun day with marsh-whacking, tree-climbing,
tunnel-diving and lots of English accents. There were odd pink things in the water on top of algae. It was like a deposit on the algae that dissipated, when you touched it. There is a gravel pit that you can observe from the pond and an Earth cache regarding the glacial moraine here. We found a very rare, amazing tree for Ontario, a bald cypress – Taxodium Distichum – quite a sight.

Lunch with Fellow Geocachers

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