Archive for the “Camping” Category

On Wednesday, we headed down to the beach and rented a canoe for a modest sum.  It was a nice, sunny day with almost no wind and we counted on some easy paddling on Silent Lake, especially considering it was Mojo’s first time in a canoe.

To keep the little guy safe, he was wearing his own doggy PFD (aka lifejacket) because he’s shown that he can swim, but we’re not that confident in his abilities to drop him in the middle of a lake and let him swim himself out.

We paddled past a couple of small islands and checked out a marshy inlet at the north end of the lake where the shore was riddled with fishermen who weren’t even getting nibbles.  At first, Mojo was in the middle of the boat, but the movement on the water made him unsteady and we were constantly on the verge of tipping.  Finally, Danielle took him in the bow with her where he braced his hips on the gunwhales and planted his head in her lap.

We paddled back near mid-lake to a small rocky island for a swim and to have lunch, then laid out on the rocks to get some sun.  After hours of paddling already, I tried to stick to the shade, but I was already feeling pretty sunburnt.

Since our canoe had fixed seats, it was impossible to kneel with your legs under your seat as they ran straight to the deck, so we had to paddle in a squatting position.  When we got back to our site, my back, arms and legs were lobster red.  My legs still have a very clear line where my shorts were and they’re still beet red, but showing signs of peeling.

All in all, it was a perfect day on the water and, as always, it was reassuring that I haven’t forgotten how to perform a near-perfect J Stroke or navigate a canoe with ease.  However, the whole experience did further convince me that a really nice canoe is something that our family is lacking, so maybe 2010 will be the year that we pick one up at an end-0f-season sale.  I’d kill for a kevlar, but would settle for a nice fibreglass one.

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I’m doing these stories a little out of order, but I figure you don’t care about the chronology of our week-long camping trip, so just sit back and enjoy the show.

Thursday was our last full day in the park, so we decided to try out one of the many hikes around the park.  There were a few that were between one and three kilometres and we figured we were up for something a little more challenging, so we opted for the 15 kilometre “Lakeview Loop”.  After all, 15 kilometres isn’t THAT long.

We headed off around 1pm with the dog in tow, or more aptly he was towing us, and a backpack with a litre of water, two apples and two granola bars and began the loop.  The trail was beautiful and took us up huge hills and back down, to scenic lookouts over the lake and to secluded little rocks on the lakeshore.  After a few hours, we found ourselves at a marshy point in the lake with boardwalks and crudely made duckboard bridges over little marshy rivers.  Mojo managed to pull Danielle into one of these and soaked her shoe with boggy mud.

As the afternoon sun began to drop and the temperature began to cool, we got worried about where we were.  We were still following the proper trail signs, but it seemed to be neverending.  We finally popped out of the woods with a spectacular view of the lake… on the opposite side from where our campsite was.  We were only halfway around the lake, our food and water gone, our feet and legs aching and the sun rapidly dropping.

I called to a nearby canoe for help (and a possible ride back to the main beach) but the owner, a fisherman with his wife and kid, told me that his boat was too full for us and he turned and paddled away.  Jerk.

So our only option was to plow ahead through the bush on the trail at full walking speed in the hopes of beating the sun back to our site.  After six long hours, we finally reached home where all three of us collapsed by the fireside barely able to talk, let alone move.

So, if you find yourself considering a hike in the woods, check the length of the trail and bring lots of food and maybe a flashlight… just in case.

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We arrived at our campsite on Monday under sunny skies and warmish temperatures with high spirits.  We unloaded all our gear and our over-excited dog and hiked it all into our walk-in site and were setting up our tent and tarp when the neighbours showed up.

The site next to ours, and the one next to that, were overrun with a large group of teenagers blasting music on a stereo (walk-in sites are radio-free zones) and generally being loud.  All the warning signs of a long night were there.  We hoped for the best, but when someone from another nearby campsite walked over and told them to turn down their radio and they did, they just turned it right back up when the woman left.

Still, the volume wasn’t too bad, and they spent most of the daylight hours lounging out of earshot on the beach, so we enjoyed a quiet dinner and settled by the fire for our first evening in the great outdoors.

After dark, the party started in earnest.  The music was loud, but the shouting was louder and it only got quiet a few times when they were visited by the park ranger with stern warnings to keep it down.  Sadly, those breaks only lasted until the ranger was out of earshot and things picked up again.

All of this went on until 4am, when they wandered off into their own tents to pass out after drinking their faces off.  I was surprised to be woken up at 8am to the sounds of them packing up.  I figured they would sleep until noon after partying so hard, and I thought I’d seen from their permits that they would be there for a few nights.  After an hour of packing, they were gone.

Later, the woman who had asked them to turn down the radio stopped by to tell us that they’d been kicked out of the park.  Apparently with walk-in sites, the rangers don’t kick them out at night as they’ll make more noise packing up and leaving in the dark than if they’d just been left alone and booted out in the morning.

Good riddance.  I’m all for group camping and having a few drinks, but having a wild, raging kegger in a provincial park is just stupid.  Go have a bush party on some crown land, or go to a private campground where they have a party area (there are LOTS of these places around Ontario).  Better yet, rent a cottage in the middle of nowehere.  Provincial parks are for solitude and nature.

Over our morning coffee, we toasted the fine staff of Silent Lake and wished our former neighbours safe travels to wherever their party took them next.

The one bright spot in all of this is that despite being overstimulated by all the wildlife nearby, and having eaten nearly a million acorns in a frenzy, Mojo barely paid any attention to the party and certainly didn’t bark or growl at it.  That would have made for a much longer night.

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Danielle and I packed up the car on Friday and made a run up the 400 to Craigleith Provincial Park (just outside Collingwood, and only a stone’s throw away from Wasaga Beach.  Despite our worries and fears about traffic, we never went slower than about 60, even when we got caught in a torrential downpour.  We made the mistake of eating at the Pita Pit off Hwy 26 in Barrie (don’t do it… ever) and arrived at our campsite while daylight was dying and struck our camp while we waited for our friends to arrive.


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We were pretty disappointed in how the site was setup, and once we toured the campground, we realized it was the same for all the sites.  Instead of grass, the sites had been purposely coated with crushed gravel and all the sites were barely big enough for three tents, let alone a car and a picnic table.  They were packed in tight like cottages on a lakefront, and at best were separated with just a branch or two of a tree.  Noise travelled through the park like a it was one big speaker.

On the site behind us, two couples spent the night getting ridiculously drunk, driving their car and laughing and swearing at full volume.  This went well past 4am, and since they were sitting about 25 feet from our tents with nothing to separate us but air, we didn’t sleep too well.  The next morning, the Park Ranger (an awesome guy) came by to tell them that there had been complaints and one more complaint would have them evicted.  There were moved to another site for the second night, but were caught drinking on the beach and evicted from the park.  Good riddance.

Craigleith has a beautiful shoreline and it’s easily accessible from every site, but the tradeoff in a lack of privacy, gravel campsites and very little in the way of trees or other natural vegetation around mean that we probably won’t hurry back to that park.  It was nice to go hiking on the Bruce Trail near Blue Mountain, and the beach was gorgeous, but finding a good beach and decent hiking isn’t too hard at any provincial park in Ontario, and it’s nice to find a site where you aren’t kept up most of the night by the residents of Animal House and the woken up the next morning, but some keener intent on splitting wood at 7am.

All in all, it was a great weekend spent with good friends.  We got our house cleaned up and even managed to get caught up on our sleep and relax.  Now, bring on the fall!

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Friday night, I scored awesome seats to the Blue Jays vs. Mariners game at the SkyDome, er Rogers Centre courtesy of my brother.  We were in the HSBC VIP section in the 200s just above home plate and in perfect alignment with the first base line.  For fans of baseball, you’ll probably recall that the Jays won the game in extra innings, so it was easily one of the best free baseball games I’ve ever seen from ridiculously comfortable seats that include seat service.

Saturday was ‘errand day’ at our house.  After sleeping in a bit, I picked up a new flush arm for our malfunctioning toilet and replaced it (marking my first real ‘plumbing job’, arguably the easiest one in a long list of plumbing jobs) to make our toilet fully functioning.  Then, the cleaning of the house began in earnest.  Most of our camping equipment was still out and about in various states of cleaning or airing, so everything was catalogued and put back in its proper place.

After humming and hawing about checking out Jazzfest, we opted instead to BBQ some tasty steaks and then take the streetcar out to Little Italy for ice cream.  Danielle has convinced me that my long and complicated relationship with ice cream needs to be documented in classic Dave Duncan form (sarcastically, that is) so I’ll probably write a short story about my love/hate relationship with the frozen treat (mostly ‘hate’) in the near future.

On Sunday, we headed to MEC after church to update our camping gear from ‘single Dave’ quality to ‘married couple’ quality.  That meant getting a second sleeping bag (the MEC Oasis, for warm and cool weather), a much larger tent than my ideal canoe tripping tent, the Tarn 2 (we got the spacious Wanderer 4 with the optional second vestibule) and various specialty camping gear cleaning products.  Danielle also picked herself up a new bookbag, marking her first MEC-branded purchase.  I’m slowly converting her to a lifetime of devoted MECism.

After a leisurely afternoon rollerblading in Ashbridge’s Bay, we headed downtown for an evening showing of The Dark Knight.  What can I say about this movie that hasn’t already been said?  Well, for one, I was disappointed not to hear one of my favourite Batman-related movie lines in this film; “Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?  I ask that of all my prey.  I just like the way it sounds”.  Aside from missing that line, this movie had it all.  If you haven’t seen it yet, fork over your money and stand in line, you won’t regret it.

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I didn’t go camping once in 2007.  I just realized that on my ride into work this morning, and I had to run through the entire year on fast forward in my head to make sure that was true.  I remember handling my camping gear a lot, but that had more to do with moving and picking up some new stuff (which requires repacking everything at cataloging it in my obsessively compulsive list).  That made me profoundly sad.

Mark my words, this will not happen again in 2008.  I have a few new toys to try out and after over a year, I’m betting my tent will need some fresh air.  I’m pretty sure I washed it after my last trip, but it’ll still be pretty stuffy after all that time.

This also means that Danielle and I have never been camping together, and it’s something we’ve both talked about a great deal and are looking forward to.  I don’t think a canoe trip is in the cards, but maybe a long weekend at Bon Echo, Silent Lake or Sandbanks Provincial Parks would scratch that itch.

It just feels like it’s been forever since I’ve spaced out sitting beside an open fire listening to the crackle of the wood and the sounds of the night.  I also miss not having to shower and eating beef jerky and M&Ms for a meal.

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Those who know me best know that I’m the kind of guy who likes to have people around me… I’m not the kind of person who needs (or wants) a lot of time on his own. I tend to get restless if I’m left to my own devices and I think it’s because I bore me.

In the past, I’ve done a fair amount of travelling on my own only to meet up with friends or family at my destination, and I’ve really enjoyed that. Maybe it’s because I’m moving around and really watching my surroundings, at least I hope it is.

Anyways, for the past week or so I’ve been considering taking a few days later this summer and going on a solo canoe trip. Maybe take some holidays and make a long weekend and take a short trek into the interior of Algonquin. So long as I pack VERY lightly and keep the portages to a minimum, I think I could have a really good time.

As a test of my resolve when it comes to weening myself off my social dependence, I’m going to be spending a week alone at my cottage in August. My sister, brother-in-law and nephew are coming out to stay with my parents and I’m going to stay at the Royal Estate and babysit the family dog. After a week in the wilderness with an insane hound, I figure I’ll have a pretty good idea of how much solitude I can take.

Has anyone out there ever done a solo canoe trip? Any advice for the uninitiated? Will I go insane after 12 hours alone in the bush?

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Porridge in a pot is a pretty good way to start a cool and overcast day (even if it is insanely early), and with our bellies full, we struck out on the water for our last portage. Easy as pie. When we hit the water again, we were back in Rain Lake right near the island where we camped the first night.

We headed to the island to take a group shot by the chimney ruins and we were back in the water in no time. Rain Lake turned out to be a longer paddle than any of us remembered, but the day was warming up, and the wind dying down, so it was one of our nicer paddles all weekend.

Nearly within sight of our cars… BAM… out comes the sun. What a jerk, eh?

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