It has taken me over a year to get to this point, but I finally made it and I am proud! I completed my first winter backcountry trip with the tipi and it was a great adventure! I learned so many things and experienced a bunch of firsts, some thanks to my new friend Ashley from Young Outdoors.
Ashley and I met through social media quite some time ago and after many months of admiring each others work and adventures, we decided to do a winter trip together. For Ashley, it was her first winter camping trip, and for me, my first winter backcountry trip. The more I learned about Ashley, the more excited I was for this trip. She had many skills I did not and I was anxious to learn from her and enjoy being out in the backcountry with someone with so much experience and knowledge.
The forecast wasn’t the best for winter camping in a hot tent, but after watching it closely for 2 weeks, having the temperatures go from plus 7 to a high of 3, and having the precipitation go from 5-10mm’s to less than 1mm, we decided to go for it! We also decided the day before leaving, to change our trip from a one night to a two night trip, meaning a bit of scrambling to add extra food and make different arrangements, but it was totally worth it!
Ashley arrived in Port Carling just before one. We put her gear into my vehicle, and shortly after we were off to Algonquin Park. Ashley had never seen the park in the winter and just watching her reaction to it, made me feel like it was brand new for me all over again! We were also blessed with a sight I’d never seen. I’m still not sure if it was freezing fog or frozen trees but even on my -42 trip here, I’d never seen what we saw on the way into the park. The trees looked amazing, all white and as far as you could see, they were like that. I wish we could’ve safely stopped to take a photo but we didn’t and assumed we would see it when we got to Mew Lake, but sadly, halfway to there from the gate, the scenery totally changed and it was gone. I did get a few pics from the drive above but they honestly can not do it justice.
After stopping to get our permit at the gate, we headed to the Mew Lake parking lot. We took out our sleds, and started packing them up so we could head out asap. It was almost three and we had about two and a half hours of daylight left. We were hoping to get a specific site, but if it wasn’t available, we’d have to backtrack and find another site and that would take extra time, so we had to hurry.
After a small mishap with my harness attachement, and a quick repair with some rope Ashley had left out, we were on our way!
I have to honestly admit, it was really hard pulling the sled. It was very heavy. I had the tipi poles and the tipi canvas, which in total probably weighed about 40lbs combined, plus all my gear. (I have found out since the poles weigh 42lbs, the canvas 21lbs). Ashley had the stove which is 30 lbs itself and her gear. It was about 3 degrees out and fairly warm. The snow was slow and wet and going up any slight incline was definitely felt. If I did this alone, I would also have the stove on my sled. I was instantly deflated thinking of that. I immediately thought, I can never solo backcountry with the tipi and it totally crushed me!! I would have to think about that further later, but for now, we’d made it to the site and we had to get moving to get everything set up before dark!
Ashley had never been here so I shoveled the snow from where the tipi would go, while she checked out the falls. As much of the snow where the tipi would go was packed down or removed from previous visitors, it didn’t take me long. When Ashley returned, she started digging out an area for our firepit and snow couch, as we couldn’t locate the actual firepit under all the snow and definitely would need a place to sit, cook and enjoy the fire after adventuring in the cold.
I set up the tipi and Ashley took a few pictures of me doing it. Thanks for the pics girly!
The tipi was up and just in time. It was starting to get dark and we still had lots ot do.
Ashleys’ snow couch area was amazing!!! She made a path in, a seating area for us to put down our Thermarest Ridgerest pads to sit on and with all the snow surrounding us, the heat would deflect and keep us very warm. However, we couldn’t do that without wood, so we quickly went to work gathering some, well, Ashley did mostly, while I continued to set up the tipi, put the tarp down inside, inflated the thermarest matts , put the sleeping bags out, and got the rest of our gear inside in an organized way that would leave us room to sit and walk in there later. It was expected to freezing drizzle overnight, meaning nothing could be left outside or it would not only get wet, but possibly frozen as well.
As Ashley is processing the wood, she is giving me instruction on batoning the pieces, as this is something very new to me. I am grateful for the lesson and try my hand at it a bit later when we have some more time. At this point, we are anxious to get a fire going so we can get dinner cooked. We were both hungry and starting to get a chill. We had both been setting up in only our long sleeves as it was zero degrees, and now after adding layers on top, the chill could be felt from the sweat that accumulated in our under layers and a nice fire would hopefully remove that feeling until we would change before bed.
After a lot of blowing, huffing, puffing and strategizing, the fire was finally going!
Mission one was to melt some snow for our instant mashed potatoes and for our drinking water as we didn’t get a chance to go to the falls and get some to filter.
Then some pieces of wood were pounded into the ground, awesomely by Ashley, so we could put the grill I’d brought over the fire to cook our steaks. yum yum yum! LOL
We made the potatoes and left them on the fire to keep them warm while our gorgeous steaks cooked up. It was time to sit and relax for a bit. We’d been working hard for almost 5 hours straight and were definitely ready for a break, and maybe a drink? 🙂
With our Thermarest Ridgerest pads on the snow couch, we sat comfortably. I was amazed that I did not feel any cold at all come through from the snow! We made this little video about the matts and to thank Shawn James and Joe Robinet for introducing us to them with the videos they posted recently. We had just enough time to put in a quick order with Outdoors Oriented to get them to me in time for the trip. BEST PURCHASE EVER!!! FYI- I may sound more intoxicated in the video than I actually am.. I was really tired at this point!! Err… yeah! lol
The Thermarest pads would also go under our sleeping matts to do the same job. Dual purpose items are even better! And this was the first snow couch I’d been on. It has been something I’ve wanted to do since I started winter camping but as yet, hadn’t had the snow to do it. First first of the trip… check!!!
We ate our steaks on our couch, sitting by the warm fire and had a little dessert shot to celebrate. What an awesome day so far! We also tested out the snow water and I have to say.. YUCK!!!
Now for the record, I tried snow water at home and discovered it is delicious! Seems ours was smoke infested from the pot sitting on the fire, so next time, the snow will have to be melted on the stove in the tipi or the camp stove. Snow water = really delicious when made correctly!
We sat by the fire for a bit and eventually made our way to the tipi to get the fire going and warm it up for our sleep. We were both really tired and after sitting in the warm cozy tipi, it was time for bed. The following video is a little sleepy idea I came up with from watching a video on My Self Reliance with Shawn James and Joe Robinet while they were about to go to sleep in a quinzee and is in no way meant to offend anyone. I thought everyone would get a little chuckle out of it, regardless, we certainly did as we both watched both videos, are fans of both guys and thought it was hilarious!
I woke up around 7am, and although I got up every few hours to stoke to fire, and only slept about 6 hours in total, I felt pretty good. I took a quick walk down to the falls to take a few photos and even though you can’t see it in the still photos and I couldn’t really feel it, the videos showed it was raining.
I headed back to the tipi and got in my warm sleeping bag. Although it was only zero out, it was very damp and put a chill in me being out in my sleeping attire.
Ashley woke up shortly after and we got ready for our day! Here is a shot of the tipi with the new renos and the fire going nicely inside. If you missed the post on the reno’s, please check it out here.
Our first mission of the day was to go get some water to drink, as neither of us had enjoyed the snow water we made last night. We headed to the falls and as I couldn’t find a spot when I was there earlier, I suggested we bring some rope and go on a little water fishing expedition. The ice I had stood on just an hour or so ago, had already slipped off into the waterfalls and I wasn’t planning on being next. The rope trick worked great and we were filled up the filter quickly and had plenty of water for the day!
When we finished, we headed back to camp to get some breakfast. I was starving!!!
We made some hot chocolate with baileys to start the day right, then toasted some english muffins in the pan. I had premade ham and cheese omelettes and those were heated up next and breakfast was ready. Yum yum!
This little fella definitely wanted some of our breakfast! He got very close to us so it must’ve smelled delicious! LOL. It was expected to rain after 6pm for the night so we quickly tarped the fire pit/living room area to keep the wood and us dry later.
After breakfast I had Ashley try a little toothbrushing trick I’d gotten in August from my friend Joyce from Go Outside. She said that she uses peppermint oil to brush her teeth as bears don’t like the smell of it and they love toothpaste. Although the bears are hibernating at the moment, I have been using this trick since August and figured I might as well just stay in the habit. It does burn quite a bit and we both had fire mouth after using it, but our mouths were totally fresh and clean!
After breakfast we needed to stock up on our wood pile so we would be nice and warm when we got back from adventuring all day. As the snow was so deep, we had to put on our snowshoes to walk anywhere except at the campsite where we had patted down the snow or you would go in up to your knees. Just as we were getting ready, this little guy poked his head out to say hi! Then he ran off. Too cute!
Off to the woods we went and I can only say how happy I was to be here with Ashley.
Damn this girl could use an axe!!!
After collecting wood we headed out on a hike. We decided to take the highland backpacking trail to Provoking Lake.
It is a great hike but there is no way, for the record, that the tipi will ever make it up those hills.
There were a few times me and my wee little backpack struggled, but I eventually made it.
When we got to Provoking we decided to have lunch. We sat and ate while we watched four people cross the lake. Um WHAT? I was totally freaked out. There were snowshoe tracks on the lake, but it has not been very cold for very long. They made it across and when we headed out, I decided I would be brave. After 4 steps, I turned around and went back to land. NOPE, not dying today! LOL
We headed back on the trail towards camp.
The good thing about climbing up all those hills was, we got to slide back down them!!! YES, I am still a kid, and I always will be! Whats worse is I talked Ashley into doing it too! (although it wasn’t difficult). LOL (big thanks to Ashley for the awesome video!!!! )
We checked out a few options for other winter camping sites on the way back to the tipi. Once we got back Ashley got a fire going and we heated up our dinner. We had such a late night last night and long full day today, we were both ready to head into the tipi shortly after to be warm and comfortable.
We slept well, although I was still short hours as I was getting up every 3 to put more wood in the stove. I didn’t really care. I was delighted I had the option of being warm and had no problem making sure the fire kept going all night long.
We woke up to the temperature being just above zero and as it had rained a good portion of the evening, the tipi canvas was very wet. Every once and a while, we’d get a drip on our sleeping bags, or our faces, but otherwise, we were still pretty dry inside.
We had some packing up to do so we got started on breakfast. Todays breakfast was bacon (reheated) and pancakes with strawberries I’d dehydrated at the end of the summer and chocolate chips. It was pretty delicious!
After breakfast we went to the falls to get some water for the day.
Then headed back to start the tear down. Thankfully, the new material did work and no snow or ice was stuck to the canvas. Considering the temperatures this weekend, I’m not sure it was a legitimate test, but I’m still going to stick with “so far, so good!”
We packed up the sleds and cleaned up the site as best we could to make it look like we hadn’t been there. (not super easy in the snow, but we did our best!).
As I had been quite deflated heading into the site, struggling to pull my sled as it was so heavy, I needed to perform a test on the way out. Ashley was willing to humour me, even though she and I both knew it would probably mean us having to repack our sleds after a few minutes from leaving, but, I had to try.
I put all the weight on my sled. The stove (30lbs), the poles (total just under 42lbs), the tipi canvas which was wet and heavy (21 lbs dry) and then all of my clothes and sleeping bag and anything else that would fit. Ashley took her items and a few things that i couldn’t fit, but the weight, was all on me. I honestly didn’t think I would be able to pull it and when I harnessed up the sled to myself and leaned forward, I could literally put all my weight against the sled and stand diagonally and not move. I could never do this alone. I was so upset, but I wasn’t ready to give up. I pulled with all my might and once I got going, it wasn’t so bad.
It took me a bit of extra time, and a lot of extra umppfff but I made it all the way to the parking lot with all that weight on my sled!!!!! I thank Ashley so much for her patience and for taking that video of me. I appreciate you joining me on this trip more than I can say.
As we pulled into the parking lot at Mew Lake, we heard the sound of applause!! ??? WHAT? haha, TRUE STORY!. There was a large group near the parking lot who were watching and photographing pine martins and blue jays and they saw us coming in and started to clap. I was pretty amazed and felt honoured. One of the women, Laurie, recognized me from my blog and took her photo with us and I felt like a total superstar!!!! (Laurie got in touch with me upon publishing this post and sent me the photo, so here it is below! Thanks lady! You are awesome! )
Ashley and I unpacked our sleds and put them in the car. We’d hoped to do a snowshoe trail at Limberlost on the way home, but time just didn’t allow it so we settled for a quick meal at Wendy’s and then headed back to my place so Ashley could get her car and start her drive back to Niagara.
I learned A LOT this trip!!! Ashley taught me some things I needed desperately to know about processing wood and burning wood that’s wet. And although we survived, and stayed warm, it showed me that even though I really want to do a solo winter backcountry trip in the tipi, I’m not quite ready for it yet.
I ordered some tools to help me accomplish the skills I need to work on and the next few trips, I am going to do just that. I have a few more tipi trips planned and then maybe I will try a solo. We’ll see how it goes and if my skills improve enough to go it alone in the tipi!!!
HUGE FAT MASSIVE THANK YOU to Ashley from Young Outdoors for joining me on my first winter backcountry trip! And for everyone who’s given me help and advice along the way, thank you! If you’d like to check out Ashleys take on our trip, please check back at Camper Christina on Facebook as I will be posting her video here or check out her page at Young Outdoors.
If you have any questions, comments or just want to say hi, please send me a message.