A few weeks ago, I’d booked an Ice Climbing adventure in Haliburton Ontario. The activity was booked for a Sunday, from 2-4pm, approximately 3 hours from home. It was a long drive but I thought it would be worth it. (you can find out if it was in my post on it!!).A few days before the adventure, I realized I had something planned Friday night, but nothing Saturday, meaning I was free to go up early and spend the night, if I so chose to do so. After my post Camping In -42 at Mew a few people had asked why I didn’t just camp in the tipi. There were several reasons for this at the time, but for the upcoming weekend, those reasons were no longer present, so I decided I should go for it!
I sent out some emails looking for information and also made a few calls, including one very disappointing call to Haliburton Forest, but I will just wish you have a better experience with them than I did and leave it at that. The person I had booked the ice climb with, Barrie Martin from Yours Outdoors , and also Ontario’s Highlands, who I love, suggested a few ideas that got the ball rolling.
I ended up booking at a place called South Wind Motel and Campground, even though I was told by a few that there was no where to winter camp in the area other than Algonquin (where I just camped) or Silent Lake (where I am going soon after this trip).
Ray, the owner of Southwind, was a total delight! I emailed him many questions and he answered all of them and offered me lots of advice as well! I was elated to have found someone so nice after having a few issues along the way and it was very refreshing to deal with someone with such great customer service skills. Ray told me that he has 137 acres of land and I could camp on one of the hydro sites, or something called a wilderness sight which was away from the motel and road and in winter, was challenging to get to. He offered to meet me Saturday morning upon arrival, take me on a tour of the property and I could pick any site I wanted. Perfect… and that is exactly what I did!
I arrived around 930am on Saturday morning! The drive took me 3 hours and was a nice route! When I pulled into the parking lot, Ray was there to greet me! We went into the office to chat about the site, some places I could visit while I was in the area, and settle up the bill…. a whopping $25.00 for the site and $16.00 for 2 bundles of hardwood. (I’d like to add the hardwood was fabulous, not wet at all and burned great!).
After we finished the paperwork, Ray did as he advised he would. We walked around the property and checked out the sites. I found one I really liked on the river, but the road was not cleared and it was too icy, after a storm a few days ago, for me to drive my non-4 wheel vehicle to it. I really wanted to bring my gear down to the site via sled and Ray said he had one, but wasn’t sure where it was. He checked but unfortunately couldn’t locate it, so he offered up another suggestion. He could take me and my stuff to the site via ATV and trailer. Well, that was defiantly a first for me and I figured why not? Although I would’ve liked to do it myself, this was a pretty cool option in lieu of that!
It took no time at all and before I knew it Ray was waving goodbye as I started to prepare the sight to set up my tipi. I was a happy happy camper!!!!
The weather was great! It was forecast to rain but I was praying it wouldn’t. It was about -3 at the moment and the sun was in and out for the morning. First I shovelled the snow down in the area I would be putting the tipi. Then I set up the poles and the stove inside the poles. It was easier than putting it in after the canvas was on.
After that, I put the canvas up which took minutes and did my best to attach everything properly. As the tipi is able to be a different size every time I use it, I have been making it bigger to incorporate the stove and now sleeping as well. I had it out to a bit over 13 feet in diameter which was a nice size but the canvas was not as comfortable with that as I was. It was made for 10.5′ so over 13′ was quite a stretch. I made some adjustments and except for the bottom by the door it mostly fit ok. I used a few safety pins I’d brought to keep that part in place and at the top used a few clips I’d brought with me.
As it was supposed to be very windy, with 40 km gusts and being beside a river, and being advised there was lots of wildlife here, I didn’t want to take any chances. I put the bottom of the tipi’s canvas under the poles as the stakes wouldn’t stay in the snow, and then piled snow along all the edges to keep the tipi down and also close off any air and openings both for warmth and to keep anyone out who was looking to be warm.
After that I started the fire with my homemade fire starters and sat inside the tipi to have a quick lunch. I was very happy with my setup and was excited to be here and doing a solo winter camping trip. Although I was technically in a car camping campground, I did not have my car with me at the site and felt like I was alone, enough. LOL
I set up my bed next. The bed included a tarp/ground sheet, then a mattress cover I had that had plastic on one side, then my thermarest matt, my -5 Jack Wolfskin sleeping bag and my marmot -9 Trestle bag on top of that. Inside the Marmot I put my -20 liner I’d bought from Columbia, just in case and added my travel pillow, bed done! I doubled the wood stove box up as a table, put a few things on it I would need later and my setup was complete!
It waextremely hot in the tipi with the fire so I left it to burn down for now and headed off to explore Minden and the Wild Water Preserve I’d saw online.
Minden Wild Water Preserve is one of the best white water runs in the world and is located on the Gull River. It is a natural run canoe and kayak slalom facility, was the host to the 2015 PanAm Games, and I was told it is very scenic at this time of year. I walked on the trails and got some good pictures and enjoyed the peace and quiet mixed with the sound of the rushing water.
After I checked out the main area I’d found, I drove up to the dam and took some some photos of the area there. Then I walked up to the campground and discovered an Algonquin Outfitters location. As they are one of my favourite Outfitters, I was happy to see their presence in this lovely place, and of course, had to take a photo to tweet to them! 🙂
After the Wild Water Preserve I checked out a place recommended by Ray called Ritchie’s Falls. It was vey pretty and reminded me a bit of the falls by Mew Lake.
I headed back to Southwind after my short exploration of Minden. Ray had 137 acres and I was pretty much the only one here, so why not take advantage and check it out? I strapped on my snowshoes and set off checking out all of the trails usually used for ATV’s, jeeps and snowmobiles, every one of them totally quiet.
I did quite a bit of exploring. It was so very peaceful here and I had no fear of getting lost or having any issues which was really comforting, especially being alone. The trails were all well marked and I saw lots of animal tracks everywhere I went. I was hoping to find an animal!
I went through the open marsh section and up a steep hill to check out the trails on the far end of the property.
Lots of cool things to see for sure! Unfortunately, I didn’t see any of the animals that made all the cool tracks in the snow. It was getting close to sunset so I figured I should head back to the tipi for the night and make my dinner. I was doing my best to stay out as long as possible as I assumed it would be a long night in the tipi all alone.
I parked my snowshoes for the night and got the fire going again which was really easy with the hot coals that were still in the stove. Then I took a few photos as the dark set in.
As night took over I expected the panic and anxiousness to become present as well, but nothing happened. I didn’t seem to be scared or worried at all, which was very odd for me. I was completely content inside the tipi, alone, and very warm, I might add!
I heated up my pasta on top of the stove. I had brought my backcountry stove in case the stove wasn’t hot enough, but I had no issues at all. The pasta was delicious, rotini with a chicken broth sour cream sauce and asparagus, chicken and some romano cheese. I ate it right out of the pot! YUM!
After dinner I made myself a big cup of hot chocolate with a generous amount of baileys in it! I sat in my chair roasting in my t shirt and sweat pants which I had pushed up to my knees. It was quite warm in the tipi tonight! LOL
I utilized my area to hang up my snow clothes that had gotten damp during my adventures earlier in the day. I sat in my chair and edited the photos I’d taken this afternoon on my phone and caught up on social media. Somehow I could do this for hours and even though I was so tired and wanted to go to bed around 9, I ended up staying up until almost 1130. Then I got comfy cozy in my bed, and was very warm as I drifted off to sleep.
I woke to a bright light shining in my face and was startled at first thinking someone was outside with a light pointed at my tipi. It ended up being the moon. HAHA! I was also delighted by the sound of a bird I rememeber hearing in Frontenac last June, who happily sang most of the night. (ARGGG!) As my stove was very small I ended up waking about every 2 hours to put more wood in so I would stay warm. I know I hadn’t slept much but I didn’t feel too bad when I woke up around 7am.
I woke up to a chilly tipi but it warmed quickly once I added some more wood to the stove. I put some water on the stove to boil for some hot chocolate and added 2 hard boiled eggs, pre boiled, to heat up. As I waited I started to pack up my bedding.
After I ate, I filled my thermos with hot chocolate, put on my snowhoes and went to the marsh area to look for mooses!
It was very peaceful and quiet out and I was enjoying being alone in the forest.
I saw few cool trees on the way to the marshy area and had to take some pics. I stopped to have a drink and I felt like someone was watching me. I was hoping it was a deer or a bunny or something but it was the tree above! LOL. Might be one of my favorites of all times. He’s so cute!
I got to the marshy area and sat in the snow, drinking my hot chocolate and waiting for anything to come walking out. I would’ve been delighted to see a fox, deer, moose, or even just a little rabbit but no such luck. I did see a nice sunrise, so I guess that was something?
I slowly headed back to camp, admiring all the tracks in the snow. So many creatures running around but I didn’t get to see any of them. Boo 🙁
As I got closer to camp, I heard something and knew the sound almost instantly, a woodpecker was nearby. I listened and finally located it and did my best to get a little video. Just then a gray jay flew past but he was too quick for me to catch a photo of him. Oh well, at least I’d seen something! 🙂
I made my way back to pack up the tipi and saw a bunch more tracks but sadly no more creatures. When I returned to the site, I started to tear down and get ready to head out.
Because it had not been extremely cold, all the snow I’d packed in at the bottom of the tipi had melted up the canvas making it quite wet. I would have to find a way to dry it when I got home. I did my best to get all the ice chunks from it and fold it up as best I could.
The stove had left a deep hole in the snow but otherwise I had left no trace. I emailed Ray that I was packed and shortly after he was there with the ATV and trailer to take me back up to my car.
Ray dropped me off and I thanked him for the great service and wonderful stay! I was really happy I’d contacted South Wind and had an awesome experience camping here. I think it is a lovely area with lots to do and would be a great campground for someone starting out winter camping or looking for a quaint place to stay and enjoy the activities in Haliburton.
I hope you enjoyed my post and it has inspired you somehow to get outside and enjoy nature! If you have any questions, concerns or issues, please do not hesitate to leave a comment. I’m always happy to hear from people!
Stay tuned for what will most likely be my last winter post of the season, by the sounds of the weather forecast. My visit to Silent Lake, a total winter wonderland where mom and I take on our first sled in!!! It was a great adventure and I can’t wait to share it with you!
Thanks so much for stopping by and I hope to see you again soon!
And Thanks to Ray, Yours Outdoors and Ontario Highlands for all your help with this adventure!