I am back from the camping, canoeing and portaging trip into Galeairy Lake within Algonquin Park. On Saturday morning my dad arrived at about 7:00 and we quickly loaded up my car with our kit - me carefully removing items that he brought which I already had packed... except for the gin. Gin would do just fine. About 4 hours later we arrived at the outfitter, strapped a canoe to the roof, and were on our way. 42 km into the park access road, then 8 km south on a logging road we arrived at the parking lot by the river, and loaded up the canoe. Monty appeared slightly car sick, but perked up quickly upon reaching the river's edge.
Then we got into the canoe, pushed off and then we were on our way. It only took 2 hours to get to the site, the portage at the southeast of Rock Lake into Galeairy Lake was only 100 meters, and I traversed it 3 times, once with the canoe on my head. The canoe weighed only 55 pounds, so it was really easy to carry - Kevlar, 17 feet long. The portage went around a dam, and in no time we reached the island I had originally scouted out.
The island was small, the woods sparse, and it did not promise much access to firewood, so we consulted the map I had printed out from Google Maps and found another site on the north side of Galeairy Lake. This site appeared fairly sheltered from the wind, yet still stuck out into the lake affording us a nice view of the west, south and some of the east sides of the lake.
Once ashore, Monty ran straight into the woods, and as we began to unpack, and place the gear in the appropriate spots, prior to setting everything up, we both became a little concerned. We couldn't hear him, and so off into the woods we trekked. I went one way, my dad the other way, and after about 15 minutes I came across Monty snuffling madly about in the roots and rocks that showed chipmunk or red squirrel havens. I called to him, and he looked up at me for a moment, and then went back to running around.
I figured he was okay, and trudged back to the site through the undergrowth and trees and rocks of the Canadian Shield. Silly beagle. He arrived back at camp about 30 minutes later, panting madly and looking very pleased with himself.
While it was only around 3 pm, we thought it prudent to set up the tent, mattresses and sleeping bags, along with the tarp, and arranging the kit. Setting up the tarp took a few minutes of figuring and estimating and struggling, but it set up really well, all 10 feet square of it. Right afterwards I carved a pot hanger from a willow bough, set it up and got the fire going with my fire steel and some birch bark from the close woods.
Soon the kettle had boiled and we drank tea and planned for a late lunch - we had had breakfast en route a la McDonald's, but were getting hungry after the trip and site set up. A quick tramp back to the willow bushes in the shallows yielded two sturdy hot dog sticks onto which I slid two hot dogs and got them going over the fire... that made a quick meal and the rest of the afternoon went quickly, gathering wood, and chatting by the fire.
I found it hard the sleep the first night, but Monty passed out quickly after spending the afternoon and evening running around the woods, and despite being awoken because apparently I was snoring (I was only trying to scare the bears away), I woke up feeling good around 6ish.
The next few days went quickly - marshmallows over the fire, bacon and eggs each morning for breakfast, accompanied with tortillas to hold it all and lemon crystals in boiled lake water.
Steak went well with instant mashed potatoes on the second day - cheese in the potatoes made it all tastier. Rotini noodles boiled in the pot over the fire, with an Alfredo sauce and a side of chili was a surprising hit - and of course Tabasco hot sauce gave everything a good heat to it all.
My MSR Dragonfly stove worked well for the morning bacon and eggs, but most of the other cooking got done on the fire. I am thinking that on my next solo I may not bring the stove.
I may not even bring the naphtha lantern either - while it is good with company so you can have conversations, when soloing the fire should give enough light and my headlamp will be sufficient for reading. Those two pieces add weight and bulk. A winter solo would necessitate bringing the stove, as wood can be hard to find in the deep snow though... but that's another post.
I passed some of the time by reading a couple of novels: "Lying on the Couch" by Irvin Yalom and "The Dark Side of the Street" by Jack Higgens.
The first I have read about 6 times now, the second one never. I am going to read more of Higgens' books...
One evening I made a a lantern with resin chunks scraped from pine trees tightly wrapped in birch bark, held in a split willow bough and bound with pine roots stripped of the outer layer with my Mora knife. It burned in the night darkness for over 15 minutes, spluttering oddly-squeaking trails of molten resin onto the beach floor which burned like little candles.
I could make a half-dozen of these in short order, and extend the evening light for a good while.
While there were very few mosquitoes around, black flies, deer flies and no see 'ums bugs were biting on the 3rd and 4th day, in part because the winds had died down and still air held over the site. The smoke kept them mostly away from me, and the Muskol with 28.5% Deet (and related toluamines) saved my ankles from the bastards...
Monty however was being plagued with black flies. I would every so often sneak up on him, and squirt his legs and ears with Muskol- he would quickly run to get away from me... the cold sensation of the formula bothered him intensely... but i figured better that than being nipped by flies.
Fishing was fun and relaxing, and I caught a 6 inch long rock bass, which I promptly threw back into the water. After another 30 minutes I caught a good-sized rock bass and we had lunch ready to go. I prepared it, and using willow sticks and pine roots got it ready and cooking over the fire.
Despite the bones, the meat was great - next time I will properly remove the rib bones by peeling them back off of the fillets, and cook it the same way.
After cutting a few dead standing trees down for firewood, there were a few chunks of birch laying around on which we had used the bucksaw. I decided to make a spoon for the chow, but by the time I was finished roughing it out with the axe and the saw, and finely smoothing it out with the axe blade and my Mora knife, it occurred to me that I would not be able to carve out the bowl of the spoon without either burning it out with an ember or using a crook knife. Deciding to buy a crook knife in time, I flattened the blade of the spoon and turned it into a spatula - which worked very well with the dishes for the following days.
The axe was great for cutting down trees, but it ended up with a couple of nicks in the blade due to hitting stones where we chopped wood... I smoothed out the nicks with my diamond sharpener, but must strop it smooth in the coming days, then coat it with linseed oil to seal the handle and coat the iron.
One afternoon the winds got strong, and the radio weather forecast told us about a tornado warning - we had spotted rotating clouds above us and then the winds dropped to a calm for a minute or two. And then the winds hit - we both held the tent down from within, me jamming my legs against the base, while blown water pushed through the door... it felt like the tent was about to be plucked up and spun out into the water - except we three were in it - Monty calmly sat and observed.
The weather settled down for the rest of the trip, and in retrospect I wouldn't have changed a thing - being in the midst of a powerful thunderstorm can be really satisfying...
For a future solo trek, I would really like to buy a Hilleberg Akto tent - but they are rather expensive. My present tent is good, but still a little heavy.
I used my compass once when I went trekking in the woods, I am constantly amazed at how easy it is to get turned around and lost there. My fire steel was good, and I used birch bark for my tinder - wet or dry it always lit. I am planning to get a proper fire and flint set - for my next trip.
I gathered some false tinder fungus, and brought a pile of them home to dry and prepare them for when I get a flint and steel.
On the final afternoon, an hour after the last rain passed, a huge rainbow presented itself in front of the camp site - it was a great scene.
The trip back took just over 2 hours - driving home we stopped in at Tim Horton's for the obligatory coffee and donut.