Saturday, January 31, 2015

Trip Log: Algonquin Park: Lake of Two Rivers, October 24-26, 2014

For the third year, Algonquin Park has hosted a special fall event for Halloween.  It's held the weekend before actual Halloween, and if you have kids and don't mind the cool (cold) weather, it's definitely worth attending.

First you have to keep in mind there are no reservations taken for sites after Thanksgiving Weekend, so all sites are first come first served.  We had been told by the staff that there were usually only about 30 of the 60 or so sites being used that weekend, so we weren't too worried about getting up super early in the morning.  Squatch had a doctor's appointment Friday morning, so we had most things packed then were going to head up.  That morning I checked online and there were about 35 sites available.  By the time we got home from the doctor's office, there were 11.  By the time we pulled out of the driveway, only 3!  Five minutes later it was down to 2.  We decided to take our chances and head up.  Turned out those 2 sites were being used by staff for their trick or treating station.  But with so many people showing up, and the weather being decent (not freezing and snowing) they opened up parts of Lake of Two Rivers.  The woman told us to head over, pick an empty site, leave something there, then come back and get the permit.  We picked one fairly close to the comfort station but not too close, then headed back.  As we waited for oncoming traffic to pass so we could get back into Mew, a wolf crossed the road!  It happened so fast we didn't get a chance to get the cameras out, but it was really exciting.  We'd seen a wolf before, just a brief glimpse of it on the top of a ridge about 10 feet back into the bush behind where a small moose carcass was, but this was a great view.

Before I get into the trip stuff, I just would like to say that my previous experience in Two Rivers campground wasn't great.  We had a dog almost pee on our tent, people walking through our site all day, and all our neighbours were playing music until nearly midnight (all sorts of songs...from country to East Indian...none of which blend together smoothly to make a sound you'd want to listen to.)  To top it off, there were people partying all night, playing horseshoes until late, and just a lot of those annoying little things that make you wish you were in the back country. You can read the trip report here.

Being there when it's almost empty?  Beautiful!  Wow.  It really is nice camping beneath the tall pines.  Sure there's minimal privacy (none) but when there are maybe 20 sites being used in the whole campground, you don't have to worry.  We didn't have anyone at any sites around us.  Would I go back in the summer?  Not likely, but mid week in the spring or in the fall?  Yeah, for sure.

Wolf at Beaver Pond Trail Parking Lot
As we were setting up the trailer, we realized we'd forgotten coffee.  In our rush and panic over whether or not we'd get a site, we skipped our customary stop at Tim Horton's, so this was a depressing start to the trip.  Mum and I decided to drive to Whitney.  On the way back, as we approached the Beaver Pond Trail, we saw another wolf!  This one crossed the road and stopped on a small rocky ledge.  We pulled into the trail parking lot and it walked to the edge of the grass, posed, crossed the parking lot, posed again, and then disappeared into the trees.  What a treat!

The kids were super excited to get to decorating.  We hadn't brought much since this was our first year and buying a lot of decorations last minute is expensive, but that didn't matter.  They set up their tomb stones, strung up spider lights and came up with grand plans for next year.  While they were doing that, I made up a big pot of spaghetti and we retreated inside to eat.  It wasn't too cold, but still chilly enough to cool your dinner down pretty quick if you eat outside.

After dinner, mum and I took the kids to the Owl Prowl.  This is held at the comfort station parking lot at Mew Lake where a big bonfire was burning with benches set around one side.  David, the naturalist, talked a bit about owls, what makes them unique, how they hunt and what they eat, then we walked out to the air field to see if any would answer to his owl calls.  None did, but it was still a fun time.  We didn't stick around for the bonfire afterwards.  Dad had a fire going at the camp site so we went back to enjoy that.

Before bed, Dad and I took the dogs for a long walk.  Biscuit was a complete nut the whole way up, and didn't settle down until long after the lights had been turned off.

The little electric heater was enough to keep us toasty all night.  We didn't even bother cutting the propane furnace in.  All of us slept well.

I woke up around 7 and took Biscuit for more walking so everyone else could sleep without him being a pain.  We explored, checked out campsites and then headed back.  Breakfast was potato and pepper hash (made with mini gourmet potatoes...the three colour ones) peameal bacon (so much for going vegan...) and one eyed buffalos.  It ended up being a good thing we had a big breakfast, because with so much going on, we really didn't have time to eat the rest of the day.

First was the Skeleton Tour at the visitor's center (the kids ended up eating at the cafeteria) then we went back to camp to finish carving pumpkins.  Some advice for anyone thinking of going next year?  Clean your pumpkins at home...cause pumpkins that have been sitting in the cold makes the job really miserable.  At 3:30 we went back to the Mew Lake comfort station parking lot to watch the costume contest.  Squatch went as Tom Thompson.  It was kind of a last minute thing, as all our preparations for the trip were.  Some of the costumes were pretty amazing.

Next up was finishing the decorations at our site.  Not much was added.  A few more lights, a spider's web and some rats.  Like I said, we had no idea people got so over the top crazy with the decorating.  At 5 Dad and I took the kids to Mew Lake to trick or treat.  There were so few sites at Two Rivers that mum, who stayed behind, only had 13 kids.  I guess not many from Mew came over, if any.

We had a great time checking out the other decorations, it really was an impressive display of creativity.  And so much fun!  We had a quick snack back at camp then headed out for the Wolf Howl.  The dogs stayed in the cars (had to take both because the dogs don't exactly get along...Biscuit annoys Lucky by bunting him with his nose non-stop)  Like with the Owl Prowl, the initial presentation by Dave was informative and funny.  Then we all hiked out to the air field.  Again, no reply from the wolves, but given the noise at Mew Lake earlier (someone was walking around, dressed as a serial killer, revving a chainsaw, and the number of people standing there probably had a big impact.  The wolves would have been stupid to hang around too close.

The Canadian Supernatural Research Society presentation was very interesting too, unfortunately it started to rain.

It was chillier that night, and damp because of the on and off rain.  Also the wind kicked up, fluttering our tarps around.  We'd turned off the heat while we were all gone, so that didn't help, but it didn't take long to warm up and we went to bed.

The morning was actually not too bad.  I got up early and walked Biscuit all around, making notes of what sites I'd like to stay at in the future (in non-busy times) and then headed back.  We decided to just pack up and head out.

We definitely will be doing this again.  The kids had so much fun, and it really was impressive to see the work people had put into their sites.  Next year, we will definitely clean out the pumpkins before hand, and we will pack more snacks since we didn't have time to eat lunch or dinner on the Saturday.  Food that's just heat-and-eat would be good too.  Last year was much colder apparently and they had snow and freezing rain, so we should probably bring snow pants too.

I'm going to do a separate post with pictures of the decorated sites. There was just too much to put into a trip log.

Trip Log: Algonquin Park: Lake of Two Rivers, August 1-3, 2011

This was my parents first camping trip in years, probably since I was 6 or 7.  We'd been so excited after our first trip to Algonquin a few weeks previous that my mum, who has always loved camping, decided we should go again. We went online and booked one of the last sites available for the dates we wanted to go. Chris was helping his parents move north of Huntsville, so we planned for him to join us for the second night. 

We arrived at 2 and got our permit, then went straight to the Visitor's centre for lunch.  I guess that was kind of a cheat, but mum loves going to the cafe there.  It's gotten now, so that the ladies that work there will take a break and chat, but that's not part of this trip.

Once we got back to our site we set up and immediately realized we'd forgotten some things.  Mum and the kids biked to the Two River's Store to get a foot pump so we could blow up the air mattresses while dad and I set up the tents and screen tent.  Our site wasn't great, but we weren't expecting it to be.  It was the monday of a holiday weekend and there wasn't much available.  It was at the point where two roads meet up, so it had little privacy.  

Pumping up the mattresses didn't take long, so we biked down to the lake and had a swim, then came back and made dinner.  The kids had chicken drumsticks, while dad and I had foil wrapped chicken with potatoes, carrots, and mum used ground beef instead of chicken.  We also made brussels sprouts with butter in foil and caesar salad.  The little BBQ mum had bought didn't work very well, and burned through a lot of propane making just that meal.

Usually, up until now, Chris had done all the cooking because I didn't know how to hook up the stove, but on this trip, I did most of it.  It was kind of an aha moment for me, knowing I could take the kids camping myself and handle all the stuff that needs to be done.  Of course, looking back, it was the beginning of me doing ALL the cooking when it's just the four of us, and I haven't managed to convince anyone that the cook shouldn't  have to do the dishes.

We biked to the store for ice cream, then mum, dad and the kids played crazy eights.   Once it got dark we had a fire, toasted some marshmallows and went to bed.

It was cold sleeping on the air mattress.  To save space I had brought my backpacking sleeping bag and I wasn't warm at all.  Bubbie and I got up at 7 and went for a walk.  When we got up, the others were starting to stir.  

Breakfast was bacon, eggs and maple baked beans for the adults and chocolate Cheerios for the kids.  After cleaning up, we headed out on our bikes and did about 3km of the Old Rail Trail.  The blueberries in the old air field were plentiful and people were everywhere filling little bowls with them.

After we got back to camp, we had a snack then went for a swim, then had lunch of hot dogs.  Dad had a bit of a headache so we let him sleep and walked down to the Two River's Interpretive Trail.  There were hardly any bugs but after all our biking our legs were pretty sore.  It was also pretty hot so as soon as we got back we went for another swim.

We had spaghetti for dinner.  Chris got there just before nine, having gotten a little lost in the campground trying to find the site in the dark.  Immediately, the kids asked him to make Jiffy Pop.  We got a good fire going, with wood that was actually dry (if you've camped in an Ontario Park you'll know that's practically a miracle.)  Everyone else went to bed shortly after that.  Squatch actually fell asleep on the picnic table and had to be carried to bed.  Chris and I stayed up and talked for a bit.  It was pretty noisy both nights.  Lots of radios, guys playing horseshoes until 11pm, dogs barking.  At one point the first day, someone's dog almost peed on our tent before the guy came and grabbed it.

We woke to light rain so we just headed to the Two River's store for coffee and hot chocolate.  Bubbie ended up puking hers up when we later went to the visitor's centre for lunch.  The kids got to do the children's program for the first time, which was a lecture on bear safety.

Despite a few issues (like making multiple runs to the store for things we forgot - air pump, washing bin, soap etc) the experience was good.  Mum and Dad had a great time, and if you've read any of the newer trip logs on this site, you'll see we go camping with them often.  Mum gets just as giddy as me about booking a trip.

As you can see, I'm trying to write up old trip logs.  Some I have notes for, some I can't remember more than the basics so I might not bother writing anything for them.  I'll have to see.  Unfortunately, I can't seem to find pictures from these older trips.  I'll publish the write up and then add in pictures later when I figure out which computer/cd/thumbdrive they are hiding on.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Trip Log: Algonquin Park: Pog Lake, July 8-10, 2011

This was officially our first time camping in Algonquin Park.  Up until now, we would attend Bolerama, a gathering of people with campers like ours.  It had been held at Emily Park for many years, but last year, which marked some anniversary in the history of Boler Campers, the event was being held way up north.  Bolerama is fun, and we always enjoyed ourselves, but most of the other people there were retired couples, except for us and our friends, Shawn and Andrea.  Since the plan was to convoy to New Liskard (where the Boler's had been made) and set up camp in Walmart parking lots, we elected not to go.

Since we'd missed our trip with them last year, and this year's Bolerama was being held down by Niagra Falls, we decided to have our own Boler weekend.  Shawn and Andrea had been camping in Algonquin many times and recommended Pog Lake.

Picking a weekend and booking our sites took a bit of time, but finally we were on our way.  As I'm writing this trip log, it's been a few years since the actual trip, but I remember we all met up in Minden and drove up together.  I was crazy excited.  I'd grown up so close to Algonquin and had never gone there as a kid.  We'd only recently started going up for day trips.

We arrived at the Pog Lake gate and the guys went in to get the permits and we made our way to our campsites.  We didn't have the best sites, but they were pretty decent.  Ours had a view of the water, and Shawn and Andrea had a site with better privacy.  The first night, most of the sites around us were empty, which was annoying since they were really nice and big where ours were kind of small.  Our campers were small, but with four little kids running around between us, a bit of room for them to run around would have been nice.

The first thing we did was walk to one of the beaches.  The kids waded in a bit, then it started to look like it might storm so we headed back.  The storm ended up producing one flash of lightening, a few minutes of light rain, then it was gone.

We made hot dogs for dinner.  Shawn and Andrea had forgotten a lot of their stuff.  I'm pretty sure this was the year they'd left their trailer at our house, went to the cottage for the week, then came and hooked up the camper. Planning for back to back trips like that was a bit of a challenge I guess and things like a stove got forgotten.  We had a campfire and s'mores.  Chris and Shawn played some hackey sack, then catch, then played guitar until it got too dark.

Bubbie and I got up at 7 to go for a walk while everyone else slept.  It was really foggy on the lake.  We ended up walking half the campground before anyone else got up (this is pretty typical though) The kids tried fishing with little success.

After breakfast, we went to the visitor centre and had lunch, then did the Big Pines Interpretive Trail.  It was really buggy.  The pines were impressive, but with the youngest of the group being at that age where she wouldn't hold hands or allow herself to be carried, we ended up getting eaten alive moving at her slow pace.

When we got back to camp, we went swimming.  There were lots of people out in canoes.  Some were sitting facing each other and one guy was standing up to paddle.  It was really weird and we kept watching waiting for him to fall.  He didn't though.  Must have been a very stable canoe.

After dinner, we went to the Two River's Picnic area to fish.  They had no luck so we headed back to the Pog Lake beach and the kids each caught a rock bass.  We had another camp fire and the guys made jiffy pop.  Despite warnings not to make it over an open fire, it turned out really well.

People showed up to fill up the empty sites around us sometime during the day.  Someone nearby was singing opera.  This was also my first experience with waiting in line in the comfort station for girls to put on makeup…at 9pm.  It's dark out!  Unfortunately, this seems to happen to me every time we go to Pog Lake.

Chris got up early the next morning so he could fish a bit without the kids.  At this age, they still needed him to bait their hook every five minutes so he took the opportunity to fish a bit himself.  We ate breakfast, then packed up.  Before leaving the park, we headed to the Logging Museum Trail.  There were hardly any bugs and no rocks to trip up little feet so it wasn't as frustrating as the day before.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

January Blahs?

I love this time of year…okay maybe love is stretching it a bit.  It's cold and snowy.  Our chances to get out and do stuff are limited by the kids being in school and my husbands work schedule.  But it's also the time of year when I can start booking camping trips.  Ontario Park's sites can be booked 5 months in advance.  To save you doing any math, that means it's possible to book the first week of summer vacation!

It just kind of makes camping season seem so much closer.

I still haven't managed to convince the hubby that winter camping might be a fun thing.  He'd be willing to try it in our Boler camper, but our towing car is in need of some important repairs.  Ah, I'll keep working on it.

So, as I sit at my computer, it's snowing outside and I've got a mug of tea, planning all the fun trips for the coming summer…Here's hoping for an early spring, a moderate bug population that actually dies off at the expected time, and lots of paddling.