Test drive

For our trip to Colorado, which will include at least a night or two camping in the backcountry, we bought new packs. A little larger than we might need for an overnighter, they should see us through the longer treks we are planning for/dreaming about.
We were eager to test them out. (David packed his – adding a pillow to take the room of items it didn’t really make sense to store there – the day after we bought it.)
Last weekend, we headed to Algonquin Park’s Western Uplands Trail for a whirlwind overnighter.

We left the trailhead around 11 a.m. Saturday with our destination one of several backcountry sites on the west side of Maggie Lake. The 16.5K hike took as by several smaller lakes, Hardy, Steeprise and Maple, and around the east side of Maggie. It wasn’t all easy going — lots of ups and downs, a few creeks to cross, several muddy sections and, once we left the main trail to circle Maggie Lake, lots of overgrowth and several large trees that had fallen down and were blocking our path.

The site we chose had a lovely view of the lake (which, at least at the west end, was uninhabited but for us). Except for the dead of night, we were continually serenaded by a chorus of frogs, a few loons and a happily tweeting bird we could not identify.

After the necessary chores (filtering water, hanging the rope for the bear bag, pitching the tent), we waded out on a large sloping rock to cool off, although it was still a little cold for an actual swim.
We ate an unremarkable (but sustaining and easy to transport and prepare) dinner of ramen, Babybel cheese, crackers and trail mix, checked the map and GPS to review our route for the next day and went to bed early.

Sunday, we were up by 6:30 a.m. and, after a quick breakfast of homemade instant oatmeal and tea and breaking camp, we hit the trail around 8:30 a.m.
A steady 15K hike with minimal breaks brought us back to trailhead by about 1 p.m.

The packs passed the test. We both felt they were more comfortable on Sunday than Saturday – despite sore muscles.

David’s newly purchased bear bell must have done its job as well. Despite spotting moose, deer and bear scat, as well as fairly fresh bear tracks on a muddy section of the trail, wildlife sightings were limited to two partridges, who flapped noisily across the path, two garter snakes and lots of toads. Oh, and about eleventy billion biting insects. (Must remember to pack the good high-DEET repellant next time.

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