Wow, what a trip!
It'd been over thirty years since I'd done some serious wintercamping back in Scouts and I've been waiting a long time to get back out. Of course, as a boy in the 70's, it was with a completely different, much more traditional style of gear, but after a couple of nights of below freezing "field testing" the hammock, I was eager to get out again.
In the end, Swan Lake proved to be a great choice. The route was a little tougher than expected, the trail a little longer but like the wicked portages last fall, it made sitting and relaxing in camp all the more rewarding. The lake itself was beautiful. I've been canoeing through the Park for over thirty years, but I think this was the first time I ever got out in the winter. All I can say is that Algonquin is truely awesome. I got a real sense of adventure seeing an untrodden path winding up ahead and knowing that we were the first people into that part of the Park that winter.
At around -18°C, our first night wasn't bad. Most of us had field tested to that temperature and slept snugly. When on the second night the temperature dipped down to around -26°C, things got a little different.
I made the mistake of not taking the time to really warm my feet by the fire before bed, so my feet were already cold when I pulled the -9°C down sleeping I use for a topquilt. Stuffed into that went my down vest, two wool sweaters and a thin fleece throw. I'd wake up every three hours or so with a chill, move around my "insulation supplements" and then go back to sleep for another couple of hours. The annoying part was every time I woke up, all I could hear was the contented snores of a troop of snug winterhangers!!!
Another interesting happening was the loud cracking of the trees as the temperature began to really drop. It sounded like it went on all night!!!
Sled: In preparation for the trip, I refinished my old fashioned five foot wood toboggan with a few coats of spar urethane and then burned in an even coat of glide wax using an old 2" putty knife heated on the kitchen stove. All the effort certainly paid off because on the trail, that old sled all but slid uphill (yeah, I wish!). I can hardly wait to see the look on my kids faces when they take it to the local sledding hill!!
Gear: I started off by supplementing my basic early/late season canoeing gear. Heavy items (underquilt, sleepingbag, hammock/tarp, clothes, food, and cook gear) would all ride on my sled wrapped in a standard blue poly tarp and lashed on top of that would be my camp chair and my hand auger. On my back was a fairly light 65L (4000 cubic inches) pack loosely loaded with water, gloves, sunglasses, and all of the layers I thought I'd need throughout the day.
Although I knew to expect some degree of frost, I wasn't prepared for the sheer volume that accumulated over the -25°C night. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that it felt like somone had sprayed at least a cup of water onto the top of my bag, hood and balaclava. A frost bib is definitely on the gear list on the next trip.
I'd like to thank Derek (aka dejoha) for his generous gift of his book The Ultimate Hang to give away during the hang and congratulate Jayson on his win. This guy certainly deserved it. As novice hangers with only one Valens winter hang under their belts, both Jayson and his wife made it through both grueling nights like pros.
Finally, I couldn't have asked for better company on this little outing. I got a chance to hang again with a couple of guys that are becoming old friends and really get to know a couple of new ones. Thanks to [o]TTeR for all of his great pictures. He certainly has a gift and almost makes me want to leave my own camera at home.
I'm already looking forward to the next Eastern Great Lakes event. Judging by the success of our previous canoe hangs, a late spring paddle sounds like it might be in the cards. Destination: tbd, although Killarney, Algonquin and the Georgian Bay all sound amazing!!!