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Author Topic: Algonquin trip - Dec 20-22 2015 [pic heavy]  (Read 5948 times)

Offline Marko_Mrko

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Algonquin trip - Dec 20-22 2015 [pic heavy]
« on: December 26, 2015, 11:39:03 pm »
Hi all,

We had a lovely winter-ish trip in Algonquin last week. As our departure date approached, the temperatures just wouldn't go down. It was a balmy 10-12C the week before the trip, with no snow on the ground and we debated whether to take canoes or sleds. As we were driving up from London on Friday night (Dec 19th), there was a foot of snow dumped in narrow bands off the Georgian Bay, and we hoped some would land in Algonquin. It was mainly hitting the QE2 Wildlands area, but we didn't want to risk going too far south, as the temperatures were just hovering around 0C, and the snow would turn to rain.

We arrived at the West Gate in Algonquin around 10:30, and after a small hassle with the park staff (warned about temperatures, logging, getting lost), we were off. The temps were around -3C, and there was about 1-2" of snow on the ground. Our put-in was the portage to Black Fox Lake off Highway 60 (just past 35km marker). Our entire weekend route is below (marked in red).



We had three sleds: one beeeautiful toboggan (now mine, thanks Gerry!) - I didn't take it as I was worried it would get scraped up and carried a 60L food barrel; one blue Pelican 8' toboggan ($2 from CT) and a freight toboggan from Home Hardware ($40).



Lakes and bogs were frozen over with 1/2" of ice (Bluebird Lake):


We started off on the portage trail, there was a fork in the trail just past Bluebird Lake - we had a choice of taking a logging road/dog sled trail, continuing the low-maintenance portage. Given there were two blow-downs in the first 20 meters, we chose to take the logging road. Although very broad and well-maintained, there are quite a few hills, as we gained a total of 60m elevation over the length of the trail. The Pelican sled wore through at the back after 2-3km. This was likely due to the lack of snow, but the HH sled performed really well.

We rejoined the portage after another 3km, and went to check out Black Fox Lake:


After exploring the logging road for another 500m (where it gains another 30m in elevation), we decided it wasn't worthwhile hauling the sleds. We went back to the Black Fox portage to set up camp. We have the Atuk Kanguk 12x12, it sleeps 3 comfortably.


Dinner that night was steaks. Speaking of cooking, I do own two stoves - Alaskan Kni-Co (around $300) and the Great West 2-hole stove ($105 plus $15 shipping from LeBaron's), but I do use the Kni-Co chimney. There is no question that the Kni-Co is sturdier, especially the door. However, the two pot-holes are really good for boiling water, frying and grilling. The hole covers are provided and fit reasonably well (there is some draw, but you just decrease the baffle).

The nice thing about the pot holes, is that they are spaced perfectly to accommodate three steaks across a Purcell Packer grill:


Night time temperatures dropped to -5C, and I was perfectly comfortable with my three season sleeping quilt (I did feed the fire once overnight).




The morning was lovely, with another two inches of snow overnight. The morning temps were around -2C, but they appeared to be rising and snow mixed with rain. After breakfast, I made the hot lunches (pulled pork and soup) and packed them into Thermoses to save prep time. We explored the trails from Black Fox L to Red Fox L, hoping to find the campsite on Red Fox L.

Bog by Otter Pond:


Red Fox Lake looking from the portage:


We tried to find the campsite on Red Fox Lake. As we couldn't walk on ice, we decided to bushwack - we were not able to find the campsite due to the steep banks, and the heavy tree density close to the water. As a canoeist with 30 trips to Algonquin, I never noticed the tree growth patterns around the lakes. There is thick spruce and cedar (perhaps other evergreen too?) growing along the shores of the lakes, but only within about 20 meters of the shore. Here I am trying to enter the evergreen jungle:


However, after 20-30 meters away from the shore, the tree species become exclusively deciduous hardwoods: maple, polar, birches. Much easier to walk through them, as the undergrowth has died down for the winter:


After our unsuccessful mission, we orienteered back through to bush back to the portage using only a compass. Fun times. Back at the campsite, it was only 3:30PM, so we decided to go through the bush again to find the camp on Black Fox Lake.
 
Black Fox to Silverfox portage:


We did find this one. Note the folding chair that someone carried on a 4.5km portage to the site. Why, people, why?


We saw a lot of grouse. Also saw an interesting set of tracks. My guess is river otter, anyone know for sure?


Back at the campsite, we just couldn't get the fire started. The stove smoked regardless of wood or technique. That's when we realized the spark arrestor was clogged with creosote. The fire blazed within 2 minutes of removing the stove pipe cap. Lesson learned. Dinner was Shepher's pie. I'm not sure how, but I made a total of 3.5L (two full pots). We only ate one and a half of the pots.

Temps were getting warm by the end of the day, around 0C. After some lovely wine (me) and scotch (the other guys), we slept well. Rain started around midnight. We woke up around 730, there was still a light drizzle. We had a cold breakfast and quickly packed up (the tent was wet and heavy). With the warming temperatures, we wanted to make sure there was enough snow to pull the sleds back to the car.





Otter Pond, frozen on the way in, had melted.


Nevertheless, we made it back to the car by 1130. Overall it was a great trip, looking forward to February (was hoping to go the first week of Jan, but clearly not gonna happen).

Lessons learned:
1) Kni-Co stove caps should not be used with resinous wood unless the spark arrestor is cut out.
2) 3L pot or larger would be good for a group of 3 guys (we had a 2L and 1.5L, it was a bit of a chore to boil all the required water).
3) SealLine pack start becoming hard around -5C. Probably would crack if it got any colder.
4) Thermos lunch, prepared at breakfast, was great and quick.
5) Longer guy lines for the tent would be nice. They are about 20 feet, but 30 feet would be perfect.

Cheers,
Marko
« Last Edit: December 26, 2015, 11:56:59 pm by Marko_Mrko »

Offline jerryswiss

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Re: Algonquin trip - Dec 20-22 2015 [pic heavy]
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2015, 07:19:43 am »
Sweet! Thanks Marko for the pics and the map. I love to see exactly where people are going. Looks like tough sledding, but fun.
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Offline Bioguide

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Re: Algonquin trip - Dec 20-22 2015 [pic heavy]
« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2015, 08:00:29 am »
Thanks for the trip report and pics.

Offline arcticmag

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Re: Algonquin trip - Dec 20-22 2015 [pic heavy]
« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2015, 11:30:04 am »
Nice job on getting out during the window of opportunity. Hope winter comes your way soon.

I like the variety of woods there. Wish we had more hardwoods in our area.
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Offline MizMoosie

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Re: Algonquin trip - Dec 20-22 2015 [pic heavy]
« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2015, 12:16:21 pm »
Nice trip report!  It is always better to get out for a short trip in less than ideal conditions that to not get out at all...
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Offline TZBrown

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Re: Algonquin trip - Dec 20-22 2015 [pic heavy]
« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2015, 01:50:10 pm »
Nice trip report and pictures

Thanks for taking us along
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Offline HOOP

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Re: Algonquin trip - Dec 20-22 2015 [pic heavy]
« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2015, 01:56:38 pm »
Thanks for posting that TR Marko!   I have not been out yet so I am soaking it all up. 

Good for you that you got out despite the poor conditions.  I almost started to sweat just looking at those melting conditions - Been there, and nothing dries, and the clothing gets really damp. 

Thanks for posting the "Lessons Learned".  The Kni-co pipe cap spark arrestor screen needs to be cut off as you mentioned.  After that its a great pipe cap with the side tabs which fit by friction.  Its one of those messages that needs to be sent out continuously. 

Pot volume:   Yes good lesson on the pot volume.  I think a good rule of thumb for winter groups is bare minimum 2L capacity per person, and better at 3L per person, especially if you like hot wash water to wash and rinse the dishes pots and pans.  Its one of those interesting trade-off debates:  more weight on the sled causing slower sled haul and more physical work, but time at camp is made up with boiling efficiency and less firewood needed per boil. 

For solo I use a luxurious capacity at about 5L-6L across 3 pots, sometimes 4.  Actual water in each pot is much less (well below rim), since pots are rated rather generously.  I like alot of hot water since I always do hot wash and rinse for the pots and pans.  Now that I have light titanium and anodized aluminum pots, I can justify the volume, and it nests anyway.     
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Offline GearFreak

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Re: Algonquin trip - Dec 20-22 2015 [pic heavy]
« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2015, 04:42:48 pm »
Nice report - like how you added a gps track to the map.  Do you have those maps as a set in your GPS?  I had the same issue the first time out with the kni-co arrestor as well.

Looks like a fun outing thanks for posting.
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Offline cousin Pete

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Re: Algonquin trip - Dec 20-22 2015 [pic heavy]
« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2015, 08:51:09 pm »
Hello Marko_Mrko: Nice report and pictures.  Hats off to you doing the trip with as little snow as there was.  You definitely need to ditch the screen on the spark arrestor.  I learned that lesson the hard way on day two and morning two of my first hot tenting trip.  Thanks for sharing.  I have a trip planned for the third week in December.

Take care,
Cousin Pete
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Offline ravinerat

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Re: Algonquin trip - Dec 20-22 2015 [pic heavy]
« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2015, 09:24:29 am »
Great report on your trip. Looks soggy and marginal  temps. I was thinking on attaching my toboggan to my canoe cart and wheel my gear in. Hope we at least get some freezing temps here in Ont to get the lakes and swamps frozen. Look forward to your next adventure.

RR
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Offline phorisc

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Re: Algonquin trip - Dec 20-22 2015 [pic heavy]
« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2015, 12:21:08 pm »
awesome trip report :) Thanks for sharing!
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Offline Marko_Mrko

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Re: Algonquin trip - Dec 20-22 2015 [pic heavy]
« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2015, 02:17:14 pm »
Thanks guys!

@RR: The staff at the west gate warned me against using a cart, as I was going on the logging roads. Apparently, they've threatened to fine someone at that path.

@CP: I've updated the spark arrestor, just posted new pictures of it in action. Pretty good, if I may say so. http://www.wintertrekking.com/community/index.php?topic=3791.0

Also, I'm hoping you meant 3rd week of January, not December - otherwise  I think you missed it :o Are you going to the Sunday Lake, or somewhere else?

@GF: I'm paranoid about electronics failing in the field, especially in the winter.

I don't actually own a GPS, I used my cell phone - I brought the cell phone, and recorded the track. Kept it in my pants pocket, where it was nice and warm, and hung it in a ditty bag at the top of the tent overnight. The battery was down to 60% after three days.

When I got home, I downloaded the GPS tracks onto Google Earth, and I also downloaded Jeff's Algonquin Map for Google Earth. And took the screenshot of the track. Easy :D

Although I never use the GPS as a navigation aid, but it was nice to have and double-check the direction one time at a 4-way junction as we trekked down unmarked logging roads.

Cheers,
Marko

Offline ravinerat

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Re: Algonquin trip - Dec 20-22 2015 [pic heavy]
« Reply #12 on: December 28, 2015, 02:48:54 pm »
In the summer we have used canoe carts on old logging roads to pull our gear in 5 km to fish some lakes. They never seemed to have an issue with it. Is it just winter they care about? Lots of other places to that are Crown Land as long as there is no snow.

RR
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Offline Marko_Mrko

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Re: Algonquin trip - Dec 20-22 2015 [pic heavy]
« Reply #13 on: December 28, 2015, 04:31:32 pm »
In Algonquin I think they frown on it. No rationale for it, park rules. Maybe call the West Gate to check?

M

Offline ravinerat

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Re: Algonquin trip - Dec 20-22 2015 [pic heavy]
« Reply #14 on: December 28, 2015, 05:55:03 pm »
I actually wouldn't be doing it in Algonquin. Too many places that are free to camp. The trip we used to do and the others are still doing it for about 20 + years the MNR have never said anything about it. Get checked out every year.

RR
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