Trip Report: Rideau Trail 2021 Day 4-6

This is part 2 of my Rideau Trail Thru Hike attempt! If you haven’t read days 1 to 3, you can find it here!

I didn’t take as many pictures on these days, but you can see more of what the trail looked like in my vlogs! 🙂

Day 4: 10.5km 04G-05B

We slept in and woke up around 8am, I wanted to stay in the tent longer but couldn’t hold my pee any longer!! It was finally cool enough to throw on my rain pants in the morning, which was a refreshing start to the day.

Mighty duo!

The night before, we has planned on day 4 to be our quitting day and had arranged for my family to pick us up from Frontenac since Aidan’s feet were in rough shape, but after breakfast Aidan and I decided to keep going, after all what was one more day?

We made breakfast, had some coffee, and relaxed around camp for a bit. We planned to have a ‘nearo’ day and head to an RTA campsite between doe lake and buck lake in Frontenac park, so we took our time getting out of camp.

Looking for the resident snapping turtle!

Finally, around 11am we decided to pack up and get out of there. It seemed like our lake mates were hanging around for the day! I hope they enjoyed. Heading to the RTA campsite we were set to pass flagpole hill which gave us something fun to look forward to.

The trails in Frontenac are well marked and there are Rideau Trail markers relatively close together compared to some other parts of the trail. This section had some good elevation gains and descents but nothing compared to hiking in Gould Lake!

Flagpole hill!

It was super windy which was a great relief, and the clouds meant it was not nearly as hot as the past couple days. When we made it to flag pole hill, about an hour into the day, we took a lunch break, had some snacks and took some pictures! It was definitely one of the best views on trail so far.

On the supplemental text to the maps from RTA it listed the primitive site as being just past a bridge, so of course I had expected there to be a sign or a clearing where I could see the site. Unfortunately, when we passed the bridge we were supposed to take a left off the trail to Caldwell creek, but we both completely missed it and ended up hiking past the site.

We made it to a trail junction with a blue side loop and realized we had passed the site, but felt good enough to continue on trail and find another site. When we hit the side trail for the Buck Lake sites we decided to leave our packs on the trail and go fill up on water. The hike in had a fun climb up some sketchy rocks, but we made it in one piece!

There was an empty site with a little bit of service so I decided to call the park office and it was unreserved for the night! We decided to book the site and stay there as the temperatures were going to rise to 40 again and a thunderstorm was expected, so we wanted to have a legit spot to hunker down in.

This meant we had to walk the km side trail back to our packs and head back to the site but at least we had a great site! The site was 1D, and it was super private. I did try to go for a swim but when I stepped in my foot sunk into the mud and I almost lost my shoe, so I decided not to go any deeper. Although, it gave us a good laugh.

The emergency supplies bin was super close to our site so we decided to see if there was a tarp we could borrow, and there was, so we set it up over our table to keep our stuff dry. (not technically an emergency… but it did bring us some emergency joy!)

First campfire!

We collected wood and had our first campfire on trail! We got to roast some marshmallows and cook some quinoa soup over the fire. It was delicious and filling! The wind had died down, and I just knew it was the calm before the storm, so we got all of our stuff under the table with the tarp and cleaned up our site. Just as we got into the tent for the night it started to poor! What good luck.

Day 5: 33.9km 05B-06C

The rain cleared overnight, and thanks to the emergency tarp all of our stuff was dry. It was another cool morning thanks to the rain storm, so I bundled up into my rain gear and we got out of the tent to start our day early. We had a 30km day planned to get us to the CRCA campsite on Mosquito Creek so we wanted to start early to beat the heat.

We got out of camp around 715am after having breakfast and filling all of our water. Leaving Frontenac was a smooth and flat trail until we got back onto a private land section of the RT that was pretty hilly and had lots of bugs. We were set to hit the first shelter on trail in 20km, so we tried to hike there as fast as we could to get there for lunch.

Buck Lake!

When we hit the first road after the private land section we took a snack and water break, and a lady with her dog had pulled up to the trail for some hiking. She asked if we had already gone in and out of the trail and chuckled since it was before 9am. We laughed and explained we were hiking the Rideau Trail! She wished us luck before heading in with her puppy.

We headed out onto some road walking until we got to some farm land with quite a bit of ladders! I liked the ladder climbing, because I could rest my pack at the top it was a nice little break. After some farm crossing we got back onto the Cataraqui trail where we came across an outhouse! We didn’t use it but it was fun to come across.

Pack break!

We passed Frank’s Culvert which was another fun sight of the day! It was a cute little cave, I wonder if Frank hangs out there still… There was a bench and lookout along the cataraqui where we stopped for a snack and I ventured down to get some more water. It was a hot day so it was definitely needed since the sun was out in full force. After the 7km stretch on the Cataraqui trail we made it back to some private land where poison ivy was prolific (there was even a sign posted!).

We made it through without any poison ivy mishaps. It started to rain for a little bit which was refreshing and past quickly. After a few more kms we made it to Lindsay Lake where Aidan got us some more water and we took another break. Finally, at 2pm we made it to the Allen and Ellen Bonwill shelter!

We took a long break here to wait out the heat, and there was a visitor log! The entry before us was another pair of thru hikers that had been there the day before us. I really hoped we would run into them. I hope they made it! We also found our friends Mark and Jo’s entry from their thru hike last year which was so cool to see! We signed the log and ate some lunch and then finally headed back to trail around 4pm.

Hors Xing sign!

While walking along this section we found a ‘view’ with a brand new rideau trail 2021 picnic table!!! It would had been the perfect campsite but there was what looked to be a cottage a few hundred meters away so we decided to push on to our end goal.

Around 7pm we finally made it to the CRCA ‘campsite’ which was a little disappointing as when we got there we could not actually find a clearing for a campsite, and ended up having to set up in some bush. After our longest day on trail I was really looking forward to a nice water source and clearing but unfortunately that was not the case. There was an outhouse but the door was left open and it was all bush to get to it so we decided not to check it out.

We opted to not eat dinner again, since we didn’t have a water source and wanted to save it for the morning. Also the bugs were bad! It rained overnight, but luckily we kept our stuff dry.

Day 6: 5.3km 06C-06D

Swollen Foot!

We woke up early today to pack up camp and head out as we were unfortunately getting off trail. Aidan’s blisters were progressively getting worse and I did not feel comfortable continuing to stealth camp or camp alone so we made the decision to both get off trail. My left foot had also become super swollen and painful, I think, due to some Achilles tendonitis, so some rest was needed.

We packed up camp quickly and headed back onto the trail for our last road walk. It was a pretty morning, and we passed some great sights along the way! Our final destination was at Bedford Mills Rd. 06D on the map. It was a bitter sweet ending, I really thought we could make it all the way but I am so proud with how far we made it (and throughout an extreme heat wave). Aidan and I also learned so much about backpacking that we are excited to take onto our next adventure!

My family picked us up and we headed to drop Aidan off at the train station and I went to spend a few days with my grandparents before heading home with my dog.

Overall, the Rideau Trail was a beautiful and challenging experience, and I hope in the future we can get out to finish the remaining 215km! If you do plan to thru hike the trail, prepare for lots of road walking and swamp water, these were definitely our downfalls.

Smile even though its over!
Rideau Trail 2021 in Numbers
  • Days: 6
  • Distance: 108km
  • Mosquitos: 4087 (no really, I counted)
  • Dinners skipped: 4
  • Elevation: unsure…. but a lot!
  • Times I cried: 3.5
  • Blisters: Me: 0, Aidan: a LOT
  • Campfires: 1

Trip Report: Rideau Trail 2021 Days 1-3

On August 7th, a friend (Aidan) and I set out to attempt to thru hike the Rideau Trail in Ontario, Canada. The trail is 327km in length and spans from Kingston to Ottawa. It is maintained by the wonderful and generous Rideau Trail Association volunteers that keep the trail running.

Unfortunately, our thru hike attempt was cut short when my hiking partner experienced some sever blisters and decided he needed to get off trail. I decided not to continue alone as I wasn’t comfortable with stealth camping alone. I hope to get out there and finish the trail at a later date, but sadly it won’t be this summer.

Our trip coincided with a heat wave with daily temperatures around 30 and with humidity at 40, night time temperatures only dropped to about 23 to 25. It was hot and humid, but luckily we made the best of it.

The Rideau Trail is broken up into 19 maps starting with 1 in Kingston and ending with 19 in Ottawa. Throughout the report I will refer to sections or points on the maps with their number (i.e. 01A) and if you’re interested in seeing that on the maps you can find them here! I want to provide as much detail on the trail as I can, so this will be split up into two articles. I, also did not have an accurate gps tracker for daily mileage, so all distances reported are those from the Rideau Trail maps.

Day 1: 23.8km 01A – 02C

On Saturday morning we packed up the car and headed to Kingston where we met my grandmother who agreed to watch my dog Spud for the journey. We arrived in downtown Kingston around 1pm, and found a parking lot for our rendezvous. The trail head is in front of Kingston City Hall and it was insanely busy.

Our start of trail selfie!

Finding parking was an adventure of its own and we ended up just having to quickly grab our stuff from the car off the side of the road and say some quick goodbyes. The waterfront park and trail area were super crowded but we managed to find the trail head and start our trek at 2pm (although we forgot to get a picture in front!).

From there we followed the waterfront trail along Lake Ontario for the first part of our day. This is a multi-use recreational trail, and most of the trail markers are on posts in the grass which made it very easy to follow. We made it to the Portsmouth Olympic Harbour, where there was an event going on (so busy!), and then discovered the trail was closed until Lake Ontario Park.

This detour sent us onto our first road walk of the day up to King st and then through the park back onto the trail. When we arrived back onto the trail we took our first break near a dock. We ate some snacks and filtered some fresh lake water to carry us into the afternoon.

From the Water Front Trail we were taken onto the streets of Kingston. We walked through some cute neighborhoods and got a lot of funny looks. When we finally hit a dirt trail our feet were thrilled (although it didn’t last long). I finally decided that I needed to have a pee break before we got back onto the roads and just as I got my pack off it started to pour!

The rain was refreshing and our stuff managed to stay dry. We made it to the Kingston Via Rail station (you need to go THROUGH the station) and almost continued down the track instead of going through but thankfully, I checked my GPS just in time.

After the Via Rail station there was more road walking until we hit the Cataraqui Cemetery. The cemetery was quiet and pretty, but seemed like it went on forever. From the cemetery we went back onto the roads until we hit the K&P trail, a gravel multi-use recreation trail from Kingston to Pembroke.

There were many swamps around this trail, and not many great water sources. Luckily, as our water was dwindling we found a running stream just on the side of the trail. This was good enough for me! We filled up our water and continued on (it was around 6:30pm).

We made it to a private section of the trail that felt like we were finally hiking. It was through some forest and even though the bugs were getting bad it felt good to be out of the city! There was a clearing and got to see the beautiful sunset sky and a rainbow. We almost stopped to set up camp but saw what we thought would be some good water on the map ahead.

Unfortunately, the water was just a ‘stream’ that went over the trail and I ended up walking through, completely soaking my shoes!

After that we had about a km of road walking until we made it to our first farm of the trail with a ladder to get over the fence. It was about 8:30 at this point and our daylight was quickly fading. We decided to set up camp quietly and respectfully just off the trail with some tree coverage in the farmers field (THANK YOU FARMER <3). We decided not to eat dinner as the bugs were bad, we had very litter water and we wanted to just get to bed. After getting the tent up we found a tree to hang our food and went to “sleep”.

Day 1 Vlog 🙂

Day 2: 27km 02C – 04B

At 5am, my alarm went off and I quickly turned it off to and made Aidan wake up. We wanted to get out as early as possible to avoid being found, and to get an early start on the day. Aidan slept like a baby all night, I on the other hand barely slept and was convinced every noise was a farmer coming to yell at us. We were pretty close to the road and at one point a car with their high beams on illuminated the tent and I thought we were about to be run over by a tractor. Thankfully, it was just the road.

We woke up to a fog covered field, socks and shoes still soaked, and a crazy amount of crickets. We both had a couple pairs of dry socks so we put those on, packed up as quickly as we could and headed out of our site. We planned to have breakfast when we found a water source later on the trail.

Going through the farmers field was very picturesque, but with the rain storm the previous day everything was wet and swampy. We made it back onto the K&P trail, and when we got to 03A we took a foot and snack break. Aidan had some pretty narly blisters already so he tended to those.

We saw lots of bikers on this trail and a couple asked us where we were headed/what we were doing, which was nice! We kept hoping someone would toss us a water bottle… We trekked on and I saw that there was water a km away so I high tailed it as fast as I could to make it there.

Shoe drying break

But of course, the water was another stagnant creek/swamp, so we decided to hope for better water along the way. We continued along the K&P trail for most of the morning, and tried our best to ration the 2L of water (total) we had left from yesterdays stream.

We finally made it to Foodland in Sydenham around 12pm after 6 hours of hiking. We set our stuff down on a bench in the park across from it and I went to go buy water, gatorade, and POUTINE! The chip truck beside Foodland was delicious and a much needed treat. Aidan went in to get some more bandaids for his feet.

Spaghetti Soupp

We took a long lunch break here, laid out the tent fly and our sock to dry, ate our poutine and made the dehydrated spaghetti with tomato sauce. I even took a little nap in the grass. Finally, at 2pm we knew we had to get on the road if we were gonna make it to Gould Conservation before dark.

On the way from Foodland we got back onto some trails that took us to Knowlton Lake with Peter’s Perch. It was such a beautiful lookout and there was a bench which ended up being our second lunch stop. We made tortillas with peanut butter and honey, and watched some cottagers from way up high.

Once we got out of this section of trail we had quite a bit of road walking until gould conservation, and this when the heat really started to get to me. It was 40 with the humidity, no clouds in the sky and no shade in sight. As we walked down the road a nice lady came up her driveway to ask if we were hiking the Rideau Trail and if we needed water.

It was so kind but all of our bottles were filled from Foodland so we declined and kept going. I became super emotional after this because of the heat and started just crying as we walked down the road. We finally found some shade on a super long driveway and decided to take a break there. We drank a bunch of water and Aidan convinced me to keep going.

As I sat there sobbing into my water bottle texting my mom and he was like “you know this sucks, but once we get through it we can say ‘yeah it sucked, but I still made it my bitch'” and so we had a good laugh. I finally got myself together and we continued onto Gould Lake.

We finally made it to Gould Conservation around 630 and when we finally got off of the road and onto a trail, it was completely overgrown and after the first blaze we couldn’t find any others. This was super frustrating so we turned around and went back onto the road and decided we would just walk up to the conservation entrance that way.

After another km or so on the road, we decided to make camp in the forest off to the side on the other side of a hill. There was a swamp and a clearing where we decided to set up camp. We again decided not to eat dinner and just have a protein bar. After a few unsuccessful attempts to hang our food on dead trees, we found one that was good enough… I mean would a bear really come??

Day 2 🙂

Day 3: 16.1km 04B-04G

We had another early start today and got out of our tent at 6am. I again didn’t sleep well, but better than night 1. We heard coyotes (or wolves??) in the distance and lots of animal steps throughout the night that kept us both on high alert. Luckily, our terrible bear hang managed to keep our food safe. It rained again that night, but we kept out shoes closer to the tent so they stayed mostly dry.

We knew it was going to be another hot day but were excited to be on trails for most of it heading into Frontenac park. Starting out the day we continued up the road to the main entrance, and then to the beautiful Gould Lake.

There was a dock and picnic tables, so we had a long breakfast break there (our first hot breakfast on trail!). I made coffee and ramen, and Aidan had tea and ramen. It was so good. We filtered and drank lots of water, and even met a couple dogs that came by. It was a beautiful morning.

Around 9:30 we headed back onto the trail towards Frontenac. We passed our first Mica Mines and had lots of super fun (exhausting) hills and climbs throughout the day. By 11am it was already 30 and 37 with the humidity, luckily we had so much water on trail this day. We took a break every hour to drink water and eat a snack, hiker hunger was finally hitting me.

Gould Lake!

There were many nice lookouts in this section and a couple even had benches! Coming up a hill to find a bench at the top is really the best feeling. Leaving Gould Conservation area, we had a bit of road walking to get us to Frontenac Park but we knew we would be passing Frontenac Outfitters where we could hopefully get some gatorade.

The road walking was again brutal in the heat but at least we knew we had water. I kept dreaming that the outfitters would have ice cream or a chip truck or something delicious to give myself motivation to keep pushing on the road. When we finally made it there, they let us fill up our water with their water cooler, and had gatorade for sale. I asked if they happened to also double as an ice cream shop, and unfortunately they did not.

We loitered on their lawn while we drank our Gatorades and then finally headed into Frontenac. The walk up Big Salmon Rd felt like it lasted forever, but it felt so good to finally make it there! They had a vending machine at the park office where, you guessed it, we got more Gatorade. After another long break at the park office we headed to our campsite at Doe Lake.

The trail in Frontenac was very well marked and relatively flat to Gould conservation. There were a few climbs but I knew we were so close to the site so it felt doable. I wanted to make it to camp by 5pm and when I saw it was 4:45, I decided to try and run the last 1.5kms. I jogged and then when it hit 5 I still had a bit to go but made it to camp by 5:12pm.

The sites on Doe Lake are very close together and we had the middle site. There was a nice family on one side and an older couple on the other. As I waited for Aidan to make it to camp (he did not want to run), a young boy from the family called me over to look at the resident snapping turtle in the water.

When Aidan made it to camp we set up the tent, got a clothes line for all of our damp stuff and had a feast. We cooked the dehydrated lentil curry that we made and lots of snacks. We opted to not have a fire since we were too tired to collect wood, but we were able to go for a swim. The water was so refreshing after 3 days of sweat and dirt accumulating on our skin. It felt like a mini shower!

We ended up heading to sleep without the tent fly on and hoped it wouldn’t rain since there was so little ventilation with it on, and we luckily stayed dry all night.

Day 3 🙂

Have you hiked the Rideau Trail or planning to? Let me know in the comments!

Don’t forget to come find me on Instagram for more up to date adventures ❤

Trip Plan: Rideau Trail 2021

In just over a week I will be heading out to thru hike the 327km Rideau Trail from Kingston to Ottawa. I will be heading out with one of my best friends, Aidan, and we anticipate it taking us 12 to 14 days.

Don’t forget to check out the Rideau Trail Association’s website where they have all trail maps available for free and you can see the amazing work they are doing to maintain the trail and encourage outdoor activity!

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your support is much appreciated and I only use affiliate links to products I have used and loved myself.

The Trail

Full Rideau Trail

The Rideau Trail goes from Kingston City Hall to Parliament in Ottawa, and spans over 387km with all side loops included. Going northbound to Ottawa the trail is marked with orange triangles, and going southbound to Kingston the trail is marked with orange triangles that have yellow tips. All side trails are marked with blue triangles.

The Rideau Trail Association established and maintained the trail since 1971, encouraging “low-impact, and self-propelled” use of the network of trails. The trail is made possible by generosity of both private and public land owners that allow use by the Rideau Trail Association.

The trail is split into 19 sections with the corresponding maps all available on the Rideau Trail website for free to members and non-members. The trail goes through small towns along the way such as Sydenham, Frontenac, Westport, and more as well as through a few conservation areas like Foley Mountain and Gould Lake. The trail is maintained by the generous work of RTA Volunteers.

The Plan

Along the trail we will be tent camping the whole way. This has been a little tricky to plan as camping along the majority of the trail is not allowed due to the trail going through private lands. Thus, some nights we do plan to quietly and respectfully (and stealthily…) camp off of the trail in forested areas.

The beginning 5 days of our trip are more set in stone since we have camp site reservations that we will need to make on specific days. The rest of the trip will depend on how many kms we can pump out in the day, we are planning to average 30kms a day.

The only actual sites we have booked are at Frontenac Park Doe Lake on Day 3, and at Foley Mountain Conservation area on Day 6. From Kingston to Frontenac Park is about 66km and then from Frontenac to Foley Mountain is another 58kms. If you ever plan to hike part or all of the Rideau Trail you can camp at Foley Mountain for free! Just email the conservation and they will make you a permit.

Picture of Lynch Lake at Frontenac Park.

From Foley we plan to camp along the locks for the majority of the rest of the trail until we get to the Ottawa area where we will sleep at family or friends, or stealth camp depending on the area. There are private campsites (Wesley Grove or KOA) along the way but these are pretty pricey since they are car camping sites and not backcountry. We may stay at one along the way.

We do have some distance goals for each day and rough areas of where we want to camp but we are going to take it day by day to see how we feel and how far we can make it!

The Gear!

In June I wrote a blog post on my gear choices for the Highland Trail. Not much has changed except for my big three which I will detail here.

Changes

Backpack

On my Highland Trail trip I used the FreeKnight 50L pack I ordered from AliExpress that cost about $25. The pack held up well but it definitely did not feel like a 50L pack as I struggled to fit all of my gear, and unfortunately the top handle ripped when my hiking partner tried to lift our other partner by the strap of the bag (why… I don’t know). It also felt too small for my frame as I am quite tall and this is a non-adjustable pack.

SMD Minimalist Pack

So I took the plunge and purchased the 2018 Minimalist Ultralight Backpack from Six Moon Designs. The pack weighs about 35oz and is 40L with a 9L extension collar. Even though this pack is technically smaller than the FreeKnight, all of my stuff fits with ease and extra room. This pack is also adjustable so it fits me perfectly.

I tested the bag out on my trip to Frontenac park a couple weeks ago and my only complaint is that there are SO MANY STRAPS. However, that does mean it is more adjustable… but it does seem a little overkill in my humble opinion.

Tent

I love my Skyscape Scout solo tent from Six Moon Designs (please sponsor me), however for this trip we will only be bringing one tent to be able to camp stealthier. The tent we will be bringing is the NatureHike tent Star-River 2-person tent. The tent weighs about 4.6lbs (73oz), although I was able to shave some weight by removing excess stakes and stuff sacks.

I have yet to test this out in the rain and see if it is actually waterproof as it claims to be, but I do plan on setting it up this weekend on a rainy night to make sure it is before taking it out on the trail. I will be carrying in the tent and my hiking partner will be carrying extra food to offset the weight.

Sleep System

After my Highland Trail hike I realized the mountain warehouse sleeping bag I was using was simply not warm enough for any weather below 18°c or so. Even with my Sea to Summit therma liner (supposed to add 8°c of warmth) I froze both nights, so I decided to go ahead and purchase the Kelty Ultra 800 DriDown bag.

I used this bag in Frontenac Park and ended up being too warm but was able to unzip and cool down. I would much rather this over being too cold. The bag is 41oz and I use a ALPS mountaineering stuff sack to compress it down to fit into my pack.

For my sleeping pad I will still be using the Hikenture UL Sleeping Pad, which I have reviewed previously. After sleeping on it for a few nights in Algonquin and Frontenac, I don’t love it but a new pad is out of my budget at the moment. If you’re a side sleeper I don’t recommend it. For the price it is alright, and it is definitely better than sleeping on the floor. However, if you can afford a better pad I would definitely recommend doing that outright.

I will also be adding a Spot Gen 3 to my gear list for safety along the trail in areas with no service. All my other gear has for the most part stayed the same, and you can see my Lighterpack for a more detailed breakdown of what I am bringing!

Food

Dehydrating some tomato sauce!

I recently bought the Hamilton Beach Dehydrator and let me just say, I AM IN LOVE! When I purchased it, it was only $60, which is the cost of about 5 pre-dehydrated backpacking meals so I figured it would be worth it.

For the trip we will be carrying 12 dehydrated meals (including 4 pre-purchased meals I bought on clearance) so we do not have to resupply our dinners or mail it out to us on the trail.

Our menu includes:

  • Pasta with Tomato Bolognese
  • Pasta with Pesto (if I can find the dehydrated sauce mix somewhere)
  • Rice noodle soup with tofu and broccoli
  • Basmati Rice and Lentil Daal
  • Sheppard’s pie with instant mash, dehydrated vegetables, and soy flakes (and gravy)
  • Mac and Cheese
  • Ramen
  • Quinoa and Veggie Soup
  • Backcountry Meals (pre-purchased)
Lentil Daal pre dehydration

We will also be carrying about 3 days of snacks and breakfast/lunch with us as those will be way easier to resupply in the small towns along the way. Hopefully we will also be able to grab some hot and fresh meals in the towns along the way! (And a beer or two, haha).

We are both super excited for this trip as it will be the longest trail we have both ever been on! Wish us luck and don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel where I will be vlogging the adventure!

Have you ever completed a long distance trail?

Do you plan to?? Let me know in the comments!

Click here to be a virtual trail angel ❤

Frontenac Park: Lynch Lake Trip Report

This past weekend I embarked on a single night trip through Frontenac Park with two of my friends (pictured left). We headed out Friday around noon and set off to Frontenac Park. From there we hiked into the park to Lynch Lake.

We all got super lucky with the weather, it was cloudy and warm on Friday. Then on Saturday it was a bit cooler and started to rain as we headed out of the park. I have once again managed to escape backpacking in the rain!

In this blog I’ll be covering our trip, including a review of the campsite and explain why Frontenac is perfect for beginners!

Frontenac Park

Hiking trails map courtesy of Friends of Frontenac Park

Frontenac Park is a backcountry camping only provincial park, offering over 100km of looped paddling and hiking trails. The park has 22 lakes, and 5,355 hectares of land in southern Ontario.

The trails are well marked and well maintained. Blue hiking markers were easily seen and had no more than 10 meters between them at any point. Yellow portage markers are low to the ground making it easier to navigate with a canoe over your head.

Big Salmon to Lynch Lake

When you arrive at the park you will need to pick up your permits from the park office. They also provide you with a map and a garbage bag. For my trip they called us the day before to preregister so my permits were ready on a bulletin board outside of the park office. Super quick and convenient.

For my trip into the park to Lynch Lake (campsite 12B), we parked in the Big Salmon Lake parking lot. This is about 4km north of the park office and seemed to be the best access point to reach Lynch Lake.

Our tent set up! 12B, you can see 12A on the left.

The hike in was an easy breezy 1.5hrs. I don’t know the exact mileage, my fitbit tracked around 9km but that seems a inaccurate. Lynch Lake is 9km from the park office so from the Big Salmon parking lot it would be about 5kms.

When reserving Lynch Lake the reservation site says it is about a 4 hour hike in, this was not the case. As three baby backpackers that are definitely not winning any races, it took 1.5hours.

An abandoned hat at an intersection.

The trail was relatively flat with a few small ups and downs. Along the trail there are quite a few intersections, you will want to follow the signs leading you to campsites 3, 6, and 9. As you get further in, 12 will be added onto the signs.

The mosquitos were, thankfully, almost non-existent. The moths on the other hand? RELENTLESS. Those little floppy winged demons would sneak up on us, attack with their papery wings and ask if we had a moment to talk about our cars extended warranty. Of course they were harmless… and way better than mosquitos, but cmon lil buddies, stay away!

The Campsite

Filtering water for lunch time ramen is the best part of the day!

We stayed on site 12B, it was quite small and the cluster of sites on Lynch Lake were VERY close together. There was one solo camper in 12A and another in 12D or C, with us in the middle. The camper in 12A was about 10ft away and we had a clear view of their site as they did of ours. Sites 12C and D are a little bit further way but you can still hear and see everything going on.

Lynch Lake is a small lake that doesn’t offer a great swimming area. Its recommended to hike 15 minutes to Tetsmine lake for swimming. Alternatively, we stopped at campsite 6 on our way out of the park for lunch on Little Clear Lake. This looked like a great swimming spot with a sandy beach and clear water!

Collecting water to filter at Lynch was a little challenging, there was no great spots to collect as it was surrounded by tall grass except for a small desire path leading the the shallow waters edge.

Thankfully, Frontenac is equipped with Bear Boxes at the sites so we did not have to struggle with a bear hang. The boxes are close to the sites and very clean. Frontenac also was closed in outhouses/privy’s. I personally prefer a thunderbox over an outhouse, but it was pretty clean and a good distance from the campsite.

Breakfast essentials!

Should you backpack in Frontenac?

Frontenac is a super beginner friendly park. The trails are extremely well marked, there are a bunch of different loops and trails that can be combined for longer trips. As I wrote in a previous blog, my first experience in the backcountry was on a 7 day portage trip in Frontenac.

There are a couple challenging portages in the park but overall I think Frontenac park is the perfect place for a beginner backpacker looking to test out the waters. Even though Lynch lake was not the most spacious site there are tons of beautiful campsites and lakes in Frontenac, definitely worth the adventure!

Have you been to Frontenac Park? Do you plan on heading out there? Leave a comment below!

Hiking the Highland Trail

My First Backpacking Trip

I just got back from hiking the Highland Trail on my first ever backpacking trip. The trail was rugged and pushed me (and my hiking partners) to our limits. The 35km trail turned to 38km with our poor navigation skills, but we made it through, had some great laughs, and saw some amazing views.

The campsites were so beautiful and peaceful, but the trail was rough and filled with mosquitos. I am still scratching as I write this blog!

In this article I will cover my trip report, what went well, and what could have gone better! Even though it was challenging, I definitely recommend the trail to anyone looking for a challenge.

About the Trail

The Highland Trail is located in Algonquin Provincial Park, it has two loops. The first loop is 19km and the second is 35km. The trail is marked with blue blazes on the first loop, and yellow on the second. Both loops are recommended as overnight backpacking trails. The first loop could be done in 1 night and 2 days while the second loop should be completed in at least 2 nights and 3 days.

Map courtesy of Jeff’s Maps

The Trail in Numbers

  • Distance: 35km
  • Elevation gain: 1549m
  • Length: 2 nights, 3 days
  • Steps: 70,542
  • Mosquito bites: 100,087

Trip Report

My last article goes over my pack list. Click here to see what I brought with me.

Vlog of the trip
Day 1 ~22km

We left Toronto around 7:30am and made it to the trail by 11:30am, this included a stop at the Barrie OnRoute for bathrooms and breakfast and a gas break. Arriving at the trail head we saw a few hikers leaving the trail and 2 groups heading in around the same time as us.

Our first campsite was booked on Harness Lake, 19.6km from the trail head. We went east around the trail. Heading from the trail head to Provoking Lake had some pretty decent inclines, but the trail was well marked and easy to navigate.

When we got to the first loop there is a sign marking which way takes you east and which way takes you west around the trail. We went east. The next section until Provoking lake was pretty flat and went by quickly. Once you reach Provoking Lake there is a sign pointing you to the right direction.

Our first wrong turn: To the left of the trail leading to Provoking Lake there is a portage route down to Lake of Two Rivers. Unfortunately, due to my groups poor navigation skills we had thought we were further on the trail and meant to follow these yellow portage blazes instead of the blue.

This mistake cost us going down the 960m portage trail arriving at the Lake of Two Rivers, where we realized we were not supposed to be there. So, we had to turn around and back track our way to Provoking Lake. This mistake added an additional 2km onto our already 19.6km day.

The rest of the blue blazes around the first loop were super easy to navigate, the trail was well maintained but the mosquitos did start to get pretty bad at this point. We didn’t realize how long the 6km around Provoking Lake would actually be and it felt like forever before we hit the real yellow blazes.

Before leaving Provoking Lake, if going east, fill up on water. There is some water along the way but it was mostly stagnant ponds and bog water through dense mosquito swarms, so make sure you have enough for the long stretch.

About 200m before the second loop we stopped for a much needed break to eat some snacks and drink some water. We were feeling pretty frustrated at this point because it was taking us longer than expected, especially with our detour. However, once we made it to that intersection we got some much needed hope.

First loop to second loop: From the intersection of the first and second loop we had 8km to Harness lake. It was already 5pm when we got there and we were getting worried about making it there before dark.

The 8km from the intersection to Harness was BRUTAL. There were so many trees fallen down making it hard to navigate and a couple of the trees fallen had blazes on them so it was difficult to see ahead.

At one point, I was ahead of my group and got a little turned around in the forest, when I made it back onto the trail I realized the tree with the blaze was knocked over (it was about half a tree anyways. I propped it up and waited for my two partners to catch up so they wouldn’t make the same mistake I did.

The start of Mosquito Creek

Going through Mosquito Creek was absolutely miserable, if you stopped for even a second you got eaten alive. I hiked the day in my bug suit and rain coat because the bugs were so bad. Once we got out of mosquito creek we were running low on water but only had a few kilometers to go.

At around 7pm myself and my group started to lose hope that we would ever make it to our campsite, we kept hoping there would be a clearing somewhere we could stealth camp and call it a night. There were no clearings and the mosquitos were super bad so we had to just keep pushing.

Arriving at camp: We made it to the first site on Harness Lake at 8pm. Thankfully it was empty because I don’t think we would have made it to the next site still sane.

The campsite was beautiful, I wish we had had more time to enjoy it but was just glad we made it in one piece. When we got to the site, we filtered water, set up our tents found a spot for our bear bag and got to cooking.

We had planned to make Kraft dinner on the fire our first night but were so exhausted we didn’t want to have to wait for water to boil on the fire so instead we had our curry and rice on the stove. We did build a small fire so we could eat our hot dogs and roast some well-deserved marshmallows and also keep us warm.

SO COLD

It was about 12° all day and at night dropped to somewhere between 5°c and 10°c. I was in my tent alone and my hiking partners were sharing a tent. At some point around 1am it was so cold that I ended up crawling into their tent because I could not sleep. There were also a couple Moose (we think) calling all night. Every time I would just fall asleep I would be woken by the Moose party!

Day 2 ~14km

We woke up in the morning around 8:30am but it was so cold that we only managed to crawl out of the tent around 9:30. We packed up our tents, found our bear bag, made oatmeal for breakfast, filtered our water and set off on the trail by 10:45.

Our second campsite was booked for Provoking West, a 13km day. This day felt a lot better because there were more checkpoints and campsites along the route so we knew where we were most of the day.

We took our first break at Head lake, we made it to the second campsite around 11:30am and decided to break for lunch there so we could push through the rest of our day until our campsite. The campsite here was super beautiful, the water was pristine and the bugs weren’t so bad. We even made a little chipmunk friend as we made our PB&J wraps.

Up, down, and then up again: Going from Head lake to the next lookout (4.2km stretch) was rough. There were again a lot of steep inclines and declines. We passed a couple going the opposite way around the lake and they warned us that the beaver dam before the lookout was pretty mushy so to be careful.

Another wrong turn: When we arrived at the beaver dam, our poor navigation skills came out to play again. It looked like the trail continued around the lake/swamp so we continued around into the forest. We continued about 100m and then realized there were no blazes or anything that looked like a trail.

My hiking partner decided to hike up the huge incline to see if the trail was up since we knew the lookout was soon. The trail was not up. Finally, I convinced my partners that we needed to go back to the dam because this was not the trail and we had spent about 45minutes circling around in the forest trying to find any blaze.

When we finally made it back to the beaver dam we saw the faded yellow blaze just across and to the left. There was relief but also frustration, why didn’t we see it before! If you do decide to do this trail GO OVER THE BEAVER DAM! The mud was very wet, but thankfully my trekking poles kept me stable and we all made it across without falling.

After the beaver dam fiasco I felt frustrated and defeated so I hiked ahead of my group to get some space. Pushing up those inclines was rough but when I saw the lookout ahead the relief was so needed.

Lookout to Provoking West: I waited at the lookout for my group and we took a well deserved break for snacks and water and also to tend to one of my partners blisters. Her feet were in rough shape but thankfully she pushed through. We wrapped up the blisters, drank lots of waters and continued on our last 4km stretch to Provoking West.

This section went pretty fast, when we made it to Faya Lake we were pretty much out of water and were going to refill at the campsite there but the side trail had a pretty steep decline that we did not want to climb back up so we pushed forward.

The last 2km from Faya to Provoking West felt great as we made it back to the blue blazes and knew we were close. The blue part of the trail is super well maintained so we knew there would be less fallen trees and obstacles to climb over and around.

Arriving at camp: We made it to the first group (6, 7, and 8) of campsites around 5 and hoped to take the first one but it was taken so we went in to find 7 and 8. There was a solo camper on site 7 but thankfully site 8 was empty. The sites on Provoking West were closer together so we could see the other camper at site 7 but it was still spacious enough that we didn’t run into each other.

Provoking Lake was another beautiful site. Here we got our tents set up, found a tree for our bear hang and then got to cooking. Unfortunately our site didn’t have a grill so we had to get creative with putting our big pot for Kraft Dinner into the fire. Nothing beats a warm pot of mac and cheese after a long day.

Can never capture the moons beauty!

After dinner we cleaned up, got our bear bag up in the tree and went down to the water to watch the moon. It was so beautiful but unfortunately there was cloud cover so we only saw a few stars. This night was warmer and the Moose must’ve stayed up at Harness Lake because thankfully we had a peaceful night of rest.

Day 3 ~4km

We woke up and got out of our tent earlier because it was thankfully warmer this day. The last day on trail meant a nice breakfast buffet of our left over food, we had oatmeal, pop tarts, dried fruit, jerky, and some cup noodles. We had about 4kms to the trail head for our last day. We left our site around 10:30am to finish our trek.

On the way around Provoking and out of the park we saw quite a few hikers heading in for day hikes and overnights as it was Thursday and the weekend was coming.

Back to the Falls: From Provoking West to the falls was a breeze after the brutal first two days. We made it to the falls around 11:15 and took a 20 minute break to soak our feet in the cold water, eat some snacks and filter more water for the last stretch.

I wanted to challenge myself to see how fast I could make it to the trail head from the falls (about 2kms) so I pushed ahead. This was the part of the trail we had already completed coming in so it was easy to navigate. The inclines and declines were definitely worse on the way out.

I ended up making it to the trail head in about 24minutes and then waited for my group. We made it out of the trail and into the car around 12:30 and headed on our way. It felt so good to make it to that parking lot and I was thrilled to have completed my first backpacking trip.

Making it back to Toronto was definitely the WORST part of the trip. The 401 had been closed due to a terrible fatal accident that occurred in the morning, and we unfortunately didn’t know until we saw all the traffic. What would have been a 3.5 hour drive ended up being about 7hours, about an hour of that was stuck in gridlock on the highway. I didn’t end up making it home until 8pm.

What Went Well

My hiking partners and I were pushed to our limits and successfully completed the trail in one piece. Some highlights of my first backpacking trail included:

Successful bear hangs: Now there’s no way to know for sure if a bear attempted to get our food… But, our bear hang was there every morning! That’s a success in my books.

Renavigation to the trail: Yes, we got majorly lost 2 times, but after both fiascos we were able to find our way back to the real trail. If you ever get lost on trail, google maps will show your location even without signal. This can help find where you are in relation to your map.

Bug suit and spray: I was on the fence about buying and bringing a mesh bug suit because I didn’t want to look like a newbie hiker afraid of the wilderness. However, that bug suit saved my sanity. I highly recommend bringing at least a head net if you plan to hike the trail, especially in early summer.

No blisters: I wore my smart wool socks with my Merrell trail runners and successfully finished the trail with no blisters. Invest in a good pair of wool socks for your feet on these long treks! Shout out to my hiking partner that finished the trail through the pain of her blisters with the help of a few flimsy bandages.

Trekking poles: This was my first hike using trekking poles, and what a life saver. From sketchy ‘bridge’ crossings to super steep declines, my poles saved me from destroying my knees and falling on my face. Especially at the end of days 1 and 2 when I could barely lift my feet, the poles kept me stable and able to get through the end. BRING THEM!

What Could Have Gone Better

Too much food: We ended up carrying out extra protein bars, tortilla wraps, snacks, and soup out of the trail. For future trips I will definitely be making a strict food list/plan and sticking to it. I went to the store last minute to pick up my trail snacks and ended up buying way too much.

Not enough bug spray: I brought a small bottle of Ben’s bug spray with me and a pretty decent amount of sunscreen. If I were to do this trail again I would leave the sunscreen at home because 95% of the trail is in such dense forest you don’t get much sun, and instead I would bring a larger bottle of bug spray. We emptied my bottle of bug spray the first day and thankfully one of my hiking partners brought a larger bottle with them.

Leave earlier: Both from the city and from the campsites I would leave earlier. On our first day we were bout 45 minutes short from arriving to camp in the dark which would have been dreadful. On day 2 we didn’t arrive until 5-6pm. It would have been nicer to get in earlier to take our time setting up camp and enjoying the sites.

Ear plugs/head phones: The first night at Harness Lake included a show of moose calls/mating all night. It was impossible to sleep through and I definitely regretted not bringing headphones or ear plugs to have some quiet to sleep through the night.

Warmer sleeping clothes: I froze both nights on trail. The first night dropped to about 5°c and the second night was around 12°c. My sleeping bag’s comfort rating is 11°-14°c and I used my Sea to Summit therma liner that is supposed to add an additional 8°c to your bag. I don’t think it helped and I froze through the night in my light leggings and long sleeve.

Lighter pack: This is more of a long term goal, my pack weighed about 25lbs with food and water. I did not realize how much of an impact this would have on my hiking pace until it took 8 hours to hike 20kms. I definitely plan to invest in lighter equipment as my budget allows. I will also get rid of some items that I didn’t use, for example I brought two battery banks and didn’t even use a full one.

Along with the lighter pack, I definitely think we overestimated our abilities in hiking that first 20km day. If you plan to do the trail definitely consider your own hiking experience and try and book more even days. Unfortunately due to the cancellations of COVID, there were not many options available so going to Harness on the first night was the only free camp site.

Overall, I had a super challenging but rewarding first backpacking experience. I can’t wait until my next adventure (Western Uplands Trail here I come!)

Have you ever hiked the Highland Trail? Do you plan to? Leave a comment below!

Pack List: Highland Trail 2021

Next week I will be embarking on my FIRST ever backpacking trip. Okay, that’s not entirely true, I did lead a camp group through 7 days in Frontenac Provincial Park, but this is my first real adult backpacking trip.

I booked this trip a couple months ago with the original dates being June 7th to 9th but due to COVID it had to be rescheduled. I am so EXCITED, but also nervous?

After months of buying gear and planning (overkill for a 3-day trip? maybe.) getting out into the backcountry is just around the corner. There are a lot of ‘what ifs’ rolling around in my mind; what if my filter doesn’t filter the water and I DIE, what if I fall off a cliff and I DIE, or what if I hang my food wrong, a bear comes along, realizes I didn’t pack anything good and then eat me instead?????

Jokes aside, being nervous feels like a healthy reaction. I know I am packing more than enough to keep me alive for a THREE day backpacking trip in JUNE, but hey I listen to a lot of true crime, anything could happen.

I am 98% sure we will make it out alive and then I can continue on planning for my next trip to the Western Uplands trail!

Map courtesy of Jeff’s Maps . Lakes we will be staying on are highlighted
Trip Itinerary

Highland Trail has two loops on it. The first loop is a shorter 19km trail, and the second loop is the 35km trail. We will be completing the second longer loop. The campsites for the trail are spread out by lakes, this means that they are not spaced out evenly so we have one really long day followed by two shorter days.

When you reserve your campsites you are reserving a lake. When you get to each lake there are multiple campsites and each site is first come first served.

It is a little difficult to coordinate camp sites for a multiday trip on the Ontario Parks website as you need to find consecutive campsites that are close enough to reach in one day. I think if you call to reserve you may have an easier time, but for a 2-night trip it was not as difficult to plan.

The Algonquin Park website lists the trail as “Difficult. Steep climbs, side slopes and sharp turns.” Most blog articles I have read by other articles had similar descriptions with a few outliers. I saw one that even described it as a beginner backpacking trail (they did complete it in 1 day!).

My group and I will be taking 3 days and 2 nights to complete the trail because we are all beginners and wanted to have time to actually enjoy our time in the park. Here is the plan:

Day 1: Leave Toronto at 7am sharp, make it to the park by 11am and begin our trek to Harness Lake. This should be an 18.6km day and we are estimating it will take 6 to 7 hours to complete based on the map and other accounts of the same journey.

Day 2: Leave Harness Lake and head to Provoking West, a shorter 13km day.

Day 3: Leave Provoking West and head out of the park, a final 3.9km day.

The Gear

Planning for my dive into backpacking, I started purchasing gear a couple months ago, factoring in cost and weight. I didn’t have a huge budget for all the latest gear but I am super excited with the pack that I now have and can’t wait to put everything into action.

Electronics not pictured
Big Three

Backpack

The pack I am bringing with me is this 50L Free Knight pack from Ali Express. It cost $24.56 and has super great reviews. I can fit all of my stuff in it easily and its pretty lightweight, about 19.5oz. I saw this bag recommended on some ultralight budget backpacking discussion boards so I figured for $25 I would give it a shot.

This was definitely one of the items I saved a lot from as most backpacks are in the hundreds of dollars range. It has a lot of straps and compartments, the sternum strap looks pretty sturdy and the hip belts are comfy. I am 5’11 (180cm) and it fits great.

I will be doing a full review of the bag after the trip and seeing how it holds up.

Shelter

Shelter + Sleep System

The tent I will be using is the Six Moons Designs Skyscape Scout. This is a solo trekking pole tent, it weights just 40oz and cost $145USD. This weight excludes the trekking poles, stakes and ground sheet. Everything all together comes to 3.79lbs or 60.64oz

I did have to seam seal the tent on my own, so hopefully it withstands any rain that may come.

Sleep System

My sleep system includes a sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner, and sleeping pad. The sleeping bag I will be using is an old Mountain Warehouse sleeping bag. The comfort rating is 11-14°C, but I have used the bag in August and found I was quite cold even though the temperatures didn’t drop below that range. So, I have decided to include a Sea to Summit thermal sleeping bag liner which only added 8.8oz with an additional 8°C of warmth.

The sleeping pad I am using is the Hikenture UL inflatable sleeping pad (reviewed here). This will be my first time using the pad (outside of my bedroom for the review) so I am excited to see how comfortable it keeps me. It should also provide at least a little bit of insulation from the ground.

The total weight of my sleep system is 2.89lbs or 46.24oz.

Camp Kitchen
  • Odoland Camping Cookware Set
  • Sea to Summit Spork
  • MSR All Season Fuel
  • Butter knife from my kitchen
  • MEC Mug
  • BIC lighter
  • 50′ rope for bear hang
  • Carabiner
  • 20L dry bag for bear hang

Total weight: 2.57lbs

Safety/First Aid Kit
  • BeFree Katadyn Filter with 1L bladder
  • Nalgene 1L
  • 700ml Ethos plastic water bottle
  • Extra Bic Lighter
  • First Aid Kit
    • Ibuprofen
    • Afterbite wipes
    • alcohol wipes
    • Bandaids
    • Aquatabs
    • Gauze
    • Safety pins x3
  • Gear Aid Knife
  • Ben’s Bug spray
  • Coppertone Sunscreen
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Mask
  • Toothbrush
  • Toilet paper
  • Feminin Hygiene products
  • Deoderant

Total Weight: 1.34lbs

Clothes

Worn clothes

  • Sport Tank top
  • Men’s running shorts
  • Exofficio briefs
  • Smartwool socks
  • Sports bra
  • Bucket hat from dollarama
    • Or buff if the bugs aren’t bad and I don’t need my head mesh
  • Merrell trail runners

Other Clothes

  • Sleep leggings
  • Sleep long sleeve
  • Extra underwear
  • Extra socks
  • No-see-um mesh bug suit
  • Frogg Toggs Rain Suit
  • Amoji garden clogs (fake crocs 🙂 )

Total weight: 3.71lbs

Electronics
  • Solar power battery bank
  • Extra battery bank (will probably leave in car for ride home)
  • Charging cable
  • Phone
  • Kodak Disposable camera
  • Flashlight (Will switch out for headlamp if I can find mine!)

Total weight: 1.87lbs

Miscellaneous
  • Cards
  • Duct tape

My base weight is approximately 17lbs total.

Foooooood

My favourite part of any trip is of course, the food!

Breakfast

For breakfast we will be keeping it simple with some instant oatmeal and coffee. I’m also bringing some dried fruit and pop tarts for morning snacks on the go.

Lunch

For lunch we will be having wraps with PB & J + Protein bars and snacks.

Dinner

On day 1 we will be having Kraft Dinner with veggie dogs. On day 2 we will be having some Uncle Bens Instant Rice with Pataks Butter Chickpea instant meals.

Snacks

I am not sure why I bought so many snacks but better safe than sorry!

  • Cheddar moon cheese
  • Noble Jerky
  • Dried Mangos
  • Pop tarts
  • Berry fruit squeezes
  • Cheeze its crackers
  • Lenny & Larrys complete cookies
  • Lara bars
  • Dandies Marshmallows

SO MANY SNACKS!

If I Don’t Write Again….

I didn’t make it out.

Kidding aside, I am super excited for this trip and will update once I am home. Leave a comment below with any items you think I’m missing or things I should leave at home. What’s your favourite trail snack?

Budget Backpacking

Have you ever scrolled through MEC or REI or any other outdoorsy store and thought “how will I ever afford to backpack if a lightweight sleeping bag costs 800$?”. Yeah, me too.

I am heading out on my first backpacking trip into Algonquin National Park next week and as I was going through all the gear I had and the gear I needed, I realized that a lot of the expensive items backpackers used were out of my budget. Those Zpack’s tents are super lightweight but I can’t afford to pay more than my rent on a tent!

Since I started planning my backpacking trips for the summer, I have been looking for ways to save weight and money. There are of course some compromises I had to make in order to afford and carry everything but, overall I am super happy with the gear list I have acquired!

Here is my lighterpack breakdown of my gear selection, some things might change over the next week but that’s pretty much it! My baseweight is 12.28lbs but I am adding an extra 2lbs of miscellaneous items or things I missed on my list. Making a base weight of around 14.28lbs.

Buying all of my backpacking gear over the past couple months I spent approximately $663.08CAD. Some of the things I bought could be purchased for cheaper but due to COVID lockdowns and restrictions I was limited on where I could purchase. Luckily, I did already have a lot of items so I did not need to purchase (clothes, sleeping bag, etc.).

Here are a few ways that I saved money while buying gear and some recommendations for other new backpackers!

  • Shop the sales
  • Kijiji/Craigslist
  • Brand names aren’t important
  • Aliexpress
  • Use what you have
Shop the sales

This one may seem obvious, but I scoured through sale section after sale section looking for many of my items! A few items I found for 25% off were my Sea to Summit sleeping bag liner and spork, my Gear Aid knife, and my Smartwool socks! Many large (and not so large) retailers do big sales at the beginning and end of camping seasons. I got all of those items from Sport Check’s Friends and Family event! All items were 25% off and items already on sale were an additional 10% off. A quarter discount makes a huge difference and allowed me to get some of those ‘brand name’ items for less. Great websites to check out that I also used are Backcountry, MEC, Amazon, and Decathlon.

Kijiji/Craigslist/FB Marketplace

There are soo many people that buy a bunch of backpacking gear, realize its not for them after one trip and then resell it on these online marketplaces. You may have to look through a lot of items but I found some great deals while looking. One item I bought from Kijiji was my Merrell Trail Runners! I got them for $55 and they were in brand new condition. People are always selling their old tents, bags, and sleeping bags. With a little TLC most things can be as good as new for a fraction of the cost.

Brand names aren’t important

In the backpacking community you will see a lot of the same big brands repeated over and over again across YouTube channels, blogs, and everywhere in between. Brands like Zpacks, Patagonia, Osprey, etc. are super common among backpackers and hikers but there are way more cost effective options out there. These brands are popular because they have some great items but don’t get bogged down by having the newest, most expensive and flashy gear on the trail. The money you save by shopping with less expensive brands can be used towards longer trips or an extra beer in town ;).

Aliexpress

Aliexpress and other wholesale/distributer marketplaces often get a bad reputation for an assumed poorer quality or false advertisement but, there are definitely some great finds on those sites. I was able to buy my 50L backpack from Aliexpress for $24.56, it took about 2 months to arrive but I am super impressed with the quality! For a first-time backpacker on a budget you can’t go wrong. Just always read the reviews thoroughly to make sure what you are buying is actually worth it.

Using what you have

Don’t having hiking boots but want to go for a hike??? Use your sneakers! Worried about hiking in the rain? An old rain coat and a baseball cap will keep the rain out of your face. Hiking clothes? Everyone has some athleisure in their closet. As with the other items in this list, you don’t need the newest and most expensive items on the market! Make use with what you have already.

Hopefully some of these tips that I have used to save money while collecting my gear can give you some inspiration on how to save money. Backpacking does not need to be super expensive! There are definitely some items I would spend more on, like a high quality water filter and a lighter shelter, but most other items can be bought (or even borrowed) for way less than you think.

Will you be trying any of these tips for your next adventure?

Saving money and finding good deals can seem like a daunting challenge, leave a comment down below if you have any questions!

Stay in Touch

Wilket Creek, The Ridge, and Lower Don Trail. A 21KM Sunday Hike

Helloo!! Its been about two weeks since I have had the inspiration to write about something. Its definitely hard to maintain a blog about hiking and backpacking when miss rona will only let you hike so far!

This past Sunday, on May 30th, I hiked 21KM from the Edward Gardens, down Wilket Creek Trail, through Don Trail onto ‘The Ridge’ and then looped back up. It took about 6 hours total including a lunch break, a rest our feet break, and an attempt to filter water in a creek break. This was also my first time on the trail so a few wrong turns definitely added to the mileage. I went on the hike with two of my close friends.

Super intense ‘river’ crossing that I survived!

Starting the trail at Edward Gardens was definitely an expensive decision, parking cost $2.50 an hour so I ended up paying $20 to park for the whole day. However, I was not driving so I guess its a fair price to pay for a free ride. We arrived around 11:30am, so the beginning of the trail was pretty busy.

Walking from Edward Gardens through Wilket Creek was super beautiful, and I even got to do my first ‘river’ crossing and cross the creek. I am not too sure why All Trails led us across the creek but was a fun addition to the hike anyways, and all three of us successfully made it across without slipping off a rock. We also got to hike under a few overpasses which was fun and provided some nice shade.

Once we got deeper into the trail and onto the Ridge there were definitely more mountain bikers than pedestrians which slowed us down by having to stop every few minutes and move off the trail. It also made us question if we were even allowed on this part of the trail. In the end, I did not find out if that section was mountain bikers only but if you know, leave a comment!

Found some old rubble to sit on! look liked an abandoned construction site.

The Ridge section was super treacherous with lots of jumps, curves, bridges, big drops, and switch backs. Honestly, shout out to anyone brave enough to mountain bike that thing because I could barely walk it. Also, a shoutout to the two canine companions of some mountain bikers we saw just crushing the trail! I know Spud would decide my tire looked like a delicious snack and then cut through all the switchbacks to the water leaving me behind in the dust.

After the Ridge section we made it back onto the Lower Don Trail and made our way back up to Edward Gardens. At this point I looked down at my hands, and not to be dramatic, but I had literal sausage fingers and I got a little worried. I did some googling and figured my hands had swelled up because I ate a bunch of salty crackers and cheese with lunch and only brought a liter of water with me! Good thing I brought my water filter to test out on the trail.

The filter I brought along with me was this Outdoor Water Filter Straw from Ali Express, because as mentioned before I am broke! I was a little skeptical to use the filter as it was only $25.99 for two of them, but the reviews were good and I figured live fast and die young of a very preventable waterborne disease if I had only been willing to spend 15 more dollars.

But hey, I figure its better to test the filter out in the city where there is help in case I do get sick instead of in the backcountry. Besides I have definitely drank way more unfiltered lake and river water while swimming than I did on this trail.

I ended up drinking probably 200ml because the bladder the filters came with was impossible to fill up and I didn’t bring anything else to screw the filter onto. My two friends also had a couple sips of the creek water and we have all survived a full 24 hours later.

By the time we got within 2km of the start of the trail it was packed with kids, families, and big groups of friends. This was at about 5pm so everyone was leaving for dinner! I definitely would go earlier next time to leave earlier and avoid the absolute chaos!

All in all it was a super fun day, I got to go hiking with two of my friends and try out a new trail. It also felt good to test my abilities as I can’t remember the last time (if ever) I have hiked 21km in one day. I can’t wait to get some stronger trail legs in the coming weeks.

I would definitely recommend this path for anyone with a bit more endurance under their belt as my feet and hips were killing me! Thank goodness I felt okay the next morning for walking Spud.

I also wish I had brought my trekking poles, solely for the ridge part as there were some super sketchy parts that I was sure I would fall on my face. Thankfully, I managed to stay on my two feet. If you plan to do this trail, make sure you bring lots of water and snacks to stay fueled! 21km is a full day!

Don’t forget to check out my Instagram and TikTok for more pictures and videos of all my hikes @katstraillog everywhere! Take care 🙂

Rouge Conservation Area Hiking

I am a liar…

In my last blog post, I said I would be trying a new trail every weekend in May without a car! While I did try a new trail this past weekend, I am a big fat liar who dragged their friends along so they ended up driving. In my defense when I invited my pal I thought we would be taking the bus together, but nonetheless! This is a trail that is super accessible by transit and super gorgeous.

How to get there
I went to the lookout spot in the winter to take some pics, unfortunately did not get one of the platform!

To get to the Rouge Conservation Area you need to end up on the 86A route to the Toronto Zoo. This bus starts at Kennedy subway station and then heads to the zoo, super easy and super convenient. When catching the bus just be mindful that you need the 86A as there is the 86c that runs pretty frequently and does not go to the trail!

The conservation area is just across from the Toronto Zoo at 1749 Meadowvale Rd. There are multiple trails in the conservation area including a lookout platform overlooking the beautiful cliff side!

The road less travelled
The ‘road’ we walked down

To start the hike my friends and I took what we thought was part of the trail and went down the rock road/what once was a road/weird path thing along the power lines that ended up being way more steep and treacherous than we had thought from the top. Luckily, we made it down the side trail in one piece and got a good laugh out of it. Definitely recommend staying on the well marked trail and not trying to decipher your own navigation!

Once we got to the bottom there was a side trail that looked like it had been well traversed and led us to the Little Rouge Creek. From there we walked through the forest and eventually climbed up the mountain side to get back to the main trail as we had reached a dead end.

The hill we ended up climbing.

Thankfully the trail was dry so we did not have to figure out how to navigate going up this hill in slippery conditions! Definitely learned my lesson about staying on the trail!

At the top of the pictured hillside is the Mast Trail which is where I spent the rest of my time in the Rouge Conservation Area.

Mast Trail
Me (Katherine) pictured next to a tree with a 'Mast Trail' sign nailed to it. I am wearing black leggings and a brown pullover sweater with a blue nalgene.
The trail was well marked and easy to follow!

Once I made it back onto the Mast trail I followed it for what was remaining of the 5.1km loop.

At one point on the trail you do need to cross over Twyn Rivers Dr. the crossing is well marked but there is no cross walk or lights to stop traffic. When you go make sure to keep an eye peeled especially if you have little ones with you.

The weather was wonderful and the trail was super well maintained. The trail is also dog friendly so I will have to take Spud with me next time. I saw some folks with strollers but there is quite a bit of uneven ground and definitely a lot of roots to navigate. You will need your all terrain stroller!

Don’t forget your mask!

The trail was overall super beautiful and also super busy! If you do visit the conservation area make sure you bring your mask, hand sanitizer, and stay safe, it is so important to get outside during these weird times but even more important to stay safe.

Here is a rough marking of the route I took however, I do not recommend going off trail. For your own safety and to follow leave no trace principles.

Have you ever been to Rouge Conservation Area? Tell me down below your favourite spot to hike in the city!
– Kat 🙂

How to Hike Without a Car

The answer is simple really! Find a friend with a car 🙂

The end.

No more cars!

Just kidding of course. But be honest, how many times have you told yourself “oh I would definitely go out hiking or camping or visit that place if I just had a car!” because I am definitely guilty of that mindset.

Just learn how to drive, Kat!

I kept putting off learning how to drive because I didn’t have anyone to teach me or driving school was too expensive, and then well I enrolled in driving school but Miss Rona won’t leave us alone so 5 years and an expired learners permit later I am on a mission to erase the words “if only I had a car…”. from my mindset.

For the month of May, I will be going out hiking to a new and beautiful trail every weekend (or work weekend) without a car. Here is how I am going to do it and how you can join!

I am very fortunate to live in the big city of Toronto and to have access to a decent and large enough transit system to get me where I want to go. Luckily, if you live in a dense urban city, chances are the trails are easier to get to than you think. Especially in Canada. This brings me to my first carless hiking tip.

Urban hiking is hiking!

A lot of the discourse around hiking is focused on getting into the backcountry without another person in sight for miles and miles. While that is definitely an amazing experience, especially after a long work week, the backcountry is not always accessible to us less vehicle-y inclined.

Spud the stud on a beautiful urban hike!

A quick google search of “your city” + “hiking trails” is bound to get you some results near and far. I also definitely recommend downloading the app “All Trails” which will show you all the trails in your area including reviews, difficulty ratings, elevation gains, and pictures.

No hiking trails in your area? No problem, explore a new street in your city, or roll a die and walk that many blocks. Really the only difference between hiking and walking is the letters. It’s also waaay more fun to tell people you are going on a hike instead of a walk ;).

Shuttle services

Another great option for us in a car deficit is shuttle services. Parkbus is a great option for Canadian hikers offering bus rides from Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa and Halifax. Currently, only some routes are being offered due to covid-19 restrictions and while I have never been on Parkbus I have heard great reviews and plan to use it for my Killarney Provincial Park thru-hike in September. One caveat with Parkbus is I believe it only runs on weekends which does limit your hiking dates but if you work Monday to Friday it works in your favour.

For a cheaper option you could also reach out to Facebook groups or trail conservatories/clubs to get a rideshare or carpool with someone else to and from the trail. I have seen this method used by Bruce Trail end to end hikers that do not have access to a vehicle, they reach out to the Bruce Trail clubs and see if any trail angels could offer them a lift on X Y or Z dates. If you do go for this option definitely offer your share or gas money and gratitude!

Public transit

Often times the trails near you or in your city have some sort of transit network attached to them (or close enough to walk or catch a taxi). Sure sometimes the buses you need run at weird times and once in a blue moon but hey! they’re out there. For in the city hiking, this is definitely a very accessible way to access the trails and in an area like the GTA, there are transit networks connecting to many different and cool spots.

Scenic hiking in Hamilton (exact location forgotten I am so sorry!)

No more excuses!

Hiking is not driver exclusive, there are so many ways to get out there!

  • Urban hiking in your neighborhood
    • its freeeeeee (and covid safe)
  • Shuttle services
    • Can be expensive and seasonal dependent. But reliable and typically safe
  • Carpool/rideshare
    • Can be cheaper than a shuttle bus service but less reliable and riskier.
  • Public transit
    • Cheap but usually unreliable and inconvenient.

It would be so easy to just sit back at home and watch all the hikers on youtube without ever enjoying the trail simply because you don’t have a car. While it is a very real obstacle, do not let it get in the way of you hiking in and around your town, and definitely look into shuttle services in your area! The outdoors can be so much more accessible than we are led to believe. Or download Tinder and find yourself someone who drives 3:) (or that’s my next plan anyway!).

Don’t forget to check back here all May as I venture into a new trail every weekend/work weekend (without driving!). Due to Covid I will be staying in the city but am excited to explore all the urban trails Toronto has to offer! Comment below on what trails I should check out.