Monday, March 28, 2016

2016 Ottawa Outdoor and Adventure Show

The Ottawa Outdoor and Adventure show was held on March 19 and 20, 2016 at the EY Centre near the airport. The baby show was next door at the same time. There were strollers!

Here's the link:

We attended on Saturday. There were a few new companies participating this year. Eddie Bauer was there and offered 40% off the clothing they were displaying, a lot was really nice stuff. If they didn't have your size there, they'd take the order and honour the discount.

Eureka! had a bigger display this year. They weren't embedded with the Scouts, but right next to them. They were giving a healthy discount from their MSRP. They even had our bug tent on display.
BIG tent (not bug tent)
LT was tempted by some different air mattresses that we'd never seen before. The prices were really good, but he didn't bite. We're looking for a better solution for the hammock tents we'll both be using this summer.

I stopped by the La Verendrye canoe camping booth to look at their maps. I bought some fudge ($10 a slab!), I tested the salami at D&D Meats, I chatted with a scout leader about "Mike" (their stuffed fisher), I took a free fire starter from Qwik Wick, and I got a discount coupon from World of Maps for a book I had to pick up later that day I had on order. Bonus!

The Canadian Canoe Museum had a nice booth. They are promoting the build of a new museum in Peterborough.

We watched Becky Mason in the pool, she had a lovely blue canoe her husband had refinished for her, she can turn on a dime. 
She's talking about how to choose your paddle size
Around one corner this guy greeted us:
Parks Canada's Mascot
We went to listen to Kevin Callan's talk. They had less than half the number of seats they had last year and there were a lot of people standing, us included.

Wally Schaber was doing his talk beforehand with no microphone or video displays. He had propped up his tablet with his slide show. He's the author we heard on February 13th in Old Chelsea.
Wally's book
By the time Kevin was on, they had figured out the microphone, and he ended up setting his laptop on a table so people could see. They got the video display working for the next speakers after him.
He talked about Algonquin Park
LT wanted to get a couple of autographs on his paddle. He'd prepped the paddle and had left it in the car. After checking with Becky, he went and got the paddle, she was happy to sign it.

Then he asked Kevin, but I didn't get a picture of that. Here are pictures of the paddle with the autographs. He plans on putting a protective layer over the autographs before using the paddle again.

Another paddling season is almost here and this show is the harbinger of that! I can hardly wait. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

My New Cadillac! - An Excalibur Dehydrator

Once a year at work I get a bonus. It's just before the RRSP deadline, so most of it goes into that. I treat myself to a new item with what's left over usually. And it's often a kitchen appliance of some sort. I bought a Blendtec blender about 3 years ago. It's a crazy price compared to regular blenders. But I have never regretted a penny I spent on it. It has an odometer and so far I've used it more than 700 times. I even make my own almond milk in it. This year I decided to invest in a better dehydrator.

As with my Blendtec, I turned to to make my purchase. They carry a lot more products online than they do in the stores and the price is reasonable. I probably would not be able to ever get a dehydrator in any Costco store near me anyways. There are several to choose from online. I could quickly eliminate any of the "professional" ones - they are meant for businesses and had stainless steel exteriors. I wanted something that would take a larger load than my current Salton dehydrator from Walmart. I chose the 9 tray Excalibur. Each tray is 14 inches by 14 inches (square). And no hole in the middle!

The Salton has the warm air come up from the bottom, through that central hole in the round trays. The Excalibur has the heat come from the back and it is more evenly distributed. It's not a bad idea to turn the trays around part way through the drying process. 
Old versus New
My dehydrator isn't perfect though. As you can see in the photo above, they mislabeled the front "door" and put it on upside down. Maybe I should ask for a discount? LOL

So far I've dried a huge pot of rice I had cooked specifically for this purpose. Yesterday I popped in 4 pineapples and 3 bananas. That combination makes the kitchen smell so yummy!

The drying times are cut much shorter with the new appliance. Although I do find it a bit noisier. 

The Excalibur came with the 9 trays and 9 perforated liners. However it did not come with solid liners. I use those liners to dry sauces (pasta sauce) and fruit leather.
Just the tray - MUCH bigger holes than the Salton tray
Close-up of tray liner
Tray with perforated liner
One whole pineapple all dried out
I like the Salton liners as they have a lip around the edges.
Salton solid tray liner
Size comparison
Fortunately I had taken out my Chef Glenn's cookbook and was re-reading instructions when I discovered that I could use parchment paper as a liner. I can certainly order special silicon liners for the Excalibur, but they're $13.99 each (if I buy 5+) and 9 would be, well, you do the math.

Ultra Silicone tray liners

ParaFlexx tray liners
I used parchment to dry the rice. It's not like the rice is in liquid form, it just shrinks so much during drying that it could fall through the nylon screen liners. It did the trick. I'm not sure though about using parchment paper for pasta sauce.

In the meantime, I'm passing my old dehydrator to LT. He's bananas about bananas, so he can create his own banana drying factory himself. But I'm holding onto my Salton liners, they fit into the new dehydrator for now. The Salton didn't come with any of its liners, I had to order them via mail from the manufacturer in Montreal. They weren't that expensive.

I'm going to try to expand my meal selection this year, which was why I had Chef Glenn's book out again. I'll let you know if I find one that is particularly delicious!

And here's a totally gratuitous picture of Winston exploring the box the dehydrator came in. His box fetish is so bad, he often tries to climb into boxes before I've even taken the contents out!

Monday, March 21, 2016

100th Post!

This is my 100th blog post, yipee! When I started this, I didn't really envision that I'd be writing this much material from the amount of backcountry camping trips I go on. 

With any endeavour, success comes from very good planning and preparation, and we do a lot of that for our trips. So let's talk a bit about planning a backcountry canoe trip.

First you need to assess what you want to do and what you can do. 
  • Do you want to portage or just hang around at the access lake? 
  • How many days/nights do you want to go for?
  • How far are you willing to drive to get to an access point?
  • How many people are going on this trip?
  • Are you going to travel in a loop, or an in-and-out route?
  • Do you want to have rest days?
  • Do you need to rent equipment, such as canoe(s)?
Planning can be almost as fun as going on the trip. We spend hours looking over the maps and discussing different route options. With two years of traveling under our belt, we're pretty sure about what we can handle and what it is we want to do. We often go back and forth on whether to have rest days. I prefer to move each day, LT likes to rest a day here and there. But he also likes to cover a lot of miles on the non-rest days when he does incorporate rest days into the trip.
Our Carl Wilson Trip - in and out
On the map above there are several ways into Carl Wilson. The closest option entails a lot of portaging and if you were to look at the map in a legible version, you could see the heights of the trail you'd be walking along, high in this case. Lots of climbing. The second closest option involves low maintenance portages. There's no guarantee how good these portages are going to be. We've been up to our waist in growth before on this type of portage. We chose the longer paddle, shorter portage route, shown with the black line. We could have done a loop, but chose to do the distance rather than attempt 6 portages totalling 5+ kilometers (the closest one). Our route was 3 portages totalling 1.545 kms.

Jeff's maps can be very helpful. He's estimated how much travel time it should take you between points. He explains the way he estimates time so you can adjust it to the level of expertise you think you have.
Jeff's classification system on his map

For example, in the map at left, the travel distance between the two yellow dots is 2.6 km. 1070m of that is a portage (which takes more time than paddling). Jeff estimates that it will take 50 minutes to cover that distance if you are classified as a "Veteran". If you are going to double carry the portage, add 40 minutes. Using his calculations and factoring in more time (or less), you can come up with your own idea of how long it's going to take you to get somewhere.

Check out his map, and classification system, at Jeff's Map Algonquin.

Once you've chosen a date, selected an access point, decided on a route, you need to make the camping site reservations. For Algonquin Park, you simple select the lake you are going to be on each night. They do not allow you to pre-select your site. Other parks may allow this as the sites are numbered. Their reservation policy is to leave a site or two on the lake unreserved to allow for any slippage in some people's travel plans. It can and does happen.

Here's the link to make your online reservations: Algonquin Park

There is the option of using a jumping off campsite at some access points. You need to reserve these sites and pay for them just as you would any other campsite. Having one of these sites allows you to leave work on Friday at 4:30, go home, pack the car, drive to your access point (stopping, of course, for poutine at the chip truck), arrive at the lake and just pitch your tent for the night. You can get up as early as you wish and push off on your trip. We've never made use of this option, but there are times when I'd like to!

Getting our permits at the Sand Lake Gate
If you need to rent a canoe, now would be a good time to call and reserve it. We've dealt a lot with the Algonquin Portage store on Achray Road on the way into the Sand Lake gate. Here's their website:

They are good to deal with and if you're going to be late returning your canoe, they have a place you can leave it securely.  Also, they provide a service where they will pick up your car and move it for you. This is a nice feature if you're planning on doing a route from point A to point B. However if you are a larger group with more than one car, you can manage this yourself.

This store is also a GREAT last stop before going into the park. We have bought items there that we realized we forgot at home, oops. One trip we left both of our 1 litre Nalgene bottles with cold water in the fridge. It's also a great stop on the way out for a cold Coke, an ice cream or even a sandwich or muffin. They carry souvenirs, maps and a wide variety of camping items.

What to pack? Well there are a number of websites that will provide you with a checklist of what you will need. It is a very good idea to have a checklist, print it out and check off the items on it as you're packing your bag, then the car. I think creating that checklist is a post on its own! 

There are basic items that you need for food preparation, food storage, water filtration (we - and by "we" I mean LT - carried 8 litres of water for our first overnight trip and we used every drop), shelter (tent or hammocks), and bug spray. Then there are the luxuries: a camp shower, a sink to wash dishes, an "oven" to cook pizza and cinnamon buns in. Gathering these items will have to be done well in advance of your trip. Unless, of course, you want to stop at the portage store and buy everything on your way into the park (I would highly recommend that you don't do this).
Launching on a new adventure
You could put yourself completely in the hands of an outfitter and have them put together everything you'll need for your trip (bring your own underwear though). Algonquin Outfitters can do that for you. 

Most of the fun for these trips is managing on your own, everything from planning beforehand to each meal you savour in your outdoor paradise.

Thanks for reading along! Feel free to comment and tell me about what you think is essential when you're planning a trip.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Hey lady, what's in the bag?

So far my travelling philosphy is to get everything into one bag. That way, when we are portaging, my hands are free to use my hiking poles. This has some benefits, but I also have some difficulties. Mostly with picking up my bag and putting it on my back. I need help. I just recently bought a huge caribiner that I'll take on my next trip and I'll see if that helps with at least picking my own bag up and out of the canoe. 

My bag will usually weigh from 40 to over 50 pounds once packed. It is a MEC Aurora 75 litre, ladies version. I love that it has a hip band that swivels as you walk. Here's a link to it: MEC Aurora 75 BackpackI will do a review of it at some point. :-)
Portage pose - where it's usually dumped
Here are some pictures of stuff that goes in the bag.
Just the bags, some of the bags
These bags are for: food, water, camera, sleeping bag, clothes, pillow, chair, sleeping pad, water filtration system, chair, backpack cover, the list goes on.

Sleeping stuff
The green bag is my sleeping pad, or air mattress. The blue bag has my pillow, the black compression bag with the straps is my sleeping bag all squished down, the other purple bag is a new down throw I picked up at Costco for the colder trips. It will probably compress down more in a special bag.
Water filtration kit
As I unpacked the bag I realized I'm missing one of my clear plastic Platypus bags.  Hmmmm.  I have 2 filters, a charcoal filter, a plastic jar with lid to carry the extra filter (they can be sensitive) and the big gray bag is what we scoop water out of the lake with. Take caution with some of your silicone gear, chipmunks (or maybe mice) think it is yummy! Take care not to leave it out overnight.

Kitchen gear
I'm missing my salt shaker out of this picture. :-) The big bag is all my pots and dishes, my kettle is in one bag, my stove the other. The white item is the cosy for the largest pot, there are a couple of dish towels and a great travel mug, double-walled.
Pots unpacked
I have 3 pots (but we almost never carry the largest one), a frypan, a lid for all, a handle, various utensils, a tin plate and a couple of folding silicone measuring cups to add water to my dehydrated food.
Kettle, oven, stove
Kettle, oven, stove - unpacked
In the above picture: notebook, night sky guide, backpack cover, lamp, headlamp, Thermacell refills (bug repellent), multi-use tool, clothes pins, gloves, bear bell, whistle, large carabiner, folding shovel for cat holes, personal towels, the bag holding my bug hat and bug shirt, water treatment tablets, a lighter, and firestarter. 

Not pictured above that I'll be adding this year: my Hennesy hammock, a fly, and hanging straps. Also not pictured is the food, all of it usually in the orange drybag. My clothes are not shown here either, that varies depending on the time of year, length of trip. The backpack is getting pretty heavy by now, so I try to limit my fashion choices. I'll have my hiking poles, a camera (either the small one or my digital SLR in the red drybag).

Here's a list of each individual item that I usually carry:
  • sleeping bag
  • pillow
  • clothes
  • toiletries
  • air mattress
  • stove
  • fuel bottle
  • camping oven (really just a special pot cozy cover)
  • heat diffuser (for evening out the heat from the stove flame)
  • pots, frypan, lid, handle, pot cozies
  • my own dishes (plate, mug, KFS)
  • silicone measuring cup (to add water to dehydrated foods)
  • cooking utensils
  • kettle
  • scrubber/sponge
  • dishtowels
  • camp soap
  • multi-tool (pocket knife)
  • water filtration system
  • large water bag (to take water from the lake)
  • spare filter for water filtration system
  • mosquito coils
  • Hennesy Hammock
  • chair
  • kneeling pad (I mostly use it as a table surface on the ground)
  • bug hat and bug shirt
  • gloves
  • bug spray and sunscreen
  • camera
  • notebook and pen
  • map
  • sunglasses
  • reading glasses (2 pairs)
  • toilet paper
  • baby wipes
  • small shovel (in case there's no thunderbox)
  • headlamp
  • mini tent lamp/flashlight
  • bear bell
  • rainjacket
  • towel (1 small, 1 large)
  • dried food bag with food
One of the features I like about my bag is that I can lay it on its back on the ground and I have access through a zipper that goes around the body of the bag. It allows me to stuff some extra things in at the last minute, using every possible nook and cranny!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Le Petit Train de Nord - a cycling trip: Day 4

Today's route would take us from Val-David to St.-Jerome, back to our cars and the end of our cycling trip. We would cover 42.3 km.

Our breakfast started with fruit smoothies and we had a couple of choices for the main meal. We packed our bags, got our bikes out of a locked shed on the property, and headed on our way. Our pace today was leisurely to start. We had fallen into a comfortable speed.

Not very far out of town we were following a spectacular river. We stopped to take many pictures. We were going to miss all this gorgeous countryside.

Eventually we would be trading the countryside for a more urban feel on the bike path. There were more parking lots for local, urban day cyclists, dog walkers and joggers. There were a lot more streets to cross. We stopped at a Tim Horton's for lunch. I was served by a woman who's second language was French, her first Spanish, so I practiced my Spanish a bit chatting to her. Another server was very happy to have a chance to practice her English with us while we ordered.

We ended up at a picnic table in the parking lot. With all our bikes there, we didn't want to take a chance leaving them out of sight.

After a bite, we continued on the urban portion of our trip and before we knew it, we were at our cars. We were able to pick up our bags there and were on our way. Nat and I made a detour to a large shopping centre on the way home, but neither of us bought anything. 

This was a great introduction to a group bike riding vacation. My companions were awesome, the pace was perfect, the scenery was beautiful. I highly recommend this type of travel. When you're on a bike, rather than sitting in a car, you really get to see where you are travelling!

Now all I need to do is convince Nat to write a trip log of their cycling trip the next year of the Blueberry Route in Quebec!

Overview              Day 1             Day 2              Day 3

Monday, March 14, 2016

Le Petit Train de Nord - a cycling trip: Day 3

Today was going to be our biggest uphill day. We were riding from La Conception to Val-David. Fortunately the next night's B&B was going to be right on the path.

We were up early, ate a delicious breakfast, and were on the road at the usual time. It was a chilly morning today. I was glad to have cycling gloves.

Our bikes had been locked in a 3-sided shed by the driveway entrance. Not as secure as our very first night in St.-Jerome, but there would have been much less traffic going by here.

Today for lunch we stopped at a grocery store and sat at picnic tables out front. No duck fat today!
One of several very pretty train bridges
We would be cycling 54 km today, plus a few extra to get to the trail first thing in the morning. Our extra bit was on a very narrow paved highway. It had been nerve-wracking riding here yesterday with the busy Saturday traffic. But on Sunday morning, it was much quieter. 

We had a bright, sunny day today.

As anticipated, the hills were higher today. Well not only higher, but because of the gradual grade, they seemed to go on forever.

On one of the train bridges we climbed down to the river below. I found a special souvenir that I carried home and still have.

Railway spike souvenir (camera for scale)
We found our B&B very easily and this town, Val-David, was hopping. It is much closer to Montreal and I'm guessing there are lots of people that head out into this area for the weekend. We could tell when we had our first dinner out at a chichi restaurant that was freaking expensive. Oh well, one fancy dinner was called for on the trip.
The B&B from the river
Just a bit beyond our B&B on the trail, there was a farmer's market in full swing. We stopped over there to check it out before checking into our B&B. We had arrived and knocked on the door, but no one was home. So we explored a bit.
Embrace the ice cream!
Our B&B, the Maison de Baviere is a very interesting building. It originally was a shed to store wood for a sawmill. It is right on a lovely rocky river. I spent some time climbing around on the rocks in the afternoon. It is so picturesque and the sound of the water is so calming. There is also a small bridge beside the B&B. 
View from the B&B 

Pretty bridge, pretty river 
Hand-painted windows
The B&B website is:

Our rooms were on the main floor from the road. However, this floor is the upper floor, with the dining room and living quarters of the hosts below us. The walls and were hand-painted in a German style. And there were a little pair of wooden shoes in the closet of my room. My room overlooked the river and I opened the river to hear the sound of it flowing over the round rocks.


Overview              Day 1             Day 2              Day 4

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Le Petit Train de Nord - a cycling trip: Day 2

We all slept pretty well and got up to enjoy another very delicious meal at the B&B. We chatted a bit with the hosts, the husband spoke more English than his wife. Their heating costs alone for this building are pretty high. But they've done a lovely job of maintaining it and improving it for every room to have a bathroom. My bedroom was done in a Chinese theme.
My Chinese themed bedroom
I'm sure a bathroom wasn't the purpose of this room originally
We sat on the wide front veranda with our bags ready for pick-up, trying to digest our food a bit before taking off down the huge hill. A couple of cars were arriving, it was early Saturday morning and others would be staying here tonight who were spending their day cycling. 

We set off. Today we would be following La Riviere Rouge, the Red River. Every once in a while we'd either be alongside it, or crossing it on a bridge very high over the river. The views were spectacular.

Our path was still asphalt. Some of the trail would eventually be stone dust, but it was well packed and you could use a road bike on it if you wanted to. I was riding a hybrid. Nat and Chris were riding mountain bikes and Munch had a road bike but with a wider tire. Munch and I had decent-sized saddle bags. He had all those snacks to carry!

The weather in the fall can drop at night and be cooler when you start out in the mornings, warming up quite a bit during the day. I wanted to have enough layers and a bag to carry the extra layers in as the day got hotter.

Today we would be riding 58 km on the trail. It was a grey day with bits of sunshine here and there. It got very cold shortly after lunch and it really felt like it was going to pour rain, but we were very lucky, it didn't. There may have been a few threatening sprinkles, but no full rainstorm.
La Gare = duck fat!


Covered bridge view from our train bridge
We stopped at Labelle. There was a train station cafe and what looked like a small fair on. The townspeople were gathered. We managed to get a table for 4 on the wooden deck of the restaurant. I ate french fries cooked in duck fat. I cannot remember ever eating french fries that were soooo delicious. With that I had a grilled cheese with bacon, also cooked in duck fat. Now you see why there was no weight loss during this cycling trip!

Our B&B for the night was not on the path. However, the directions for finding it were not very good. We did manage to eventually after some backtracking and I would say that we probably rode an extra 10 km looking for the place.

Once we found it, the location was amazing. It was on the banks of La Riviere Rouge surrounded by tall pine trees. Even though it was September, we put on our bathing suits and waded into the sandy river. We were able to walk almost the full way across it.
Sandy, shallow Red River
Munch's wife was here to greet us. Tonight was their anniversary so it was a treat to have her company for the evening. 

The name of the B&B is A La Croisee des Chemins, website is:
Our straw house
The house was very interesting, made out of straw. There was a glass panel where we could look and see the interior of the wall. Our host was very gracious and kind. Our hostess was not so much. I thought maybe it was just my incorrect observation. However, once we were home and I was looking at reviews on TripAdvisor, I saw that she was routinely criticized for her lack of hospitality.

Dinner was lovely, the wine was flowing, and everyone enjoyed themselves. My room was interesting, the bathroom looked like it was a converted closet. It was a very comfortable room, comfy bed, and I was glad to have a private bathroom even thought it was small. 

Overview              Day 1             Day 3              Day 4