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.
I had a camping trip planned for early September. I was going through my checklist (as always) getting my gear ready before the trip. All was normal until I got to the water filter. My incredible (and crazy expensive) new water filter, the MSR Guardian. I realized I hadn't seen it since my last trip, and having torn apart the entire basement looking for it to no avail, there were only two possibilities left:
1. I'd lost it.
2. It was in my kayak
Since there was nothing I could do about option 1, I focused on 2. I live in Toronto, and as my kayak is longer than my lot is wide (no, that is not a joke) I keep my 'yak on floating docks in the downtown Toronto Harbourfront. It was a regular routine that I'd be biking down there almost every day to go paddling, but that was pre-baby and pre-dog, when a 3 hour evening paddle was something I had time for. But I digress! The point is, I hadn't been down to my kayak once since my last camping trip (a month prior), so it was possible I'd left the filter in it when I dropped it off. So, without no other options left I hopped on my bike and headed for the kayak.
Success! My water filter had spent a month in the day hatch of my kayak. I wasn't pleased that it had spent 30 days of boiling hot summer baking in the sun, but at least I'd found it. The camping trip was going to happen after all!
And then... for no reason I can yet explain, while biking home on the same trails I'd ridden hundreds of times before, I fell off my bike. At speed, onto hard pavement. One minute I was riding along, the next I got to experience what it felt like for the bridge of my nose (along with a few other other body parts) to be grinding along asphalt.
This has already gotten longer than I planned, so long story short: I had many surface abrasions and minor injuries, but within a few hours of the wipeout my right wrist was all but non-functional. I realized there was no way my camping trip could happen when even peeling a potato required me to do it left handed.
I pushed the trip back a week, thinking I'd be better by then. Then another week, then another. Then, I finally realized that whatever I'd done was not going to heal quickly, and my camping season was over.
So yeah. This happened almost two months ago and it's taken me this long to type it out. I had a great trip planned that I was super excited about, and it's taken me this long to come to terms that an entire camping season just came and went, and in that season, the year 2016, I went interior camping exactly twice.
I got back on Monday from a four day solo trip. The route was Opeongo -> Happy Isle -> Merchant -> Big Trout -> Shippagew and back again, with Shippagew being the 'excuse' for this trip (I'd never been there, let alone camped on it).
I took along my SLR and a brand new waterproof camera and took many, many hours' of video. So, the trip report this time around is going to be a video report rather than a written one. I've already posted Day 1, and hope to get at least Day 2 completed this weekend. A video trip report is a brand new experience for me, so I would very much appreciate feedback, good and bad. I suspect I'll do more video reports going forward and it's hard to improve in a vacuum. Let me know what you think of Day 1!
Okay that title sounds very clickbaity. I'd feel bad about that if anyone was reading my site, but since this is more or less a personal blog as far as I can tell, I don't care! The full title seemed long and unwieldy, which is "I just discovered that I've never camped on one of the most beautiful lakes in Algonquin, Lavieille". Not exactly a succinct soundbite.
I have been to Lavieille - once - on one of the very few non-solo trip I've done in the park. I was also in a canoe, which has happened on exactly three trips in all my time in Algonquin. I thought I'd camped on Lavieille, but we were on this site:
... which, thanks to the folks on the Algonquin Adventures Forum , I've just learned is actually considered part of Crow Bay, Jeff's Map actually points this out where it mentions "The nine campsites on Crow Bay", but reading isn't my strong suit. So the pin I have in Lavieille on my wall map has been moved to Crow Bay, and now I get to plan a trip to Lavieille!
Actually there's not much to plan. I've been through Proulx and Big Crow a dozen times and don't particularly want to revisit them for a while, so I'm going to go in and out through the east arm and the 5.5km portage. Dickson has been closed the entire camping year due to blue-green algae issues, so the plan is two nights on Lavieille, one night on Animoosh (which I've never been to, let alone camped on).
Most likely the water taxi will be involved in one or both directions because paddling Opeongo is just a slog. If Opeongo was an interior lake it would be the most sought-after destination in the park - it's big, and it's beautiful. But it's on Highway 60 and motorboats are allowed on it, so paddling it feels like walking a road while cars are whizzing by.
I bought a new waterproof camera this week. I already own a GoPro, but its waterproof housing meant that audio always comes out muted and distorted. So I went looking for a camera that was waterproof in its own right, without a separate casing, to be able to take video with quality audio. I settled on the Panasonic Lumix TS5, as a number of reviews said it was excellent for video. Plus it's been around for a few years now so I was able to get it a decent sale price.
I went for a paddle through the Toronto Islands yesterday to try it out, attached to the kayak with a suction cup mount. I'm very, very pleased with it. I took an hour's worth of video and the battery was still going (although near the end), and the video and audio quality were both great. So it's coming on my next camping trip (soon!), and I think I'll put together a video trip report as well as a written one when I get back. We'll see how it goes. Just need to buy another battery or three first...
I've added a few photos from some of my Algonquin camping trips, and I'll add more as I wade through them. I'm not a photographer and don't pretend to be one, but digital photography is like the infinite monkey theorem. If I take enough pictures, every now and then one might actually look half decent! The gallery is part of the site navigation so you've probably already noticed it, but just in case here's a link.
Checklist: I updated my checklist - again - for 2016. I wasn't changing any gear, just re-organizing it on the checklist as I've found a way to fit my SLR into my kayak's day hatch. My camera used to be in the rear dry hatch, which meant it wasn't accessible when paddling. Realizing it was kind of dumb to take a camera I can't actually get at to take pictures, I re-jiggered things.
Anyway, since I was working on the checklist anyway, I finally posted it to the site. It can be found, with a small bit of explanation for some of the less obvious parts, here.
A baby means my trips are fewer and shorter this year, but I've managed to book an early August trip - which will be a full three months since my last one in early May. Crazy.
I have no faith Lavieille is going to be open by then, so I'm sticking with my Big Trout plan. Specifically in/out through Opeongo with a night on each of Merchant, Shippagew, and Big Trout. The online system wouldn't allow me to book that trip - apparently Big Trout isn't considered near enough to any access point to paddle out in a day - so I had to call in order to book this route. Jeff's Map estimates Big Trout to the Opeongo Access point at rougly 9 hours. The wind on Opeongo will be a big factor of course, so I might book a water taxi for the way out just to be safe, but I've traveled much farther than that in a day. On the other hand Opeongo is a long, monotonous paddle, exacerbated by watching motor boats whiz by.
Okay I've talked me into it. I'm calling Opeongo Outfitters now to see about booking a water taxi for the way out.
I'm not going to make a habit of posting when I have nothing to say, but since I haven't touched the site in a month I figured I could at least mention that I'm still alive and kicking. I'm just starting to think about my next camping trip. I'd love to go visit Lavielle as I haven't been in years, but I imagine the same blue-green algae issue that closed it and Dickson last year will have it closed again soon enough. Dickson's already been shut down for a month.
I'm probably not camping again until late July or even early August, at which point I'll have my work cut out if I want to find even semi-seclusion. I'm thinking maybe I'll go say hi to Big Trout, and if I can get the reservation I'll spend a night on Shippagew so I can put a new pin in my map. Before then I've got a trip to Portugal and a car camping trip with the family (my daughter's first ever camping trip, but definitely not the last!) so my plans have time to simmer.