When my kayaking coach Dympna from Ontario Sea Kayak Centre, asked me to consider auctioning off a weekend of camping with me, for the Women on Water Paddling Festival silent auction, I thought she was off her rocker.
The auction was very successful and proceeds went to the Georgian Bay Biosphere, a great organization that takes care of a place I love to play in and it is a good cause. I agreed to proceed, but honestly didn’t think anyone would be interested in going camping with me for a weekend.
But I was wrong.
Michelle has been camping for many years but would like to get into solo camping. She has a life, like many of us, that is busy and getting away by yourself in the forest, is something she has great interest in doing. Like me, she loves her peace and quiet and being able to escape the hustle and bustle of life. When the weather is good, she just wants to be able to get up and go whenever she feels like it.
As I have been solo tripping for a few years now and Michelle had read some of my adventures, she thought it would be a great way for her to spend a weekend on an adventure, and pick my brain about all the things I’ve learned backcountry camping over the last 15 or so years.
After WOW, we got in touch, made a plan, and this past weekend was the weekend for our trip. I was pretty excited and I think she was as well. We met at McCrae Lake and ran into some inexperienced backcountry campers heading towards the lake. I did my best to help them with a little advice. They were carrying their fully loaded rented Swift canoes, and struggling with 4 guys to a canoe. They had more than I’ve seen some people consume in months for just one night and I was concerned, not only for the area (there is a huge amount of litter at the conservation area) but also for their safety.
We chatted a bit and eventually the bottle neck was cleared and Michelle and I were on our way. We had one small portage to get to the main lake (other than the 100m or so from the parking lot to the lake) and we breezed by the boys. Michelle did great carrying my little Perception Tribute. I had thought of going to many other places, without portages, but as she had already had a 5 hour drive, (over 7 with traffic) I wanted to stay close to the area. Michelle also had only paddled a kayak once, so I wanted to be somewhere that was remote, but still close to help if we needed it.
It ended up working out great as we unloaded and loaded the boats several times and it helped Michelle to understand how to pack the kayak, that it is important to distribute weight evenly and to use every nook and cranny. Also to use small bags, instead of large ones (for the previous reason).
We headed to a site I stayed on over Thanksgiving last year. It was a pretty nice site, but I also wanted to explore other options and have a new adventure. After some scouting we picked this amazing site on a huge cliff overlooking the lake.
We saw several loons and so far, people wise, it was fairly quiet in the neighbourhood.
We unpacked and I gave Michelle as little or as much guidance as she wished. She was using my Marmot Tungsten 2p and she set it up with ease. By the end of the weekend she was very happy she was able to test it out. She needs to buy some equipment still, but is worried she will get something and not like it, so I let her test out as much of my gear as possible.
Once we got settled we gathered some wood, I showed her how to use and assemble my Sven saw and also test out an UST hand chain saw I had to see the differences.
Here is a photo of Michelle testing out one of my flints to start the fire.
We got a nice fire going and ogled the sunset, which was amazing. As night fell, we finally roasted our Oktoberfest sausages on the fire and ate, both hungry but totally relaxed.
We headed to sleep and the loons called as we drifted off. We also heard the sounds of a few late night campers on the site across the lake, but they weren’t overly loud or annoying so eventually they faded away.
I woke up early, took a few sunrise photos and headed back to bed. I ended up staying up very late the night before and needed more sleep.
When we woke up a few hours later, I made coffee for Michelle and then we had some delicious egg sandwiches. Egg, pre cooked bacon and a tiny bit of 2yr old white cheddar on a toasted (fried) english muffin. We talked gear and cooking equipment and foods to bring and how I stacked my bear vault in the order of which the food was eaten to avoid emptying it every time you needed something.
After we cleaned up and got ourselves ready for the day, we headed out in light rain to do some exploring and fishing. We checked out the entire lake, a bunch of sites and sadly couldn’t find the fish.
We did find this cool lilly pond area fully of Lilly pads and all sorts of wild flowers. There was also a beaver damn but no one was home that we could see.
During our outing I assisted Michelle in some of her paddling strokes and we worked on them throughout the day, as well as, landing and launching, something I’ve had difficulties with for a long time, occasionally, still do.
We saw this cool turtle and also spent some time trying to catch minnows to fish with using my mosquito head net as a net. We did catch one and split it but a fish quickly bit it off and neither of us caught one of them. Little buggers! We still had fun though!
When we returned from our adventure, we were fully loaded with a bunch of dead fall we’d collected while out and about. It had rained on and off all day but never very hard and it was around 30 degrees out so it really didn’t matter much. I went for a swim to refresh myself and we sat on stable ground after and relaxed a bit. We’d spent about 6 hours in the kayaks, and we were both pretty tired.
I got a fire going and as the daylight left us once again we had dinner. This time pesto pizzas, something I had eaten on my last trip and loved so much, I wanted to share them with Michelle. She loved them, as did I.
The plan was to also make popcorn on the fire, but it was so late and the witching hour had arrived. It was what I called the time when all the mosquitos and biting insects in the world come out to get you and it was pretty bad this night. Sadly, due to the rain on and off, the sunset wasn’t existent, but we had such a great one the night before, neither of us were too upset about it.
It had been a long day and we were both tired. Michelle retired after our s’more and I sat out by the fire for a hour or so editing some photos before heading to bed myself. It was so nice out. So warm, now with a light wind again and some rain on and off. It was a great night for sleeping in a tent and I feel asleep quite quickly, despite the sounds of the people camping near us.
The sky was gloomy Sunday morning but the air was lovely. It wasn’t raining and wasn’t expected to, until later, but the air had cooled about 5-7 degrees making it very comfortable. I will never complain of heat, but it was nice to have it a few degrees cooler to sleep and wake up to.
I made pancakes with rehydrated strawberries and chocolate chips. They turned out perfect and I think Michelle really enjoyed them. At breakfast, along with the most of the weekend, Michelle asked me constructive questions about solo camping, backcountry camping, gear, being out in the woods, as a women etc. We recorded some of the questions I thought people would be interested in knowing the answers to, if they were starting out like Michelle, and they will be in the upcoming videos on my youtube channel.
Before and after breakfast, we had started to tear down and got done quite quickly. The water was almost mirror and it was extremely calm. It did look like it would rain though and with the bottleneck we’d experienced friday, and all the people we saw camping all around the lake yesterday, we decided to make our way to the portage. We fished for about an hour or so along route, but still no luck.
The portage went much faster Sunday, with only a few other people on it when we were, thankfully. We also packed much better this time and Michelle had really gotten the feel for loading and unloading the kayak and carrying it, so it went much more smoothly.
When we got to the parking lot it was very busy and people were coming in every few minutes and packing up their vehicles, etc. I noticed how incredibly dirty the parking lot was. It was FULL of garbage and it broke my heart.
Michelle helped me put the kayaks on the car and we said our goodbyes. Took a photo for keepsake and she headed off to begin her long journey home. I grabbed a garbage bag from my car and started filling it. I went around the entire parking lot just picking up small items and ended up with a completely full garbage bag. WOW! I can not believe how disrespectful people are. It really does break my heart to see stuff like this. I just don’t get it.
Anyways, I did my part and met a really nice girl named Nadine who’d been camping at McCrae for over 25 years. She had 3 full garbage bags that they had packed out that people left on their sites. She also comes by regularly to clean up the lot and I thought that was amazing. Thanks Nadine for all you do!
I had an awesome weekend with Michelle and I think she did too. She asked a lot of great questions and picked up quickly on anything I showed her how to do. I’m very excited to hear about her first solo trip and know she is going to have an amazing time. Here is Michelles feedback on the trip and why she came to be here in the first place:
Please check the video here for the full report (will be posted this week) and answers to some really good questions if you are looking to start venturing out on a solo backcountry trip, or just a backcountry trip in general. Hope you enjoyed the post.
Big huge thank you to Michelle for being so awesome! I very much enjoyed our time together and am glad you are the one I got to take out for a weekend!
If you have any questions, comments or just want to say hi, please leave a message.