Prince Albert National Park (2020): Introduction

26 July 2020

I’m ready (?) and raring to go on my first packrafting trip ever! Here’s a recount of me announcing this trip to my mother:

Me: So I’m going to buy a packraft and go packrafting this summer…

Her: THAT’S A TERRIBLE IDEA.

Me: Do you know what a packraft is?

Her: NO.

Me: It’s like a Sevymate, except not a toy.

Mother: Where will you get a Sevymate??

On German eBay, apparently.

Me: I’m thinking of paddling around Prince Albert National Park

Her: You’ve never paddled anywhere in your life!!!!!!!

That’s untrue, by the way. I had a very unpleasant sea kayaking experience once.

I bought the necessary gear, battling low stock in a year with everyone trying to paddle away from the pandemic. After some difficulties in inflating the raft initially (giving me bad flashbacks to my childhood when I was unable to blow up balloons), I took the boat out for several test runs on Lake Diefenbaker and an artificial pond near my house. The most important thing here is that I largely avoided touching the murky pond water when getting in or out of the boat, but the packraft working well is also noteworthy. I’ve also figured out an arrangement for adding all the gear to my backpack, a tricky job given the bulkiness of the packraft and the PFD. I was surprised that the packraft actually fits into one of the side pockets. Well done, backpack!

Slightly lopsided, but acceptable.

This trip will be to Kingsmere Lake and a handful of smaller lakes nearby. No random backcountry camping is allowed at Kingsmere Lake, so I’ll have to reserve sites, which is tricky when I don’t know how long it will take me to paddle anywhere. I’m going to plan for short days, that being preferable to not getting to my campsites in time and guiltily illegally camping, so my itinerary is currently:

Day 1: Kingsmere River Trailhead to Sandy Beach Campground (hiking along the Grey Owl Trail)

Day 2: Sandy Beach Campground to Northend Campground, then a day hike to Grey Owl’s Cabin (still hiking)

Day 3: Northend Campground to Bladebone Bay Campground (paddling)

At this point I have the option to investigate/complete part of the Bladebone Canoe Route, which begins with a notorious portage and is now decommissioned. What’s the purpose of having a packraft though if not using it for canoe routes no longer suitable for canoes or anyone?

Day 4: Bladebone Bay Campground to Pease Point Campground (padding)

Day 5: Pease Point Campground to Lily Lake Campground (paddling)

Day 6: Lily Lake Campground to Kingsmere River Trailhead (paddling, then hiking, then paddling again)

See the below maps for reference.

Kingsmere Lake. Source: Parks Canada
Bladebone Canoe Route. Source: Parks Canada
Bagwa Canoe Route. Source: Parks Canada