Leaving Opeongo Lake and portaging south towards the Madawaska River, the fifth river of our journey around Algonquin Provincial Park, was the beginning of the end for Andy and I.
We started seeing more people, more garbage and less wilderness. Our circumstance was laughable at first, especially when taking note of all the odds and sods paddlers had left on portages by other paddlers (bottles of men’s cologne, spare running shoes, giant jugs of water, a baseball bat, hockey mask and 23 pairs of socks). Depression set in, however, when we noticed campsites scarred with graffiti, trees hacked away with hatchets, campfires still smoldering long after the occupants had left and garbage strewn about the forest. We even saw human poop floating in the water and counted a total of 11 fire grills left behind on one campsite alone.
Our turning point was just after Andy almost got hit by a truck while he portaged across the highway that cuts through the park. That made us agitated enough. But while heading through Whitefish Campground, after the highway crossing, we were forced off the portage by a large group of ignorant sunbathers coming back from the beach. They were carrying beach towels and wearing flip-flops; Andy and I were loaded down with heavy packs and a large canoe. They won.
I dropped my pack and said something nasty to one of them. He reacted by calling on a passing park warden, demanding he deal with the rude canoeists using their trail to the beach. Seconds later Andy stopped to give a moose the right away. Everyone else on the beach didn’t even notice that the moose was there; and when they finally did the crowd of campers closed in on it with their cameras like paparazzi.
The dilemma here was that Andy and I were dealing with the unfamiliar. We had only seen a handful of paddlers since we started in Huntsville a dozen days ago. So it was shell-shock to walk across the business of the campground.
Andy is more against the hectic lifestyle of a trailer park. I’m somewhat accustomed to campground camping. I have a nine-year-old daughter that loves interior tripping but my wife and I still reward her by staying at a busy campground on the some weekends so she can meet and play with other kids. I was the same growing up. My family even stayed at this very same campground Andy and I had walked through. I remember great memories of my three older sisters and I making s’mores around the fire and catching frogs down by the beach.
Campgrounds are great places for novices to begin their love affair with camping, as well as a retreat for the majority of outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy a semi-wilderness setting; and it’s important to note that the rude sunbathers we met that day on the trail weren’t the normal campground campers. In fact, a few minutes later we came upon a gathering of normal campers — a naturalist club that was volunteering for the weekend for the park’s annual dragonfly count. They were an amazing bunch of people. The problem is, the chance of us running into more ill-mannered people greatly increased the more we travelled through the busier southern section of Algonquin park — which happened to be for the remainder of the trip.