Western Uplands Trail Day 1: A Walk in the Woods

Daily Stats

Date: July 30, 2016

Distance hiked: 23.2 km // 14.5 mi (Parking lot to Clara Lake)

Steps taken: 35,758

Time on the trail: ~ 7 hours

Calories burned: 2,750

Fuel consumed: 1 pack peanut M&M’s, a few handfuls of dried fruit, 1 cheese string, 12 triscuits w/ PB, 1 nature valley bar, 1 pack Sidekicks Thai Sweet Chili Noodles, 1 pack hot chocolate mix, 1 clif bar

Wildlife spotted: 1 bear (on road while driving in), tons of tiiiny frogs or toads, 1 huge toad, 1 garter snake, loon family, moose tracks in the trail (but no moose to be found), plus the usual woodland creatures (chipmunks, squirrels, birds, etc.)

I left home this morning before dawn. My destination: the Western Uplands trail in Algonquin Provincial Park. This backpacking trail is split into 3 separate loops, and if all 3 loops are completed has a total distance of about 75km. I plan to complete all 3 loops on a 3 day/2 night trip.

The classic trailhead shot and the bridge that started it all

The day started off on an exciting note as I made my second ever wild bear sighting while driving into the park! It was a small bear (probably not small enough to be a cub from this year, but not yet full grown), and it was casually foraging on the side of the highway that runs through the park, directly across from one of the camp stores. Of course, this meant there was a large gang of bear paparazzi across the road. I was driving on the side of the road that the bear was on, and drove by slowly with it just metres from my car! I pulled over just ahead, and the car behind me followed suit, but a park ranger quickly approached and signalled us to move on. All this before I had even obtained my permit!

Continue reading “Western Uplands Trail Day 1: A Walk in the Woods”

Baby’s First 20-Miler!

Daily Stats

Date: July 24, 2016

Distance hiked: 32 km // 20 mi

Steps taken: 47, 097

Time on the trail: ~9.25 hours

Calories burned: 4, 098

Fuel consumed: 2 cheese strings, 1 baggie dried fruit, 1 fruit bar, 1 clif bar, 1 apple, 2 tortillas w/ peanut butter + jam, ~3.5 L water, 500 mL gatorade

Wildlife spotted: mama + baby deer (on the road while driving into the park), lots of millipedes, some kind of woodpecker (possibly downy?), 4 or 5 garter snakes, 4 or 5 ruffed grouse, 1 loon, 4 deer on trail, 2 turtles, lots of chipmunks, squirrels, and other birds

Yesterday morning, I woke up on a mission. That mission: to bag my first ever 20 mile hike. I wanted to prove to myself that I could put in thru-hike worthy mileage. I woke up bright and early and made myself a hearty oatmeal breakfast before hitting the road. I was heading for Frontenac Provincial Park, which is about an hour away from me. I arrived at the park around 8:30, and purchased a day use permit. There was a family in the parking lot when I arrived, who appeared to be setting out on an overnight backpacking trip. Frontenac Park only has backcountry camping, which definitely helps to keep down the crowds.

After obtaining my permit, I was ready to hit the trails. My plan was to do the Slide Lake loop, which has a total distance of around 21km, but with my approach on some of the other trails, would bring me to just short of 20 miles. I started out on the Corridor Trail, which parallels the main road through the park. I loved the idea of the Corridor Trail, as it allows you to navigate the park on foot without having to do any road walking! So awesome! It was also super beautiful, taking me through a young, open deciduous forest with a groundcover of grass. It was still morning, and with the small amount of rain the night before, the world smelled more dewy than hard baked.

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The Backpacking “Big Three”

If you are new to the world of hiking, you may have heard people talking about the ‘big three’ and gone ‘huh???’. Well never fear, this post is here with a full explanation! The “Big Three” refers to the three heaviest items hikers carry: the backpack, the shelter, and the sleeping system (sleeping bag + pad). These three items are the most important purchases a backpacker will make, and also happen to be the most expensive. Buying lightweight versions of these items is the easiest way to cut a significant amount off of your base pack weight, as they are what will make up the majority of the weight you are carrying. You can cut ounces here and there with smaller items all you want, but it likely won’t make much of a noticeable difference if you are carrying a ton of weight in your big three items.

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2/3 of my Big Three: shelter and sleep system (bag + pad)

As previously mentioned, these items can create quite a dent in your poor wallet, and buying them is a big investment. It can be especially painful if you already own heavier versions of these items and are looking to transition to lightweight hiking. However, making the switch is truly worth the investment, as your hiking experience will be that much more comfortable and enjoyable. Plus, if properly cared for, these items will last you for many years of happy hiking, ensuring you get your full money’s worth. The pain can also be lessened by selling your old equipment, which is easy to do these days through sites like eBay or Kijiji, or even backpacking forums such as Backpacking Light.

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A short trek at Marble Rock Conservation Area

Daily Stats

Date: July 17, 2016

Distance hiked: ~11 km // 6.9 mi

Steps taken: 15, 679

Time on the trail: ~3 hours

Calories burned: 1, 228

Fuel consumed: 1 Clif bar, ~1L water

Wildlife spotted: just your run of the mill squirrels, chipmunks, and forest birds (but lots of cool butterflies!)

Yesterday, I decided to try out a nearby hiking trail located in Marble Rock Conservation Area. The full loop is around 11 km long and is advertised as being of high to moderate difficulty. I arrived at the trailhead around 10:30 in the morning (after getting mildly lost on my way to the parking lot), and there was one other car parked there. Another car pulled in just as I was getting on to the trail, and I briefly crossed paths with that hiker at the first lookout on the trail (Leaning Rock Lookout), but other than pretty much had the trail to myself.

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Map courtesy of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere

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Some examples of trail along the south loop 

It was a hot day out, but the forest was shaded and cool, which was lovely. The trail goes through some really nice forested area, and you can see awesome chunks of the Canadian Shield sticking up out of the ground. I didn’t find many of the lookouts to be too spectacular, but there were definitely a couple of good views along the trail. The red/difficult section of the south loop was quite rocky, and had lots of scrambling up and down steep slopes. To get to the north loop, you climb up on to a more exposed section of the trail, and most of the trail here is over exposed shield rock with lots of lichens. I really like this kind of trail, but it does make it a bit easier to get lost, as evidenced by the fact that I briefly wandered off trail and had trouble finding where it picked back up again. The trail is quite well-marked though, and the rocky sections even have some cairns and blue arrows painted right onto the rocks. Continue reading “A short trek at Marble Rock Conservation Area”

Day 2: Highland Trail, Algonquin Park

Daily Stats

Date: July 3, 2016

Distance hiked: 18.4 km // 11.5 mi (Harness Lake to Parking Lot)

Steps taken: 32, 789

Time on the trail: ~6.5 hours

Calories burned: 2, 492

Fuel consumed: two packets instant oatmeal w/ raisins and walnuts, 1 packet instant coffee, 2 oz. dried fruit, 1 bag peanut butter M&M’s, 1 cheese string, 2 medium tortillas w/ peanut butter & jam, 500 mL gatorade, water

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Early morning lake views

Waking up this morning was a blissful experience. I was nestled in my warm, cozy sleeping bag, there was a dim light shining through the sides of my tent, and the birds were chirping in the day. It was morning! I had made it through my first night alone in the wilderness! I checked the time and it was a little before 5am, so I remained nestled in my sleeping bag for a little while longer. Shortly after 5, I got up and got dressed for the day. It was pretty chilly outside so I put on my fleece and beanie before exiting the tent. The first thing I did was go out to my rock overlooking the lake and take in the pre-dawn view. The lake was still as glass with a thick mist rising off of its surface. It was beautiful!

Continue reading “Day 2: Highland Trail, Algonquin Park”

Day 1: Highland Trail, Algonquin Park

Daily Stats
Date: July 2, 2016

Distance hiked: 16.8 km // 10.5 mi (Parking Lot to Harness Lake)

Steps taken: 26, 107

Time on the trail: ~5.5 hours

Calories burned: 2, 096

Fuel consumed: 2 oz. dried fruit, 1 cheese string, 1 snickers bar, 1 medium tortilla w/ peanut butter + jam, 1 clif bar, 1 box Kraft Dinner, 500 mL gatorade, 1 packet hot chocolate, water

I am currently sitting by my small campfire, enjoying a cup of hot chocolate after an awesome day of hiking.

I started the day by leaving my parents house around 7:30 AM, with a drive of a little over 2 hours to get to Algonquin Provincial Park. I arrived at the Mew Lake campground permitting office shortly before 10, and quickly and easily obtained my backcountry permit. I was at the trailhead, ready to start hiking by 10:15.

The customary trailhead shot, and the beginning of the trail.

Continue reading “Day 1: Highland Trail, Algonquin Park”

One Day Out: Gear List for my First Overnight Excursion

The day is finally here!! Tomorrow morning marks the start of my first solo overnight hiking trip. I will be hiking the Highland Trail in Algonquin Provincial Park, which totals a fairly short 35 km. I’ve been busy all day with gathering and packing up all my gear and food, and thought it would be fun and informative to post a list of all the gear I am bringing on this trip. This will also be a good way to tally up all weights for my gear items, in order to find out what my base pack weight for this trip will be.

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All my gear laid out! (Minus the clothes I will wear)

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What is ultralite backpacking anyway?

If you have stumbled across my blog, and are not already a lightweight backpacker (hi mom!), you may be wondering what the heck this ‘ultralite’ business is about. My first official blog post is for all the non-hikers out there, or hikers stuck in the ‘traditional’ practices of backpacking.

Wikipedia defines ultralite backpacking as a “style of backpacking that emphasizes carrying the lightest and simplest gear safely possible for a given trip”.

Probably the most important concept when it comes to ultralite and lightweight backpacking is base pack weight (BPW). A hiker’s BPW includes the weight of their backpack, and all of the gear inside or outside of it (excluding consumables such as food and water).

In the U.S., ultralite is officially defined as having a BPW of less than 10 pounds, while a BPW of less than 20 pounds is considered lightweight. If you have ever experienced what is called ‘traditional’ backpacking, you may notice that these numbers are significantly lower than the weights typically carried. Ultralite backpacking is a relatively new phenomenon, and many long-distance hikers of yesteryear (aka the 90s and earlier) would cover hundreds or thousands of miles with pack weights of up to 50 pounds or more.

In order to get pack weights so low, ultralite hikers can go to quite a lot of effort. EVERY. OUNCE. COUNTS. For an ultralite backpacker, the weight of a piece of gear is arguably its most important attribute. This makes the already complex process of gear shopping require even more research, as the weight of each item must be carefully considered. Ultralite backpackers can spend a lot of time and energy trying to find the lightest possible version of each item of gear. (Remember when I said I was planner? Yeah, days of research went into my gear list).

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One of the more sophisticated shelters used by lightweight backpackers (from tarptent.com)

Continue reading “What is ultralite backpacking anyway?”