Algonquin Provincial Park – Backpacking the Western Uplands Trail.

Trail markers, your best friends in the forest.

Trail markers, your best friends in the forest.

This past weekend (Oct 24-25) I was a part of a fall backpacking trip into the Algonquin. The backpacking trip is a part of Humber College’s Outdoor Education program course that I’m currently taking, in fact during the course of this program there are another 3-4 outdoor based trips. Needless to say this program is right up my alley and I’m excited for all future classes and trips. But more on that later. For this trip the course was focused on lightweight backpacking (well lightweight is a relative concept to me) and as someone who’s never done a backpack hiking trip it seemed like a great introduction. The course covered; equipment, planning and preparation with a final overnight trip on the Western Uplands Trail to test your knowledge. 

Food for the weekends trip.

Food for the weekends trip.

The bag loaded (41lb) and ready to go.

The backpack loaded (41lb) and ready to go.

The biggest challenge for me was gear and packing. I have a bad habit of over packing for all of my trip and just carrying useless junk in my car for those nonexistent “just in case” scenarios. Well not to fear with a 80 liter backpack and a checklist, it’s kinda hard to pack too much useless stuff. This was a challenge, I had to make sacrifices, such as my camera, it was to big and bulky so my cellphone had to do. Also clothing was a challenge, I need many changes of clothing as I get sweaty pretty easily and require change of clothing regularly. So I packed what I thought would be the bare minimum and I wish I’d packed one or two extra changes of shirts as it would have made the hike there and back more comfortable. To compound the issues I personally don’t have enough adequate gear for fall camping and collecting borrowed gear was a bit of a challenge. But luckily Humber College had some loaners like a good backpack and a minus 15 degree sleeping bag that I borrowed which kept some major cash in my pocket. Also the food situation was a first for me, I’ve not relied on dehydrated food before. But with a bit of research and chatting with the more experienced members of the program I got some decent direction on where to go with food options. With all of the basics covered, we were off at 5:30am on a rainy cool Saturday morning to Algonquin Provincial Park.

The start of the Western Uplands Trail.

The start of the Western Uplands Trail.

Me on the trail, not the most glamorous picture.

Me on the trail, not the most glamorous picture, note the Sticks. I got them for free from the garbage.

The sin shines through for only a moment.

The sin shines through for only a moment.

On the hike. Keeping it classy with my pants tucked into my socks.

On the hike. Keeping it classy with my pants tucked into my socks.

The trail looked fantastic covered in red foliage.

The trail looked fantastic covered in red foliage.

Guskewau Lake on the trail.

Guskewau Lake on the trail.

Ramona lake during the rain, our final destination.

Ramona lake during the rain, our final destination.

The hike was strenuous, and the 42 pound backpack got heavy at times. The terrain on the Western Uplands Trail was hilly with consistent elevation changes which made for a tiring 10-11 km hike out to Ramona lake. Granted as a newbie the concept of a “challenging hike” is a bit skewed in my mind as I do not have on any others of comparison. As we had a large group of 20 people we were spread out on the trail working out way to Guskewau lake for our mid point rest. I was attempting to keep up with the course instructors father who came out with us for the weekend at the front of the group, but I failed miserably. It’s amazing to watch a man in his early to mid 80’s just blaze down the trail with a large backpack leaving people over half his age struggling to keep up. I know that I personally felt out of shape as “Silver Streak” as we affectionately called him, a man almost three times my age looked at ease ahead of the group.

My digs for the weekend.

My digs for the weekend.

Closer look at the shelter.

Closer look at the shelter.

Sleeping in comfort.

Sleeping in comfort.

The view from the Campsite.

The view from the Campsite.

Keeping the snacks away from Yogi.

Keeping the snacks away from Yogi.

We managed make good time to Ramona, getting with enough time to set up our shelters before the light rain arrived. As you can see from above pictures I went with a Hemingway Hammock and a A-Frame tarp configuration. I was worried that with my sleeping area being above ground the cool air and wind could make me freeze in the night. But the A-Frame tarp cut the wind down and as a bonus provided a large dry area where I could change and keep my things. It was a good fit for a mid fall camping trip. The only challenge was that it got too humid, with the hammock fly-cover and the tarp both being waterproof and airtight it created a lot of condensation in the morning. Also the tarp was fantastic at night once the downpour began and the winds howled. Irregardless, I’d go with this setup in the future as it required no flat ground for setup. 

The Trail.

The Trail.

The beauty of the Algonquin Back country.

The beauty of the Algonquin Back country.

A lot of fungi on the trails.

A lot of fungi on the trails.

Abundance of fungi in the wet cool Algonqiun.

Abundance of fungi in the wet cool Algonqiun.

The views were fantastic.

The views on the hike were fantastic.

The hike back to the trail-head the next day began pretty early. But before I managed to slip and fall going down to the lake to fill up my water bottle. There is no better way to start your morning then by slipping down a hill and falling right on a bulging root with your rib-cage. Moving on from there we were treated to passing showers, which made the group wet and slippery. Having those hiking polls (see picture at top of post) that I got by sheer chance the day before the hike came in handy. Technically the hiking polls weren’t actually hiking poll but skiing polls, but that didn’t matter. They were free and saved me many a time from falling and rolling down a muddy hill. The only thing that I found was a problem for me during this whole trip was my clothing, I did not have enough of it. I’m the type of person who could sweat in a snowstorm and a change (or 5) of clothing is a must. As I needed to change my shirts during the mid point of each hike, I found myself in a tight bind. So next time I’d invest more space in the bag on two or three extra changes of shirts for those just in case situations.

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9 thoughts on “Algonquin Provincial Park – Backpacking the Western Uplands Trail.

  1. Sounds like you had a great time even if it was a bit challenging. But challenge is part of the fun! We hiked the first loop of the Western Uplands Trail this summer and stayed on Ramona Lake on our second night. It was a great hike and Ramona Lake is beautiful. I agree about packing. Unlike car camping you have to really think through what you are bringing since you have to carry all of it on your back. One thing I absolutely refuse to sacrifice, though, is my camera no matter how heavy things get 🙂

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  3. Great post and wonderful adventure! Glad you made it though. Guskewau Lake used to be a favourite of mine, I guess it still is but when I first started backcountry camping, it was one of my go to places and I have stayed there about 7 or 8 times. It is a great hike and a beautiful area of the park. Packing will get easier with time and soon you will be able to do it in a few hours the night before you are heading out. You will find your favourite ‘must-haves’ and you will know where they all go in the pack and the best places for each items, i.e.: extra shirts in the top accessible pocket, things you don’t need access to at the bottom, etc. I still think it’s cool this is all part of a class. I really enjoyed seeing backcountry hiking from a new comers point of view. It’s nice to refresh the mind. Looking forward to more posts/trips! Happy Hiking! CamperChristina.com

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