Friday, May 26, 2017


Tanker and I headed out on Saturday to spend a couple of days wandering around Frontenac Provincial Park near Kingston, ON. Of course, it being a long weekend, the traffic was horrific...but we eventually made it, finally hitting the trail at 4:45pm.

Obligatory trailhead shot.
You can see that I've forgotten to cinch down my load lifter straps, leading to some very sore shoulders.

We had lovely sunshine for our 6km jaunt down the Dedication Trail to Doe Lake, pulling into campsite cluster #2 before 7pm after just two hours of hiking. 

Pretty stream that crosses the trail

Open, rocky land

We saw 4 beavers (two of which are pictured) in a pond along the trail.

Root well agility course

Plenty of light left.

We got our tent set up and looked at the weather forecast - there's actually great cell reception in the South side of the park! While they claimed the rain wouldn't start until 4pm Sunday afternoon, I decided we'd toss up the small tarp I'd brought along to cover the picnic table and shield us from any wind off the lake just in case. 

Home sweet home.

We also discovered that the privy toilet wasn't the only "lap of luxury" aspect to our accommodations - the park has apparently installed food storage lockers at many of the campsites so you don't have to worry about caching! 

This is my new favourite thing ever - SO CONVENIENT

Some sweet young fellows from the campsite next to ours offered us some firewood, and we were able to collect a fair bit more so we could enjoy a bit of a campfire as we relaxed and the day drew to a close.

This is what I came for.

Sunset on Doe Lake - the only one we saw on this trip.

Having arrived late and had a picnic of sandwiches when we arrived, it was 10:30pm by the time I was making dinner and about 1am before we finally rolled into bed. We wanted to be up relatively early, though, to get as much of our trip across the Rideau Trail and Small Slide Lake Loop as possible done before the rain set in.

After a bit of a rough night - Tanker and I both waking up cold (though for different reasons; he hadn't figured out his new quilt yet, and I had failed to cover my head), with me needing to get up to pee at 4am - we woke up to a rain shower at 7:30am. This is why I have trust issues, people.

Fortunately we had a nice dry spot.

After some coffee and oatmeal - we decided to leave the big breakfast for Monday morning - we were back on the trail by 10:30am (yes we move slowly in the morning!) for a longer haul on a grey day.

I love these huge rock formations along the trail.

Rocky crossing below a beaver dam - you could tell it had only recently dried from the flooding rains earlier this month.

As rain showers passed overhead, we wandered out of the woods and through a fairly stark terrain of open, rocky ridges. Following the orange triangles of the Rideau Trail made navigation incredibly easy, but the trail itself posed its own challenges.

Climbing Flagpole Hill

View from the top, with our rain covers on our packs.

Biiiiiig step down.

We began to see why the South had a reputation for being the most rugged area of the park, and looked on with envy as a fleet-footed trail runner passed us on the trail. In our defence, his tiny hydration pack left him much less encumbered than our giant packs full of gear!

Bridge across Devil's Gorge

Looking North from the bridge
We slowly made our way East, finally reaching the West Slide Lake junction and turning away from the main Rideau Trail to tackle the Small Slide Lake Loop that would lead us to our campsite. We could have wussed out and gone around the East side of Slide Lake, but that would have meant retracing our steps (even more than we already would) and who wants to do that? So, up the West side it was.

And I do mean UP

We paused for lunch (corn tortillas with salami, mustard & cheez) on a ridge a few minutes up the trail, finishing just as another rain shower came blowing through. Back on with the packs, we continued along the goat path that runs up the West side of Slide Lake.

Over the Whale's Back

Yes, there are several beaver dams that form part of the trail.

It certainly wasn't easy going - this was not the relaxed backpacking trip I had envisioned for the weekend before Sulphur Springs! - but we picked our way along carefully and had no major incidents. A bit of a foot slip here, a bit of an ankle roll there, but there was plenty of beauty to see along the way.

Powerful stream above a waterfall at the North end of Slide Lake
More rushing water at the North end of Slide.
We eventually reached the North Slide Lake junction, turning South again to head down the narrow strip of land between Slide Lake and Buck Lake.

Trilliums at the foot of the North Slide junction sign

Lovely step fall just past the North Slide Lake junction

With just one more near-vertical climb that had me scrambling on hands and knees to hoist myself up it (even poles were no help) past the North Slide junction, the trail finally got a bit more relaxed so we could make good time. Unfortunately, the mosquitos also got significantly worse. Tanker snapped and put his head net on, but we still only stopped once for a wee sip of water during the last hour on the trail.

Not a very happy guy.
We arrived at campsite cluster #1 on Buck Lake around 3pm after 4.5hrs on the trail and just shy of 12km, then immediately set about erecting ourselves a shelter from the impending weather.

The Tunnel of Love

We had plenty of time to gather firewood, which was available in abundance behind the steel drum of emergency supplies on the trail near the side path down to our campsite. Tanker had just about finished breaking it down into usable-size pieces when the skies opened up and sent us scurrying for the protection of our tarp.

Hard rain on Buck Lake

I made us an early dinner - we never eat at 6:30pm! - and we hung out at our dry picnic table as the evening wore on. Once the dishes were washed, though, the rain tapered off and we decided to pull some of the dry sticks out from under the big pile to see if we could get a fire going anyway. With a bit of persuasion (and a firelighter) we got a cheery blaze going that lasted us well into the night.

Full rain gear makes wet weather better, but a fire makes it almost pleasant.

We turned in very early for us - around 10:45pm - and both got better sleep on Sunday night. We were hopeful that the forecast would be correct about the showers ending by 5am, but no such luck - it was rainy when I got up for a pee (at the privy that was A THOUSAND MILES AWAY from our site, but luckily up a very flat, easy trail) at 6:40am, and still rainy when we rolled out of bed at 8:30am. Fortunately, our tarping left us with a lovely dry place to have a leisurely bacon & eggs breakfast with two french presses of coffee. It may have been wet, chilly and windy, but we were still having fun and staying warm!

And whoever gets site 1d next had some firewood for their arrival.

By 11am the showers had finally ended, so we wiped things down as best we could and packed up, getting back on the trail by 12:30pm. We hoped that the way out would be a little less aggressively technical than the sections we'd traveled the day before (though we'd unavoidably retrace the 5km from the West Slide Lake junction to Doe Lake), and other than a few little tricky bits we were in luck.

This was a little intense, though..

Some of the Rideau Trail passes through what were a couple of farms up until 1940, and the path was very flat through a meadow. It was slightly complicated by ankle-deep water from the rain, leaving Tanker with a soggy foot very early on when he stepped in a wet patch deep enough to come up over the gusset of his Gore-Tex hiking boot. By and large, though, we were able to make very good time.

With a few notable exceptions.

Back through the Devil's Gorge, being careful to mind our footing on the slick rocks as we descended in and climbed out again.

So very pretty.

On the Devil's Gorge footbridge - this trail is tough but rewarding!

Tanker had made his first acquaintance with cairns along the trail, and had even paused the day before to adjust one so that the trail marker in it stood straight instead of leaning badly to one side. He was very pleased to find it still standing proudly as we made our way back through toward Flagpole Hill.

Good lad.

On top of Flagpole Hill in capricious wind.

We stopped for our only pack-off break and munched on a snack at the peak of Flagpole Hill, but were on our way again fairly quickly as another rain shower was ushered in by a sudden sharp wind. We had been sweating in long sleeve wool shirts with fleece vests, and had planned to ditch the vests after our break, but we ended up keeping them on as it got really chilly!

Back through the rocky spot, with decidedly more water flow than the day before.

Passing the side trail to campsite cluster #2, we were back into unknown territory as we followed the Rideau Trail West toward the Corridor Trail. The terrain varied from more open, rocky scrub to deep forest, but remained much easier to traverse than almost anything we'd hiked thus far.

Follow the orange triangles.

This is much more what I think of when I envision the trails in Frontenac.

Unfortunately our return to the cover of forest and the re-emergence of the sun (at last!) brought out the most vicious hordes of mosquitoes and blackflies we'd encountered to date. Tank wasn't sure what he'd done with his head net, so I gave him mine to keep him from losing his mind completely as they attacked our faces and eyes by the dozen. I was struck repeatedly on the hands and wrists, having pulled my sleeves down despite the heat to try to protect my arms. Again, I only managed to persuade Tank to stop once for a brief sip of water in the final hour of our trek back to the car - he said he was actually tempted to break into a run!

At the junction of the Corridor Trail, happy to be nearly done.

Despite having heard that the 11.5-ish kilometer hike from campsite cluster #1 on Buck Lake to the Arab Lake parking lot (where we'd left our car) takes 5-6 hours, we arrived around 4:15pm - just 3.75hrs after leaving camp. We were delighted to drop our packs in the trunk and change out of our boots, finally getting some air to our tired feet after just over 30km in 48hrs. After a celebratory lunch of more salami, cheez & mustard wraps we got on the road home, but between a dinner stop and more terrible long weekend traffic it was 10:30pm before we pulled into our driveway. A quick shower to scrape off the sweat, salt and bug spray, then off to our lovely cozy bed!

While Tanker had said on Sunday that Slide Lake was probably a one-shot deal for him, he dismissed that later as a product of sore legs. While I doubt I'd do it again the weekend before a big race - it really did take more out of me than I'd expected, as our last backpacking trip in Frontenac was definitely a leisurely wander - I'd be up for more exploring of this very different side of the park again sometime.

As long as the company is as good as it was this time.

Fortunately (and Tank probably hates me for this..), my legs weren't in too bad a shape at all, so I was able to get a lunch run in on Tuesday and a short shake-out run yesterday evening to make sure things stay loose. Now I just need to steel myself for a 3am wake-up call (BLARGH) and another wee wander in the woods tomorrow..

No pack this time..

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a lot of panicking to do.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Back to the Front(enac)

We had a lovely little 24 hour camp-out last weekend - we pitched our enormous tent among the trilliums at Pinehurst on Saturday afternoon (after some vehicle maintenance-related annoyance trying to get out of town) and were settled in with enough time for me to get a 95min run in on the trails where I ran my very first 50k.

All set up in a few drops of rain
I used to think this was technical trail.

After the minor sprinkling as we pitched the tarp, the rain held off for the afternoon and evening. I managed to get back to our site after my run in time to change and head down to the beach with Tank for a sunset picnic and a few casts with his new reel.

Fading light over Pinehurst Lake

We spent a pleasant night by the fire, baking dessert in our dutch oven on the coals just as a few showers started to blow through. We rolled into bed around 1am and slept soundly despite on and off rain all night, then emerged in the morning to sunshine. The new tent - which kept us perfectly comfortable - and our tarp dried out in the sun and building wind while we relaxed by another fire with coffee and breakfast.

This is my favourite way to start a day.

After packing everything up and vacating our site, we rolled over to the day-use area so Tank could do some fishing and hiking while I got in my last trail run before Sulphur Springs. 

Gorgeous sunny day by the lake, even in 50+kph wind gusts

We enjoyed it so much, we decided to do it all again this weekend - with the extra challenge of carrying everything on our backs!

In reality, we'd planned since last November to go backpacking in Frontenac Provincial Park for the Victoria Day weekend. Not only is it a wonderful way to spend a few days - we're big fans of the park! - it's also a great way to keep me from running too much while I'm supposed to be tapering.

Of course, the weather forecast could be better:

Lifejackets for backpacking?

We do, however, have good rain gear and some creative ways to pitch a tarp to maintain a dry spot for cooking and eating in camp. We'll be exploring the south side of the park, which is new to us, so I figure we at least need to give it a whack - if things look really awful on Sunday morning and we just DO NOT WANT, we can always hike back out from Doe Lake and head home instead of continuing on (through apparently the most rugged portion of Frontenac) along the Rideau Trail and Small Slide Lake Loop to Buck Lake.

Who says you can't have fun in the rain, anyway?

Though we'd better remember to bring LOTS of bug repellent..

Wishing all the Canucks a very happy May Two Four weekend - hope you have a grand old time!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Good in-tent-ions

Last week's floodwaters have receded, and the air finally seems to be getting the idea that it's supposed to be May rather than late March. The trilliums are in bloom, and last night I surpassed 1,200km of running for the year.

Only one of these things happens every May.

With just over two weeks to go until the Sulphur Springs 100k (AAAAAAAACK!), I am trying to make peace with the fact my training for the event is essentially over. I took 3 days off after Pick Your Poison and have put in just over 60km since, but the window for making fitness gains before race day is pretty much closed. I'll continue to run quite frequently - 6-7 times per week - but nothing terribly long or taxing. My only goal is to keep my legs fresh and allow as much recovery as possible to arrive at the starting line in the best condition I can muster.

And hopefully the trails won't require a snorkel.

In that vein, I'm actually going to spend this weekend testing out some kit for future races. We're going to be camping the night before and the night after both Limberlost and Haliburton this year, and I was less than pleased with having to roll around to change in, and then crawl my way out of our somewhat elderly MSR Mutha Hubba tent after the Dirty Girls 12-hour last year. I would be much happier with something I could stand up in and walk out of when my legs are unreliable, but since Tanker was basically on his own to break down and pack up our campsite (since I was pretty useless) we needed something that was easy to set up and take down - no stupid pole sleeves or weird pole configurations. I also wanted a tent that would be reliably weatherproof, since noone wants to wake up floating in a puddle on their sleeping pad in the middle of the night either before or after an ultra, so that eliminated most of the "cheap and easy" options from places like Canadian Tire.

Fortunately, things all came together for us late last month. I finally found a tent hat checks all the boxes, and showed it to Tank online. He loved it and wondered about asking for it as a birthday gift, since it would make his life at races way easier. It wasn't two hours later that my Mum (who is amazing) called me to ask what Tank would like for his birthday, and having found a place that had one left in stock for $100 less than anyone else in Canada, it was ordered before the day was out. On May 1st it arrived, and we are now proud owners of a Mountain Hardwear Optic 6!

I can just picture Tanker reclining comfortably in a camp chair under the awning, waiting in the shade for me to finish a lap.

We unrolled it from its duffel bag-size carrying case in our kitchen and quickly discovered that the dimensions given on the website really did not convey just how huge this thing is. It's basically a portable nylon cottage, and has already earned the nickname "the Cabana" or "the Punk Rawk Cabin". The thing is almost six and a half feet tall in the middle!

As simple as it seems to set up and take down, we don't want to try that for the first time when we arrive at Limberlost late (and possibly after dark) on a Friday evening. So, we need a camping trip! We had hoped to go last weekend, but what with the rain, flooding everywhere, fighting off a cold and those stupid March-like temperatures, it just seemed like a bad idea. So, we're going to try again this weekend! Just a single night as we have obligations on Saturday morning, but it'll be our first time sleeping outdoors this year and I AM STOKED!

The bonus is that this means we'll be on the doorstep of some trails I haven't run in quite a long time, so if you need me on Saturday just look for the absurdly grinning girl traipsing around in the woods..

Assuming we don't get lost somewhere in the massive expanse of our tent.

Fingers crossed that we don't get too wet.