Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Trip Log: Oastler Lake Provincial Park - August 22-24, 2016

Sunday night before our vacation started, we still hadn't decided what we were going to do.  I wanted to do a longer back country trip, the kids suddenly decided they were afraid of canoe camping, and wanted to just relax in the Boler, and Chris seemed to have no opinion on the subject at all.

After scoping out all the possible trips we could do in Algonquin where we could stay on an access lake, or only one portage in, we quickly realized there weren't a lot of sites available that met those requirements, or the portage would be a long one, at which the kids again put their foot down.

Finally we decided to do two nights of Boler camping, then leave the kids to visit my parents, and Chris and I would do two nights of canoe camping...again, not having an actual destination in mind.  At about midnight, we decided to check out Oastler Lake Provincial Park, since there was one waterfront site available and it wasn't ridiculously far to drive (read previous trip logs to hear more about our misadventures towing the Boler over longer distances.)

Packing for two trips, with radically different needs was a bit of a struggle but we were out of the driveway by about 1:30pm, surprisingly in good spirits.  This whole last minute packing for a trip always makes me crabby but I managed to stay up beat this time.  We weren't in a big rush, we had a site booked, and we would be exploring a new park.  All good things.

There was a few minutes of concern as we went through Bala.  There is a place where you turn left and immediately go over some railroad tracks.  In the gap between the tracks, the road has sunk and the trailer hitch bottomed out and sounded like it might have been damaged.  Chris got out and checked it out and all was fine.  This, coincidently, is where the whole hitch ripped off the frame on one side on our aborted trip to Grundy Lake last year.  Once we made it past the little park by the police station, where we'd stopped before and realized the state of the hitch, we all relaxed a little bit.

table with a view: Oastler Lake Provincial Park
We arrived at the site just before dinner time.  Our first impression was that the site was very small and not very private, but what it lacked in those areas, it made up for in scenic views.  We parked the Boler just at the edge of a meter high cliff where a picnic table was perched.  Down the hill was our own little slice of waterfront, where we could launch a canoe or go swimming.  Unfortunately, the whole time we were there it was extremely windy, so we didn't even take the canoe off the roof of the car.

Dinner that night was veggie burgers and salad, which we ate on our table with a view.  The sunset wasn't spectacular, but the stars were bright and many.  After the kids went to bed, Chris and I went down and just enjoyed the peace...I saw a shooting star.

Unfortunately, peace at Oastler Lake is a fleeting thing.  While the campground was surprisingly quiet given how close together the sites were, the trains going by all day and night was anything but tranquil.  For Chris, who had lived for a few months in a town where trains went by that frequently, it was extremely annoying.  For me and the kids, it was kind of a novelty...that made it hard to get a good night's sleep.

Oastler lake has no hiking trails, and with the wind up, we didn't feel like canoeing so we pretty much just relaxed all the next day.  Chris took a nap, played ukulele, and the kids read and drew.  I woke up that morning with a doozy of a cold, so I was quite content to lay in a chair with my feet up and just do nothing.  That worked for a while, but we somehow are down to only two chairs...and guess who also really likes to sit in them and relax...

Can you tell who has pull in this family?
We did walk around the campground and checked out the park.  I took Squatch to the beach, then shortly after we got back, Chris took both kids down for a swim. We saw a water snake sunning itself on the rocks at our site.  I tried to take a picture but it got into the water and then kept poking it's head up at us before swimming away.  It was just one of those trips where you don't do anything...and it was awesome.  In fact, we were so lazy, we ended up driving into Parry Sound for dinner rather than cook.  Okay, part of the reason for this was that in our frenzy of packing, I didn't realized I'd brought pasta for both lunch and dinner.
water snake just off shore at our site

 We actually contemplated staying for another day, but in the end, Chris and I decided we did want to go canoe camping, and so the next morning, after coffee and bagels, we packed up and headed to my parents house to drop off the kids and the Boler.

Our feelings on this trip were a bit mixed.  The park itself was nice, though the sites were small and lacking in privacy.  The trains kept everyone from sleeping, but then again, so did Biscuit.  The comfort stations were great, and there really isn't anywhere that you aren't close to them (maybe the river side lots?)

Some of the river side lots were better for privacy, but calling the little creek a river was stretching it a bit.

I think, over all it was a good trip.  And I think I could convince Chris to go back again, provided he got some ear plugs.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Day Trip: High Falls Trail - Southern Algonquin Park, July 4, 2016

There's a lot of information out there on Algonquin's hiking trails, most of which covers the interpretive trails along the Highway 60 Corridore.  We've done a good chunk of those trails, but not many of the others...come to think of it, we hadn't done any of them before now.  Our trip to Achray a few years back had been too buggy for Mum who has bad reactions to all types of bug bites so we ended up not doing any trails.

My brother, Jeremy's visit had to include some kind of trip to Algonquin.  While he wasn't all that keen on camping, a day trip with good photography opportunities was okay.

The plan was to do the High Falls Trail, near the Kingscote Lake access because neither he, nor my parents had been there before.  The trail is fairly short (about 2km each way) and we hoped it wouldn't be very busy.  We packed a picnic and headed out.

Chris and I had taken the kids to Kingscote for a few nights of camping, so we knew generally where we were going, and finding the parking area for the trail head was pretty easy.  With several pounds of camera gear weighing us down, we got started.

High Falls in Southern Algonquin
The majority of the trail is very easy.  It's flat, not many rocks or roots to trip you up, and is pretty shady.  Once you get to where the trail approaches the river though, things change.  Watch your footing for sure.

There's lots of odd rock formations to photograph, as well as the falls.  Jeremy's new model of iPhone lets you do slow motion video, then set it as your lock screen.  When he holds his finger on the screen, it plays the video.  Mine doesn't do that, but it does let me take slow motion video.
High Falls itself is lovely but stopping to take pictures ended up being very buggy, so we didn't stay as long as we would have liked.  Once back at the cars, we headed to the Kingscote Lake access and had a picnic.  There were no other cars in the parking lot, and nobody at any of the walk in sites.  It being so close to Canada Day we had expected at least some people to be around.

After lunch, we stopped at the Pine Grove Point Campground for ice cream and cold drinks.  Just a nice relaxing day in Algonquin.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Trip Log: Six Mile Lake Provincial Park, August 12-14, 2015

I can't believe I didn't write up this trip log when we first got back!  This was a doozy, not because the actual trip was memorable, but because of the chaos that led to us going here rather than to Grundy Lake as we had planned.

As I recall now (a year later) we had planned to spend 3 nights at Grundy Lake.  We loaded up the boler and headed out.  Just past Bala, we noticed the Boler was bouncing a little more than usual so we pulled into a little park (right beside a police station) and Chris looked under the car.  The passenger side of the trailer hitch had snapped off of the frame.  There was no way we could continue like this, so we called my parents, and got them to meet us in Gravenhurst.  Chris tied the hitch to the frame with an extra tie down strap.  He was convinced it was good to go and we could keep going.

We made it to the Canadian Tire in Gravenhurst with no problems.  Mum and dad were going to lend us their tent.  We took the extra foam mattress that we put on our bed, then picked up a few pool floats that are full length for the kids to sleep on.  After an hour or so, Mum and Dad showed up, and we ended up having to pick up an adaptor or something so the trailer could be hooked up to the truck's electrical (I think his maybe wasn't long enough?)

And out we go, expecting to get there late but still planning to head to Grundy Lake.

At EXACTLY the same spot where we pulled over to check out the problem, the phone rang.  The Boler had blown a tire and Mum and Dad were stranded on the side of the road (between Bracebridge and Carnarvon...not exactly anywhere with help nearby.) so we turned back around, stopped in Gravenhurst again to pick up a spare tire as well as a pump incase the spare could be used...then we could take the new tire back.  I called Grundy Lake and cancelled the reservation (losing 90% of the fee I think)

We find them and begin the task of changing the tire.  We got the old spare from the back of the Boler on, and everyone is sure it's ok (except me, cause I can hear it hissing) and we head out, stopping 2 more times to put more air in the tire.  We ended up camping that night in the driveway at Mum and Dad's house.  The next morning, we headed to Six Mile Lake.  (BTW, the trip ended up costing us about $1000 between new tires (both tires were really bad and had to be replaced) a new trailer hitch, lost fees, and the fees for the two nights at Six Mile.  And that doesn't include gas and groceries.

It should also be noted that had we kept going with the hitch tied to the frame, the tire likely would have blown when we were on Highway 69 and going at much higher speeds than Dad would have been driving down a dark country road.

After all that, the two nights at Six Mile Lake seemed pretty tame.  We went out for a paddle on the lake, checked out some cool cottages and just relaxed.  There are a few nice beaches as Six Mile Lake.  At the day use area we saw a very large garter snake at the waters edge as we were landing the canoe.  We left it alone but there were two boys who were determined to catch it in a bucket and take it back to camp.  They managed to catch it, much to their parents horror, and were made to release it right away.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Trip Log: Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Park: July 8-9, 2015

I'll admit, I was kind of dreading this trip.  The kids and Chris love the site we had before on Fishog Lake but the paddle across Head Lake can be a pain, and the portage is hard on the knees.  We were also terribly disorganized, it being our first canoe trip of the year, and I was already cranky before we left home after having so much trouble finding things.

Head Lake was calm and we made good time.  We didn't even get dive bombed by gulls.  We did, however, have an issue once we got onto the river.  Biscuit was surprisingly calm after the first few minutes, then all of a sudden Chris asks why the dog has a third testicle.  Before I could say what?  he yells that the dog has poop hanging from his butt that he's trying not to release.  Unfortunately, he couldn't quite hold it and ended up pooping a little in the canoe.  I could already tell it was going to be an interesting trip.

Just realized how this could look bad...
We didn't arrive on Fishog until probably 5pm, and saw quickly that the site across the lake from the one we wanted had a tent on it.  I also saw a canoe rounding the point and thought we were going to lose our site.  I was dreading dealing with the others being upset and getting blamed for it because it had taken so long to get ready.   The other canoe had moved on and our site was empty, much to everyone's relief.

As I was unloading the canoe, I heard a big splash and realized Chris had just jumped in the lake.  Squatch quickly followed.

Still kind of grumpy from earlier, I set about getting organized.  We were too late for the lunch I'd planned, we decided to snack and make dinner.   Bubbie and I went out in the canoe to pump water, and paddled to the next point where we saw a father and son setting up.  I  guessed that they were the canoe I saw rounding the point as we first arrived.

 I started cooking while Chris and Squatch set up the tent.  As I was cooking, I couldn't shake my bad mood.  I think it had to do with the fact we had another trip planned for right after we got back and then the kids would be at my parents for a week, while Chris and I stopped on the way home to do another canoe trip.  All I kept thinking about was all the stuff I had to get ready for the second trip, third trip and the kids stay, and Chris mentioning he'd rather work and us skip our night of camping alone.

I mentioned to Bubbie and she agreed us staying 2 nights here was going to mean a huge hassle and as we ate, spaghetti with Italian seasoned bannock, we talked Chris into cutting it to one night.  I felt a bit better after that.

As I was cleaning up, Chris went to hang the rope for the food barrel, and Squatch fished from shore.  He caught a good sized small mouth bass.  I didn't get a picture, unfortunately.  After that he kept snagging on rocks so Bubbie and I would have to go out and rescue his lure.  This happened about every 5 minutes so finally Chris took him and Bubbie and the dog out to fish in the canoe.  They didn't catch anything.

Biscuit doesn't like the water, but he loves the canoe. The kids kept throwing a tennis ball for him, just far enough into the water that he'd have to go to his belly to get it.  He managed it sometimes, but sometimes it went to far and he refused to get it.  But Bubbie took the canoe out once and he ran out to chest depth and jumped in with her.  At some point, Chris tried to toss Biscuit into water a little deeper than his chest and after that, if Chris went near the water, Biscuit hid under the little table where we were cooking.  He also tried to get under the tent fly like he had at Kingscote last year but the fly on the bigger tent wasn't really effective for him to use as cover.

Chris got a fire going, but there wasn't much wood around.  He found a few dead, fallen trees but they were punky and damp from all the rain we'd been getting.  The fire was just enough to roast  a few marshmallows then the bugs came out in swarms so we doused it and headed into the tent.  Squatch and I spent a while playing a game on my phone while we all listened to a loon, some bull frogs and a whipporwhil.

The mosquitoes buzzing around the outside of the tent was overwhelming, and I think we all felt a little trapped knowing if we went out we'd be attacked.  Biscuit wasn't happy at all, and paced most of the night.  After a while the buzzing faded and the night was very quiet.  The frogs, loon and whipporwil only made noise every little while, but there were no other night sounds, no crickets, no small animals rustling in the bushes.  It was a little unnerving.  I occasionally heard voices across the lake, but for the most part it reminded me of a horror movie where there's a terrifying monster and all the natural sounds of the forest stop because nature knows there is a dangerous predator near by.

As usual, the kids talked in their sleep and both managed to get themselves turned around in the tent.  At one point, Bubbie was sideways with her head near my butt.  I was just about to wake her up and get her back on her sleep pad when she nudged me then started punching my bum as hard as she could.  Between that and Squatch flopping around and smacking me with his arms, I didn't get much sleep.

Biscuit got me up shortly before sun rise so he could pee.  Then we all went back to sleep.  I finally got up around 9 and the kids and Chris soon followed.  Bubbie and I paddled out to pump some water and decided to go across the lake to see if there really was someone at the site there.  It had looked like the top of a tent was visible as we arrived the previous day but sometimes shadows can play tricks on you.  There was someone there, and from the other side of the point we could clearly see the tent, screen tent, canoe and a man sitting safe from the bugs drinking his morning coffee.

Sunset on Fishog Lake
We had oatmeal and coffee, cleaned up and went for a paddle to see the next lake in.  Biscuit again made a nuisance of himself, but settled down after a few minutes.  We crossed Fishog and went through a bit of marshy area before coming to the 40m portage into Round Lake.  The plan was to go to the campsite there and have a picnic lunch.  The site was dismal.  It was just a small clearing with a fire pit, I don't even know where you'd put a tent.  There were a half dozen or so fishing boats cached there, and a good pile of fish remains.  We sat at the dock, ate, checked out the waterfall, then headed back to pack up.
The kids enjoying the sunset

Chris started getting all the gear in the tent packed up while I made lunch.  I figured the more food we ate the lighter the barrel would be so the kids had Mr. Noodles with beef jerky and vegetables and I rehydrated some hummus to eat with crackers for Chris and I.  Somehow, the barrel ended up being just as full as it had been and just as heavy.

It was about 4:30 by the time we left and a bit of a breeze had picked up.  We pushed off from shore, hoping we wouldn't be dealing with a rough Head Lake.

Cottagers were out on Fishog, tubing and having a good time.  Its a nice area to have a cottage, the kind of area I'd want for a cottage.  Don't get me wrong, there are a lot more beautiful lakes but most of them are lined with cottage after cottage and the lakes can get noisy with all the boat traffic.  I'd much rather have a cottage on a quiet lake.

The paddle back across Head Lake was a little rough.  Not nearly as bad as last year's trip, but there were still some good sized waves to contend with.  We made it back in decent time and headed home to reorganize our gear for a car camping trip in Algonquin Park.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Trip Log: Algonquin Park: Rock Lake, May 4-6, 2015

May the Force Be With You!  I guess the Force was with us, because things fell into place for us on this trip.  We thought we were going to be delayed on departure day (May 4th) because Bubbie's school concert band was supposed to have an event all day and she couldn't miss it.  Luckily for us, something got messed up and at the last minute, it got delayed 2 weeks!  Yay!

We'd planned to eat lunch at the campsite but we were all hungry, so when we stopped at Two Rivers Store for drinks, we handed out the sandwiches/pizza buns and ate on the way.  The weather was a bit grim looking, with grey skies and the odd sprinkle of rain but we were hopeful we'd get set up before it got really wet.

We managed to get up to our campsite at around 1pm, and it was just starting to spit rain.  We put the tent trailer up by throwing a tarp over it so we could then stay dry while we raised the roof and pulled out the ends.  At one point after everything was raised, Dad realized he couldn't find the keys so he could get into the little storage area so he could get the two support bars he'd forgotten to get out at the start.  We searched everywhere and eventually started to wonder if they'd been on the roof of the trailer before we cranked it up.  Turned out they were in his back pocket the whole time.

We retreated inside to play Star Wars games to celebrate.  Mum had bought the kids Star War's Day gifts…Bubbie made a comment about not understanding the big deal, because it wasn't like Christmas.  I nearly kicked her out into the rain.

Biscuit was so excited to be there, he was driving us nuts with his need to get out and explore.  We ended up walking him around in the rain (a steady moderately heavy rain now) so we could see how many other sites were in use.  There weren't many, maybe a dozen, if that, at least in the electrical section.  Everyone was spread out, so even though Rock Lake doesn't offer the best privacy, we didn't feel crowded at all.

Mum and I started supper around 4:30.  In honour of this special day we had Bobba Fett-agetti, Endor Salad (caesar salad,) Sarlacc Bread (garlic bread) and Yoda Soda (Mountain Dew.)  For dessert we had Wookie Cookies,  and Exploding Deathstar Cookies.  Mum and Dad offered to do the dishes while Chris and I took the kids out for a paddle.

Now, this is our first time really paddling so early after the ice is out.  The lake was mostly calm, and the wind was minimal, but I still had horrible thoughts of us tipping, and kept trying to get Chris to take us closer to shore.  Chris kept us going straight down the middle of the lake.  And here's where Chris and I have our only canoe difference.  We work really well together in the canoe.  He prefers to paddle on the left, I prefer the right.  We share the load pretty evenly on portages.  We just canoe well together, but he is very much about getting to the end destination and therefore it's straight down the middle of the lake, every time.  Where as I like to go fairly close to the shore.  Not only can we maybe see wildlife, but you actually feel like you're moving, where as out in the middle of the lake it can often feel like you're expending a lot of effort for very little reward.  When we were coming back from High Falls, trying to get back to our site at Achray, paddling into the wind, it might have felt less like we were standing still if we were twenty feet closer to shore.  Just saying.    I know there are times when you are trying to make your distances, or there's a limited amount of time, but when there isn't (like this time) why can't we just explore?  Ugh!

Anyway, when we turned around, we realized the wind had picked up a bit and was now in our faces.  Not bad, but the waves were just at the point where the tops collapse, not quite white caps though.  We made it home without incident and then decided to drive West on Highway 60 and look for moose.  It was about 7:30.  We saw 2 before we even got off Rock Lake Road, and a total of 8 more that night (for a total of 10 that day.  We saw 2 just before we got to the West gate on our way into the park)  After a quick stop at Fisherman's Point for pictures, we headed back to camp.

Since the campground office closed at 4:30 we didn't get any wood, but everyone was pretty tired anyway so we just went to bed.  Our only fairly close neighbours stayed up late talking but it was pretty quiet.  Lots of spring peepers could be heard as well as the odd loon call.  Just a relaxing night in Algonquin Park.

Day 2

Breakfast time at Rock Lake
I was up pretty early, but I didn't check my phone to see the actual time.  I'd been up to go to the bathroom at around 4 and the moon was brilliant, shining on the water.  By the time it got light out, there was lots of fog on the lake.  Biscuit and I walked…a lot.  All around the camp ground, to the boat launch (a quick detour to the garbages to dispose of his morning business) then down to the non-electrical sites.  There were hardly any people there, maybe 3 sites in use?  We got back and still nobody was up, so we walked some more.  I don't think the others got up until 9:30.

Coffee was the first priority, then breakfast.  One-Eyed Buffalos, bacon, potato and pepper hash and maple baked beans (we forgot to cook the beans…again.  That can has been in my mum's camp food bin for like 3 years now.)  After cleaning up, we headed to the East gate looking for moose.  We only saw one.  Chris and I had planned to hike the portage trail into Pinetree Lake but he also wanted to do the Booth's Rock Trail again, and we wanted to go canoeing.  We opted to wait on the portage trail.  Actually we were all originally supposed to hike to Pinetree, but mum had hurt her ankle and was having enough trouble walking around the campground.

Chris and Biscuit on top of Booth's Rock
While the kids went with my parents looking for more moose, Chris and I headed back to Rock Lake to hike Booth's Rock.  There was a tour bus at the office and we thought we should get on the trail quick before a load of people headed out on it too.  Biscuit is a little unpredictable in his desire to protect us, and having to stay ahead of a bunch of people when there's that much tough up hill would have killed me.  As it was, I thought I was going to have a stroke trying to keep up with Chris.  I finally let him carry my camera bag (which he later claimed to barely notice he was carrying…it weighs like 30lbs!  Jerk.)

Time for a rest - Booth's Rock Trail
As it turned out, we only saw 2 other people on the trail, two men at the very top.  We explored the remains of the estate, and ventured a little further along the shore to check out the back country canoe campsite near the ruins.  It doesn't look like a bad site, a big fairly level spot near the fire pit, but the landing looked quite rocky.  That being said, it would probably be a good site for those very late season trips where you might wake up to an iced over lake and have to hike out.
Very glad we were going down these

Biscuit was pretty good about not dragging Chris along, until we got within sight of the car then he nearly decapitated himself pulling so hard on the leash.  He loves the car, if you couldn't guess.

We got back to camp, had a quick lunch of crackers, cheese, meat, apples, a fruit tray and leftover cookies. Mum offered to take the kids out for a little paddle, to check out the river.  While Chris was helping push them off, Biscuit, who hates water, ran right in trying to get into the canoe!  I guess he likes canoeing more than he hates being wet.

I walked the garbage down, taking Biscuit with me, and we detoured to the boat launch.  I figured we could wait for mum and the kids then drop off the bag.  When they pulled up to the little dock, Biscuit again tried to get in the boat, and when I kept him back, he retaliated by peeing on the garbage bag.  I almost got caught with it too but I managed to jump up quickly.

When we got back to camp, we relaxed while waiting for mum to return.  They'd headed out with Squatch in the middle, mum in stern and Bubbie in the bow.  I kind a figured the kids would tire easily and mum would be left paddling alone, but when they came into view we realized Bubbie was in the stern, Squatch was in the bow and Mum was in the middle getting a free ride!

Mum getting a free ride
After that we didn't leave camp until it was time to go home.  The kids pretty much just paddled on their own.  Mum had showed them how to j-stroke and do some other things.  They stayed close to shore but they were out there almost all night except for a break for dinner  and to let Chris take biscuit for a little paddle.

Dinner tonight was in honour of Cinqo de Mayo.  Tacos, quesadillas, southwest salad, and two types of tex-mex rice.  We were all stuffed afterward…okay, the kids still had room in their dessert stomach (kids have a second stomach like cows do…but kids use theirs for desserts)  We had a fire going so they toasted marshmallows, and tried toasting strawberries dipped in marshmallow fluff.  It worked out okay, not as pretty as the pictures online, but they tasted good.

As we made dinner, we kept seeing this odd group of canoes.  Two people would paddle from the non-electrical section, to the river and then return a few minutes later with 2 canoes each pulling another canoe, so four in total.  This happened 3 or 4 times.  We finally realized that when Chris and I came back from our hike earlier and saw lots and lots of tents in the non-electrical section, it was probably a school group and they would likely be departing from there for a canoe trip, hence bringing the canoes to the campground rather than hauling all the group with their gear (and no cars) to the boat launch.  They were a bit rowdy, but not bad.  We heard a few excited shouts as we sat around the fire that night but if it was a school group, I'm actually glad to know they were so excited to be there.  And I admit, I was really jealous.  Why didn't our high school have an outers club or wilderness skills class when I was a teen?  My mum did in high school, and the school our kids will be going to has things like that.  Ugh!

Mum had brought the game Ultimate Werewolf: One Night.  The kids love this game, and were really excited to play, so after the fire was put out, everyone else played while I lay down with Biscuit.  He was pretty wiped out from all the hiking and walking around the camp ground he'd done.  Squatch had also run around the campground roads with him quite a bit, and while we'd gone looking for moose, he ran from side to side in the back seat, popping his head out the window on each side for a minute. (As I'm typing this, he's passed out on the couch.)

While mum and the kids were waiting for us to go in to play Werewolf, mum gave the kids each a scratch ticket.  We always play a "how many moose do you think we'll see" game when we go to Algonquin, and Bubbie won the first day's game. The ticket was her prize.  She won $75!  While Chris and I had been hiking, they'd stopped at Tea Lake Dam for snacks, and a bird had pooped on her hand…you know how people say that's supposed to be good luck?  Apparently it's true.  Squatch was not impressed.

We all slept better the second night, and yet again I got up before everyone else.  Biscuit and I walked some more, but this time, he put is paw down after an hour or so and just sat in the middle of the road, so we headed back to camp and sat for a while.  He desperately wanted back in the trailer to sleep but I didn't want to wake everyone up.  Mum got up shortly after that so I let Biscuit have his way, and mum and I took the canoe out for a paddle.  We checked out some of the cottages on Rock Lake, went up the river but detoured off to where the river passed right by the campground near the outhouses.  We tried to go further but there was a beaver dam and neither of us felt like getting our feet wet when the water was so cold, so we headed back.

Dad had the coffee on by then, and Chris, Biscuit and the kids had walked down to the boat launch hoping to see us but we hadn't gone that far.  We kept breakfast simple, just bagels and coffee/hot chocolate.

While me and mum and dad were packing up, The kids took Biscuit for a little paddle, then brought him back and went out alone again.  Chris took the GoPro and filmed them, when they explored the river section mum and I had gone to earlier.

Nobody wanted to leave.  Other than a bit of rain the first day, we'd had a great trip, but as always it was far too short.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Day Trip: Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands - September 9, 2014

Head River, QEII Wildlands Provincial Park
Since it was such a nice day, Chris and I decided to head out for a paddle and take a picnic lunch.  Our destination was Head Lake, near Norland, where we'd launched for our trip to Fishog about a month ago.  This time, we headed to the northern shore and headed up the Head River towards Smudge Lake.

The paddle on the lake is shorter and as it was a bit windy, we didn't want to make that crossing in rough water again.    We planned to paddle to the first campsite and eat, then get home in time to get the kids off the bus.

odd little campsite on Head River
The paddle to the site took about an hour (wind at our backs on the lake and going with the current)  The Head River goes through a lot of wet lands and the banks are lined with alders and small hard wood trees.

This guy stayed ahead of us all day
The campsite was very small, and we had a hard time figuring out where someone would pitch their tent.  A very large pine had fallen recently (probably in the storm on friday) so maybe it was blocking a good tent pad...not sure.  Also, I couldn't find a trail leading to a thunder box, so I'm not sure if there was one.

It was a nice little paddle.  The wind was pretty strong at times, and you really had to be careful of rock shelves under water!  Once, crossing the lake (a little north of the treed island) and twice on the river, there were shelves of rock about a foot or so below the surface.  With the wind ruffling the water, it was hard to see them, and we could easily have damaged our paddles.  With it being so windy, it was especially an issue on the lake where we were almost blindly digging deep with each stroke.

Our snack was just some apples, dehydrated red pepper hummus and crackers.  Nothing fancy.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Trip Log: Algonquin Park - Canisbay Campground, October 10-13, 2014

Thanksgiving Dinner in the Dutch Oven
Thanksgiving in Algonquin!  This was our second time so in my mind that means a precedent has been set, and from now on that's how we celebrate Thanksgiving.

We had been undecided on if we'd be going or not, but after our trip two weeks ago, Mum and I and the kids had pretty much decided yes, we'd be going.  Dad wasn't so sure, but the promise of turkey lured him in.  So since we didn't decide until late, there were no sites available.  I kept my eye out a few times a day for cancellations and we lucked out and got a decent one at Canisbay.  On the map, it looked like it backed onto the area with the comfort station.  In reality, we had to follow a trail through the back of the site then go down the road a bit, but it was still pretty close incase of a late night trip.

We arrived fairly early, at least Dad and I did.  Mum and the kids arrived a little later in her car since they had to pick up a few last minute groceries.  We got our permit and were mostly done setting the trailer up before the others arrived (Chris wouldn't be arriving until Saturday.)

It was a bit chilly and we were a little worried we wouldn't be warm at night but we had lots of blankets.  Supper was spaghetti with ceaser salad.  We'd made the sauce at home and just had to heat it up.  The dogs, especially my parent's dog, Lucky, love spaghetti and they mooched like crazy while we ate.  There was only enough left over for Lucky which was fine.  He always gets a bit when mum and dad make it at home, and Biscuit doesn't really so he wasn't going to be too upset.

After dinner, I was on the way back from the comfort station when I saw a guy walk into the site beside us.  I didn't recognize him as one of the people there, but he said hi as if he knew them so I didn't think much of it.  He walked to the back of the trailer went behind it and then cut through to our site and walked right through it too.  It was really weird.  At first  I thought maybe he was lost or drunk or something, trying to find his own site in the dark, but I also wondered if maybe he was just one of those people that don't get that you don't walk through someone else's site as a short cut.  This has happened a lot, but never had we seen someone cut through multiple sites like that.

A few minutes later I went to the comfort station laundry room to fill up the wash basin (not doing dishes there, just getting hot water.) and there was someone standing halfway down the little trail into our site.  I asked if I could help him and he politely asked to borrow a lighter.  I gave him mine, not at all convinced I'd get it back but we had lots and it was just a dollar store one anyway.

Evening on Canisbay Lake
Dad and I did up the dishes then decided to go down to the beach and see if we could get any decent night shots.  The moon behind the clouds gave us some interesting shots, but it was pretty cold, and when a bit of a breeze kicked up, it got too chilly to be messing around with metal tripods, so we headed back to camp.

Sleep was surprisingly comfortable.  We had the trailer's furnace set fairly low, and left a small electric space heater going all night.  The furnace only cut in occasionally, and the electric heater kept the temperature from dropping too rapidly. The kids and I each had our regular summer sleeping bags with polar fleece liners, then they had a comforter and I had Chris's sleeping bag open like a blanket. Before we went to the beach, I had sent a text to Chris to bring more blankets when he came up, but we didn't really need them.  At one point I was too hot and had to kick off the extra sleeping bag.  Biscuit helped keep us warm too.

The young man who had borrowed my lighter gave it back that morning.  Then I heard him asking people if they had jumper cables because his battery had died.  We are pretty sure they slept in their car that night because it was cold.  They got their boost and headed out pretty quickly, and not long after, another group of young people showed up.  Two guys got out and set up the tents while the girls (their girl friends?) sat in the car.

And here's where I have to have a mini-rant.  What's up with people carrying make up bags to camp that are bigger and heavier than a day pack?  Every time we went to the bathroom there'd be five or six young women touching up their make up, washing their faces (and doing some weird cheek slapping thing for a minute at a time)  One girl loaded on a bunch of creams and berry scented perfume at about 10pm and we kept thinking a bear would smell them and come running.  Trying to brush our teeth at night was a lengthy and sort of embarrassing procedure.  Lengthy because we had to wait forever for a sink to become available (cause God forbid your mascara not be perfect for hanging out with your boyfriend in the pitch dark) and embarrassing because there we were with Ziploc freezer bags holding nothing but a toothbrush and toothpaste.  Anyway, I don't get it, but I'm not in my twenties trying to impress a guy, so what do I know.  I sort of figured it would be more impressive to a guy to be unafraid of getting dirty and back to nature, but then I didn't grow up in a city either.

Rant over!

Dad had forgotten to bring his pills, so he and Mum did a quick run home.  The kids and I had a quick breakfast and then spent the morning walking around with the dog.  Biscuit is pretty high energy (make that super high energy) and a lot of walking means he's not a spaz in the trailer.

When mum and dad got back, we had some wraps and tortellini soup (forgot to add the beans) for lunch, then mum stayed with the dogs while the rest of us went out to see if we could find some good photo ops.  In all honesty, there wasn't much.  The sky was a dull grey, the trails were really busy, and it was colder than the day before with a bit of a breeze as well.  We drove to Opeongo, then went out to Whitney to buy some dry(ish) wood.  On the way back we stopped at Two River's Store for ice cream.  It was packed!  Considering the store closes as of Thanksgiving Monday, we were worried there wouldn't be much ice cream flavours to choose from, but there was lots.

Since Chris was supposed to be arriving today, but we had no idea what time, we held off on making dinner.  I figured he'd get there around 9pm, but it ended up being closer to ten.  We ended up eating at around 7.  Dinner that night was tex mex tortilla lasagna.  I forgot to add the baby chard and kale to the beans and peppers when I was making the sauce, but it was yummy.  We had Chipotle BBQ Chop Chop salad with it then pumpkin pie for dessert.

Despite the cold, we sat around the fire a bit that night.  We hadn't bothered with a fire the night before, since Dad and I had gone to take pictures and when we got back squatch was asleep.  He hadn't brushed his teeth and it was all we could do to get him to move out of my mum's bed to his own sleeping bag.  This night, he couldn't find his toothbrush.  (I later found it at the bottom of my sleeping bag.)

Sunday morning was a bit warmer (my nostrils didn't freeze together) when I got up and took Biscuit for a walk.  When I got back, we started breakfast.  The plan for the day was to have a big breakfast so we could skip lunch because it was Turkey Dinner Day!  We had potato and pepper hash, pea meal bacon and french toast.  Mum and dad got to try out the griddle we got them for their Coleman BBQ and it worked really well, especially for the french toast.  It doesn't have much of a lip around the edge so it was a little touch and go when trying to stir up the hash, but all in all, it worked great.

Waterfall on the Madawaska River
After dishes were done, we thought we'd go do the Whiskey Rapids trail.  It was apparently open, and we'd been dying to find out how much the trail had changed after last spring's high water.  Unfortunately, the trail was really packed and with Biscuit being a bit unpredictable around people lately, we decided not to risk it.  Instead, we drove to Mew Lake and walked to the water fall.  No people on the trail and only a few at the falls themselves made for a much less stressful hike.  We took some pictures, saw lots and lots of wolf scat, and then headed to the Two River's Store for ice cream.

Mum and dad had gone for a drive to the Visitor's Centre so mum could email work.  We ended up getting back to the campground at the exact same time.  Now it was time to start cooking dinner.  It was about 1pm and we had a turkey to roast.

The turkey was still a little frozen inside, and unfortunately wouldn't fit perfectly even in our biggest (14") dutch oven so we covered it in foil then squished the lid on as best as we could.  Once the bird was cooking, we got started on the sides.  Foil wrapped carrots, foil wrapped parsnip, foil wrapped brussels sprouts (yum!) as well as potatoes and turnip.

After an hour we started to think maybe the briquets would take too long.  Dad had a fire going and for once it was a decent fire (yay for good wood) so we piled all the briquets on top of the lid then put the dutch oven onto the fire.

Now there was nothing left to do but wait.  The kids buried Chris in leaves, Biscuit caught his tail on fire (well, it singed the tip of the hair...it wasn't on fire I guess) and we got to sit and enjoy the decent weather.

Eventually, the turkey was done.  The top got burned where it had been smooshed against the lid, but then again, we'd put about 30 briquets on the top so it's not surprising.  But the insides were nice and juicy.  We got ready to take everything inside and then realized Chris hadn't brought the two boxes of Stove Top Stuffing from the counter.  To save space in the car, we left all the thanksgiving dinner stuff at home for him to bring up, and I'd left him a list...it only had like 5 things on it but I guess in his rush to get going, he forgot.  We made fun of him all night for ruining thanksgiving.  We also had coleslaw and cranberry sauce and gravy.  Awesome dinner and there was even dessert...apple spice dump cake.

While we ate, we talked about how we sort of felt guilty for skipping out on the big dinners we'd been invited to, but all agreed that it was worth it to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner in a place we all loved so much.

After dinner, we cleaned up.  There wasn't much in the way of dishes since a lot had been cooked in foil and we'd used paper plates.  We sat around the fire for a while then went to bed.

For our last morning, we had one eyed buffalos as well as fried potatoes made from the left over potatoes from dinner.  We didn't hang around long mostly because the camp ground closed  at 2 and we'd been told it would be appreciated by the staff if all the campers left by then.  Mum took the kids home with her, while dad, Chris and I took the trailer down.  Dad drove home with his dog, while Chris and I had Biscuit with us.

Such a great weekend.  A lot of people left on Sunday probably so as to be home for family dinners, so it was really quiet for our last night.  We ended up with a lot of left over turkey.  Last year, we simply took a breast and 2 drumsticks and it was enough for all of us, but I had 3 frozen turkeys in my freezer that I wanted out of there.

It was also interesting to note the number of people who simply weren't prepared for the weather.  The young man who borrowed the lighter, the group of four who set up on the same site next, and at least 2 other groups of people in their early twenties all seemed to have trouble.  Most of them seemed to have their cars running all night, possibly they all slept in their cars.  I felt really bad for them all.  On one hand it was a learning experience, and maybe next time they'll have more of an idea of what to expect when fall camping, on the other hand, the experience might have soured them toward camping all together.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Trip Log: Algonquin Provincial Park: Kingscote Lake August 2-3, 2016

Just a quick one nighter.  With a 3 night trip to Lake of Two River's planned for the 4th, we didn't want to have to pack for 2 trips back to back, because there's no doubt we would have forgot multiple things.  It would have been nice to stay a second night, but maybe next time.

We arrived at the put in around 2pm, having narrowly avoided being creamed by a log truck driving way to fast on the dirt road.  The dust the truck kicked up blinded us for a good couple minutes and honestly I'm surprised they didn't go off the road.  They seemed to be swerving all over the place.

MEC Camper 4 and a $15 Walmart tent
It was hot and sunny, we slapped on sunscreen (except Chris) and headed out.  The kids had their own canoe this time.  We'd bought a little 12 foot canoe off the side of the road a while back, and wanted to see how they liked paddling it.  They said it was okay for the most part, but the seats were kind of high, which made it awkward.  Squatch had the same problem I had in it when Chris and I took it for a little day trip.  Sitting in the front is very squishy.  There's no distinguishable difference between the bow and stern, the seats are spaced evenly, so the person in the bow, doesn't have a lot of space for their knees.

But they did well, and though they were slower than us (even with me only paddling half strokes because the dog was right behind my elbow most of the way) they weren't frustrated or anything.  Tuckered out after the paddle?  Yeah, a bit.  They both had sore arms, and but they said it was worth it because they are now "ripped."

Our goal was the campsite at the very end of the lake, near the portage into Big Rock Lake.  This was where we'd stayed previously and really liked the site.  Unfortunately the site was occupied, so we back tracked and took the last site on the eastern shore.  It was pretty small, but there were some nice rocks for jumping off into deeper water, and since it was only for one night, we figured it was good enough.

Evening on Kingscote Lake
While the boys swam and Bubbie dipped her feet in the water, I got the tents set up.  I'd gotten a new tent for Christmas from Chris, a MEC Camper 4, and have been eager to try it out.  It went up easily, and other than arranging the fly, I was able to do it on my own.  We also brought this $15 kids tent we bought ages ago at Walmart.  When the kids were little we'd set it up in one of their rooms and they'd have campouts together.  It's small and light, so we brought it along.  It ended up being just barely big enough for Bubbie to lay in, but they had a great time sleeping in their own tent (I'm guessing mostly because Biscuit wasn't bunting them in the face all night like he usually does.)

I broke out some snacks after that and we realized the folly of taking chocolate dipped granola bars on a trip when the temperature is hovering near 30.  After snacks was more swimming for the boys while Bubbie and I dangled our feet in the water.  There were dozens of minnows swimming around our feet, and some of them were really big.  Also there were lots of sunfish around.  As we did on our last trip to Kingscote, the kids spent most of the trip letting fish nibble their toes.  This led to us bringing out the goPro and getting some really cool underwater footage.

Dinner that night was a random concoction I put together at the last minute since we didn't have time for me to really prepare and dehydrate something.  We had a box of 3 cheese manicotti Hamburger Helper.  To that we added some red lentils, and some dried mushrooms and peppers.  It was pretty decent, not fabulous by any means and for sure not very healthy.  Thankfully the Chop Chop salad was more nutritious.

After dinner, there was more swimming while I washed up.  I got the air mattresses blown up and by then it was getting dark.  There was a night burning only stipulation, since we'd had so little rain, so we had a very small fire, then went to town with many, many buckets of water to put it out.  I was so paranoid about it, I had Squatch pouring water on the ground all around the outside of the fire pit the whole time it was burning.

We headed to bed, and talked for a while.  The tents were right side by side, since the site was really small and barely had room for one tent.  Once it was fully dark, Chris and I went out and looked at the stars.

We brought Biscuits sleeping bag this time, and it helped a lot with settling him down.  Normally he paces...all night.  This time he spent the whole night sucking on the blanket.  He gets a wad of it in his mouth then snores because his nose is pressed against it.  By morning the entire thing was soaked, but it kept him quiet for the most part.  Until the sun came up at least, then he resumed pestering us to get out.

Morning Coffee on Kingscote Lake
The night was almost strangely quiet.  There were bullfrogs on and off, and of course a lot of loons but no crickets or insect noises.  It was a little unnerving.  In the past, occasionally there will be a few minutes were all the night sounds die off and my mind wanders to tales of supernatural creatures scaring the nocturnal creatures into silence.  The kids were just happy there were no Whippoorwills around.

While we were mostly warm when we went to bed, with our site being on the eastern shore, it wouldn't get sun until around 11am, so we all woke up chilly.  Oatmeal and coffee helped with that, then we set about packing up.

Biscuit fell off the rock ledge into the water trying to get a cracker from Chris.  That was the first time he's gone on past his belly and he looked horrified.  Chris was able to easily pull him in, the water being only an inch below the top of the rock.  I was worried he'd try and hide like he used to...by climbing under the tent fly and stomping down the tent but he didn't.
Morning on Kingscote Lake

It was such a beautiful calm morning, we didn't want to leave.  We took our time on the paddle out.  Biscuit would get antsy when the kids canoe got close because he wanted to switch back and forth, so we had to get ahead of them so he couldn't see them as well.

We had planned to explore more of the southern part of the lake, maybe check out the other campsites in the south east but I forgot to put sunscreen on the kids and it was after 11 when we got on the water.

After a quick stop at the Pine Grove Point campground to get some Gatorade and snacks, we headed home to repack our gear for the next trip.

New Trip Logs Coming Soon!

There should be lots of trip logs coming in the next few weeks.  We finally got a new computer with lots of memory so I can upload pictures and finally get some older trip logs posted!  Stay tuned!