When my husband and I first arrived in Toronto in 2014, we fell in love with the city and the lively downtown. However, after a few months, we started experiencing noise fatigue, due to the construction of a new condominium that was going up right next to our apartment. So, we were desperate for some peace and quiet. Fortunately, we found that Algonquin Provincial Park was only two hours’ drive away from Toronto.
Algonquin Provincial Park is Canada’s oldest provincial park. It has about 2400 lakes, lush forests, rivers, and abundant wildlife. With 2400 lakes, we were spoilt for choice, to say the least. After some searching, we settled on Oxtongue lake , mainly because it was accessible by bus. Parkbus runs a bus route from Toronto to Algonquin Lakes starting from May to October. It has stops in Lake Opeongo, Pog Lake, Canoe Lake, Wolf Den Bunkhouse and Oxtongue Lake. The tickets cost $88 per adult for the roundtrip.
Strictly speaking, Oxtongue lake is not part of Algonquin Provincial Park. It lies just outside the boundaries of the park and is the first stop on the Parkbus route.
We found some great cottages, vacation rentals and resorts on Booking.com. We chose a resort that had excellent access to the lake that gave us unlimited use of their canoes. In case you choose a cottage that doesn’t offer canoes, don’t worry, there’s an Algonquin Outfitters right next to the lake. You can rent out canoes, water scooters and get your camping and hiking equipment here.
We spent the first day just relaxing on the lakeshore. We watched people enjoying themselves on the lake on canoes and water scooters and wanted to try it too. So, the next day, we set out to explore the lake with a canoe provided by the resort. This was our first canoeing experience. Both my husband and I don’t know how to swim, so we are very cautious when it comes to water. We thought that the life jackets provided by the resort would make us feel safe. Clearly, we underestimated the hold that fear can have on logic.
We gingerly pushed the canoe into the lake. I got into the canoe first as my husband pushed the canoe away from the lakeshore and climbed in once the boat in the water. Once we both were in, we used the oars to push the boat gently away further from the lakeshore. This caused the canoe to rock a little. The unfamiliar rocking movement of the canoe sent a shiver down my spine. I peered into the black depths of the deeper parts of the lake and imagined falling into it. That was it! I panicked. I sat there frozen like a rock and refused to go any further. My husband took one look at my face and thought it was better not to proceed.
For two days, following that incident, I didn’t venture back on the lake. We spent a comfortable time relaxing on the lounge chairs beside the lake and visiting the nearby Oxtongue Ragged Falls . On the third day, I got the nerve to try again. My husband suggested that since I was afraid of the deep parts of the lake, we should just stick close to the shore till we get used to the canoe. I agreed. So, for an hour we just rowed the canoe back and forth on a small area close to the lakeshore which was not too deep. From the corner of my eye, I could see people on the lakeshore looking at us like we were crazy. I decided to ignore them and just carry on. Slowly but surely, I got used to the rocking movement of the boat.
As an hour passed by, my confidence and comfort grew. We moved cautiously away from the shore and on to the middle of the lake. Surprisingly, now that we were in the middle, the canoe didn’t rock as much. It was actually felt good. The canoe glided easily and smoothly. The remaining shreds of my fear were replaced by a transcendent feeling of pure joy and excitement. That day, we explored the lake for 4 hours! We even explored the tiny islands on the lake and marveled at the wildlife we saw along the way. It was a fabulous experience!
This experience taught me an important life lesson. We are afraid of new experiences because we are afraid to leave our comfort zones. We imagine all kinds of perils and convince ourselves that we are better off not doing it. On the other hand, if we dare to leave our comfort zones, we may experience a happiness far greater than before. The rocking of the canoe was uncomfortable and scary. Once I accepted the discomfort and got used to it, it posed no barrier and I could move forward. The middle of the lake was great and an experience I will never forget. So here’s a piece of wisdom, I hope I can pass on to you. Beginnings are often difficult, don’t give up! Wait till you get to the middle and you will enjoy it till the end. A bit cheesy…I know, but true!
This canoeing experience is the reason behind this blog. It’s still the beginning and rocky. I am waiting for the fun to begin!
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