Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Paddle and Hike to Yoga: Whitefish Lake, Morton Bay, Rock Dunder

A few more days remain for the best of Paddle to Yoga and Paddle and Hike to Yoga in the National Capital Region of Canada and nearby regions within a two-hour-drive.

Some spots are worth the extra drive and effort to get there. But I'm not so sure any more about the extra cost of gas! I made the exception again this fall for the 275 foot summit of Rock Dunder, paddling from Whitefish Lake, to Morton Bay, part of the Rideau Waterway, to get to the Rock Dunder trailhead with a group of independent paddlers. We assemble ad hoc.
It's like a pilgrimage. So many people do it every year. But this year, with the record Thanksgiving air temperatures in the high 70's (27 C) let's say that there were a lot more pilgrims making the trip!

Nevertheless, there is still plenty of space and rock up there to find your place and a spot or two to strike a yoga pose if you wish.
You'll be well warmed up after a paddle from Whitefish Lake to Morton Bay where you'll see Rock Dunder's Mate as you enter Morton's Bay, and soon after, Rock Dunder (see map link).
Dunder's Mate, Morton Bay, Whitefish Lake, Ontario, Canada
And the crowds don't mind if you practice a little yoga up there. If you bring your cameraman, they'll just think it's a photo shoot for something important. Your paddle buddies should be getting used to it by now. Maybe one day they'll even join you.
Stay well away from the edge of Rock Dunder. This is no rock to mess with. It's a 275 foot drop. Not a place to let dogs and little kids run loose. And there is always a wind up there, no matter how calm the day.
When you paddle and hike to Rock Dunder, rather than drive and park in the lot, the trick is to find a place to land your kayak somewhere along Morton Bay - do this on the same side of the bay where the Rock lives - you don't want to swim across the Bay at this time of year.

Take off your paddle booties and put on your awesome hiking boots without stepping on a bee or sinking into deep silty mud, secure your boat where it won't seal launch by itself off the steep shore while you're away, and find one of the well-marked trails with the arrows nailed on trees pointing the way up the steep path that will take you up to the Rock Dunder summit, and hope no one twists an ankle. Trust me, this really is fun!
The views of the fall colours from Rock Dunder are awesome.
Rock Dunder is part of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve, a 2,700 square kilometer region that runs along the St. Lawrence River and valley and includes forests, islands, rivers, streams, lakes, and a wealth of fauna and flora. Along with a human population around 50,000 and many popular tourist destinations.

The Frontenac Arch is a 50 kilometer long ridge of exposed precambrian granite rock that runs through southeastern Ontario to upstate New York and links the Canadian Shield to the Adirondack Mountains.

The Frontenac Arch has been recognized by UNESCO since 2002 as a Biosphere Reserve . . . just in case you're wondering where you are and the significance of the location.
There are also numerous opportunities for needing to use your well-equipped first aid kit if you hurry the path to or from Rock Dunder, or just get unlucky with a little moss, mud, and slippery loose fall leaves on rock and exposed roots.

After seven years of hauling my first aid kit around mostly unused, I finally got to pull it out for Tylenol or Advil for pain, gauze, and yes . . . Duct Tape as temporary wrap for the sprained ankle of a paddle mate with a swell almost the size of a tennis ball from a nasty twist on a slippery rock along the trail.  How many of you prefer "Duck Tape?"

I do review what's in my first aid kit each year to make sure things that need updating are up-to-date.

Morton Bay provided a free and easy supply of cold water to ice the swelling.

And the trip provided another reason not to paddle or hike alone. Stuff happens. Not usually, just sometimes!
Awesome paddle and hike buddies are not only good company and good navigators, they also lend a hand whether you need it or not.
The bee sting on the toe was mine.

After the hike to Rock Dunder, slipping off the hiking shoes to get back into the paddle booties for the paddle back to where we launched from on Whitefish Lake, the foot hit the ground for one second.

Another one of those, "Oh CRAP!" kayaking moments. A furry bumble bee was underfoot. What are the chances? Bees and Yellowjackets (wasps) are attracted to colourful kayaks and sometimes our lunch.

This provided the motivation to hop into the cold water to ice the toe and test what I wore for the paddle on a hot sunny fall day. It was a mere long-sleeve Rash Guard top, long nylon pants, ankle-high neo paddle booties and a well-fitting PFD. The extra warm gear was in a hatch: wetsuit, fleece, dry pants, and paddle jacket.

I walked into the water and went for a swim without submerging my head in Morton Bay close to shore on Thanksgiving Day in Canada (Americans celebrate in November). Within one minute, I turned around and headed back. I could already feel a light squeeze and pressure in my chest. It was my heart and lungs telling my brain that they weren't going to put up with this for long. "OK, I get it. We're getting out." But the toe was happy. "What bee sting?"

We live with the "Paddler's Never-Ending What-to-Wear-Dilemma" when the day is way too hot for warm gear, and the water is too cold to swim in. We know we're supposed to dress for submersion in the water. But if we do on a hot day, we're too hot to paddle. And if you can't roll to cool off . . . you can overheat.

Finding year-round water temperature information for local lakes and rivers isn't always easy. It's easier to find this information for oceans and the Great Lakes.

I test the waters I paddle close to shore once in a while to give me a real "wake-up call". It makes me think! Sometimes shiver. And reconsider my gear, or if I should paddle.

Next up, I'll go for a swim in my neo wetsuit and PFD close to shore in a local lake with similar water temperatures to Whitefish Lake, and see if it's really enough for fall paddling around here. Don't place any bets. Unless you bet on the side of failure for more than about 5 minutes in the water and total failure if I'm on a cool windy shore afterwards in a "wet" wetsuit.

Happy fall paddles and dry suit shopping!
The BaffinPaddler
Paddle to Yoga in the 1000 Islands Gananoque


  1. Such gorgeous pictures! And a great way to celebrate the holiday. Hopefully you and the other injured paddler will recover quickly!