A few weeks back, I was talking to some folks on Twitter about getting in the last paddle of the year. Which then turned into “I’ve never been cold weather camping, how about we do a one nighter some where? I’ve never been to the Kawarthas.” They were immediately in, but I had to convince my husband. So when he picked me up from work that night I said, “how much would it take to convince you to go on a canoe camping trip in the middle of November?” “I don’t need any convincing” he said. “It’s you I’m worried about.” “Well I want to try winter camping so this would be a good transition.”
So we had a plan. Myself, my husband and my sister, would meet Dj, and the Paddle In crew at the Bottle Lake access for 11am Saturday November 15th.
I would spend the next few weeks constantly monitoring the weather. We could expect snow, and a low of -8C overnight. Dj unfortunately cancelled due to lack of proper gear. Even though I had a sleeping bag rated to -20C and plenty of warm clothes, I was still worried about how I would handle it overnight.
We left at 7am on Saturday morning. It was an odd feeling scraping frost off the windshield the morning of a camping trip.
It was even weirder driving in the snow with a canoe strapped to the roof of the car.
We wondered what people thought as they saw us driving. I figured they would rationalize with themselves ‘maybe they’re putting it in storage’ but no. Just a couple of crazy people looking to go camping.
We made excellent time getting to the park, and arrived at exactly 11am.
The Paddle In crew had already been at the park for a few hours. They paddled to our site, got everything set up, gathered fire wood and paddled back to the access point to meet us.
While we waited, we walked the short portage to Bottle Lake. There was already a dusting of snow, and a thin layer of ice on the edge of the lake. But I was already enjoying the quiet.
We had met the Paddle In crew back in September at the My Wild Canada campout at Algonquin Park. It was great to finally be getting out for a paddle with them and do a little back country camping.
We loaded up our canoe and launched on Bottle Lake, paddling through a small patch of ice along the way mainly for the fun of it. There was a little wind, but didn’t make it hard to paddle. We had a short paddle to the portage at Sucker Lake.
The portage was short, but was uphill with lots of rocks, roots, and wet leaves. But when we got there, the wind was calm, the water still and they sky was blue with fluffy clouds. Perfect paddling.
Again, it was a short paddle to our island campsite 127. We landed, and looked for a spot to set up our tent.
We set up just down hill from the other tents where we were sheltered in the trees in front of a huge rock. It was the perfect spot. Our tent was seldom disturbed by the wind.
We spent the afternoon socializing and had some lunch. My toes were starting to get cold so I decided to take a walk around the island. Maybe gather some firewood while I was at it.
It was a rather big island. I had wandered a bit far off into the brush, and had a bit of trouble finding my way back. But it was an island, how lost could I get.
We spent the rest of the night talking about everything under the sun, and having many a laugh.
Some time between 9 and 10 we decided to call it a night. This was going to be the real test as to whether or not I could handle cold weather camping.
To bed I wore, hiking socks, wool socks and fleece socks, wool pants and fleece pants, a wicking layer, a wool top, two fleece sweaters, mitts, a tuque and I pulled my Buff over top of my mouth. I have a mummy bag so I slid down into my bag, and pulled the draw string closed so there was only the smallest of openings. For the first few hours my feet and bum were slightly cold, but not uncomfortably so.
But as the night progressed I was warm and cozy inside my sleeping bag. But it also helped that I was sandwiched between two warm bodies in the tent as well.
In the morning we woke to a light dusting of snow, and were greeted by Whiskey.
The wind and snow had been picking up throughout the morning, and I was beginning to dread the paddle out. No one wants to paddle into a head wind.
We slowly packed our belongings and left camp behind at around 11am. The paddle out was not as bad as I had expected. There were a few shorts gusts of wind, but it wasn’t difficult. At the end of the portage we posed for one last group shot.
We were all in such good spirits, in spite of the fact I couldn’t feel my toes!
In the parking lot we packed up our cars, and said our goodbyes with the promise of more trips to come. We really enjoyed eachothers company, and it can be so hard to find others willing to do these kinds of activities.
We hopped in our car and left to go visit the Canadian Canoe Museum. We missed it the last and only other time we’d been in Peterborough and it seemed a fitting way to end the weekend.
I’m really glad that this trip turned out as well as it did. I was worried I would be cold and miserable and wouldn’t want to do another cold weather trip. Next is to try some winter camping. Hot tent style. In the spring, there are talks of meeting Dj for a short trip, and we’re already talking about a week long trip with the Paddle In crew some time next summer. I can’t wait!