Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Trip Log: Algonquin Provincial Park: Mew Lake, April 16-17, 2017

Easter is one of those holidays where it can be tough to get time off work, but it's also an ideal time for us to go camping because the kids get four days off from school.  Originally, I had hoped to take the whole weekend off...then it was how to manage two nights, and by the time we ended up going, we could only get one night off of work.  Sucks, but at least one night is better than not camping at all.

So, since Chris and I had to work Friday and Saturday, the kids ended up going to my parents house.  The plan was that Mum and Dad would drive them up Sunday and meet us at our site, we'd have easter dinner, and then the kids would stay and Mum and Dad would drive home.

Pine Martin - Mew Lake Campground
Since we were only going for one night, we got packed and ready to go in good time.  I think we left the house by 9:25.  We were chased down our street by a big male turkey, one of the flock (is a group of turkey's a flock?) that spent the whole winter in our little neighbourhood.  Of the five that were here, there's only the one male and one female now.  The male spent the whole winter chasing cars up and down our street.

It rained on and off the whole drive up to Algonquin, but it wasn't until we got to the West Gate that it began to get heavy.  I got out of the car to get our permit and was told they'd opened the Mew Lake gate house for the weekend so we were to get our permit there.  Mum and Dad were already there, parked at the start of  the trail by the garbage area waiting for us.  They let us know our site was empty...but it was a huge pond.  While Chris set up the inside of the  trailer for six people to sit, I walked to the bathrooms and to find the others since texts weren't getting through.  When I showed up at the parking area, they were gone, so I ran back to the comfort station, then back to the site.

The first thing the kids tell me is that they don't want to stay.  I thought they were joking. But it was chilly and wet and we couldn't actually find a place to put the trailer that didn't mean stepping out into 2 inches of water, so even though they had boots, they weren't keen on staying.  Mum and Dad weren't big on it either. As we discussed it, I was standing in the rain, getting wetter and wetter, and they all sat in the warm, dry cab of my Dad's truck.  Needless to say I gave in rather than stand there for too long.

As I was talking to them, Chris was trying to reposition the trailer onto a bit of higher ground.  He managed to succeed, sort of, and then when he went to unhook the trailer from the car, the key for the lock that he uses on the hitch snapped off, leaving us with no way to disconnect the trailer from the car.  This left us essentially stuck at the campground unless we wanted to haul the Boler with us, which we didn't.  It wasn't a big deal.  We had planned to run to Whitney and grab a few last minute things for dinner, but since it would be just Chris and I, we didn't really need extra food.  We'd have to make a run there on our way out to gas up but that was a problem for the following day.

flooded section of trail between the bridge and the rail trail
Since we were already soaked, and Biscuit was driving us nuts being cooped up in the trailer, we decided to just go for a walk.  We had our sneakers on still, and there was a good foot or two of snow on the ground in spots.  After snapping a few shots of a pine martin near the garbage area, we headed off down the trail.  The plan was to head across the air field, then cross the river at the bridge, head to the right down the railway tracks and come back via the backpacking trail and track and tower trail.

When we got to the bridge, we saw how high the water was compared to when we had paddled through in August.  We decided to explore further down the rail trail so turned to the left and continued to where the trail runs very close to the shore of Lake of Two Rivers.  Mostly this was to see how thick the ice still was, and it looked pretty solid.  We turned around and continued on to where the Highland Backpacking trail crosses, and turned down it to loop back to Mew Lake.  The solid part of the trail was only about six inches wide.  Anything on either side of that was soft and meant you would sink about 2 feet down into a few inches of icy slush. We didn't make it very far before Biscuit tugged Chris to the side and he went through the soft stuff.  Not long after that and we came to a part of the trail where the river had flooded up over, blocking our way, so we turned around and headed back to the airfield.

Now cold and hungry, we got back to camp and changed into dry socks, pants and warm boots, then Chris set about rigging up a bit of a shelter for the dutch oven.  Our Easter dinner plan had been to make beans and biscuits.  The meal usually feeds 6 with leftovers, so I had to cut back a bit in order to not have a huge pile of food go to waste.  It was yummy and very filling.

Beans and Biscuits - Yum!
Cleaning the dutch oven proved a little challenging as usual, especially since it kept drizzling on and off and I was concerned with the outside of the pot getting wet then rusting.

After dinner, we walked around the campground a bit, then headed back to camp for an early night.  We were both tired after several days of long hours at work, and our earlier hike.  Walking in snow that is solid one minute then collapses under you the next takes a lot out of a person!

Biscuit snuggled himself in between us and we had a great night's sleep.  The fireplace worked very well when it didn't have to try and combat temperatures in the -20s.

Flooded approach to the bridge over Madawaska
The next morning, we made bagels with the toaster oven like we did on our last trip.  This time we didn't have to thaw them first, which was nice.  Since we were in no real rush to get home, we decided to go back out again for another hike, this time going our usual way - head out past the garbage area and turn right onto the track and tower off shoot, then left onto the backpacking trail to the bridge.  The trail was much harder going than it had been a few weeks previous.  A lot of melting had taken place since our last trip and like the day before, we sank through several deceptively solid parts of the trail.  There were a few places where we had to build temporary bridges with downed branches because the whole trail had a creek running through it.

As we got closer to where the two trails cross, I saw that the water level was very high, as high as it had been a few years back when there was so much flooding.  And sure enough, when we turned onto the backpacking trail, we were stopped several meters from the bridge by rushing water.  The two sections of wooden platform were washed into their current position a few years ago, and were never put back into their proper place.  The water there was at least a couple feet deep.

Disappointed we turned around and headed back to camp.  With nothing left to do, we packed up and headed back to my parents house to get the kids and head home.  It was a little disappointing, having the kids back out on the trip, but sometimes it's nice to have some camping time to ourselves as well.

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