Two days without music, The Office reruns, speaking to other humans and my kitties. I dunno.
I know what you’re thinking. Well, I don’t. But I know what I’m thinking you’re thinking. What kind of 37 year old dude has never gone camping? Yeah, well, how many times have you seen Star Wars, my friend?? Time to fix that no camping thing, right? My previous plan for the weekend was to camp two nights in the Adirondacks and try to snag four more High Peaks over the three days. With weather conditions in the mountains still not great, I decided to pile a bunch of gear together and finally get out and test my new tent in the real world. My first choice was somewhere in Algonquin Park, but that turned out to be a bummer because the area is still pretty wet. In the end, I went with my backup backup plan, which was Lac Philippe in Gatineau Park. This was preferable though because the drive was about 2 hours less than Algonquin. I think I actually Googled “best places to camp in Gatineau” to find Lac Philippe. Dammit, I should’ve lied and made up a much cooler story about how I chose my camp. One that makes me look deep and inspiring. Instead I’ll have to rely on the old “tie your hair up, stare off in to space, make that “who farted” squinty face and hope people think you’re thinking big things” trick.
This is the campsite empty when I got there. Then the tent, the tent with the rain fly on and finally inside the tent. Not a bad living space for 2 nights.
I’m aware that I’m not breaking any major human boundaries here.
It’s even funny to me that I’ve never camped. Besides that one time with my baseball teammate 20-some odd years ago. It just seems like it’s something that should’ve happened, even by accident, at some point. And two nights at a public campground? This is something the average 8 year old could pull off, I’m sure. But I was pretty pumped to escape the background noise of the world and just settle in to nature for a couple days, explore this place called Lusk Cave and cook over a camp fire. It turns out that it was opening day at Gatineau Park, which worked out in my favor. It seems most people planned to camp Saturday/Sunday night. Being that I was doing Friday/Saturday night, I had the park nearly to myself, with a few staff members around, for almost my whole first day. I arrive at noon and check-in wasn’t until 1:30. The dude at the counter was adamant, no early check-in. Lest we offend the many other patrons. So, after killing an hour taking photos around the lake, I was finally on the road to find my camp site. It was early in the day – but it’s never too early for the first moron-moment of the day. I’m driving around, looking for camp site B1. I see the sign pointing me down the road. I then immediately see a sign that says B01. I chuckle to myself thinking “Campsite Boi” as in Big Boi from Outkast, or Flava Flav yelling “yyyyeah BOIIIIII”. And I keep driving. There’s campsite B02. And B03. I seriously am at a loss. How can I be lost on the road to campsite? So I pull a U-turn. I know I had to have missed it. Nope, just B03, B02 and Boiiiiii. Then it hit me. True story. It wasn’t Campsite Big Boi, or Yyyyeah Boi! Idiot. I amaze myself all the time at my level of genius and moron simultaneously. But at least I make myself laugh. And I’m cute.
Just a few shots of the ole Mother Nature doing her thing. That last one, the woodpecker, was my 4:30am wake-up call both mornings. You can’t even really be mad.
This is a great time to segue in to a few rules I had established for myself for the weekend. It helps to understand my motives for the solo camp. So far, my outdoorsy, hiking journey has been centered around the 46 High Peaks. And while that remains Priority Number One/The Immediate Goal/The Big Focus, I’ve always got to have an eye to the future. For training and preparation sake, really. I have some big mountain goals over the next few years and beyond, and you can’t just show up somewhere like Kilimanjaro, for example, without having never set up a tent. Or lived off grid, surviving with only what you bring with you. So my biggest motive for learning all of these new skills is to make sure I’m prepared in the future to conquer any challenge. Some of these big mountain goals will mean hiking, backpacking and living in a tent for seven days, ten days or even weeks at a time. So I was going in to the weekend with some rules. Maybe not rules. Maybe personal challenges. Besides local firewood, I was bringing everything I thought I needed. Shelter, food, safety, comfort. I wanted to eliminate the unnecessary noise, so I set myself a no-music rule. I thought sitting around just listening to tunes for two days would just be too easy. I wanted a no-device rule, which I almost adhered to, with the exception of a couple texts to Lauren in my most bored moments. I wanted to eat my meals with only a spork and pocket knife, in keeping with the idea of packing light. I wanted to test out if I could live in a tiny two-man tent with no shower, no deodorant for days. I already knew the answer to that. Sometimes I like to compete against myself to see how long I can not shower. And I work 12 hour shifts, so I have a lot of days off! Naturally, I’ve become accustomed to my own beautiful unwashed scent. It’s all sexy, no funky, if I do say so myself.
The tiny stove I use to boil water for coffee. Steak and sweet potato on the fire both nights. And a dehydrated bag of pasta, sausage and cheese – it was actually no worse than a bag of Sidekicks, or Kraft Dinner. Pretty yummy actually.
“It takes forever to cook a baked potato. Sometimes, I’ll put one in the oven even if I don’t want one, cuz by the time it’s done, who knows?” -Mitch Hedberg
So my first night, I just stabbed a bunch’o holes in my potato, wrapped it in foil and threw it over the fire. Expecting it to act like a BBQ. So 45mins to an hour later I’d have a potato, yeah? I timed my meal based around this. Except after two hours, it was still not cooked nearly all the way through and I’d already caved and cooked & eaten my steak. I knew I’d be better prepared on night two. Making mistakes like this is how I was going to conquer all. After supper, I took a quick stroll down the road to find the trail I’d be hiking on Saturday morning. Having no plans and responsibilities, time goes by waaaaay slow. I found my trail. I checked out the empty amphitheater that’s randomly sitting in the middle of the woods. I’ve seen plenty of torture films that start in that exact setting. I figured it was time to sit by the fire and let the night take over. Then I realized it was only 7:30. It was eerily quiet as I sat around. The sun peeked out for the first time right before it was time to set. I thought if I was up in time, I’d try to get some sunrise photos, so I took note of where the sun was setting. Still to this day, whenever I’m trying to determine East from West, I remember Red Hot Chili Peppers lyrics to remind myself that the sun rises in the East. So it was setting in the West (a fine location!) and I now had a sense of direction!
I slept mostly OK. Even with the self-inflatable sleeping pad thingie that I had, sleeping on the ground is never going to be appealing to me. I can say with confidence that I’ve slept in more comfortable bathtubs. I’ve slept sitting up in a lawn chair, waiting outside in the rain for tickets for something or other and I think that was more comfortable. A good stretch and a cup of coffee later, though, and it was all good. Plus the idea was to test gear out and figure out what isn’t comfortable for next time. My tent, first and foremost, was a champ. It was windy, it rained a bit and I have to admit, I pitched a tent like……um, someone who pitches a tent well? (<----If I said don't think about boners......) That is to say, it would seem I did it right, cause it was still standing in the morning and staked in there pretty good. The tent did not collapse and suffocate me. My sleeping bag was decent. I was cold that first morning. That can be chalked up to the fact that I was too lazy at 3am to close one of the vents when I knew it was getting chilly. Tent vents. They vent the tent. The tent is vented by the vents in the tent. Like I said, the sleeping pad wasn't the best. It lost some of its inflation overnight, leaving me closer to the ground and looking around for the National Park masseuse. What, no masseuse? I kinda cheated my breakfasts for the weekend by preparing oatmeal ahead of time and just keeping it in my cooler. I didn't feel like starting a fire early in the morning to cook.
Lusk Cave Trail Closed. Pennywise the Clown stole one of my photos.
The trail to Lusk Cave – my only destination hike for the weekend – ran parallel to the lake for a good stretch. It was a nice sunny morning. Everything seemed to be going my way. Until the trail turned out to be closed. I’m just gonna say that if I was in charge of trails being opened or closed, I would post the Closed sign at the beginning of the trail. I hiked about 6km in, with all kinds of signs pointing me towards the Lusk Cave trail. When I got to within 1km, a large “Trail Closed” sign greeted me. How annoying. If I’d known, I would’ve chosen a whole different hike for the day. Not to be deterred, I broke my device rule and called the front desk. Since they just opened the park, I thought maybe the staff just hadn’t been down this way yet to re-open the trail. It turns out that they closed it because the trail was apparently super muddy and wet. And the cave I was hoping to explore was flooded. The phone lady confirmed that I could do the trail if I wanted, but warned me that the cave would be too dangerous to enter. I wanted to see it at least, so I pressed on. The trail itself was so quiet. It seemed like it was just me and the birds the whole morning. No squirrels, no other four legged creatures. The silence was pretty deafening. Especially when you’re hoping that a hungry, recently awakened bear doesn’t come wandering your way. Luckily for all bears, they did not run in to me. Guaranteed I would’ve kung-fu’d my way out of it. But the cave itself was a bust. Because it actually was flooded, there was no entry for sure and the trail itself didn’t really give any good angles for photos of the cave whatsoever. On my way back, I saw a swamp that looked like Dagobah and I considered filming a short video of me looking for Yoda. Sadly, my old, broken ass phone does not handle video well and I think we all know I’m too cheap to upgrade it. I did take a photo of this large overgrown area that featured a huge sewer pipe and looked like it was ripped from a scene from the original Stephen King’s IT. I remember distinctly taking this photo and yet it is nowhere to be found on my SD card. Pennywise, I think, did not want me to have the photo.
Day two went off without a hitch, closed trails and missing photos aside. Being Saturday of the long weekend, more folks started showing up. I now had neighbors on all sides of me. This sucked away the absence of noise pretty quickly on night two. But alas, I was having a blast. I kept to myself, keeping my interactions to polite hellos. In keeping with the principal of “Leave No Trace”, I felt it was polite to not just whip it out and pee wherever I want. So all weekend I used the public washrooms that were only a short walk away. But Saturday night, I finally had had enough of the walking and decided I’d sneak behind a tree at the corner of my site. Naturally, I was mid-pee when a car turned their headlights on, catching me in the act. No words were spoken. Whatcha gonna do? Sunday morning brought a bunch more rain and made breaking down the tent and packing up a little more miserable than it had to be. But all in all, I had a great first solo camping experience. I felt good about my tent setting-up skillzzz. I feel that it only gets better from here and these skills are going to take me one step closer to those bigger mountain goals. Plus I don’t mind hanging out with me, so that helps.
In these last couple of days since camping, I’ve hammered down a few more upcoming adventures. It looks like I’ll be getting back on track with the High Peaks the first weekend in June. I can’t wait. I miss the mountains. A couple of weeks after that, it looks like La Via Ferrata at Mont Tremblant, which is like a series of bridges, ladders and stuff up the side of a mountain. Check it out here: La Via Ferrata.