This is a great moment in kayak camping in the 1000 Islands. Paddling to an island and scoring a campsite just a few steps from where you’ve parked your awesome sea kayak.
Our group of four paddlers from Ottawa, Ontario landed on the south side of Camelot Island at the kayak-friendly ramp in a quiet little cove bordered by steep rock cliffs on a Tuesday afternoon in mid-August for three days of kayak camping.
Camelot Island is a popular island destination with kayakers, motor boats and sail boats. A large group of 12 kayak campers from Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, had already set up their basecamp on the first two campsites closest to the ramp.
The last four available campsites, 3, 4, 5, and 6, were on the east side of the island just off the trail from a large motor boat dock.
Pick the “best” spot
We had never been to Camelot Island before, so we surveyed the sites. Campsites 3, 4, 5, and 6 are in a big open circle, surrounded and protected by a canopy of beautiful 40 or 50 foot tall oak trees.
The sun peeks through the trees giving the sites an open, airy feel. With our group of four, we could each have our own tent space, picnic table, and metal fire pit, and be together in one big open area. It was perfect for us.
There is a circular trail on Camelot Island that runs right through the middle of campsites 3, 4, 5, and 6. A large picnic shelter is only a few steps away.
The sturdy animal box in the large picnic shelter keeps food safe from animals, like the island racoons.
I was happy to hear that there aren’t bears on the islands in the St. Lawrence Islands National Park of Canada. I’ll sleep better.
On Camelot Island, campsite number 3 has an opening through the trees that gives you a view of the water. It looked good to me.
It is also the closest site to one of the two composting outhouses on the island. How convenient! I thought this must be the best spot of the four, so I offered to take it.
Paddle buddies grabbed sites 4, 5, and 6.
Then the wind shifted.
Me: “I was feeling a bit guilty for taking the “best spot”. Could someone please help me move my picnic table a little further away!?”
Paddle buddie (smiling): “Oh, we just thought you were being incredibly gracious for taking that spot!”
This was my first lesson learned as a newbie to kayak camping: Always pick the spot furthest from the outhouse. This is a convenience you don’t want nearby. You would think I already knew that! I thought composting outhouses would be different. But no. However, they are roomy inside, with lots of natural light, and are kept clean and stocked with TP by Park staff.
Me: “What are those giant earthworms running past me so fast!?”
Paddle buddie (laughing): “They are millipedes. Get used to them.”
Me: “Am I allowed to step on them? Don’t look!”
But, I didn’t have to get used to them. Four millipedes ran past me when we arrived and I never saw another one during our three days on the island. They were clearing out of camp because of us or the snake.
The largest Garter snake I have ever seen, was curled up near a fallen tree with the back end of the largest toad I’ve ever seen in its mouth. There aren’t any poisonous snakes on the islands, so there was nothing to worry about. The snake crawled off somewhere to digest its lunch and we never saw it again.
A vole or a mouse was hiding under another fallen log in the middle of our basecamp. It became our camp mascot. It didn’t do much, it just hung around.
Bumps in your bed
I love oak trees. Especially old oaks. I was wondering why I hardly see them anymore on forest hikes or in new suburban neighborhoods in Ontario and Quebec. Maple trees seem to be taking over.
Then I looked at my campsite. The ground was covered in acorns! “Anyone have a rake?” After picking out as many acorns as I could, I stomped the rest into the soft ground and thought: “The Princess and the Pea will have to sleep on a few of these tonight.”
My Big Agnes superlight Seedhouse SL2 is a 3-season backpacking tent. It fits easily into the nose of my low-volume Boreal Baffin sea kayak and sets up quick and easy.
When I look at my pale green Seedhouse SL2 tent, I can’t believe I paid over $300 (Canadian) for something so tiny, lightweight, and paper thin! It weighs less than 4 pounds.
The SL2 is supposed to be for two, but you only have room in it for one person and a little gear. The only way in or out is the front door, so zipper function is really important. So far so good.
As soon as I set up my tent, four different types of small spiders set up camp on the four corners of my tent fly lines. The Big Agnes SL2 tent is designed for good ventilation, which means when I’m inside, the mesh interior gives me a full view of the spiders or anything else that crawls under the tent fly. It’s not a design feature I like.
I’d rather not see what’s crawling around next to me, but I’ll let the spiders guard the periphery of my tent on this trip.
There isn’t any running tap water on the islands. You have to pack your own drinking water or plan to pump and properly filter water from the St. Lawrence.
I managed to pack two days worth of drinking water in my Boreal Baffin and brought along my MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter to filter extra water for drinking and cooking. I even boiled my filtered water as an extra measure. Paddle buddies filtered drinking water every day.
Time to spare
It was day one of our three-day kayak camping trip in the 1000 Islands. We drove two hours from Ottawa, Ontario, launched from Clark’s Marina in Gananoque, Ontario at 10:00 a.m., paddled with loaded sea kayaks to Camelot Island, set up camp, had lunch, and it was still early afternoon.
Awesome! We had lots of spare time and energy to paddle and explore other islands.
“Anyone want to paddle to Gordon Island?”
I couldn’t have been happier to hear those words from a paddle buddy.
I wanted to check out Gordon Island for Paddle to Yoga. I love paddling to awesome spots where I can do yoga in the outdoors waterfront. I call it, “Paddle to Yoga.”
When planning this kayak camping trip, I asked 1000 Islands Kayaking and the St. Lawrence Islands National Park of Canada which islands might have the nicest picnic shelters waterfront. They both told me: “The historic gazebo built in 1904 on Gordon Island.”
We paddled to Gordon Island. I found it odd and enchanting. I’ll explore why and describe it in more detail in another post in this series of stories when we return the next day.
Gordon Island has become one of my “special spots.” A spot that I remember, where I felt something special, and want to return.
Back to basecamp on Camelot Island
Later in the early evening, we made dinner, dodged most of the falling acorns from the oak trees at our basecamp on Camelot, and went for a swim from the kayak-friendly ramp in the quiet cove on the south end of the island.
Paddle buddies sat on the ramp and watched the sunset quietly fade into pink and purple to greet a rising full moon. The night was warm and the wind was quiet. All the motor boats and sail boats were settled in for the night.
I put on my PFD and swam out to the little island directly across from the kayak ramp and watched the sunset pay its final tributes to the horizon while I floated aimlessly in the water. It was awesome! When night fell, it was time to follow the trail back to camp, get into some dry gear, and join the paddle buddies huddled around the campfire before turning in.
It was a great first day of kayak camping in the 1000 Islands. We weren’t tired. Just happy and relaxed, and the boats were all tucked in and secure for the night.
Me: “I’d like to go back to Gordon Island tomorrow morning to do yoga in that awesome gazebo.”
Paddle buddy: “I’m up for that too.”
Read other stories in this series: My first kayak camping trip to Camelot in the 1000 Islands with the Boreal Baffin. Awesome!
Happy trip planning!
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