Canoeing Ontario’s Still Waters

A photo-essay farewell to summer.

By: Jonathon Reed + Save to a List

Crooked Lake is a simple overnight trip in the Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands. The first time I canoed there was in the early summer of 2015. It rained until evening, when the sun broke through the clouds on its way to the horizon, glinting on dripping leaves and illuminating the drifting smoke of our campfire. In the morning, we climbed Blueberry Hill—an exposed granite cliff overlooking the lake—with a cloudless cerulean sky all around us.

That’s when I decided I wanted to come back with Logan.

I’ve known Logan for about half my life and most of his. We spend time together when we get the chance; playing pick-up baseball at the park down the street, dropping by the movie theatre in the winter, that kind of thing. I'm not in town as much as I used to be, but we stay in touch over the phone and every now and then pull together an adventure like this one.

Like I said, Crooked Lake is a simple overnight. But as I look back on it, it had an undercurrent of beauty that carried us as steadily as the tailwind waves of Fishog Lake. We passed a rocky island while seagulls and cormorants wheeled above us. We climbed an old logging dam and caught dragonflies on our shirts. We shared the still waters of Long Lake with two beavers and their newborn kit. And we made it to Blueberry Hill while the sun was still bright in the western sky.

I don’t remember if we waited for the sunset for two hours or three, but I remember feeling like we had all the time in the world. Our conversation drifted like the clouds, unrushed and unhesitant. We talked until the sun disappeared across the lake and the warmth of the rock began to fade. Then we paddled back to our site, water rippling from the bow of our canoe.

That’s the power of getting into the wilderness. The world is quieter. Your heart is louder. Distractions fade away and you’re able to focus on the people and the adventure in front of you.

The forest started humming and the firelight began to cast shadows across our site. Once the sky was dark enough, we pushed our canoe back into the water and lay inside it, spinning slowly beneath a blanket of stars.

At the end of the day, this isn’t a story to share as much as it is a way for me to remember. I’m writing this as a way to hold onto the early summer wind and indigo sky, the fireflies and the bright hearts on Blueberry Hill. If there was any moment from this summer that could hold the past three months in my heart, it would be this.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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