Monday, May 29, 2017

Trip Log - Grand Lake: May 20 to 22, 2017 - Day 3

I slept much better last night. I was in my hammock for a full 12 hours, not even getting out to go to the bathroom. It rained most of the night, but had stopped by the time we got up.

Today's breakfast was blueberry pancakes. I use the President's Choice buttermilk pancake mix and add my own dehydrated blueberries. We've tried to come up with a system where we can mix the pancakes in a bag then cut a hole to squeeze out the mixture onto a hot pan. I created a different shaped bag using my FoodSaver vacuum sealer. L.T. suggested a longer bag so that it could be folded over multiple times to help mange the mixture once we started squeezing it out. It worked perfectly! Well especially after he suggested I use a few paper clamps that are usually holding my stove wind shield together.

Also this spring I bought a long handled silicone spoon. It was perfect for stirring and not getting my hands into the mixture or covered in it. Camp utensils are often very short. It makes them easier to pack.

We had more reheated bacon and squeezed two cups of tea from each bag by making it directly in the kettle instead of in the cup. We had two teabags left for this morning.

Today it wasn't sunny, but it wasn't raining. We'd still be packing up some wet gear, mostly the tarps for our hammocks, the bug shelter and the tarp L.T. hung between our hammocks. We put our bags under a tarp when the rain started.
Hiding under the tarp
There wasn't any rush, the only thing we needed to do was paddle down the lake, about a 2+ hour effort. And miracle of miracles, the wind was going to be at our backs again today. 

We took it easy after breakfast. Park rules are that you must be off your site by 2 p.m. We didn't have lunch yesterday and wouldn't have it again today. I had some lunches ready to rehydrate into our Thermoses, but we'd be out before we got too hungry and both had big snack bags that we'd hardly touched yet. In my snack bag I had packed some large sour gummy suckers, I get them at Costco. L.T. spied them last year when we were strolling around Costco looking for suitable snack foods. I was chewing on one this morning and had a feeling something was off. I swallowed it and when I checked one of my teeth, I realized that I had also swallowed my filling. Fortunately there was no pain in the empty cavity. There were two pins that that filling, I'm praying they make it all the way out the other end.

We started packing up. It had warmed up a bit, it was about 15 degrees, and the mosquitoes were out. Not in huge swarms, but they were around and easily found us. L.T. put on some bug repellant, I put some on my hands, but used my witch's bug hat instead of spraying any on my face. 

We took down our hammocks at the same time. I was finished first as he also had the large tarp to take down. When he joined me back in the bug shelter he said he was disappointed I hadn't come back to help him. Apparently while I was there with him the mosquitoes were all over me. Once I left they had to settle for him.

It's nice not having to rush. We could both do several laps around the campsite to make sure we had picked up everything. We even added a beer bottle that was sitting by the fire pit to our garbage bag. We set off at 1:38 and were quite surprised with how much the wind had picked up. It was almost scary. We were going directly with the wind, which was fine, but every time L.T., who sits in the back, stopped paddling, the wind was catching the back of the canoe and starting to spin it around. I'm not strong enough to steer the boat by myself in the front when it's this windy.

Weather looks changeable

There's a bit of blue sky up there
The waves got bigger and bigger as we flew down the lake. At times we'd be on the crest of a wave as it was travelling and it felt like we were surfing. We got to the bridge and I already knew about the rock. We avoided that, I aimed for the tongue of water and we sailed through without any mishap. L.T. wanted to turn around, go up the swift again so we could ride it again, but I wasn't having any of that.
Loon ahead

He pays us no attention

He's loving the wavy ride
I get a bit nervous at times in the canoe and I was starting to feel more anxious. We had 2/3rds of the lake to paddle still. We didn't see a single other person on the lake, not even a motorboat. It took us just 2 hours to get to the access point and we were pretty much the only people there. A car pulled out just before we landed. So we had plenty of room to sort out our stuff.
That's cold water pushing us down the lake

It's hard to tell how big these waves actually are
L.T. went and got the car. We loaded it up putting the canoe on last. He finds it very hard to drive sometimes if the canoe is low in the front so we tried tying it back further. Well, that didn't work very well. As we were driving down the dirt road out of Achray, one of the front ties came loose from under the chassis of the car and it swung around and hit the passenger window, then the windshield. L.T. pulled over and tied it back on, making it tighter. He had to tighten all the straps a couple more times during our ride home. Fortunately neither window broke.

I found an A&W in Pembroke, using Google, but realized when we were almost there that it wouldn't be open today as it was in the food court of a mall. Oops. We headed in the other direction on the main street and ended up at a Harvey's. Google led us astray again when we were trying to get back to the highway as the road it wanted us to use was closed over a bridge. At least we had no pressing need to hurry.

We got home to black clouds hanging over Ottawa. It wasn't raining at L.T.'s while we unloaded, I was hoping it'd be dry at my place too. It was. And I was able to carry everything up my 3 flights of stairs in one go. Except later I realized my camera was still in the car and I wanted to see my pictures, so I made an extra trip for that. After a long bath. I've got a few bug bites, but not many. It was a good trip, except for not having a nice long hike. Oh well, it was raining anyways.

Day one                               Day two

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Trip Log - Grand Lake: May 20 to 22, 2017 - Day 2

I tossed. I turned. I got up and went to the bathroom. Twice. Which leads to a big effort to get back into the double-bag sleeping system, on top of the narrow air mattress, without letting too many bugs in with you. I heard everything. Every twig snap, every loon call, every peeper peep. That first night it's tough to settle in and just relax. It was probably after 2:30 before I really fell deeply asleep. I could actually feel it warming up slightly around 2 a.m. I wasn't jumping out of bed too early this morning. 

In fact, L.T. got up before me. I waited until I could hear him wander off to get the food bag that was hung north of our site. Our hammocks were on the south part of the site. Then I dragged my butt out of bed.

The forecast was for rain today and a lot of it. Up to 10mm of rain was coming. I had forgotten my hiking poles in the car when we were unpacking at the launch. And if we wanted to do a decent hike, we'd have to go out into the canoe to somewhere else, there were no trails accessible from where we were camped.

Various photos of deadfall around the campsite

It was a slow morning. We were sharing the teabags as I had only brought 6 and L.T. had forgotten his. This was the only thing he'd forgotten, which is pretty good. Breakfast was fresh eggs and bacon. He had brought a half dozen so we ate three eggs each. He cooked three at a time and did not break a single yolk! We had brought along his pot set this trip.

I chopped up the potatoes and carrots from the night before and fried those up as hash browns. L.T. reheated the bacon he cooked ahead of time. We both like our bacon differently, so he cooks half the way I like it (less cooked and chewy) and half the way he likes it (crisp). And he buys the thick bacon at Loblaws, which makes any other bacon seem like lace.

It was probably about 10:30 by the time we finished breakfast. I did the dishes and we just relaxed for a while. The rain hadn't started yet. I didn't broach the subject of a hike. I wasn't feeling up to doing anything really strenuous after not sleeping well last night. And I know it would be harder for me to walk over uneven ground without my hiking poles. 
Potty sign that wasn't near the potty
The potty, wasn't a great one but functional
Around 12:30 L.T. suggested we take a walk to the north of our campsite where he'd hung the bear bag the night before. It was on the edge of a field. We were camped on a site that had been a depot farm in the days when they were logging and using the lakes to transport the logs. Off we went, it wasn't far. We started wandering around the field. One of the first things we noticed were the abundance of raspberry canes. With this big open space, they had a lot of room to grow. Interesting. You know, I think bears like raspberries, right? And then we came upon a big pile of poop. Then another one. And another one. We saw about a dozen at least and some of it was more recent than others. Nothing steaming, thank God, but I'm pretty sure it was bear poop. I think I even saw some fur in a couple of piles. 

We didn't really wander around much after encountering all that excrement. I asked L.T. if it was tempting fate to hang the bear bag that close to the field. His theory was that if the bear wanted the food that he could have it and he wouldn't have to go through us to get it. Point well taken. And if a bear did get the food, we'd just pack up and paddle back down the lake anyways. 
Marshy area past the potty where the peepers were hanging out
We wandered back to our campsite and I started another fire. We kept it burning for a while. While we were sitting in the bug shelter I noticed some movement in the forest. A mammal of some sort hopped over a log then came to a stop when he spotted us. He quickly turned tail and ran. We didn't get a good look at him but after googling pictures of various animals that are in the area, I really think it was a fisher. L.T. thinks it was a skunk. He had a bushy tail and cat-like movements, and was about the size of a medium dog.

We also heard a nearby grouse trying to drum up interest. I'm not sure how far away he was, the low vibrations of his breast-beating were distinctly audible. We never spied him, but we heard his presence all weekend.

The rain started up and I decided to take a nap. I slept on and off for 4 hours. L.T. puttered around the campsite for a while then decided to nap as well. 

I got up at 5 and started preparations for dinner. Tonight it was lasagna with savory cheese buns and pineapple upside down cake for dessert. First I boiled water and set the dried pineapple rehydrating in my Thermos. I put 3 cups of boiling water in a pot and added the dehydrated lasagna mixture I had put together at home. When we were ready to eat, I'd just heat it up again quickly. I made vanilla instant pudding in my metal coffee mug first with cold water and milk powder, then the pudding powder and put it aside to let it set.

The cheese buns were a recipe I made of buttermilk pancake mix, a dried egg mixture, some dried parsley, garlic powder and onion powder. I had vacuum sealed some cheddar cheese that I diced up into tiny pieces with my new Leatherman knife I had gotten for my birthday. I mixed it all together with some warm water and melted butter. I sealed the bag it was in to let the ingredients blend and possibly rise a bit. 

L.T. got up and after we both relaxed for a bit, I started dinner. He had to make a trip out onto the lake to get more water. We fill a large bag with about 12 litres of water which we then put through a Platypus filtration system 4 litres at a time. We either boil water we cook with or use a Steripen to kill any bacteria in the water we drink. I notice he left without his life jacket, but he wasn't going far off shore. It can be tricky pulling up a fully loaded 12-litre bag of water from the lake into the canoe, it weighs quite a bit. 12 kilograms actually.

I had bought him an alcohol stove as a Christmas gift. He was interested in having one and thought that it would burn nice and slow, perfect for cooking baked goods in the wild. He took it out and set it up. Filling it was a messy affair, fuel spilled all over the place. It basically is the diameter of a Coke can, is just over half an inch high, with a trio of pronged legs that fold out. The center of the stove is a large dimple with a single hole in the bottom. The top diameter has various holes all around it. You just pour the fuel into the dimple and it slowly drains into the stove. 

There are no controls with this stove. You light it and that's it. It runs at the one speed until all the fuel is burned. It takes 15 minutes if filled and it doesn't burn low. We're going to rethink another solution for baking, maybe even using tealights.

We used it to cook the buns and they got a bit burned on the bottom. I flipped them over and put them onto my own stove after I had finished using it for heating the lasagna.
Distinct rain line
The secret to cooking a lot of the dehydrated meals I create is to have a lot of time to let them sit and rehydrate. The longer they sit, the more they become just like they were before they were dehydrated. Some things take longer, like peas and celery, to rehydrate and can be quite chewy or hard. You'd never recognize the pineapple I rehydrate, that it had ever been dried. Starting that before even making dinner is the best timing for it.

The lasagna has in it: ground beef, cooked mini lasagna noodles, spaghetti sauce, mushrooms, corn, peas, carrots, red peppers, and onions. I usually add cheese when serving it, but this time I used the cheese in the buns.

The dessert was put together like this, we each got a serving of the pineapple with some juice, topped with the pudding, then dried angel food cake gets added to the bowl with a topping of shredded coconut. Yum!

The previous night's dessert was banana nut bread pudding. I rehydrate the bananas, then add dried Italian bread crumbs (and small chunks) with chopped walnuts.
This stump has been here a long time
It was raining pretty heavily now. The fire had gone out when we were napping and the pit (and wood) was too wet to start another one. I was tired, despite having the nap, and felt chilled. It was below 10 degrees again tonight. I just wanted to cocoon myself into my hammock so I went to bed around 9 p.m. L.T. followed me. We chatted back and forth a bit, but I soon fell asleep.

Day one                   Day three

Friday, May 26, 2017

Trip Log - Grand Lake: May 20 to 22, 2017 - Day 1

5 a.m. comes early. It was our agreed-upon time for me to arrive at L.T.'s to load up the car and head out. I was skeptical, L.T. is not an early bird. But when I pulled up at 3 minutes past 5 he had all his kit and his canoe sitting on his front lawn. 
Packed up and ready to go
We loaded the car, tied on the canoe, took the breakfast he had cooked for the both of us and were on the road by 5:30. We made it to the Sand Lake Gate around 7:30 and were launched on the lake by 8:30 a.m. Record time.

It was a busy launch site. A Boy Scout troop were readying for their launch. Adults were shouting orders and it was mayhem, with the eager ones at the beach ready to help, others were off doing whatever it is that young boys do when left unattended. We were able to easily get the canoe off the car and all the gear out before the Boy Scouts were even remotely organized.
All those canoes are going in the water

Access point rush hour
Our corner of the launch area

So calm, right?
There was a breeze and for some heavenly reason it was at our backs. A breeze in this direction is a rarity on Grand Lake, but we were going with it. It was a sunny day without a cloud in the sky and warm enough for the time of year. We were hoping to go to the top of the lake and get the same campsite we had last May long weekend. Last year we left on Friday morning and today was Saturday. There was a chance that others had already gotten on the lake yesterday.
Windy, but at our backs

Not all leaves have sprouted yet
I was nervous thinking about the swift under the train track bridge. The very first time we went up that swift in 2014, it was really high and flowing very fast. Last year the water was very low and it was a different challenge trying not to hit any rocks. This year it was almost perfect. Enough water to not be in danger of hitting any rocks (except a big one on the upper side that was quite visible with all the red canoe paint stripes on it) and not so much that it was flowing crazy fast.

The whole lake squeezes through this narrow passage

My nemesis, the mighty swift under the train bridge!

I know, it doesn't look like much

We were able to get up the swift in one try, but I have to confess my arms were burning after the effort. Getting through wasn't tough, but once on the other side it took a fair amount of effort to continue to move forward.

Through the bridge
Shortly after this section L.T. spotted something in a far off bay to our right. We circled back and were able to see a moose. He didn't look very big, maybe a one-year old male? We paddled a bit closer to see, but not very close so we wouldn't bother him.
That brown dot is a moose, really truly
Ahead of us there was one canoe with a couple of avid fishermen. I imagine the Boy Scouts headed off in a more southerly direction. There aren't many campsites on the northern part of the lake and once past the bridge there are only three that are quite far apart.

After our moose siting, it was time to go claim our site. Of the three sites, the first one on the left has a nice frontage facing south down the lake. We had stopped and checked it out last year and it was very shallow. We would not have enough room to put up our bug tent and the hammocks would be crowded. L.T. was very disappointed last year, he really thought this spot would be the bomb. We didn't even glance at it while passing it this year. 

The site at the top of the lake, our favourite, is several bays past the first campsite. I have now named them "Deception Bay", "More Deceptive Bay", and "Desparation Bay". Finally we were around the last corner and our hearts sank. Someone had claimed the site. Also there were people camped on a knoll across the lake from them on a space that was not a campsite. Last year there was a guy with a motorboat camping there with his kids (he kept yelling a lot at them). When we were checking in this year I made sure to ask if there was a new campsite there as we had seen someone camping there the previous year. There isn't.

Well, someone else was using the non-site this year again. We turned and went across a wide bay to the third campsite, which we had scoped out last year. It's next to a marshy area and we suspected it would be a crappy site but were pleasantly surprised when we checked it out last year. So that's where we ended up.
The landing at our site

Good thing we already knew where the site was
It had taken us about two and a half hours to get to this point. Including the time to check out the moose and for the extra paddle to check out the occupied campsite.

We got out and inspected our new home for the next two nights. The site mostly has very tall pine trees with mostly dead branches going up about 40 feet. There's a considerable amount of dead fall on the site. L.T. had bought 2 bags of wood at the gate. Grand Lake has some very busy sites and deadwood is hard to find. Not on this site apparently. 

The fire pit is a round metal ring, very tough, it looked like it was made specifically for this purpose. Some wood was piled up beside the pit. We added our two bags. The fire pit had a couple of log benches and a nice view of the lake.

Further up the site, there's a table. It looks relatively new, probably added this spring, but whoever made it didn't lash down any of the cut branches. Also it's very high, which is okay for L.T. 

The decision-making started - where to put the bug shelter, where to hang the hammocks. It was an easy choice for the bug shelter. There aren't a lot of flat spots here and the one for the bug shelter was in a great spot. Not close to the fire pit (sparks are its enemy) with a nice view of the lake. 

The initial spot we chose for the hammocks got changed. Just as well, I usually need several attempts at hanging my hammock anyways. We knew that it would probably rain on Sunday, so L.T. wanted to hang the hammocks close enough together that he could also put a tarp over the middle. We got both the hammocks up, then the bug shelter, then it was time for lunch.

L.T. packed lunch for us. We had various cold meats with cheese, cut pear and apple and green grapes. We ate lunch a bit later, around 1:30. Then we slowly took out all our kit, filling up the shelter. I got a new chair this year, Santa gave it to me, and I love it. It's much higher than my old chair, so it's way easier to get up out of after sitting on my butt all day.

We had a resident woodpecker, we named him Woody, he regularly visited several trees right by the bug shelter and he'd peck away then sing. There was also a resident chipmunk. However we were very respectful and did not feed him. The loons were spectacular. When darkness fell there was so much calling between the two of them. We could hear their calls echoing down the long lake.

This year there weren't as many motorboats interrupting our peace and quiet. They are allowed on this lake. The eager fishermen are usually out this weekend trying to get lake trout and other fish that are in season (I'm not sure which ones).

L.T. started a fire so there'd be embers to cook the fresh dinner he brought. We ate around 6:30, which probably wasn't enough time between meals. And we had only sat on our butts for most of the afternoon. The steaks were huge and I couldn't eat any of the mixed potatoes and carrots that were apportioned to me (that's okay, I chopped them up and made a hash brown medley for breakfast the next day - but I'm getting ahead of myself).

We continued to feed the fire and after the sun went down so did the temperatures. I think the magic number is 10 degrees Celsius. Once the temperature goes that low the bugs all go to sleep. We spent some time around the fire and ended up going to bed around 10:30. The peepers had started up, we were close to a marshy area and they'd be plentiful. I had brought earplugs, but once in my hammock, I wasn't sure where they were.

Sleeping in a hammock is a different challenge than sleeping in a tent. I feel a bit more secure in a tent with L.T. next to me to scare off all the wildlife. Sleeping on the ground doesn't bother my back, but it bothers his and we've moved to the hammock system. I carry mine, he carries his and the bug shelter. He got me the ultralight hammock system, his is a classic hammock.

In my hammock, I use a mummy-shaped Thermarest, the one I bought with my winnings from the blog contest a couple of years ago. It folds down into a very small size, about 1/3rd the size of my other air mattress. This was the first trip I used it on. I have a reflective pad I put on the mattress, I got it at the dollar store. It's meant for car windshields, but it's perfect for sleeping on. It has a thin foam backing which ensures it sticks very nicely on the air mattress. I have a sleeping bag I love, down-filled. And I also have a throw that I sewed together. I think I need to add some Velcro to it to help close it better.

Getting into the hammock is a challenge. It needs to be hung at a height that you can lift your butt into, but not so low that when you get your full body in it that you're only inches from the ground. When you're getting in, you want to have it open for only a nanosecond so all the bugs flying around you don't come in with you. And you have to place your body so that you can get into your sleeping bag and inner bag liner, not just sit on top of a closed bag. Good luck trying to get all that fabric out from underneath you when you try to climb in the bag. You need to leave the sleeping bag fully unzipped for this contortion.
Not tucked in
Getting settled in the hammock also takes a bit of effort. You can lie on either side or on your back. Depending on how well the hammock is hung (or how poorly), it can seem like you're in a banana shape when lying on your back, which isn't great for comfort. And turning over from one side to the other is a challenge as you need to lift and land on the same small width of the air mattress. It's not just a matter of rolling from side-to-side. And you have to make sure you keep the sleeping bag in the same position. Mine has a hood on it, so it works in only one position. Actually the hood works perfectly with the rounded top of my new air mattress. I tucked it over that and it held pretty well. I also tucked my new pillow under the hook, which was perfect, it really helped keep it in place.

It was cold out and you knew when a limb or your back was off the air mattress almost immediately by the chill. Brrrrr! But once you get comfy, on the right spot, all muffled into the double bag system, it's oh so warm and toasty!

Day two                          Day three

Friday, May 05, 2017

New Kit for 2017 - my stuff

It's almost disappointing to go shopping for new gear, there's not much that we really honestly need. However want and need are two different things and gift giving adds another dimension as well. Most purchases are improvements over something I already have.

Here are some new things I'll be taking with me this year.

A new paddle! LT has treated me by insisting he buy me a nicer paddle that the one I bought a couple of years ago. This new one is gorgeous. The staff at Trailhead Paddle Shack explained all the features and I was sold. It's very lightweight as well (always a big decision factor). The handle is hollow and the blade has a fiberglass coating. 

Winston testing it out far away from water

Here is the link to the paddle:

While we were there I picked up a clothesline. It's not needed for short trips, but for the longer ones, it will come in handy.
I got a new Leatherman multi-use tool. I bought one for LT for Christmas a few years ago and he gave me his old one. But I pester him enough for his because it has a teeny pair of very sharp scissors. So he bought me the same model.

For my birthday I got an amazing new chair. I've been happy with the chair I had already. However this new one sits much higher. I find that sitting in my usual chair or sitting in the canoe, my butt is lower than my knees and after a while it's really hard to stand and move about I'm so stiff. Hopefully this will ease that.

Chair all put together
In 2015 I won a prize from Algonquin Outfitters in a blog contest. Late in the season last fall we drove to Hunstville to get a different view of the park and to visit the store to claim my $100 prize. I selected a new air mattress. This model is mummy-shaped, which is fine as I'll be using it in my hammock. It is lightweight and compresses into something which is probably 1/4 the size of my current air mattress. It's the Thermarest ProLite and weighs 17 ounces.

For Christmas LT picked up a new Thermos for us both. I actually started using mine for my lunches at work. I heat up my lunch at home in a microwave-safe glass container and put it in the pre-heated Thermos to avoid the microwave line-up at the office. It's got a handy folded up spoon that sits inside the top. This will be perfect when having lunch on the move in the park.
My new lunch buddy
The manly size
I bought a new spoon to be used mostly for stirring the pot when cooking. This spoon is available in a regular length or in this longer length. I often find when I'm cooking that I drop my utensil into the mix - a very messy problem. Hopefully this spoon will help.
Pictured with a teaspoon and tablespoon for perspective
At the Outdoor show I picked up a new pillow. It's unique in that it's an inflated pillow but is stretchy, not rock hard, when fully inflated.
Winston always has to approve all camping purchases
It packs pretty tiny. It weighs 85 grams (3 ounces). It was a bit pricey ($30), but comfort when sleeping is worth every penny.

This cute light! Santa gave it to me (wink, wink).

It has a magnetic loop and can dim down to a setting you're happy with. It takes three AAA batteries.

Comparison pictures

Here are my two chairs and my new Thermarest put back into its stuff sack (a minor miracle after having it out all winter and inflated for storage). The one-liter Nalgene bottle is for perspective.

And finally, the two chairs back in their bags. The new chair is larger and heavier, but the increased comfort it will provide is worth the increase.
The new pillow, clothesline and lamp are also in that picture.

Well, I have a lot more new gear than I realized!