Race report: Goderich Olympic triathlon (read: duathlon) – 7 foot swells and a new PB

Ever swim in 7 foot swells before? Me neither. With a race morning forecast of 38 km/h winds gusting to 59, it wasn’t a bit surprising! Lake Huron can be menacing!


Lake Huron waves race morning.

But let me back up. My alarm went off at 3:30 AM, and when I woke up, I was really disappointed because I was sure I had a few more hours to sleep. I briefly considered sleeping until 3:45 but decided to get up. I ate my breakfast just before 4 AM, as late as possible before having to make the 2 hour drive to Goderich. We were supposed to camp at Point Farms Provincial Park the night before the race, but I worried that campers would be playing the Tragically Hip’s last concert and we would have trouble sleeping, so we stayed home instead. We left just before 4:30 AM, but somehow we got turned around on the way and ended up driving at least 45 minutes extra – we didn’t arrive at the race site until 7:20 AM for an 8 AM start – normally, we like to arrive 2 hours before the race! We still had to pump our bike tires, register, get our stuff organized in transition and make multiple trips to the bathroom! It was more stressful than normal, but slightly less stressful than it could have been – before we arrived, I saw on Facebook that due to 7 foot swells, the Coast Guard officially called the conditions unsafe for swimmers (just imagine the job of those poor safety boats). The race would instead be a duathlon (no need to struggle into a wetsuit or do a warm-up swim), with a 10k run, then 42.5k bike, then 5k run. I really didn’t want to swim in choppy water anyway! Last year’s race was the first time I felt sea-sick doing a triathlon. This year’s race was the 25th anniversary, and the first time the triathlon was changed to a duathlon.


I did find time for a couple of pre-race shots – check out Emma’s race report over at Running in Tune.

Alasdair was still frantically getting ready, so we didn’t get a shot together.

This would be just my 2nd time doing an Olympic duathlon, so I’m still at newbie at figuring out how to pace myself for the first run. I was very grateful though that the longest run would be first!

10k run

The race started in waves based on bib number, with Alasdair and I starting in the 3rd wave. He took off with the lead guys, and I ended up at the back of the pack not too long into the run. The run starts with a hill, then continues along a grass path until it crosses the river and goes along the Goderich to Auburn Rail Trail. From this point it’s a gradual uphill to the turnaround. Unfortunately, there were no distance markers on the run, so I had no idea how I was doing. Alasdair was just under a kilometre from the turnaround when I spotted him (I didn’t know at the time exactly where we were in the course). It wasn’t until the half-way point that I realized I was running 6 min kilometres, which was my goal for this first run. I chatted a bit with the one runner behind me, who made me laugh when he said, “good job!” to some of the lead runners as they passed us going the other way – when they didn’t say thank you, he said, “you’re welcome!” I told him that sometimes I just don’t have the energy to say thanks, but I do try to wave or grimace at least! He understood.


Nearing the end of the run. [Photo credit: Heather Bell]

While I started out at the back of the pack, I eventually passed 5-10 runners. I managed to speed up a bit on the way back, and ended up with a slight negative split. I stopped for a quick pee in the portapotty just next to the transition zone (dodging spectators as I made my way there!), then changed my shoes, grabbed my helmet, bike, and headed for the mount line.

42.5k bike

This bike course is never-ending hills, with the added fun this time of crazy wind. It starts with a big uphill, and the hills just keep coming. The first part of the race (going east) we had a tailwind, but I don’t know my speed because once again, there were no distance markers. I had a gel near the beginning, and rationed my gatorade to make it last the whole ride. As we made the turn south, I wondered how awful the cross winds were going to be, but they weren’t nearly as bad as I expected (I never felt like I was going to be blown over!), and nothing like the Barrelman 1/2 iron distance race in 2014. It was during this section that I asked another rider if she knew how far we had ridden. “About halfway” was her answer. A little further on, I encountered another rider, and asked the same question. I didn’t realize that she was wearing headphones (not smart!) and couldn’t hear me, but she eventually told me that we were at 22k – more than half way! Once we turned west, we rode into a headwind, which was even noticeable when riding downhill! Again, I passed about  5-10 other athletes during the ride. I had a gel near the end of the bike course, and was glad to finally notice a distance marker (35 km) painted onto the road. I have no idea if there might have been others – if there were, they weren’t very visible. It was a tough ride, but given the circumstances I did okay (I was 10 minutes slower than last year)! And at least I didn’t do the hills on a unicycle as one racer did! He participated in the try-a-tri, which was also changed into a duathlon. But over 15 km, he managed a pace of 16.4 km/h! Impressive!

5k run

I headed out on the run knowing that I didn’t have to run as far as I’d already run, and that at worst I had just 35 minutes of running left if I couldn’t go faster than a 7 minute kilometre. I had only just begun my run when I spotted Alasdair again. He was working so hard that for the first time he told me that he couldn’t hit my hand as we passed each other! I felt pretty good on the 2nd run, except for a cramp that was causing me a bit of grief. I asked a few older people who were walking along the trail if they wanted to trade places with me. No takers (but they did laugh!). It turns out I saved enough in the tank to hold a 6:15 min/km pace for the 2nd run. And looking at the race stats, while I was 7/9 women 40-49 on the 1st run, I was 4/9 for the 2nd – I slowed down, but others slowed down more! Near the end I said to one of the volunteers, “I hate hills!” and she laughed and said to others nearby, “She said ‘I hate this!'” and I replied, “No! I said ‘I hate hills!'” She laughed again. I spotted Alasdair just before I got to the finish, and then, just like that, I was done!


Done! [Photo credit: Heather Bell]

I finished in 3:12:58, good for 5/9 women age 40-49 (and a new PB, since I’ve never done an Olympic duathlon in Goderich before)! Not too shabby! I’m really pleased with my runs.

After the race , we packed up our stuff, loaded the car, and came back to the race site for food (sausage on a bun, fruit, pitas, granola bars) and awards. I even won a draw prize, a $25 gift certificate for 360 Bikes ‘n Boards, a store in Goderich and one of the race sponsors. From their website, “We offer the best in Bikes, Scooters, Skateboards, Longboards, Paddleboards, Apparel, Snowboards, and more.” We headed there after the race and I picked out a pair of cycling gloves for Ailish. Thank you for the draw prize and for supporting the race!

This year the medals were handed out by Julie Sawchuk, one of the race organizers, who last year just before the race was hit by a car while training on her bike in Huron County. She suffered many injuries, the worst of which were a shattered T4 and burst L1 vertebrae, leaving her paralyzed. Needless to say her life was changed forever. I read her blog regularly and decided to chat with her briefly when the awards were done. She blogs at “Words by Julie” and is very inspiring. Check out her writing.


Alasdair, Emma and I after the race, commiserating on the awful wind! [Photo credit: Jenny Appleton Iserman]

Race stats:

Time: 3:12:58 (5/9 women 40-49, 20/33 women, 61/84 athletes)

10k run: 59:23 (5:57 min/km) – 7/9 women 40-49, 75th/84 athletes

T1: 1:44

42.5k bike: 1:39:23 (25.7 km/h) – 54th/84 athletes

T2: 1:18

5k run: 31:12 (6:15) -4/9 women 40-49, 56th/84 athletes

I look forward to racing in Goderich again!


Post-race, showing the waves we didn’t have to swim in! [Photo credit: some random teenage boy at the beach]


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My 10 favourite things to do while car camping at Grundy Lake Provincial Park

Instead of a traditional trip report, I’ve drafted a list of my favourite things to do while car camping at Grundy Lake Provincial Park. I’ve been there many times – it’s my 2nd favourite place for car camping (after Lake Superior Provincial Park).

In no particular order:

1. Do the jumping off rocks on Gut Lake


With the water level lower in Gut Lake, the jumps were actually further this summer.

The jumping off rocks are accessed from a path between sites 22 and 24 in White Spruce campground. The best part is that there are small jumps and big jumps, so there’s something for everyone brave enough to jump a couple of feet (or 15!). You can jump while wearing a lifejacket if you want to. There are ropes to help you get out of the water. Sometimes, all but one of us swims back to the dock by the Ampitheatre and we walk back to our campsite from there – the last person gets stuck carrying everyone’s sandals, towels etc.

2. Hike the Swan Lake trail

This trail is just 1.5 km long, but has some beautiful terrain and opportunities to spot wildlife – in particular at the start/end. There are frogs, snakes, turtles and more to be found. One year, we spotted 23 turtles sunning themselves on logs.


Rush hour at Grundy Lake.

3. Participate in the many fabulous programs put on by the park staff

We have done many programs at Grundy, from Art in the Park, to guided night hikes (no flashlights) looking for glow worms and listening for owls, to musical performances, presentations by turtle and snake researchers, and lots more. There are programs for families, kids, and adults only. The staff are fantastic and the programs educational!


Mosaic art.

4. Canoe or kayak from Grundy Lake to Gut Lake

In past years the water levels were higher, so that we could actually paddle between the two lakes. Now you have to get out of the boat and drag it to deeper water several times as you go. It’s still fun!


5. Swim at the main beach

We miss the floating dock that used to be at the main beach, but we still enjoy swimming there and building sandcastles.

6. Spot wildlife

In previous years, we have spotted turtles, snakes, foxes and raccoons, but this year, we had a different sort of visitor close to our campsite (twice). Unfortunately the bear didn’t seem too bothered by people. Early morning and dusk can be great times to see animals, but you can also see things in the middle of the day. Take a look in a wetland area and see what you find!


In the campsite directly across from ours.

7. Ride bicycles to the Grundy Lake Supply Post for an ice cream

This year, our bike ride became a ride for 3 and drive for 1 when Alasdair got a flat on his mountain bike. It took us less than 20 minutes to ride there from our site, and our ice cream was inexpensive and delicious!


8. Run (or bike or walk!) to Pakeshkag Lake

I had a 90 minute run on my training schedule, so I headed first for Pakeshkag Lake. It’s a pretty quiet dirt road, which gets more scenic once you pass the last of the campgrounds (Poplar). On my way to the lake, which ended up being about 5 km from our campsite, I spotted a grouse and an endangered Blanding’s turtle! And lots of annoying flying things, one of which stung me on the ear. There were a few people fishing when I got to the lake. This is also one spot where you can access some of the park’s backcountry canoe sites, which we have done a couple of times before.

9. Drive 10 minutes north to explore the French River Provincial Park visitor centre, suspension bridge, and hike the 4 km trail to the beautiful Recollet Falls

The French River Provincial Park visitor centre is very nice, and also has a small gift store. The trail to Recollet Falls is not difficult, but rewards you with a beautiful view. Be sure to walk across the suspension bridge too and have a look at the spectacular French River!

10. Drive 1 hour north to Sudbury to spend the day at Science North

I can’t say enough about Science North. It is just fantastic. The staff (called “Blue Coats” for the blue lab coats they wear) are terrific. The mini shows (for example, about flying squirrels, complete with jumping squirrels) are short, frequent, and fun. There are different exhibits to explore, hands on activities (including the ability to hold things like giant snails and tarantulas!), an IMAX theatre, and even a “Nature Exchange“, where kids can trade points for cool things like rocks, dried butterflies, and bird nests! Bring something from home (not from a Provincial Park), trade it for points, and then find something you like to bring home. Or, if you have nothing to trade, do a quiz (one time only), finding the answers in the exhibits on the Nature Exchange floor, earns points, and then trade! Kids can even do research at home, put together a project, and bring it in for points. We spent the entire day there on our last visit, and could have spent even longer. Usually, we head for Science North on the first bad weather day of our trip.


Making a new friend.

There are many more things to do at Grundy Lake! Watching beautiful sunsets from the Maple campground rocks, the rock slides in the Maple campground, volleyball on the beach, fishing (including learn to fish programs), backcountry camping, biking on the campground roads, exploring the 7 lakes within the park, playing baseball against park staff, hiking the Beaver Dam trail and Gut Lake trail, and more! Try it – you’ll love it.

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Trip report: Massassauga Provincial Park by canoe – a girls only adventure

After last summer’s successful girls only trip to Rain Lake at Algonquin Provincial Park, we decided to do it again, this time at The Massassauga Provincial Park.

Shortcut to more pictures: Massassauga Aug 2016 (click on one picture, then click on the little i to see the picture descriptions)

Day 1

We headed out early, stopping first at Swift Canoe and Kayak for my friend Cheryl to rent a Swift Keewaydin 15, and then at Oastler Lake Provincial Park to pick up our interior camping permit. We ate our lunch, then continued on to the Three Legged Lake access point, where, according to posted signs, we had 15 minutes to unload our stuff and get our vehicle out of the unloading/loading area. It took us 13 minutes. Phew.

We divided the 3 canoe packs between the 2 canoes (mine is a Swift Keewaydin 17), with my daughter Ailish (12) and I in our boat with Mae (11), and Cheryl with her daughter Anne (14) in the other. We pushed off, and away we went!

We paddled through Three Legged Lake, heading for the 370 m portage into Spider Lake and our awaiting adventure at The Massassauga Provincial Park. There are cottages and motor boats on this lake, but we didn’t encounter any issues. There were canoes going in both directions, but it wasn’t too busy. After about 2 km, we reached the portage. Cheryl and I each portaged a canoe, and went back for a big canoe pack. The kids carried the rest of the stuff (paddles, bailer, etc.).

Once back in the boats, we took a shortcut to the right of an island, and paddled for a little while longer before pulling over and having a quick snack. We continued on for a short while, reaching campsite #14 after about 1 1/2 hours of moving time (including the portage) and 4.3 km of paddling (plus 370m portage).


View of Spider Lake from way up high on campsite #14.

We spent the rest of the day at our campsite, setting up our tents, a tarp in case of rain, finding a tree to hang bear bags, exploring, swimming, and making our dinner (full menu here). The girls even made pottery out of clay from the lake. Anne spotted an endangered blue lined skink sunning itself on the rocks. We cooked our hot dogs on the campfire, and then had some s’mores. At 9:15 PM when the mosquitoes came out, we called it a night and climbed into our tents. Before the day was done, Cheryl had been stung by yellow jackets twice on her leg. There were yellow jacket nests on our site.


Cliff jumping at our campsite.

Site #14 is huge, with room for multiple tents. The site is way up high (the review we read said “don’t sleepwalk”), with a great view of Spider Lake. There was a fire pit with multiple grills, a picnic table, great jumping off rocks, and a nice rocky area at water level to sit on.

Day 2

On our second day, we didn’t even leave our campsite! We did a bit of a scavenger hunt, and spent a lot of time swimming, cliff jumping and reading. The girls also built a rope swing and took turns on that! In the afternoon a thunderstorm rolled through, but the thunder was distant and the rain short lived.


With the exception of 2 dinners, we cooked all of our meals on an MSR Dragonfly stove. In this picture, Cheryl is draining our pasta.

Once again, we abandoned our fire and headed for the tents by 9:15 PM when the mosquitoes started driving us crazy.

Day 3

On our third day, we decided to explore Spider Lake a bit, so we set out in our canoes and paddled into the wind, the kids in one boat, and Cheryl and I in another. We had a snack on an island just off site #9. We only paddled about 2 km.

Since Anne had spotted a five-lined skink, I hoped that I would spot one too by lifting up logs and rocks at our campsite – I never did, but I did spot this salamander!


Salamander at our campsite (maybe a Jefferson salamander).

Later, when the park wardens stopped by our campsite to check on our permits (they zoomed around in a small power boat all day long it seemed!), we chatted about skinks and they said that they often find them when they lift rocks up in the fire pits. I guess they like the warmth of the rocks.

During the day we made sure to keep the girls’ pottery in the sun, so that their works of art eventually dried.


Ailish’s small bowl and spoon at the right, which she put hot chocolate powder into. Anne’s big bowl in the middle, and Mae’s on the right.

At some point during the day I was stung on the back of my hand by a yellow jacket, and wow did it ever hurt! My hand also swelled up and I couldn’t make a tight fist. By the time I went to bed it was doing much better, and the next morning I was no longer in pain.

We enjoyed a very delicious dinner – mini tortilla pizzas – cooked on our campfire. In addition to tomato sauce, we rehydrated onions, pineapple, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes and zucchini. Everyone customized their own pizzas and they were a hit.


Ailish preps her pizza.

Later that evening, the girls became superheroes with capes, so we did a series of fun (and some downright ridiculous) group shots! Afterwards, with four of us in the water and Anne standing in ankle deep water about to get in, she had her toe nibbled by a small turtle. Thankfully it let go and swam away, allowing us to swim in the lake one last time.



Day 4

On our last day, we packed everything up, said goodbye to the annoying chipmunks that other campers must feed (and who ate through our tarps that we had connected with a rope tied around an acorn!), and did a bit more art before getting back on the water and heading for our vehicle. We saw and heard loons during our trip, and Cheryl heard an owl one night. With the skink, salamander, and small turtle, we did alright with animal sightings!


More clay art.


Heading out.


It took us just under 2 hours from the time we left our campsite to the time we arrived back at the shore, including the portage and a short snack break. The portage was very busy, with 6 boats (including us) all heading for Three Legged Lake at the same time, and others coming to Spider Lake. Even the put in/take out was pretty busy!

We had a fun trip!!

Related post: Menu: 4-day canoe trip for 5 people (2 adults, 3 kids)

Posted in Backcountry camping, Canoe trip reports | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Race report: K-Town Long Course Triathlon (“The Legend”)

Overheard in our Kingston hotel: (father to 4 or 5 year old son) “You know what, Lucas? Tomorrow some people are doing a TRI-ATH-A-LON! They are going to do a MARATHON, and then CYCLE, and then you know what?” I have no idea what, since the elevator doors closed, but that was enough to make us smile! No wonder some people think we are crazy!!

Sunday morning we arrived at Confederation Park at 6 AM for the 8 AM start of the 33th K-Town Long Course Triathlon (“The Legend”). It was to be the 3rd year that Alasdair and I took part in this race, a 2k swim, 56.2k bike, and 15k run. Since we picked up our race kits the day before (swim cap, race bib, t-shirt), all we had to do was pick up our timing chips and get body marking done. I had my spot in transition set up pretty quickly, so I spent the rest of the time sitting on a bench, laying on the ground, or chatting with people. With less than 5 hours of sleep the night before, I was pretty tired.


Very scenic transition area!

The sun rising in the sky over the Royal Military College made for some pretty pictures.


Sunrise at Confederation Park, Kingston.


I kind of like the growth coming out of Alasdair’s head! [Thanks Irina for the photo!]

This race features an in-water start, with athletes jumping or diving off a floating dock and swimming to the start line. I didn’t want to get in too soon, knowing that I’d have to tread water until the race started. With about 10 minutes to go, Alasdair and I wished each other luck and I jumped into the water. I was in the 3rd wave (with all women), and Alasdair in the 2nd. There was one wave of swimmers after me.

2k Swim

The horn sounded, I started my watch, and off I went! I swam very straight to the first turning buoy, and shortly after turning had to stop to fix my goggles when I saw one of the straps dangling in front of my face. I swam fairly straight to the next turning buoy, but had to adjust my goggles – again – when they were really fogging up and I had trouble seeing the buoys. I was a bit surprised (and disappointed!) to see how quickly the wave behind me caught up to me (their blue swim caps became visible around me). I noticed a bit of chop in the water in this section too, and was having a little more difficulty swimming straight. The last long section before turning to the dock was likely my most crooked, as it seemed that I had to keep correcting my course. Just before the very last turn, I started to feel sick to my stomach when I saw the weeds below the surface moving one way with me moving another. It was awful! I tried to swim with my eyes closed but that didn’t help. Motion sickness is no fun. As I approached the dock, where volunteers were waiting to pull us out of the water, I hoped to see less than 48 on my watch (last year’s time) but would have been satisfied with 50 given the goggle-fixing and course-correcting. I was horrified to see almost 54 minutes!! At that moment I gave up on beating last year’s race time (4:22 and change).

2016-07-31 | 2016 MultiSport Kingston Triathlon

At least I didn’t get stung on the lip by an unknown creature on the swim like Alasdair did!

After a very short run to transition, a quick pee, and a change into cycling gear, I headed out of the transition zone for the bike segment of the race.

56.2k Bike

Given that I was one of the last swimmers out of the water, there wasn’t any congestion at the bike mount line! For the first 27 or 28k of the ride, we were riding into the wind, and my speed was slower than I would have liked. I played leapfrog with an athlete named Caroline from 10k to the turnaround at 27 or 28k, at which point the wind was behind us and I took off! She was pretty excited at the turnaround and yelled to the police officer there, “Are you having FUN!?” I had such a slow swim that not a single person passed me on the bike! However, I did pass 6-10 people (who later all passed me on the run!). On the ride I noticed interesting things for sale:  a dozen worms for $3.50, and antique wooden tables for $25.  I also spotted some cool wooden carvings (an eagle, a witch, and I’m not sure what else), and I saw some sort of bird of prey way up in a nest at the top of a hydro pole. I think Alasdair was about 5k ahead of me when we passed each other. The second half of the bike was way more fun, and my speed rose to around 30km/h or so. Near the end of the ride, I caught the slower of the sprint triathlon athletes still out on the course. The most congestion I encountered was down the last hill, across the lift bridge, and where I had to cross into the “middle” lane of the road where we ended at the dismount line.  I drank a bottle of gatorade, half a bottle of water, and managed to force down 2 gels and a mini granola bar during the ride.

15k Run

I quickly changed into my running gear, made a pitstop at a portapotty, and headed out on the run course. I knew right away that I had no speed in my legs. I had hoped to try to run at a pace of 6 min/km, to avoid going out to fast and then fading as the km’s passed. But my first km was at a pace of 6:12, and for once, my legs were the limiting factor rather than my cardio. Only a few km’s in, I threw out any time goals for the run, and it became a game of “one foot in front of the other” and “just finish”! I was disappointed, but there was nothing I could do. I had a great run in Gravenhurst on a hot, hilly 10k course just a few weeks ago, so this time it just wasn’t my day! I do wonder whether the aerial ropes course we did 5 days before the race took more out of my legs than I thought (so much fun!!). It might have been around the 5k mark that I spotted Alasdair. Or maybe sooner. It was after I spotted Irina finishing her sprint run (thanks for the cheers Irina – sorry I had nothing to return!).

I have to say that the volunteers on the run course were FANTASTIC! There were frequent aid stations, with volunteers asking whether we wanted water, ice, heed, pretzels, fruit or gels. I drank heed a few times, water other times, and every time poured water on my head. It was far hotter than I thought it was going to be. I also poured ice in my tri top and ate it as I ran. Some of the volunteers were super enthusiastic. I loved the sign that one volunteer was holding around 11 or 12k that said, “Justin Timberlake is at the finish line with puppies!” (Or maybe it was Ryan Gosling!) It was just after this point that there was an aid station with a kid holding a hose – I got a total soaking and declared it “my favourite part of the whole race!”

At 12k I got a side stitch that I couldn’t shake, and my pace slowed until the end. I had to walk a couple of times too for a few seconds.

2016-07-31 | 2016 MultiSport Kingston Triathlon

On the home stretch!

This was one race that I was very relieved to be done with! At the finish line I received a finisher’s medal and finisher’s hat, had a quick drink of water, then found Alasdair. He beat his time from last year by about 20 seconds, while I was 18 minutes slower (in fact, I was slower on the swim, bike and run segments). Next year!

After downing some chocolate milk and chatting with other finishers, we grabbed our post-race food (pizza, fruit, pretzels) and sat to watch the awards. Alasdair had a secret, which he revealed just before the awards – by being the 90th finisher (90 was randomly selected by the race organizers before the race began) he was the “racer of the day” and received a $310 credit for 2XU compression gear. Awesome!

2016-07-31 | 2016 MultiSport Kingston Triathlon

On the podium (sort of)!

And, according to the announcer Steve Fleck, the compression gear will put him on the podium in the future! If only.


On the way home.

Race stats

Time: 4:40:56.8 -10/12 women age 40-44, 41/49 women, 135/155 athletes

2k swim: 53:58.2 (2:41/100m) – 11/12 women age 40-44, 45/49 women, 145/155 athletes

T1: 2:19

56.2k bike: 1:59.05 (28.32 km/h – last year 29.1 km/h) -9/12 women age 40-44, 38/49 women, 132/155 athletes

T2: 2:22

15k run: 1:43:13 (6:52 min/km – last year 6:14 min/km) -10/12 women age 40-44, 41/49 women, 135/155 athletes

Kingston, we’ll be back!


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Menu: 4-day canoe trip for 5 people (2 adults, 3 kids)

Later this month, I will go on a 4-day canoe trip at The Massassauga Provincial Park with my daughter, my friend Cheryl and her two daughters. We planned the menu months ago, divided it in half, and have been preparing for our adventure. (Last year’s girls only canoe trip at Algonquin Provincial Park was tons of fun.)

We dehydrated many things for the trip, baked others, and assembled all the meals ourselves.


Some of the yummy stuff we dehydrated! Top to bottom: apples, canned pineapple, red peppers, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, yellow zucchini, tomato sauce, bananas. (BEFORE DEHYDRATING)


Top to bottom: apples, canned pineapple, red peppers, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, yellow zucchini, tomato sauce, bananas. (AFTER DEHYDRATING)

Day 1

Breakfast/morning snack/lunch – at home/packed from home

Afternoon snack – oatmeal squares

Dinner – hot dogs and raw veggies

Evening snack – s’mores

Day 2

Breakfast – egg wraps with bacon, veggies, salsa and cheese

Morning snack – energy squares, with chocolate, nuts, and condensed milk

Lunch – pepperettes, cheese strings, veggies and naan bread

Afternoon snack – trail mix and fruit leather

Dinner – pasta with veggies and tomato sauce

Evening snack – banana melts, with dehydrated bananas, chocolate chips and marshmallows



Top to bottom: mixed fruit leather, applesauce leather, salsa.

Day 3

Breakfast – oatmeal and fruit

Morning snack – homemade beef jerky and fruit leather

Lunch – mud (chocolate, peanut butter, nuts etc.) and bagels

Afternoon snack – energy squares

Dinner – mini tortilla pizzas with veggies, cheese, pepperoni and sauce

Evening snack – trail mix

Day 4

Breakfast – apple crisp

Morning snack – oatmeal squares

Lunch – peanut butter wraps (with seeds, nuts, dried fruit)

Afternoon snack – trail mix




hot chocolate


lots and lots of water!


All ready to go! 4 days worth of food for 5 people.

Look for a trip report in the coming weeks!

Updated Aug 14: trip report.

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Aerial games and zip lines through the forest canopy at Skywood Eco Adventure Park

Picture yourself standing on a wooden tree platform high up from the forest floor, trying to convince yourself to jump off… now picture the spectators watching from below, and the eager kids behind you waiting for their turn… an experience like no other!


While doing a google search in May of things to do in the Kingston area this summer, I discovered the Skywood Eco Adventure Park in Mallorytown, Ontario (near Brockville), which the Parks of St. Lawrence would be opening in Summer 2016. It was to have aerial games and zip lines within the forest canopy. It sounded like a lot of fun, so we hoped it would open in time for our visit to the Kingston area, and that Ailish would be able to spend her 12th birthday there. I kept checking the website, and just 2 weeks before the big day, I saw that the park was open and they were accepting bookings! So we reserved the Adventure Course for the morning, and the Zip Line Tour for the afternoon.

In short, we had an amazing day.

According to the park’s brochure, Skywood Eco Adventure is “a collection of low ecological impact aerial adventure activities within an old growth forest” and is “in the unique setting of the Frontenac Arch UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.”

Adventure Course

We arrived at around 8:45 AM for our 9 AM start. We checked in at the base camp, filled out waivers, used the washrooms, and were each fitted into a full-body climbing harness with shoulder straps, waist belt and leg loops by the helpful staff. We were then fitted with a helmet, and waited for a few minutes before everyone was ready to go. Two guides took our group of about 20 people a couple hundred metres to the safety orientation site, where we were given a briefing on our equipment, how it works, and the rules for the park (e.g. only 1 person on a game at a time, only 2 people on a platform (or 2 + 1 guide), only one smart belay detached at a time, etc.). The instructions were very clear.


My harness.

Then, we each had to demonstrate that we understood the instructions, by climbing a short ladder (clipping in properly), and showing that we could do a “safety fall”, and clip to a zip line. Our large group split during this demonstration process, with half the group showing their abilities at a safety orientation spot just down the trail. Then, we headed for the adventure courses.

There are 5 adventure courses, 2 beginner (Loon and Heron), 2 intermediate (Eagle and Osprey), and 1 advanced (Vulture). There are age and height restrictions for these courses. Note, though, that kids 5+ can do a separate Discovery Course and a Discovery Zip Line. The Discovery Zip line is accessible and suitable for people with reduced mobility or requiring mobility aids. And in August, a course for kids 3+ will be opening. Check the website for more information!

While the Adventure Courses are self-led (you move at your own pace), there are guides throughout the course (at the start, at the beginning and end of each zip line within the courses, and on the ground) assisting and watching to make sure safety rules are followed. You have to start with a beginning course, and cannot do an intermediate course until you’ve done both beginner ones. The easier of the 2 intermediate courses has to be done before the harder one. And you have to get permission to do the advanced course.

There are various obstacles, including bridges, swings, nets, and zip lines. Some are more stable than others, some very wobbly, others requiring you to stretch your limbs quite far (there are height restrictions for a reason!).


Me on the Adventure Course.

We started with the Loon course, making our way through the approximately 10 aerial games (there were about 10 or more on each course). The courses were in the shade, but we were sweating buckets! We were glad to have brought our water bottles to the nest (the main hub), where all the courses began. Our second course was the Heron course, and then we moved onto the harder intermediate courses.


Keaghan on the Adventure Course.

At some point, Ailish and I walked back to the base camp so we could pee, but we had to get help from guides there to get out of our harnesses and get back in them! As we did the courses, we watched others (including the person directly in front of us) to see how they made their way through the games. Alasdair tried to do as much as he could without using his hands. This became more difficult as the courses got harder. Some of the games were more slow-going than others, and some I liked less than others! When one relied on only my arms to swing between 2 platforms, I feared that they would fail me and I would fall. I knew that I would only fall about 4″ until my harness caught me, but I still stood there for a minute or so trying to convince myself to go!

Before starting the harder of the intermediate courses, we were warned that while all the other courses ended with a zip line, this one ended with a 4 foot drop from a platform, after which we would be slowly lowered to the ground! “No problem!” we said. Until we stood on that platform. Alasdair went first, then Keaghan, then Ailish. I stood on the platform with Ailish and the guide while she tried to convince herself to go. Nicole, the guide, was really great with Ailish, telling her that she has trouble jumping too, and that some guides look at the trees when they jump, others the sky, etc. After a couple of minutes, Nicole suggested that she could push Ailish off – and that’s what she did! Other than her harness whacking her face, it went well! And then it was my turn… Nicole said that I could step off, or jump, my choice. I didn’t hesitate for too long (though it did seem like forever). In the end, I don’t even remember if I stepped off or jumped! And as soon as I did, I realized that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be (isn’t that always the way?!). It was slower and more controlled than I expected.


Ailish stars the Vulture course, with Alasdair providing encouragement from the next platform.

At that point, we had done 4 courses and were more than ready for lunch. But we wanted to do the advanced course before we ran out of time. Ailish found some parts of the intermediate courses quite challenging, so I figured she wouldn’t want to do the advanced course. But she decided to join us. Keaghan opted for food back at the van. We had to get a short briefing from a guide on the difficulty of the last course and sign a paper before we were allowed to do it. I had heard from a boy that the first game on that last course was the hardest. We hoped he was right. That last course (Vulture) took us quite a while to do. No one was directly behind us, but after a while, a few people caught up. However, they were very patient with Ailish’s pace and we didn’t feel rushed. Well, other than the fact that we were supposed to be doing the Zip Line Course at 2 PM, and we were quickly running out of time to get there without being late. And, we still needed to eat something for lunch! She was in tears at times, insisting that she couldn’t do it, that she was going to die etc. But step by step she made progress and she made her way through it!

That’s the one thing about the courses – once you start, you have to finish! However, the guides are able to do the course behind you and meet you on a game to help you if need be.

We were impressed by the guides, the layout of the course, the variety of obstacles, and the varied difficulty. At one point we had to climb through tunnels, at another spot we rode a skateboard between platforms, and elsewhere we climbed a spider web. It was so much fun. It was at the end of the very last course when the guide at the zip line checked our wrist bands and told us that we actually climbed for longer than we were supposed to. I didn’t realize that there was an end time, and assumed that we were able to make our way through all 5 courses. According to him, we got a “bonus climb”.

Alasdair left us to finish the last couple of games on that last course and returned to the base camp to let them know that we were there for the Zip Line Course!  When Ailish and I arrived, people were getting suited up, but we still had to unharness, pee, and get harnessed up again. Plus we had to get Keaghan from the van, grab some plain bagels and juice and be ready to go again! We managed to have our quick lunch after getting suited up, but before our 2nd safety briefing of the day.

Zip Line Course

For the Zip Line Course, we were in a group of 8, including 2 couples, with 1 man and 1 woman cousins. We also had 2 guides, Nicole (from the jumping platform) and Luke. After the briefing we headed for the start of the Zip Line Course, which was a series of ladders to get us up into the tree canopy.


Me climbing up to start the zip line course.

This is where we discovered that one of the men was afraid of heights, and one woman was quite afraid of the climbing (she was in tears at the top and said that she was a “blubbering baby”)! I cannot imagine doing the zip lining while afraid of heights! The 4 of them did great! Talk about overcoming fears. We were super impressed with Nicole, who worked with the one woman to help her through ladders. We climbed one by one, but we all fit on a 10-person platform, where we were shown how we would be clipping onto the zip line (it was a little different than how we did it on the Adventure Course).


Alasdair on one of the zip lines.

And then we began the series of 8 zip lines that would take us through the forest! Nicole would go first, and then radio to Luke that the next person could go. Alasdair, the kids and I did not find the zip lines scary, but very very fun! We changed the order up a bit as we went so we could get pictures of various people. We took a few videos as well. Some of the zip lines were longer than others, with the longest about 600 feet. It was also the most scenic, running alongside the Jones Creek Marsh.

Ailish and Keaghan were told that it was possible they wouldn’t make it all the way to the next platform because of their lower weights, but this never happened – sometimes they pushed off with their feet, and once Keaghan got a push from Luke. On the longest of the zip lines, with the wind behind us, Nicole even had to set the brake (not for the kids) to slow us down near the end. I got better and better with my landings as we progressed through the zip lines.


Approaching the end of a zip line, with a helping hand from Nicole if needed.

After 5 lines, we took a break at the “chill platform”, where we had a drink of water (Luke carried my bottle and Ailish’s in his backpack, and a jug of water and little cups for everyone else). The guides also carried ropes, so that if necessary we could be lowered from a platform or line to the ground.


The view of Jones Creek Marsh from the “chill platform” way up in the forest canopy before the longest of the 8 zip lines.

It wasn’t until the very last zip line that one of the women in our group didn’t quite make it to the platform – she then went backwards along the line, and had to be helped to the end!

Some of the platforms were in the sun, so it was quite hot at times. I was pretty sweaty!!

We were sad to finish but loved every minute of our afternoon zip lining! We enjoyed the company of the 2 couples and our 2 guides!


After a few iPhone camera malfunctions, we finally got a group shot of us with our guides Luke and Nicole. Thank you both!!!

In summary

We loved it. The Adventure Course was physically and mentally demanding, but doable for those in good shape and with a bit of flexibility! I am black and blue on the back of my left upper arm today – clearly I used it more than I realized on the Adventure Course!

The check-in process was easy, the guides fantastic, the safety focus clear, and the courses awesome! I highly recommend Skywood Eco Adventure Park, and would love to go back!

When we left the park, we drove 2 minutes West along the Thousand Islands Parkway to Brown’s Bay Beach and Picnic Area (the oldest of all of the Parks of the St. Lawrence) where we swam for just a few minutes to cool off. It felt so good! There is a small fee to use the area, but it’s so close to Skywood that it’s well placed for a picnic lunch before or after your climbing or ziplining adventure!

If you go…

Check out the Skywood website for all the details, including what to wear, how much it costs, who shouldn’t climb, etc. Or connect via Facebook at Skywood Eco Adventure Park or on Twitter at @SkywoodZip and #Skywood.


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How to dehydrate eggs for use in the backcountry

Wondering how to include eggs in your next backcountry adventure without bringing fresh eggs (or a hen!) with you, or buying dehydrated eggs? If you’ve got a dehydrator, you can easily make your own. I’ve seen lots of questions recently from people wondering how to dehydrate eggs, so I decided to explain the simple method I use here.

Dehydrating eggs

Step #1: Crack as many eggs as you’d like, whip them with a fork, and pour them into a hot greased frying pan.

Step #2: As the eggs are cooking, scramble them over and over with a wooden spoon, so that once you’re done, you have small(ish) bits of egg.

Step #3: Blend the scrambled eggs in the food processor for just a few seconds to get the egg into smaller bits.

Step #4: Spread the egg onto dehydrator trays, either with parchment or sheets specifically made for dehydrators. Turn dehydrator on, and use the highest heat setting (155 degrees Fahrenheit in my Excalibur 9-tray).


Eggs ready to put into the dehydrator.

Step #5: After 2 1/2 hours, throw the eggs back into the food processor for 30 seconds to 1 minute to break them up more.

Step #6: Put them back in the dehydrator on the highest heat setting.


Eggs after 2 1/2 hours of drying at 155 degrees Fahrenheit.


After 2 1/2 hours of drying and another spin in the food processor.

Step #7: After a total of 3 1/2 to 4 hours, your eggs may be dry. Always follow the settings and instructions for your own dehydrator, and if you don’t think the eggs are done, leave them in longer! Once they are finished, remove them from the dehydrator, and using a mortar and pestle or 2 glass dishes, grind the eggs into a finer texture.


Using a glass dish to break the eggs into smaller bits.

I have purchased dehydrated eggs before, which are a powdery consistency. I’ve never been able to reproduce that super fine texture, but the eggs I prepare work for me!


Store-bought egg powder on the left, homemade dehydrated eggs on the right.

Weight of 4 eggs after scrambling but before dehydrating: 170g

Weight of 4 eggs after dehydrating: 45g

Your eggs are ready for your next backcountry adventure! I store mine in the freezer until I need them.

Rehydrating the eggs

You can rehydrate them with water to make scrambled eggs or an omelet, or put into a tortilla with veggies, cheese and salsa for an egg wrap. You can add them to other ingredients to cook pancakes on the trail, or to bake brownies. The possibilities are endless. One egg = approximately 1-2 tablespoons* of dehydrated eggs + 1 tablespoon of water. Let it rehydrate for 5-10 minutes, then use it however you like.

*My 4 eggs turned into 6 tablespoons of dehydrated egg. It all depends on the size of the eggs you start with!


Delicious egg/veggie wrap!


Egg bagel sandwich!


Posted in Backcountry camping, Dehydrating, menu planning | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments