Trip report: Cross-country skiing and yurt camping at Algonquin February 2019

After such a great experience yurt camping for the first time last winter at Mew Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park, my friend Rebecca and I decided to do it again. This time, we would be joined by Jen, who had never stayed in a yurt before. There is so much to do at Algonquin in the winter!

Our plan was to borrow cross-country skis from Algonquin Outfitters, and in my case, to try them out for the first time in more than 10 years! Last year, we borrowed fat bikes and had a blast!

Unfortunately, Jen was unable to ski due to a knee injury, but she was still keen to get away with us for a few days!

Skiing in fresh snow on the Fen Lake trails at Algonquin after 25 cm of fresh snow had fallen. [Photo by Rebecca]
Snow-plowing my way down a steep hill on the Blue Spruce Resort trails. [Photo by Rebecca]

I’ve already written about my cross-country skiing adventures with Rebecca on the Algonquin Outfitters blog, so I’ll skip that part (it was super fun) and focus instead on winter camping in a yurt!

We pulled into Mew Lake and headed for our yurt. Before even parking our car at our campsite, we had already spotted 2 pine martens. Their little faces are so darn cute!

Pine marten beside our yurt.

Jen had arrived just before us, so we went into the yurt and decided who was going to sleep in which bed, and where we were going to stash all of our stuff. A yurt is much bigger than a tent, but start piling gear in there and it fills up quickly.

Since there were only 3 of us, Jen and I each had a double bed (bottom bunk) to ourselves, with Rebecca on a top bunk. The yurts sleep 6, and while there are 6 chairs, the table is tiny. As you can see in the pictures below, there is a long shelf above the table, perfect for keeping paper towels and kleenex and other things out of the way.

There is an electric heater in the yurt, which takes the edge off the cold, but you still have to dress warmly. As the heater cycles on and off, I often found that I was most comfortable wearing multiples layers, including a winter hat (I may or may not have worn the same long johns and running pants for 3 days straight)! But at night, I was quite comfortable in regular pajamas and my -7C sleeping bag. There is a single overhead fluorescent light, which is plugged into the only electrical outlet in the yurt. This means you have one outlet to plug in your phone, kettle, etc. unless you bring a power bar.

Insider tip: bring a very long extension cord to reach the power outlet outside and behind the yurt. You can feed this into the yurt through a window (they close with velcro), and then you can have an outlet that works when you turn the light off. Otherwise, when you turn the light off, the other outlet turns off too! Jen read up on yurt camping and learned lots of useful tidbits, including putting a sheet on the double mattress to make the bed more cozy!

Note the bedsheet on Jen’s bed! Smart!

Jen also brought a mat for just inside the yurt door, and we all brought “inside shoes” so that we didn’t track snow and water all across the floor. There were a couple of rubber mats to put our footwear on, and several hooks to hang coats. Our door didn’t quite shut properly (it seemed misaligned), so it’s no wonder it never really warmed up in there.

Rebecca, Jen and I.

We had a sneak peak at a newer model of yurt across the road from us, complete with newer bunk beds, a wooden table, and a fireplace! It sounds like all of the older yurts will be replaced in time with the newer model.

Extension cord giving us power even when we turned the light off.

While Jen wasn’t able to ski, she was able to go for walks, so we walked through the old Mew Lake airfield at sunset, which was just as pretty as always.

Jen and Rebecca in the old Mew Lake airfield.

Another time we walked through the old Mew Lake airfield to the Old Railway Trail, then back along the Highland Trail to the waterfall, and finally along the Track and Tower Trail back to Mew Lake.

While we didn’t skate at Mew Lake, there is a rink beside the comfort station (hot and cold running water, flush toilets, a shower, and laundry facilities), complete with hockey nets, sticks, pucks (and shovels!) for campers to use. There’s also a warming tent with picnic tables and a fire in it.

Warming tent and skating rink.

While we were camping, the only occupied campsites were the 7 yurts, and 3 sites with trailers on them (including the camp hosts). It quiet – and lovely!

Our 2nd day at Algonquin saw a snowstorm blow in, and when it was all done the next morning, 25 cm of snow had fallen! We couldn’t leave until a tractor came to plow the roads (which happened before 10 AM). We had to dig our cars out, and sadly, head for home!

Just a little snow fell!

I love that in a yurt at Algonquin you can hang your clothes to dry, be cozy at night, and have nature’s playground at your doorstep. It was a great 3-day mini winter getaway, with cross-country skiing, hiking, card playing, lots of laughs, tons of sweets (and hot chocolate!) and relaxation! Algonquin, I’ll be back!

On the road to our campsite! [Photo by Rebecca]

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Trip report: 1st time staying in a yurt, at Algonquin Provincial Park in February 2018

Until this year, my winter camping experiences had all involved a tent, with no heat other than a hot water bottle at bedtime! But last fall I decided to book a yurt at Algonquin Provincial Park – Mew Lake – for a weekend of fat biking and snowshoe running! I’m now sold on yurts for winter camping. It wasn’t even that cold while we were at Algonquin (-5C to -10C), but it was so nice to be able to get out of the cold, to be warm at night (I was actually too warm in my -20C sleeping bag), and to be able to hang my clothes up and dry them overnight!
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Yurt on site 54.
The yurts at Algonquin have an electric heater (you can’t control the temperature), and sleep 6, with 2 bunk beds each sleeping 1 on top and 2 on the bottom. There is also a small table and 6 chairs, a shelf over the table, and 1 electrical outlet (well, 2 plugs but one is used by the fluorescent light). There were 3 of us in the yurt, so we had plenty of room for all of our stuff. On Friday night, my friend Rebecca and I took the fat bikes we had borrowed from Algonquin Outfitters out for a test ride. Our plan was to ride part of the Old Railway Bike Trail, but we had trouble getting any traction in the snow (despite fat bikes being made for snow!). When we reached the Old Railway Bike Trail, it was time to turn back – the sun would be setting soon. We were treated to an amazing sunset as we rode through the old Mew Lake airfield.
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Mew Lake airfield at sunset.
The only other time I had ridden a fat bike was last summer, also at Algonquin.
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Mew Lake airfield at sunset.
When we got back to the yurt, our friend Kristin told us that our traction problem was the result of having too much air in our tires! The next morning, we let a whole bunch of air out of the tires, and she was right – we were able to ride!
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Well-fed turkey (not by us) at our campsite.
We headed for Huntsville and the Muskoka Winter Bike Festival fat bike race (which I wrote about here – so much fun!).
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Bikes ready for the fat bike race.
After the race, we headed back to Algonquin and our yurt. I went out for a short snowshoe run, and was treated to a very pretty, quiet, calm forest. I didn’t see a soul – just animal footprints. DSC08340 On our last morning, the 3 of us headed out for a bike ride on the Old Railway Bike Trail. This time, we made it to the trail quite quickly, and actually got to ride the trail. We headed west toward Cache Lake.
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Old Railway Bike Trail.
Once again, we saw no one, but did see animal tracks of all kinds. It was quite fun to ride the same trail that I had ridden last summer in the winter.
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Old Railway Bike Trail.
Sadly, after our ride it was time to head home. I won’t be giving up tenting in the winter, but I’ll definitely stay in a yurt again! Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete Follow me on Twitter: @kyraonthego Follow me on Instagram: @kyraonthego

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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Winter car camping at Mew Lake: Algonquin Outfitters guest post

My very first winter camping experience was a 3-day car camping trip at Mew Lake, Algonquin Provincial Park. In my guest post on the Algonquin Outfitters blog, I write about that first experience. Wouldn’t everyone go winter camping for the very first time during a cold weather alert?

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Mizzy Lake

Trip report: 4-day snowshoe backcountry camping trip at Algonquin Provincial Park, with one clever thief of a pine marten

The thing about backcountry camping trips is that you can never really know ahead of time the adventures you’ll have! Taking that first step away from the car at the beginning of my 4-day snowshoe trip last week at Algonquin Provincial Park, I had no clue that I would a) do something really stupid, and b) hunt a thief!

Day 1: Mew Lake to Provoking Lake West, via the Highland Trail (3.4 km)

After stopping at the West Gate to purchase our backcountry camping permits, Cheryl and I parked at Mew Lake and loaded all of our stuff onto our 2 homemade sleds. I was eager to try out my modified sled, which I altered this summer to include more attachment points and more rigid poles. In addition to a winter tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, clothing and toiletries, cooking gear, food and emergency supplies such as a first aid kit, we had with us an axe, a saw, and 2 bags of kindling, which we purchased at the wood lot.

It was around -5 degrees Celsius, under a sunny sky!

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We headed for the Track and Tower Trail, and then the Highland Trail, which we would hike until we reached Provoking Lake West. It was a Thursday, so there weren’t too many people around. We walked for 3.4 km before setting up camp, which is a much slower process when your fingers are cold and you’re trying to do things with gloves on! We got the tent up, found a tree to hang our food from little critters, and decided we were too tired to gather wood to make a fire. Before dinner, I took my GPS and headed out for a run, because I’m doing the #FebruaryChallenge, and having set a goal for myself of running a minimum of 1 km every day in February, I couldn’t let a little winter camping trip get in the way!

We were in the tent early the first night, and despite each having 2 one litre Nalgene bottles full of hot water, I was cold and didn’t sleep well – it was around -17 degrees Celsius overnight. Cheryl was fine, so I’ve come to the conclusion that I need a better winter sleeping bag. Mine is rated to -20C, but even with the addition of a fleece liner, it’s not enough.

We brought our winter boots (which we wore around camp) and our hiking boots (which we used with our snowshoes) into the tent at night, so that they didn’t get frosty overnight.

Day 2: Day hike along the waterfront of Provoking Lake West (1.5 km)

After breakfast I set aside our morning and afternoon snacks, and we put our carrot raisin peanut salad wraps into our coat pockets to thaw for lunch. We grabbed a sled and headed into the forest to find deadwood, so that we could have a fire that night. When we got back to our campsite, I found 2 Ziploc bags in the snow around a tree – definitely not where I left them. It was then that I realized I had left our morning and afternoon snacks on a tarp, an open invitation to hungry little critters to come enjoy a snack! While there were little holes in the bag holding our afternoon snack, the snacks themselves were edible, but one of two morning snack bags had disappeared, along with the big bag that had held it all. We looked for footprints, and decided that the thief must have been a pine marten! We went on a hunt, not really expecting to find our snack, but thinking we might find the empty bags. We followed fresh footprints, but they went everywhere, including into trees! We never did find the snack – thankfully, Cheryl shared her morning snack with me! I did, however, later see the pine marten jump from a tree onto the ground, in the area we had been searching!

Later we chopped our wood and broke it into little bits, preparing it for our evening fire.

 

In the afternoon, we went for a walk on our snowshoes along the waterfront, checking out some of the summer campsites. This was my second winter backcountry camping trip using my Tubb’s Women’s Elevate snowshoes and poles, which I got at Algonquin Outfitters in Huntsville. They are awesome! We ended up back on the Highland Trail, where we ate our still frozen wraps – next time, we’ll need to heat them up a bit at breakfast!

The snow on the trees was very pretty that day, but the sun was melting it and it was falling on us over and over again! Not so nice down the back of your neck though…

Back at our campsite I decided to try out my homemade tin can stove, and with it I successfully made “hot” chocolate (field test of the stove here!).

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Sunset on Provoking Lake West

 

At some point, I also ran for a set amount of time (equivalent to a 1 km run), in loops around and around or campsite.

During dinner I looked up and saw a pretty pink sky. I quickly headed for the shore, and the sky got even prettier. Later we successfully made a fire, and enjoyed a snack with Baileys. It wasn’t as cold that night, and while I was cold at the beginning, I warmed up and slept quite well!

Day 3: Day hike along the Highland Trail to Provoking Lake East (5.5 km)

After breakfast we decided to go for another snowshoe hike, this time along the Highland Trail toward Provoking Lake East. We wanted to check out the summer campsites. We had barely walked 300 m when we both realized we were seriously overdressed! In fact, the high that day was +10C, so we stopped on the trail and stripped off some layers! We could have hiked in shorts and t-shirts. The sun was knocking down what snow remained on tree branches. We had lunch at a beautiful campsite, sitting in the warm sun.

 

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After we returned to our campsite, I decided to do precisely what I wasn’t supposed to do (we only live once!) – toboggan in my very well marked “This is not a toy. This product has no steering or braking mechanism.” sled. Laughter ensued.

Again, I did a timed run, this time running a line back and forth, back and forth.

I also turned my homemade stove into a stick stove, and attempted to boil water. I did melt a full pot of snow, and it did start to warm up, but I lost interest (and patience) in continually feeding the sticks into it. There were more interesting things to do, such as build a snowman! After dinner, we had another fire, and burned most of the wood we had gathered.

It was so warm in the tent, that we had to strip layers off in the night!

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Day 4: Provoking Lake West to Mew Lake (3.4 km)

We packed up everything inside the tent and started heating water for breakfast while we continued packing as much as we could. We met quite a few people on the way out, more so as we got closer to Mew Lake.

We even ran into Camper Christina and Outdoors Jen, who were camping at Mew Lake for the weekend as part of Winter in the Wild.

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Photo courtesy of Jen W.!

In the last stretch before reaching Mew Lake, I fed chickadees out of my hand. Back at Mew Lake, I ran 1 km within the campground!

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It was a fun trip, despite the wild swings in weather. We were very fortunate to have gone last week, because while the snow was melting and shrinking and falling off tree branches, there was still snow! This weekend, with temperatures in the mid-teens in south-western Ontario, things may be messy at Algonquin!

If you’re wondering what we ate on our trip, breakfasts were hot cereals; lunches were wraps and homemade crackers, dehydrated hummus and dehydrated veggies; dinners were chile, minestrone soup, and spinach and quinoa soup; snacks were trail mix, granola bars, dried fruit, chocolate, and energy balls; and drinks were water, gatorade, tea, coffee, and hot chocolate.

I’m already looking forward to next winter’s trip!

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Snowshoeing: Algonquin Outfitters guest post

Take a peek at my latest guest post on the Algonquin Outfitters blog – it’s about snowshoeing: backcountry camping by snowshoe, hiking, running, what to bring, and how to dress. It’s also got a little photo gallery!

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Breaking trails at Arrowhead Provincial Park

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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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Trip report: Winter backcountry 4-day snowshoe adventure at Algonquin Provincial Park

Lost food, howling wolves, whipping wind, mystery footprints, snow fleas, a campsite visitor, rolling sleds and snowshoe adventures – what more could a 1st winter backcountry camping trip need?! Last weekend I spent 4-days/3-nights camping at Algonquin Provincial Park, with a basecamp of Provoking Lake West along the Highland Trail.

Shortcut to the full slide showhttps://goo.gl/photos/jBny8ZzMowQHoo6T9 (click on one image, and then on the little “i” to read the descriptions)

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Provoking Lake West.

Day #1:

After paying for a backcountry permit at the West Gate, my friend Cheryl and I headed for the Mew Lake campground, where we bought 2 bags of kindling, ate our lunch, loaded our sleds (see our packing list here), put on our snowshoes, and headed for the Track and Tower Trail, which would take us to the Highland Trail and our campsite for the weekend. I had borrowed a pair of Tubbs Women’s Elevate 25″ snowshoes and Tubbs snowshoeing poles from Algonquin Outfitters in Huntsville (snowshoe and pole review here).

We weren’t sure exactly how far we would walk before we set up camp for the night, but we were aiming to be close enough to a campsite that we could use the toilet.

In comparison to last year’s winter car camping trip during an extreme cold weather alert, this weekend promised to bring more reasonable temperatures! Daytime highs were to range from about -2 degrees Celsius to -9, and nighttime lows down to -15. Minimal snowfall was in the forecast.

Having never pulled a sled with gear before, we weren’t sure how difficult it would be. My sled was approximately 70 pounds, and really, it wasn’t too hard to pull it behind me (see my sled review here). However, going up very steep hills was another story! At one point we had to help one another get up the hill, me pushing Cheryl’s sled from behind, and then her doing the same for me.

Sometimes our sleds tipped over (and rolled!) as we walked, but after righting them, we were on our way again. We didn’t realize until dinner time that at some point in our trek to our campsite, our dinner and evening snack fell out of the sled (it was packed separately, not in the canoe pack with everything else)! We didn’t starve, but we did have to raid food from future snacks for dinner. See our menu here, and what we ate that first night!

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Provoking Lake West.

We ended up choosing a spot on Provoking Lake West to set up our tent, after hiking for approximately 4 km. We changed from our hiking boots into our winter boots, set up the tent, cooked our dinner, “washed” our dishes with snow, hung our bear bag, and went to bed! Normally we tie a rope around a rock and throw that over a tree branch to hang the bear bag, but with small rocks buried under the snow, we spotted a cooking pot that someone had left behind, and I threw that over the tree branch! It worked great. I was cool that night (not shivering, just not quite comfortable), so I didn’t sleep as well as I could have. And getting out of the tent twice to pee didn’t help!

Day #2:

After breakfast, Cheryl made some adjustments to her sled, because some bolts fell off and rendered the hooks useless – she replaced them with rope. We headed out for a day hike, wondering if we might find our lost dinner and evening snack! We never did (did a person find it? an animal? we’ll never know!), but we enjoyed hiking along the Highland Trail (6.2 km) and looking for wildlife in the woods – we saw lots of different kinds of footprints, but no animal sightings other than a few birds. We didn’t even see any people! We ate our morning snack and lunch along the trail, and cooled down quite quickly when we stopped to eat! All weekend we were removing layers of clothes and adding layers depending on what we were doing. When we returned to our campsite, we had a hot chocolate with our afternoon snack, and then took a sled with us to gather wood for a fire. Cheryl used her saw to cut bigger branches from fallen logs. We made our dinner, and while it cooked we built our fire. When we weren’t actively doing something, like gathering or splitting wood, we got cold quickly!

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Chopping kindling into smaller bits.

In fact, we were in our tent for the night by about 7:15 PM – it was warmer in there! We boiled water to put in Nalgene bottles so that we could have hot water bottles in our sleeping bags overnight – that, and slightly milder temperatures meant that I slept much better. The hot water bottle made for a cozy sleeping bag! That night we heard wolves howling very far in the distance!

Day #3: 

First thing in the morning when I got out of the tent to pee, I saw movement on the hill and thought it was a squirrel. I later saw that it was a pine marten looking for food. Unfortunately, I wasn’t wearing my contacts so I didn’t get a great view of it! I did grab my camera from the tent and got a few (blurry) photos – they move so fast! Once again, we headed out for a day hike after breakfast. This time we headed for the Lookout over Starling Lake and the Lake of Two Rivers. From there, we took a portage down to the Lake of Two Rivers, and walked along the Old Railway Trail toward the Mew Lake campground. I decided to check to see if I had a cell signal, and when we discovered that we both did, we called home for a quick chat. During our 7.1 km hike, we saw only 2 people – a couple walking dogs on the Old Railway Trail. Once again we had our morning snack and lunch on the trail. Back at camp, we had our hot chocolate and afternoon snack. Since we didn’t really wash our dishes (dish soap was frozen), I had 3 drinks in 1 – remnants of gatorade and tea when I drank my hot chocolate! We gathered wood, chopped more of our kindling, started our chili, and built a fire. Despite a whipping wind and snow blowing horizontally in the afternoon, the evening improved and we managed to last until about 8:30 PM before we headed for the tent with our hot water bottles! The temperature must have been even warmer overnight, because we were both warm and could have shed layers!

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Letting the sled down before me – and watching it tip.

Day #4: 

On our last morning, we spotted 3 people crossing Provoking Lake West, but fairly close to the shore. They were wearing snowshoes and either wearing big backpacks or pulling sleds (or both!). After breakfast we packed up camp and headed out, with Cheryl spotting a snowshoe hare not too far from our campsite – it’s a wonder we didn’t see other bunnies, since there were tracks everywhere! It was a 3.6 km walk directly back to our vehicle. I had hoped to be able to feed sunflowers to chickadees, grey jays or blue jays, but no luck. The few chicadees we saw couldn’t be coaxed closer, we didn’t see grey jays, and the blue jays were in the midst of the paparazzi – we arrived back at our vehicle to see 10-15 people with cameras and huge lenses photographing pine martens in the trees. It was a funny sight.

We ate our lunch in the van, and then we headed back to Algonquin Outfitters, where I ended up buying the snowshoes and poles!

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At the Lookout over Starling Lake and Lake of Two Rivers.

It was a great 1st winter backcountry camping experience. For future trips, we would:

  • bring kindling again
  • not bring a 10 L jug of water
  • camp within reach of a toilet again
  • make slight modifications to our sleds
  • pack all food in the canoe pack – no loose things!
  • hike the Highland Trail again, or perhaps try another trail!

We’ll be back!

Related posts for this trip:

Packing list

Menu and cooking tips

Gear review: snowshoes and poles

Sled review

Menu and cooking tips: Winter backcountry 4-day snowshoe adventure at Algonquin Provincial Park

Part of the fun of planning a camping trip is planning the food! For this 4-day trip along Algonquin Provincial Park’s Highland Backpacking Trail, my first winter backcountry trip, my friend Cheryl and I wanted to keep things simple.

Given the frigid temperatures of last February’s winter car camping trip (-17 degrees Celsius, feeling like -29 with the wind chill), we planned to do as little cooking as possible this year, while still having warm foods and beverages! Why? Cooking takes longer in the winter, burns more fuel, cold fingers don’t work as well and standing around is, well, chilly! The easiest hot meals are ones that only require you to just boil water, then add it to something and let it sit for a few minutes (e.g. oatmeal and dried fruit).

We cooked exclusively using an MSR Dragonfly stove, which thankfully worked for this winter trip (last year, it was just too cold to get our stoves going – somehow the fuel would not go through the pump). We did use the campfire to heat up our cheese buns one night!

It took nearly an hour for us to heat up our frozen solid stew and chili. In future, we would freeze the meal in the shape of the pot, so that we could easily place it into the pot and have more surface area of the food touching the heat to speed up cooking! We would also move our cooking spot around – the snow melted and a “pit” formed, so much so that on our last morning, there was so much water in the pit that it extinguished the flame!

We made everything from scratch, preparing and cooking the meals at home, so that all we had to do while camping was thaw or re-heat things. For spring, summer and fall trips we dehydrate as much as possible so that we’re carrying less weight, but given that we would be pulling all our gear in sleds, the weight of our food (17.4 pounds) was less of an issue. We did dehydrate some of our food – the fruit for our breakfasts and for our evening snacks.

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Most meals were packed in individual bags, labelled by day and meal (e.g. Saturday breakfast). It makes finding things in the food bag really easy!

Day #1: Home to Algonquin Provincial Park’s West Gate to Mew Lake Campground – hiked along Track and Tower Trail to Highland Trail to Provoking Lake West, pulling 70 pound sled (3.99 km)

Breakfast – at home

Morning snack and lunch – packed lunch

Afternoon snack – chocolate nut energy square

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Chocolate nut energy square

Dinner – minestrone and cornbread (prepared at home) [Note: we somehow lost this on the trail, so for dinner we ate hot chocolate, and pilfered the dehydrated bananas and chocolate from Day #2, as well as some of the chocolate chip granola bars from Day #2.]

Evening snack – dehydrated banana and chocolate treat [See comment above – lost!]

Day #2: Day hike along the Highland Trail (6.2 km)

Breakfast -oatmeal and dehydrated fruit, gatorade (very cold!) and tea

Morning snack – trail mix

Lunch – bagels, pepperettes, cheese strings

Afternoon snack – chocolate chip granola bars, hot chocolate

Dinner – stew and cornbread (prepared at home and re-heated at camp)

Evening snack – none – eaten the day before

Day #3: Day hike along the Highland Trail and Old Railway Trail (7.1 km)

Breakfast – granola and dehydrated fruit, gatorade (using water that we had in Nalgene bottles overnight as hot water bottles – so, not ice cold!) and tea

Morning snack – chocolate chip granola bars

Lunch – apple peanut salad wrap (prepared at home) [Note: thawed out by carrying in our coat inside pockets for several hours]

Afternoon snack – trail mix, hot chocolate

Dinner – chili and cheese buns (prepared at home and re-heated at camp)

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Warming the buns up on the campfire

Evening snack – dehydrated banana and chocolate treat

Day #4: Hiked from Provoking Lake West to Mew Lake Campground, pulling sled (3.6 km)

Breakfast: cranberry walnut couscous porridge and dehydrated fruit, gatorade (not freezing! and tea [Note: the hot cereal wasn’t hot enough for me, because we boiled water, added it to the bowls, and let the couscous absorb it – next time, I think I would actually cook the cereal]

Morning snack: – chocolate nut energy squares

Lunch: carrot raisin peanut wrap (prepared at home) [Note: thawed out by carrying in our coat inside pockets for several hours – we ate this back at the van at the end of our last day’s hike]

Afternoon snack: peanut granola bar [Note: we ate this on our way home]

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Meal prep (we used 1 tarp from the top of a sled as a food prep area, and the other as a mat just outside our tent door)

Despite losing our first day’s dinner and evening snack, we had the perfect amount of food! We are getting good at food planning!

Notes on Melting Snow for Drinking Water

  • Avoid snow crawling with snow fleas!!
  • Be prepared to keep adding snow to the pot as it melts.
  • Bring a coffee filter, or be prepared to drink lots of little bits of wood and other things found on forest floors!
  • If you do it over a campfire, as we did at times, keep the pot lid on at all times, or you’ll end up drinking very smoky tasting water (with lots of floaty bits) as we did – yuck!

Favourite Backcountry Cookbooks

In case you’re interested, some of my favourite backcountry recipes come from the following cookbooks:

  • A Fork in the Trail by Laurie Ann March
  • The Trailside Cookbook by Don and Pam Philpott

My new favourites are:

  • Backcountry Cooking by Dorcas Miller
  • LipSmackin’ Backpackin’ by Christine and Tim Connors

Related posts for this trip:

Trip report

Packing list

Gear review: snowshoes and poles

Sled review

 

Sled review: Performance of my homemade sled on a winter backcountry 4-day snowshoe adventure at Algonquin Provincial Park

In early January 2016 I posted instructions on how to make a sled for backcountry winter camping. This past weekend I tested the sled out on a 4-day winter backcountry adventure at Algonquin Provincial Park.
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Gear in canoe pack with tarp and bungees.
The weight of the sled and gear was approximately 70 pounds:
  • sled – 7 pounds
  • gear in canoe pack – 40 pounds
  • food – 17.4 pounds
  • 1 bag kindling – estimated 5 pounds
Problems encountered:
  • The poles I used were the wrong kind – despite wanting rigid poles, I somehow bought flexible ones, so going down steep hills the sled would hit me in the back of the legs (exactly what I was trying to avoid!) – I will be replacing the poles!
  • Sometimes while walking along my waist would get a jolt – this was uncomfortable! It happened when I started pulling the load after a downhill section, or from a sudden start. It was better to start slowly.
  • The sled tipped over – the load seemed balanced, but sometimes given the terrain, it tipped over:
    • if the trail curved sharply, it was harder to get around the corner without it flipping
    • if there was a path cut in the snow already, the sled wanted to follow the path even if I didn’t
    • if there was a tree or stump in the way, and I walked past it but the sled got caught, it might flip over.
    • on a very steep hill along the Highland Trail, the sled tipped over and I was stuck – I couldn’t right it on my own without having to take my hip belt off and descend the hill a ways – my friend came back down the hill without her sled to right mine.
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This is my friend’s sled, which has straps rather than bungees. Note also the orange ropes, which replaced the failed hooks and bolts.
Positive notes about the sled:
  • 6 attachment hooks were sufficient
  • bungees worked well
  • no bolts were lost on the underside of the sled (for the 6 attachment hooks) – by contrast, my friend’s sled lost 5 of 8 bolts, meaning that the hooks were useless – she had to use rope to create new hooks
  • hip belt was great
  • on a very steep decline, I was able to hold the sled by the hip belt (while not wearing it), letting it go down the hill ahead of me (I was also able to attach the poles to the sled with the bungees, allowing me to use 2 hands to let the sled slide down the hill)
  • poles were attached securely to the sled and the belt
  • sled was big enough to hold all my gear – any more gear would have been too heavy to pull
  • sled made for a great seat come snack time!
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Sitting on my sled for a snack!
Modifications that I will make:
  • change to rigid poles
  • change bungees to straps, because I think the load could be kept tighter/more secure
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Going down a hill sled first.
All in all, I was happy with the performance of my sled, and I look forward to using it again! [Update: Modifications to the sled here.] Related posts for this trip: Trip report Packing list Menu and cooking tips Gear review: snowshoes and poles Follow me on Twitter: @kyraonthego Follow me on Instagram: @kyraonthego