Location: Frontenac Park, Sharbot Lake
Sites: 4b Big Salmon Lake, 118 Sharbot Lake
Day 0: A trillion trilliums
As with all good trips, this one started frantically. Coming in from Ottawa via Perth, we arrived to our car camping site with just enough time for a game of frisbee in the setting sun before roasting hot dogs over the fire and settling in for the evening. The campground was flooded with trilliums in the hundreds, poking out from everywhere in full bloom. Despite the May long weekend, bugs were pretty mild and mostly limited to mosquitos in the evening. My hammock and SuperFly combination got its first real trial after the "McIntosh Disaster" while strung over some almost-certainly-poison-ivy. An unexpected downside of hammock camping is that front-country sites are almost never well set up for adequate pitches, so I've had to learn to get creative with where to hang. Something that helped was tying the guylines specifically for the hang with either a trucker's hitch or a simple McCarthy hitch. I was also experimenting with some melatonin this trip, through I don't think it helped me get to sleep this time.
Day 1: The Storm
Warning bells from my phone woke us the next morning, "severe thundstorm warning" was to be the day's theme song. I abandoned my ziploc oats in favour of actually cooking them and was very pleased with the results. Much better texture, and the cleanup really wasn't that bad. We had a lazy morning before heading down the road to Frontenac and losing cell phone service, despite what the Bell service map would have me believe. Ditching the remainder of our unwanted gear and stuffing our faces with snacks, we left for Big Salmon Lake. I was trying out hiking poles for the first time this trip. It took a few minutes, but eventually I stopped feeling awkward and got used to the balance that they gave. Going uphill, I felt faster, and going downhill I felt more stable. The ~ 5km path to the campsite was extremely well maintained, trail markers every 20 feet and we saw a fair number of day hikers. We arrived to one of the most beautiful hiking sites I've ever seen; a manicured tent pad, beautiful trees for hanging my hammock, a full outhouse, and best of all an actual bear box. I cannot emphasize how cool it is to not do a bear hang at 10pm in the pouring rain. Despite having four sites squished in together beside the lake, we had only one neighbour who showed up later. The rest must have been scared off by the thunderstorm warnings. We battened down the hatches and I pulled in the doors on my superfly as much as possible. When the rain came, it was heavy but relatively short-lived. The thunder crashed around us for all of 10 minutes before it blew on towards Kingston and, we later learned, to wreak havoc there. We got lucky. Even luckier, that was the last of the lightening for the weekend. The wind and the rain had kept the bugs to a minimum, though when we ventured onto a hiking trail for a quick walk they revealed themselves to be merely dormant. Clouds of mosquitos and swarms of blackflies, and of course we hadn't worn our bug gear outside of camp; why would we? Dinner was an instant beef stew, which was honestly delicious, and some orange-honey tea in the evening as the sun was setting. We sat up around the camp fire until almost midnight chatting, and just as I was turning in I saw some eyes watching us from the forest. Maybe they were waiting for us to go to bed as well.
Day 2: Ticks, ticks, and more ticks.
I had never seen a tick before this trip. Isn't that amazing? We pulled over 10 off our group during this hike, the titular Slide Lake Loop. They sold a patch for this at the gift shop for $3.50 and I regret not splurging. After some oats and luxery coffee from a moka pot, we set off counter-clockwise around the trail. The morning was sunny, and hot, taking us through wooded areas back to where we started the day before and then through beautiful low-lying swamps with plenty of beaver dams on either side of the raised trail. Sections of trail were connected with wooden bridges, some clearly cut from trees that had fallen nearby. We were lucky enough to spot an emerald green garter snake before stepping on it, and found some pink flowers that I've never seen before but reminded me of dragon fruit. The bugs picked up the further into the trail that we went, and soon we were all hiking in our bug shirts under rain jackets. After stopping for a quick lunch at a lookout near Doe Lake and picking off five or six ticks from embarassing places, the rain started in earnest. I had brough an umbrella but that... was not a success. Too hard to hold, and I missed my hiking poles. Poncho was also out, it ripped pretty much right away and made me feel like a steamed bun. Lesson to self: next time, just tough it out. Rain pants were crucial here through, especially as the trail started to degrade.
|Breakfast||Oatmeal||Overnight Oats||Overnight Oats|
|Lunch||Tuna Tortillas (couscous + veggies)||Tuna Tortillas (couscous + veggies)||Reward meal!|
|Dinner||Hot dogs||MH Beef Stew||MH Chicken and Rice|
Sidebar: Food. Highlights are all cold-soaked, oats and couscous worked wonderfully in a little talenti jar.
Coming into the second half of the trail, the elevation changes started to ramp up, and the condition of the trail deterioriated. The gentle slopes of the morning turned into wet, muddy scrambles in swarms of angry mosquitos. My new backpack had compressed my bug shirt at one point around my waist, and later I realised that it was fully exposed to bugs and had gotten 20 or 30 very large bites. I was running out of steam towards the end, with our water supply at basically nothing and no time to stop and replenish because of the onslaught of bugs, I was pretty drained. We saw a dead beaver, who, like us had given up in the middle of the path. Two dead fish, recently caught and left on the side of the river, reminded us that we were not alone and had possibly scared off a predator. That didn't seem to scare off the deer though, as we saw two soon after staring at us from the soaking foliage. There were some stunning lookout points along the way over Slide Lake, though the bugs made it difficult to stop and appreciate them very much. Before we knew it though, we landed back in our campsite just in time for dinner. Just under seven hours for the trail, including an hour or two of break time. Even after using up all the almost-dry wood from the previous day, we were able to get another roaring fire going, and even dip our toes in the water. I got scared silly by a cute dog, Bailey, who wanted to investigate our campsite. Chicken and rice for dinner, which really, really hit the spot after so much hiking. My feet were sore but I also felt a smug sense of accomplishment for getting through the loop with all of my gear on my back, almost 32lbs all told. It wasn't that bad, and I can definitely do more of this in the future. Saying that, I slept very, very well that night.
Day 3: There and back again
If I thought our first morning was lazy, this was languid. We slowly forced ourselves out of bed and started packing up reluctantly. I really didn't want this trip to end, there were some other loops in the park that I would have rather hikes than the 5km back to civilization. But my dog and partner were waiting at home, and I wanted to get back to them as well. By noon, we had headed out, and walked the 5km back in no less than six hours. I'm kidding, but we took our time. It was hot, and I got a sun burn. A couple more mosquito bites too, for good measure. We made it out just in time to hit traffic and stuffed our faces with some reward food at a Texan BBQ joint before parting ways and returning to real life, work, and planning for the next trip.