What a fantastic weekend! Camping, participating in the 2nd Annual Lock ‘n Paddle, touring the Kingston Penitentiary, and driving through angry weather!
We started out Friday afternoon in the pouring rain, packed up our kayaks & camping gear, and hit the road. The weather reports had shown a lot of rain with a bit of sunshine, which was a bit disappointing, but we’re not strangers to inclement weather!
The rain subsided and soon we were driving away from the sunset… from our home in Hamilton up to Emily Provincial Park.
We stopped to pick up a late dinner at Mary Brown’s chicken (the pulled chicken was delicious!) and continued along. The clouds lingered for the latter part of our drive, but the rain never fell (#awesome!)
The ominous clouds are chasing us, but we’re headed to the sunshine even if it’s raining…🚣♂️🏕️🌲 . . . #thatcouldbeasong 🎶
Emily Provincial Park is situated just a wee bit northwest of Peterborough, Ontario. We arrived around 7pm and were told that our original campsite in the radio-free zone (#11) was swamped from the recent heavy rainfall. I had to quickly decide where to move to, and #53 was the winner (the choices were slim on a Friday night!)
I have to say, whoever didn’t pick #53 for the Friday to Saturday night was seriously missing out! What a great spot. There was bubbling creek behind us, and it was quite a large spaces dotted with tall, tall trees. And flat! (#thankful!)
You never quite realize how important flat land is until you’re sleeping on a pad in a tent with even a 5% slope… it’s weird! 🙂
The next morning the sky was absolutely clear and the sun was warm! We quickly stuffed sleeping bags into duffels, the tent back into its bag, and smothered the fire. We had slept late so we decided to enjoy breakfast at a local spot – PJ’s Diner in Peterborough. We devoured almost the usual; coffee, tea, a breakfast burger and a breakfast burrito!
Off to the next stop: The Peterborough Lift Lock, #21
A Parks Canada guide greeted us at the entrance to the Visitor’s Centre parking lot and advised we could drop off the boats at this location, but we would have to park up the street. After we unloaded and brought the boats to the edge of the canal, I walked back up to the Centre for a pre-event rest stop 😉 Along the way, the Canadian Canoe Museum had a tent set up and they were selling event t-shirts. I bought one in green, as well as a sticker for my kayak to commemorate the event.
It was about 11:30 when we got on the water and there were already so many kayaks and canoes everywhere! It was so colourful and festive. Paddlers were clinging to the edges as motorized boats were still using the locks while we were waiting our turn.
Finally, the first lock “tub” was filled with boats – 166 total! Last year only 138 showed up, and this was clearly going to be a much bigger turnout.
After what seemed like forever, everyone remaining was cleared to start entering the second tub. By this time, we had split our kayak paddles in half to use them as canoe paddles. This helped us to avoid hitting anyone nearby in the head; it was very cozy in the lock!
And then someone brought beach balls!
With the first tub filled with 166 boats, and our tub filled with 162 (we had more canoes in ours!) the total number came to 328 – a little bit more than last year. WOW! How fantastic to be a part of this moment.
The lock operators brought both tubs to equal height, and we sang O Canada and then Happy Birthday to our country for 150 years. It was so neat to hear the echoes of everyone singing along.
Our tub finally went all the way to the top, and we took advantage of the option to paddle out from there. It was just after 2pm by the time we were back on dry land. Time to hustle! We had to be down in Kingston for 6pm!
Next stop: Kingston Penitentiary
Tickets for the regular tour in hand, we arrived at the Kingston Penitentiary with plenty of time to spare. We were greeted at the entrance and received our “team orange” bracelets. It was an interesting tour; photos on the walls displayed how the various areas used to be set up for the inmates, including photos from the 1971 riot.
Two former correction officers and a human resources employee were part of the tour and provided stories and additional information. I could have listened to them for hours!
One thing I found interesting was the guide telling us the guards would go around frequently and bang on the bars to ensure they were still intact and not loose. Hence, the rust spots on the bars where they hit with their batons.
After the tour we enjoyed a somewhat fancy-pants dinner at the Grizzy Grill on Princess Street, still in Kingston. We sat on the patio and enjoyed the emerging nightlife with a burger for me and a sirloin steak for Len.
A brief drive after dinner, we checked into our hotel in Belleville and I kept a close watch on the boats from our window. We had locks on them, but still, if there’s an opportunity for someone to steal a kayak… it just made me nervous. Thankfully everything was still on the Jeep in the morning 🙂
The complimentary breakfast was fantastic and got us off on a great start. Though Len didn’t get to use the pancake machine (it was overrun by kids) everything we did eat was delicious. Having stayed in Belleville, we weren’t far from our usual camping spot up north… so off we went for a very brief visit!
The final part of our trip was heading back to Hamilton. We drove through torrential rain and even two little hail storms. It was amazing, except the high winds! We had tied down the kayaks to their j-racks very securely, including the bow and stern tie-downs. The winds were not having any of it… we had to pull over about five or six times along the 407 just to check the security! I had been watching the boats just wave and wobble through the sunroof and I was scared they were just going to take flight (they didn’t.)
The bonus part of our trip, and unfortunately with our kayaks on the roof… but I LOVE storms and watching clouds flow and form and grow into scary, angry things… and that’s exactly what we saw heading into Peterborough and right through to Markham!
The Lock ‘n Paddle GoPro video: