Backcountry camping with food sensitivities or food allergies

Have you ever let a food sensitivity or food allergy stop you from going on a backcountry trip? Did you give up on the idea because you thought it would be too hard to manage? With careful planning, backcountry camping with dietary restrictions is completely doable!

Bannock with quinoa spinach soup.

In 2018, I did a 5-day canoe trip at Algonquin Provincial Park with a paddling partner with Celiac disease. Jen has to be super vigilant about everything she eats, avoiding foods that contain gluten, or those that may have been cross contaminated with it. We had never canoe-tripped together before, and I had never canoe-tripped with anyone with a food sensitivity or food allergy before (just with picky kids!). I knew that I would have to be careful in prepping and packing food, but I also knew that we could plan a menu that would work for our nutritional needs, personal tastes, and food restrictions!

Planning the Menu

Jen and I worked out our menu over email. We agreed to share lunches, dinners, and evening snacks, but to pack our own breakfasts and morning/afternoon snacks (except for gluten free pancakes one morning, with bacon and lots of maple syrup). We made lists of the types of foods we like to eat while camping, and settled on those that would be easy to make gluten-free for both of us (e.g. use gluten-free pasta), or easy to modify to be gluten-free for Jen (e.g. we brought both gluten free wraps and regular wraps to hold our carrot raisin peanut pepper salad).

Our menu:

Lunches

  • Carrot raisin peanut pepper salad in wraps
  • Pepperettes, cheese sticks, bannock
  • Dehydrated tomato and toasted almond spread, cheese, dehydrated veggies, bread/bagel
  • Peanut butter, nuts, seeds and dehydrated fruit in a wrap
  • Crackers, dehydrated hummus, dehydrated fruit

Dinners

  • Dehydrated quinoa spinach soup with bannock
  • Pasta with dehydrated veggies, sauce, bacon, parmesan cheese
  • Egg, bacon, dehydrated veggies, dehydrated salsa, cheese in a wrap
  • Pizza with pepperoni, cheese, dehydrated sauce and veggies on a wrap
Egg wraps with veggies, cheese and bacon.

Evening snacks

Pizza – yum!
  • Apple crumble
  • Chocolate cake to celebrate Algonquin’s 125th birthday!
  • Chocolate pudding with toppings (peanuts, M&Ms)

Food Preparation/Packing at Home

Since I’m not used to making food for someone with Celiac disease, I had to be really careful to read the ingredients on everything I bought and used to prepare our food. Jen would tell you that I texted her many times – either from the grocery store with a picture of the ingredient list of a product – or from home, asking whether she could eat something! I didn’t want to take any chances and make her sick.

I also made sure to use a clean chopping board, clean utensils etc., and not something that I had just used with food that had gluten in it (e.g. my wrap). I also wrapped my gluten-containing foods separately from the ones that we would share.

Precautions at Camp

At camp, we made sure to keep my gluten-containing food separate, and to prepare Jen’s food first, so that we didn’t accidentally touch a serving spoon to my food and cross-contaminate hers (e.g. we didn’t want to spread peanut butter onto my wrap first, and then use the same spoon to spread it onto hers).

I’m no gluten-free expert, but I will say this: we were able to find alternatives to gluten-containing foods, the meals we had were super delicious, and I didn’t for one second feel that the food on this trip was lacking compared to what I would eat on canoe trips with friends who are not Celiac!

Just plan, be careful, and get out there!

We had so much fun that we did it again in 2019. Here’s our menu from this summer.

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Toronto Outdoor Adventure Show: For me, it’s all about maps!

Clearly, I love maps! After visiting the 2019 edition of the Toronto Outdoor Adventure Show at the International Centre, I realized that everything I spent my time on at the show had me poring over maps!

I was excited to get a sneak peak at Unlostify‘s new Algonquin Provincial Park map. Deki and Jeff were at the Algonquin Outfitters booth chatting all things maps. Deki explained that they will have 4 detailed Algonquin maps (North, South, East and West), and 1 less detailed overview map. You can bet I’ll be ordering the full set. Here I am with Deki, Jeff, and one of my favourite maps – the Killarney Provincial Park map, which I put to good use last fall!

At the Bruce Trail booth, I chatted with Brooke (pictured below) about the official Bruce Trail app, which I love, versus the paper map (which I have an old copy of!). The paper map (which comes in a binder) gives lots of information about the trail, from where to park to access the trail in a specific area, to side trails in the area, to flora and fauna you might see. I’d love to see the detailed description of the trail and side trails available on the app. Did you know that you can even buy digital maps?

Here I am showing Brooke where I’ll be running the trail next – in Milton!

I think I spoke to the women at Travel Nunavut for all of a minute before I was dreaming of going there! Nunavut means “our Land” in Inuktitut, the language of its Aboriginal people, the Inuit. From hiking, kayaking, and canoeing, to wildlife watching and Aurora viewing, Nunavut has all the makings of a fantastic place to visit.

Next to the Travel Nunavut booth was the Black Feather Wilderness Adventure Company, an Arctic and wilderness adventure outfitter. Their guided hikes at Auyuittuq National Park on Baffin Island look amazing! What a way to explore Canada.

I was able to chat with some of the guides, and ask them all kinds of questions about the trips.

Guides John, Natalie and Candice are clearly passionate about Black Feather trips they offer!

As I continued to wander around, I was drawn in by a map of Nunavik, which is in the north of Québec, and only a 2 hour flight from Montréal.

I chatted with Sean from Inuit Adventures, a company that provides guided trips to this area using local Inuit guides. I learned about a trip that focuses on local geology, which I know my husband would love! We once decided to scrap our plans to visit Edinburgh while in Scotland in favour of spending time at Siccar Point,  an area of geologic significance about 35 miles east of Edinburgh near the village of Cockburnspath. Who travels to Scotland and passes on the opportunity to visit the capital city so that they can walk through fields of cows and look at rocks? We do.

Sean at Inuit Adventures explaining their trips to me.

I also watched a presentation at the Adventures in Paddling Stage by David Lee, also known as The Passionate Paddler, which centred around 2 canoe trips based on a map from 1914. He was talking about his love of travelling lost canoe routes – this one north of Sudbury. He did a trip last spring looking for portages that existed on that old map. I’ve never been to the area before, but it was neat to see a comparison between the old map, recent maps, and learning about what David and his paddling partners found (read: not a lot of water, and a whole lot of untamed bush!).

David Lee presenting on lost canoe routes.

I came home from this year’s show (as always) with a bag full of inspiration! Looking forward to next year’s show.

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Race report: Gravenhurst sprint triathlon (Jump. Swim. Bike. Run.)

One of the biggest draws for the Gravenhurst triathlon is the initial jump off a steamship and swim to the start line, but I headed to the race not knowing if I’d get a spot on the boat, or whether I’d be stuck doing the duathlon (with apologies to duathletes everywhere!). When we originally registered for the Olympic, our Saturday was clear, but when we later had to change our race plans, the Sunday sprint was full. However, Multisport Canada switched us to the sprint duathlon and told us to just show up on race day prepared for the triathlon, because there are always no-shows and there was a good likelihood that we’d get in. So on race morning, we went through registration, and while a separate registration error meant that Alasdair was in, I was told not to rack my bike, and to return at 9:15 to see if I was in. Looking at my watch, and doing the math, I realized that this would give me less than 15 minutes to get all set up and down to the dock if I found out at that point that I had gotten into the triathlon (yes, it’s a sprint race, not much to set up, but I prefer not to rush and then forget something). So instead, I decided to rack my bike according to my tentative new (sprint triathlon) bib number anyway, and if I didn’t get in, at 9:15 I’d move my stuff to the duathlon rack. I wasn’t the only one who did this.
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Look at all the space around my bike on the rack! That’s because I was on an “overflow” type rack for people switching from the duathlon to the triathlon.
I got the news I wanted – I was in! Already wearing my wetsuit up to my waist, I quickly added my new race bib to my race belt, and headed down to the dock with Alasdair.
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Pre-race and ready to go!
We were lucky this year to be on the same boat (there are 2), though Alasdair would start in the wave ahead of me. Once on the boat, I made sure to be one of the first in my wave to jump off, so that I’d have time to relax in the water slightly before the race started (I learned this the hard way my first year, when I jumped off and heard them counting down 10, 9, 8, 7…) and I wasn’t even at the start line! Turns out I jumped first with another athlete beside me. And the last one to jump off? The poor lady was struggling – tried to jump, backed off, tried again, backed off. Someone grabbed her hand but she didn’t want to jump with them. Finally all the athletes in the water seemed to notice, and everyone started to encourage her. And then, she jumped, and everyone cheered! 750m Swim The swim was very uneventful! I tried to swim as straight as possible, and to draft whenever I could. I had almost no contact with other swimmers at all, right from the get-go! It was great. I reached the dock, climbed up the steps, took a peek at my watch and – look at that – my normal predictable pace. I pulled my wetsuit to my waist as I ran, and headed along the dock, across the road (avoiding cyclists crossing my path) and around the transition zone into the back entrance. Took my wetsuit off, put my socks, shoes, helmet, and sunglasses on, and headed out for the bike course. 20k Bike I don’t love the crossover of swimmers and cyclists, but as long as everyone is paying attention, it’s manageable. There is a coned lane at the start of the bike, so I just followed the person ahead of me (slowly), and as soon as I was out of the coned lane, passed him and took off. My plan was to push the bike as much as I could. The course has many rolling hills, but nothing too steep. At first it felt like I was doing a lot of descending, meaning the 2nd half would be more uphill, but I eventually realized that this wasn’t the case, and the end of the ride should actually be easier. Phew. Alasdair passed me going the other way a couple of kilometres before the turnaround. As I reached the end of the bike and another coned lane, my watch said 30 km/h, but by the time I ran over the timing mat, I was down to just under 30 km/h. Darn! Happy with the ride in any case. 5k Run This run always seems to be so hot! Thankfully, like the bike segment, the 2nd half is more downhill, so at least the hardest stuff doesn’t come last. I couldn’t manage as fast a pace as I would have liked, but I did run all the hills, even the steeper ones. I grabbed water a couple of times from aid stations, and at some point before the turnaround, spotted Alasdair heading my way. I reached the finish line in a time of 1:37:06.9. IMG_6409 The volunteers at the food tent were amazing, bringing us food and drinks while we waited in line for our Stoked Oats (the oats were slowing things down a bit). We stayed to watch the awards, and were so impressed by the 77 and 81 year old men called up for 1st and 2nd place in the 75+ category. And then Steve Fleck, the announcer, decided to give the 81 year old 1st place in the 80+ category – he deserved it! The two men stood on the 1st place podium together for a picture. Later during the draw prizes, I won a gift certificate for a(nother) pair of Rudy Sunglasses! Woohoo! IMG_6410 I highly recommend this race, but if you want to do it, you need to register early – it sells out quickly! Race stats:
  • Time: 1:37:06.9
  • Swim: 19:12.3 (2:33/100m)
  • Bike: 40:20.6 (29.74 km/h)
  • Run: 31:52.4 (6:22 min/km)
  • Women 40-44: 11/25
  • All women: 54/165
  • All athletes: 139/334
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Race report: O-Cup at the University of Toronto Erindale Campus (orienteering race)

When I set out for the Erindale Campus of the University of Toronto for an O-Cup race, I had no idea that I may head for home potentially needing a haircut! This race, hosted by the Toronto Orienteering Club, was the 3rd of 6 O-Cup races for 2017-2018 under the umbrella of the Orienteering Ontario Association. O-Cup races are organized such that everyone starts at the same time, uses the same map, and searches for the same mandatory controls, but depending on your age, you have the option of skipping 1 or more of the optional controls. For example, women 35-44 have a handicap of 3, meaning that of the 7 optional controls in a box set out on the map (not a box in real life!), I could skip 3 of them. In other words, I had to find 4 of them – any 4 of my choice. At this race, there were actually 2 boxes, the first with controls A to G, and the second with controls a to g. I got to skip 3 controls in each of the 2 boxes, but if I skipped “A” in the first box, I didn’t have to skip “a” in the second box. You can see the handicap system here. Scan 57 It was a gorgeous day for a run – a high of +4C and lots of sun, with just a little snow on the ground. With about 10 minutes to go before the race start, we were given the maps, and were able to plan our routes. The race would start with the 1st box, so right away, people started running in multiple directions, since we didn’t all have to find the same controls, and could do these in any order. I decided to head for the bridge across the creek first, figuring that it would be easy to find. The navigation itself wasn’t hard, but actually getting there was a little dicey! We had to descend a steep, icy slope. I decided to slide down the steepest part on my backside! By the time I reached the bottom, my gloved hands were covered in burrs. I didn’t bother trying to get them off, because I would have had to take my gloves off to do so, and I was wearing a compass on my left thumb and my SI (timing) stick on my right middle finger. I quickly found control C, and then headed for D, which wasn’t too far away. It was during this section that I realized I wasn’t able to turn my head! My ponytail was a mass of burrs, and was stuck to my running jacket! I showed another racer as he ran by, and he told me that he had scissors in his pocket! Ha! From then on I had to lift my ponytail off my coat when it got stuck. After finding D, I crossed the bridge again, figuring it would be easy to hug the shore to find B, and then A. It was – and no compass required. Next, everyone had to find controls 1 to 7. This section was urban orienteering – controls were close to buildings, and were easy to find. Suffering from a cold, I was rather lacking in the cardio department – running was harder than usual! After control 7, we entered the 2nd box. I didn’t have a firm plan for this section, other than aiming to find the easiest controls possible! I decided to start with b, and saw a deer running across a field in the process. Next I climbed down a steep hill to find a, cleverly hidden so that you couldn’t see it until you got quite close. At this point, I decided to do c because it wasn’t too far away, and the contour lines weren’t very close together, meaning that the hill I had to climb wouldn’t be too steep! This was the only point in the race where I actually used my compass. I re-climbed the hill to a, and ran along a path and roadway until I cut behind a building and easily found g. From there, I had to find 8, which I had seen earlier but completely forgot about – it would have been faster to find the second time had I remembered exactly where I had seen it! Control 9 is the only one that gave me trouble. I overshot it, and had to backtrack. Almost as soon as I left 9 I could see 10, so that one was probably the easiest to find! From there it was a “sprint” to the finish line. I felt like I was running quickly (based only on my cardio… or lack thereof) but I’m sure I wasn’t going very fast at all! I reached the finish in 58:07, covering around 6.7 km.
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Race done… and before I got lost inside the building trying to find the room we registered in.
IMG_0821 Race stats:
  • Time: 58:07
  • Placing: 28/42
Thankfully, conditioner made burr-extraction much easier than I had anticipated! No haircut required. Thanks Toronto Orienteering Club for a great race! Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete Follow me on Twitter: @kyraonthego Follow me on Instagram: @kyraonthego

Race Report: Don’t Get Lost Eliminator Adventure Run

Minutes before the Don’t Get Lost Eliminator Adventure Run was to begin, I received a dire warning from another racer: the trails are very tricky to navigate, and “I’ve been in tears before!” Yikes! I wasn’t surprised about the trails though – somehow, I expected that!

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The race took place at this ranch in Milton.

My friends weren’t able to join me at this race (something about work, and little people, and the Chilly 1/2 marathon!), so I was tackling it myself. I arrived at Rocky Ridge Ranch just before the 9 AM start of registration, so I had plenty of time before the 10:30 race start to get organized and make a plan. I chatted with other racers, and once again asked Steve H. to take a few pictures of me. Thanks Steve!

For this race, there were 30 controls, which could be done in any order. The goal was to find as many as possible within the 2 hour time limit (going over the limit meant losing a certain number of points per minute). I decided to focus on the easy (25 points) and intermediate (50 points) controls, and to avoid the difficult (75 points), expert (100 points), and backcountry (150 points) controls. The easy ones were all on trails or at trail junctions, while the intermediate ones required some off trail navigation.

I worked out a clockwise route, and wrote down compass bearings for each control along my route. There were 18 of them. I also wrote down the approximate distance between controls (in centimetres). If you take a look at the map below, you can see the trails running all over the place. For this map, the scale was 1:7,500, so 1 cm on the map represented 75 m.

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Note the compass bearings taken pre-race. In a nice neat list. So handy… not.

During the pre-race briefing, we were told that if we were new to orienteering or not confident about our navigational abilities, we should NOT venture below a certain point on the map. I had already planned to avoid this lower section. We were also told that the trails are not always easy to find.

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Mapping out my route pre-race. 

After the briefing, it was time to head for the start line. At -9 degrees Celsius, it was a bit cold waiting for the race to begin, but the sun was out so it wasn’t too bad. The race started, and we all headed for control #2, the closest one.

Given the crowd, it was easy to find! From there, I forgot to re-set my compass bearing, and just followed a few people, thinking we were going the right way. And then we reached a control marked #33, which confused me for a couple of reasons: 1) I was expecting #1, and 2) there was no #33 on the map! It turns out we’d gone counterclockwise, and found #3 not the #1 control I wanted! At that moment I needed to decide whether I should run back to #2 to get onto my clockwise plan, or whether I would just run my planned route backwards – this would mean no backtracking, but I’d have to work out compass bearings as I went along, losing some time. I decided to be reckless and change my route!

It didn’t take long for me to realize how difficult it was to navigate on the trails. It was really hard matching actual trails to what I saw in front of me. Sometimes, I used ribbons in the trees to determine that a trail must run that way!

It took me more than 10 minutes to find #4, and when I did, the other racers there thought it was #5, but I was sure it was #4. Unfortunately, controls 1-9 weren’t marked 1-9, but instead 31, 32, 33… 39, which took some of us a while to figure out! Next I went for #10, but somehow ended up at #6 while looking for it. I was not off to a great start!! It was a bit discouraging! I decided to scrap #10 and just continue to #13. Next up were #14 and #7, which were close together and not hard to find. I ended up looking for the next one, #16, with 2 women named Patty and Cathy (I think!). We tried to make sense of the map and a fence, and eventually found the control!

Another woman, Kim, asked me if I wanted to find #18 with her, and I readily agreed. Somehow we completely overshot the control, which we figured out as soon as we hit a road! Clearly we had missed the “boulder group” where the control was supposed to be (there were boulders all over the place, so this clue wasn’t so helpful)! We decided to run further away from the control along the road, stopping when it intersected a trail, because at that point we’d know exactly where we were! We reset our bearing, and then successfully found the control. At that point, Kim decided to head toward the finish, because her recent bout with bronchitis was making things difficult for her. From that point, I set my bearing for #17, and thought it would be easy to find! Ha! Instead, I ended up looking for the control with 2 people looking for a different one, and the best part is that we actually found a 3rd one (not the one any of us were looking for) – #8! I decided to forget about control 17, because I didn’t want to waste more time on it.

After that, things got pretty easy! I quickly found #12 then #15, and re-joined Patty and Cathy to find #9. Once again, I realized how much closer things were than I expected them to be, so we decided that we had time to do #11 and #5 before heading for #1 and then the finish line. We still had 25 minutes to spare. After finding #11 and #5, which were really close together, and which we found by following trails (not compass bearings), we went along trails again to find #9. From there it was a short run to #1, and then I was on my way to the finish line!

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Approaching the finish. Photo courtesy of Don’t Get Lost.

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Heading for the finish line. Photo courtesy of Don’t Get Lost.

Race Results

Points: 575

Placing: 8/10 open women age group

Placing overall, not counting teams of cadets: Tied for 29th out of 42 people

Time: 1:51

Controls found: (far right column = elapsed time since race start)

32 (#2 on the map), 25p, 1:44 (1:44)

33 (#3 on the map), 25p, 4:21 (6:05)

34 (#4 on the map), 25p, 10:52 (16:57)

36 (#6 on the map), 25p, 4:57 (21:54)

44 (#13 on the map), 50p, 2:26 (24:20)

37 (#7 on the map), 25p, 3:49 (28:09)

45 (#14 on the map), 50p, 3:21 (31:30)

47 (#16 on the map), 50p, 16:56 (48:26)

49 (#18 on the map), 50p, 18:33 (1:06:59)

38 (#8 on the map), 25p, 12:34 (1:19:33)

43 (#12 on the map), 50p, 4:41 (1:24:14)

46 (#15 on the map), 50p, 2:27 (1:26:41)

39 (#9 on the map), 25p, 7:47 (1:34:28)

42 (#11 on the map), 50p, 5:13 (1:39:41)

35 (#5 on the map), 25p, 1:34 (1:41:15)

31 (#1 on the map), 25p, 5:39 (1:46:54)

I’m pretty pleased that I found 16 of the 18 controls I planned for pre-race. One I didn’t even look for (#10), and one I couldn’t find (#17). I’m getting better, though I still have lots to learn! Biggest lesson from this race: don’t be a lemming.

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New! Kyra on the Go Facebook page + WIN family pass to the Outdoor Adventure Show

Just a quick note to say that I’ve set up a Facebook page called Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete. I hope that you’ll join me there!

You can also follow me on Twitter: @kyrapaterson.

Would you like to win a free family pass to the Toronto Outdoor Adventure Show? Just LIKE my page on Facebook or FOLLOW me on Twitter, and stay tuned for how you can win! The show is on February 24-26, and because I was chosen as a guest blogger for the show, I have tickets to give away! According to the website for the show, there will be “OVER 300 EXHIBITORS offering the latest camping gear, paddle sports, outdoor clothing, scuba diving & ultimate adventure travel destinations! PLUS – over 100 adventure presentations to help you plan your next adventure.” See you there!

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Remembering last year’s adventure hiking the entire length of the La Cloche Silhouette Trail at Killarney Provincial Park (here I am soothing sore muscles with a warm pot!) and planning my next adventures!!

 

Trip report: 1st ever mother-daughter canoe trip, Ralph Bice Lake, Algonquin Provincial Park

At some point this summer, my 12 year old daughter suggested that the two of us could go on a canoe trip together. In fact, it must have been during our Massassauga Provincial Park girls only adventure in August, because that’s when we planned our menu for the trip. We originally decided on a 2-night adventure with no portaging, where we would stay on Magnetawan Lake at Algonquin Provincial Park. I made the reservation, and we were all set. However, when I told Randy from Algonquin Outfitters of my plan, he suggested that we could easily do a 2-night trip on Ralph Bice Lake (from the same access point), a trip that would involve 2 short portages. I checked with Ailish, she was keen to try it, so we changed our reservation and looked forward to departure day! We practised getting the canoe onto the roof of our van together, and while it may not have been pretty, I knew that we’d be able to portage just the 2 of us.

Shortcut to the slideshow! Click on one picture, then on the little “i” (see top right) and you’ll be able to read the picture captions.

DAY 1: Home to Park Office at Kearney Community Centre to Magnetawan Lake (access point #3) to Hambone Lake to Ralph Bice Lake.

After a 7 AM departure, we arrived at the Park Office at the Kearney Community Centre around 11 AM, where we picked up our backcountry permit, and heard that all 17 campsites on Ralph Bice Lake were booked for the night. I hoped that it wouldn’t be too hard to find an empty one, and that we wouldn’t have to paddle to the far end of the lake either. We drove about 40 minutes to the Magnetawan Lake access point and snagged an awesome parking spot (right next to the loading/un-loading spots). I untied the canoe right away, and decided to ask some men for help in taking the boat off the van. They both headed over to remove the canoe, but I clarified that I just needed one – I could do it with help! I thanked them and they continued getting their stuff ready for their own trip. Ailish and I ate our lunch, and then we carried the canoe and our 2 packs plus paddles, camelbaks, pelican case and knee pads approximately 50m down to the water – in a few trips! The access point was quite busy, with several groups plus a big one with what looked like a dozen adults in matching life jackets learning paddling skills on shore. We put our canoe into the water (there is space for 2 canoes, one on either side of a dock), and someone immediately put theirs right behind mine, essentially blocking my access to my packs. He realized what he had done, apologized and got my packs for me. We felt rushed to get in the boat and take off, but once we were away, it was all good.

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Heading out on Magnetawan Lake.

Ailish was in the bow, and me in the stern. We paddled for about 2 minutes (really) before we reached the 135m portage from Magnetawan Lake to Hambone Lake. I asked my new best friends (the guys from the parking lot) for help again to teepee the canoe so I could get under it, and they gladly assisted. This became a theme over the course of the weekend. I was not above asking for help, and everyone I asked was very friendly and willing to assist us!

The paddle through Hambone Lake was slightly longer, but it isn’t a big lake. We got to the portage to Magnetawan Lake and I asked a couple for help. “Do you know how to ranger?”, he asked. I had no clue what he meant, so he proceeded to give me a lesson (and teepee the canoe for me).

Once we got onto Ralph Bice Lake, we decided that we would take the first available empty campsite. Once the lake opened up and was wider, we met the wind that I had read could be an issue on Ralph Bice Lake. We had to decide whether to go along the left shore, or the right shore, because I didn’t want to travel straight through the middle in the wind. We opted for the left shore, since the first campsite would appear sooner. As it turns out, we were really noticing the wind as we approached the first campsite, and were disappointed to see that it was taken. Looking into an inlet to the left, we weren’t sure if the campsite was taken – what turned out to be a log looked like it might be a canoe. Looking at the only other campsites we could see, one was definitely taken and one looked like it probably was, so we opted to go into the inlet. The problem was that a direct line to the campsite meant that the waves were hitting the canoe directly from the side, and we were not happy about that. So, I turned upwind and decided to overshoot the campsite and then turn back. It didn’t take long for us to realize that the campsite was unoccupied – yay! We eventually had to deal with side waves again on our final approach to the campsite. If you’ve been to this campsite, you’ll know that it has a very steep access, with a rock face all along the approach. Now picture us being pushed – repeatedly – into the rock as I tried to calculate how to step out of the boat onto the wet steep rock without falling into the water. It was only once we were safely on shore that my daughter told me that she was terrified I was going to slip and fall into the water and she was going to float out into the middle of the inlet in the canoe in the wind on her own! But we made it and no one got wet. It turns out those were the biggest waves we saw all weekend (of course). It had taken us just over 2 hours to get to our campsite from the time we first started paddling – a distance of 4.07 km paddling and 405m portaging (we did a double carry).

After the slightly dramatic arrival, we unloaded the canoe, pulled it safely uphill, and set about figuring out where we would erect our tent, put up a tarp in case of rain, and hang the bear bag and hammock. As soon as the tent was up, Ailish got in and I set up a tarp and threw a rock over a tree branch for our bear bag. We explored our campsite, finding so many kinds of fungi! The variety amazed us – different sizes, shapes and colours in such a small area. We played some cards, read our books, had our homemade chicken noodle soup and homemade buns with raw veggies for dinner, and attempted – but failed – to start a small fire. All of the wood was wet. The previous campers had left wood all nicely piled and sorted by size, but we weren’t able to make anything burn for long. My MSR Dragonfly stove wasn’t pressurizing properly, so I was a bit worried we’d be cooking on the campfire all weekend – if we could start a fire – or eating cold food! Before heading to bed, we boiled water so that we would each have a 1 L hot water bottle (Nalgene bottle) in our sleeping bag overnight. I managed to make the stove cooperate. Day time temperatures for the weekend were around 15 degrees Celsius, and night time lows just above freezing. We were cozy in our winter sleeping bag (Ailish) and fall sleeping bag with fleece liner (me) along with our hot water bottles! After going to bed we heard loons and other campers trying to call to wolves.

DAY 2: Exploring Ralph Bice Lake

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Early morning on Ralph Bice Lake.

After a yummy breakfast of oatmeal, dried fruit, gatorade and tea for me, and oatmeal/peanut butter/chocolate chips, dried fruit, gatorade and hot chocolate with marshmallows for Ailish, we explored Ralph Bice Lake a bit, including one of the islands near our site. We found some shrivelled turtle eggs there. We spent the rest of the day playing cards, putting up and using our hammock, reading, napping, collecting dry firewood, doing art and just plain relaxing!

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Swing time!

Our lunch was bagels and mud with dried fruit, and our dinner tortilla pizzas baked on the fire (there were 2 grills at the campsite, one of which coated with tin foil worked perfectly). The pizzas were delicious. We also made banana boats on the fire, with bananas, chocolate, and marshmallows (no banana for Ailish)! While sitting at the fire (dry wood burns!) we noticed about 20-30 small fish jumping out of the water at the same time. And then again a few minutes later. We had no idea what kind of fish they were, or what they were doing! After hanging the bear bag for the night, Ailish decided she was hungry, so I got it down, and we had a snack of naan bread. Unfortunately, mine was mouldy! Yuck. We were in the tent before it got dark, but came out to have a look at all the stars. Ailish was impressed.

DAY 3: Ralph Bice Lake to Hambone Lake to Magnetawan Lake to home

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Early morning on Ralph Bice Lake.

On our last morning, we ate our breakfast and then packed everything up. Ailish had missed her daddy and our kitties (not her brother), and was eager to be home! We paddled over to the portage to Hambone Lake, but because we were the only ones there, we had to manage the portage ourselves. It was slightly harrowing, but Ailish managed to hold the canoe up high enough for me to get under it. And then from there, the portaging was easy. We were paddling along, discussing the animals we had seen over the course of the weekend (a few mice – some in the thunderbox! – loons, squirrels, and the jumping fish) when we turned a corner in Hambone Lake and I spotted something moving along the shoreline. A moose – and it’s mamma!

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Mamma moose and baby on Hambone Lake.

We headed – very slowly – toward the moose, watching them as they watched us. We didn’t get very close, and they eventually headed into the woods. Such a great experience for us. Ailish had never seen moose other than from the car before. We arrived at the portage to Magnetewan Lake, and I once again asked for help from a group of 4 men. The guy who helped told me that he has to teepee the canoe for his buddy to carry too. We got back into the canoe and finished our trip with the short paddle back to the dock. We had emptied the canoe and pulled it onto shore just before the guys arrived behind us. Ailish and I loaded everything into the van, one of the guys helped load the canoe onto the van, I strapped it on, and away we went!

We enjoyed our canoe trip and I look forward to another one just the two of us.

Since arriving home, I’ve learned that Ralph Bice wrote a book called “Along the Trail in Algonquin Park”. I’ve put a hold on the book at my local library, and I look forward to reading more about the man for whom Butt Lake was renamed (his favourite lake in Algonquin).

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Modifications to my sled for winter backcountry camping

It might have been 35+ degrees Celsius this week with the humidity making it feel much hotter, but I was thinking of winter camping and modifying my sled!

Last winter I bought a Pelican sled and modified it for my very first winter backcountry camping trip.

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My sled during my trip last winter.

 

If you’re interested, you can read my instructions on how to make a sled, and my review of the performance of the sled for a 4-day snowshoeing trip at Algonquin Provincial Park. The trip report is here.

During the trip, I realized that while I intended to buy rigid poles to avoid the sled whacking the back of my ankles, I somehow got the wrong poles and that is exactly what ended up happening, so I needed to replace the poles before my next trip. I also decided to add more points of attachment for bungees or straps to fasten a tarp on top of my precious cargo!

This afternoon, I bought what I needed and made the changes. First, I replaced the poles.

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New poles on the left.

Then, I added 6 new points of attachment – one on each end, and 2 more on each side. Now I’ll have even more options for strapping things down.

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Now sporting 6 additional points of attachment.

Can’t wait to use it again! (But I’m not yet ready for winter.)

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Packing list: 8-day, 90k hike along the entire length of the La Cloche Silhouette Trail, Killarney Provincial Park

Here is a complete list of what my friend Cheryl and I packed for an 8-day, 90k hike along the full length of the La Cloche Silhouette Trail at Killarney Provincial Park, and notes on things we did not use.

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My trusty bag.

Clothing (including what I was wearing):

  • 2 bras
  • 3 pairs underwear
  • 5 pairs socks
  • 1 pair zip-off pants
  • 2 t-shirts
  • 1 long sleeved shirt
  • 1 fleece sweater
  • 1 rain coat
  • 1 rain pants
  • 1 winter hat
  • 1 fleece gloves
  • 1 long johns top and bottom
  • 1 pair hiking boots
  • 1 pair sandals
  • 1 wide brimmed hat
  • 1 bug jacket (not used)
  • compression bag for clothes/pillow
  • sunglasses
  • quick dry towel
  • toiletries

Kitchen:

  • 2 bowls
  • 2 spoons
  • 1 dishcloth
  • 1 six cup pot and lid
  • 1 pot lid lifter
  • dish soap
  • pancake flipper
  • parchment paper
  • a few coffee filters if needed for water filtering (not used)
  • 1 insulated mug
  • 1 nalgene bottle (400 ml)
  • 2 large ziplocs marked with a line at 2L for treating water
  • water treatment drops
  • 2 water bladders (2 L size)
  • MSR Dragonfly stove
  • MSR Dragonfly stove servicing kit
  • Outback oven tea cosy
  • Outback oven scorch protector
  • Matches (several boxes)
  • 700 ml white fuel split between 2 bottles of 325 ml (one filled up, one filled to the maximum fill line)
  • 1 Swiss army knife
  • 1 pocket knife (not used)
  • 1 bear bag with bell on it (waterproof bag)
  • 1 bear bag without bell on it (waterproof bag) (not used)
  • rope for hanging bear bag
  • homemade tarp plus thin lightweight rope
  • food!

Sleeping: 

  • 1 Sierra Designs Zilla 2 tent
  • 1 MEC Perseus -7 sleeping bag
  • 1 North Face -7 sleeping bag
  • 1 silk liner
  • 1 fleece liner
  • 2 thermarests 3/4 length
  • 2 compression bags for sleeping bags
  • 2 bags for thermarests

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Our tent/shelter setup.

Miscellaneous: 

  • 2 headlamps with extra batteries
  • 1 bear spray (not used)
  • 1 bug spray (not used)
  • 1 sunblock
  • 2 cameras with extra batteries
  • 1 camera tripod
  • 1 Jeffsmap
  • 1 compass (not used)
  • 1 GPS with extra batteries
  • 2 cell phones
  • 1 ResQLink emergency beacon (not used)
  • 2 driver’s licences, credit cards and money
  • 1 emergency kit (Gorilla tape, buckles, dental floss, notepad and pencil, matches, mini bungees, emergency blanket, firestarting materials, needle and thread, benadryl)
  • 1 first aid kit (miscellaneous bandaids, gauze, tape, compression wrap)
  • hiking poles
  • pen
  • trail description
  • 6 rolls toilet paper (used 5 1/2)
  • 2 backpack rain covers
  • 2 whistles
  • 1 lightweight saw (not used)
  • 1 vehicle key!

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Emergency kit.

Cheryl and I discussed everything we brought, and decided that we wouldn’t leave anything behind next time!

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