Sunday, June 28, 2015

7 Day Menu Plan - Solo Trip

LT is headed out on Sunday for his first solo foray into the park.  I wish I could join him, but I think he's looking forward to spending some time on his own. He'll be there for Canada Day.  Here's his planned route:
  • Brent Access Point
  • Cedar to Catfish - Sunday night camp at Catfish
  • Catfish to Burntroot - Monday and Tuesday nights at Burnroot
  • Burntroot to La Muir - Wednesday night at La Muir
  • La Muir to Hogan's - Thursday night at Hogan's
  • Hogan's to Catfish - Friday night at Catfish
  • Catfish to Brent Access - Saturday night safe at home

LT's route (source: Jeff's Maps)
He's had to rethink what he's bringing with him.  He has to add the pots/dishes, water filtration system, and dried food to his pack.  I've weighed the food bag and it is 8 pounds without the fresh food.

All meals below marked with an asterisk (*) are from my favourite backcountry cookbook by: Chef Glenn AKA as The Backpacking Chef (

Here's what I've packed for him to enjoy:
Yep, it all goes in one bag!
  • 2 breakfasts of fresh eggs with reheated bacon
  • 2 breakfasts of blueberry pancakes with syrup and butter
  • 2 breakfasts of dehydrated eggs* with dried canned ham flakes


  • 1 fresh lunch (probably cold meat with cut fruit)
  • 2 Kraft dinners with vacuum sealed chicken pepperettes
  • dried canned baked beans with dried canned ham chunks
  • salsa, chicken, vegetables, and rice (all dehydrated)
  • pork jerky (from Costco) vacuumed sealed with crackers and cheese


  • 1 fresh dinner (the chili that we forgot to bring on our last trip)
  • 2 dinners of tricolor rotini, pasta sauce, veggies, ground beef (all dried)
  • 2 dinners of salsa, chicken, vegetables, and rice (all dehydrated)
  • 1 dinner of soft tacos with salsa, chicken and veggies (all dehydrated)


  • 2 Banana nut bread puddings* (all dehydrated ingredients)
  • 2 Trail raspberry crisps* (all dehydrated ingredients)


  • homemade fruit roll ups (banana/mango)
  • walnuts
  • tamari almonds
  • mixed nuts (cashews, almonds, peanuts)
  • dehydrated banana chips
  • dehydrated pineapple
  • bannock mix


  • salt
  • pepper
  • butter
  • maple syrup
  • sugar


  • Twinings Earl Grey tea bags
  • Powerade drops (to add to filtered lake water)
  • Nightcaps (I'm not sure what he's bringing this trip)
All dehydrated meals are made in camp with boiled water

Canada Day at Cedar Lake last year - cinnamon buns (they were AWESOME!)
Another one from last year's trip
Packed and ready to go!

Do you think he'll miss me this trip? 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Trip log - Day 3: Cedar Lake to Carl Wilson, June 2015

go to Day 1                      go to Day 2                      Day 3
Interesting Pine Tree
Today would be an easy day.  No portaging.  Just paddling.  Hopefully Cedar Lake wouldn’t be rough.  We slept in until 8 again.  When I first woke up I opened the tent door to open the fly to see what the weather was like.  There were so many mosquitoes trapped between the tent and the fly I just quickly shut the tent door.
Breakfast was blueberry pancakes with reheated bacon, butter and maple syrup.  Yummy.  I mix the water into the Ziploc bag the pancake mix is in, stir it up, cut a tiny hole in one corner and squeeze the mixture onto the hot fry pan with butter melted in it. 
We relaxed after breakfast and ended up leaving the site around 11.  As we headed down the lake it was overcast ahead of us.  Behind us there was blue sky with lots of puffy clouds.  We skirted the shore along our right to check out all the campsites we could between the top of the lake and the access point.  This brought us into the bay where the Nipissing River empties into the lake.  The lake is quite wide here and we crossed the bay over to the other side. 
We could hear an engine.  It sort of sounded like a motorboat, which is permitted on this lake, but it never seemed to progress anywhere.  LT noticed something moving back and forth along the shore near where it might be a private cottage.  Turns out, it was a guy mowing the grass, LOL.
I thought we had another major distance to go.  We had stayed at a point across from the access site on the last trip here and I thought it was in a different bay than the Nipissing.  Turns out I was very happily wrong and we were ashore in no time.  The part where the Petawawa River flows into the lake was just not visible from the angle we were at. 
As we were rounding the point we were taking bets as to how many cars would be in the access point parking lot.  I said 5, LT said 7.  Turns out there were four, the same number that had been there when we left 2 days earlier.
Only 4 cars
While getting everything loaded into the car to go home, a white car showed up with a party of 5 younger people.  They were here for a picnic - the 2 men were carrying a cooler between them.  No one had sleeves and everyone was in shorts or a dress.  I was wondering how long it would be before they would be driven back to the car by the mosquitoes. 
We had two stops on the way home.   The first very important stop was at Freddie’s chip truck in Deep River (we needed lunch!).  The second for gas when the indicator light went on, oops, right in Arnprior, phew!  We were at LT’s place shortly after 6 p.m.
Things we did different this trip?  LT scooped up the water we’d use at the campsite while we were fully loaded in the middle of the lake instead of making a special trip out after we’d unloaded.  That went well.  And I tried my trekking poles to wade with.  I made my own afterbite, a recipe from the internet.  Baking soda, water, and tea tree oil.  I put it in the wrong bottle, it was a pain trying to get the paste out.  Monday morning I stepped out of the office to go to Shoppers to buy the real thing.  As I’m applying the Life brand version, it smelled of tea tree oil.  The main ingredient? Baking soda.  And tea tree oil.  But it comes in a nice cooling gel, not the gunk I was trying to shake out of a small essential oil bottle.

If you want solitude in the park - go during heavy bug season!  It was nice to pretty much have the park to ourselves.  Each time we access the park at Cedar Lake it seems to be a better experience.  For our first sighting of Cedar Lake last year we had a couple of very breezy days with high waves and rollers.  Cedar Lake was almost passive this trip. 

Carl Wilson is a nice lake, very quiet. There are a couple of significant hardwood areas on the lake, it would be nice to come back in the fall to see if the leaf colours are bright.  The portaging isn't too strenuous and could be downright pleasant without bugs.  I'd definitely do this route again.  But in the meantime there are so many other beautiful areas in the park to discover!

Wildlife Seen:
The crown jewel was seeing the moose on Saturday morning for sure.  Other than the bazillion mosquitoes, we saw loons, territorial seagulls, a pair of Merganser ducks taking off, a snake, and a tiny frog that was our welcoming committee at our Saturday camp site.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Trip Log - Day 2: Cedar Lake to Carl Wilson, June 2015

go to Day 1                      Day 2                      go to Day 3
Good Morning Moose!
I had slept poorly but I managed to sleep in until 8 a.m.  I had left the tent fly open in the front facing the lake, probably one of the reasons why I had been cold.  I looked out onto the lake and directly across from me there was a moose feeding in a marshy area.  I took a picture, but he’s pretty teeny. 
Breakfast was fresh eggs with reheated bacon.  We lingered and didn’t rush.  The previous day’s travel took us 5 hours to get into Carl Wilson, plus the time we paddled around Carl Wilson Lake before deciding on our final campsite.  We would be retracing our steps today going back into Cedar Lake.  The route, now familiar, would be easier going back and we would be going downhill.
We were on the water by 11:15 a.m.  I prepared much better for the first, buggy portage.  Today I had on a cotton t-shirt with a long-sleeved Columbia button up shirt and my homemade bug shirt.  It was a much better solution.  We even found the canoe rest at the halfway point.  I crossed paths with a small garter snake and shrieked.  More in surprise than fear.  Well that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
We saw our first group of campers after the second portage where we came down the steep portage right by the pretty waterfall.  Two men and a child were fishing in the pool below the waterfall.  They waved at us, then promptly packed up and headed to the single island campsite.  LT thought we may have scared the fish away for them, but I think they were counting on getting that good campsite.  They would not know if we were staying there or not.

LT talked me into carrying the canoe for a bit (just the canoe, not both my bag and the canoe).  I'm telling myself I did about half of the 345m portage and there is photo evidence.  However, vanity is taking precedence here as I am swathed in homemade bug gear.  I look like I'm modeling the newest camping muumuu style.
We were looking forward to coming out of Aura Lee, under the cement train bridge and catching the current in that little river flowing into Little Cedar.  The sides of the river are high here, and it is in shadow, a cool respite.  One more twist and we were into Little Cedar Lake.  We decided to take the left channel to move into Cedar Lake and come around the island campsite we had stopped at the previous day for lunch.  I thought we were stopping for a snack, but LT decided we would stop for the day.
He wanted to scout out some campsites at the complete opposite end of the lake, probably a 4 hour paddle from where we were now.  I was tired.  I was willing to do a couple more hours, but not 4 more that day.  We ended up just using this beautiful island site for the night.
Jack Pine

Looking down Cedar Lake from the top
We ate the lunch intended for the following day: pork jerky from Costco with Triscuits and cheese strings. 
The Chimney
I should have brought my bathing suit.  After lunch I went in the water for a bit.  I discovered that my “land” trekking poles work just as well in the water as I’m stepping around the slimy round rocks along the shore.
We saw our second canoeing party, also a group of 3 in one canoe, going up the lake past us into Little Cedar Lake around 7 p.m.
The bugs were not bad.  It’s mostly pine trees on the island, along with a generous sprinkling of blueberry plants (bear bait in later summer for sure).  We debated erecting the bug shelter.  I’m not tall enough to set it up myself.  I told LT he could make the decision but if it didn’t go up, we’d probably have to end the evening early and crawl into our respective tent/hammock when the sun set.

Despite all the preparation I'd done to prevent being eaten by the bugs I had a major fail on the back of my neck.  I'm sure they snuck in there the previous day on the last portage.  I had on my bug hat and a bandana.  The mosquitoes that I could see were trying to bite through my shirt and distracted me from noticing the harvesting of blood on my neck. LT quit counting at 30 when I asked him how many bites I had back there.
The bug shelter gives much needed respite from the mosquitoes

The New Hammock
We decided to put it up.  The mosquitoes got much worse as the evening progressed.  Dinner tonight was soft tacos: soft flour taco shells with salsa, chicken in taco seasoning, various veggies.  Everything except the shells was dehydrated.  Dessert was banana nut bread pudding.
Our snacks on this trip were mixed nuts (peanuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts) with dehydrated bananas and pineapples.  I made some fruit leather with bananas, strawberries and applesauce.  I also made some tamari almonds.
The clouds had moved in and we had no sunset and no moon tonight.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Trip Log - Day 1: Cedar Lake to Carl Wilson, June 2015

Day 1                      go to Day 2                      go to Day 3
Happy Birthday, LT!  We both booked Friday off and were headed up to the Brent access point.  LT made the reservations online and was surprised at how little company we would have.  No one else would be on Carl Wilson Lake the first night and only one other campsite was booked for the night we were going to be staying on Cedar Lake. 
The plan was to leave by 6 a.m.  That was the plan in order to get a quicker start on the day.  But the birthday boy had trouble getting his butt out of bed.  I showed up promptly at 5:30 and he tried to act like he hadn’t just rolled out of bed. Ha!
My breakfast strategy to accommodate the earlier planned departure time was to make egg salad the night before, put it into flour tortillas that morning, and just make tea to drink in the car on the drive with the sandwiches.  I had also filled the car with gas the night before in a torrential downpour to avoid having to stop for gas.
We missed the plan by half an hour, which wasn’t too bad.  We left at 6:30 a.m. and were at the permit office around 10 a.m.  It took another half an hour to get to the access point and half an hour again to unpack the car, load the canoe, and get it ready to launch.  There were only 3 other cars in the parking lot, the quietest I’ve ever seen that access point.
The thermometer display in my car had climbed to 14 from 12 degrees Celsius.  The sun was out, there were puffy clouds in the sky and the wind had subsided from 5:30 this morning where the trees were waving around quite noticeably.
More important than anything else Cedar Lake was playing nice this morning.  We would not be impeded by any wind or waves while we headed to the top of the lake.  I have a lot of respect for the bigger lakes.  You can’t count that the going will be easy or even reasonable. 
Brent Access Point - Gorgeous Day!
 We made good progress, starting on the North shore crossing the lake after about 15 minutes of paddling.  We passed close to a small island that was obviously claimed by seagulls.  They decided we were a risk to their kingdom and decided to fly around us, squawking loudly, trying to deter us away from their nesting grounds.  It was pretty funny mostly because none of them pooped on us.  They got braver as we moved further away.  Very much the bravado of the posturing bully when he realizes you’re not going to fight him.
We made it to the island at the top of the lake with a campsite and a chimney on it.  There obviously had been some sort of structure here at some point.  We stopped for lunch.  The paddle to get this far had taken a couple of hours.  We had a really good lunch this time mostly because there was no bread.  Cold meats, salami, cheese cut up and fruit (grapes, apple, and pear).  The site is really nice you have a view as far as you can see down Cedar Lake.  The site gets a lot of visitors by the looks of it.
Lunch Stop
LT turned to me and said “Guess what I forgot? I forgot dinner.”  I didn’t believe him.  He had made chilli earlier in the week, carefully selecting ingredients like hot Italian sausage.  He had frozen our portion and it got forgotten in the freezer.  We keep trying to cut down on the amount of food we’re bringing.  We always seem to bring some food back.  This trip we may not have much coming back.
Continuing on we set off through a small channel into Little Cedar Lake.  At the top of that lake you’re into a small river flowing out of Aura Lee.  It has a bit of a curve and you have to paddle under a cement train bridge that is a bit dark.  It has two openings but only one is passable.  
Train Bridge - going into Aura Lee Lake
There are a couple of campsites on Aura Lee.  At the top of the lake there is a creek dropping in, the portage we were taking was to the left of that.  345m. There’s not much of an incline on this portage.  It has round rocks as the base in a lot of spots you need to step carefully.  We did this as a double carry as it wasn’t very far.
The next lake is Laurel Lake and it has 5 campsites.  The first one we encountered is an island site, it looks nice.  The other 4 are along the top border of the lake and we didn’t pass very close to them.  As we were going around the corner to left of the lake we could hear water falling, but we couldn’t see the source.  I’m always wary around rushing water I would never want to propel myself over any waterfall!  When we found it we could see it was falling into the lake from a source with jammed logs.  There’s a dam there, but I’m not sure how far up the creek it is.  It is very pretty, surrounded by forest, you just get a peek at it.
Pretty Watefall - sounded scary from afar
The 130m portage was just to the right of the waterfall.  This portage was very uphill.  Even though it wasn’t far it was still challenging.  On our way in we did this as a double carry.  I was breathing very heavily after carrying my bag up the portage.  We put in at the bottom of Little Cauchon Lake.  Shortly after that we paddled under the second train bridge.  It is made of wood with only one of the four spots under the bridge passable.  It looks like this was opened specifically for canoe travel.  Also motorboats are allowed on this lake.
Train Bridge #2
We didn’t have to go far before reaching our last portage of the day, 1070m.  I bet in the fall this is a really lovely portage.  As you follow a slight climb with plenty of well-maintained boardwalks, a burbling creek tumbles down the terrain by the trail.  However in June there are hoards of blood-sucking insects just waiting for you to come by.  I had taken off my hoodie, I had on a long-sleeved white Columbia t-shirt with long pants, a bandana on the back of my neck, full gloves, and my bug hat.  The shirt is snug.  I got my backpack on, put my gloved hands into the harnesses of my trekking poles and set down the trail.  LT was doing a single carry on this one.  I was miserable.  The mosquitoes were biting me through my shirt in places I couldn’t reach even when I took my hand out of one of my hiking pole harnesses to swat at them. 
There is a canoe rest about halfway through this portage, I didn’t even see it on our first trip through here.  The map says there’s a spring there as well.  I was walking head down, arms flailing, lips swearing, trying to make record time through this torture.
The launch site at the end of the portage is decent. We were in a narrow section of the lake before it twists to the right and opens up.  It’s a pretty lake made prettier by the lovely sunny day we were having.  It’s obvious where the hardwood trees are on the West side of the lake.  We had already paddled by the first campsite next to a portage sign on the East side of the lake.  We landed at the next campsite on the West side to check it out. 
We were travelling with 3 structures on this trip.  The tent, the mosquito shelter and LT’s birthday present, a brand new Hennessy Hammock.  We didn’t need a flat spot to put the hammock, but the site was a bit hilly.  I was tired by now and even though it’d be nice to stop, being in the shade made the mosquitoes more annoying.  We pressed on.
The next campsite had potential.  It is on the East side.  The map showed another campsite close by so we went to check that one out.  It was around a point into a bay that was a bit marshy.  We went back to the previous site.  It turned out to be really nice.  The put-in wasn’t too bad, the site faced west, we were going to have a great sunset. 
Carl Wilson Lake
Priorities: the mosquito shelter went up first.  I started putting the tent up, although usually LT does it.  It’s his tent.  I set up right up front against the shore.  I had an unobstructed view of the lake.  The tent is a really nice one, it has doors on both sides which works really well when you’re sharing it.
Getting Settled In
The mosquito tent was just behind me and LT was setting up his hammock between two trees a bit further back on the site in amongst the bugs.  He didn’t try it out beforehand at home, this was his initial attempt at hanging it.  It’s an asymmetrical shape, a parallelogram.  I had purchased a set of snake skins which he chose to use with the fly instead of the hammock itself.  We put the fly up first.  Then we put up the hammock but it didn’t seem right.  It took two tries.  He spun the hammock 180 degrees.  He had to do the same for the fly, but only 90 degrees.  He had to take the snake skins off the fly and put them on the other ends. 
He will do a gear review at some point about the hammock with more information. 
Carl Wilson tucks us in
Dinner was late, we ate at 8 p.m.  We repurposed the next day’s lunch to be tonight's dinner.  We had Kraft Dinner with chicken pepperettes cut up and mixed in.  Dessert was pineapple pudding cake.  We had chocolate for an evening snack.  LT remembered his night caps and I had some Camino dark hot cocoa.  The sunset was awesome and the moon even more gorgeous.

I slept terribly.  It was the quietest night I’ve ever spent camping.  There were no leaves rustling, no waves lapping, no animals making any noise.  However it was chilly.  I hadn’t packed any extra warm clothing.  It probably went down to 9 degrees overnight.  Part of it was being in the tent alone.  I realize now that my air mattress is a narrow one.  LT has a much bigger one as he is so tall.  Both mattresses fill the bottom of the floor of the tent.  I never realized how much I spilled over onto his side during the night.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there, I hope you're being gifted some cool camping equipment today!

I would like to wish my father a very Happy Father's Day.  He will be surrounded by his children, their spouses and almost all of his grandchildren with my mother by his side.  I am unfortunately missing at this gathering only because I am in Algonquin Park today.

Me and My Dad - Quite some time ago ;-P
My father never took me canoe camping, he never took me camping period. But what he did do is encourage me to do whatever I wanted, to not be restricted by my gender.  He also instilled in me the imperative to be physically active throughout my whole life. Thanks, Dad!  You gave me courage to try something that I get great enjoyment from.  I get to do something physical that puts me smack dab in the middle of an amazing Canadian national park.  

I would also like to wish my two brothers a Happy Father's Day as well.  They are great dads, great brothers and good guys overall. They have instilled in their children the importance of being physically active, as well as many other characteristics. A special Happy Father's Day to my brother-in-law. I was present when his son, my nephew was born and I've never seen a prouder dad.

The planned trip log is:  

June 19: 
  • put in at Brent, Cedar Lake
  • paddle up Cedar into Little Cedar Lake
  • paddle into Aura Lee
  • portage into Laurel
  • portage into the bottom of Little Cauchon Lake
  • portage into Carl Wilson Lake, camp here
June 20:
  • reverse of above, camp on Cedar Lake
June 21:
  • explore Cedar Lake (based on weather), then home
If you see me, wave and say hello!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Picture Post - Cedar Lake

Here are some pictures from previous trips to Cedar Lake.  I'm heading there tomorrow.  Pray the wind doesn't blow too much!
The calm before the waves - launching from Brent
The Petawawa flowing into Cedar
Looking up the lake
Rainbow after the rain
Gorgeous sandy beach campsite
A not-so-great emergency campsite, oops!
Makeshift kitchen
Famous Cedar Lake Rollers
Landing at the Brent Store

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Salvavida! (Life jacket)

A little something about me - I speak Spanish.  I didn't learn it as my mother tongue.  No one else in my family speaks it.  And I didn't learn it in school.  I acquired it on a 4-year sojourn where I decided to live in a Spanish-speaking country.  I speak a cross between baby talk and beach slang, but I can usually make myself understood.  It's come in handy visiting Mexico, Cuba, and even Miami! 

Technically 'salvavida' is the floating ring you'd see at pools or on ships and translates directly to 'life saver' (mmmm cherry lifesavers) but the word is also used as a short version for 'life jacket'.  It's one of those words that is fun to say for an object that usually isn't associated as being the fun part of boating.

As we rented canoes for the first couple of years we were trekking, we always had rental life jackets (aka PFDs).  Not fun and not overly comfortable.  But absolutely essential.  I've mentioned a couple of times about having been involved in a canoeing incident where I was very glad I had my life jacket.  I wear it and I make my paddling partner wear theirs as well.  Accidents happen and you don't want to pay with your life.

On one of our trips last year we rented from Trailhead Paddleshack in Ottawa. Now their life jackets are super comfy!  Finally, a jacket you could get excited about!  Their design takes a lot of bulk away from around your arms, which you use a lot while canoeing, and integrates a net pocket on the front.  For our last trip of 2014, I decided to buy us a set of life jackets at Trailhead.  

The model is the Salus Trailhead PFD.  You can check it out here:

Here I am modeling the brandy-new life jacket:
Yes, I am an ad for Columbia!
This picture was taken at Cedar Lake.  I need to mention that because that lake behind me is looking like glass - I don't think Cedar calms down all that much, it's a rare moment!

A little more about me, I'm an avid cyclist - I've got a lot more experience cycling than canoeing.  In the picture I'm wearing bike gloves and my emergency rain jacket (really just plastic with a velcro closure).  So don't go looking for those nifty accessories in the camping section of MEC - look in cycling.

We usually hang the life jackets up on a tree branch at the campsite or tuck them under the canoe - depends on whether we're expecting rain.  
His 'n Hers - Mine has more dangling stuff
And LT is a full foot taller than me so he can hang his jacket higher.

The life jackets are easy to put on, they have two bands, one clips at the waist, the other a bit higher.  Both clips are on the right side of the body.  I feel very comfortable and safe in this jacket.  There is a considerable comfort on longer paddles when the life jacket doesn't rub against your arms.

I would highly recommend this jacket for usability, comfort and price.  And as with all my gear reviews - this post is NOT sponsored (ha, like I have to actually say that!).

Friday, June 12, 2015

Win a free SPOT!

Here's a contest that closes on June 30, 2015.  Enter with your email address and keep your fingers crossed....

Happy Friday and good luck!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Trip Log - Day 3: Grand Lake to Clemow Lake and back (Victoria Day Weekend 2014)

go to Prologue     go to Day 1     go to Day 2     Day 3

We had planned on being up and out early the next morning.  I got up at 7:30 but let LT sleep.  His blue foam mattress wasn’t really that comfy, so as I left the tent I suggest he roll over onto mine.  He eventually did and slept until 9.

Clemow Lake Morning Mirror
Breakfast was blueberry pancakes, real maple syrup, more bacon and hot tea.  We packed up, headed out and crossed the lake in no time.  The portage was not difficult, by now we had walked it multiple times.  We saw a younger man at the portage end.  It wasn’t the couple from Clemow Lake.  He was wearing only shorts and watershoes (I still had long pants, long sleeves, a jacket and hat on), had a full face beard with an afro, and had been carrying a heavy canoe pack.  It looked like he’d just jumped in the lake to cool down (that would be a very cold cooling down for sure).  Then he headed back up to the train track and we were setting into the water.  We were back in Grand Lake and faced a 2 hour paddle to the Achray campsite.  LT was looking forward to the little ride we would get passing underneath the train bridge.  That marked about 1/3 of the trip done. 

Shortly after we passed under the bridge we could hear a constant noise behind us.  An aluminum motor boat came into view.  
The man we had seen was sitting in the front, an older man, grey hair sticking out from under his baseball cap at the back.  They were motoring along with what looked like a 5hp motor and were towing a canoe.  Okay, we’d seen the motorboat, the motor was probably underneath it.  But these guys weren’t in Clemow Lake, they weren’t in Grand Lake, they would have to have been up that high trail going to Green Leaf Lake.  I couldn’t imagine the older guy carrying the canoe down that trail.  I couldn’t imagine him just walking the trail.  They were close enough behind us that the canoe had to have been not too far away from the portage end point.  A mystery for sure.

We went that-a-way!
We made good time to the Achray campground.  We weren’t the only ones coming in.  The narrow roadway to the wharf and the beach were crowded with various campers arriving.  The Victoria Day weekend is indeed a popular time for everyone to come out and get back to the camping they’ve been thinking about all winter!


Once home and looking over Jeff’s map, I came to the conclusion that the mystery team may have used the train track to get to an older, traditional portage that wove more accurately through the hills to Carcajou Lake.  I thought with the lack of foliage, it would be easier to find and follow.  But, alas, we’ll never know.

Our next trip was an overnighter at Sec Lake.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Trip Log - Day 2: Grand Lake to Clemow Lake and back (Victoria Day Weekend 2014)

go to Prologue     go to Day 1     Day 2     go to Day 3

The day dawned sunny and not so windy.  The temperature was nice, the bugs, again, not so bad.  We had breakfast of fresh eggs and pre-cooked bacon heated up.  We lingered over a hot cup of tea, then we packed up the campsite.  We launched to do the short paddle to the portage sign we had walked to the previous evening.  Strange site at the portage, an overturned aluminum boat.  Hmmmm, I’m not sure why that was there.
Morning Calm Grand Lake - Portage in the Distance
We carried the bags to Clemow Lake, LT went back for the canoe.  The put-in was a bit dicey, rocky, swampy and logs around the shore.  The current flowed towards this side of the lake, we could hear the water nearby dropping the 4 metres into Grand Lake.  Later on, when the wind was really quiet we would be able to hear that from our campsite on Clemow, a large sucking noise instead of a water cascading sound.

We did not see the other couple leave and knew that if the first campsite was open, it was the one we would have to take.  We got to it, it was empty, we landed and unloaded the canoe.  The site was the least nicest site I had seen to-date.  It is a rocky mound with dead trees all around the shoreline.  Many of them had black charring, which made it look like lightning had a party there at one point.  The shoreline was not mucky, but it wasn’t dry either.  I observed that the site looked like a sprained ankle waiting to happen. 
Water's Edge at the Campsite

We didn’t set camp up, we had plans to go for a hike over the long portage up to Green Leaf Lake.  We packed some lunch (smoked salmon and cream cheese wraps).  I had found an organic recipe for granola for the dehydrator that was so delicious, we had trouble not eating it before leaving on our camping trip.  I added to it some dried bananas, pineapple and of course, some chocolate M&Ms.  We had some of that with us as well.

We canoed back across Clemow and after making sure our canoe was out of the way, we set out on the portage that would intersect with the 5 KM+ trail to Green Leaf.  By now it was after lunch and we should have probably stopped and eaten.  But eager to try the trail and get to the apex, which was going to be a pretty high climb, off we went.  At first it was a decent trail through the forest, but soon it came out into the open by the hydro line.  And it went up.  And up. And up.  The trail by the hydro line wove in and out of the towers, and was mostly a stream with broken edged path that was either split or crossed by the spring run-off.

Elevation at Grand Lake is 221m, the portage starting point is 228m, the apex of the trail is 401m, Green Leaf is at 257m.  The apex of the trail is past the mid-point.  I was tired from the previous night’s lack of sleep.  I was hungry.  I wasn’t doing well with the big climb.  The trail goes back into the woods before the apex.  As we walked up the trail I started telling the Little Mermaid story, which I’m sure confused LT.  Finally when I got to the point where she exchanges her mermaid tail for human legs, I said this is why I’m telling this story.  When she started walking every step was extremely painful.  My feet were killing me, and my knees.  I had made the climb and we were starting down the trail.  I had to call “uncle”.  I didn’t think I’d be able to go down the trail, then back up it, then down the part we’d done already.  And I was positive he didn’t want to have to carry me.  We turned around and tried to find a decent place to have lunch.  It was a bit buggy in the woods, so we waited until we got to the open hillside with the hydro towers.  It took quite a bit of time to find a flat enough spot to sit down.  Lunch was delicious, but it was too late.  I really bonked.  I was so disappointed in myself.  First the bad sleep, then the horribly weak feeling of not having another drop of energy.
It was so steep!
We eventually made it down the hill, back to the canoe, onto the lake, then it started to get choppy and it rained on the way to the campsite.  Sigh.  We landed at the campsite and I apologized, but I just had to lie down.  I got my mattress out, inflated it, and lay there helplessly as LT set up camp.
Ankle-twister Campsite on Clemow Lake
Dinner that night was:  ummm, not sure with fruit crisp for dessert.  We set up a tarp for a windbreak near the campfire (I can’t remember if we had a fire or not, I’m thinking not).  We didn’t have a flat enough spot to set up the bug shelter.  The thunderbox was flipped over at this spot as well, but into a swamp, so we would not have that luxury here. 

Unafraid Loon
While puttering around after dinner, I heard a huge kerplunk and noticed concentric rings right near the water’s edge.  A loon popped up only a few feet away from us.  I grabbed my camera and got some really nice shots.

Bedtime was earlier, probably around 10.  I slept much better, I was exhausted.  Around 4:30 a.m. it was probably the coldest of the whole trip.  I was warm and toasty though.  At 6:30 a.m. a very large bird sounded like it was going to attack us.  It was flying low, flapping it’s huge wings and squawking loudly.  We weren’t prepared to go into the cold to see what it was, but it woke both of us.
Evening Calm - Clemow Lake

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Trip Log - Day 1: Grand Lake to Clemow Lake and back (Victoria Day Weekend 2014)

go to Prologue      Day 1       go to Day 2        go to Day 3

We planned to set out from Ottawa on Saturday morning, aiming to be at the outfitters at 8 a.m. when they opened.  The alarm went off at 5 a.m.  It took a while to get out of bed.  We took turns prepping stuff, packing the cold items, making tea for the road, cooking up eggs for wraps to eat in the car, feeding the cats.  No showering, no hair washing, no perfume and I think LT doesn’t even use deodorant while out in the woods.  We were anticipating that the blackflies would be out and very hungry.  I wasn’t looking forward to several days without washing my hair.  I have very fine hair, it looks limp pretty quickly when I skip a hair-washing day.

It took us longer than we expected to get out the door, we were off schedule by 45 minutes, but arrived at the outfitters at 8:15.  We stopped at the Sand Lake gate to get our permit and some wood.  Our previous experience showed us that Grand Lake may start out like glass in the morning, but quickly ruffles as the wind picks up in the morning.  We got to Access Point 22 at the Achray campground and joined the others setting off.  Fortunately there’s quite a bit of space at this access point.  We were on the water before 10 a.m., however the ruffles were working their way up into waves, not whitecaps, but as we cut into them, my nerves were jangling.  I sit at the front of the canoe and had a real sense of how much the canoe was bobbing.  

Looking up Grand Lake
After about 20 minutes of paddling, my nerves calmed down, but didn’t disappear.  After half an hour we stopped at an empty camp site to have our lunch of fresh sandwiches, cut fruit and delicious cheese.   The rest of our meals would be from dehydrated foods, except for tomorrow’s breakfast of eggs and bacon.

After lunch we got back into the canoe and continued up the lake.  There is an abandoned rail bridge about 2/3 up the lake.  No biggie.  However it was a strange configuration.  The bridge had been built on ground extended into the lake and the opening was only about 12-15 feet wide.  The lake is pinched into this space and there seems to be a drop of about a foot.  We had to navigate the middle of the opening, avoiding rocks and climbing up the drop.  I got a little freaked after two failed attempts.  Being at the front gives me a different perspective and I’m working on building my confidence in the canoe after having had bad experience.  Third time was the charm as LT talked me through it.  Holy crap I had to paddle with every ounce of strength I had!

We had chosen a campsite that jutted out on a little promontory, we thought it would give us some great sun in the morning.  Ah, but we were not the first ones to arrive.  It was occupied.  I voted for the site closest to the portage at the top of the lake.  I would do anything to avoid having to cross the windy lake.  It seemed like those last few kilometers were the longest.  We came around the bay, spying the portage, but not seeing the site until the last minute.  It looked good.  We landed.
We'll take it!
On the plus side, there was a breeze keeping the bugs off.  On the negative side, there was a breeze that required a good jacket and helped me to burn a lot of calories over the next 18 hours trying to keep warm.  The site is really nice, the trees have some major spikes in them, railroad spikes.  I feel very sorry for the trees and I would never hammer either spikes or nails into them.  However, I was happy to use the ones that were already there.  There was a chest high table built between two trees that was perfect to use for a kitchen.  There was a great flat spot for the tent.
Cozy Comfort
I’m all about making this experience as pleasant as possible.  In anticipation of hoards of blood sucking insects, I had invested in the Eureka! Bug Shelter and Tarp (VCS).  We put that tent up as well.  Then we took it down and moved it to a different spot.  Turns out, we never used it at all.  I’m starting to call it our “Bug Insurance”.  Erect the thing and the bugs bugger off!
Bug Insurance
We had hauled a bag of wood from the park gate, LT was planning on a great campfire that night.  Originally to scare the bugs off, but with the evening breeze, albeit a bit less stiff, the fire would be mostly for pleasure.
Dinner was pasta with spaghetti sauce and various dehydrated veggies (mushrooms, celery, corn, peas) and dehydrated ground sirloin.  LT made some savoury bannock, which I had added oregano and parmesan cheese to.  We both have Whisperlite stoves, their simmering properties are limited, we’re going to have to hone our bannock skills.  Dessert was dried angel food cake chunks with rehydrated strawberries in warm syrup and chocolate sauce (made right in baggie and drizzled on top).

I had explored around our campsite, okay, yeah, I was looking for the thunderbox, and discovered the abandoned track behind our site as well as the ruins, which were just four log-type lumps on the ground completely covered with moss and growth.  When LT had assessed the site earlier, he had found the thunderbox turned over.  It looked like a bear had flipped it, probably looking for food someone had thrown down there.  He flipped it back over for me, he’s so thoughtful!  After dinner I suggested we walk the track to the portage site, then walk the portage to see what the next day held.  We did the walk and it was rather pleasant.  The track smells strongly of creosote.  There was relatively fresh bear scat, both between the campsite and the thunderbox, and along the track.  The portage was really a forest road.  The put-in at Clemow Lake looked a bit swampy, but we’d manage.  There’s a drop between the two lakes, nothing major for the portage walk, but a nice sound at the top where the water flows from Clemow into Grand.

The following picture (from Jeff’s maps) shows our campsite on Grand Lake, with the ruins behind the site, and the train track, leading to the portage, over to Clemow Lake.  Also circled is the campsite we had the following night.
Our home for 2 nights
That afternoon we had seen another couple canoe to the portage and with only two sites on Clemow Lake, we knew we would not be able to choose the next day which site we would take.
Sunset top of Grand Lake - hydro tower visible
Thursday night I hadn’t slept well at home.  I drank some pop late at night forgetting there was caffeine in it.  Friday night was spent at LT’s, it’s very comfortable, but combined with the early wake-up call and Christmas-Eve-like nerves, I didn’t sleep well again.  And the wind blew and blew and blew Saturday night.  I wriggled and wriggled (usually I toss and turn, but in a sleeping bag in a small tent I need to alter my movements).  I had worn a long sleeved cotton shirt to bed with underwear and socks.  I have a Chinook sleeping bag that zippers from the hip up to the top, however it is like a jacket zipper.  I had pulled the zipper up without engaging it with the opposite set of teeth.  My bag wasn’t closed as I thought it was.  LT had given me one of his precious silky Ranger blankets.  I had placed it on top of my silky sleeping bag.  But two silks make a “Not”.  The slippery Ranger blanket had slid to one side where it had zero contact with me.

Finally at 2 a.m., still awake, I was like an overtired 3 year old, I was beside myself.  I sat up in the tent (one cannot stand in it), and burst into tears.  LT awoke as I sobbed that I was “soooooooooosooooooooosoooooo cold” and “soooooooosoooooosoooooo tired”.  My twisted logic then stated that I would never make a soldier.   It only took a few minutes before I gathered my dignity and fished out my fleece shirt and put that on.  Then I put the Ranger blanket inside the sleeping bag.  And I figured out how to properly zip up my sleeping bag.  With LT curled up behind me, I finally fell asleep.  The next day when I apologized, I noted to him that in almost one year of knowing each other it had been the first time he’d seen me cry.  He responded that technically it was dark so he hadn’t actually seen me cry.  Yeah, he knows how to make me feel better.