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.

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