Winter Camping 2021
That was a close one, I returned the day before the official Spring start
|GPS Coordinates are N45 34.679 W78 30.844.|
Link on Google Maps
Long awaited winter camping. Last year was a no-go, primarily due to bad weather. The Mew Lake Campsite reopened two weeks earlier after weeks of COVID lockdown. I got my equipment ready, some was new, others had to be changed because of issues in earlier years. My plan was to spend the first night in the tent and the second night in the Jeep. A full summary of my findings are at the end.
The weather forecast was wrong. The promise was a cloudy to sunny day at moderate temperatures not colder than minus 5. It turned out to be overcast with -9 degrees at night and a dusting of snow during the first night.
As expected, the site was a solid sheet of ice. Every trail, site and road was a solid sheet of ice. No problem, I had my 10 inch Spiral Hot Dip Galvanized Landscape Spikes, a regular tent spike does not work. Even with a solid claw hammer, it took some pounding to get the 10 inch nails into the ground. Two inches into the ground, the nails could hold the tent in a hurricane force wind storm. Takeing them out is another story, just keep on reading.
There was no wildlife to be seen. Some fellow camper even asked "Did you see any wildlife?". We were all wondering if the creatures of the Algonquin winter were in COVID lockdown, the obvious question around here.
Instead of pictures with the omnivorous Sitta canadensis, aka Nuthatch, I have one of my newly acquired steel pot from Stanley. I purchased the set on the way up to the park, since I gifted my old pot to my son. It is the perfect size to fit a can of Campbells Chunky Chicken with Rice.
Why is there a knife sticking in the pan? The obvious answer is "No, the chicken was already dead!". The truth is much simpler. I keep a fork and spoon in the Jeep for when I buy lunch from a fast food place. I try to save the earth by not using their one-way cutlery, what a waste. When I was looking for my fork and spoon, they were not there. After some head scratching, I remembered that I gave the cuttlery to my son, together with the pot. Hence, I used my knife to stir. Eating with the knife was not an option.
Lucky me, the cook set I just purchased had a foldable spork included. When I opened the box, I saw the spork, shook my head with the thought that only an idiot would use this ludicrous thing. Well, I did. It saved my meal. It was clear to me that I had to get at least a fork for my second day.
The next morning I had a bagel with butter and jam. The knife worked well to carry out this task. I drove to Huntsville to get my cutlery. I didn't want to buy 10 forks in a pack or a complete silver set. So my next thought was to buy a food item that would include a fork. I missed the Tim Horton's exit on the way back (don't ask) and surrendered to the thought that I will use the spork again.
I was driving through Dwight, looking for a takeout or grocery store when I noticed Henrietta’s Bakery. It is just 100 Meters east of the Hwy 35 exit to Dorset and Lindsay. Entering Henrietta’s Bakery and seeing the display of the amazing variety of baked goods is breathtaking. I got an Apple Danish and a Mixed Berry Cobbler. I asked for a fork and got one with my treats. Mission accomplished. This is a place to stop and get a dessert or bread. On my way home, I picked up two Cobblers for my wife and I, as well as a turkey sandwich for the road. There was plenty of good turkey in this sandwich plus other fresh ingredients. What can I say, a sweet outcome to a desperate situation, just keep an open mind and improvise.
The ice formation along the Hwy 60 amaze me. The colours in the ice change with the daylight. The dominant shades are green, blue and brown. The ice facing the south already vanished. This was the only big formation left between Huntsville and Whitney.
The old air field behind the Mew Lake Campsite is known for good wildlife viewing. Birdwatchers listen for the calls and wait for the perfect moment to take a picture. During the blueberry season, the area is frequented by bears and tourists that harvest the tasteful berries. It is also a large open field where wolves have been spotted.
The Mew Lake was still frozen. The colours seem almost artificial.
I may not have seen any wildlife at all, but nature has its own beauty. All you have to do is look around and you will find it.
Sleeping in the tent at -8°
I don't have a heater in the tent and survived earlier years at lower temperatures. Back in the 70s, I bought a top quality down filled sleeping bag and a Mammut foam pad to keep me warm. This insulation is sufficient in most situations, but Mew Lake sites are a sheet of ice. I have an extra two thick blankets that cover the tent floor. It keeps the cold away. Sleeping on a hard surface is not for everybody, I don't loose sleep over it.
The icy ground has other challenges as well. The tent floor may get frozen to the ice. I place a tarp under the tent floor, ripping the tarp is an accepted risk. The tarp on the ice is extremely slippery, be very cautious when you step on it. The tent lines and flaps may also get frozen to the ice, keep them dry and above the ground.
The tent is from the 70s as well and made with cotton fabric by Spatz in Switzerland. They produce the highest quality tents, that's why mine is still going strong and I have no need to upgrade. One drawback is the use of spikes and lines to secure the tent.
As I mentioned above, I use nails for my winter camping. They will hold, even when you try to get them out of the ground. To remove them, start hammering the sides of the nail above the ice to make the hole bigger. Once the nail is loose, tie a Prusik Knot around the nail and yank until it comes out. Watch your eyes, the nails comes out with force.
Sleeping in the Jeep at -9°
Sleeping in any small enclosed space at below freezing temperatures produces a lot of condensation. Even with a heater installed, the condensation will not just disappear. It collects on the coldest parts. In the tent it is the walls, in the Jeep it is the windows and metal frames.
I use the same sleeping bag and mat as in the tent. The Sleeping Platform is made of wood and has some insulating properties. It is not as cold as ice, but it is hard as well. I made Window Covers, they offer privacy and insulation. One important aspect is the cover for the rear window defroster. They may get damaged when the sleeping bag scratches during the night. The covers protects them from damage.
I leave one window down about 1 inch to have some air circulation. On the outside of the window is my new rain shield. This is a prototype and worked as expected. It is a sheet of plastic with two magnets holding it in place. The magnets are covered with a tape to prevent scratching. A final version that shields from rain and insects is in developement and will be introduced soon.
The ceramic heater rests on the front center console. This is the reason for the electrical hookup at the camp site.
This leaves us with the final dilemma, where to put the critical equipment like lamp, car keys and phone.
I strung a rope between the roll cage a long time ago. I can hang towels, shirts and even a coat hanger with a suit (if I had a suit). When sleeping in the Jeep, this is where the headlamp and the car keys go.
I added an overhead bar between the front seats, it is still a prototype. It has light switches to control the LED lights in and around the Jeep. The panel holds all the wiring and acts as a shelf to hold the phone while sleeping.
I advice to test the door locking logic. When you are inside and use the key to lock the doors, YOU MUST use the key to open the doors or the alarm will go off. The same happens when you lock the driver side door from the inside. All doors lock and the alarm is set. Play with the options you have and find a way to disable the alarm when you are sleeping inside. I just leave the doors unlocked.