As mentioned in my blog about my trip about my tour of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, Algonquin Park is one of my favourite places. The Canadian Shield has so many amazing landscapes, it is little wonder that the Group of Seven focused their attention on capturing it. Growing up in Southwestern Ontario, where the rock is all covered with fertile soil, you don’t get to see how beautiful rock, water, and trees can all look together.
Over the decades I’ve taken a lot of canoe trips into Algonquin and enjoyed them all. As with any outdoor adventure, there can be some suffering in the Canadian Shield, and this is usually due black flies, deer flies, leeches and mosquitoes. Many times I have been in the thick of, and on the menu of, all of these pests in Algonquin, but I just keep coming back for the views. This is partly due to the fact that I spend so much time getting paid to have three computer screens 40 cm from my face.
In recent years, I have learned that if I want to go on my type of adventures, I have to go it alone. People just aren’t into it, and I would never want to drag people unwillingly into a potentially uncomfortable trek. It is nice to have people to travel with, and enjoy journeys, but there are also a lot of benefits to solo treks:
- You can make decisions without worrying about ruining someone else’s day.
- Travelling at your own pace is less fatiguing than trying to match someone else’s.
- You eat, sleep and travel when you want to.
- Camping is simplified when you remove the social elements.
This last point is an interesting one, and it is a big part of the planning that is going into my longest trek into the Algonquin Park this summer. If you are camping alone there is not much point having a campfire to sit around and poke together. You only have fires if you need them for cooking, and these fires can be small stick fires, so you don’t need an axe or a saw. And with this simplified and lightweight kit you are more mobile.
Travelling solo, you also don’t need a tarp or a chair to hang around together in the rain. On our Great Divide trip, we used our hammocks to rest and get up off the dirt and away from the bugs. As the trip went on we ended up getting in our hammocks earlier and earlier, where we would write in our journals, read comics, listen to music, and simply relax.
This is something I want to build on this summer. More than just a place to sleep, my hammock will serve as my bug tent, my recliner, my shelter from the rain, and a place to read and write. With my Kobo in hand, I will have plenty to read, and I also plan to keep a detailed journal in there. I enjoy getting up early, so on hot days I will take advantage of this by getting some miles in before the sun gets too oppressive. Then I can set my hammock up for a mid day siesta and continue travelling later in the day.
Well that’s the plan, but these things can go pear-pear shaped. The best I can do to make this dream come true is to get myself and my gear prepared for this trip.
Here in Ottawa, the Barron Canyon is a convenient and beautiful entrance to Algonquin park and it is also a fine paddling and fishing route. My plan is to enter take the Barron Canyon and travel East, then South to Canoe Lake.
If I could do this trip my way, I would not have to book campsites on specific locations each night, but Ontario Parks do not work that way. You have to tell them where you are going to be each night. That’s a rule I plan to bend during on the weekdays of my journey through the park, because the interior of Algonquin is generally vacant in the middle of the week. Even on weekend, you see very few people once you’ve covered more than one portage into the park, so there will be little risk of me taking the wrong campsite during the week.
Because I will not be setting up a tent or having campfires, my campsite needs consist, pretty much, of two trees, so I may even do some camping at the end of portages. That said, my route includes 6 campsites that are roughly 20 kilometers apart for a total of 146 kilometers. That is 112 kilometers by water, and 35 kilometers of portage.
I will put in at the Barron Canyon on the east side of the park, then camp at the following lakes :Johnson, Green Leaf, White Partidge, Crow Bay, Red Rock, and Little Otter Slide (see the large red arrows on the map above). My journey ends at Canoe Lake, where I will meet up with my family en route to my brother’s cottage.
I know from experience that Green Leaf lake is remote enough to be full of big bass, and Crow Bay and Crow River are renowned for Brook Trout, so I expect to eat some fresh fish.
Depending on my traveling speed, I may rush to these areas so that I can stay and fish for longer. If, for instance, I can get to Green Leaf Lake in one day rather than two, I could take a day off for fishing. Because this is my first solo portaging trek, and on a boat that I have not loaded down before, I won’t know how far I can travel until I get moving.
My boat is new acquisition from the amazing boat builders at Hornbeck Boats. I tested their hulls in their pond last year at their beautiful facility in the Adirondacks. I loved it right away, and ordered my boat. I picked it up this Spring. and since then, I have been testing in local waters. It is exceeding my hopes for speed and maneuverability.
Hornbeck calls this boat a Classic 12 Blackjack. It is a 12 foot long 15 pound carbon fiber packboat. There are no typos in that last sentence. 15 pounds is miraculously light. With no place for a yoke, this boat will rest on top of my external frame backpack, which I have adapted for this purpose. The seat is built into the bottom of the boat, and I paddle it with a carbon fiber kayak paddle.
Kitchen and Food
My dinners and breakfasts on this trip will be dehydrated meals of oatmeal for breakfast and home-made dehydrated meals for dinner, including spaghetti, burritos, and baked beans. These, I will hydrate using my insulated Vargo Bot, (See my intro post from my last trip: https://gdmbrblog.wordpress.com/2016/04/), and my new MKettle.
This ingenious kettle can boil water as quickly as anything I’ve used, and it requires very little fuel. On lazy days I can boil water with cotton balls soaked in fondue fluid, but all it really takes to boil water is a handful of twigs and sticks. Here is an image from the MKettle site.
It’s difficult to describe how this works. The fire shoots up the middle of the kettle and the water is contained in the circular wall of the chimney. This configuration means the inside of this chimney, has maximum contact with the hottest part of the fire, so water boils quickly.
Lunches will be salami, cheese, flatbread, and candy. It’s simple and I like it.
I also plan to eat some fish, so I am bringing my small carbon steel frying pan. Carbon has pretty much the same pros and cons as cast iron at a fraction of the weight. A well-seasoned pan will not rust, and it is slippery enough to make omelets, while taking the heat and abuse of a fire. This before-and-after image looks identical to my pan when I got it and seasoned it.
My pan will stay well seasoned via the tub of ghee that I made for this trip. You need oil to deep-fry fish with Fish Crisp or flour. Ghee is my oil of choice because of its versatility. To make it, you render the fat out of butter, and keep the oil. It can be transported without refrigeration and it won’t spill in your pack since it is solid. It’s also tasty on other foods like pancakes or pasta.
I have been using my Hennessey Hammock for a good decade now, and it has always kept me comfortable and dry. With no shortage of trees, and the fact that I don’t really do campfires (except for cooking) I can camp ANYWHERE in Algonquin. As shown in the photo below, the Hennessey has space to dry your gear under the tarp, and the bug net provides a great cocoon for getting away from the bugs and dirt. Perfect.
And that’s pretty much the plan. Like last time, I plan to take a lot of pictures and video, and I hope to encounter some calm and friendly wildlife. I am 90% excited and 10% creeped out at the prospect of 7 days alone in the wilderness, but I have all of the gear I need to stay safe and comfortable, and plenty of music and books, to keep me sane.
Stay tuned for trip journals.