Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Western Uplands Algonquin November Backpacking Trip

I haven't been posting much here because what is there to say?  I'm still depressed and haven't been doing much.  But - last week was an improvement, not only did the dogs get more walks, but I ran TWICE (oh la la) and I was determined not to depress-out-of my planned solo (with Neb of course!) backpacking trip November 7-8th.

Originally I was supposed to be backpacking from November 6-9th and had the time booked off, but I've missed so much work with being sick (short term disability after all, partial disability) that I didn't feel like it was appropriate to take vacation.  So it was just to be a quick weekend trip.

My new Western Mountaineering Apache MF -10C bag came from MEC (it's a special order) at the end of October, so I was ready to go and excited to try it.

Friday I worked my half day then headed home and drove up to Huntsville.  Rather than camp at Mew Lake (the only campground open in Algonquin this time of year) I decided I would stay at the Motel 6, which takes dogs, as it's about 30 minutes outside of Algonquin Provincial Park's West Gate, near the access to the Western Uplands Trail.  Luxurious and all that.  It was nice to be able to Facetime with Toby when he got off work, and I was able to talk with Mom too.

Originally the plan had been to do the entire first loop, but the runs that week had really shown how much fitness I've lost.  I was worried that by the time I got on the trail (I wouldn't be able to get a permit from the West Gate until 9 am) that I wouldn't have time to get to Norah Lake before dark, given how out of shape I am.

So I picked up a permit for West Maggie Lake, as I've never stayed on the lake before (though I've run by it, and hiked past it once in the dark when I was doing an overnight hike).

As it turns out, my pace was fine, and I could've easily gotten to Norah, so it just ended up that I was able to be picky about sites on Maggie and relax and read on my Kobo in camp.

The trail was muddy - I slipped in a couple of places and came down on my hand.  I was worried about my wrist, but it was fine.  That was the anxiety talking, feeding into the depression, telling me I should turn around and go home so I could see Toby.  I took it one kilometre at a time, pushing forward, telling myself I would make the decision about turning around the next kilometre - after all, who wants to be alone in camp when it's dark, and yes, I had Neb, and dogs are amazing, but they aren't great conversationalists.  But I kept going.

Eventually I saw the only people of the day - 4 guys and 2 dogs heading the other direction.  One guy said 'It's muddy'.  Yeah, no kidding!  Ha!  It had rained Friday and despite the weather reports saying that there would be very little rain on Saturday, there was a few moments where it was coming down decently, plus some wet snow (SNOW!  YAY!) and small hail (not as exciting).

By the time I got to Maggie Lake, I decided I didn't have time to go back to the car before it was dark, so I wandered along the western side and picked a campsite on a peninsula down a side trail.  It was decently set up - I was able to set my tent up separately from the fire pit/cooking area.

Yup, that's my new sleeping bag!  And my Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 tent.  I got the tent because I wanted something that was better to take both dogs in then my 2-man Tarptent (which is like a 1.5 man tent) (I dislike my three-man Tarptent, it's fiddly to set up).  The dogs get along, I could get them both in this tent, but they'd have to file in and out, it would be a bit picky, but doable.  This time of year it's moot as Luc gets cold so easily he doesn't come out past early October.

The view from the campsite was nice:

 I don't think I'd like to swim from this campsite, so not so sure about it for the summer, but hey.  Not so sure I'd want to do the Western Uplands in the summer anyways.  Maybe one year I'll get over how busy Algonquin is in the backcountry.  It doesn't bother me in the front country except for maybe fall colours.

You might be wondering why there are no trail pictures.  I just had my phone, not my camera, and no handy pocket to put it in.  Plus, with much love to Algonquin - and heck, it is my home away from home come winter time - skiing, hello? - the Western Uplands Trail is heavily forested so doesn't make for thrilling pictures.

 Neb looking cute in camp.  Dogs may not talk, but they are good company, I didn't get a tonne of reading done because I had Neb to entertain and chat with.  He ended up sitting on my lap for a while and grooming me for a good 10-15 minutes without stopping.  I don't think my face has ever been so 'clean'.

Neb also enjoyed eating the firewood I'd gathered:

 And sitting on my winter pack, which is a Granite Gear pack that is in theory frameless but which has a big giant pad.  It was one reason why I was worried I'd be slower, carrying a heavier pack and slightly more gear.  Definitely bulkier gear.

 Anyways, it was a nice relaxing afternoon, I read, hung out with Neb, did camp chores, and then made dinner (KD).  Which was the only thing I'd eaten all day.  Oops.  And it's the vegetable KD, so there's less of it and lower calorie, and even then I let Neb finish it off.  I did enjoy some peppermint tea.

Eventually it got dark and I had a brief fire:

 But I wasn't in the mood so went to the tent to read some more, take my meds, and eventually go to sleep.

I was cool to start off with, despite wearing EVERYTHING I brought - but I am the world's coldest sleeper.  Once I'd finished having to pee, my body stopped being cold and I was able to sleep fine until morning.

Not sure what the temps were overnight - Environment Canada was calling for -5C, The Weather Network for -2C.  It was definitely cool.  The water in Neb's bowl didn't freeze overnight though, not even a skim on the top, but there was frost and the mud on the trail Sunday was partially frozen and I saw part of a creek that was frozen.  So basically - no clue.  I expected Neb's water to be frozen.

I woke up about 5 am and relaxed until 6:20 when I got out of bed and got going.  I was in no hurry and took so long getting ready I didn't leave camp until 7:30!!!!!  SLOW!

I was on trail for about the same time both days - 4 hrs, roughly.  13.18k each way.  Total elevation gain was 513m, same with the loss, over both days.  Just a nice relaxed time on the trail, not hurrying at all.

Neb did manage to be gross on Sunday - he was sniffing at a tree and some moss/ferns.  Then he grabbed a mouthful, and for some reason, I decided to take it out of his mouth - it's just moss and ferns, right?  Wrong.  My hand came out covered in something brown, and of a certain shade of brown, and smelling...a certain way.  WHY WOULD THERE BE POOP ON THE SIDE OF A TREE???????  Stupid Neb.  This isn't the first time I've reached into his mouth to take something out and regretted it for this very reason.  Ugh.  I wiped my hand on some frosty leaves, washed it in a stream, and then when we were done I drove to the West Gate to the comfort station there and washed my hand obsessively for quite some time.  GROSS.  DOGS.

I only saw one guy on Sunday, heading in as I was heading out.  So it was a nice people-free trip, just what the doctor ordered (though my depression has taken grasp again this week, but it was good for the weekend, and I'll take what I can get).

View from the campsite Sunday morning:

Monday, August 17, 2015

Killarney Glamping Backpacking Weekend

I don't even know how to start this blog.

I've been struggling terribly with depression.  Right now I'm working part time, which is helpful, as it gives me time to write and to work on therapy goals, which include my behavioural activations - running twice a week and hiking on the weekends.

So, I didn't cancel my girls glamping backpacking weekend with Steph in Killarney Provincial Park on the La Cloche Silhouette Trail.

It was weird though - I found myself smiling at things, because I knew that was what I was supposed to smile at, and even kind of laughing, for the same reasons.  But while I did it, it hurt, inside, this unbearable pain.

With all that said, I enjoyed myself as much as was possible.  I'm still in there, somewhere.

Anyways.  We left Toronto about 2pm and after enduring terrible traffic to get to Barrie, had one stop in Parry Sound to switch drivers (I'm trying to avoid caffeine now that I'm taking lithium again, as it affects levels, but highway driving makes me sleepy).

It was funny, we were at the edge of a storm most of the drive up and at one point Steph commented that it looked really dark behind us.  I was like 'Uhhh...the window is tinted'.  Reminds me of before I got use to the tint.

We had a fire - after the excitement of the dry wood at Finlayson Point, I was looking forward to seeing how well the wood at Killarney burned.

Let's just say it was typical Ontario Parks wood.  We did have a fire for a bit though, then went to bed.

I tried out my new Double Z sleeping pad from Big Agnes - it does not self-inflate, regardless of what the MEC employee told me (tsk tsk) but it is so comfortable I think I will love it for shoulder season camping.  I was just too excited not to bring it.

The next morning we got up and slowly packed up camp - got a few pictures too.  Spiderwebs galore!

We hit the trail about 9:15, and just kept an easy pace.  It's been years since Steph has backpacked and she's injured, so we kept it easy, plus there was a heat warning (30C before humidity, and it was HUMID), and we had Luc who doesn't do well in heat.

We stopped every 30 minutes to give the dogs water, plus let them drink from streams.  Luc was panting, but unlike in Temagami it was normal hot dog panting, not scary sounding.

At Acid Lake we stopped for a snack and to give Luc a rest, though I'm not sure he needed one.  Hey.  Senior dogs.  You've got to spoil them.

I was taking electrolyte tabs (S Caps from Spafford Health and Adventure - BEST electrolyte replacer out there!!!!) to help as if you get too dehydrated while taking lithium you can accidentally go toxic - I had that happen at a short trail race before once, I was blind for half an hour.  Super freaky stuff.  We also got more water at this stop.

With our break over, we headed off for the slightly-less than half remaining of our 7k day.  We hit the long rocky downhill that Steph was dreading heading up on Sunday.

We got into camp at about 12:30 - and the firepit was still smouldering from whatever asshat had been there that morning and not put out their fire!!!!!!!!!  WHAT THE!!!!!!!!  Totally disgusting.

We stayed at H5 on Cave Lake - it's a nice big site, though not overburdened with a ton of tent sites.

As you can see, I used my Integral Designs Silwing tarp (available at MEC).  I was letting Steph use my favourite Tarptent, the Double Rainbow, and brought along the the Rainshadow 2, for me and the dogs.  Which I haven't used in years.  I remembered that instead of the poles that come with the tent to prop up the front, you can use hiking poles, which I like better.  And Steph was using hiking poles.
So I didn't bring the poles (or the stakes, but that's what dog made sticks for).  However, I forgot that one of the poles of the Rainshadow is for the rear and props up that end of the tent.


It's funny because last time I stayed at H5 we had an injured dog (Neb) so stopped early and discovered that I'd forgotten the poles to a tent (an old tent - the Big Agnes Seedhouse SL3, which I got at MEC.  I don't think they make it anymore though).  So something about H5 makes me forget tent poles.

The Rainshadow was still usable - basically just a tarp with a very low back end.  But I decided, after an enjoyable swim and lie in the sun - to put up the Silwing.  I had the tyvek groundsheet to put all my gear on.

So see?  Paranoia into always bringing tarps in case of rain pay off!  Plus I'd been thinking of using the Silwing more in November for the trips so to use it in good weather was good, I've had it on trips before, but never with dogs.

Relevant because I woke up Sunday morning and thought 'Huh, the tarp is awfully low' - the dogs were on tie outs and Luc knocked over the hiking pole I had on one of the wings - so I had to fix it.  I'm not sure how well tarps work with dogs, unless you have the perfect site with perfectly located trees so that you don't need a hiking pole - I think I may go back to using the Double Rainbow for my November trips.

But enough about tarps and tents.

After our run and sun, we broke into the wine.

Steph went classy and drank hers from a sierra cup.  But look at me, bringing a cup on a backpacking trip!  You know it's glamping when.

We cooked dinner on my new stove, which I brought along because I couldn't wait to try it out - 73g, the Soto Micro Regulator stove.  It boils SO fast - faster than the Jetboil I think!  It's no alcohol stove, but wonderfully light and easy to use.  Thanks to Brian at MEC Toronto for the recommendation.  I also got it for shoulder season trips.  But think I'll use it other times.

We had a vegan dinner that was super good - cappellini pasta (quick cook), black bean soup mix as sauce with some nutritional yeast and hemp hearts.  We brought veggies too but forgot them - oops!

We had a small fire, hung out talking, then headed to bed.

Neb had started limping sometime Saturday afternoon/evening, but we couldn't see anything wrong with his pads or leg when palpitated/examined.  We thought maybe he had his leg fall asleep or got stung.

Sunday morning he was still limping, until he saw a squirrel and ran after it without limping and never limped again.  What a faker!

We had a quick breakfast, headed out and hiked out a bit faster than we came in, despite the big uphill that Steph was worried about.

It was still hot, so it was good to get an early start on the day.  I woke up at 6:15 thanks to the one mosquito on the lake (sheesh) and it was HOT.  I slept in shorts and a tank but I was sweaty.

We stopped at French River on the way home and had lunch.  Steph had never been before!  My goodness, it is iconic.  We ate outside with the dogs of course, and chatted with a little girl who came over and asked if she could say hi to the dogs - she had dogs herself and was SO good with them, you could tell she really knew dogs.  It was a pleasure to see.  Neb kissed her.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Temagami Camping Weekend

Another non-running post.  I'm feeling meh about running lately, but very motivated about hiking/backpacking/camping again.

This was Toby and I's first camping trip of the year.  Despite working at MEC, he will only car camp (on a queen-sized air mattress).  But, he works in cycling, and they're all big bike snobs (I kid!  They're not snobs at all!  But they're big bike dweebs...total dweebs).

I had fun on Instagram with the #mecstaffer hashtag though.

Anywho.  We were camping Friday-Monday.  We were going to leave early Friday to get ahead of the long weekend traffic, but Toby got asked to a conference call for his other job, at 10, so we didn't actually leave Toronto until 11:30.  We hit the worst of the long weekend traffic.  It took us close to 2 hours to get through Barrie, though we did stop to get some lunch, quickly...quick lunch.  So even still.  Barrie should take 45-60 minutes!  Once we got north of Barrie traffic cleared, but still, it took over 6 hrs to get to Temagami, our camping destination being Finlayson Point, where I've stayed a few times before for trips and other hiking stuff.

The forecast weekend was sporadic rain and thundershowers, not so much!

We set up camp:

In all their glory you see our Big Agnes Big House 6 tent that we got from MEC (before Toby worked there!  I love Big Agnes and didn't want some crappy Coleman car camping tent...this fits our queen sized air mattress AND you can stand in it.  Toby doesn't like camping in my UL backpacking gear).  Also the MEC Hootenay Screenhouse which we got as a wedding shower present (along with a MEC double sleeping bag so we can cuddle at night....awww).

It wasn't buggy, but it did rain - a LOT - and while we had our crappy tire tarp to sit under, it was nice to have a dry area to cook in.  Though rain did get in through the screens a bit, the middle stayed dry, much to my shock.  I was very impressed.  Be sure to stake it out properly, we didn't at first as the campsite was a lot of gravel and that's a pain, but when the wind started to move it we decided it was worth the effort.

Friday night we managed to have a campfire, despite bits of rain and thundershowers - and man, the wood at Finlayson Point is so much better than most Ontario Parks wood - it's actually dry!  Lighting fires has never been easier.  We had a lot of fires over the weekend.

Saturday we slept until about 9, had a quick breakfast, then headed out along Roosevelt Road to Friday Lake and the Ottawa Temiskaming Highland Trail.  After nearly bottoming out the car on the way there (one loud bang - we actually stopped to make sure all the fluids were not coming out the bottom of the car), we finally arrived!

It was as advertised.  I've day hiked a few sections of the OTHT before, and know it's rugged, but this was the most overgrown I'd seen it:

If you look closely you can see Toby.  You could see the footpath, if you looked down, and this truly was the trail - we weren't off trail, I swear - it was just really overgrown.

Eventually it got better:

We did a bit of climbing but didn't go as far as planned as Luc the dog really showed his age this weekend.  :(

In the end it was just a 6k out and back...this is a dog that has done continuous 60k hike and done the La Cloche Silhouette Trail in Killarney in 2 days!  But he was younger then, and we think his laryngeal paralysis has gotten worse.

We found a nice place on Friday Lake to stop for a snack and water:

We got back to our car, headed out, and got into camp just before it started to rain and thunder.  So, it ended up being perfect timing.

Eventually the storms cleared and we took the dogs for a walk to the dog beach, where I made Neb swim in Lake Temagami.  Between that and being wet and cold from the rain, despite it being August, he developed a mild case of limp tail/cold water tail that didn't resolve until the Monday.  Weird to see him with his tail down.  He really is the worst husky ever.

It stormed off and on but I got a swim in at the beach across from out campsite:

I missed the campsites at Haliburton Forest where you have your own private beach.  Still, this was nice, and close by, one reason why I chose it.

Checked the weather forecast for Sunday - the 5-10mm of rain had changed to 20-30mm and I'd say it was at least 30mm - it rained pretty hard ALL day long until the late afternoon.

This is where I have something bad to admit.  While I packed my Marmot Precip jacket, I did not pack the pants, because I am an idiot.  The jacket is too big for me, deliberately, as I take it as a shell winter camping and need it to fit over my michelin man down jacket, so it hangs down quite far.  With my shortest pair of shorts, I was covered, but I was cold and wanted PANTS dammit.  I had pants, but who wants wet pants?  Neither one of us was super enthused to hike (I'll admit it) and I wanted to visit the Highway Book Shop, in Cobalt, which is a staple of my visits to the region.  But clearly I haven't been up in a while since we got up there only to discover it was CLOSED!  Since 2011!  Damn!

Anyways we headed off to the Temagami LCBO and grocery store and in search of some rain pants for me.  No rain pants to be found in Temagami, and the grocery store was closed (ummm....what?) but we hit the LCBO.  Toby was pshawing my vegan pasta option and wanted a steak, so we ended up near Marten River at the little grocery store/general store/LCBO there where he got a steak and I got rain pants, the crappy kind with suspenders that I tore within an hour.  Of course, by then it had warmed up.  Eventually it stopped raining, so we pulled out the wood and started a fire:

We had a lot of great nights around the fire this trip, and cooked over it all but one night when we had risotto (with red wine...we're not savages).

Slept in a bit Monday, but got up and ate and broke camp relatively quickly, though of course since it had rained overnight everything was wet.  Then we headed to the Temagami Fire Tower and White Bear Forest trails for a quick hike.

We hiked the White Bear Trail, named after one of the local Teme-Augama Anishnaabe who helped preserve the area from 'development'.  There was some old growth pines on this trail which I was excited to check out:

It was a lovely if short hike (from the parking lot about 3k, the trail itself is shorter).  But, Luc was really panting, probably due to the laryngeal paralysis.  Toby was ahead of me and Luc was behind me and Toby could hear him.  We stopped every km to give him water, which is CRAZY.  It wasn't particularly hot at that time of the morning.  Poor guy.

We also found a lump on his jaw this weekend.  But he goes in for his annual on Friday so we'll have it looked at then.

After a lunch in Temagami, we headed down the road, and despite the holiday Monday traffic, made it home in 5 hours!  Much better.  Still slower than normal, but much better.  I blame Barrie.  When in doubt, blame Barrie.

That's the trip.  Next up is a girl's easy backpacking trip to Killarney, where I'm bringing Neb and hoping to bring Luc if it's not too hot.  We'll see.  I think Steph will be okay with us stopping to rest Luc, she has a dog herself and gets it.