Last year I had the great privilege of being invited to Mew Lake for New Years Eve Camping. It was one of the best New Years Eve’s I’ve ever had! I met some extraordinary people who I’ve spent time with over the past year and enjoyed camping in the snow more than I thought I would.
This year, I was incredibly honored to be invited to my friend Stevie’s wedding, happening on New Years Eve and the night prior. I was elated to be included in this once in a lifetime event, but I still needed to go camping somehow. As some of the week between Christmas and New Years this year included stat holidays, I decided to spend the week out of the office and enjoy the last days of 2016 enjoying the outdoors.
I had renovated my tipi last month for the backcountry and wanted to test it out once car camping to ensure there were no issues with the revised poles. I also still needed to find some places to winter camp in the backcountry and knew there were quite a few options in Algonquin. So, instead of just taking a day trip to the park, I figured I might as well bring the tipi and make a last 2016 camping trip! I had originally planned on going to Silent Lake, but with the weather, I preferred staying a bit closer to home.
I arrived back in Muskoka the evening of Christmas Day, just before we were to get a freezing rain storm. Freezing rain + tipi = not good, so I spent the day dehydrating food for the upcoming months, preparing cooked food like a roast and freezing dinner portions, packing gear, etc, etc. Tuesday morning I stepped out onto the skating rink, also known as the parking lot where I live, lol, and packed the car. I was a bit worried about the road conditions even just going the hour and a half to Algonquin, so I waited til about 9am to head out, once I figured all the roads were cleared up enough. I was right!
I arrived at Mew Lake around 10:45 and drove around looking for a good site. I had decided previously that I would camp in the non hydro section and pick a site that was somewhat remote so it would simulate being in the backcountry at least a tiny bit. The site I picked hadn’t been plowed, and as Josh was out picking up more sand, I had to wait about an hour for that. I parked a ways from the site and had to hike my tipi and gear into the site by foot. (not a huge distance, but harder than just having everything next to me on site at least).
I got a chance to test out my new shovel, purchased at Canadian Tire for $15.99. It comes apart so you can pack it and take it into the backcountry but was still decent enough to shovel out a big area of snow. I walked an approximate 14 feet in diameter to outline where the tipi would sit and then got to work. I shoveled and got as close to the ground as possible. The snow was deep and it took a bit but I got it cleared and was ready to proceed.
I layed the poles in the snow and first put them together as they were now 18 5′ poles instead of 9 10′ poles. Then I placed them in the wooden ring that unites them and put the wire through to keep them from twisting too much once erected. A few of the bottom sections of the poles came out of their tops during this process but they were easy enough to slide back in once I finished. I stood the poles up without a hitch and started spreading the poles out bit by bit until they were around 12- 13 feet apart.
Josh came by to plow out the site and I moved my car, then continued on. I put the stove inside the tip where I wanted it to sit, put the pipe up through the top hole and was satisfied with it’s placement. Then, I put the canvas up onto the bolts fairly quickly, attaching the pieces that needed to be affixed to the poles and wooden ring. I went around the base and tucked the leftover portion underneath each pole one by one. I did this instead of lying the canvas on the snow outwardly and covering it with more snow to seal the bottom area, as doing that on previous trips, made the snow/ice stick and freeze to the canvas and it made it very hard to get it off the canvas at the end of the trip. I was hoping this new way would be a bit cleaner in that respect.
After I got the tipi set up, I layed down a big tarp, folded in half for double the thickness, then put a plastic sheet down, 2 thermarest matts and my Jack Wolfskin bag, with my new Marmot winter bag on top. I put the rest of my gear in the tipi, got a small fire going to start making a few hot coals for later and I was all set!
Unfortunately, due to my late start I only had a few hours to go scouting for winter sites, but it was better than nothing. I grabbed my prepacked backpack and headed to the falls first and then the highland backpacking trail and bike trail to see if I could find some spots to winter backcountry camp, my next big adventure!
I hiked for almost 3 hours and only found one potential site. Unfortunately someone was camping on it so I couldn’t go into the forest to actually see the site, but I took some photos to note where it was for future reference.
As I walked in the different areas and on the different trails, I noticed that the snow and ice were not the same anywhere. On some trails I was punching through the ice, then going down through the snow to the ground, in others I was walking on top of the ice and snow and in others the snow was just snow, no ice on top. This made for difficult walking and it was incredibly time consuming trying to make much headway on the trails.
Here are some photos I took along the way.
I stopped at the falls for a bit to take a few photos. I couldn’t not come here while staying at Mew. It was just silly not to as it was so incredibly pretty there.
It started to get dark so I headed back to the campground, but found this cute little chickadee on the way. I think he thought I would feed him as when I held my hand out he came flying into my hand quickly looking for food. Shortly after however, he got wise and headed off to find someone more willing to feed him. Sorry little bird.
My friends Paula and Jack were camping in their hot tent in the hydro section so I stopped in to say hello and we had a great chat. I had met them last year here in person after they’d advised they followed my blog and they were such wonderful people. We made plans for a walk later and I headed back to my tipi to rest for a bit, heat up my roast pork dinner and warm myself up a bit.
There were still a few hot coals in the stove and getting the fire going again was super simple. I put my precooked roast dinner in a pot on the stove and waited for it to heat up while enjoying a cocktail. After dinner I cleaned up, which was very easy, and shortly after, Paula and Jack came by for our walk.
We walked the entire campground going up and down each row. We talked about camping in general and shared some fun stories of our 2016 adventures. I was so happy to be able to spend some time with them and I was glad they were in the park at the same time as me again.
After our walk we said goodnight making plans for the following evenings walk again. I sat and read through the Algonquin winter flyer and was surprised at how sleepy I was. I got into my sleeping bag around 10:30 and was off in dreamland before I knew it. I only woke up twice in the night to put more wood in the stove so it would remain nice and toasty inside the tipi. I was warm and cozy and a happy camper.
I woke up around 630 the next day. I heated up my precooked scrambled eggs and toasted an english muffin in the same pan, then enjoyed my food in the warm tipi. After breakfast cleanup, which was barely anything, I packed my backpack for the day, put on my layers and headed to the skating rink. It had been completed just yesterday when I arrived and I wanted to go for a spin before I started my hiking adventure.
No one was at the rink so I totally took advantage and went for a few spins on the rink. Shortly after the park hosts came by to shovel the snow off the rink, so I grabbed a shovel also and a few of us cleaned all the snow off the rink. I skated a bit longer after we finished, then took off my skates and brought them back to my site.
I was on a mission and needed to get going, but as I was heading out, I was stopped by a gentleman who had parked his vehicle in front of my site. His name was Allan and he recognized my tipi from my blog and wanted to check it out. We had a lovely chat and I gave him a tipi tour. It is always really awesome to meet people in person who follow my posts and I was very glad Allan stopped by to say hello. He was visiting the park to take photos and always took such amazing ones! I was looking forward to seeing them online afterwards. I said ciao to Allan and headed to the highland backpacking trail to scout for sites.
After that I walked along the Track and Tower Trail and then the bike trail in the opposite direction from yesterday. I hiked for over 6 hours and ended up finding a few potential sites. I was really happy I had come. Dual purpose trips were the best, but this one checked off all sorts of lists for me and I was so glad I was here!
I was completely and utterly exhausted by the time I got back to the tipi as night fell. Many of the trails I’d been on were packed down, but many were also totally unwalked on and the snow was very very deep. My legs were tired and I was ready to sit down and warm up.
I started a fire outside, but as I was having a hard time getting the fire in the stove going, I quickly doused that idea and went into the tipi. Yesterday, I was using a combination of wood from Muskoka, a bag I bought in Huntsville en route, and a bag from Ontario Parks. At the moment, all that remained mostly was the Ontario Parks wood and it was not burning for anything. All it did was smoke and smoke and smoke but wouldn’t light. It took me almost 3 hours to get the fire going the way it should. My eyes were watering with smoke and my face was burning from sticking it into the stove to blow blow blow. I had used up 5 homemade fire starters and was literally out of ideas. I had brought a few tea lights to use as dim lighting so I tried one in the stove. The wax caught on fire very quickly after putting it in the stove and adding a few wood shavings I’d made from one of the last pieces of wood from the gas station. Finally, the fire caught. This was another reminder to me about backcountry camping with the stove and even though I have a heat source, sometimes you have to really work at getting the fire going to keep you warm. Sometimes it was easy, like yesterday, but today, it was very tough and that was something I needed to really think about for my backcountry trip.
I put some water on the stove but as it was just heating up, I changed it up and used my backcountry stove to boil the water. I had spaghetti with dehydrated sauce and mushrooms today and I was so hungry I didn’t want to wait any longer. When I finally sat down to eat, I heard Paula and Jacks welcoming voices outside announcing themselves. They came for our walk but I was just eating and finally getting warm after being out for most of the day. I sadly advised them I was going to skip the walk tonight. We chatted for a bit and then said our goodbyes as I’d be leaving early the next morning. I was sad to see them go, but knew we would meet up again soon.
I ate my dinner and relished in the warmth of the fire, so grateful to have it and that it finally caught. I was so tired I didn’t even remember to take dinner photos. Woops! I cleaned up after dinner, read for a bit and then went to sleep. I was so tired. Walking in snow, especially with a layer of ice on top of it was very tiring and I once again, fell asleep almost before I hit the pillow.
I woke up around 3am and it was chilly in the tipi. I was really happy I had slept so long as my last trip last year, I’d woken up every 2-3 hours to put more wood in. I think as I was sleeping in a -40 bag, I didn’t really notice the lack of heat from the stove and just kept right on sleeping. The issue with that though, was that by the time I did wake up around 4am, most of the hot coals had extinguished themselves and it was once again very difficult to get the fire going again. I had 2 candles left and had to use them both to get the fire started again, but I got it going. WHEW!
I went back to sleep and woke up at 7. I had plans to go snowshoeing with some friends at Limberlost and needed to meet them at 1030. I got up so I could put out the fire (hahaha) and cool down the stove so I could pack it and the tipi up in time. I had received some requests from people for me to show the inside of the tipi the day before, so I made a video. I hope you enjoy it!
When I had packed to come here on Monday, I was only planning on staying one night, but I had brought some extra food in case I stayed for two. My second breakfast option was oatmeal (which wasn’t great for me as it’s fiberous and I have colitis and hiking all day after oatmeal, probably wasn’t the greatest idea) option 2 was 2 hard boiled eggs but when I got them out, I discovered they were frozen solid. LOL. I put some water on the stove and heated them up and ate while I started to pack up.
It was snowing quite a bit this morning and I got the snowbrush from the car to clean off the tipi canvas but it was pretty much pointless. I would get all the way around it only to discover that where I’d started was already covered again with snow.
I dismantled the stove and put the body of it in the snow to cool off completely while I took down the rest of the tipi. The canvas was soaked and I wasn’t sure why exactly? I had never seen it so wet and I had a very hard time folding it up and getting it to be compact in any way. This was something I know would be an issue with taking it into the backcountry so I would have to maybe treat the bottom section of the canvas with some type of water repellant to keep the snow and ice from sticking to it so much. Even though I didn’t cover the bottom with piles of snow, the snow was still affixed to the material and frozen to it and this was a concern. If any of you have any suggestions on how to avoid this issue, please send me a message. I have a few ideas, but maybe someone else has a better one?
Well, after I packed up everything and left the site as close to untouched as possible, I sadly drove out of the park and made my way to Limberlost.
When one adventure ends, another one begins…. best way to end 2016, with lots of outdoor adventuring. Hope you come back to check out my post on Limberlost and also to check out my first winter backcountry camping experience, coming soon!!!!
The tipi is undergoing more renovations! Some needed some wanted! Can’t wait for you all to see it! It’s not quite done yet, but it will be shortly! Stay tuned!
Thanks so much for checking out my post! I hope you enjoyed it and if you have any questions, suggestions or just want to say hi, please leave a comment.