Killarney Provincial Park, ON, Canada
Looking out across the vast, seemingly tropical blue lake in front of me, the noise is a frenzy of incomplete thoughts, abridged attention, and constantly shifting reflections.
- Oliver Ambros
Behind me, the wind continues to assert its dominance among the looming quartzite cliffs and peaks, reminding my shoulders and chest of each stroke and portage it took to get to this very place. As I gaze out across the early-spring Canadian landscape, each stream of conscious thought guides me to the very same conclusion: What a beautiful world we live in.
Now, sitting outside in the comfort and sun of my backyard in Los Angeles, again I end up at the same conclusion, except all I can wish for is to be back in the depths of Killarney Provincial Park, among the lakes, cliffs, and wildlife.
Killarney, roughly the size of a very different Zion National Park, is commonly known in its homeland as one of the most beautiful places in Eastern Canada. A complex landscape of lakes sitting at differing elevations, all look up at the white peaks of La Cloche Mountain Range. While the southern side of the park is quite popular for day trips, the northwestern side makes up a less traveled area, the territory we called home.
Arriving in late April to a technically “closed” Widgawa Lodge, according to the local Canadian woman and Irish man that run it, made us the very first visitors of the early-waking season, the first to inquire about backcountry permits, and the first to christen the winding channels and lakes with the oars that carried our canoes. Each stroke brought us closer to our first campsite, overseeing a golden Lake Murray illuminated by the dwindling sun.
Just as the the sun began to turn the white cliffs to gold, we arrived and found a formidable site to call home for the night. After unpacking, setting up our tent, and getting a fire going, the warmth of cooked noodles accompanied us to bed under the setting moon of a starry night.
As we cooked oatmeal after a chilly night’s rest, we anxiously awaited what would be the longest portage of our trip ahead. Commonly known as “The Notch,” the portage follows a grouping of waterfalls along a creek through a pass in the Cloche Mountains. Despite the markings, the fallen trees reminded us that we were truly the first visitors of this bush.
After an early hike, trading off carrying canoes for oars and life vests, the four of us made good pace and arrived at Carmichael Lake and Nellie Lake on the other side of the pass by noon. And though our arms and shoulder had begun to hurt from the constant pushing and pulling of water, it was an ease of motion in a therapeutic state.
As we paddled through the chute that connected Carmichael to Nellie, our eyes were transfixed to the water that lay beneath us.
These two lakes are far from any other Canadian lake imaginable. Tropical blue water, the result of acid rain and excess calcium, let us examine the old forest floor that lay at the bottom 30+ meters down. Complete visibility had us second guessing the very country we were in. Paired with the beauty below, the beauty above persisted for the rest of the day, as the sun shone down on us, making for a purple and pink sunset that lightly blanketed the emerging stars and shining moon.
And this was where we sat, quietly amongst the whipping winds and aqua lakes. The noise in our heads constantly buzzing onto the next wonder to behold. Our sore bodies lay dormant, in wait for the next portages ahead of us, while our minds wrestled with the beauty that surrounded. Never had we done a trip quite like it, and never will we again.
It lit a fire in us, motivated us, and inspired us for the changing seasons. As the crisp, budding springtime begins to give way to a much faster paced summer sun, we greet it with excitement and anticipation. Despite trading in oars for boards and pants for shorts among the waves and towering climbs that will greet us soon, no matter the setting, our minds will always return to the same conclusion: what a beautiful world we live in.