Monday, May 23, 2016

Trip log - Grand Lake: May 20 to 22, 2016 - Day 1

It's here, it's here! Our first backcountry camping trip of 2016!

I posted about planning for the trip: here

I woke up ahead of my alarm set for 6 a.m., getting 45 extra minutes, which allowed me to bathe, wash my hair, and make 2 cups of tea for myself in travel mugs. I was at LT's by 6:55 a.m. We loaded up the car (I had put my bag into the car the night before). We set off at 7:20. With a quick drive-though at McDonald's, we were soon on the highway.

It really saves time not having to stop and go through paperwork to rent a canoe. That probably shaves 30 minutes off the time at either end of the trip. While LT was getting the permits at the Sand Lake gate, I was chatting up the ranger, who was opening up the firewood cage. I asked how the bears were and he said there had been some seen on the road. I mentioned we were thinking of doing the hike from Grand Lake into Green Leaf Lake and he said that they had just cleared that trail the day before. Bonus!

We unloaded the canoe and gear at the launch point, LT parked the car, the canoe got packed up and off we went on a lake that was like glass. It was shortly after 10.

Paddling was so pleasant in these conditions. This trip was much different than the one we had taken two years ago to this same destination. Read about that trip here. Whereas last time we had a stiff wind against us, choppy, freezing cold water to start, this trip the wind was non-existant and the water remained flat up until we had to go under the man-made train bridge across the water.

This train bridge is mostly a land mass, artificially created to support the tracks, which have been removed. It creates a small space for the lake to squeeze through. 2 years ago this water was rushing through what appears to be a 12 foot wide gap (but it's probably slightly bigger). There are rocks and a slight drop, 1-2 feet, with a very narrow place we have to push the canoe up. The last time it took more than a few tries. This time we did it on the first try. This has nothing to do with any improved skills and a lot more to do with there being less water. 

I had been a bit anxious about having to squeeze through that opening, but we aced it. Once through the water was being slighly rippled by a breeze, but not much of one. It was enough to keep any bugs off.

We made it to the coveted campsite and got out of the canoe to check it out. Hmmmm, it didn't seem so great close up. LT was interested because it faced south and he felt it would be great for a lazy morning, lying in the sun, easing into the day. The site was very shallow in depth, it didn't go back very far. The shorline wasn't the easiest to land at, rocky, but not high. There seemed to be a lot of deadfall in the forest right behind the site. We had been at a different campsite 2 years ago and decided to head for that one after all. It would be closer to the hike we wanted to take the following day.

We got back into the canoe and headed up to the last campsite on the left of the lake. It's a really good site, which we now realize as we've done a lot more camping in the last 2 years to compare it with. Our biggest issue previously was the wind coming at the site. We had been chilled the first time using the site. This trip, the wind was pretty darn good to us.

We landed and set up camp, bug tent first as the bugs were out and annoying. The first crop of the year mostly fly around you, driving you nuts. They bite, but not as furiously as the next crop in June.
Cheating here - this is from 2014, same site though
I brought both of my Canon cameras. My small one died when I was standing at the launch site at Achray attempting to take pictures before we left. And I bought a new polarizing filter for my DSLR camera, which I foolishly did not try out first, so I had no idea how to use it. This trip will be very thin on pictures, my apologies.

We sat in the bug tent to devour a fresh lunch LT prepared. Various cold meats and cheeses, with a baggie of grapes, cut apple and cut pear. We've found that a fresh lunch without bread is easier to digest. Sometimes with exertion, like canoeing, you're hungry, but not that hungry that you want a full, full belly.

This would be my first trip using my Hennessey Hammock. It took a couple of tries for me to get it up where I was comfortable in it. LT helped a lot. I had put a lot of thought into my sleeping arrangement for this trip. I anticipated that it would get cold at night. (Bonus note: at 10 degrees Celsius, the blackflies disappear!)  

I had the hammock, my Eureka! air mattress, a dollar store shiny windshield shade (to reflect my heat back to me), my sleeping bag and my purple throw that I sewed up on a couple of sides to use as a sleeping bag liner. I was absolutely toasty the whole weekend! The $2.50 I spent on the windshield shade was a good idea. It didn't crinkle as much as one of those emergency blankets would. The bit of foam backing it had gripped the air mattress so it didn't bunch under the sleeping bag. It weighs almost nothing and folds very easily. I may go and buy a few more to have on hand in case the item isn't long lasting.

I didn't fully inflate my air mattress. I left it on the ground to inflate naturally, then capped it at that. I didn't adjust the pressure all weekend. It seemed to be a good setting.

LT had bought firewood at the permit office. He started a fire and he used the coals to cook dinner, which he brought. Two steaks, each wrapped in two layers of tin foil. And pre-cooked potatoes and baby carrots, pre-cooked, loaded in butter, and also wrapped in two layers of foil. We ate a bit later, around 7:30. Lunch had been around 2:30. While balancing my plate on my lap, I dropped my steak that I'd hardly touched. That's okay, the 2 second rule works here too. Actually, picking off a few pine needles is much easier that finding all the cat hair that would be on it if I dropped it on my floor at home. Nothing was wasted.

Dessert tonight was a new recipe I'm adding to our selection. Apple pie. It's dehydrated apples (no skin), with sugar and cinnamon, rehydrated in the thermos. When we were ready to eat it, we added dried pita bread. It gives the consistency of piecrust. It was good, I will add a bit more spice next time, especially nutmeg.

This site has a table and huge spikes nailed into several trees. There's lots of place to hang stuff and keep things off the ground. I brought my Cabela's table, which worked great. But I didn't have to carry it anywhere. We were not doing any portaging this trip, so weight was not an issue. It's a pretty heavy item. However, it was nice having it inside the bug shelter to keep some things off the ground. I avoided placing any containers with liquids on it, like cups of tea and such. I'm such a klutz, I'd knock it over.

Our after dinner treat was half of a dark chocolate Burnt Almond bar. We went together to hang the food/dishes/toiletries before it got too dark. We listened to birds calling, trying to identify a few more than we have in the past. The campfire had flickered out and it was time for bed. I was excited to be sleeping in my hammock for the first time. 

It took me probably 45+ minutes to fall asleep, but once I did, I slept very well.

Planning the trip                 Day 2                  Day 3                  2014 trip

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