Posts Tagged ‘rain’

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

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Called on Account of Rain

We were sitting at the end of a 2600m portage from Polly Lake into Canisbay.  What had been a steady rain all day suddenly turned into a deluge.  The last of our dry clothes were quickly becoming saturated.  The water was sneaking its way in, wicking up from the bottoms of our long johns and the cuffs of our sleeves.  I gave up trying to hold on to my last dry shirt when a stream of water poured in from off of my hood; a cold gush of water running down my front and pooling at my stomach.  Zach started a round of “put up your hand if…”.  Put up your hand if you wish you could eat some real food.  Put up your hand if you wish you were dry. Put up your hand if you wish you could sleep in your bed.  It was an eight year olds plea to be done, and as I looked around at the hands in the air, I knew that we were all ready to go home.

With the decision made, we sat huddled underneath our canoes turned makeshift shelters to wait out the thunder and lightning.  We watched as great torrents of water washed the dirt down the portage and out into the lake creating a growing cloud of red earth in the black water. When a break finally came, we hustled our way across the lake.  We dug hard, chasing one section of black sky while being chased by another.  We fought to keep ourselves under the one small patch of blue sky that we’d seen in days.  We’d barely reached the shore when the second system hit with a boom and a great downpour of water quickly created pools and waves up and down the beach.  We were done.  We were going home.

low water levels expose rock obstacles

my foot day two

Let me tell you a little bit about what started as a three week, but ended as a two week canoe trip in Algonquin Park.  We experienced some of the most extreme tripping conditions that I’ve ever seen.  Tremendously dry weather prior to our arrival saw a fire ban put in place.  The lack of rain caused the lowest water levels that I have ever seen in the park and turned the creeks into a mix of thick mud and exposed rock.  It was very difficult paddling and in some places required impromptu portaging, dragging, pushing and liftovers of the boats.  It made for very slow and arduous travel and required lots of sterning finesse.  While at times frustrating, it felt kind of awesome working our way through the puzzles.  As friends and family saw us off, we were assured that if we couldn’t have a good old campfire, at least the lack of rain would see little or no mosquitos.  That  was not the case.  At least as the weather turned bad the bites were isolated to my hands and face as the rest of me was covered with a raincoat and pants.

The joke between Fraser and I before we left was that following the recent drought, the first three

rainbow

weeks of August were bound to set a record for rain and guess what… the two days before we called it quits saw more rain than the entire month of August usually does.  This was great for the park, but a soggy mess for us.  The rain began on our first day and only a couple of our days were dry.  The problem was that with a fire ban still in place it was tricky to dry ourselves out.  Mostly we just stayed damp.  With days starting early and ending late, there was very little time to hang out our clothes and gear and we often found ourselves setting up our tent under the tarp because it was still raining when we hit our site for the night.  Wrinkly toes were the norm.  When we heard that the fire ban had been lifted on day 11, we were thrilled!  I then proceeded to burn two holes in my pants and melt Fraser’s socks in an attempt to dry out.  Oops.

big water on Burntroot

I realize that this is sounding like a hellish trip.  It was not.  Algonquin is a gorgeous park in all weather.  The rain allowed for dramatic skies and even rainbows.  The kids loved that we brought along fishing rods and spent hours fishing the banks of our sites.  We got so deep into the park that there were nights when we were the only people on the entire lake.  We listened to the wolves howling at night and the loons calling across the water.  And the frogs!  There were thousands of them.  They were EVERYWHERE and we all love catching frogs.  The highlights of the trip?  We did indeed manage to find the abandoned alligator on Burntroot as well as the remains of the Barnet Depot Farm.  The water on Burntroot was huge with whitecaps and a headwind, but we all managed the paddle beautifully and it was sunny that day so spirits were high.  I also celebrated doing my first 1000m+ portage carrying a canoe without putting it down and then proceeded to smash that by doing a 2200m!  High-fives all around.  We found a moose skull complete with antlers at the end of a portage.  Very cool.  The boys did an AMAZING job.  Their packs were so heavy that I could barely dead lift them high enough to help put them on.  They doubled-back every portage with us and never ever complained.  They pulled hard water in freezing rain, ate freeze-dried dinners huddled under a tarp, played cards by headlamp in a tent getting pushed around by wind and pelted by rain, all the while smiling and laughing and joking.  They are so hardcore it brings a tear to my eye.

alligator

So the trip was not what we had planned.  We are disappointed in not having finished our intended route, but we are not disappointed in ourselves.  We had a wonderful trip full of unforgettable moments and found an inner strength and determination not yet tested to these limits.  Will this experience discourage us in any way from going back?  Just try to stop us.

Tempest in a Teapot

Weather is a magnificent beast. The sun can beat down, the rain can pour, the snow can pack you in. You can

spring - hike out of Algonquin

experience all the weather extremes in the backcountry. The elements can be a challenge to a camper both physically and psychologically. You must accept that conditions are not always going to be ideal, but a trip can be all the better for it. Testing your mettle is a part of the game. The key is not to blow it out of proportion. It is not the end of the world if you get wet. Plan, plan, plan.

a rainy day view

When planning a trip, take into consideration the season that you are tripping in. In the early spring or late fall, it is almost inevitable that you will go to sleep on a nice cool evening and wake up to a blanket of snow. Plan for it! Bring proper clothing and you’ll be laughing…and taking great pictures! Layer, layer, layer. In shoulder seasons, you can have nice warm days and very cold nights. In order to make the best use of your packing space, and ensure you are comfortable in any weather condition, dress in layers. Long underwear, quick dry pants and top, fleece, down vest or sweater, waterproof shell pants/jacket, hat and gloves. You can take off what you don’t need, or add what you do for a perfect fit. One thing to keep in mind if it might rain, but still be cold, is down loses its loft and

a rainy morning

therefore its ability to insulate when it gets wet. You must keep down dry, both jackets AND sleeping bags.

In the summer, plan for rain. Bring a tarp. You’re going to want to have somewhere to sit and cook if the weather turns bad. You don’t want to have to hide in your tent for hours on end. If it’s a moving trip and it’s raining when the time comes to pack up camp, pack up inside your tent or under the tarp. Leave the tarp for the last and try to keep everything dry. Use dry bags for packing your sleeping bags and clothes…well, use dry bags for everything if you’ve got enough! If you’re on a paddling trip, you should be doing this anyway in case your boat dumps. In the summer, wet clothing and gear is uncomfortable, but in the cold, wetness translates into potential danger. Anyone who has experienced or come close to getting hypothermia can tell you it’s no joke. Make sure you fully understand what you’re getting yourself into.

Like so many things in life, camping can be a head game. You are going to have as much fun as you allow yourself to have. It can be pouring rain and you are miserable about it, or it can be pouring rain and you have a blast. Either way, it’s raining. You can’t control, the weather, but you can control how you deal with it. Have fun for

perfect layers for spring

goodness sake, it’s up to you!

Rarely have I found myself in over my head. If you’re planning on taking little ones with you though, you must take extra precautions. Don’t skimp on the right gear. Don’t skimp on the planning and research. Tell someone where you are going and when you are supposed to be back. Always leave your plans with someone back home and let them know what you’d like them to do if you don’t check in when you are supposed to. Don’t take unnecessary risks with your family. Make smart choices to ensure everyone’s safety. Most of all though have a good time no matter what the weather. Rain and snow? Bring it on!

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