Posts Tagged ‘killarney’

The Worst Portage EVER

At the bottom and ready to tough it out

At the bottom and ready to tough it out

The Pig, the Hump, the Grind, call it what you will, it is a beast.  Stretching on for 1320 meters and uphill both ways, this stretch of interior that runs between Artist Lake and Three Narrows in Ontario’s Killarney Provincial Park is a rock laden ankle-twister.  We had the not so pleasurable pleasure of completing this exercise in masochism both coming and going.  The first time we hiked it, the ground was fairly dry, the air temperature was comfortable and it was sunny.  It still sucked.DSC_0290

You may recall that Fraser and I disagreed as to whether we could claim to have portaged this portage if there was no canoe present.  I’m here to tell you that the point is moot.  I promised all within earshot that I would carry a boat up and over that monster when pigs could fly… and maybe not even then.  Because I will never truly portage the Pig, I don’t have the credentials to weigh in on the matter.  I do however want to express my deepest respect for all who have battled the beast for real and won.

As I watched the worst portage ever get smaller in my rear-view, I was sure that would be the last I’d see of it for, well for forever I hoped.  I was all too wrong.  When we later came to a washed out river crossing and had to make the painful decision to turn around, it didn’t even occur to me that meant having to do battle again.  This time however, the portage was running angry.  We’d get a second crueller kick at the can.

The "are you kidding me?!" face

The “are you kidding me?!” face

The first time we climbed its rocky stairs, it was the worst.  The second time we climbed it, it was the WORST.  After days of rain, the narrowed corridor ran like a river.  The ankle deep water poured down the incline and we were herded straight up the middle by its impossibly deep bathtub sides.  With no escape to higher ground and unable to avoid a total soaker, we could only give in and trudge along beaten by the Grind…in the rain, in the cold and already defeated from our failed hike.  This is however, something that every Ontario tripper must attempt at least once in their career in order to check it off the list.  You can’t call yourself serious and avoid this one.   At the best of times, this portage was awful.  At the worst of times, this was the worst portage EVER.

A little bit damp

A little bit damp

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La Cloche: Denied.

It happened again. I don’t know why, but I can only imagine that we are going to have awesome tripping weather in our next lives. Unfortunately in this life, we got shut out again. We hit the La Cloche Silhouette Trail with overcast skies. The air was cool, which is great for hiking, and the bugs were thick like a perpetual fog…which is not so good for hiking. We knew going in that this would be the case though. We will choose black flies and mosquitos over crowds and heat every time.

There were a ton of little river crossing that involved balance walking across logs, rock hopping and using beaver dams as makeshift bridges to make it from one side of hazards to the other. These were fun and felt like mini adventures breaking up the entirely inland hiking at this point. We made great time that first day and set up camp without any troubles. A good day.

A big first step

A big first step

During the night it poured rain. The boys and I love sleeping in a tent to the sound of rain pelting the fly. It’s a bit of a pain when your gear gets wet, but it’s manageable if you get a break every few days to dry it out again. We didn’t get that break. The rain that first night in addition to the spring run-off, was the beginning of our troubles.

Not too far into day two, it was time to pull out the pack rain covers. The trail quickly began to wash out. The low-lying areas became flooded and the ground turned from rocks and roots to a downright swamp. We tried our best to keep our feet dry by finding the highest ground and weaving our way around, but this made for very slow progress. We were on trail for a very long time and didn’t make our next destination before deciding that nine hours on our feet with fully loaded packs was enough. We grabbed a very unpleasant emergency site to hunker down in for the night. We were wet. We were cold. We were hungry. And for the first time in twenty years, Fraser had developed a blister. It was an ugly one. It turned my stomach just to look at it. He never complained and after taping it up, we barely mentioned it again. That’s one tough trooper.

Yup. The majority of the trail became this wet.

Yup. The majority of the trail became this wet.

After packing up our wet gear and pulling on our wet boots…I HATE wet boots, we carried on. It was half-way through day three that we hit our downfall. As we approached what should have been a routine river crossing, we could hear even before we saw, that there was trouble. The roaring sounds coming up from behind a crest sounded like a waterfall. When we came around the bend, my stomach dropped. Surely this wasn’t the place that we were supposed to cross. There must be a bridge or a crossing further up? But no, the raging river we were looking at was indeed where we were supposed to be (check out a video of the craziness). Fraser and I looked at each other wide-eyed. The kids just looked sick. After studying the problem and Fraser managing to cross the torrent back-and-forth a couple of times trying to rig up a rope system for safety, we asked the kids what they thought. “Do you want to give it a try?” They said they would, but the terror in their eyes said otherwise. Don’t let your ego rule, be a good parent, turn around.

THIS is where we're supposed to cross?

THIS is where we’re supposed to cross?

Sometimes the hardest decision to make is the one to turn around and go back. Going backwards is always a difficult thing. Making progress means moving forward, one foot in front of the other and all that. Going back to the beginning is something that has to be done from time to time and when that choice has been made with thoughtfulness and consideration and for the right reasons, then it is right decision. With a deep sigh, we turned on heel and headed back with a new goal. We didn’t have campsite reservations so we’d have to move quickly to limit our chances of arriving at a site that was already occupied. If we could manage to get out in two days we’d only need to stay one unauthorized night and also avoid the coming weekend. Off we went, hiking double-time.

Here is where the story gets crazy. Do you remember all of those straight-forward river crossings that we did on the way in? Well, by the time we reached them again on the way out, they were all two feet under water. Raging, swirling, angry water. The air temperature was only 4C at this point and it was obvious that we were going to have to get wet to get home. That first step in, up to your knee in water doing its best to pull you down, so cold that it takes your breath away…it was the first step of hundreds more like it still to come.

This wasn't here before...

This wasn’t here before…

We got to experience the “hump” aka the “grind” aka the “pig”, in all of its watery glory on the hike out (see Don’t Worry Honey…It’s Still Gonna Suck). Needless to say, that section alone deserves its own post, for now I’ll simply say that it did indeed suck. In the end, we got out in two days, staying one night at a thankfully unoccupied site. Hundreds of bug bites, a couple of blisters, wrinkly feet, runny noses (did I mention that three of us got colds on the trip?), frozen fingers and legs so stiff that we drew attention from strangers at the fast food joint we hit for dinner. It was CRAZY. And yeah, we’ll probably do it again. Soon.

We can have fun anywhere in any weather

We can have fun anywhere in any weather

Don’t Worry Honey…It’s Still Gonna Suck

We were out at dinner the other night and an interesting debate ensued. As you know, our family will be hiking the LaCloche Sihouette Trail in May. Fraser was hyping up the trip for the boys and stated proudly, “now you guys can say that you’ve done “The Hump”!”. The Hump AKA The Grind AKA The Pig, for those not in the know is a grueling 1320m portage that runs between Artist Lake and Three Narrows. It’s a stretch of rocky, ankle twisting, uphill slogging that tends to run like a river in the wetter months (read: when we are going). It is painful and soul crushing and only the most devoted portager (read: crazy, read: Fraser has done it a few times) would do it with a boat on their shoulders.

NOT the Hump/Pig...it's way too hard to take a pic and portage it at the same time!

NOT the Hump/Pig…it’s way too hard to take a pic and portage it at the same time!

I turned to Fraser with a look of skepticism. “No they can’t!”. And so the debate begins…

We can’t possibly claim to have done The Hump because we won’t be portaging it, we will be hiking it! Fraser looks back at me and says that he’d like to see me say that to the face of someone who carried the portage pack and not the boat…would they not be able to claim to have done it just because they were boat free?

My argument? Portage packs are WAY heavier and don’t provide the same support, nor are they loaded as impeccably as a backpack that you’d be carrying for days on end. Portaging involves carrying an unreasonably heavy load in an imperfectly fitted pack that while thoughtfully arranged, hasn’t been “Tetris-ed” the way a hiking pack has been. The reverse would be saying that it is equally difficult to HIKE the whole trail with a canoe or portage pack!

We've hiked our share of steep hills!

We’ve hiked our share of steep hills!

We went back and forth on the issue (I truly believe that Fraser agrees with me and was just trying to get my goat) much to the amusement of the rest of the family. In the end he settled the debate with the simple statement… Don’t worry honey, it’s still gonna suck.

And so it will dear. So it will.

Anybody out there done this section of Killarney?  Who do you side with?

Do You Know What I’d Like to Do?

Oh that familiar line of questioning that inevitably lands us smack dab in the middle of our most ambitious adventures.

Just last night I heard those magic words and so a new adventure begins.  Our big hike in Pukaskwa  last spring lit a fire in our tripping bellies.  Our newest plan, hatched by my hubby, will see us clambering over the peaks of the La Cloche Silhouette Trail in Killarney Provincial Park.  Too late in the season to attempt it this year, we plan on tackling it next spring.

Our hike in May of this year has taught us that spring hiking is where it’s at.  While we were plagued by black flies and rain, the temperature was ideal for lugging heavy packs and scaling steep slopes.  While we have visited Killarney many many times, it has always been by canoe.  We did get a small taste of La Cloche when we climbed silver peak in 2011.  It was much harder than we anticipated, but with Pukaskwa under our belts, we’re not concerned whether the boys can do it or not.  We KNOW they can!
We are looking at a 7-10 day route covering 100km and I can’t imagine that we can get our packs any lighter than last time (I’m looking at you Thermarest Neoair XLite, the love of my tripping life), but the boys will be that much bigger and stronger (I picked up a 55 litre pack for Luke!) so Fraser and I will get a little bit of a break on this hike…phew!  We can’t wait and now that I’ve officially agreed to another serious hike after vowing that Pukaskwa was my last (don’t worry, I always swear off tripping after a tough one…lol!) I’ve been told that there are no take-backs.

And the boys, how do they feel about lacing up the hikers again?  Zach says he only wishes that it could be harder.  He wants to set another record.  That’s my boy.

Stone Cold Crazy

As you know, our family booked a yurt up in Killarney with visions of skiing and snowshoeing dancing in our heads. I checked the weather almost hourly in the weeks leading up to our departure. When one website would show a disappointing forecast, I’d bounce to another one. Alas, they all read the same…warm and rainy. Boo.
Much to my delight on the 26th of December, it finally forecasted some snow. My hopes were reignited. Only a few days to go and the white stuff was a happy possibility.

Killarney December 31, 2011

Well things don’t always go as planned. As it turns out, Killarney got a small dusting of snow, turning the landscape picturesque. It was not however, enough snow to go snowshoeing or skiing, and the ice wasn’t even thick enough to support a snowball tossed onto its lacy surface let alone a midnight skate. It did make for a beautiful hike along the La Cloche trail with a stop for lunch perched on the edge of a beaver lodge. Lunch with some beavers? I’ll take it. The yurt was warm and the company was fabulous. All in all, it was the best New Year’s Eve ever.

lunching at the lodge

The second part of my story goes like this. Winter has finally come. A couple of weeks late for our last trip, but as luck would have it, just in time for hubby’s next one. After his weekly hockey game tonight Fraser was filling me in on his plans for a trip to Algonquin leaving first thing Monday morning. He was talking gear, as he often does, and which sleeping bag and clothes he would be toting along. I asked if he’d been checking the weather reports, as I’d stopped my hourly updates after we’d returned from Killarney. He took out his phone and clicked on the weather site, I craned over his shoulder for a peek and burst out laughing. The verdict? -22 at night Saturday and Sunday. I admit that it will be warmer on Monday, but I still couldn’t stop the giggles. THERE was the cold weather I’d been wishing for, but he won’t be in a cozy yurt. Nope, he and his pal will be roughing it open air. Do not consider me jealous. I come from hardy stock, but the thought of -22 is not appealing to me. I told him to take lots of pictures and I promise to share some with you upon his return. I’m sure he’ll have some stories to tell.

ice on George Lake, Killarney

With that, I hope everyone out there is warm and cozy. I know I will be grateful come early next week when the kidlets and I are playing board games by the fireplace, thinking of Fraser enjoying all that a winter in Ontario has to throw at him. And I hope that you all will be thankful for your own cozy beds when the mercury drops. Sleep tight!

Old Time Killarney Fun

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Let It Snow, Let It Snow, PLEASE Let It Snow!

The hope of a white Christmas has come and gone. It was not meant to be this year. However hope of a white New Year still burns in my heart. You see, months ago Fraser formulated a fabulous plan to spend the eve of 2012 in our beloved Killarney Provincial Park. I thought him a genius. Now, just two days from departure, I’m rethinking that title.

dreamy winter camping

This has been an unusually warm and decidedly snow-free December. Dreams of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing our way into January are impossible at this point. My best chance for a dreamy picture-perfect ending to our year rest in the lake’s ice being thick enough for us to skate on. It should be pretty glassy with the lack of pock-marking snowfall, but it would be wonderful if snow were to gently fall on us while we are playing a midnight game of hockey!

pausing for a picture in algonquin

We’ve gathered up our warmest gear and planned some tasty meals. We’ve dug out our skates and sticks, as well as our hiking poles and boots. We will be prepared for whatever weather is going to meet us at the end of our drive. And while I’m hoping for an unexpected blizzard to hit overnight, the alternative if the weather refuses to cooperate is a headlamp lit hike up a peak at midnight. Either way, we’re launching a new year with a taste of Ontario’s best. Not a bad way to welcome what is sure to be our best year yet. To all our friends and family…Happy New Year! We’ll catch you on the flip side 😉

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