Friday, December 25, 2015

Santa's a camper!

Merry Christmas to everyone! Santa left a lot of new camping gear under my tree. Did he do the same for you?

Okay, it wasn't Santa per se, but LT. And I've been spoiled rotten.

In the picture above there are three dry sacks, two 20 litre ones and a 30 litre one. They're the deluxe version with the purge valve. These are awesome for squishing down to take up less space in the backpack.  There is indeed a new hammock for me, the super deluxe backpacker one that is the lightest version, less weight for me to carry! It came with a couple of sets of snakeskins and some special dohickeys to help when it's raining.

You screw these funnels into regular plastic water bottles, they have a loop to hook onto your rainfly and as they fill with rain from the fly, they get heavier and hold down the fly. I'm almost wishing it rains the first time we go out this spring now. 

There's a package of four locksacks, plastic bags that have a waterproof lock top. They are 4 different sizes, and very lightweight.

The blue item is a merino wool tube that can be worn in multiple ways. It'll be lightweight and warm. And such a nice colour of blue!

The piece de resistance is a box of Godiva hot chocolate mix packets. I may have to test this product before bringing on a trip though. 

Santa brought LT a GoPro. There was a selfish reason behind that choice. It's so when he goes on any solo trips he can film it and I can see what I missed. 

Now I want spring to arrive! Hope you got lots of good camping gear too!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Eustache Lake - so pleased to make your acquaintance! (Part 2)

So just to refresh, it's December 20, 2015 and we're portaging our way to Eustache Lake in Algonquin Park. 

It is the deepest lake in the park at over 100 meters deep.

See here for Part 1.

We finally arrived at the portage end and pretty much had a frozen bay. It was a couple of centimeters thick so we wouldn't be able to ice-break our way through it. LT put the canoe down, I dropped my bag and we wandered a bit further along the shore to see if we could get a to an access point we might be able to use.
Frozen bay
There was no portage sign to tell us we were at the right point, but there was the slightest sliver of a piece of yellow stuck underneath a nail on the tree. Yeah, this is it.

Not very far along we found a point that the canoe might be able to be launched from. We went back and got both my bag and the canoe.

This is taken after we've come back ashore after paddling the whole lake
Initially the sound of the canoe on the ice was very similar to the sound of it being on rocks. We didn't have far to icebreak before we were out into open water. 

This lake has 3 campsites on it. Two close to where we launched and one around the corner to our right. It was hard to judge how good these sites are without landing and checking them out. They all looked like they had potential.

Our weather was pretty good. It wasn't above zero, but it wasn't far below. The sun would peek out every once in a while and when it did, it was wonderful. We paddled our way to the end of the lake and when we turned to come back, it was breezy. Another instance of never feeling that wind at your back!

We spied some wildlife across the lake in the water. It seemed to be a swimmer of some sort, not a loon, maybe an otter? We couldn't tell, but witnessed it bobbing up a couple of times. With the high cliffs around most of the lake and no real marshy area where we saw the animal it was hard to figure out what could survive there. 

When we first put in the canoe some cliffs on the opposite side of the lake looked okay. High with lots of trees. Nice. Pretty. Then we went around the corner and the cliffs started to become spectacular! Only pictures can show how gorgeous they are.

A plaque in honor of Jim Hudson (he did not die here)

I think it took us about 45 minutes to do the portage back to the car. We never used a single item in my backpack on our hike. Oh well, mostly I had it in case we needed it. We sat in the car and ate stew with rolls. We didn't bother breaking out the stove and making hot tea.

We tied the canoe back on the car and headed back, literally. LT had to back the car down the train bed until it was safe to turn it around. As we came to the spot where we needed to get off the train bed we saw the right place we should have parked. Oops. We had unintentionallly driven part of that unofficial portage! 

We drove the 75 km back down the gravel road and out onto Highway 17. After a stop at Tim Horton's for a hot chocolate and bathroom break, we were on the highway coming home. It was dark by now. We got to LT's place and unloaded the canoe for the last time in 2015.....we think! 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Eustache Lake - so pleased to make your acquaintance! (Part 1)

This spring when I was talking to a friend of mine about her planned trips to Algonquin Park for the summer of 2015 she mentioned they were going to try to go to Eustache Lake. She'd heard that there were some nice cliffs along the lake's edge. 
Jeff's map
I was curious. I looked at it a lot on the map. It's one of those lakes that isn't along a route to somewhere else. It's the destination. We didn't work it into any of our trips this year. 

But we've had a really warm November. And December. With hardly any snow. I've been seeing Kevin Callan's posts on Facebook - he's off canoe camping somewhere right now. I managed to convince LT that the park held one more adventure for us in 2015.

We don't have any winter camping gear. But if we cleared our calendars we could take the day and just make it our destination, turn around and come home. LT was a bit hesitant to carry a canoe through the forest for over 2 kms, especially with no guarantee that when we got to the portage end there'd be a place to put in that wasn't frozen over. I suggested we could just hike in and check it out for a future trip.

On Saturday I went over and helped LT put the canoe back together. He'd tucked in it for the winter by taking out all the wooden thwarts and the seats. I planned a hot lunch and breakfast to eat in the car. I packed my big backpack with the following: my chair, the stove with fuel, the kettle, a blanket, the saw (in case we needed to make a fire), and a lunch bag with 2 thermoses full of beef stew, buttered rolls, clementines, toffee, chocolate fudge, teabags and sugar. I brought my DSLR camera and hiking poles.

We were on the road by 8 a.m. on Sunday, December 20, 2015 driving up to the Sand Lake Gate. We stopped there to pay the daily fee, it said $14.50 (cash you put in an envelope and drop into a slot - so no change given!). We continued on the long drive to our destination - A52.

There are a LOT of logging roads on this access road. Nothing much is marked past the road into the Achray access point. We went the right way at first, but the road became so narrow we thought we had turned down the road at the bottom of the map above. We took the other way and ended up at the Lake Travers access point. It was not as expected. We both thought there'd be more signage and maybe something like a dock or boat launch. That lake can have seasonal motorboats. We go out and walked around, I took a few pictures. 
Road into the parking for Lake Travers
Petawawa River going into Lake Travers
Looking upriver from the access point
The bridge in the picture was confusing. It's a long bridge! But there was signage saying "NO ACCESS". While we were standing on the shore, a car went across the bridge away from us, so into the no access zone. Hmmm.

We saw a lot of vehicles coming out of the park as we drove the 75+ km from the gravel road beginning to this point, mostly trucks. There was a sign at the Sand Lake Gate saying that there is hunting right up until the beginning of January and to take care, stick to park routes, no bushwhacking.

Time to turn around and go back to the road we doubled back from. We went back to it, got to a trailer parked at a fork in the road and decided to take the other fork. Bingo, this was the one. However again we ran into an issue with signage. There was no sign to indicate access point A52. In fact, it looked like we needed to drive a short piece on the abandoned rail bed. It wasn't rough going. We didn't see any portage signs to indicate that we needed to park and head out on foot. We got to a point on the railbed where a couple of very large rocks had been placed and there was a gate. We parked the car, got out, walked around and decided we were on the right track (haha, get it? right track? train track?).
I don't see any parking here????
We figured that no one else was probably going to be parking here today to access Eustache Lake, so LT pulled the car over to the side as far as he could and we headed out on the train bed.

Within 500 meters we found the portage sign.
A sign!
Off we went into the woods. This portage is not a difficult one. It is long enough, we took one rest on the way in and the way out. The light dusting of snow made it very easy to see animal tracks. The first set of tracks belonged to a deer. Then we saw some smaller ones that look almost like cat prints - I'm guessing a fox. But for more than half the trail we followed these tracks:
Wolf tracks - coming towards us
Lovely forest trail
Yes there is a man carrying a canoe in the woods on December 20, 2015
We weren't quite sure how many animals we would see on this trip. In the car on the way here I'd seen half a dozen deer on a farmer's ridge, a couple of very fat turkeys in a farm field and even a large male moose feeding in a marshy area.

Besides the wolf tracks we saw rabbit, squirrel (or chipmunk) and mouse tracks. Chickadees serenaded us at times in the forest and the odd jay called out a warning we were coming.

See here for Part 2.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Sunsets - a picture post

When we select a campsite, LT tries to ensure we get the best exposure for excellent sunset viewing. We have yet to get brave enough to go out in the canoe at night to see the billions of stars that the night brings. In the meantime, we relish the sunsets. Here are some we have seen. (The last two pictures are from La Verendrye Park.)

Okay, this is the moon....

Monday, December 14, 2015

Campsites - a picture post

December is a month with zero camping trips, but it doesn't mean I can't make a trip down memory lane with pictures! So here is another picture post this time of the various campsites we've stayed at. Hopefully I'll remember them all correctly. I'll give them a rating out of 5 stars. If you have any questions as to where exactly a particular campsite is at, just ask!
Top of Grand Lake - 4 stars

Clemow Lake - 2 stars

Opalescent Lake - 4 stars

North River Lake - 4 stars

Not a campsite, portage ending on Cedar Lake - 0 stars

Cedar Lake near Acanthus Island the next night - 5 stars

Same spot

Grand Lake halfway up - looked like a 3 star, definitely 4 stars

Cedar Lake near Petawawa River inflow - 4 stars

Little Carcajou Lake - 3 star (only site on the lake)

Carl Wilson halfway down - 3.5 stars

Cedar Lake at the top - 5 stars

Manitou Lake - 4 stars

Biggar Lake back of pennisula - 3 stars

Three Mile Lake on rocky outcropping - 4 stars

Same site after packing up

Erables Lake halfway down - 5 stars (except a bit hilly)

Mouse Lake near sandy beach - 4 stars

Same spot
And again - check out the huge stone table

Mink Lake halfway up - 5 stars*****