Back to Basics

"Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action. Even the sick should try these so-called dangerous passes, because for every unfortunate they kill, they cure a thousand. "
- John Muir

 

This is one of my favourite quotes. I believe it to be true and I would testify that I have lived to experience it in so many ways. While we do not have mountain passes here in Ontario, we have the most stunning provincial parks filled with opportunity, adventure, and wild. Recently, Kyle and I took to the trail in search of a mixture of solitude, togetherness, and a little grit; we found exactly what we were looking for in Algonquin Park. 

 

I have explored this exact route several times before albeit many years ago, once leading a group of youth in a leadership program and again on my first solo trip. This trail was therefore a fitting adventure with me in a new life chapter (wife, mom, ... adult) and Kyle in his first backcountry trip. Despite having traveled down this particular trail (Western Uplands) several times before, the trail seemed new to me. I suppose that nature can do that to you - take something you have experienced before and make it seemingly new over and over. I love this wild magic. 

Backpacking is definitely my favourite type of camping. I enjoy the simplicity of having everything you need on your back. This method forces you to pare life down a little bit, to be mindful about your wants and needs, and to enjoy a life a little less complicated. My dirty clothes (I wore one pair of pants the entire trip), simple meals, and pillow-less sleeps did indeed, as John Muir says, 'set me free.' It opened up space for other things, different conversations, increase awareness, and a solid values check. I left this trip feeling sad yet fulfilled, connected, and strong. I suppose since I went into this adventure looking for a mixed-bag it was only fair that I came out with one. 

 6 Mile hike in. 

6 Mile hike in. 

Campfire from the night #1: It is amazing how simple it is to create a backcountry campfire compared to a car-camping trip with bought and pre-packaged wood. There were so many dead-wood options for logs, kindling, and fire starters. This fire was easy to light, fun to maintain, and the hunting and gathering of wood made it that much sweeter. 

We borrowed this hammock from a good friend who also lent Kyle some backcountry gear. It is now on my wish list!  We spent the entire first evening in the hammock enjoying the sunset (see above picture). It was magical. 

Dinner #1: Chana Masala and Couscous with Red Wine. Wine tetra packs are amazing for enjoying this luxury (ahem.. necessity :) in the backcountry. 

 The beginning of the sunset at Maggie Lake.  

The beginning of the sunset at Maggie Lake.  

 Breakfast: PB and Chocolate Oatmeal

The trail. 

Meal Prep for Dinner #2: Pasta

Straining the pasta from dinner #2 into another pot to then be discarded and buried away from the camp and the water. Leave no trace. 

Dinner #2 with the remainder of the red wine by the water. 

 Bear hang. Safe camping and good etiquette. 

Bear hang. Safe camping and good etiquette. 

Pack out what you pack in! So many great strategies for garbage storage. We used large freezer zip locks. One large ziplock bag fit ALL of our garbage for three days PLUS random garbage we picked up to help clean the campsite (beer caps, a glove, zip ties, etc) and there was still lots of space to spare. We found significantly more items that were left behind by their owners at our first site but did not have the space to pack them out (full large tarp in bag, clothes, etc). Pack it out people... PACK IT OUT!

 Backcountry pooping is a serious topic. More on this another time, but for now... me keeping it regular in a backcountry outhouse. First night was a Thunderbox and second night an Outhouse... we were spoiled! Still brought along the trusty trowel just in case. 

Backcountry pooping is a serious topic. More on this another time, but for now... me keeping it regular in a backcountry outhouse. First night was a Thunderbox and second night an Outhouse... we were spoiled! Still brought along the trusty trowel just in case. 

 August has cool mornings and nights. The best temperature in my books. 

August has cool mornings and nights. The best temperature in my books. 

 I spent most of the time at our campsites in bare feet. The ground was so warm and soft, relatively untouched by urban grime. The bottoms of my feet are dirty with speckled sap spots and I was good with it.

I spent most of the time at our campsites in bare feet. The ground was so warm and soft, relatively untouched by urban grime. The bottoms of my feet are dirty with speckled sap spots and I was good with it.

 View from the inside of my trusty old (12+years) 2-person backpacking tent. 

View from the inside of my trusty old (12+years) 2-person backpacking tent. 

 Meal prep. 

Meal prep. 

 Breakfast: Oatmeal topped with chocolate granola. 

Breakfast: Oatmeal topped with chocolate granola. 

 Backcountry boardwalks to get you through the marsh lands and mud. Thanks park staff!!

Backcountry boardwalks to get you through the marsh lands and mud. Thanks park staff!!

 Calm mornings on Maple Leaf lake. 

Calm mornings on Maple Leaf lake. 

 Morning coffee. My vice. My life blood.  

Morning coffee. My vice. My life blood.  

 Trail takes you right over this beauty rock surface and stream. 

Trail takes you right over this beauty rock surface and stream. 

 Rorschach Test. Reflection. Nature. What do you see?

Rorschach Test. Reflection. Nature. What do you see?

 One of my favourites from the trip. Hammock, hot chocolate, and sunset from night one. 

One of my favourites from the trip. Hammock, hot chocolate, and sunset from night one.