This is an interesting day outing for a patrol or the whole Troop, but it will require some pre-planning and a bit of work on the part of the Scouts and Leaders.
First, check with the HSR Program staff to see if there are any canoes stored out at The Narrows site. (Sometimes the camp will leave a few of the older canoes out there for the season -- but don't assume anything!) If there aren't any already out there, you'll have to arrange to take some out yourself (and bring them back of course). This can be done in a few ways;
- ask really nicely, well ahead of the time needed, and the staff just might do you a favour and hitch up their canoe trailer to haul a few canoes out there. -- We are assuming your group will be there to help load and unload as needed.
- ask to borrow the HSR canoe trailer to hitch to one of your group's cars or trucks and use it to haul the canoes out yourself. (Note to self - ask the staff if you need a key to the gate on the Hurst Lake Road.)
- if it's only a couple of canoes you'll need, you can probably tie them onto the top of your car or truck to get them out to The Narrows.
Launch the canoes at The Narrows, about half way up the Hurst Lake Road. You can go either up or down, river, but since it's easier to launch on the west side of the road, we suggest you start your excursion by going down river.
This will be the day your Scouts really learn the advantages of a canoe and will have to 'learn by doing' all those fancy paddle strokes they've heard about. Most of the Drag River in this section winds it's way through a lovely wetland. (See the description of "What You Can See in a Wetland" on the pages for the Hurst Lake Road Trail) To steer around the sharpe bends the J-stroke just won't cut it. (And don't even think of using a 'rudder stroke' - men have been run out of town for less!!) All paddlers will have to really perfect the Draw-stroke, the Pry, and the Cross-bow Draw & Pry, and maybe even the High- and Low-Brace. You'll even have to learn how to "pole" a canoe out of bullrushes (If they don't know these strokes already, the Scouts will certainly pick them up quick enough when they see that a 3 m canoe can't turn in a 2 m wide stream without some coordinated effort.) Oh, and you did wear "canoeing shoes" and old clothes?? Guaranteed you'll be stepping out onto marsh islands and mud flats to push the canoe off a few times.
But take a few breaks to lean back on the thwarts and enjoy the sounds of nature and the solitude. This might be the first time for some Scouts to experience the "quiet" of wilderness Canada. (You did put on lots of mosquito reppellant didn't you!!)
Once out on Minnie Lake, it's easy paddling. You might want to explore the shoreline for a ways.
A really excellent place for the picnic lunch you brought is on the flat rocks about half way down the lake on the northside. It's easy to land the canoe and pull them up safely. (Don't let them float away, you'll need them to get home - there are no trails from here!) Swimming is really excellent off the rocks and with a little breeze even the mosquitos might leave you alone.
As always, don't trust the water for drinking -- better to bring your own supply from the main camp. You did remember to fill up your water bottles from the tap in the main parking area of HSR before you left, didn't you?
Another option is to proceed to the south side of the lake and find where the Drag River empties out of Minnie Lake. Find a place to land the canoes, explore the remains of an old wooden logging chute and scramble up the rocks to the top of The Gorge a little ways down the river. (See the write-up on the Pike's Peak Trail on this site.)
At some point you'll have to retrace your route back through the marsh to The Narrows. Notice how much more confident the Scouts are with handling their canoes now. Practice does make perfect!
Back at The Narrows, you can judge if there is enough water going through the culvert (or maybe too much?) to allow the canoes to paddle right through. If so, that's fun enough going up and down again a few times. (Just watch your head on the 'low ceiling' of the culvert.) There is also more of the Holland Marsh to the east of The Narrows to explore - right up to Holland Lake, if the stream is open enough.
Make sure you take ALL your personal belongings with you, and leave nothing by paddle prints in the mud when you head back to your Lake Kennabi campsite..