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#GetOutside: Algonquin and Out

I think one of the things that really appeals to me about adventuring in the wilderness is that you generally always have a pretty clear idea of what you have to do next.

Paddle. Hike. Hump gear two kilometres to the next lake. Climb eight hundred meters to the summit.

One stroke, then another.

One foot in front of the other.

You get to camp and there are tents to set up, sleeping bags to unroll. Water to pump and dinner to cook. There are always chores. You don't have to think too much.

And when the chores are done, you can relax--really relax, with a good day's work behind you, and no phone to occupy your attention.

So it was with some bit of reluctance that I packed up my tent on our last morning in Algonquin Park.

Jay, Stan, Darren, Krystin and I had paddled and portaged pretty heavily the last couple of days to make a camping spot on Lake Proulx, just one minor portage and one long lake away from the outfitting store where we'd finish our trip.

We had two days before we had to turn in our canoes, but with rain in the forecast and Stan "Beast Mode" Amyotte having booked himself another canoe trip in just a few days, we decided to make a run for the store a day early.

It made sense, given that Jay's truck was in impound somewhere on the other side of Bancroft, and we had only sketchy plans as far how we'd get out of the park.

It had rained overnight, but it was a decent, dry morning, and we enjoyed a pretty leisurely breakfast before packing up the site and setting out to the portage.

You can actually take a water taxi down Lake Opeongo to the outfitting store, canoes and all, and it's such a long lake that a number of younger families had booked the ride.

We'd made no such arrangements, so we set off to paddle Opeongo's vast, open expanse, bucking into wind and current as I tried to keep our boat in the lee of whatever islands we came across.

We stopped for lunch on a rocky little island about midway down the lake, its beauty marred only by the large cache of used toilet paper hidden a few paces from the eating area.

I took my last swim in Algonquin water, Darren self-administered some of his alternative medicine, and we piled into the boats again for the last push down the lake.

As per the day before, that alternative medicine did its wonders, and Stan and I watched as the other boat overtook us on the last corner and beat us handily to the dock, just as a steady rain began to fall.

We'd made it, four days of steady labor on water and land, six or seven beautiful lakes and a handful of less-beautiful portages, and I think every acquitted themselves really well, regardless of their level of experience.

Now to get out of the park.

We had one vehicle-Stan's sensibly-sized car--and five human beings and a large dog to transport.

We decided to split up; Stan would ferry Jay and Krystin to Huntsville, an hour away, where they would find a hotel room, while Stan in full hero mode drove back to the outfitters to pick up me and Darren.

So Darren and I said goodbye to the others and set about trying to figure out the local shower situation, which was strange, cold, dark and yet still refreshing.

Some of our party opted to reward ourselves for our hard work.

A few hours passed, rain fell, we showered and ate and wandered the grounds as, somewhere nearby, a flutist practiced "My Heart Will Go On" from inside a cabin.

It was getting dark by the time Stan returned, and full dark by the time we made Huntsville, whereupon we five assaulted the local Kelsey's Roadhouse and ate like a pack of wild baboons.

Then Stan continued his heroic efforts by packing up and driving with Jay a couple hours back to the Toronto area, and Darren and Krystin and I settled to bed at the hotel. We'd take the bus home the next day.

I tried pretty consciously to hold onto the feeling of peace and serenity I'd found in the park, even after we returned to civilization.

I kept my phone off and tried to avoid the news and social media, even as we hopped on the bus the next day for a four-hour drive to Toronto.

Alas, it was impossible.

As the bus rolled south, I found myself drifting back the same place I'd been before I left, which is to say, kind of anxious about the future and depressed about the past, lonely and unsure what came next.

I got over it, eventually. But it did get me thinking about why I like the wilderness so much.

For one thing, it's all really damn beautiful. For another, there's usually a path forward, even if you don't see it right away.

And most important, if you adventure with the right crew, you won't ever have to worry about being lonely.

See y'all in Iceland!

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