Making Your Trip a Rewarding Experience

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Going camping is great fun for the whole family.  If its your first trip it can be a little daunting.  Here are some general things to remember when staying within any organized campground.

  1. Staying on a hydro site may be more convenient for your hairdryer and tv but do remember they cost more.  You’re here to enjoy the great outdoors and most trailer batteries will last a long time if you use them sparingly.
  2. Be courteous of your fellow campers.  We don’t all want to hear you new speakers or loud parties especially at night.  Remember that there are families around you and people who are there to enjoy the peace and quiet.
  3. If you are there for the quiet, then perhaps look into the Radio-Free sections.  Music is only allowed if you use headphones.
  4. Driving everywhere in the campground is not necessary and will cause problems with the eco system in the future.  Besides walking after dinner and around the campground is a great way to relax and enjoy the surroundings.
  5. Take advantage of the activities available.  Most provincial parks have an evening interpretive program and a lot of them have museums and hiking trails.  There’s a program that teach the kids how to take care of the park so that it’s around for years to come, called the Good Camper Program.  Utilize them, you’ll learn a lot about the park’s history that way.
  6. Make sure that your food is properly stored.  Countless times there have been bears spotted within campgrounds because people have left food scraps out or didn’t lock their fridge up at night.  (Believe it or not, last year someone at Canisbay lake tent camped on a hydro site and brought with them on a trailer a FULL SIZE FRIDGE AND FREEZER.  They left said fridge/freezer unlocked.  Needless to say…that night we had bears in our area).
  7. Prepare for rainy days.  If you are camping with the kids bring along lots of rainy day activities like crafts or books.  It makes the time go faster and they are occupied rather than saying “I’m bored”.  For some great rainy day activities/crafts check out my Pinterest Board.
  8. If you are camping with kids then entertaining them could be challenging if they aren’t accustomed to being outside for long periods of time.  Have a bucket of games, puzzles, and books that they can read/do.  Go on nature hikes and discover the park.  I have another Pinterest Board that can give you some more activity ideas.
  9. Take advantage of canoe rentals if you don’t have your own canoe or you want to try it for the first time.  At Algonquin Park you can rent canoe’s on your way into the park from Algonquin Outfitters in Huntsville or at their Oxtongue Lake location. You can also go to their Opeongo Lake location or have a canoe delivered to your campground from the Portage Store.  Prices vary so check out your campground bulletin boards.
  10. Take time to relax and unwind.  This is your vacation so treat it as such and return to work fully refreshed afterwards.
  11. Most importantly…spend time together as a family!  It builds memories that will last for years!  Kids don’t remember their best day gaming but they will remember the time you spent with them.

~Enjoy your trip!

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Planning A Solo Canoe Trip – Pt 4 #blogathon2

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So we’ve covered deciding on a timeline, planning your route, and paddle in sites.  Today it’s all about your gear, food,  and making sure that you can carry it.

When you’re planning a solo canoe trip its important to remember that everything you do is on your own.  I know that sounds like a obvious statement but it’s true.  You are the only one carrying all your gear, food, and canoe.  You need to make sure that everything is thought out according to weight.  The more you pack…the heavier it is…and the better chance you may have to make multiple trips on a portage.  Your gear doesn’t have to be the latest in ultra-light gear.  It just has to be efficient enough for you.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT GEAR

Think about what gear you own…do you have a list or do you have to pull it out?  Do you really need to bring that 4-man tent or do you have a single man tent?  Is there any gear you may need to rent/buy?  These are all questions that you need to take into account when planning for your trip.  Here are my answers to these questions:

  • I have a list of all my gear
  • I have both my marmot twilight 2 tent and my eureka chrysalis tent (the chrysalis will be my tent choice)
  • I have all the gear I need however I may need a new tarp

As you’re going through those questions…another question might arise…how much does everything weigh?  A 4-man tent will weigh more than a single-man tent.  A single-man tent will weigh more than a hammock tent etc.  My suggestion as you pack is to try on your pack every once in a while.

Besides a tent, you’re going to need a canoe, a stove, camp cookset, sleeping bag, paddles, life jackets, and my personal favorite – iPod!  I have a single burner stove like this one:

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It’s fairly lightweight.  The only thing that weighs down this stove is the propane tank.  I’m thinking of getting a MSR stove just for canoe trips as it’s better for the environment…but that being said I’m also one to cook on the fire when I can.  I have a GSI Bugaboo Backpacker Cookset:

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What I like about this system is that it all fits together in the pot and is very lightweight.  The best part is that you can shove it in your bag and it takes up very little space.  If you’re going during the warmer summer months you may get away with no sleeping bag or just a lightweight one.  I have an ultralight sleeping bag that rolls up pretty small.

When it comes to canoes, lighter is better for a solo canoer.  The main reason for this is because of having to carrying everything in one trip if possible on portages.  You can use a traditional 2 seater canoe for a solo trip.  It would give you room for your gear.  You could also try out a solo canoe.  If you don’t have access to one (friends or your own) you can rent one or test paddle one to see if it’s for you!

No matter what gear you choose…it should all fit into one pack…to be slightly easier on your portages.

Tonight I’m going to talk about food choices for your trip.

~Enjoy your trip

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Planning a Solo Canoe Trip – Pt 2 #blogathon2

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So you’ve decided that you are going to do this canoe trip and you are excited to start planning but you have no idea where to start?  That’s OK!  Everyone starts off here :).  You have a few things to decide first before you go headstrong into planning anyways.   These are things we are going to discuss this morning!  Not only can these be applied to a solo canoe trip, but all these posts can be used for any canoe trip!

So the big question is….

WHERE DO I GO?

There are a few deciding factors before you can answer this question:

  1. Have you done a canoe trip before?
  2. Is this your first solo trip?
  3. Is this your first time camping?

If you answered no to the first question and yes to any of the other questions then as a general plan you should look into the most basic of canoe trips….a paddle in site!

PADDLE IN SITES

The Orange Triangles are Sites on Canisbay Lake that you can paddle into

The Orange Triangles are Sites on Canisbay Lake that you can paddle into

So in all reality every campsite in the interior is considered a paddle in site but for our purpose I’m talking the ones that are attached to a campground or that have no portaging.

Canisbay Lake and Rock Lake are the only two campgrounds along the Highway 60 corridor that have paddle in sites available.  Each lake offers a different experience in terms of paddling and distance to the sites.  The picture above is of Canisbay Lake.  It’s a smaller and less windy than Rock Lake.  The sites along Canisbay are great!  The one at the far end of the lake (the last site on the left hand shore) is my favorite!  It has a nice rock that you can jump off, a great campfire spot, and you get some gorgeous sunsets!  It’s also the most remote of all the sites so it’s quieter!

The Islands (if you can get them) are the best places to camp!

The Islands (if you can get them) are the best places to camp!

Rock Lake is a different paddling experience all together.  There are islands available for you to camp on, but be prepared that they are the most popular sites!  Rock Lake also allows motor boats and because it’s attached to Galeairy Lake and Whitney you tend to get some slightly bigger boats than fishing boats.  The thing about Rock Lake that I’m not the biggest fan of is that it’s a windy lake.  Typically on the paddle out.  You tend to head straight into the winds.

Overall Paddle In sites are the way to go if you’ve never done this before or are just testing out your ability to handle sitting around the campfire talking to yourself haha.  Because these sites are attached to campgrounds you can always do a one night trip and camp the night before in the campground.  This is also great if you have a family camping trip and you want to try it while people are within an hours paddle away.  That way if you can’t handle it or Yogi visits you…you have the option of going back.

INTERIOR SITES

If you are a confident canoer and are ready to tackle the challenge of doing a portage solo then doing an interior canoe trip is probably your style.  Before you go out on your own though, as a safety precaution, make sure you have a way to communicate with someone in case something goes wrong…better to be safe!

Canoe Lake to Tom Thomson Lake

Canoe Lake to Tom Thomson Lake

When looking into going beyond the first lakes along Hwy 60 you need to take some things into consideration:

  1. What is your skill level?
  2. Are you ok with portaging?
  3. How much does your gear weigh?
  4. Do you have a way to communicate in case of emergency?

These are all things you need to consider.  If you are embarking on your first solo trip but have only done a handful of other canoe trips you may not want to choose paddling up Opeongo and tackling the Dickson-Bonfield portage alone.  You’ll want to stick with something simple like Canoe Lake to Joe Lake (see the pic above) because there is only one portage involved.  However if you’ve been doing canoe trips for years with the guys and want to tackle a solo trip then you may be able to handle two or three portages.  For me…to start out..the less portages the better!  The other thing to take into consideration is the weight of your canoe and pack together.  It’s one thing to have a super light canoe and a light pack…but once you add them together the weight can add up.  Do you really need those three pairs of jeans?  Do you need to put on your makeup out in the wilderness?  Can you live without your pillow?  Ask yourself these questions before heading out!

So…we’ve looked at our options and we’ve decided the type of trip we’re taking…next post we’ll be planning the route.  That post will be include a video so we can look at various routes.

~Enjoy your trip!

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Off on an Adventure!

Good Morning!  Loving the sunshine this morning as I do some last minute packing.  I’m heading out on a 5-day camping trip today.  I’m spending the night in Toronto thanks to the civic holiday tomorrow.  Normally I would leave Hamilton at 4:30am but all busses are on Sunday schedule.  Oh well…I don’t have to get up as early this way :).

I’m spending the week camping in Kearney Lake again.  I am really in love with this campground.  It’s quiet, small, and it has a lot of waterfront sites.  No canoe this time but I will have my ipad so that I can blog throughout the week.  Part of the things I’m thinking of doing is:

  • hiking the Old Railway Bed bike trail
  • walking to the Lookout trail and hiking it
  • relaxing
  • and catching up on some good books.

There may also be a chance of a wolf-howl but I need to figure out how to logistically do it since I don’t have a vehicle.  Maybe I’ll find some nice friends lol.

I’ll be camping on site 135 if anyone wants to stop by for a visit :)

~Enjoy your trip!

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Mark Your Calendars

TEDxAlgonquin Park is returning for it’s sophomore year on September 5th.

A little bit of history for those who have never heard of TEDx:

TEDx is a branch of TED which is all about Ideas Worth Spreading.  TEDx events are locally organized events that bring people together under one roof to celebrate one common theme.  Each speaker is limited to 20 minutes (acutally more like 18) and they must encompass the theme within their topic.  TEDxAlgonquin started last year and was a success.  With speakers like Olympic Athelete Adam Van Koverdyn, Artist Gene Canning, and Terri LeRoux, it was a well rounded event and took place at the Visitor’s Center in Algonquin.

Speakers have yet to be announced for this year but I encourage you all to apply to attend the event.  The application can be found here:

http://www.tedxalgonquinpark.com/attendee-registration/

Just so you can get a glimpse of what the event was like, here is Terri LeRoux speaking about Algonquin Deficit Disorder:

I hope to see you all there!

~Enjoy your trip!

 

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Eureka Chrysalis Tent

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This weekend I had the chance to use my new Eureka Chrysalis Tent, which is a hammock that includes a tent sleeve.  The Chrysalis can be used as a hammock or a tent, it’s really up to you!  I originally saw the tent set up at the Sportsmen Show in Toronto.  I tried it out there and found it interesting.  I then saw it again at the Outdoor Adventure Show and decided I’d have to try it.  This tent is a DREAM!  I’m not that old (just turned 33) but I still have issues sleeping on the ground.  This tent was probably the best nights sleep I had camping in a while.  This is the inside:
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SET-UP:

So the one downfall I had was that this tent didn’t come with instructions.  Not usually a big deal as setting up a tent isn’t rocket science.  However, because this tent is not your usual tent…I did have some issues.  I ended up having to go online and downloading the pdf instructions, which on my cell phone…were not easy to read.  Once I figured it out…it was fairly easy to put up.  The nylon webbing was kind of slippery on the trees but I made it work.  The flaps on the camper sleeve easily velcro to the ridgeline so that you can have air flowing through the tent…they also attach to the bottom of the hammock if you want to keep warm.

COMFORT/SLEEPING:

This was the biggest thing for me!  I was able to put my Therma-Rest through the sleeve on the hammock.  This tent was beyond comfortable!  Like a hammock it adjusts according to your body weight.  You are able to comfortably stretch out or curl up like do.  The only issue I had, which is common with hammocks, is that your sleeping bag tends to travel to the middle of the hammock.  A little sewing could fix this or even adding velcro to a piece of flannel will stop that from happening.  As well with that flannel you could use it as a “bottom sheet” and use a blanket instead of a sleeping bag…just unvelcro it from the hammock and wash it after your trip.

WEATHER:

We didn’t have any violent weather so I’m unable to fully comment on this however we did have rain and I was extremely dry even with the flaps up.

OVERALL IMPRESSION:

Overall I’m glad I have that tent!  There were a few issues like set up and it slipping down the tree trunk during the night…but those can be fixed with a little bit of ingenuity.  Had there been instructions with the tent, it would have been up in a flash but that is a minor detail.  If you get motion sickness I would not consider this tent.  We didn’t have any wind so I don’t know how much it would have moved but when you switch positions or when you first get into the tent you do sway quite a bit.  The nylon straps are durable but very slippery.  If a person who was new to camping and unsure of their knots were to put this tent up..the chances of them falling in the night are pretty good.  Originally the tent came with clips for tie up…unfortunately it doesn’t now.

My final score: 9/10 – the instructions and nylon straps are what lost the point for me.

If you are interested in the Chrysalis Tent then visit your local Eureka Dealer or go to www.eurekatent.com

~Enjoy your Trip!

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Parkbus Review

This weekend I had to travel to Algonquin via The Parkbus from Toronto.  I was beyond impressed!  Typically I travel up north via Ontario Northland…it used to be by train but now they only use busses.  The trip is so long and not that comfortable.  Parkbus however is the exact opposite.

First off, finding your stop isn’t very hard.  They have three within Toronto to make it extremely easy.  The stops are York Mills, Carlton & Yonge, and Dufferin & Bloor.  I got on at Carlton & Yonge which is right outside of the Holiday Inn.  When the bus pulled up we were greeted by a bus volunteer named Norman!  He was organized, polite, and made sure that everything was taken care of.  After we got out of Toronto (which took a while due to construction) it was a peaceful and relaxed ride up to Webbers where we stopped for Tim Hortons.  During the trip Norman chatted with passengers about their journeys and made you feel welcome aboard!.

The second half of the trip was just as nice and comfortable!  I really enjoyed learning about people’s trip plans, talking about the park history with first time trippers, and learning about the other passengers.  The trip was versatile so you were pretty much able to be dropped off whereever you needed.  On the way there I got dropped off at Algonquin Outfitters and on the way back I got picked up at Canoe Lake.  It was refreshing to be able to travel with other people who share the same passion and desire for the park and the outdoors that I have.  Parkbus has also added on to their experience by putting food bins in each of the campgrounds in Algonquin for those who take the bus and have no cars to store their food!

Norman was a great volunteer!  He really knows his camping stuff and his knowledge about ultra light camping was impressive!  He is very knowledgeable about backpacking especially when it comes to the backpacking in the States!  He got to know all the passengers and found out about their trips and made sure any questions they had were answered.  On the way back he raffled off a bunch of stuff like Parkbus shirts and a couple of Jeff’s Maps!

Overall it was a great experience and I look forward to riding it again.  Who knows…maybe I’ll get a chance to volunteer this summer :)!

~Enjoy your Trip!

Trip Weekend

Well it’s taken a few months but it’s finally the first trip of the season for me :)!  I’ll be camping with my dad at Kearney Lake for the weekend.  I’ve got waterfront which should provide for some great photos and maybe wildlife spotting.  I’m taking the park bus up tomorrow and will tweet along the way.  I’m taking my GoPro with me so I’ll be able to do some canoeing videos.

So excited!!  5 am is going to come early :)!

~Enjoy your trip!

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Day Trips

If you are heading into the park this summer you may know that there are a ton of things to do while there including hiking, biking, swimming, and canoeing.  One of the options you have is a day trip by canoe or hiking.  Most of the lakes along the Hwy 60 corridor connect to other lakes via portage.  There are also 2 backpacking trails and 4 interpretive trails that you can do a day long trip on as well.  Below you will find the trails and canoeing suggestions that would make great day trips.

  • Western Uplands Backpacking Trail:  From the parking lot to Maggie Lake is 11km and will take roughly about 5 1/2 hours one way.  If you are up for the challenge then you can go that far.  However there is another lake before that called Maple Leaf Lake.  There are campsites around the lake that you can have lunch at and relax before heading back.  
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  • Highland Backpacking Trail: You can kind of cheat this trail in a sense based on where you start.  Instead of starting at the trail parking lot…you can access the trail from Mew Lake….where the sign for the Track and Tower trail is.  Be warned…there are parts of this trail that are fairly steep and can be difficult to hike if you aren’t in good shape.  Start hiking on the Track and Tower trail from Mew Lake.  You will come to an intersection on the trail…if you go strait you continue on the Track and Tower Trail if you turn left however you will be on the Highland Trail.  You are going to come to a bridge beside a set of falls.  If you want your trip can end here and you can swim in the falls all day.  Or you can continue on the trail to the West side of Provoking Lake.
  • Track and Tower:  This trail is a 7.7km loop with a 5.5km side trip to Mew Lake.  Remember that parking lot at Mew Lake?  If you wish to only do the 5.5km section you can access it here.  It takes you along the old railway bed.   The 7.7km loop is located down the road from Hemlock Bluff and Cache Lake.  The trail is long and will require you to take a lunch.
  • Centennial Ridges:  This trail was created for the Centennial of the park back in 1993.  This is a 10 km hike with several steep cliffs and climbs.  YOU MUST BE IN GOOD SHAPE FOR THIS HIKE.  The hike itself is described as a walk through the parks history.  This trail will definitely take all day so you will need to take a lunch and lots of
    water.

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  • Booth’s Rock Trail:  Booth’s Rock is 5 Km of education on how we have impacted the past, present, and future of the Algonquin Environment.  The average person can do this trail in a couple of hours but it’s pretty easy to stretch it out over the course of the day.  There are a few really nice lookouts and a great swimming area at the beginning/end of the trail at Rock Lake.  This trail can be a little rough while climbing up to the lookout areas but it’s not too bad. 
  • Mizzy Lake Trail: If you are looking for a great day trip that has the great possibility of seeing wildlife.  Mizzy Lake is an 11 km trail.  The chances of seeing wildlife are increased if you go early morning.  We used to hit this trail at 6am and be done around noon.  This is a great option for people looking to see moose or beaver.
  • Smoke Lake to Ragged Lake:  This is a great little day trip for families who may be taking the kids on their first “canoe trip”.  The portage between Smoke and Ragged Lake is fairly quick and easy.  From the portage you can then paddle around Ragged Lake and even go to Parkside Bay.  There are plenty of beaches and sites where you can eat lunch at.
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  • Pog Lake to Rock Lake:  This trip is partially paddled on sections on the Madawaska River and Whitefish lake.  I love this trip.  It’s quiet, relaxing, and pretty.  You also have chances of seeing some wildlife like heron’s and beaver.  You can have lunch along the way at Whitefish or wait until you get to Rock Lake.
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I hope this gives you some ideas on what you can do with the family while staying in the park.

~Enjoy your trip!

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Trip Planning Part 4

Back in January I did a 3 part series on how to pre-plan for you next trip to Algonquin Park.  Today I’m revisiting that with the next part.

In just under a month I’ll be embarking on a 3 day trip into Algonquin.  I’ve already gone through the Ontario Parks website and booked my site in Kearney Campground.  (I know it says unavailable but that’s because I booked it haha)

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I’ve picked this site based on a few different criteria.

  1. Privacy – The site is surrounded by trees
  2. Water Access – The lake is right there :) which means some really amazing photos and quiet paddles
  3. One of my readers and friend Katie stayed there last summer and I loved it so I wanted to stay there :)

Now that I’ve picked my site and my dates I need to start my planning phase.  Remember that checklist I put on on here last year?  Those have made it to my computer desktop and are being edited away.  Planning ahead like this makes your trip alot easier to deal with.  As well it allows you to enjoy it more as you already have meals planned so all you need to do is prepare them!

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This year I have a bit of a dilemma that I’m facing and something you may face if you are planning on travelling to the park by transportation other than a car.  I’m going up via Parkbus this year and this means I need to plan extra carefully as I need to take up space on the Go Bus and TTC to get there.  Everything I take has to be able to fit in 2 bags…a cooler and my big dry bag.  Luckily for me my kitchen set (cutlery, knives, and cooking utensils) all fit in one travel bathroom bag.

If you are facing the same dilemma as I am then you will have to cut down on the amount of stuff you take.  For instance, you may need to cut down on the camping “luxuries” that you want to take.  Do you really need that camp stove or are you willing to cook on an open campfire?  Do you need to take those down pillows or are you ok with either a small travel pillow or inflatable pillow?  Remember that inventory I told you to take?  This is where it comes in handy.  You will be able to look at all you have and decide what you need to take based on how much room you truly have.

Other than equipment now is the time to plan my menu as well.  As I said, I have to carry a cooler bag with me…which limits how much weight I can carry realistically.  The question posed to me right now is do I want to take fresh/frozen foods with me or dehydrated meals.  I’m leaning towards a mix of both but because I only have 2 breakfasts, 3 lunches, and 2 dinners to worry about I’m thinking I’ll be ok with all freshly frozen foods like burgers, chicken, and hot dogs.  The menu below is what I made last year and I’m considering doing it again as it was very tasty!

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On the next post I’m going to walk you through my inventory and take pictures for you that way you can see one of the many ways that you can organize your equipment.

~Enjoy your trip!

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