Saturday, March 30, 2013

Trip Log: Mew Lake March 28-30, 2013

First camping trip of the year!  And a fabulous birthday present for me.  I'm thinking I should make this a new tradition, to go camping for my birthday.

We'd been planning this trip for quite a while, since before Christmas at least.  Last year for Easter weekend, we spent a night in a yurt at Mew Lake, but this year, all the yurts were booked, so we thought we'd take a chance and see how well camping in mum and dad's tent trailer with the electric heater would be.  I couldn't see it being much different than hot tenting, except we wouldn't have to be up most of the night stoking the fire.



Perfect climbing tree at our campsite
As the day approached, we began watching the weather reports, hoping for good news.  I wasn't too concerned about snow, but cold temperatures or rain would have been a little more difficult to deal with.  Last year, cooking in the freezing rain and high winds was uncomfortable and took forever. With projected temperatures on average of 5 degrees during the day and -7 being the lowest night time temp, we loaded up the cars and headed north.

Now, I don't know if you've ever camped at the end of March, but we'd been anticipating lots of mud, what we got was lots of snow, ice and deep puddles.  More than half the sites were flooded or the fire pit was buried or missing.  After driving laps around the campground for half an hour we settled on site 33 figuring it was a bit higher and any melt water should run off rather than stay around and form a little pond.

After unloading and getting most of our stuff set up, we turned on the heat and held our breath, wondering just how useful the trailer's heater would be.  While I stood outside in the cold and made spaghetti, everyone else was toasty warm inside.  Dessert was two bite brownies with easter icing (and birthday candles for me!) then mum presented us with a 2013/2014 day use season pass for Ontario Parks.  Totally awesome. I'll be writing up lots and lots of trail reports this summer.  Mum, Squatch, Bubbie and I played a game called Word Rally which involves a large clear dice with 9 smaller letter dice inside it.  You roll the dice and have 1 minute to come up with as many words as possible using the visible letters.  The rules were supposed to be more complicated than that, but we went with a simplified version.

Boreal Chickadee
That night, the heater kept us warm....when it was on.  Once it kicked off, the trailer rapidly cooled down.  While we were snug in our blankets and sleeping bags, our faces got quite cold.  Once morning came, Dad was up and had the coffee on, and mum toasted a few bagels to tide us over till Chris got up so we could make our actual breakfast, french toast.  To make things easier, mum bought a carton of french toast blended egg.  I'd for sure go this route again.  It's much easier than packing eggs.  The kids don't like french toast though, and I'm not a huge fan so I'd eat one piece and chris would have to eat 9 or the rest of the carton would go to waste...maybe when we go with friends this summer.

After breakfast we headed to the visitor's centre...I was hoping they'd have Kevin Callan's new book (they didn't) then Chris and I took the kids to the Spruce Bog Boardwalk to feed the birds while mum and dad had a coffee (dad had a coffee, mum browsed the bookstore.)  Lunch was supposed to be hot dogs and cheddar Grill-ems but we ended up opting for food from the cafe.  The plan next was to head to the east gate and then do a drive through of the whole park looking for moose but in the parking lot, someone told us there was a wolf spotted on Lake of Two Rivers so we headed that way instead.  I thought it was unlikely the wolf would still be there, but it was.  Laying down in the middle of the lake...it was too far away for a good picture, but zoomed in a lot, you could make out that it was a wolf and not a gray sleeping bag that had blown across the ice.  We wondered if it was injured or something because it was there when we drove past again 30 minutes later.  I would have thought an injured animal would find a hiding spot to hunker down, not lay out in the open like that, but I'm not an expert on wold behaviour.

Gray Jay
I've mentioned it before, but it bears repeating.  If you go to Algonquin in winter, take bird seed and go to the Spruce Bog Boardwalk.  We were there for less than 30 seconds before a gray jay swooped at us.  It was quiet for a while after that, but then just as we were about to head out, we were swarmed by Black Capped Chickadees, Boreal Chickadees and Nuthatches.  At one point, Bubbie had one on her hand and another one perched on the hood of her jacket.  I just missed getting a picture.  I kind of regret not putting a handful on Squatch's head (with his hood up) so I could get pictures.

Waterfall on Matawaska River
Once we got back to the campsite, Chris and I hiked to the waterfall again while mum, dad and the kids got a fire going.  The sun came out (finally!) and the rest of the afternoon was beautiful.  I made dinner once we got back, (Sweet potato and black bean burritos, herbed rice, hot dogs and caeser  salad.)

That night we played dice for prizes (Easter candy) then we got ready for bed.  For the second night, we plugged in the electric heater.  It doesn't put out enough heat to heat the whole trailer, but it was enough to keep us comfortable when the tent's propane heater cut out so the temperature didn't drop so much.

Even though the second night was colder, we all slept much better and everyone got up early for coffee, bagels, toast and Red River Cereal.  All the puddles from the day before were frozen, and the camp chairs had frozen into the mud.  We packed everything up and decided to hike a little bit of the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail before heading home.  We only went a kilometer or so, but the trail was nice and Chris and I decided it would be nice to come back and try it again for an over night trip.

Our last stop was at Henrietta's Pine Bakery in Dwight for some goodies.  Chris and I ended up trying the turkey bacon club panini, which wasn't grilled like you'd expect but was served on some really yummy fresh foccocia bread.  So good!  It occurred to me that if you were heading to Algonquin, planning to pass through the West Gate, you could get a sandwich like this, a brownie or some cookies, and a drink from this bakery and have a good picnic without having to do any work.

I'm so glad this trip turned out so well.  We had some problems- Bubbie wore her purple suede boots which were useless for being out in slushy conditions for any length of time, so we were limited to how much hiking we could do.  Also, we forgot to take a can opener (first trip of the year...never assume something is still in your camp kitchen box...always check) but Chris had a Leatherman utility knife thing and it had a little hook-style can opener on it.  We'd never used one like that, but were all surprised it worked so well.  If we'd had to, I'm sure Chris and dad would have figured out a way to open the cans of spaghetti sauce with a hammer and whatever tools we could find in the truck.

While we were there, we saw two Boler trailers and a Trillium.  We are definitely eager to head back up for a few nights with our Boler.

All in all, a great start to the camping season...and a reminder that limiting ourselves to just the two months of summer for camping means missing out on a lot of good fun.

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