Trip report: 4 day Algonquin canoe trip from Rock Lake to Clydegale, Harry, Lake Louisa and back to Rock

Canoe trip planning presented a new challenge for me this year – for the first time ever, I was unable to read the paddling and portaging distances on my map! Thankfully, it was nothing my optometrist couldn’t easily fix.

My friend Jen and I decided on a route that would have us camping on lakes neither of us had camped on before. We planned to cover a little less distance than last year’s first trip together, when we did a 5-day canoe trip at Algonquin from the Magnetawan Lake access point to Misty/White Trout/McIntosh/Daisy Lakes. Our plan this year was to single carry every portage if possible, and in particular, the super long ones (2k-3k!).

Day 1: Rock Lake access point to Pen Lake to Clydegale Lake

Somewhere around 1 PM we pushed off the dock at the Rock Lake access point, with me in the stern and Jen in the bow. We headed for the portage into Pen Lake. I carried the canoe and Jen’s barrel, while she carried the big canoe pack, paddles and other miscellaneous (annoying) things. After that first portage, we changed things up slightly, adding more weight to the barrel, and allowing Jen to carry only the paddles in her hands. And just like that, our portaging system was set!

About to set out from the Rock Lake access point.

Pen Lake was completely new to me, and looking at it on my map (Jeffsmap – waiting patiently for the new Unlostify Algonquin map to come out!), it looked like a relatively big lake with little moose viewing potential. Was I ever wrong! Jen and I rounded a corner to see a young moose feeding in the water. We watched him for a while, and then continued on. We rounded the next corner, and spotted a second moose, a large female.

I love her eyelashes!

We left her, rounded the next corner, and you guessed, a third moose, this time at the Galipo River and portage to Welcome Lake! We were pretty amazed at our luck. Finally, we left this young guy and headed for the short portage into Clydegale Lake. We knew that all of the sites on the lake weren’t booked, so we knew there would be a site for us, but we didn’t want to paddle too far only to have to return if the sites were taken. We did end up having to packpaddle a bit, but we ended up with a great site not far from the portage back into Pen Lake.

Apple crisp.

We set up camp – our tent, bug shelter, and bear rope over a tree branch – and then jumped into the lake to cool off. It was quite a hot day! There was a cute little garter snake at our site, and a very pretty sunset. Jen cooked us foil dinners over the fire (potatoes, other veggies and cheese, with sausage in hers as well), and then very yummy apple crisp!!

We went to bed pretty tired, but we both had a terrible night’s sleep!!

  • Day 1 distance paddled: 15k (all distances approximate)
  • Day 1 distance portaged: 375m + 275m

Day 2: Clydegale Lake to Pen Lake to Welcome Lake to Harry Lake

We disassembled our tent, and boiled water for oatmeal, packing up the bug shelter and the rest of our things as we finished using them.

Did I mention the bugs? Oh my god. Mosquitos, horse or deer flies, and even blackflies! Despite bug spray with deet, over the course of our trip we were absolutely covered in bites, bumps and red dots. Even though we would re-apply bug spray for the portages (because that’s when they were the worst – often at the start/end) we were sweating profusely (well, I should speak for myself here!) and the bug spray was sweated away! I did wear my bug jacket around camp, but there’s no way I could portage with that thing on – way too hot even though it is only made of mesh! But the moose moments make the portaging and bug challenges worth it!

We set out from our campsite, with just a short paddle over to the portage into Pen Lake.

Oh, the places you’ll go!

We had a short portage and a long portage (2170m) on our way to Harry Lake. On the long one we encountered a big group of teenage campers doing multiple trips back and forth with their canoes and gear. Each and every one who passed me asked if I knew how much longer it was to the end. “8 minutes at my pace!” was my first answer. The only time I asked one of the kids how much longer I had to go, the answer was, “It’s a LONG way!” so I never asked again. Too demoralizing. At one point, two boys helped me to get the canoe back up after I had taken a much needed break!

Once into Welcome Lake, we were able to paddle right into Harry Lake without another portage, as they are connected by a creek. It was in the creek between Welcome Lake and Harry Lake that we saw another moose. I spotted the ears long before we got close.

Spot the moose ears as we paddle away!

By the time we got to Harry Lake, a poor night’s sleep, heat, and physical exhaustion caught up with Jen and she wasn’t feeling great. Once we chose our campsite, we set up the tent and she lay down for a while.

Dinner was awesome pizzas on the campfire. I think we were in the tent ready to sleep before it got dark!

Dinner view.
  • Day 2 distance paddled: 10k
  • Day 2 distance portaged: 275m + 275m + 2170m

Day 3: Harry Lake to Rence Lake to Frank Lake to Florence Lake to Lake Louisa

On day 3, Jen woke up feeling refreshed and awesome! Yay! Before leaving our campsite in the morning, I spotted what looked like a shoelace on the ground, but when I got closer, I realized it was a snake! Turns out it was a Northern ring-necked snake, one I had never seen before (the ring around its neck is not visible in this pic). We also had a loon family just off our site. I love loons and the varied noises they make, but 2 AM is not my preferred time to listen to them! One night we had very vocal loons calling back and forth to each other – one of whom sounded like it was right outside our tent door.

We paddled from Harry Lake into Rence Lake, and then did a short portage into Frank’s Lake, which continued on to Florence Lake. From Florence Lake we arrived at the portage into Lake Louisa, and boy was it ever muddy! Lots of evidence of people slip-sliding their way from the water onto the drier ground inland. Our sandals and feet were completely mud covered, and I went into the mud part-way up my calf. Thankfully, I didn’t fall. We carried the canoe together onto drier ground before beginning our portage.

Once into Lake Louisa, we knew that the hardest part of the day was behind us – now we just had to paddle to find a campsite. Jen had read some reviews of sites, so we scoped out various ones as we paddled by. We had heard that the lake can get pretty windy in bad weather, so we planned to get as close to the portage into Rock Lake as we could while still choosing an awesome site. We hadn’t seen a single person (other than each other!) all day long, and that continued on Lake Louisa. We pulled up to a campsite to swim, have our lunch, and relax a bit before finding a campsite for the night. I heard a man and saw evidence of people at one site, but never did spot anyone.

As we paddled along, I spotted something very dark against the green of the shoreline. “Jen, is that a moose?” I asked. She was impressed with my eyesight (thank you Dr. Ruhl – not only could I read the map but I could still see way into the distance)! We decided to go have a look, and sure enough, it was a big bull moose!! And just like that, we picked our campsite, the one 400m from the moose.

That’s one big bull moose!

We sat and watched him for a while, then headed over to our campsite. While setting up, we continued to sneak glances of him.

After setting up, we jumped into the lake for a swim, still watching the moose!

Spot the moose in between the tall trees on our campsite – this was the view from inside the tent.

For dinner we rehydrated some veggie soup that I had prepared, and Jen made bannock using my MSR Dragonfly stove. Yum. Then I made chocolate pudding which we added goodies to (peanuts, M&Ms etc.).

This was our first night not making a campfire, but honestly it was way too hot to sit by a fire. In fact, the first two nights when Jen cooked by campfire it was rather unpleasant being near it!

  • Day 3 distance paddled: 8k
  • Day 3 distance portaged: 320m + 1725m

Day 4: Louisa Lake to Rock Lake

The next morning I spotted a snapping turtle laying eggs on our campsite. She was there the entire time we packed up our campsite. As we paddled away, she swam by!

Snapping turtle laying eggs on our campsite.

We had a very short paddle over to the portage into Rock Lake. This one had an outhouse on the Lake Louisa side (it even had toilet paper!).

It was time for our last portage of the trip, a 3000m portage into Rock Lake. We planned to take 3 breaks, with me stopping when I needed to relieve my shoulders and back, and Jen stopping when she reached me. We had read that this portage wasn’t too difficult technically (not a lot of rocks and roots and ups and downs); rather, it was just plain long. So, we set off! When we emerged from the woods onto an old logging road, I spotted a weasel of some sort. A couple hundred metres later, I saw it again running along the trail. By 800m I was ready for a break but forced myself to continue to 1k. Jen caught me, but we didn’t stop for long, because the bugs were horrendous! We did adjust the stuff attached to the outside of the barrel though, transferring something (water?) to Jen’s pack, because it was swinging wildly on my back for some reason and yanking my back.

Another 800m later, I needed to put the boat down and take the pack off. But then I walked 1.2k without a break, and the portage was done! There were lots of bugs, but also tons of butterflies (White Admirals, apparently)!

We got back in the boat as fast as we could to get away from the bugs, and then paddled over to a campsite where we had a quick swim and snack before heading back to the Rock Lake access point.

Being a Friday, we saw lots of people paddling on Rock Lake as we were heading out. Over the course of the 4 days, we were lucky enough to see wildlife galore: 5 moose, 2 beavers (including one dragging a very leafy branch), loons, herons, a weasel, dragonflies, butterflies, woodpeckers, lots and lots of toads on portages and frogs in the marshy areas, turtles (3 or more), snakes, and a few too many biting bugs!

We made it!
  • Day 4 distance paddled: 10k
  • Day 4 distance portaged: 3000m

It was another great canoe trip at Algonquin Provincial Park!!

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Winter food planning for camping adventures

Are you considering going winter camping for the first time, or are you looking for new food ideas to make your winter camping trips easier?

Check out my guest blog post on the Algonquin Outfitters blog, “Winter food planning“.  I give tips for simplifying and pre-trip planning.

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Menu review: Hiking the full length of the Coastal Trail at Lake Superior Provincial Park

Curious to see how the planned menu for my hike of the full length of the Coastal Trail at Lake Superior Provincial Park compared to our actual menu, whether we were satisfied with the food we brought or had constantly rumbling tummies? Read on!

The planned menu is posted just below, but additional information can be found in my original post on the menu.

Where we planned to use a recipe, you’ll see a (F), (L) or (T) after the recipe name (and the corresponding page number). The books are as follows:

  • A Fork in the Trail by Laurie Ann March (F)
  • LipSmackin’ Backpackin’ by Christine and Tim Conners (L)
  • The Trailside Cookbook by Don and Pam Philpott (T)

PLANNED MENU

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All changes to the planned menu are indicated in red text in the table below. We made a few changes before the trip:

  • naan bread replaced corn bread and bannock, because it weighs less and required us to bring less fuel (to bake the bread) – however, there is something to be said for warm, freshly baked bread on the trail!!
  • store bought trail mix replaced pizza gorp and honey mustard gorp because Cheryl ran out of time to prepare them
  • homemade energy bars replaced Harvest Oat Squares because Cheryl’s daughter made them and saved her time!

ACTUAL MENU

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My favourite meal was Thanksgiving on the Trail, which is essentially turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberries and gravy. I would definitely make it again!

Our most memorable meal may be our egg veggie/bacon/cheese wraps… as soon as I added boiling water to our dehydrated eggs, they turned bright orange… we tasted them, and they weren’t eggs, but Kraft Dinner cheese powder!!! Not sure how that happened. I’ve never intentionally bought Kraft Dinner cheese powder before. Must have been a mix-up in a bulk bin!

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Pasta Alfredo with dehydrated veggies and sauce, and topped with Parmesan cheese.

The only meal that needs adjustment in the future was our rice cereal on day 5. It wasn’t filling enough as is, and could have used more fruit or nuts.

Overall, we were happy with our food choices! We did come home with some leftover trail mix, and some of the food from day 8.

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Menu for fall 6-day hike of the entire Coastal Trail at Lake Superior Provincial Park

Variety is the spice of life, right? When I’m camping in the backcountry, I don’t want to eat the same food every day, and I most definitely don’t want to eat bar after bar after bar! I want food that is (mostly) healthy, homemade, delicious, nutritious, filling, and different, while being as lightweight as possible!

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Eating some delicious soup with tree bark, since someone forgot to pack spoons!

This fall, I will be hiking the full length of the Coastal Trail at Lake Superior Provincial Park. My friend Cheryl and I are planning to cover the 65+ km in 6 days, but will carry food for a 7th day if need be. The trail goes through the forest, across sandy beaches, rocky beaches, small boulders, big boulders, has endless ups and downs, and boasts some incredible scenery along the shore of Lake Superior. I have hiked parts of it, but never the full thing.

Our plan is to hike from north to south, starting at the Gargantua Harbour access point, hiking the northern end of the trail (to Devil’s Chair and Chalfant Cove), and then hiking south toward the Visitor Centre.

We have planned out our menu based on past trips, knowing how much food it takes to keep us energized and raring to go, and keeping in mind our food preferences! We like to use lots of fruit and vegetables, but have some treats too. It took some experimentation but after many backpacking trips, including an 8-day hike of the entire La Cloche Silhouette Trail at Killarney Provincial Park (trip report, menu, and menu review available at this link), we’ve figured out what works for us.

Some of my favourite books for backcountry meal prep are:

  • A Fork in the Trail by Laurie Ann March (F)
  • LipSmackin’ Backpackin’ by Christine and Tim Conners (L)
  • The Trailside Cookbook by Don and Pam Philpott (T)

Where we’re planning to use a recipe, you’ll see a (F), (L) or (T) after the recipe name (and the corresponding page number).

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Some meals are tried and true recipes, while others are new things we’re trying for the first time (such as “Thanksgiving on the Trail”). You might have noticed that we’re not really “cooking” very much. For the majority of our meals we’ll be boiling water to add to things (such as oatmeal) or to rehydrate things (such as chili). We will be baking cornbread and bannock, as well as eggs and bacon. Designing our menu as we have means faster meal prep, and less fuel required.

Between now and our trip departure, we’ll be slicing, chopping, cooking, baking and dehydrating our meals! Cheryl and I have split the food up so that we each prepare approximately half. We’ll keep everything in the freezer until departure day, when we drive more than 850 km north! The first night we’ll car camp at Agawa Bay, and then start our big hike the next morning after a shuttle to our starting point.

You can bet I’ll be blogging about our trip, including a full trip report, menu review, and packing list. Stay tuned!

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Menu for 3-day Spring Solo Backpacking Trip

Looking for ideas on foods to take backpacking or canoeing? You might find some inspiration in the meal plan for my latest trip. I recently set out on my very first solo backpacking trip, a 3-day hike at Point Grondine Park in the Killarney area. You can read the trip report and watch the trip summary video here.

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I prepared all of my food myself, using lots of fruit, vegetables, nuts and whole grains. The least healthy bits were penguin crackers, M&Ms, Reese’s pieces, pepperettes and gatorade. I dehydrated many things, and portioned everything into single serving sizes.

Here’s what my menu looked like!

Day 1

  • Afternoon snack: pizza gorp, hot chocolate
  • Dinner: curried butternut squash soup with homemade crackers
  • Evening snack: dehydrated fruit and chocolate

Day 2

  • Breakfast: oatmeal with nuts and dried fruit, dehydrated banana, gatorade, tea
  • Morning snack: honey mustard gorp
  • Lunch: tomato and toasted almond spread, homemade crackers, dehydrated vegetables
  • Afternoon snack: fruit leather and dehydrated yogurt, hot chocolate
  • Dinner: ginger mango chicken with cashews, mini pitas
  • Evening snack: dehydrated fruit and chocolate

Day 3

  • Breakfast: couscous with dried fruit, dehydrated banana, gatorade, tea
  • Morning snack: fruit leather and dehydrated yogurt
  • Lunch: roasted eggplant spread, rye crackers, dehydrated vegetables
  • Afternoon snack: pizza gorp
  • Dinner on the way home: hummus, homemade crackers, dehydrated vegetables

I also brought an extra meal of oatmeal with nuts and dried fruit, dehydrated apples, and gatorade, just in case I was delayed for any reason.

Breakfasts and dinners required me to boil water, while lunches were no-cook (however spreads needed to be rehydrated and could be done at breakfast and then carried along with me).

What are your favourite lightweight meals?

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Menu for 4-day early May hike of Western Uplands Trail at Algonquin Provincial Park

One thing I love about planning for a backpacking trip is planning the food! My friend Cheryl and I decided on a menu for this trip, then split up who would prepare what. We cooked, baked, dehydrated and then froze everything. Finally, Cheryl brought her food to my house, where I verified that it was all there, and organized it all into Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4. Our trips always start after lunch, so we pack all our food away in our bear bag except for our afternoon snack on Day 1.

For breakfast, we boil 2 L of water, using it for tea/coffee and hot cereal, and the remainder, if any, for warming up the little bit of dish water we use in our pot.

For lunches, we always have no-cook meals.

For dinners, we sometimes bake fresh bread like bannock or corn bread, or cook something like eggs, but otherwise we usually just boil water to add to something like pasta or soup.

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Food ready to go!

This trip though, we didn’t exactly follow our menu! What started out as a 4-day backpacking trip turned into a 3-day trip because of the cold and wet conditions. You can read the trip report here. Below you will find our planned menu, and then what we actually ate!

Planned menu for 4-days for 2 people

Day 1

Afternoon snack: trail mix

Dinner: spinach quinoa soup with bannock

Evening snack: dehydrated fruit and chocolate

Day 2

Breakfast: oatmeal with dried fruit + tea/coffee + gatorade

Morning snack: pizza gorp

Lunch: leftover bannock from Day 1 dinner with cheese, nuts, jerky, dried fruit

Afternoon snack: harvest oat squares

Dinner: pasta Alfredo with bacon, veggies, parmesan

Evening snack: dehydrated fruit and chocolate

Day 3

Breakfast: granola + tea/coffee + gatorade

Morning snack: trail mix

Lunch: apple peanut salad wrap

Afternoon snack: energy squares

Dinner: egg wraps with bacon, veggies, salsa

Evening snack: dehydrated fruit and chocolate

Day 4

Breakfast: strawberry peach muesli + tea/coffee + gatorade

Morning snack: harvest oat squares

Lunch: tomato flatbread, hummus and cheese

Afternoon snack: pizza gorp

 

Drinks

gatorade

tea and coffee

hot chocolate

Actual menu for 3-days for 2 people

Day 1

All meals as planned + hot chocolate before dinner

Day 2

Breakfast as planned

Morning snack as planned

Lunch as planned

Dinner (at this point, we decided that we didn’t want to spend any more time outside in the freezing cold under a tarp in the pouring rain to cook our dinner): wraps with dehydrated veggies and dehydrated salsa (not rehydrated – a little hard to eat!)

Evening snack: harvest oat squares

On Day 2, we organized all our food into stuff we would eat, and stuff that would require cooking and we would bring home.

Day 3

Breakfast (knowing that we had to hike 20 km to cut our trip short by a day and get back to our vehicle, we opted for an early start and a no-cook breakfast): Day 4 harvest oat squares + gatorade

Morning snack: Day 2 evening snack dehydrated fruit and chocolate + Day 3 morning snack trail mix + Day 4 afternoon snack pizza gorp

Lunch: Day 4 Tomato flatbread and cheese (no hummus) + gatorade

Afternoon snack as planned

Dinner: Day 3 apple peanut salad wrap

Leftover food

Day 2 pasta Alfredo with bacon, veggies, parmesan

Day 3 granola

Day 3 egg from wraps

Day 4 strawberry peach muesli

Day 4 hummus

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Flatbread in the Dehydrator: Vegetables, Nuts, Seeds, and a Bit of Experimentation

After eating some delicious tomato flatbread that my friend Cheryl made in her dehydrator for our fall canoe trip, I decided to experiment and make some of my own.

Rather than follow any recipes, I chose to just throw together a little of this and a little of that.

Here’s what I did for each kind of flatbread:

  1. Measure ingredients.
  2. Put all ingredients in food processor.
  3. Blend until well mixed.
  4. Pour/dump semi-solid mix onto parchment paper on counter.
  5. Form into a ball.
  6. Roll out with rolling pin to about 1/4 inch thick.
  7. Place flatbread on parchment paper on dehydrator tray OR cut flatbread into small squares or rectangles and then place on dehydrator tray.
  8. For flatbreads that were too wet and couldn’t be rolled out with the rolling pin, I used the back of a spoon to flatten them to about 1/4 inch thick, then put them on the dehydrator tray. I was not able to cut the wetter ones into squares or rectangles. However, they could be cut after they had been drying for a while.
  9. Dehydrate at 125 degrees Fahrenheit (on my Excalibur 9-tray, this is the vegetable setting) for 10-15 hours. I took mine out after 12 hours, but then put the sesame seed ones back in for another couple of hours.

Note: for the two sesame seed flatbreads, I didn’t use the food processor, just a big bowl. Here are pictures of the sesame seed flatbread being made:

I made 6 different flatbreads, some more tasty than others!

Sun-dried Tomato Almond

  • ½ cup ground almonds
  • ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon basil
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

This was my favourite one. It turned out crisp and very flavourful! It held its shape and could hold hummus without crumbling. I had cut it into pieces before dehydrating. This one was very successful.

Results:

  • Flavour: 5/5
  • Texture: 5/5

 Pesto Mushroom Sunflower Seed

  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 4 tablespoons pesto
  • ½ cup ground flax

This one was good, but the pesto flavour was a little overpowering. I would cut back on the pesto by 1 tablespoon next time.

Results:

  • Flavour: 3/5
  • Texture: 5/5

Zucchini Carrot

  • 1 ¼ cup shredded zucchini
  • 1 ¼ cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup ground almond
  • ½ teaspoon salt

This one was the wettest of them all. It dried well though, and tastes good! Very crisp.

Results:

  • Flavour: 5/5
  • Texture: 5/5

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Zucchini Carrot.

Corn Pepper

  • 1 cup diced red pepper
  • 1 small can corn
  • 2 green onions
  • ½ cup sunflower seeds
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar

I tasted this one before putting it in the dehydrator, and found the onion a bit too much. Hence the addition of the sugar to try to offset it. In the end, I find that the corn flavour overpowers the rest. I think I’d prefer it with more red pepper and sunflower seeds and less corn.

Results:

  • Flavour: 3/5
  • Texture: 5/5

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In the dehydrator.

Sesame Seed*

  • 1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • few tablespoons of water to be able to form mix into a ball

 * Modified from a Martha Stewart recipe here. I have previously made these as directed in the oven several times, and they turned out fantastic. 

While I dehydrated the sesame seed flatbreads longer than the rest, they probably could have used another few hours. They were solid enough that they could be picked up, but they are more fragile than the others. These had flour in them while the others didn’t, as well as olive oil. They were very tasty, but I prefer them made in the oven. I will try them again in the dehydrator to see if I can get them crisper.

Results:

  • Flavour: 5/5
  • Texture: 3/5

Sesame Seed with Black Pepper and Olives

  • Same as for Sesame Seed above plus 1 tablespoon black pepper and 1/3 cup chopped olives

Results:

  • Flavour: 5/5
  • Texture: 3/5

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Clockwise starting from the top left: Sesame Seed, Carrot Zucchini Almond, Sesame Seed Black Pepper Olive, Pesto Mushroom Sunflower Seed, Corn Red Pepper Sunflower Seed. In the middle: Sun-dried Tomato Almond

I will definitely continue to experiment with other flatbreads in my dehydrator – I’ll look up some recipes and also create more of my own. If you have favourite recipes, please share! I love taking flatbread on backcountry camping trips, with dehydrated hummus and vegetables to go with it! Yum.