We returned to our favourite backcountry basecamp just North of Midland/Bala area. Bradley took the (Canon 70D) DSLR in with us this time, so we filmed some video of the (wet) trek in. Watch the video in HD!
If you haven’t watched our first video on locating the lake, click here.
Checked the forecast the week previous to leaving, and were fairly certain we were in for a wet trip. The forecast called for rain most of Friday, (90% precip.) and we were informed it would taper off as of Friday evening, with a slight chance of snow flurries. Boy, was that weather forecast right on the money…
We departed the Greater Toronto Area at approximately 06:30hrs. on Friday morning. As is tradition, we stopped in at Cabela’s in Barrie, to purchase a few last minute supplies; a couple beanies, a pack cover (all in hunter orange – after all it’s deer season) and a new North Face jacket for Serkan that we stumbled on in the clearance section. All of the staff at the Barrie Cabela’s is super helpful. If you find yourself in the Simcoe area, be sure to stop by. It’s like a porn emporium for the Outdoorsman.
We found ourselves at the head of the trail at approx. 10:30hrs. Loaded up our rucks, and hit it. The ATV’s that frequent the entrance to the trails we take in had made a mess of the area, so hiking in to meet up with our cross country ski trail was a bit of task – avoiding mud pits and recently fallen trees ate up a bunch of time…
We had only traversed the trail system once before, and being brazen (not using our previous GPS map), over shot our path when we ventured too far on one leg of the ski trail. We had to double-back to a junction point on the trail, and after about 20 minutes heading the wrong direction, then backtracking, we were back on the correct route. It’s funny when that feeling of uncertainty and unfamiliarity takes over – you start to question every footstep; every motion forward. “Have I been here before?” you think as you stumble towards the unknown. It’s an almost childlike feeling that sweeps over you. Like you’re small… shrunken in the World.
We made basecamp at approx. 12 noon. Soaked, tired and hungry, the first order of business was to start a fire and dry out our gear. As you probably know – if you’ve spent any time outdoors – being wet AND cold is one of the worst (and most dangerous) physical states to be in. Being confident in your ability to make fire is key at this stage, and thankfully, we were all on top of our game.
We cheated. Somewhat. We used a Wetfire tab and a Light My Fire firesteel to get the fire started. Yes, we know it’s not something the bushcraft purists like to hear, but the order of the day was to expedite warmth and dry off immediately. So we sparked the ferro rod over the Wetfire tab, and voila! Pine needles and dead-standing trees provided a much needed source of dry tinder, and within 30 minutes we had splayed our gloves, socks and shoes around the rocks of our fire pit.
The next task was warming up from the inside out. Some hot tea did the trick, and we broke out one of our favourite pieces of kit – the Stainless Steel Nalgene to boil water. Although the lakes in this area are very clean, and we don’t hold issue with simply dunking our Nalgenes in the water, we always insist on boiling before drinking. Let me tell you… steaming hot tea after a long, wet hike through the rain is just what the doctor ordered. Lifted our spirits in a BIG way.
Shelter was next on the list. Serkan brought his new-ish MEC Volt Tent, which sets up in no time at all, and Alan rigged his Big Agnes Fly Creek UL3. Drew and I found a nice rock inlet approximately 10 x 12’ that would protect us on two sides from wind and rain. We decided to break out the MEC Silicone Guides tarp and set it up with a ridgeline, angling the one side down to the ground on the open Southwest side to block the chilly wind coming in off the lake. The other side was level with rock formations above us. (See 4:05 in the video to see our setup). This type of rigging was advantageous. Within minutes of setting it up, we noticed the area underneath the tarp was a few degrees warmer, being out of the wind and light rain, and protecting us from the elements on three sides.
Lunch consisted of some protein bars, various snacks… not everyone in our crew digs them, but I’m really partial to the “Bio-X” brand of protein bar. You can buy them at almost any WalMart, they’re fairly inexpensive, and compared to a lot of other junk on the market, these have one of the highest ratios of protein per bar, and not much of the nasty ingredients found in most “energy snacks”.
We spent most of the afternoon fine-tuning camp; fixing the reflector rocks around the firepit, drying out our gear and gathering firewood for the evening. Many people underestimate the amount of time and effort that goes into finding firewood in a dry environment… let alone a SOAKING WET area of the woods!
Drew tried his hand at fishing with the “Nalgene fishing rod”, but no luck as the barometric pressure was all over the map in the days leading up to our arrival.
Our dinner entrée was a mix of homemade dehydrated spicy pasta sauce courtesy of Chef Alan, in addition to a healthy serving of freshly cooked pasta. As usual, the main course consisted of four THICK Ontario rib eye steaks. These were cooked to absolute perfection by our resident butcher Drew. Totally memorable.
We built a raging fire in the early hours of the evening. Jokes and laughter echoed across the glass-like surface of the lake. We talked about all the things we love about being outside, discussed the likelihood of each of us being able to eke out a living in the woods for our families if society collapsed… and eerily, it was as if our talk somehow mirrored what was going on out in the World. Within minutes of our discussion about organized society collapsing, Serkan received an alert from his friend via phone that Paris was under attack. Reports were that 160+ people had died, and that there were ongoing terrorist attacks underway. We were all shocked… after a few of us switched on our cell phones to send some texts to loved ones back in civilization, we were assured that everything here at home (in Canada) was in order. Sitting around the fire in the middle of nowhere, we chatted into the night about how jarring the whole experience must be for the rest of the World at large, and hoped we’d return home the next day to find out it was all make-believe.
It was a very cold, bone-chilling night.
We woke to a sub-zero morning with steam rising from the lake. Briefly switched on our cell phones for text updates about the previous nights’ Paris Attacks, got dressed in some thermals, then went about gathering firewood for our breakfast fire.
Breakfast consisted of some mixed bean/legume soup, oatmeal, tea and snacks. Alan actually brought some fresh fruit, which was a nice treat from the usual dehydrated ho-hum.
After breakfast, we decided to pack up camp, as we knew we’d like to have a bit of fun and hijinks before we broke camp and headed out.
We spent the next few hours exploring the area, (which we hadn’t really done the last trip in October). We found traces of beaver or otter – and inspected the skull of one. We also located a route around the Northern shore of the lake, and we’ll definitely try to explore farther in on our Spring 2016 trek.
I brought my custom SKS firearm in with us this time, and Drew carried his .308 Ruger American, so we fired off a few rounds from each and did some target practice and drills. The Bushnell First Strike seemed to be a good red dot, but I’ve used it a few outings now (as well as on a bench rest at the range), and it’s simply ALRIGHT at it’s intended use. Quick target acquisition, but the dot seems to jump and jitter slightly when firing. It was only intended as a cheap sight solution on the SKS, but I think I’ll be upgrading to a Vortex eventually (as with all my gun glass). Everyone seemed to really love shooting the SKS.
We broke camp at approximately 12:30hrs. and headed out on the trail. We heard dozens of gun shots early in the AM, and as we got closer to the vehicles, the gun shots became more audible and closer… smart move on our part wearing hunter orange gear during this trip.
It’s always disheartening arriving back at the vehicles after a trek into the wilderness. The stay in the woods is never long enough, and you cling tightly to those moments you share with friends out in the wild.
I suppose those memories are what keep you going in between.