Friday, May 31, 2013

Experiments in camp food

I've spent the last few days watching tons of videos on YouTube on camp cooking, everything from dutch oven meals to making a full breakfast on one little firebox stove.  I've gotten some good ideas and am eager to try them out...if only the weather would cooperate!

The other night I managed to adapt this recipe for sweet and spicy meatballs from 70theprofessor.  I made some tweaks because I wasn't sure how hot it would be and I knew the kids wouldn't eat it if it was too spicy.  They both liked it (Squatch more than Bubbie) and Squatch even said "Hey! You could make this camping if you dehydrated everything." I'm so proud!  I'm sure you're thinking...can you dehydrate meatballs?  I would imagine not, so what I did was cooked up some ground beef with onions and a little garlic salt, then added the sauce ingredients and let it cook down.

I'm going to try it with dehydrating the ingredients, then I'll post the actual recipe or maybe I'll get ambitious and actually make a video.

Another recipe I made this week was a cornbread recipe from oarsweb but since no grocery stores sell packaged cornbread mix around here, I had to make the base from scratch.  I used a recipe from World Championship Dutch Oven Cookbook but any cornbread recipe should work.

My intention was to make this in the dutch oven, but of course it was raining so I just made it the oven. It turned out really well.  Next time, I'll make it in the DO, maybe when we go camping.  It makes way more than the four of us can eat in one meal, and while normally I would eat it without problem for the next day or two, I was leery of the whole corn in it.  I'm sure it would have been fine but it seemed weird to me.  Anyway, the point is, for just the four of us, I think I'd half the recipe and use a 8" dutch oven (when I get one) or maybe make it in a small cast iron skillet.

Anyone else try any new camp recipes?  Tonight I'm hoping to try a unrolled cabbage roll recipe that should be easy to adapt to a dehydrated camp meal...fingers crossed!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Day Trip: Victoria Falls

Looking for a place to just have a picnic? Explore a little and enjoy some lovely scenery?  Not afraid of a bit of a long drive down a narrow road that isn't much more than a 4 wheeler trail?

Victoria Falls on the Black River might be a good outing.  Chris and I went on Sunday while the kids were still at my parents, and had a good time checking out the falls, and following the little trails.

To get there, you want to start out by finding your way to Sebright.  We got there by a rather round about way, heading to Norland, then taking 45 (Monck Rd) west to Sebright, then turning right onto 6 through Sadowa, then right onto Black River Road.  If you want to look it up on the map, these small towns are along the southern border of the Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Park.  Victoria Falls is to the north west side of the park.

It's about 17km down Black River Road, and yeah, it's a single lane dirt road, but the river runs beside it for a good portion of the drive, so it's scenic.  At one point I saw a sign that said no camping, and since it was a brown and yellow sign like you see in Ontario Parks, I thought we had to turn off Black River Road to get to the falls, but you don't...just stay on the road until you get to a wooden bridge with rusty rails.  You can park just to the right before the bridge.

The Ganaraska trail into the Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands can be reached if you cross the bridge, go right down the little road, and watch for white flashings on the trees.  Remember this trail is considered extremely difficult, and should only be attempted by experienced hikers with good map and compass skills.

Also, this is the put in for the Black River Route in Kevin Callan's Cottage Country Canoe Routes.

Busy little spot!  Except it wasn't, not when we were there.  Maybe because its still black fly season? (There were no black flies that I noticed just a heck of a lot of mosquitoes in the shady areas.) Find a sunny flat rock, roll out a picnic blanket and enjoy the view.  We certainly would have, if we'd brought more for lunch than a few bottles of water and a bag of almond M&Ms.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Day Hike: Miller Creek Conservation Area

Yesterday was such a beautiful day, Chris and I decided to do a little exploring.  Originally, we'd thought about going to Petroglyph's Provincial Park, but given the distance, and the need to get back to get the kids off the bus, we figured we'd stick to something closer.

Canadian Columbine's along Miller Creek Trail
I knew there was a conservation area near Bridgenorth with a hiking trail, so looked it up on my phone as we were driving.  The information was pretty limited on the website, and the little map was very inaccurate. Normally, when you go through Bridgenorth you want to take E Communication Rd. but the entrance to this little road was ripped up and under construction so we went a little further and turned onto Holden Rd.  Bridgenorth is a little confusing...the street name changes three times in less than a KM.  It starts as Chemong Rd just before entering town, changes to something else until you hit the traffic light, then it's something else.  Once you are out of town and hit the big curve the road becomes Line 8 Smith.

Anyway, once on Holden, you soon come to Line 7 (which is what E Communication becomes) and turn left.  The map on the phone showed it to the right, so we drove up and down the road looking for it.  It's practically right across from Holden and the sign is pretty hidden.  It's brown with yellow letters.  You'll see the gate a few meters into the little driveway. There's really only parking for 2 cars, so I'm guessing this park doesn't get used much?  The trails certainly didn't seen all that heavily used.

Red Wing Black Bird
Okay, so there's only about 1km of trail.  Almost immediately, the route forks.  If you go to the right, you'll get to a wooden tower platform thing where you can look out over the swamp/marsh and watch for birds.  We only saw a red wing black bird but there are usually ducks, herons and several other species hanging around according to the sign.

The actual trail goes along the edge of the marsh, giving you more chances to see birds.  The mosquitoes were crazy bad in the shady areas, so we didn't stick around too long, just did the loop and headed back out.

There's no place to sit and have a picnic (unless you carry a blanket and set up in the one area that's a little field.  Basically, it's a small little protected area with a marsh and small creek, but I imagine it's a good spot to watch for birds.  We did see a yellow bird that definitely wasn't a goldfinch, but I couldn't positively identify it. It might have been a pine warbler.  I got a picture but the angle didn't give me a view of it's wings or tail so I couldn't be sure.  I just know the wings weren't dark enough to be either a male or female goldfinch.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Trip Log: Killarney Provincial Park, May 20-22, 2013...sort of

I think this trip might have been cursed from the start.  I spent a week trying to get everyone to tell me what they wanted to eat.  Squatch's helpful answer was "food" (shouldn't have taught him sarcasm at a young age) and Chris just shrugged and said "Whatever you want to make."  It wasn't until the morning before that I finally dragged a few potential recipes out of them.

So the morning of our departure arrives...sunny, hot, humid.  Looked promising even though the weather report said it would be raining the whole week both at home and in Killarney.  I held hope the weather app on my phone was wrong.

The first little hiccup started just north of Parry Sound, when Bubbie had to go to the bathroom.  We decided to take a little side trip to Sturgeon Bay Provincial Park, use their facilities and maybe check out the park for potential future trips.  The kids loved the beach, and the sites we saw, though not incredibly impressive, were nice enough.  We figured it would make a good "lay-over" park on the way to a further north park sometime.

As we were exploring the campground, a group of trailers were parked on the road, blocking our way.  There were at least three of them, and it didn't look like they were just waiting for someone else to move.  They seemed to be having a picnic at one of the campsites.  Perhaps they too were using the park as a bit of a layover spot, but still, blocking the entire loop?  Not cool.  Chris backed into one of the campsites and turned around but when he did, we heard a little pop/snap sound.

I stopped in at the gatehouse to get a campground map, then we got back on the road.  Once back on highway 69, we got about 5 minutes along, when traffic came to a stop.  There were people milling about, looking confused.  We couldn't see anything but we figured it had to be an accident.  Chris headed up the road on foot to see if he could figure it out, and a few minutes later, an ambulance came up behind us.  About 2 KM ahead of us, a minivan had gone into the ditch.  By the time Chris got back to the car (having had to stop and tell the story a dozen times to people sitting in their cars) we'd been sitting there for about 45 minutes.  According to the info I found online, the road wasn't closed, just slow, but in that whole time we only saw 2 cars come past from the other way.  We decided to turn around, head back to the road that goes to Sturgeon Bay PP and continue on until it comes back out to the highway.  This is when Chris realized that pop/snap he'd heard?  Yeah, something to do with the power steering...cause it was like driving a classic car.  We had to hit the gas station a few KM back and buy more fluid.   Oddly enough, when Chris went to put the fluid in, he realized the car was still running.  I even took the keys out of the ignition and it was still going.  (That only happened one more time the whole trip...on the way back when we stopped at the same gas station to top up the fluid again...weird)

Apparently, a lot of other people were now using the detour, or police were re-routing people though we saw no signs of any at the end of the road..  The little narrow road was non-stop traffic and people were driving like they were still on the highway.

By the time we got back on track, we'd wasted probably 2 hours (including goofing off at Sturgeon Bay PP beach.)  And we still had about 2 hours of driving to get to Killarney.  By now the kids were ready to kill us.  They don't even like driving the 7km into town.  I'm having a hard time imagining a trip to Chutes PP like we'd been talking about.  Normally, as I'm not driving, I'd make use of my iPod to block out the whining, but that didn't seem fair to Chris.  We tried taking the mini-DVD player for the drive, road games...nothing worked. (on the way back though, they made a game of hunting for highway exit numbers and following our route on the map.  Kept them occupied the entire time)

Beautiful view from our site
So, we finally arrive and of course the gatehouse is closed, which wasn't a big deal except it meant we couldn't buy wood, and of course I'd planned to cook over the fire since we hadn't brought the little BBQ.  It was beautiful though.  We love rocks.  Chris waxed poetic about every rock cut we passed, every lake surround by rocky cliffs...(there are a lot of them if you haven't travelled highway 69 before) so he was excited and couldn't wait to climb and explore.  The kids couldn't have cared less by this point.  All they wanted was out of the car.

They were impressed with our site though.  Right on the water, on a big sweep of pink granite, it was perfect.  We set up the tent with an eye towards providing a perfect view, and then debated moving the second picnic table back so we could set up the screen tent over it.  The bugs were moderately bad (and seemed to love me more than anyone...) so we hauled it off the rock.

After a snack of tortilla chips and salsa, the kids and Chris went to explore a little ways down the La Cloche Silhouette backpacking trail, just to see if they could get to the little point across the lake from our house, and I started supper (switched to spaghetti).  Of course they were gone longer than planned, and by the time they could see me, supper had been ready for 5 minutes.

As we ate, we discussed the trails we could hike the next day.  We really wanted to do The Crack, but were worried that the kids might have troubles.  Granite Ridge was our next choice, though the Cranberry Bog held the appeal of being right by our site so we didn't have to drive the car anywhere.

Storm approaching over George Lake
After doing up the dishes the kids and Chris hunted through empty campsites for left over fire wood.  People often leave the last piece or two next to their fire pit, and we were able to find enough to get a fire going just to toast a few marshmallows.  It was while we were sitting on the rocks, looking out over the lake, that we saw the first lightening over the horizon.  We were hopeful it would stay that way, or was heading further away, but no.  We could see the line of dark cloud moving closer, and then it started to spit rain.  No biggie.  I was going to send the kids into the tent, but I hadn't closed the valves on our air mattresses, just opened them to let them inflate while I made dinner, so I sent the kids to the car while chris and I picked up anything that we didn't want to get wet.  In minutes a crazy wind had blown the tent over.  Before anyone gets the idea we hadn't pegged it down, we did.  We pegged the heck out of that sucker, and it was full of sleeping bags, coats, pillows, a big dry sack of clothes as well as a king size, flannel comforter I'd brought because the weather report called for cool nights.  That thing is heavy.  No the wind was just crazy strong. I seriously thought we were going to get a tornado.

The screen tent went down too, but we were more concerned with the fact all our bedding was going to be soaked.  The wind was so strong though, we couldn't do anything except hold the tent in place.  Finally, I unzipped the door (after finding it, it was all a tangle.) and started hauling pillows and sleeping bags out to the car.  It was like standing in the middle of a scene from the movie Twister.  We couldn't see, there was lightening striking all around us, and there we were, like idiots, trying to put a tent right side up.  At one point, the fire was blown so there were coals scattered for about 2 meters.  Thankfully, the downpour of rain meant no chance of forest fire.

After about 15 minutes we got the tent moved back and righted then took refuge in the car.  Another ten minutes and the rain had slowed.  Our neighbours showed up then with an extra tarp and some rope and helped us rug up a better shelter.  Our tarp was just a bit too small to totally cover the tent.  Honestly, if it hadn't been for their kindness, we night have spent the night in the car.  They saved our butts, for sure.

I was able to mop up most of the water and get everything back into the tent.  The extra blanket went over the air mattresses, but under the sleeping bags to absorb any moisture still clinging to them.  And we slept...not well, but we were warm and dry (mostly, it took my hair hours to dry and I looked like a Medusa in the morning) and I just want to say I love, love, LOVE the fleece liner/sleeping bags we got.  I got some for the kid's for Christmas, and they were toasty warm during our other trips this spring...I'm so glad we got some for Chris and I as well.

We woke up to cloudy skies and a ruined screen tent.  One of the poles had broken at the end and had punched a hole through the corner of the roof.  We managed to get it usable, dry off the picnic table and have some breakfast, then headed back to the gatehouse to get our permit as well as some loonies for the dryers.  We were still optimistic that we'd be able to go for a hike, take a picnic lunch, salvage the trip, but then it started storming again while we were at the comfort station laundry facility.  Not much wind, but lots of lightening and heavy rain.  We were hopeful the tent would hold up, though we'd given the bigger tarp back to our kind neighbours who had left that morning.  After an hour and a half of drying clothes, we got back to our site to find all our pillows soaked as well as Bubbie's sleeping bag and the bottom of the rest of them drenched.  The screen tent had gone down again as well, leaving us nowhere to sit that was dry, except the car.
view of the hills from the beach

Given that we had to leave early the next morning so Chris could get to work on time, we figured we might as well just pack up.  It was calling for more storms all afternoon and into the night.  We'd have to sit in the laundry room for another hour or so (the door on one of the dryers kept popping open so we couldn't leave it unattended) then maybe, if we got a few hours of no rain, do a hike.  The bugs were bad because of all the rain (adding mosquitoes to the swarms of black flies already enjoying our presence.)

We did spend a bit of time at the beach, not swimming, just throwing rocks in the water.  I only got to see the quartzite hills in the far distance while the kids played there.  It was kind of depressing to pack everything up a day early, and I felt like a big failure.  If this had happened when we were in the back country I suppose we would have just found a way to deal with it, but the kids were antsy from being cooped up.  We decided to have a big banana split party when we got home and bought a whole bunch of ridiculous toppings so the whole day wasn't a waste.  Of course once we got home, the power was out for our whole area.

The park itself was great, what little we got to see of it.  With the car acting up, Chris wasn't keen on driving around looking at campsites, and it never really let up raining long enough for us to explore on foot. A light rain wouldn't have stopped us from hiking, but with the intermittent heavy downpours, it wasn't really conducive to spending a few hours on the trail. But I'd go again for sure, take the canoe, do all the hikes, and plan for more than 2 nights...and pray for better weather!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Trail Snack: Dried Coconut Chunks

I love coconut in my trail mix but to be honest, the shredded kind doesn't do it for me.  It settles to the bottom of the bag and gets all crumby from the rest of the ingredients. I'd rather pick things up with my fingers than fill my palm with little tiny bits and then drop it all in my mouth...less messy. A few months ago, Chris and I were cruising Costco and we saw big bags of coconut chunks, so we grabbed a bag to see if it would be yummy for adding to trail mix.

It was!  We ate most of it in the car on the drive home. (By the way, I don't recommend this...coconut is pretty high in fibre...) A week later we went back since we were going to be camping soon and thought we'd grab another bag, but they were out.  I almost cried, I swear.  A trip to a different Costco revealed that it was a product they weren't carrying any more.  Chris suggested we try drying out own so we bought a coconut and gave it a shot.

First of all, it's a heck of a lot of work, but the results were pretty great.  One coconut did the two of us (the kids don't like it) for a 2 night trip and that was with me nibbling bits off the dehydrator tray while it was still drying.

If you're interested in trying this yourself, here's how I did it.

1. Buy a coconut or two.  Make sure they feel heavy for their size.

2. Hammer a nail into two of the "eyes" and drain out the water.  You can strain the bits out and drink it if you want...I don't like it, but Chris does.

3. Crack the coconut in half.  There are lots of websites with instructions on how to do this...I get Chris to hack at it with his big chef's knife but that's not the way you're supposed to do it.

4. Heat your oven to 375 and put the coconut halves in a casserole dish so they stand up like bowls...put a bit of water in each half and bake for 5 minutes.  This just softens the meat enough to make it easier to get out of the husk.

5. Pry out the meat in chunks.  I use a paring knife and score it, then twist.  Sometimes it pops out easily other times not so much.  It's the most frustrating part.  Be careful not to cut yourself or stab yourself in the wrist!!!

6. Your pieces will still have a thin layer of husk on them, so use your paring knife to peel the dark skin off.  By now your hands will be slippery from the coconut oil and that brown stuff is hard and sharp in spots so be careful.  Your hands will hate you by the time you are done.

7. Rinse your pieces to get all the little bits of brown off.  I threw them all into a colander and used my hand to turn them over a few times.

8. If you want your coconut sweetened, dissolve 1 tsp of sugar into 1 cup of water per coconut (so 2 tsp of sugar into 2 cups water if you do 2 coconuts) in a bowl large enough to fit your pieces.  Let it soak for half an hour then drain.

9. Put your chunks onto dehydrator trays.  You might want to use a mesh tray to keep the smaller bits from falling through.  They won't lose much in size, but when you are prying the meat out of the shell, you will get some smaller pieces.  Drying time will depend on how big your pieces are.  I kept mine under 1 inch square.  It'll be done when it's more'll be able to tell.  The inner part will have a shiny look to it if it's not done.

I don't want to state how long they'll be good for.  Mine never lasted more than a few days before they were all eaten up.  Also, raw coconut can harbour salmonella so, it's best to do them up them within a day of buying them.  To further ensure safety, you can process it in a hot water bath for 10 minutes before soaking in sugar water and drying.  Here's an excellent article on storing coconut and how to tell if your coconut has gone bad.  If there's any hint of the coconut meat yellowing, or any of the other factors mentioned in the article, don't risk it.  Salmonella poisoning is bad enough at home, in the middle of nowhere?  I don't even want to imagine.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Day Hike: Ganaraska Hiking Trail, Monck Rd to Goodoar Lakes

This is the hike Chris and I tried to do last year when the deer flies were so bad our hoods were completely covered in the little buggers like in some horror film.

This year, we figured heading out in early May would be bugs at all yet.  We were partially right.  There were black flies, but they weren't biting yet.

We parked at the Summerville Tract parking lot where there are cross country ski trails in the winter and headed up left the highway, past a swamp to where you can see the white trail flashes for the Ganaraska on the right. There's a sign there for the Pinery Compartment #14, White Pine, Red Pine.  The book said to follow the trail for 700m until it reached a forest road. The trail wasn't very well marked and we got lost following the instructions in the Ganaraska Trail Guide Book, but eventually figured it out.  It turned out if we'd gone a little further down the road to number 15 and followed that road in to where it ends, the trail crosses this road and the "forest road" is to the left.  

It was easy sailing for the next 1.6 km except for all the flooded spots we had to pick our way around.  At one point, on the right hand side of  the trail, there's this huge long rock covered in moss that looks like a military submarine.  Very cool.  

The forest road ends when it meets Corbin Lake...well the road doesn't end, but our part of it does.  Go to the right, up a rocky slope and you're back to narrow footpaths.  It's nice walking though, following along the shore of the lake.  We heard a big splash almost immediately and, embarrassingly, my first thought was "a Sasquatch is throwing rocks in the lake!" when it was just a beaver.  It could as easily have been a fish jumping.  I really need to stop watching those paranormal shows.

Normally, I guess the trail goes through a swampy section along the lake side, and maybe later in the year, it's passable, but with water levels so high, we ended up having to turn back after about 5 minutes.  Chris found a log near the spot where we saw the beavers (there were two of them) and we stopped to eat our lunch then headed back.

I have to admit, I was a little leery of continuing on after we lost the trail near the beginning.  We could still see cars going down the highway from where we were searching for trail flashes, but I kept thinking, what if this happens further away?  I was completely turned around, and of course we had no compass except on our phones (didn't think about them until later though.)  Chris is much better with direction than me, and at recognizing little landmarks so he wasn't worried at all.  Although this is in the Kawartha Section of the trail, it's not an easy stroll down side roads and along farm fields.  Be prepared and pay attention.  It's not as rugged as the Wilderness Section, but it's still much more remote than the rest of the Kawartha section, so precautions are a must.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Trip Log: Rock Lake, Algonquin Park, May3-5, 2013

After checking out all the flooding in Algonquin two weeks ago, we decided to take advantage of the (late) opening of Rock Lake Campground and see how much the water had gone down, and how much damage was done in it's wake.

We got a late start, not arriving at our campsite until about 9:10pm.  We did see 2 moose on the way, but we didn't stop to try and take pictures (one was well after full dark and we wouldn't have gotten a good shot anyway.) Setting up the tent trailer in the dark was a bit of a challenge, made more difficult because we were trying to keep quiet for the other campers.  Once the trailer was up, we made a quick dinner of burgers and headed to bed.

Sun up on Rock Lake...time to fish!
I was up at 5:30 the next morning for a bathroom run, and figured I'd grab my camera, head for the beach, and scout out some good spots for sun rise shots.  I was out there for an hour playing around before the sun popped over the horizon.  The lake was almost like glass and I eagerly set up for my first shot when a motor boat came buzzing up the far shore, cutting right through the perfect reflection.  I took a few shots anyway, then waited 10 more minutes for the ripples to calm down...and just as they did, two more boats puttered through and stopped in the middle of the area to fish.  I guess since there was still ice on the lake for the actual trout opening weekend, it was to be expected.

Breakfast was pretty basic; Red River cereal and bagels.  Then we headed out and hiked the Beaver Pond Trail.  It took us longer than the posted time because we stopped a lot and took pictures.  It was fun though.  The kids climbed every glacial erratic along the trail, and I got to goof around with my new wide angle lens and take some shots where the perspective is off.  Lots of fun.  Disappointingly we didn't see any beaver on the hike.  We'd really hoped we would since they'd be out repairing their damns and lodges.  Still this trail is a really good one.  So many trails have a destination in mind, be it a stand of old white pine or a lookout, and the rest of the hike is a pretty monotonous trek through the trees.  This hike had things to see around every corner, and lots of places to stop and look around.

After the hike, we had planned to go to the Portage Store restaurant for lunch, but it ended up being closed for renovations.  We were pretty starved by this point but we still stopped to take pictures of two more moose, then stopped at the Two River's Store for some food.  Even though the store's inventory was pretty sparse, it was a busy spot with lots of people getting ice cream.

After lunch, we headed back to the Mew Lake campground so we could hike to the waterfall and see what the water levels were like.  There was still lots of water, but nowhere near the amount of two weeks previous.  We headed further along the Highland Backpacking Trail to see how much evidence of flooding we could see.  And there was lots.  There was sand all over the trail that hadn't been there last summer.  There was a tree that had that sand embedded into it's bark a foot and a half up.  There were little brushy plants with that stringy dirty grass wrapped around their branches, you know the kind of thing you see in the spring in ditches after the water has dried up?  Keeping in mind the water level is usually at least 2-3 feet below the actual bank of the river, and the debris line was about chest level on my dad, it's pretty crazy to imagine the trail with that much water on it.  I'd say in that spot, the width of the river was probably 15-20 feet wider on both sides at it's peak.  Even before we got to the waterfall, we could see just how insane the flooding had been.  Two weeks ago, when we were walking along the Track and Tower section before it intersects with the Highland Trail, if you looked down the banks, you could see water.  Now that it's gone down, we looked down and you can't even see the river...there is a 10 foot drop off, and no water in sight, but two weeks ago, the water level was about 2-3 feet below the top of that drop off.

Part way on the drive back to the campsite, mum decided we should hike the Lookout Trail so I could take a few shots with the wide angle lens.  If you do the trail backwards, it's not very far, distance wise, to the cliff...but it's all up hill and very, very steep!  Dad and the kids didn't even get out of the truck.  Mum made it part way and said she'd wait for me...I swear I thought I was going to die.  It was hot and I'm not in the best of shape.  Thankfully I didn't take my whole camera bag, just the camera with the wide angle on it, and a bottle of water.  Was it worth it?  I got a few shots, but the sun was right in my face, so the sky and clouds were over exposed...but I'd do it again, with plans to be at the look out for the sunset...maybe.  Climbing back down that hill was hard enough in bright day light...after dark, might not be such a good idea.

Dinner that night was a feast.  We made fried rice, roasted veggies, quesadillas, and salad.  Everything was yummy and easy to make.  While we cleaned up, the kids took my camera and dad's spare and went for a walk.  My memory card had 1116 pictures on it when I got home.  I'm pretty sure more than half of them were shots Squatch took of the Canadian Geese, and the back of Bubbie's head.

Our next quest was to head down to Booth's Rock Trail's parking area and shoot the cliff in the fading sun.  It was pretty fun going from my 10-20mm lens, to dad's 400mm lens.  I was a little disappointed the trail wasn't open or I would have hiked it to get some shots from the top (not at dusk though...lots of stairs to come down in the semi-dark wouldn't be good either)

That night we finally had a fire and the kids got to roast marshmallows.  After they'd had their fill, mum threw in the Vulcan Magic fire pouches which make the flames turn different colours.  The kids loved that.  After full dark, Dad and I set up a little kiddie tent and took it down to the beach to attempt some night photography.  Not our most successful experiment.  I managed to get 2 shots before I couldn't get the camera to cooperate anymore.

It was cold that night and we ended up having to turn the heater on at about 3am.  Mum gave me a spare flannel fitted sheet and I was able to wrap myself in that inside my sleeping bag which helped way more than you'd think it would.  I was impressed.  I have two extra flannel top sheets at home (the fitted ones got ripped) so I will definitely sew them together to make a liner for our sleeping bag before we go on our next trip.

I didn't get up as early the next morning, but was still out and walking around the campground an hour before anyone else stirred.  We had banana pancakes, maple baked beans and bagels for breakfast, then went for a short drive towards the east gate looking for moose.  The best one was down the Opeongo Road, where mum spotted one on the far shore of a small lake.  We watched it swim across Costella Lake, come up on shore and walk down the road.  I've never seen one swimming in person like that and I was so excited I nearly fell out of the truck, the strap of my camera bag wrapped around my ankle, when I tried to get out to take a picture.  About 30 seconds further down the road, a deer jumped out in front of us.

After a quick stop at the visitor's centre to see how much of the view from the platform I could get in a shot with the new lens, we headed back to pack up everything and head home...with a brief stop at Henrietta's Bakery in Dwight for pastries and a drink.

Total moose seen during the trip: 9
Other wildlife: deer, gray jay, squirrel, black duck

EDIT: The next day, Chris's friend sent him a text from Algonquin.  He'd seen 22 moose in one trip through the park and back.  So jealous!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Day Hike: Millbrook Valley Trails - Millbrook, Ontario

Chris and I usually do a short loop here once in a while, but never make it there in time to do the longer, Baxter River Trail, which is 3km out and 3 back (not a loop) but we got there pretty early today, and decided to give it a try, especially when I pointed out there was a railway bridge a little past the end of that section.

For a PDF map of the trail system, go here

A perfect spot for a snooze along the Baxter Creek
Millbrook is a very pretty little town not far from Peterborough.  It's easy to get to from Highway 115.  I probably should have taken note of street names, but I think the map shows the road as Cty. Rd. 10 coming off the 115.  Anyway, you want to find the parking lot by the mill.  There's a big sign with a map, and map brochures, as well as dog-poop bags in a little dispenser (they have these at a few places along the trail.)  Interestingly, last year when we were here, the sign on the gate said "stoop and poop" which we thought was pretty funny.  I'm pretty sure it's illegal for a person to stoop and poop in public like that.  The sign has been changed now.

Follow along the river until the trail heads into the trees.  It's a pretty flat trail, a little root heavy in spots, and a bit muddy in others (to be expected this time of year) but it's easy to follow and has lots of boardwalks, little bridges and babbling brooks.  Once you get to a T intersection, you can go left and loop back to the parking area, or go right and take the Baxter Creek trail.  Once you get past the long bridge and to where the creek flows along the side of the trail, it's a lovely walk.  I'm not sure what the water levels are like mid-summer, but right now, they were only a foot or two deep, and with all the cedar trees and bends, it's quite pretty.

Trout Pond on Baxter Creek Trail
Eventually, the trail will cross a dirt can turn back, or keep going and check out the two trout ponds (we saw about 30 rainbow trout in the shallows of the second pond, all about 10 inches long) keep going past that, and you'll come to the old railway bridge.  I was expecting a bridge over an expanse of water but wow, was I wrong.  The bridge is made of blocks and is moss covered and oh so pretty.  Chris loves this kind of thing.  I could tell he was itching to climb to the top.

 There's a bench there, and if we'd brought a lunch it would have been the perfect spot to stop and eat.

I ended up taking off my shoes and socks, rolling up my pants and wading into the creek so I could shoot through the bridge.  It was cold! I mean, of course it was cold (duh) but in the 2 minutes I was in there, my feet turned bright red, they stung painfully and my pants were soaked.  Needless to say I didn't spend much time playing around trying to get an awesome shot.  I snapped off half a dozen or so, and ran for the bank.

Once my socks were back on, Chris convinced me to climb up and over the top of the hill to check it out from the other side.  Let me say, if you do this, be careful!  It's very steep.  The cedars growing along the banks of the other side are pretty, and the creek winds around a little island, but unless you are sure footed, it's not anything too spectacular.  If the water hadn't been so cold I would have gone through the tunnel, but I'm always leery of glass in places like this, and in the dark, I wouldn't have been able to see anything very well.

The trail apparently loops here, but we just went back the way we came, stopped at the Becker's and got drinks, and headed back home. Total hiking time - about 2 hours.

Wildlife spotted:
Canadian Geese
Red Wing Blackbirds
Mallard Ducks
Blue Jay
fuzzy brown caterpillar