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Algonquin Park March 2011

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  • Algonquin Park March 2011

    This trip started on Tuesday March 1, 2011. I was up at 0400 and I was on the road at 0445. I arrived at the west gate in Algonquin Park shortly before 0800. When I arrived at the parking lot of the trail entrance, it was filled with ministry vehicles and a bunch of people on snowmobiles. They were just getting ready to head out to study the hibernating bears in the park. While getting ready, I spoke to Craig Macdonald and he stated that the ice was thick and the lakes were slush free. I asked Mr. McDonald about the process involved and he said that there had been some rain which melted the snow on top of the slush and when it turned cold again, everything turned into ice. My original plan was to set up a base camp at Zenobia Lake and to do a lot of day trips. Given that the lakes had thick ice and were slush free, lake travel became an option. I had been planning to set up another camp at on Hiram Lake but due to unforeseen circumstances I camped at Zenobia for the duration of the trip. Below is a picture of the trail map that I took at one of the junctions.

    Below are two pictures showing off the logo. I have one sticker on the bumper of my vehicle and one on the front of the toboggan:

    I took the trail heading east and was on my way by 1040. Once I finished climbing all of the hills and got closer to my destination, I gathered some spruce boughs and loaded them on the toboggan. I did this to save time since these trees were right next to the trail. Also, they were large trees. I gathered the bough tips from the lowest branches of the trees and I only took about 2-3 tips from each tree. I arrived at my site by 1340. I was surprised that the wind and snow had removed almost all trace of having been at that same location only about three weeks earlier. The spruce boughs, extra fire wood, and scissor poles were still where I left them at the end of the last trip. The spruce boughs were still in perfect shape to be used again for this trip. After arriving at the site, I started to flatten out the snow for my tent and the work area. While doing this, Craig Lawrence drove by on his snowmobile. He came over for a brief visit. He stated that the dog sledding business was going really well. Below are some pics of his snowmobile and some dog sledders travelling along the trail:

    On the last trip, the water on Zenobia smelled strongly of sulphur. I had asked Mr. Macdonald about this when I saw him earlier in the day. He stated that in that in Zenobia Lake there is a lot of decaying debris in the water. When the ice covers the lake he stated that it traps the sulphur in the water. On this trip, I dug my water hole in the middle of the lake which is deeper. On this trip there was no sulphur smell in the water at all. The ice was close to 12” deep. Below is a picture of the ice hole:

    It still took me while to get everything all organized but I am getting much more efficient. On this trip decided to not dig out a layer of snow in the front section of the tent. I actually prefer this and I will continue this practice on future trips.

    Overnight the wind really picked up and the temperature dropped down to (-15) C. Just as I was getting out of my sleeping bag at about 0730, the bottom piece of pipe suddenly popped out of the elbow joint(Not good! Not good at all!!). After getting dressed I went to check out the situation. What I saw really surprised me. The scissor poles had blow over but the pipe sections were still together; they did not separate from each other. My first thought was that the wire that I had used to attach them to the pole had broken. However, this was not the case. I was completely dumbfounded. The only explanation that makes any sense is that with my usual set up, I normally have the poles leaning only slightly towards the tent. The section of pipe that I normally have resting between the poles on the bipod is where the final piece of pipe joins with the second last piece of pipe. Given the angle of the bipod and given that it was the last section of pipe that was resting in the bipod, the wind must have been blowing with such force that it knocked the bipod backwards and the with further gusts the weight of the scissor poles on the top section of pipe must have been enough to pull the pipe out of the elbow joint. The only other possible contributing factor that I can think of is related to the section of the stove jack that comes into direct contact with the pipe as it exits the tent. This section seems to be a tight fit around the pipe. This could be due to the fact that my pipe exits the tent at a high angle. Over the course of the day on Wednesday, the wind was so strong that it would push the tent material inwards and at times it would expand the tent material outwards with a lot of force. What could have happened is that the side of the tent with the stove jack could have been blown outward with a lot of force. Given the tight fit of the stove jack material around the pipe, the motion of the tent blowing outwards could have caused the bottom section pipe to be pulled outwards with the movement of the tent and out of the elbow joint instead of the stove jack sliding up the pipe.

    To prevent this from ever happening in the future, I took the following precautions: a) the bipod now leans on a greater angle towards the tent. b) It will be the mid section of pipe that rests in the bipod. c) I have always used a long section of rope to tie the scissor poles together. Also, I have always used a separate piece of wire to secure the pipe to the bipod. After this incident I retied the scissor poles with rope in such a way that one of the ends of rope is much longer than the other end of the rope. With this longer piece I then secured it to the metal loop on the guy line that exits the tent under the stove jack. This will prevent the bipod from falling backwards no matter how windy it is. d) I will also be using some rope to tie the end pieces of the scissor poles to get an even tighter fit around the pipe.

    Below are some pics illustrating the first three precautions:

    Later in the morning a group of about seven snowmobiles drove by my site. The remainder of the day was spent hanging around the site. I gathered some more spruce boughs and I gathered good supply of wood. I also found some nice sections of chicot wood either partially or fully buried in the snow. I removed the branches, cut them in sections and placed them vertical resting against a tree on solid land for future trips. I also spent some in prayer and got some reading done.

    Later in the evening the temperature dropped down to (-29) C. Overnight the temperature fell to close to about (-35) C. I was up at 0600. Below is a picture of three layers of mist over the lake taken early in the morning:

    After finishing breakfast, I processed some wood, spent some time in prayer, drank a few cups of coffee and had a couple of cigarettes. This was my basic morning routine for the remainder of the trip. After lunch I went skiing for a few hours. I skied the loop between Km 7 jct and Big Bend Jct which passes Von Lake and Minor Lake. Shortly after arriving back to the site, Craig McDonald drove by while grooming the trails. We spoke briefly. I asked about the snowmobiles that I had seen yesterday and he said that it was the ministry people doing the bear study. He stated that any blue and orange ribbons that I see on the trail were indicators that a bear is hibernating in the immediate area. He also told me that last night and been the coldest night of the year recorded in the park. He shivered when he found out that I don’t run my stove during the night. Below are some pics that I took while skiing:

    Below are some pics taken of my tent and the Tamarack stand while I was skiing across the lake back to my site:

    After dinner I processed some more wood, and relaxed in front of the stove while reading some chapters from the bible and The Collected tales of Nikolai Gogal. This was accompanied by some hot coffee, green tea, a few cigarettes and one scotch with hot water. This was my basic evening routine. Does life get better than this while winter camping? I think not!!

    Overnight the temperature rose to about (-12) C. I was up at 0530. Later that morning, Craig McDonald drove by while grooming the trails. He told me that rain was in the forecast for the Saturday and to avoid travel. He stated that one should never take down a wet tent if traveling. He stated that if the temperature drops while traveling, the material will freeze up and you won’t be able to unfold the tent. I had been planning to pack up on Saturday and travel to Hiram Lake so that I could spend some time exploring the northern part of the trail. With rain in the forecast though, these plans were put on hold. Below are a few pictures of the inside of the tent:

    After lunch, I headed out to do some skiing. After reaching Spruce jct, I stayed to the right of the fork and skied across Red fox Lake. I checked out my old site from last year. The fire wood and posts that I had collected were right where I had left them. Below is a picture of the view of Red Fox Lake:

    After crossing Red Fox Lake I followed the creek that joins this lake to Hiram Lake. Below is a pic of the trail and a pic of my smiling mug just having a great time:

    While on Hiram Lake, Craig Lawrence drove by on his snowmobile dropping off supplies to the camp at Hiram Lake. A group of ladies were going to be camping in that location on this night. We spoke briefly. Below is a picture of his camp:

    After checking out the camp, I got back on the official trail and made my way back to Big Bend Jct. While on this section of trail I saw an orange and blue ribbon which indicated that a bear was hibernating in the immediate area:

    Shortly after getting back to the site, wet snow had started to fall. It snowed all evening. I woke up at 0620 to dead silence. As it turned out it had snowed all night and was still snowing. The snow on the tent had blocked out all sound from outside. The temperature hovered around (0) C overnight. Below are some pictures of the tent and the view of the lake in the morning:

    The snow continued all day Saturday and did not stop until at some point during the night on Sunday. I should mention that I had the door facing east so that if I was to experience the predominant north or west winds the smoke and any potential sparks would not be blowing over the tent. Since the wind was blowing east, the door was saturated and ice was forming at the bottom of the door and ice formed in the lower sections of the zippers. I took some pictures inside the tent on Saturday to show the areas where the melting snow had saturated the tent. There was very minimal leakage. The tent handled the snow very well. The white areas on the pictures show the areas which are saturated:

    At about 1500 Craig Lawrence was driving by and dropped off my map and map holder that I had lost on the previous trip. He stated that it was pouring rain in Huntsville. I was very fortunate to get dumped on by snow rather than rain which had been in the forecast. The temperature hovered around (0) C all day. It was so hot in the tent this night that I had to take off all of my shirts while reading. On most nights, the heat radiating from the stove feels heavenly. At times like this evening, it felt very hot and humid. It was still snowing fairly hard when I went to bed. The snow didn’t stop falling until some point during the night.

    I was up before 0530 today. When I tried to get out of the tent, the zippers on the door were jammed with ice. I was not able to open the zipper closest to the stove until later in the afternoon. In order to open the zipper furthest from the door, I had to boil some water and then rub the hot pot along the zipper until it melted the ice enough to get the door open. After breakfast I went to saw some wood, but I couldn’t find my saw. I always have it hanging on a tree branch in my work area with the skis and ski poles. At this point my heart sunk into my stomach. At first I thought that maybe the wind had knocked it off of the tree branch. I dug all around the area where the saw should have been if it had fallen and I could not find it. When finding a tree to haul back to the site for fire wood, I never lay the saw on the ground. I always hang it on a tree branch. I then realized that I must have forgotten to carry it back to the site when I brought my last tree back to camp. I then tried to remember where it was that I cut my last tree. The snow fall had eliminated any evidence where this would have been. Within a few minutes of searching, I found my saw hanging from the branch where I had left it. Over the course of the snow storm, I had to flatten out my work area with the snow shoes, three times due to the snow accumulation. I think that about 12”-15” of snow must have fallen. It was a beautiful sunny day today. I attempted to go skiing after lunch but the snow was too deep. I think that I will have to purchase some wider back country skis to give me proper floatation in these conditions. Below are some pictures of the area around my site after the snow storm. The trees in the background are loaded with fresh snow. The picture with my ski tracks shows how the wind and snow had eliminated all trace of the dog sled trail with the exception of the poles used to mark the trail:

    Below are some pictures of the beautiful sunset that I was able to observe:

    On this night I had an interesting experience with my head lamp. As I turned my head lamp on, the batteries burned out. I was expecting this because they had been growing dimmer the night before. I had two, never used spare sets of batteries which were tested prior to the trip. The first set burned out as I turned the head lamp on. Fortunately, the second spare set of batteries lasted for the remainder of the trip. I think that for future trips I will be bringing a fourth set just to be safe.

    On Monday morning I was up at 0530. The temperature had dipped down to (-22) C overnight. Although I had wanted to travel on Monday to set up another camp on Hiram Lake, I had noticed a few days earlier that I was running low on food. On every camp that I have ever done, I have always come home with about two days worth of food(banak, cheese, nuts, chocolate). On this trip, my appetite was larger than usual. My plan for today was to ski back to my vehicle and make a trip to Whitney to pick up some chocolate, nuts and some dried sausages. I had also decided that I wanted to stay for one additional night and come back on Friday. I was waiting for Craig Macdonald to groom the trails. It would have been a very slow and laborious process to break trail myself. After lunch I was in the process of hauling a section of tree back to the site when he drove by on his snowmobile. We spoke briefly. He stated that the snow was so deep that he had to leave the drag behind and go over the trail with just his snowmobile before he used the drag to properly groom it. Below are some pics of the beautiful scenery on my way back to the car:

    Once I got to the car, I spent a long time cleaning it off and digging it out. I drove to the East gate to pay for one more night. They stated that rain was in the forecast for Thursday and Friday. This was not what I wanted to hear. I was hoping for temperatures in the (-20) range. However, I then viewed this as an opportunity to see what hot tenting would be like in rainy conditions. Instead of being bummed out, I decided to view this as a very valuable learning experience. Besides, a bit of rain while hot tenting in the backcountry is better than a bit of rain in the city. Right? After paying for one more night, I picked up my grub and ate some dinner at a restaurant. Shortly after arriving back at the parking lot and getting ready to ski back to the site, Craig Macdonald was getting back to the parking lot after grooming the trails. Skiing back to the site was a really nice experience. On my way back I had decided to take a side loop that I had never taken before. At Standing Rock jct, I took the trail to the right to get me to Sleepy Hollow jct. This trail travelled to the east of Titmouse Lake. This was the first time that I had ever seen it groomed. In the past, Mr. Macdonald had told me to avoid hauling the toboggan on it due to the long steep hills. He was not kidding. I had gained so much speed on one of the hills that I had to drop on to my rear end for fear of taking a nasty wipe out at the upcoming curve. I also startled a grouse coming down another hill. I got back to my site just as the sun was going down. While sitting in the tent and getting ready to light the stove, I began to notice how cold it was outside. It had dropped down to (-20) but with the heat that I was generating while skiing, the cool air felt refreshing. I was only wearing two light weight shirts over my base layer.

    On Tuesday morning I woke up at 0600. After finishing breakfast and processing some wood I headed out to go skiing. It was a gorgeous day. I decided that I would ski to the end of the trail which is something I had never done. Below is a picture of the trail near my site shortly after heading out and one of my smiling mug while crossing either Red Fox or Hiram Lake:

    After crossing Hiram Lake, I got back onto the official trail and headed towards Cedar Hedge jct. This is the furthest that I had travelled in the past. At Cedar Hedge jct I took the left fork. Below are some pics of the trail in this section:

    Below are some pictures of Penaish Lake which is where the official trail ends. The area to the left in the second picture is where I will likely camp in the future:

    On the way back I took the other section of the loop to get me back to Cedar Hedge jct. Below is picture of the trail shortly after leaving Penaish Lake:

    After eating lunch at Hiram Lake I took a beautiful picture of Red Fox Lake on my way back to the site:

    After getting back to the site, I decided to clean the pipes out. I had noticed black flakey residue exiting the pipe on this day and the day before. Now that the stove was cold this would be the ideal time. I noticed that the inside of the pipe was covered with a great deal of dry flakey grunge(creosote I am assuming). I scraped it off and then reassembled the pipes. Shortly cleaning the pipes, Mr. Macdonald drove by on the snowmobile. We spoke again for a little while. We talked about the dog sled trail. He stated all of the dog sled camps could be accessed by one of two methods. One method is on more flat terrain(marshes and lakes). The other method is on solid land. Most of my travels hauling the toboggan took the flatter route when possible. He stated that one of the reasons that both routes existed was in case of heavy rain or a nasty thaw, the marsh areas may not be accessible to the dog sleds due to flooding. At these times all of the camps could still be accessed by the solid land routes which often have long and steep hills. He told me that the route that I had taken the night before existed partly for this reason. Obviously a great deal of planning went into designing the route. He also told me about some trails in the northern section of the trail that connect Penaish Lake, Dutch boy Lake, Twinstone Lake and Whitegull Lake. Last year I travelled briefly on Whitegull Lake but was not sure if it connected to other lakes. I also saw the blown over trail on Penaish Lake. I plan to spend time camping in this area next year.

    I was up at 0630 on Wednesday. The temperature dropped down to (-12) C overnight. After my breakfast routine, I did some more skiing. Once I got to Leaning Pine jct I finally realized how it got its name. I have passed this junction well over a dozen times and never noticed it before:

    Below is a picture of a road that I accessed from Sunday Lake jct:

    After getting back to the site, I did some repairs. I had noticed yesterday and on this day that there were a few areas in my sitting area of the tent(area covered by spruce boughs) where my feet had pushed down into the snow a good couple of inches. I decided to remove the boughs. Then I added more snow and packed it down. I then laid the boughs down again. After this I had no more problems with punching through with my feet. I also added the snow in anticipation of the warmer temperatures and rain that I was expecting for Thursday and Friday. I enjoyed some good time in prayer and reading for the remainder of the day. At about 1430 it had started to snow. By evening, it had dropped to (-5) C.

    On Thursday morning I was up at 0500. The temperature had risen to about (0) C. When getting my water from the water hole I noticed that the wet snow from the recent snow fall was tough to walk in. The snow would go through the weave and just stay there. It really weighed my snow shoes down. It was a similar experience as travelling in slush; although not as bad as slush. It started raining at about noon. Apart from spending time processing wood and eating, I spent time in prayer and a great deal of time reading. It was a relaxing day. While in the tent on this evening I had to take my shirts off again due to the heat and humidity. Below is a pic of some dog sledders travelling on the trail: The trees in the background no longer have snow on them do to it melting from the rain:

    On Friday morning I was up at about 0500. It had been raining all night and was raining for the remainder of the day. The tent was completely saturated but there was minimal leakage. Even though the tent was soaked I had no problems folding it up and putting it in the stuff sack. It really unpleasant taking off my wool pants and wearing the gore-tex pants. The wool pants feel so much more comfortable and I don’t overheat while wearing them. I left the campsite shortly before 0900. I arrived at the parking lot before noon. Wearing the gore-tex was not pleasant at all. I had to wear minimal clothing underneath and I was still overheating. After I got close to the car, the wind picked up and I got a major chill on after I had stopped for a very brief break. I have decided to officially retire my gore-tex for backcountry camping. For my canoe trip in the spring, I will be wearing a simple waterproof rain poncho from MEC. Underneath the poncho I will be wearing a ventile cotton safari shirt which will protect my lower arms from the rain while still being able to breathe. The ventile cotton shirt can also be used as a wind break in cooler weather and as a sun shirt in warmer weather. The rain poncho by its design is very breathable due to the ventilation. I will also be wearing gore-tex gaiters to protect the bottom of my legs from the rain. With this system I can wear my normal military pants and long johns. This system will be much more breathable and comfortable. The ventile cotton safari shirt will allow for two light weight insulating layers underneath it. I will be picking up a larger ventile cotton jacket or smock later in the summer which will be large enough to allow for additional layers of insulating clothing as well. Here is a link to check out the ventile cotton safari shirt:

    All in all, I was blessed with another great trip. I was able to test the snow trekker tent in some serious snow and prolonged rain with minimal leakage. The snow trekker tent handled all of the elements very well. I am a very happy customer. The only concern that I have is with the door. I think that the flaps covering the zipper could be a little longer and wider to deal with those situations when the wind blows the snow into the door. I think that using buttons would be a fool proof method over the zipper. Duane Lottig is a great guy to deal with.

    I learned a very valuable lesson about how to set up the bipod to ensure that it stays in place and keeps the pipes secure in even the windiest conditions. I was able to spend some time skiing. I realized that I need to get some backcountry skis which have greater floatation. I also realized that I need to do what I have always done in the past and bring extra food with me. Hauling extra food is much better than being short on food. I was very fortunate to have Mr. Craig Macdonald and Craig Lawrence looking out for me and providing me with sound advice. If anybody wants to do a dog sledding trip, Craig Lawrence is the guy to do it with. Here is a link to check out his website:

    I would also like to comment on my gear from Empire Canvas Works. I forgot to do this on the last trip report. As I have stated in the past, the arctic anorak was great as a wind break and for gathering fire wood. I brought the wool blanket shirt on both winter trips this year. In the past I had brought the jack pine vest and saved the wool blanket shirt for the city. The wool blanket shirt is a great piece of gear that I’ll be bringing on my future trips in the spring, fall and winter. Not only does it look great but it is very functional and durable. I finally used the true north mitts this year on a regular basis. Not only are they great for really cold conditions but for even regular cold conditions. Not only do they keep you warm, but my hands did not get sweaty even when really active. They breathe really well and they are really rugged. I am sure that his gear will last a life time. Kevin Kinney is a great guy to deal with as well.

    Over the last two years I have done two trips in the winter. Next year I may do just one trip for the latter half of February and early March and stay out for 16-18 nights. This would allow me to spend some time camping and exploring the lakes at the north end of the dog sled trail. I am very fortunate that my job allows me the flexibility to do these wonderful trips. I hope that you all enjoyed the report.

    Take care,

    Cousin Pete

  • #2
    Another great report and pics, thanks once again, CousinPete. That's beautiful country and it reminds me of some of my favorite places in the Adirondacks.

    I'm glad the issue you had with your stovepipe wasn't worse. The thought of something like that happening when I'm asleep, is the main reason I've always relied on my sleep system, versus running a stove all night. I'm too lazy to get up and feed the stove every hour and a half, anyway. 😁 Thanks again, I'm looking forward to more.



    • #3
      Hello Bob: I am glad you enjoyed the report and thanks for your kind words. It is a lovely area to trip in. You can't be too careful with those stove pipes! I'll be posting another report every couple of days until I've posted all of them.

      Happy New Year,😊
      Peter Myyry


      • #4
        Cool, I'll be looking for them. Thanks again and Happy New Year to you, as well.