Back Country Training

When Dan was a kid he used to go backpacking and orienteering.  He has often told me stories about his trips, I never really listened apparently which is why I agreed to go “back country camping” with him this past long weekend.
We had purchased a backpack for me  few years ago (heavily discounted) and I had managed to dodge actually having to go backpacking up until this year.
Dan was a little concerned at the weight of our tent but wasn’t willing to invest in a new one in case I didn’t enjoy myself, so Friday night we found ourselves divvying up camping gear and clothes between our packs.  When Dan was satisfied with the packing I got out the scale, curious to find out just how much my pack weighed, 32lbs! It felt ok on my back but I hadn’t gone anywhere yet so I was a little nervous, then I decided to weigh Dan’s pack, 32lbs!  Hmm.  We did some “redistribution” and got my pack down 5 lbs,to 27lbs which seemed so much lighter already.

Off we go!

Saturday morning we drove to Algonquin Park, stopping for a big lunch on route at a fabulous pub.  Got our park permit, used the flush toilets one last time, then Dan helped me into my pack and away we went, with two other groups also starting out on the same trail.  Huh, so much for the isolation we expected.
We quickly passed the two groups ahead of us and passed another two.  It wasn’t a race (we still won) but Dan and I just aren’t dawdlers, I guess our trail running has helped develop our ability to appreciate nature and still move at a decent clip!  Speaking of appreciating nature, I was enjoying myself but found it weird that I couldn’t lift my head due to my pack, I mentioned this to Dan and he agreed that wearing a pack can make it feel that way.  I pondered this and thought “This isn’t a feeling, I really can’t lift my head”, I rationalised that maybe this was a good thing because I was being forced to look at the ground in front of me.  It wasn’t until we stopped to consult the map briefly that I figured out things had shifted in my pack before I put it on and when Dan had to move things in the top pocket I was suddenly able to lift my head a little more.  I started laughing and asked Dan to shift everything thing in that pocket toward the back of the bag and sure enough I could look around like a normal person!!

The hiking was tougher than expected, kind of wanted to throw off my pack and just run it.

Off to find our own piece of wilderness

We hiked 15km to reach Maggie Lake, we reserved a site on the west side of the lake, basically the sites are first come first serve, we ended up hiking around a good portion of the lake before we found a site that was free and to our liking.  This is where things got a little comical with the tent.  We have a great tent, but it’s a four person one so that when we are “camping” at the cottage we can use one of those nice blow up double mattresses and still have room to spare, turns out people who backpack typically carry smaller tents (unless I guess you are a group of four), so when Dan was trying to decide where to pitch the tent, there was really only one spot.  And the tent still didn’t really fit, guy lines were going into the bushes, a large tree made getting in and out of the tent interesting and weirdest part was to see just how much room we had with only two therma-rests instead of our luxurious mattress (we could fit both packs inside and still had room).   I set about the task of sterilizing water using our newly purchased Steri-pen (I had to bring the instructions with me), it was quite easy, but the first few sips of water were tentative to say the least.  Thankfully we didn’t catch any dirty water illnesses so I think the pen was a success (so much easier than constantly boiling water)!

Our home for the night.

Looks like I use a miniature light saber to “clean” our water.

We are also lazy backpackers and we just purchased the “boil in the bag” dinners.  Which were pretty good, where we went wrong was buying the desserts, yuck.  Next time we’ll just bring some chocolate and cookies!

Maggie Lake

Moonrise was quite spectacular (picture doesn’t do it justice)

That night I decided that I would be getting a new sleeping bag, as I hardly slept because I was cold (and it didn’t even get that cold!)  While Dan was toasty hot in his new sleeping bag, I was wide awake a 6:30am convinced that something was trying to get into our fuel canister, Dan woke up to find me precariously leaning out of the tent trying to see what it was.  When I explained what I was doing, he listened for a moment, told me it was a woodpecker, in a tree, nowhere near our fuel and to go back to sleep.   I watched the sunrise and laid back down thinking how I’d never get back to sleep, and then proceeded to have a solid 2 hour nap!
Day two we hiked around to Guskewau Lake, it was 16km.  I was once again shocked at the terrain, running up there would be perfect training for Bear Mountain.  I had every intention of going for a short run each night after setting up camp, silly me, carrying an additional 27lbs takes its toll and there was no way I was running anywhere!  We only saw a few other people on the trail, passing in the opposite direction, but we were over taken by a “fast packer”, these are super minimalist campers who run/hike, with just the bare necessities (which is what I thought we were carrying).  It was impressive to see him go.  He snuck up on me too,  I thought briefly that the worlds largest chipmunk was after me!  We didn’t end up stopping for lunch so by the time we arrived at the camp site I just stormed on in, and surprised a camper who was already there, lying in his tent, naked.  I managed not to yelp or burst out laughing, I almost felt bad for just barging in, but wait it’s a public campsite and unlike our previous night’s location that was secluded this one was clearly mapped out for 4 tents clustered together.  And really if you want to lie around naked in your tent maybe you shouldn’t have the mesh door facing the trail!!!!

Lake Guskewau

We set up our tent as far away from naked dude as we could and managed to avoid him for the rest of the night, as I was setting about to make our late lunch, annoyed at how far the lake was from us (maybe 50m) I remembered I had water in my pack, 3 (heavy) liters!!  We had packed it in case the Steri-pen didn’t work, to have some safe water ready to go but forgot about it, so I hiked all day with 6.6lbs of needless weight!  After our late lunch we went for a refreshing swim, in the crystal clear lake, so clear in fact that after the swim while sunning ourselves on the rocks and sterilizing some more water I spotted a giant flat thing floating in the water.  Oh my, is that a leech???  Dan looked and agreed that it looked like a leech but had never seen one that big either.  I was so relieved to be out of the water, I made Dan check again that I was leech free (I have a somewhat irrational fear of them thanks to spending my childhood summers up north and the movie Stand By Me).  I don’t think they really “do” anything to you, in fact they are often used medicinally, but they just freak me out.  After dinner and another failed dessert, it was off to bed (all the walking and fresh air really tuckers one out), Dan sweetly offered his sleeping bag since it wasn’t that cold and he found it too warm the night before.  I slept like the dead.  Dan on the other hand, agreed that I needed a new sleeping bag.

These are my frog friends, by the time we got the camera to take a picture of the big leech it had gone into hiding, or one of the frogs ate it?

We broke camp early with a hearty breakfast (scrambled eggs and hash browns, you can make anything, except dessert, in a bag!) and hiked the 4km back to our car, I was noticeably faster, thanks to getting rid of the not needed 6lbs of water, and we had eaten all our food.  I think I like the last day of back country camping best.
Once home we headed off to the pub for dinner and debrief on what had gone well and what we could improve on for next time.  We both agreed that next time we shouldn’t carry large hardcover books with us, better planners would have brought small paperbacks (but my book was too good to put down and start something new).  Also Dan wanted to know why I had brought my little ziplock that usually lives in my running pack.  (It contains a few ibuprofen, tums, imodium, and a couple of band-aids).  I told him that I brought it in case we needed any of that stuff.  Dan asked why none of that stuff was in our first aid kit.  I slowly watched his face as he realised that he had just taken one of the clumsiest people he knows into the back woods without a first aid kit.  I pointed out that our first aid is kind of big and heavy…..I can see his point now.  We’ll also be getting a new smaller first aid kit.
Planned Mileage: 58km
Actual Mileage:
Days run: 2 plus 3 days of hiking.
Excuses:  I was  still a little wobbly from the Baker Trail 50 so I didn’t run until Wednesday.  But I feel that the hiking that we did, especially carrying the extra weight was better training than running on the flat roads around here would have been.

4 comments on “Back Country Training

  1. Mom says:

    Looks gorgeous…kinda makes me want to try it. Just need to find someone to carry the pack. xoxo

  2. Ann & Gaz says:

    Looks beautiful, but that pack looks pretty big ! xxxx

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