Originally posted to The Old Wooden Canoe.
My nephew and I braved the weather for a late fall, early winter backpacking trip to Frontenac Provincial Park. Our trip was for 2 nights three days from November 17 to the 19th
We arrived at the park just after 1:00pm. The weather was a little overcast with the temperature around -3. When we got our permits from the park office we were pleasantly surprised to hear we were the ONLY people camping in the entire park. We took this two ways. Either we were more brave than anyone else…or too stupid. We had 3 days to figure it out.
For this trip we were going to spend two nights on Doe lake on campsite cluster #2. After getting our gear together we hit the trial.
According to the map, it should take about 2 hours to hike to Doe lake from the park office. We did it in about an hour and a half. The trail had a generous covering of snow. Enough to be wet and slippery but not enough to really slow us down.
The trail itself is fairly easy with only moderate ups and downs. there were a few water crossings, but well maintained bridges kept us out of the drink. Only a short distance to camp there is a great lookout overlooking Doe Lake.
Once we arrived at cluster #2, we quickly went about setting up camp. By now it had started to snow more heavily.
While i set up camp, Thomas worked his magic getting a fire going. Even though it had been snowing, he still managed to get a fire started with little trouble.
For dinner we had homemade chili mac and cheese which i had prepared ahead of time and dyhrated. With a roaring fire, and a can of Guinness or two, our meal was perfect.
After dinner and clean up we decided it was time to hit the tent. Thankfully i brought my coleman catalytic heater which made hanging out in the tent rather cozy.
We passed the evening away listening to the Leaf game (they lost) on the radio and drinking more than our fair share of wine.
Since we didn’t have to move to another site on day 2, we both slept in. Once we did manage to get ourselves moving, we quickly discovered our main problem for the day – the wind! it was cold, maybe around -10, but with the strong winds it felt even worse. With our site on a fairly open point, the cold early winter wind cut right through us.
After coffee and breakfast (bacon and eggs) we went to collect wood for a fire. We were hoping that once the wind died down we would be able to have a nice fire smoldering all day. We soon realized the wind wasn’t going anywhere and a fire was going to be too much hassle. We even tried building a wind block with my tarp but the gusts were just too strong.
Unlike some back country destinations like Algonquin Park, where you have just a simple kybo, in Frontenac they actually have out houses with walls and a roof. It was a real luxury when i took my heater in with me!
For the rest of the day we did some hiking and exploring. Aside from some Coyote paw prints in the snow, we didn’t hear or see any wildlife.
For dinner we had Sausages and rice. We had hoped to have the sausage on the fire, but with the wind constantly howling we just cooked it in a fry pan.
With the wind chill the temperature was around -20. Inside the tent we had it at a comfortable 15 degrees.
with the wind still howling outside, we had an early night.
It was a cold cold night. Once we turned the heater off to sleep, the tent went well below zero. When we woke around 4:30am, it was chilly.
With the heater back on and some coffee in us, we were able to warm up quickly
Thomas was able to get a nice fire going which made taking down camp quite enjoyable. The temp was about -10.
Unlike the day before, it was a sunny beautiful day with NO wind.
We crushed the trail back to the park office in just over an hour.
As we waited for our ride, the park ranger invited us to wait inside and even made us some fresh coffee!
All and all we had a great trip. The weather wasn’t great but we made do, It was nice to be out and not see a single sole for the whole time.
Things i learned
– Bacon is great, but when it’s so cold the fat goes hard fast and makes cleanup a real headache. I wont take it winter camping again unless it’s precooked.
– I think I would rather move to a new camp every day when winter camping. Moving to another camp gives your day some purpose and helps keep you warm.
– Next time i’ll bring a larger tent with less ventilation. For this trip we used my MEC Tarn 3. It has too much ventilation and we had a hard time holding in the heat. it’s a great tent for most of the year, but for winter it doesn’t cut it.