My Spring ice-out trip, which was my second attempt at reaching Clover Lake (and beyond) after failing last August, is behind me. I'm happy to say that I made it everywhere I planned to. The weather and the company were both fantastic and while the second and third day were quite challenging, the entire trip was a fantastic experience. So far I've posted two videos that cover the first three days. More to come as I find the time!
While ice-out in Algonquin is still a long ways off, we've at least finally turned the corner weather-wise. I saw the writing on the wall weeks ago and had already pushed back my Spring opener dates (it's hard to paddle on ice), and I think my new dates should be happily in that sweet spot after the ice is gone but before the bugs are out. With Spring being so late and Algonquin getting quite a bit of late season snow, there's every likelihood a fast thaw is going to mean flooding along the portages - but who cares!
In other news, this season is shaping up to be a year of actually camping with others for a change! It's been at least 5 years since I've gone camping with anyone else in the Algonquin interior, and yet my Spring trip this year is going to involve a fellow camper from my Algonquin Adventures forum - Drew, aka AlgonquinLakes, whose goal is to paddle every lake in the park that is part of a canoe route (hint: there are hundreds of them). His trip reports are unique and are written with a great sense of humour - check his site out.
And my July trip, which was set as a 5-day solo, is now a 5-day threesome! Okay that sounds a little too exciting. My first cousin Paul and his son Lukas are coming over from New Zealand this summer, and they're both very keen to spend a few days in the park with me. I'm looking forward to playing tour guide.
So - I don't actually have a solo trip planned or booked for this season, at least not yet. I'll have to remedy that soon!
So it appears 2018 is going to see more gear changes and additions than most. While I'm still sorting out the details, here's what's likely going to happen:
My bear barrel (BearVault BV500) will be replaced with an Ursack Major.
- I love my bear barrel but it weighs 2.5 pounds to the Ursack's half a pound. On the downside, if a bear ever goes after my Ursack then I'm probably going to be enjoying bear-saliva-flavoured paste for the rest of my trip.
I've added a tripod to my gear (Surui T-025X Carbon Fiber). I've received quite a bit of feedback about including more 'around the campsite' footage in my videos, and the lack of a tripod has always been the main reason I've avoided it. Hard to take campsite footage from a foot-tall suction cup mount. That's about 1.8 pounds.
I changed pots from the MSR Titan Kettle to a TOAKS Titanium 1100ml pot. The toaks holds just a bit more volume (2-300ml) and I was always boiling a second pot with the Titan just to top up my coffee. This should avoid that.
A higher capacity power pack for longer trips (Anker 20100mAh portable charger). My spring trip is 8 days and I think I'll be using a lot of iPhone power for GPS - better safe than sorry.
A folding saw (Silky Pocketboy 170) to replace my Sven saw. I've always been super happy with the Sven saw, but my Spring trip is going to involve some bushwhacking, and I need a folding saw that I can use and put away quickly. The Sven saw... does not do that.
And lastly, I'm seriously considering bringing my SLR again (Canon 60D with an EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens). Its last trip was in 2016 after I got super, super mad that it couldn't manage basic autofocus while taking video. But if I bring it again it won't be for video, only for taking pictures. I really miss having a quality camera along for landscape photography. I feel like I haven't taken a good picture since I stopped bringing it. The downside is that, with the wide-angle lens it's almost 3 pounds.
And it's only early March. Who knows - maybe more gear changes to come!
But that doesn't mean I'm not thinking about it! My first trip of 2018 is planned and booked. It will be a second attempt at a loop that kicked my ass last year, and has been bothering me ever since. I've been dwelling on it for months, and will be dwelling on it for a couple more.
Here's hoping attempt #2 goes better than the first one did!
A concerned reader just wrote a comment asking if I was dead. I guess maybe I should remember to update my website now and then!
My early August trip was a complete and utter bust, and that's all I'm going to say about it for right now. There is a story there to be told, but I have some unfinished business to attend to that won't happen until next Spring. I'll likely post up a video about what happened in August shortly before I head off to write Chapter 2.
On the bright side, I slipped in a 4 day trip just a couple of weeks ago (in late September). It was a gorgeous, relaxing, solitude-filled escape that was a great way to end my camping season. It's unlikely I'll get out on another trip this year; life and work are just too busy. It will probably be a couple of months until I can find time to put together a trip video for it even, but I'll get that done when I can.
I'm thinking maybe a new kayak is in order for next year. I'll replace my Delta 16 with a ... Delta 16. Seriously, I love it that much. They released a new model about a year after I bought my current one that has two big upgrades - a better hatch locking system, and a cockpit 'rim' that's actually part of the mold rather than a separate piece. I've been fighting a battle with my cockpit rim the last few years - it's separating, and every attempt I make to glue it or epoxy it back in place fails the first time I portage with it. Sooner or later it's going to rip off, and I'm going to be completely screwed. Also I'm not kind to my kayak. A beaver dam means paddle faster. I drag it over rocks and drop it occasionally when I lose my footing while portaging. It's got patches on its patches in some places, but my single biggest problem is the back 6 inches of the 'keel' such as it is, which is basically swiss cheese. My repairs there don't last either, and as a result the rear dry hatch starts taking in water. On two of my trips this year I had that problem, despite repairing it before each. So... new kayak to abuse? Maybe - just gotta figure out how to pay for it. And if I do buy a new one, if someone wants a very-much-not-gently-used Delta 16 for a steal of a price, let me know. The keel can be repaired and will stay repaired if you don't treat it the way I do.
My goal with this next trip is to simply have no major mishaps, which would be the first time this year. No accidental rapids in freezing water, no having to smash the window of my own car. Should be easy enough, right? Except I booked a route taking me through a low-maintenance and difficult-to-traverse part of the park. How does a 4.5 km low maintenance portage with a 130 meter elevation change sound? Or this blurb from a MarkInThePark trip log:
I blindly turned and followed this new course when about 12 steps in I suddenly sank up to my thighs in muck.
I tried to climb out but I was stuck fast. I had a vision of someone coming through the meadow the following spring and finding my bones along with a shredded backpack. It was almost laughable, but I was in trouble and yet I could see no way out of my predicament.
Or this comment from a very experienced Algonquin camper about part of my route: but if I remember correctly, ... <it> was my longest day in Algonquin - ever
So I ask you, what can possibly go wrong? I'll let you know in a week or so!
... is when you can't go camping. Which is my sad excuse for not having touched this site in three months. My early Spring trip was a crazy one, featuring a missed portage that led to accidental rapids, an incredibly long and tiring first day of travel, two days of endless rain followed by two days of snow, and a ~13km portage along a logging road that was most definitely not part of the original plan. It was most definitely a memorable trip. If you haven't seen the videos, it's a two parter than can be found here and here.
I'm about to head into the park again. It's been a very wet Spring and early Summer, so I'm expecting sloppy portages and hordes of bugs. But I'm also expecting to have a wonderful time. I'll be spending two of my nights on lakes I've never camped on before (or been to, for that matter), so I get to add two new pins to my wall map as well!
I've added a second waterproof camera to my gear, so I'll have a camera mounted on the back of my kayak as well as in front of me - we'll see how that works out. Should be great on the water (will be able to turn it on and off via phone app), but I have visions of it getting knocked off repeatedly while portaging. I may have to remove it for the carries, although hopefully not as it would probably generate some nice portage footage as well.
My first trip of the season is coming up in less than two weeks, and Algonquin lakes remain iced in. Between the snow melt and a ton of rain in the last couple of weeks, water levels are very, very high. There are road and trail closures all over, but the good news (for me) is that Opeongo is accessible. Algonquin Outfitters put out some pictures yesterday that included a bunch of the Opeongo store and surroundings, and in the background of some was a car - just a regular car. So if they can get there, so can I.
But I'm really hoping for some sunshine and warmer weather between now and my trip. I'm expecting portages to be wet and mucky (and probably flooded in low lying areas), but some nice weather could alleviate some of that. Unfortunately the forecast doesn't look like that's going to be the case.
I think it's going to be a challenging trip. 9 days, very early season, and most likely far from ideal conditions. But camping is like pizza - even when it's bad, it's still pretty good!
Okay I realize this probably isn't exciting to anyone who isn't me, but I had to post my new hat, which I will wear on every camping trip until it rots.
I went with the brown/red shades on the kayak instead of green just because I thought it might be a bit subtler. I'm really, really happy with it, and the hat itself is good quality so it should (hopefully) last a while. The box behind the hat is where it came from - Capbeast. Custom hats with no minimum purchase, which is a good thing when you only want one!
It has been 191 days since I returned from my last camping trip, and it will be at least another 80 until I can go camping again. That is NUTS. Damn you Canadian seasons coupled with life and work responsibilities. Oh and injuries. Don't forget injuries.
For the last few weeks I've been obsessing over my first trip of 2017, to the point where I actually pulled out my camping gear and started weighing every individual thing. That's actually a useful thing to do it turns out, as it can be surprising where weight creeps in you don't really need. In my 'tent bag' is a hard glasses case which, unsurprisingly, my glasses go in. That case weighs more than 300 grams, or over half a pound! So that case is now back in my nightstand, and the tent bag now has one that weighs about 80 grams instead. Similarly I had items in my emergency bag that I've never used and didn't even have a realistic use-case for. Putting them on the scale made me realize that there's a cost to every single thing I'm throwing in "just because". I think by the time I'm done going through everything I'll be able to drop at least 3 pounds off my gear weight. Go me.
Speaking of weight, I'm also working on my own. The last two years have been all about puppy and baby, and I've been neglecting my own health. The videos I posted of my August trip made me cringe a bit when I saw just how puffy I'd gotten, so I decided it was time to do something about it. In November I started back into running. Aside from a break over the holidays (and a week missed due to illness) I've been running 5 days a week pretty consistently. As of this morning, I've lost 15 pounds. By the time of my first camping trip I intend to lose another 15. Also go me.
And I'm going to need the pack weight, me weight and fitness level changes for my Spring trip, because I've booked a fairly ambitious one.
9 days, solo. In/out through Opeongo with nights on Annie Bay, Round Island, Little Dickson, White Partridge, Francis, Radiant, Philip and Proulx. That works out to:
Total Paddling Distance: 123 KM
Total Portage Distance: 35.5 KM
For a total distance traveled of 158.5 KM over 9 days, or about 18 KM a day. Broken down like that it doesn't seem particularly rough, but not all days are equal. Annie Bay to Round Island, White Partridge to Francis and Philip to Proulx are likely going to be reasonably tough travel days. But each of those longer days is followed by a much easier one, so I think I'll be fine. I'm very much looking forward to it, now I just need Spring to get here. In the meantime I'll go back to reading trip reports and obsessing over my gear.