Across Algonquin Park (family style) Part 4: Endangered In Algonquin 0

Kyla and Alana did better than I did on the long carry. The trail had a few hills and we had to contend with the heat wave that accompanied the drought; and for good measure there were a few dozen or more deer flies buzzing overhead. I think Ellie had the worst time of it. Her pack was still laden down with dog kibble and a few extra camp items I threw in.

Big Crow Lake was our destination that night. We by-passed a superb site on a sandy point to the northeast in favour of a more out-of-the-way spot in the southeast bay.Three other canoes were racing across the lake to get to the good site — a clear sign to me that it was well utilized, and much more likely to have nuisance bears problems than the one we chose.

I woke up dizzy, nauseated and disoriented. Not a good thing to happen on day eight. I suffer from Benign Positional Vertigo — an infliction that causes a sudden spinning sensation, similar to walking off the Tilt-a-Whirl ride at an amusement park after drinking a full bottle of bourbon. It’s due to a disturbance within the inner ear, and quite honesty is a life-altering experience. I’ve been dealing with it for a few years now. I take drugs that tell the brain I’m not dizzy and visit a physiotherapist now and then to have my head shaken back and forth to loosen the small bits of bone-like calcium that supposedly clogs the tube of the inner ear and induces the spinning sensation.

I was told by specialists that the illness is forever, my hearing would gradually get worse, and my balance would depreciate. I was also told that I shouldn’t be going on remote canoe trips for long periods of time — something that was completely  unacceptable to me. So before heading out into wilderness areas I stock up on drugs and practice doing the head shaking manoeuvre on my own. Thankfully I never had to deal with the vertigo in a remote setting — until now.

The trip mood changed when I told Alana and Kyla my dizzy spells were back. Our time out so far had been without mishap. Now things were about to change. I wasn’t all that upset about being nauseous and depilated. Sadly, I had grown accustomed to it. I wasn’t even too worried about the consequences. After all, we were equipped with a Spot Satellite GPS messenger and a satellite phone. I figured we could contact an outfitter on Opeongo Lake and have a motor boat come and get me. Worst case scenario would be to call for an emergency evacuation by helicopter. What freaked me out is the thought of the vertigo happening more and more on trip. My life is all about going on a canoe trip and the thought of an lifelong illness getting in the way created anxiety beyond belief.

Alana wasn’t taking the news well either. Again, it wasn’t the emergency evacuation that was the overwhelming part. She had helped me on previous trips dealing with other paddler’s issues: broken bones, hernia, hypothermia. What upset her was having a perfect trip turn sour while Kyla was tagging along. Having your child along on a canoe trip adds a third dimension for sure. You become desperate for nothing bad to happen. This may be driven by guilt. Since day one taking Kyla out in the woods we’ve had friends, family members and complete strangers question why we would jeopardize our daughter’s safety. Now we have; and maybe subconsciously we stopped to wonder if there concerns were justified. We’ve always counterbalanced people’s concerns by listing all the hazards associated with her not spending time in the the wilderness. Obesity is most visible plague that’s facing many youth today. But there’s also a lack of creativity and mental psychological and emotional wellbeing; and worst of all, the disconnection with the natural world.

Kyla has greatly benefited from our family canoe trips. Research has shown that children who spend quality time outdoors are more self-aware, less aggressive, able to get along with others, smarter, healthier, happier. It’s also been said to greatly boost problem-solving skills. Case in point. Kyla rolled with the punches through my dizzy spells. She kept bringing me fresh water to drink and strung up the rain tarp to provide shade. She stayed positive and kept busy. More frogs we’re waiting to be caught at the campsite and it was a good day for swimming. The only true issue was our permit didn’t allow for us to stay over two nights on Big Crow Lake; a major disadvantage of paddling through a busy park is to keep to your schedule. Breaking the rules couldn’t be helped of course. And we were glad to see that not all the sites were full later on in the day.

At midnight the fifth attempt at shaking my head and loosening the crystals paid off and by morning I was beginning to feel less nauseous. We moved on and portaged into Opeongo Lake. While having lunch at the dock on Opeongo an outfitter’s shuttle boat arrived to unload a group of paddlers. We had the opportunity to bail on our trip and get a ride out but we didn’t. Everyone, even Ellie I think, were relieved that we were able to continue our trip across Algonquin.

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