Outdoor enthusiasts are becoming more and more desperate to get away from the crowds and find their own Garden of Eden. Of course, the problem is that the numbers of campers and anglers that are trying to escape where other campers and anglers go, has increased two-fold in the past few years, and it can become insanely busy at times out there. I remember traveling across Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park one summer day and passing 112 paddlers going the other way. That’s crazy!
It’s a catch-twenty-two for me though. You see, I write canoe guide books for a living. I promote areas and then curse myself when they become too busy a few months after the book becomes published.
Writing guide books can be an emotional roller coaster ride. What starts as a way to promote, and then ultimately save a wild area, can quickly become a place you’ve helped anglers love to death. There are definitely days when I really feel like hiding my head in the sand. I’ve had fellow anglers shun me at parties after I’ve written up one of their “secret” spots; I’ve had cottage owners threaten to “shoot me between the eyes” if I ever write about “their” lake again; I’ve even witnessed a group of fishermen burning one of my books which made mention of the “possible” fishing on a particular lake. And there are moments on busy portages when I think maybe a book burning party might not be such a bad idea.
However, just as I was about to loose all hope, the true meaning behind my book projects were revealed. I was heading into Algonquin for a few days of brook trout fishing. At the take out of one the portages I met a mom and dad with two children on a canoe trip/fishing trip as well. They were equipped with my guide book on Algonquin Park. It was laid out in front of the youngest member (a pre-teen daughter) with points of interest dog-tagged all through the chapter on the route they were taking. After a brief conversation with the family, I discovered it was their very first interior trip, a trip they had decided on after purchasing “some guy’s guide book.” I was ecstatic. The family was the answer to my prayers; they were a reason for me to continue on and promote and possibly save wilderness areas for our future generations. Heck, the daughter even allowed me to go first on the portage because I was loaded down with a heavy pack and a canoe.
Two seconds later my crotch was suddenly smacked with the wide end of a paddle. A woman, who was traveling the other way on the trail, shoved her way through all of us, telling me especially to “get out of her F#@* way.” I’ll never forget her, dressed in a T-shirt that read “Dam the Dietitian,” and only carrying a broad-blade paddle…and a copy of my A Paddlers Guide to Algonquin.
I yelped in pain, jumped off the trail, and watched as she broke every bit of portage etiquette.
So you see, finding the most popular peaks to climb, rivers to fish, or lakes to paddle has become easier because of people like me. However, there’s a talent still required to locate the places less traveled – because everyone that knows about them are still thankfully reluctant to give them up. There’s an art to find secret spots and explore them before anyone else.
First off, once you’ve located a spot don’t be talked into keeping to the trail. Some of the best mountainsides to clamber up or lakes to fish are just over the next hill, far away from the herds of anglers following the dotted line on the map.
More importantly, however, locating the less-crowded spots is not found on websites. Placing information on the web is just asking for the masses of people to congregate there. Go to the library and read historic journal entries of past explorers, old travel-log books, periodicals, tourism brochures, government travel route pamphlets… Why? Because no one goes to the library and actually reads through this long forgotten stuff anymore; they’re sitting at home waiting for you to put it up on some website for everyone to see. Instead, make a copy and keep it a secret as long as possible. Or you could just go to some remote northern town, buy a local a cup of coffee, or better yet a beer, and talk to him or her until they respect you enough to change their lies of far-off distant secret places to half truths.
Then go make his secret yours.