It is a time of year when one must be really careful going out on the water. I often receive comments of concern, people calling me brave, and others blatantly stating I am unsafe, careless and should not be doing what I’m doing. What if you fall out of your kayak? You will freeze instantly!!!
I have been kayaking for over 15 years of my life. In that time, I have never, not once, accidentally fallen out of my boat. Yes, I know that doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but to me, it means, the chance is extremely slim, and for me, it is a risk I am willing to take. If I die doing what I love, then the way I see it, it was meant to be that way. Some people don’t want to hear that, but this is my life and I am going to live it how I choose to.
Anything can happen to anyone at any time, and to me, I would rather be doing what I love if that ‘anything’ happens. This summer, I proceeded to take and pass both my Level 1 and Level 2 Sea Kayaking Certifications. I also obtained my 3 year First Aid Wilderness Certificate and my Level 1 and Level 2 Map and Compass.
All of these things, I did to ensure that if something happened while adventuring alone, or, with others, I would be prepared and know what to do and be more qualified to handle the situation.
But at this time of year, even those things will not really help me. Again, I know this, and I am comfortable doing what I do. It is not for everyone and I do not encourage or endorse anyone to go out and paddle in freezing cold water. I can only do what I am comfortable with, and this is something I am very comfortable doing. From the words of Tupac… “why am I dying to live, if I’m just living to die”
Over a month ago, I had posted on my Camper Christina Facebook page asking for suggestions of where I should go for my next trip. I received two replies stating Big East Lake. I had never heard of it, and due to a bunch of different circumstances I didn’t get to go the weekend I’d wanted to, but eventually I did make it!
Due to the time of year, I spent the week before seeking information. I contacted the park to find out the conditions of the lake and what the chances are that it would freeze on me and if I’d get stuck out there? I contacted a few outdoors experts and got their opinion on the situation and if they thought it was safe for me to go out? I checked the forecast regularly, following where the wind was expected to blow from and how to best shelter myself from the gusts and the cold. Then I packed up my gear, packing doubles, even a few triples, of all my clothing, in case something got wet and I needed a spare. Every detail was thought out carefully and I did everything that I could possibly do to ensure I would be safe.
Now again, to be clear, I know that I can not predict every little issue or plan for it. I can not predict if the water will be so cold it will freeze to my boat and sink me. I can not predict that I may accidentally fall out of my boat and get hypothermia and not be able to get back into my boat and could drown. I could also get hit by a truck walking across the road or stop breathing while I’m sleeping. Anything can happen to anyone at any time.
I arrived at Big East Lake around 9:30am and after a few trips portaging all of my gear down to the put-in, I pushed off and began my adventure! Happy and excited to be out on the water, on December 4th and exploring a new area at that!
I preselected 3 sites that I thought would be the most sheltered from the wind and thoroughly explored them all. Then proceeded to check out other options as well, in case my calculations were off, but thankfully, they were not. The wind was expected to be a bit high, but it wasn’t even close to what was forecast. Regardless, it could pick up and you never know, so I didn’t take any chances and stuck with the plan I’d originally made.
I finally settled on this awesome island site, one of the original three I’d picked from the map. It had a great view but was completely sheltered from the northwest winds blowing across the other side of the lake. In front of my site, I had calm water. On the other side of the island, the wind was not so calm.
I was very happy with my choice and started to set up camp, incredibly pleased that I had decided to come. Without the wind, the weather was glorious and I couldn’t believe it was December 4th.
I picked the flatest spot I could find on the site for my tent, which also had a large tree branch hanging over for added shelter. It was a perfect location.
I used my friends, the trees, once again, to assist me in setting up my tried, tested and true Trek tent. They always did a great job, as did my Trek and today I wasn’t taking any extra chances.
I next blew up my thermarest and then unleashed my new Marmot sleeping bag. It was rated extreme -40 and would be sure to keep me warm! I still couldn’t figure out how all that sleeping bag could be stuffed into such a small stuff sack? Amazing indeed!
I had some lunch and then gathered some wood for the fire later. I had brought some in, but would need to have lots more to keep me warm. It was expected to go down to about -10 and it was getting dark now around 430pm. That makes for a very long night where you are fairly inactive and need help staying warm.
After I completed all my chores, I headed out for a little paddle to see if I could find some wildlife. I had a few hours before dark and didn’t want to waste a minute of the precious daylight I had left.
As I was getting ready to head out, the sun came out for a bit and made me smile. Thank you Mother Nature!
I got in my kayak and went across the lake to the bay. There seemed to be quite a few little bays all around the edges of the lake that were full of marshes and tall grasses and places I would imagine a moose, or deer, would like to spend some time.
The sun came and went and the sky gave me all kinds of interesting lighting to take my photos.
Sadly, no wildlife were in them, but that wasn’t anything new for me.
Eventually, I knew i had to head back to the site. The sun had set, sadly without a sunset to view, and it was slowly starting to get dark out.
When I paddled across the lake, I felt the wind I was missing out on at my site and was happy I was so sheltered where I was. The wind was pretty cold but somehow the water was still fairly calm. Thankfully, my new jacket was keeping me toasty warm and I was loving all the features it offered.
When I got back to my site, I got a good fire going. I didn’t bring my grill as the last few sites I’ve been on had one. This one didn’t, which wasn’t a huge issue. I had actually planned on cooking with my stove all weekend, but then decided it would be neat to see if I could not use it at all, and just use the fire. So, I built a grill with some wetter sticks I’d collected from the forest floor that wouldn’t burn as quickly as the dryer ones.
It worked great! I had brought some premade shrimp pasta and just put it in the pot and heated it up. It was delicious and I was warm and cozy sitting in front of my fire, still, no wind where I was. Yay!
I heated up some water for some tea and spiked it with a bit of vodka. It was Satuday night afterall!
After dinner I sat enjoying an audio book on my ipod and feeling the warmth of the crackling fire. It was peaceful and enjoyable, but by 830, I was ready for bed. It had been a long day, it was starting to get really cold out, and I was anxious to get into my new sleeping bag and be toasty warm. I heated up some water, filled my nalgene bottle to put at my feet, and a hot water bottle I’d bought last week to lay on my chest. I was making sure I wasn’t cold. Off to the tent I went, snuggled into my bag and was happily warm and cozy. It was the very first time, of all my solo adventures, that I was not afraid in the least, and I was loving that feeling! As some of you know, I am afraid of the dark and with so much darkness, I had been worried about this trip, but happily, I did not have a care in the world! Pure Joy!
I woke up around midnight to tinkle and checked the thermometer. It was only -3.3 according to it. Not bad at all but I felt none of it in my warm sleeping bag. I crawled back in, so happy with it, and went back to sleep until waking up in the morning!
I checked the weather network to find it was -7 and -10 with the windchill. As I still had no wind though, it didn’t feel nearly that cold and I was perfectly content. I stayed in my sleeping bag reading until daylight broke. The sun didn’t rise until 7:38 so no point in trying to go out and get photos of the sunrise, way before it’s time.
I was rewarded with a beautiful sky and very calm waters. The wind on the water was pretty much extinct and it was so placid and peaceful. I headed across the lake to the bay I’d explored the night before, amazed to see a very thin layer of ice on the shallow water. How cool!
Although the pictures may look like the lake is very frozen, please note it is only a very small area along the edges that has a bit of ice on the top of the water. Just enough to give it a really cool effect for the photos and make me smile as I’d really wanted to experience this.
I picked up some of the ice, just to show it’s thickness. It was difficult as it kept breaking, but I managed to get a shot with a piece of it. It looked just like a sheet of glass.
I went to one of the bays I had paddled a ways into yesterday, and discovered it was very frozen. I only went in about 20 feet and then backed right out. There was no way I was getting stuck today!
In that same bay, there was a campsite that I really wanted to take yesterday when I was checking out sites. It was facing the wind, and I knew better than to stay there, but it was also facing this bay which most likely had moose or deer or both in it at some point. It would’ve been a great place to sit, by the fire, and watch for wildlife. Too bad the wind wasn’t coming from another direction.
When I had paddled up to the site before entering the bay, I thought I’d heard a noise on the site. I stopped to check out the site and to take a look around. Judging by the freshness of the poop I’d found, I had just missed a deer. ARGGGGG ! Would I ever see some wildlife? I walked through the site towards the bay and went in quite a ways, hoping the creature would still be there, but of course, he’d disappeared. He must’ve run off to help Santa?
I paddled around the edge of the lake, letting the sun warm me and still continued looking for animals, but alas, it was not meant to be and my tummy was rumbling. I’d been out for hours and I needed some breakfast.
Crossing the lake seemed to be the only time it was cold to me. There was always a bit of wind and it was chilling. Once I got back to the side of the island where my site was on though, it disappeared like magic and all was calm once again.
I got the fire going fairly easily and heated up a bit of water for some hot chocolate. Then I heated up my scrambled eggs, toasted my english muffin and ate sitting next to the warm fire and enjoying the beautiful view.
Premaking my food for this time of year, was something I’d been doing since my first winter trip last year. My eggs had frozen and I didn’t want a re-occurrence of that, so since that weekend, I’d precooked most of my food, if not all, and it made things much easier when preparing food in the cold.
The sun was out and it was a gorgeous day! I didn’t even need my toque! I packed up my site fairly quickly and got ready to paddle out and explore the other side of the lake I’d rushed by when I arrived yesterday.
I had noticed on the map that there was a bay off to the left of the put in, and I wanted to explore it if possible.
The water was incredibly still and there was still no sign of the wind at all. Absolutely awesome!
I loved mirror water and got to enjoy it pretty much the entire way back to the put in, which was really not a long paddle. An hour for me, but I was checking things out on the way and stopping to take pictures etc. I’m sure it could be done in half the time, maybe less, but I had no schedule to keep, it was Sunday funday and I was having fun! It could possibly be my last time in 2016 out in my kayak, so I was taking advantage of every minute I had left!
I passed the put in and headed towards the bay but didn’t get very far at all. The bay was pretty much frozen and I wasn’t stupid enough to attempt to enter it. I took the video above from the flowing water, to show you how it looked from my perspective. So neat how some is frozen and some is not and there really is a very fine line between the two. After taking the video, I headed to the put in to complete my trip, realizing upon approaching, that the put in is located at the edge of the lake and most likely it would be partially frozen. I was correct in that assumption.
I barreled through the ice and made it out no problem. The sun was beaming and I ended up portaging my boat and my stuff with only my long sleeve on, so I didn’t sweat. I was extremely happy I had done this trip and I had absolutely no regrets. It was a wonderful weekend and it made me especially happy that for the first time on a solo trip, I had no fear. I have evolved! LOL!!
I really hope you enjoyed checking out Big East Lake with me! If you have any questions or just want to say hi, please leave a comment and I will happily get back to you as soon as I am able to. Come back and check out my next adventure where I’ll be heading to Silent Lake!! The day after this trip, we got hit with snow in Muskoka and thankfully it has stayed, so I’m hoping to get some snowshoeing in. Time to change up the gear, again!