This year, we diverted from the usual backpacking adventure for our yearly trip and tried out our sealegs in a canoe and kayak while camping throughout Kejimkujik National Park, located in Southwest Nova Scotia. Kejimkujik or "Keji" is a park filled with plenty of lakes, marshland, hiking trails and varying types of forest. While we had previously hiked in Keji, going a few nights on the water was a new experience for us. I had been keen on trying a canoe adventure after having watched canoeists in Algonquin Provincial Park during our 2014 adventure. What I would realize is that a canoe really is a workhorse for carrying gear over long distances. Also, when adding the 'portage' element to your travels, it makes for a significant challenge carrying your gear over distances between the water. Despite the challenge, completing a difficult portage was rewarding and actually used different types of exercise, making for a good change after paddling. As we were taking on a canoe trip this time it also presented us with a few new routines with packing, changing clothing, waterproofing, and carrying our watercraft.
Our plan was to spend 4 nights in Keji, although considering our past experiences, I would think of 'plans' as loose as possible. Here was our itinerary:
Portage Q to Big Dam Lake to Portage R to Still Brook to Portage S to Frozen Ocean Lake to Portage T to Portage U to Channel Lake to Portage V to Little River to Campsite.
Minard Bay to A to N. Portage E to to Mountain Lake to Portage F to Peskowesk Lake to Portage N to Peskawa Lake to Mason's Cabin.
Campsite 37 (Mason's Cabin) to Beaverskin Lake via Portage L. Peskowesk Lake via Portage K. Gabrielle Lake to Portage C to Puzzle Lake to Portage B to Cranberry Lake Portage J to Keji Lake Campsite.
A great park map with the portages and distances can be found here: http://www.paulillsley.com/kejimkujik/park.html
. Our average distances were between 18 and 22 kilometres. As for our trip, holy portages you say! Yes, there were quite a few. Many though were only short distances, with the exception of Portage E, which was 2.3 kilometres!
Our group started off with a portage to the first lake, Big Dam Lake. One thing to note was that the portage trails were well trodden and groomed throughout our trip.
Portaging the canoe was something we traded off between all of us. The canoe was heavier, but easier to carry. The kayak was lighter, but required carrying on your shoulder – which became a pain after a while.
The weather and water for our trip was exceptional. Clear skies and flat water made for some awesome paddling. The photo below was us travelling on Big Dam Lake.
Each trail is well outfitted with rest stops. This one depicts the type of rest stop for canoe carrying. The frame is made so you don't have to heft your canoe too often after resting.
The campsites were well set up with tent pad areas and all the firewood you could burn (if you so chose to do so). This campsite was on Channel Lake. I will never forget the sound of the frogs that night. Imagine the sound of thousands of frogs croaking and echoing throughout the night — as loud as any highway or factory. Amazing, yet I was glad I had my earplugs.
Knowing we had a long day ahead of us, we left early in the morning on the Little River toward Kejimijuik Lake. We also learned that there were new skills we needed to master, such as locating and avoiding rocks. Little River was full of rocks, but a slow paddle was just as nice in the morning calm water.
One of the more memorable paddles was our first travel across Keji Lake. A quiet morning with more calm water awaited our long crossing. I couldn't help but be awestruck by the serenity of the morning with the dim light from the clouded skies and the reflections off of the lake.
For all of our portages, we opted for a single carry, necessitating for us to carry our packs and the boats in one trip. This was tiring, but doable and also made for us to make quick work of the walking portions. After a long day, we made it to Mason's Cabin off Peskawa Lake (see above). The area around Mason's Cabin was an incredible spot. Surrounded by high pine trees, Mason's cabin was a really fun spot to visit. The cabin is completely outfitted with stove, bunk beds, fire wood, outhouse, picnic table and large firepit area.
We spent the evening swimming, reading books, perusing the cabin's logbook and relaxing in the warm evening air. I couldn't believe that we were in Keji, but the bugs only came near dusk. We were clearly lucky on this trip.
Another clear sky morning and amazingly calm water greeted us for our departure from Mason's cabin. We made way for our long haul back to Keji Lake. Our shoulders were definitely feeling the portages now, after three days into our trip. I managed to find a sweet spot between my pack and the yoke, which certainly helped spread out the weight. I've since seen a few other ways of carrying using straps and such, which may make it easier to carry the canoe.
Our arrival at Campsite 18 was welcomed by a few snakes and a wonderful pebble beach. Matt and I lounged in the water for an hour before really doing anything, which also included baking myself on the hot rocks.
Our final day of travelling was only by canoe. We had finished our portages and we were to enjoy a paddle across Keji lake. Of course, in our usual style (I'm not sure why I forget this every trip), we left bright and early and then decided to change our plans. Seeing that we were so close to the end, we continued paddling to Jakes Landing, opting for a night out on the town (not) in Halifax, than another night in the woods. This change of plans did require a bit of whining on my part, with five minutes of circling the canoe to prevent from leaving our last campsite. In the end, peer pressure won over. Despite our early departure, our final day was another amazing day of amazing weather for paddling. The time well spent in Keji just proves I'll just have to go back to feed my new found addiction, canoeing. (Oh, and to prove the Keji-tick-nay sayers, we only had 1 tick between us on the whole trip and I had it quickly found and remedied! )
Matt made a clever montage of our time in Keji. See his video below, as posted on Youtube.