It was a great weekend, it was cold, it was wet, it was windy and I vowed momentarily not to camp again until next summer, but it was a total hoot!
I had been in correspondence with Mike Burns who had provided me with a huge amount of advice and information regarding my recent solo trip to Killarney. I had met Mike at the 150 through another friend Derek, from Paddling Adventures Radio, a podcast about paddling created by Sean Rowley. Mike had a trip planned with Derek for early November and wanted to head to the Haliburton Water Trails. I had been to the area many times and so in turn, I offered advice to him about the sites, the way the park is run, how to find their website, etc etc.
While discussing some information about the park, Mike suggested I should just come along on the trip. I had plans for that weekend that had just been cancelled and so I thought, why not? It sounded like fun and I always enjoyed heading out for a trip with like minded people to exchange stories about gear, adventures, and the like. Mike decided it would be fun to keep Derek in the dark about the friend that was coming so I went along with it and didn’t say a word to him. I loved surprises.
I arrived at the put in on schedule and unloaded my kayak and gear. I went from a base layer, raincoat and sneakers to my winter jacket, toque and rubber boots in minutes. It was COLD and it was WINDY. I parked the car and began on my way at 3pm, battling whitecaps for the first 15 minutes of the paddle on Big Hawk Lake. I stuck close to shore and got splashed a few times from the wake but had no real threat of any kind. Only a bit of discomfort.
I arrived at the portage from Big Hawk to Nunikani just before 4pm. The portage was about 600 metres and began at a beautiful waterfall. I unpacked the contents of my hatch into my tote bags and backpack and began on my way. I carried the kayak first and took it as far as I could go, which I discovered later was almost 400 metres in one shot. I have done up to a kilometer in one carry before but it had been quite a while since I portaged this kayak and I guess I was out of shape.
I went back and got the backpack and tote bags and brought them all the way to the other end of the portage. Just after passing where the kayak sat, I saw a portage sign that said, “PORTAGE 195m from here”. urg. Looks like I could’ve paddled most of the way that I’d just carried my stuff and kayak. Too late now!
I arrived at the Nunikani side of the portage with all my gear about 45 minutes after I’d began. Not the best time but not the worst either. I repacked the kayak and got on the water. I had told Mike the day before I believed I would arrive around 5pm and was doing my best to meet that time. Looked like I would be very close, maybe 10-15 minutes later.
The scenery was beautiful here and I was loving the sand beaches I was paddling past, the cool colors of the rocks and the sun peeking out every now and then. It was still cold but not nearly as windy as the first 15 minutes of the paddle and I was grateful. At 5:15 I arrived at the site and gave a holler out saying Poochie was here!
Poochie was what I had been referred to for the last few weeks when Mike and Derek communicated about the ‘friend’ who was coming along. Derek’s first guess was Mikes dog, and therefore, the name Poochie was used going forward. Poochie is bringing pancakes for a breakfast. Poochie will arrive before dinner Friday, etc etc. I thought it was quite funny once I’d learned how the name came about. Derek was later calling me Joe, thinking that Joe Robinet was the 3rd camper. LOL. Too funny!!!
Derek seemed a bit surprised but confessed he had thought he’d figured out that it was me a bit ago. I had had to lie and tell him and Sean my original weekend plans, which was a trip with my friend Sam, but I didn’t want to spoil Mikes little surprise so I went along with it. Sorry for lying guys, hope it was worth the guessing game fun.
I set up my tent and enjoyed the last few hours of daylight, pouring myself a cup of wine and sitting by the fire. Derek was making dinner tonight and we were having steak, potatoes and peppers on the fire. YUM!
Dinner was delicious and was followed by Prouse’s Peanut Better S’mores, inspired by Chris & Julia Prouse. Derek abstained but Mike and I each had one and they were so incredibly delicious. They seem to get better every time I eat one. Winter layers, here we come! hahahaha.
We sat by the fire staying warm as the temperature continued to drop and had lots of drinks and way more laughs. I was very happy I’d decided to come along on this trip and was having an awesome time! I just wished it would be warmer. I headed to my tent for some much needed sleep just before 2am with a sore face from laughing so hard, and wished I was home in my warm bed. Just two weeks ago I was camping in mid teen temps and padding in a tank top. It was a drastic rude awakening to the new season, but i would have to deal with it now that I was in it.
The sun tried very hard to come out the next morning, but didn’t quite make it. Mike had gotten up first and had made up some hot water for warm drinks. I had been up a few times to use the privy but kept going back to bed. I finally forced myself up and out around 8 and stood by the fire to warm up.
Mike was on breakfast duty today and had brought these cool premade egg patties made by his wife Laurie. They were made with egg substitute and spinach, pre baked and then frozen so they just needed to be heated up. The patties would go on an english muffin with some breakfast ham. Everything was warmed up on the fire and then we ate. They were delicious! Big thanks to Laurie for creating these for us!
After breakfast, we cleaned up and then packed a few bags to take with us on a day trip. We would do a loop from Nunikani, to Red Pine, to Clear Lake to Big Hawk and back to Nunikani. We all hoped the rain that was forecast today would hold off. It was really cold out and with the dampness, it just seemed to make it worse. To add to that, I was told to sit in the princess seat in the middle of the canoe. I was pretty happy about it at first, but after a bit, realized how cold it was sitting on the bottom of the canoe and not paddling and regretted the privilege. Both Derek and Mike offered to take over the princess seat on the next lake, and I was not going to stand in their way.
As we neared the end of Nunikani Lake, we were surprised at how much frost was on the ground. It looked eerily pretty and I did my best to capture it as we paddled past.
Shortly after that we came to the portage into Red Pine Lake. There was a dam there and the day before, Mike and Derek said there was a helicopter moving sandbags back and forth. They had paddled over from the site to check it out and showed me a few pictures and videos. I was sorry I’d missed it.
We paddled through Red Pine and saw a few people out at a cottage preparing for winter. Other than that, we didn’t see anyone else out the entire day.
After taking the portage from Red Pine into Clear Lake, Mike got to play princess while I paddled for a bit. Once on Clear Lake, we decided to stop at a site for a shore lunch. So far we had not gotten any rain and were all very grateful, but we were all pretty cold and decided to have a nice warm fire to sit by and make lunch over.
We all gathered wood and soon the fire was going and warming us up. Then it began to snow, but just a tiny bit. See the wee snowflakes on my rain pants? I also saw this cute mushroom covered in ice that I thought looked kinda neat.
Mike had brought lunch which were these delicious sausages filled with cheese. Derek cut them up with criss crosses and it made them not only cook faster, but made them look really pretty. LOL. We each had a sausage and were so hungry, we decided to make the rest and finish them off while Mike and Derek enjoyed their Naughty Neighbor.
We hung out at the site on Clear Lake for quite a while. None of us were in any big rush to leave the warm fire and head back out on the water, but eventually we made the move. We had a few options on how to continue but went with the fastest easiest route, going over a portage and into Big Hawk, then taking the original portage we’d done Friday to get back into Nunikani.
The portage wasn’t far from where we’d stopped for lunch. We went over it quickly and soon we were on Big Hawk Lake, anticipating some winds and colder temperatures, but luckily experienced little of either.
Derek took his turn happily in the princess seat and was surprised at how quickly he became cold. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one.
We saw this bird above but couldn’t quite make out what it was? It looked like an albino loon? I tried to get a good picture but the one above is the best one I could manage.
Soon we were back at the portage we all did Friday on our way in. I was able to see how the guys were able to do it, only having to carry the canoe a very short distance and then paddling the river to the 195m portage. So much easier than my experience yesterday.
Once we arrived back to Nunikani, it was time to get firewood. The easiest way to do so was to collect it off the shore via the canoe, but with 3 people in it, it wasn’t really feasible. I offered to go back to the site and get a fire going, process the wood we had picked up and heat up some apple cider to make some warm drinks for everyone after our chilly day on the water.
I mixed the apple cider with spiced rum, one of my winter camping drinks and it was delicious. It warmed us up, along with processing the newly picked up wood and soon we were all feeling a bit better. I began making dinner as today’s dinner was my meal to prepare. I would be making seafood pasta using packaged Garlic and Lemon Fettucine, a can of crab meat, a can of shrimp, garlic, butter and some freshly gated parmesan cheese.
It was delicious and warmed us all up a bit more. Perhaps the fireball shots helped additionally but I believe it was my dinner that made the most impact! LOL
We sat by the fire but were all pretty tired from our day of adventuring in the cold. I headed to my tent around 830 with a hot water bottle and my nalgene full of boiling water. I was going to be warm tonight! Shortly after heading to bed, I heard the rain begin to fall and it continued throughout the night.
I had to visit the privy quite a few times during the dark rainy night, making the umbrella that I brought totally worth it! As some of you may know, I have colitis and sometimes this makes camping a bit of a challenge. According to the forecast, it was supposed to be around -5 overnight and pouring rain. Hanging out at the privy in the middle of the night, in cold temperatures, in pouring rain, was not something I ever enjoyed and I had been thinking of how I could improve this? At the last minute when packing, I threw my umbrella into the bow of my kayak and left it there. It took up very little space, didn’t weigh much but WOW what a difference it made on my trip! My pajamas stayed dry as did I and it made my experience a zillion times better. Umbrella check, success check! Maybe I am the princess after all but until you’ve tried it……
With the time change, I had been in my tent for 12 hours and had had a nice warm sleep (excluding the privy trips). I emerged to discover a very wet, dreary day. Gratefully, the temperatures had risen from yesterday and it was fairly comfortable outside, which made me very happy. I heard Derek and Mike chattering by the fire and went over to see what plan they were hatching?
Mike had brought a roast for dinner for today. Both Derek and Mike had planned on staying until Monday, whereas I was to head out Sunday on my own. Due to the weather, they had both decided they would leave today as well, but really wanted to make this roast beef dinner, for breakfast. I thought it was a great idea too, so for the next few hours, we sat by the fire, listened to the rain, drank warm drinks and waited for the roast to heat up and for the side going with it, cinnamon raison bannock (also prepared by Laurie ) to rise and bake.
Derek had brought his reflector oven and set it up and Mike mixed the bannock in a ziplock and put it into the pan. We sat and chatted while waiting and were all starving by the time it was ready to eat.
BEST BREAKFAST EVER!!!!! Hands down! LOL. I wish I had more right now! It was so good and we all deeply enjoyed it.
After we ate, cleaned up, and packed up the site, we slowly made our way towards the portage from Nunikani to Big Hawk Lake. It had stopped raining long enough for us to pack up all of our gear, but as soon as we hit the water, the rain fell once again. At least it wasn’t biting cold today and that made it so much better!
Because Derek and Mike had decided to leave with me, I got a bonus! I was able to pack my backpack fully as if I were in a canoe and the boys put my pack in Mike’s canoe so I didn’t have to load and unload the kayak. This also made me able to do the short 195m portage with the paddle down the river, followed by just a small lift over into Big Hawk. BIG BONUS!
When we arrived on Big Hawk, the rain stopped for a bit and gave us a reprieve and thankfully, the wind wasn’t anywhere near as bad as my paddle in. No whitecaps and not a huge amount of wind. Such a nice surprise at the end of the paddle! Soon, we arrived at the takeout and it was time to unpack the boats and get them on top of our cars.
I was happy to be heading home to a nice hot bath, but sad the trip was over. It is easy to tell a story about a trip I took and show where we went and what we ate. It is difficult, besides seeing lots of teeth in the photos, to show what a great time we had out there despite the miserable weather. I very much enjoy solo camping as most of you know, but sometimes, you get together with some really fun good hearted people who are like minded, and you spend a weekend laughing until you snort. This weekend was full of snorts and I am grateful to my camping friends for the good company, delicious food (thanks Laurie) and great attitudes.
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& Friends 🙂