Welcome to the 2019 Moosie Awards! Try to forget that it’s closer to the end of January 2020 than it is the beginning and that this is a year end post delivered well past the end of the year and let’s take a magical trip back in time to the summer of 2019. The purpose of the Moosies is to highlight some of the best moments and experiences from the summer. From small but important niche categories like Best Moose Sighting and
Best Spot to Take a Poop Thunderiest Thunder Box (the networks wanted a more “family friendly” title to satisfy FCC requirements, but you know what it’s about) to the night’s grand finale, Best Trip, these awards have it all. Well, not all all. They don’t have Justin Timberlake juggling chainsaws while dressed in a bear costume, but we’re working on it for next year. Until then, we’ve got actual bears and actual saws and at least three poop jokes to get through. So let’s get to it.
Best Sunrise/Sunset – This category has evolved over the past four years. Back in 2016, when I was much younger man filled with vim and vinegar, I used to be on the water at the crack of dawn and two or three hours into my day by the time most people were rolling out of bed. As a result, I had lots of great sunrise pictures (FYI sunrises > sunsets) so this category was just the Best Sunrise category. I also used to put Sun-In in my hair and, more importantly, have enough hair that I could put Sun-In into it. Things change. Now, this category doesn’t discriminate. Sunrise, sunset … as long as you’re giving me some pretty colours to look at I don’t care what time of day you happen. This year’s award goes to this shot from the morning of my Labour Day Quest for Susan Lake. Making everything I said in this paragraph up until now a complete lie, this one didn’t actually have a lot of pretty colours. What it did have was a perfectly calm Canoe Lake, an giant orange mist obscured fireball rising above the eastern shoreline and the knowledge that I was about to paddle my first new lakes in almost three months after a long layoff due to injury. All these things combined to make it a pretty great sunrise. (Also, here are the runner ups).
Best Moose Sighting – *crickets* … sigh, I didn’t see any moose while I was out paddling this year. Didn’t see any crickets either. (I did see about 47 billion moose grazing along highway 60, but that feels like cheating, so we’re not counting them. Sorry highway 60 moose, maybe get a bit more adventurous and then we’ll consider you).
Coolest Ruins – This is an easy one, but only because the category is explicitly called Coolest Ruins. If it was Coolest Historical Stuff or Best Ruins and Other Things it’d be a bit of a challenge. That’s because this summer, for the first time, I was finally able to find the pictographs at Rock Lake. As far as history goes, those were by far the coolest thing I saw this summer. However, the category is called Coolest Ruins and I think you’d really have to stretch your definition of a ruin to include a painting. So, by default, the ruins from the town of Mowat along Potter’s Creek win this one. (But, also, these are really cool in their own right. I’ve been visiting Canoe Lake for over 20 years and I had no idea these things were there. They’re definitely worth checking out).
Best Waterfall – The best waterfall I saw this summer, by far, was the falls on the Amable du Fond along the 310m portage in between Kioshkokwi and Manitou. This was right after ice out, when the water was flowing at its highest. I have no idea what that spot would look like in late September, but in mid May it’s a roiling boil of dark water and white spray water crashing down the hillside. You can (carefully) make your way to a small island in the middle of the falls and from there it feels like you’re completely surrounded by the falls (which makes sense, because you are), lost in the cacophony (BIG WORDS HOORAY) and glad you didn’t slip on your way across.
F*cking Beavers – This used to be called the Most Impressive Beaver Dam but I feel like that doesn’t really capture the full sense of how I feel about these marvels of mutant aquarat construction. This year’s award goes to an old nemesis, the dam in between Little Doe and Tom Thomson. It is probably the best known dam in the Park and has been the victim of low grade verbal abuse from me for as long as I’ve been visiting Algonquin. This summer, however, someone decided that verbally inflicting crippling emotional damage wasn’t enough and decided to do some physical damage as well, cutting a canoe sized channel through the middle of the dam. I don’t know if it was the beavers themselves, park rangers with chainsaws or (terrifyingly) beavers with chainsaws, but sometime around mid summer the trip between Tom Thomson and Little Doe got a little bit easier. I’ve heard that the hole has since been filled in, which is proof that a) beavers are fast little workers and b) assuming my chainsaw wielding beaver hypothesis is correct (which it is), the beaver civil war for control of the waterways between Tom Thomson and Little Doe is heating up. Beware the Beaveropalypse.
Thunderiest Thunderbox – The best thunderbox I saw all year was along that same 310m portage along the Amable du Fond in beteen Kioshkokwi and Manitou. There’s a small campsite there that you could, I guess, stay at if every other site in the Park, plus all other open spaces everywhere, have been booked. If you follow the faint memory of the path leading out the back of the site you will find my favourite thunder box of the summer. You couldn’t pay me enough to sit on it, but any thunder box that looks like something you’d find in an Elder Scrolls dungeon is alright in my books.
Ok. We’re through the appetizer awards. All that’s left are the big three: Best Campsite, Best Lake and Best Route. As we await the courier to arrive with the final three envelopes, let’s take a trip down memory lane with a random mid awards show slideshow of a bunch of pictures I took this summer that don’t suck.
Best Campsite – I managed to avoid staying on any disaster sites this year. In fact, I think most of the sites I stayed on would fit comfortably into the top half of my all time campsite rankings. A couple would probably crack the top 20 and one, the winner of this year’s award, is easily top five all time (sorry Carl Wilson, you’ve been demoted). The site is close enough to an access point to be accessible within an easy day’s travel, but hard enough to get to that you’ll feel like you’ve earned the beautiful views and awesome swimming. It’s south of highway 60 and can be reached by any number of routes. The first picture of the slideshow up above this paragraph is from this site and, if I have my way, I’ll be taking many more from it in the years to come. If you haven’t guessed already (or read the caption on the photo) this year’s Best Campsite winner is Lake Louisa’s Site 17.
I loved this spot. Its one of the westernmost sites on Louisa, which means that there’s a decent chance it will be left alone by people coming in from Rock Lake, as Louisa has multiple nice sites along the way. It’s on a point with great views north, east and west and has enough room to sleep a small, outdoorsy army. The fire pit is great, the swimming is fantastic and you don’t need a hazmat suit to visit the thunderbox. Your closest neighbours aren’t very close so it can feel like you’ve got all of Louisa’s west arm to yourself. Basically, this site is perfect. Hold on, it’s occurring to me that if I talk this site up to much then I’ll never be able to get it. Ok, forget everything you read here. Louisa site 17 is trash. Stay on Furrow Lake instead.
Best Lake – I’ve spent about ten minutes since I finished that last paragraph trying to figure out a way to not give this award to Lake Louisa. We’ve never had a repeat winner in the Moosies before, but I’m pretty sure Lake Louisa won the inaugural edition of these awards (spoiler: it did). I’d rather not have a repeat winner because that means that for the first time ever none of the new lakes I visited this summer were better than ones I’d already seen but …
Honestly, what am I supposed to do about views like this? Louisa is gorgeous. It’s big, it’s got great sunsets, it’s close enough to an access point to be accessible but far enough to feel away from the hustle of highway 60. There are tons of sites to pick from, but none of them feel like they’re too close to each other (except for the small island with two sites on it. I stayed there once and it was either my neighbours I was listening to all night or ghosts. Probably ghosts). Anyways, this year’s winner is our first repeat winner: Lake Louisa! Runner ups are Lupus Lake and Frank Lake, both of which were great but both had their drawbacks (Lupus has no campsites, Frank Lake was on fire).
Best Trip – Of the three main categories this was the closest to call. There were three trips that stood out to me this year for various reasons. My July overnight to Tom Thomson with my oldest daughter is a favourite simply because the trips I do with her and her siblings are always my favourites. I love watching her out there, trying new things and learning new skills. These overnights (hopefully longer than overnights soon) are easily some of my favourite nights of the entire year so they will always stand out.
The day trip I took out of Canoe Lake over Labour Day with my Brother-in-Law in search of Susan Lake was another great trip. I love the small lakes in behind Canoe Lake and it was really good to get back out there after an almost three month layoff thanks to my hamstring tear. The weather was perfect, the company was great and it felt like I made up for a lot of missed tripping in that eight hour day.
As much as I enjoyed those other two trips, the two night loop out of Rock Lake I took with a few buddies the week after Labour Day wins this category (and completes a sweep for this trip of the top three categories this year). This was a great trip. The weather didn’t always cooperate (read: it pissed rain on us for at least half the time) and we almost lost my friend Dan to a beaver induced mud hole, but the route offered a bit of everything: big lakes, small lakes, rivers, creeks, goddamned beaver dams, random root fires and so much more. I would do this trip again in a heartbeat, although I wouldn’t argue with more sun and less fire next time around.
And that does it for this year’s Moosies. Hope you enjoyed them. Or didn’t. Whatever. I don’t care (I CARE SO MUCH). That’s likely it from me until May. I’ve got a short trip planned for whenever the ice finally gives up (so sometime in June based on how the past few years have gone) and a much longer trip planned for mid-summer. Can’t wait to get back out there. Here’s hoping we get an early ice out and a late bug-in.