Monday, January 15, 2018

Trip Log: Algonquin Park: Tanamakoon, August 24-25, 2015

Sometimes I hate the thought of going camping.  I may have mentioned many times, Chris and I are really horrible at planning a trip.  We sort of decided on the weekend we wanted to go camping, just us and the dog, on his days off (Monday and Tuesday.)  We both worked 12 hour days all weekend long and had no opportunity to pack, figure out food, look for gear that had gone missing, or even pick a destination.

After a quick sort through of our gear, which we piled it in the driveway so we could go over it before it all got stuffed into the backpacks, we loaded up, made a quick stop at McDonalds for packets of maple syrup and at work for a few creamers and sugar packets, then headed north.

About halfway to Algonquin (that being as definitive a destination as we had come up with) we decided not to do any portaging since it would be around 4 when we got there and we were both pretty tired from the weekend.  Tanamakoon seemed like an easy option.  No portages, a short paddle and technically, we weren't staying on an access lake, so it didn't feel quite so lame.

While looking at Jeff's Map, I saw a little permit symbol on Canisbay's office, so since it was closest, we went there to get our permit.  Turned out they only issue permits for backcountry if you are doing a paddle in site on Canisbay Lake.  We turned back West and got our permit at Canoe Lake.  The lady who helped us told us it was a bad year for bears so to be extra vigilant with our campsite cleanliness.  Since I'm terrified of bears, I am always very vigilant.  Now I was just even more scared than usual.

My paranoia was made worse by the fact we'd been in such a rush to get up north, we'd skipped having showers.  As we work in a restaurant, I had this horrible fear we'd smell like a feast of rotisserie chicken and french fries, drawing every bear within five kilometres to our site.

We launched from Cache Lake at just after 4pm after wrangling Biscuit into his spot in the canoe.  Usually he sits behind the yoke near Chris, but this time we put all the gear there and gave him the space behind me.  It worked out pretty well.  He attacked the waves through the whole paddle but at least he wasn't leaping around as much.  With more room, he didn't have to spring jump to move so it was far less tippy than with a more loaded canoe.  Though he did pounce at Chris and almost knocked him out of the back of the boat, and he growled at people we passed.

I really like Cache Lake.  It's a really pretty lake with lots of pine covered islands and some cute old cabins.  We really like paddling around lakes looking at cottages, pointing out features we'd like when we get a cottage of our own.

The wind was in our face but the waves were minimal and of no concern.  We made good time and emerged from the river connecting Cache to Tanamakoon at just after 5pm.  The island site straight out from the river was taken, and the people looked to have beaten us there by mere minutes as they were just wandering around planning where to set up their tents.  We opted to turn right and paddled to the site that looks like another Island on Jeff's Map.  In actuality, it's 3/4 surrounded by water, and the remaining bit is backed by marsh.  Either way, it was good enough for us to let Biscuit run wild without  worry he'd take off.  He's never done so on a trip before, but better safe than sorry.  With a high energy dog like a Blue Heeler, you want to let them run a lot before letting them into a tent…unless you don't care about having your tent ruined.

dark clouds moving in over Tanamakoon
The site itself faced south, and the wind was gusting from that direction which made setting up the tent a frustrating ordeal but we managed (once we got the dog off it) and rigged up a tarp as a windbreak.  It wasn't 100% effective but it helped.  That done, we got started on dinner.  And I noticed the first thing I'd forgotten to bring, the instructions for the meal I'd packaged about a month ago.  Dried vegetables with stuffing and Lipton cup a soup packets mixed together, with instant mashed potatoes and gravy.  I had no idea how much water I needed to make the stuffing/veg/soup part so I had to fudge it.  I boiled a big pot of water, poured out a cups worth to make half a package of potatoes and 1 cup in a second bowl to make gravy.  Then I added the vegetables and soup mixes, and simmered it for a few minutes, then added the stuffing pouches.  That got set aside and I used a little frying pan to make the gravy.  Now I have to mention that doing all this, while adding sticks to a Vital Stove, and keeping the dog out of the mashed potatoes was a challenge but all in all the dinner turned out really well.  Too bad our sporks hadn't been in the bag of utensils like they should have been…we ended up having to use a spatula and a serving spoon to eat.  It turned out the sporks were on the kitchen counter, where they had been sitting since our last canoe trip, on a dish towel so they didn't get mixed up with our regular cutlery. We took our plates out on the rock at the site's landing, with our mugs full of wine (in a tetra pack.)  Biscuit got a bit of left overs.  He also knocked my spatula into the lake and spilled my wine a little.

We were enjoying our wine when we realized how dark it was further to the West, and sure enough a few minutes later it started to sprinkle.  We quickly washed the dishes, hid everything under the flipped over canoe, then retreated to the tent to finish our wine.  Probably not the most bear safe idea but we were careful not to spill.

The rain didn't last long so we were able to pack up our food bag and hang it all then Chris started a fire.  Being a sort of island site, there wasn't a lot of firewood available but the fire pit itself had 5 good sized logs that were blackened but hardly burned.  All we needed was some twigs for tinder and that wasn't so hard to find.  With a wad of toilet paper to start it, we got a really good fire going.  Funny how using the park wood you buy, we have so much trouble getting a fire going, but we've never had a problem using found wood on a canoe trip.  Even though the twigs were wet from recent rain, we had a fire going on the first try.

I have to take a moment and comment about the wine.  We sometimes take a few bottles of beer when car camping, but have never taken alcohol on a canoe trip (granted we haven't done many canoe trips yet, darn it) so this was a first.  Also, I hardly ever drink anything anymore and apparently it doesn't take much to make me tipsy now.  One glass of wine and I was stumbling all over the place.  It was kind of embarrassing.

We enjoyed the fire until just before 9.  The moon on the water and with the drifting clouds was really pretty, but we were both chilled and ready for bed.  The wind had died down, but stupid me hadn't packed socks…or shoes.  In our frantic packing chaos, I didn't realize I was wearing flip flops until we were at Canoe Lake getting our permit.  My feet still aren't warm now that I'm home writing up this report.

You can kinda see our attempt at a wind block...
Snuggled into beds, we began what would become a really uncomfortable night.  It didn't start off too bad.  There was no wind, it wasn't too cold (just a little chilly but not unbearable) and the loons put on a really fabulous concert for us.  There must have been a dozen of then, on Cache Lake as well as Tanamakoon, because some sounded a bit far off.  Biscuit wasn't happy though.  He couldn't find a comfy place to sleep and ended up at my feet.  Then the wind picked up again…then it began to rain.  I kept thinking the small backpack we'd used to hang our food and toiletries would get too heavy when wet and snap the branch and I'd be lying there freaking out because it could also be a bear…  With the wind now gusting under the fly, I was getting cold but I snuggled up to Chris and Biscuit took advantage of the space behind my knees to get onto the sleep pad.  I was nice and cosy for a while…until the tent started to leak and the foot of my sleeping bag got wet.

It rained off and on all night, and while my feet weren't bad if I curled up and kept them away from the wet spot, my legs were not happy with me not stretching them out every so often.  By the time the sky lightened my hips and knees were screaming and I was still cold.  Biscuit wanted out, so finally at about 6 I took him to pee and went to check on the food bag.  It was still in place, though maybe a little lower than before as the added weight made the branch sag a bit more.

I crawled back into the tent and tried to warm up but it was pretty much a lost cause.  Other than my feet it wasn't bad, like shivering, teeth chattering cold, but just uncomfortable enough to not be able to get back to sleep.  Oh who am I kidding, I don't think I actually slept.

A half hour later, we got tired of Biscuit trying to claw our sleeping bags off.  He's really the most annoying wake up call ever.  I have a big bruise on my ribs from him jumping on me and it took forever to clean the dog snot off my glasses from all the times he'd bunt me in the face when I had my eyes closed.  I really hope none of the other campers heard us in the night yelling things like "Oh my spleen!" or "Oh my balls!"

Once we were up, we began to discuss what to do.  I had planned to make breakfast of pancakes and hash browns, plus coffee but we were both cold, our clothes were wet and the wind was still gusting straight into the site.  I wanted to just leave, maybe go to Mew Lake for coffee and hot food even if I had to go in wearing my bright pink flannel beaver jammies (my official camping pyjamas)  Chris really wanted coffee right then and there.  With a little toilet paper and a few dry sticks we could find, we got the Vital Stove fired up (pun not intended) and were able to boil water.  I will admit, the coffee helped, but the time we spent making it meant that we ended up leaving just as it was starting to sprinkle again. Luckily we were smart enough to wear our rain jackets so it wasn't an issue.  Actually my rain jacket came in handy for repelling the water Biscuit dribbled all down my arm after each wave he attacked.  Bonus!  The rain didn't last long though, but they did keep the wind from cutting right through our clothes.

Once on the river, we saw a loon pop up.  I was grabbing for my camera when a baby popped up in front of it and the mama loon fed it.  We'd drifted past and so the picture didn't really turn out but it was a nice thing to see.  Biscuit got excited too but didn't bark.  He growls at oncoming canoe traffic but not a peep when he sees wildlife? Not that I'm complaining but this is the same dog that recently attacked a car.

It was a short paddle back to the car, and a quick load up, then we were off to Henriettta's Pine Bakery in Dwight for some sandwiches and treats.

Somehow, I've lost most of the pictures from this trip.  I know I took some because there's two on the computer, and I remember seeing pictures of the meal, but I've gone through all my memory cards and can't find them.  I'll update this with more pictures when I find them.

Wildlife seen on this trip? Lots of loons, a garter snake, and a duck
Things Biscuit destroyed on this trip? He ate the toilet paper, 2 bobbers that we didn't even know were in the pack until we found them chewed up, kept attempting to pull the rocks off the fire pit so we would go to bed…oh and he ruined our sleep.  But he does that at home too.

Things we forgot to pack? Socks and sneakers for me, cutlery, instructions for the food

Best things about the trip? Eating on the rock and enjoying our wine while we watched dark clouds roll in, sitting around the fire, just the two of us, the paddle in and out was really nice, we liked the site even though it wasn't ideal for the weather conditions at the time.

Both Chris and I commented that a trip to Tanamakoon would be an ideal trip to do with the kids where they can paddle their own canoe.  The lakes aren't big, it's not too long of a paddle and there's no portage.  If we came for a multi-night trip, we could explore the surrounding lakes and give them a bit of a feeling of independence without making it into an arduous ordeal by setting them up for frustration and exhaustion.  Plus it's just a pretty area.

No comments:

Post a Comment