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: