Sunday, April 25, 2010


Big Salmon Lake, Frontenac Provincial Park, Ontario. Photo by Marianne Balkwill

It only makes sense that the first warm weekend of the year (this year it was the Easter weekend) I was not feeling very well. It also only makes sense that if you have the long weekend off you get out of town! So, Aaron and I packed up the Subaru with our camping stuff and left our little blue house to drive to Kingston. The next morning we would head north to Frontenac Provincial Park.

Frontenac Provincial Park is on the southern part of the Canadian Shield, just 45 minutes north of the city of Kingston. It is a semi-wilderness park comprised of lakes, granite outcrops, wetlands and mixed forests. The park is a nice getaway for those in and around the Kingston Area. We decided to do the Slidelake loop trail for the next two days. This trail has a total length of 21 kilometres, winding it's way through the key features in the park as listed. This is a backcountry camping park ONLY, which in itself is a nice change from our provincial parks here in Southwestern Ontario. You gotta hike to get to your campsite.

So what did we forget to pack on this spur of the moment trip? Well sunscreen for one thing! I have very pale skin that is easily burnt, and hiking with 50 pounds on your back in well over 20 degree heat on Good Friday with a hoody on isn't fun! After awhile though, I had to strip the hoody.....luckily I didn't fry!

With the warm temperatures the butterflies were out. We saw a few Mourning Cloaks, Commas, Cabbage Whites, and a Compton's Tortoishell. Birds included Pileated Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch (including one cleaning out a potential nest site), Black-capped Chickadee, Canada Goose, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Juncos, Tree Sparrows, Song Sparrows, and Downy Woodpecker. Herptiles were out in full force with at least 5 Garter Snakes, Spring Peepers, Wood Frogs, and many a turtle out sunbathing. White-tailed Deer were abundant and not shy. With all this spring rejuvenation, it is so peculiar to see patches of snow and ice still clinging to a small patch of shade that receives little light. Like us here in southwestern Ontario, Kingston didn't receive much snow this winter. There was almost a fire ban in the park, while we were there due to the lack of precipitation this winter.

We finally reached campsite #4 after hiking for 11 kilometres at around 6:30 pm. Our campsite was elevated on a nice clear patch. We had dehydrated foods for supper that night on our campstove. We are now making our own dehydes for camping, as buying the name brands can easily cost around $6.00-$7.00. We also had a few new camping supplies for this trip we had to try out including our North Face Rock 22 tent, new Mountain Equipment Co-op Ibex backpacks (wish we had these for Quetico!) and our new Mountain Equipment Co-op brand Cygnet sleeping bags. Maybe it was just getting over not feeling well, or the 4 hours of hiking in the heat, but I had one of the best night sleeps I have ever had!

The next morning we woke up to the sound of courting Canada Geese. We eventually rolled out of our sleeping bags. It was time to do the next loop and sleep overnight at our next campsite. For breakfast it was our own dehydes of oats, milk powder, almond flakes, apples, banana and raspberries. One small problem, our camp stove wouldn't work. Aaron took it apart and saw it corroded inside the gas valve. The downside to this was that we ONLY brought dehydrated foods that rehydrate better in boiling water. Did I mention that we also forgot our water pump and tablets as well? This is what happens when you have less than 24 hours to plan a camping trip, quickly throw everything in the car, and not go over your list for camping essentials.

Our Coleman Exponent Extreme....not so extreme anymore.. Photo by Marianne Balkwill.

We had two options. Option #1: Continue the other half of the loop with JUST enough water, and cold chewy half-ass re hydrated foods, or turn around and go back....This is the first time ever we had bailed on a camping trip....

I guess we learned something from the experience....One of them being to make a check list and go over it twice before you go, and the second being to have a back up plan in case your stove doesn't work. I mean this would have really sucked if we were on our Quetico trip 4 days into the wilderness and this happened. Another thing to consider is if you are going backcountry camping, plan more than a half a day in advance.

The only other real drag about the hike back was that I got a really bad headache. I very rarely take medication, but I had to take a couple of Tylenol rapid release gels before it got worse. When we started driving down the windy road out of the park, I felt really dizzy....Maybe it was taking tylenol on an empty stomach AND chewing some aspartame gum, but we ended up having to pull over and I fell out of the car on my legs, and puked. Fun times!

We still managed to make it home to my Grandmas Sunday night for Easter Dinner!!

All in all an interesting weekend I must say.

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