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.
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 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.
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 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.