So day one was coming to a close and we were in pretty good shape. Our bellies were full of grub and our camp was looking pimp tight.
The hard work was done and there was nothing left to do but sit awkwardly upright on those uncomfortable log benches that weren’t actually that stable…and relax.
I must admit that we really lucked out with our first campsite and, as I mentioned before, a campsite can really make or break your trip. Our plan was to spend two nights on Big Porcupine Lake and then make our way over to Parkside Bay for our last night.
According to the
apathetic teenagers in the park office park check-in folks, all of the campsites on both of the lakes that we planned to be on were completely booked. Knowing that most people would spend the entire long weekend parked at one site (rather than portage like chumps us), we made the decision to linger on our third day before finally making our way over to the (presumably) full Parkside Bay.
I’m still not too sure whether that was the right move but that’s another story.
So what makes for a good campsite anyway?
With regards to super subjective subjects, this is definitely one of them. In my (not so humble) opinion, it’s a combination of things…
The first is simple: easy access to the water, which usually translates into a nice view. What’s the point of having these beautiful/pristine lakes all around you if you can’t even enjoy them?
It’s pretty rare that you would see a campsite with some sort of actual sand beach in Algonquin (although I have seen a few), but there are some with pretty decent “rock beaches” that are pretty nice. That’s more or less what we’re always after, since the sand beach sites seem like they’re always the first to go (we’re ambitious but not that ambitious).
To have an area along the shore that makes getting in/out of the water easy (and by easy I mean not having to claw your way out of the water and scrape up your arms and knees on the jagged rocks…or slip on some ridiculous algae
then fall on your ass like I did last year) is a huge plus.
On some sites people have to tie their canoes to a tree because there was no place to store them on shore. On other sites you had to climb up a cliff just go get to the actual campsite area. Convenience is king out there.
Here was where we stored our boats and, at that very spot, I actually tipped my canoe and fell into the water on two separate occasions (because I’m smooth like that).
My team was on the ball because, after hearing my girlish screams, they came over to laugh at my non-threatening situation.
Another important thing to consider is having enough space to be be to do “stuff”. I should have taken pictures, but one of the sites that we scoped out/rejected consisted of nowhere to put your boats, a tiny little overrun path which split into two smaller paths leading to sketchy 6x6 clearings in some questionable (poison?) ivy patches. Then connecting those two “tent sports” was another tiny overrun path with a “fire pit” in the middle of it that only two or three people could sit next to. I don’t even think there were any log benches either! That campsite was BS and shouldn’t have even been on the map.
Anyway, we had room to spare on this first site. As you can see from the pictures in this post, with all that space nobody got in anyone’s face and my snoring was off in the distance rather than right next to you.
You might not know this but I love me my ropes. I have a whole bag full of them for my hammocks, tarps, to use as clothes lines, tie food barrels up in trees, and whatever. You can never have enough rope, but it’s totally dead weight if there’s nowhere to tie them to.
Not only does having some good spacing between trees give you many opportunities for hammocks, but it also lets the breeze though, which really helps with the mosquito situation. You can enjoy the sunlight, enjoy the view and if it rains then there’s a bunch of spots to tie up some tarps.
You don’t want a large group of people to be cooped up in one tiny area for a couple of days…drama would surely ensue.
If this were about car camping my list would stop here, but since it’s about portaging one thing to mention is the whole firewood situation.
It takes a lot of time and energy to process a bunch of wood into usable pieces. If you’re lucky, then you’ll get a site with lots of fallen trees/dry wood laying around. If you’re not, then you’re gonna have one hell of a time sustaining even the tiniest of fires.
On our first site there was wood everywhere - it looked like a camp ranger had recently come through with a chainsaw and just laid waste to that portion of the forest. On our second site it was a completely different story. Even though we were in a much thicker forest, there were no fallen trees to be found and we were basically keeping our
tiny ass modest fire going with twigs. If you don’t know, fresh wood does not easily burn. The struggle was real.
A decent fire can make a big difference for morale, especially if you’re relying on it to cook food. Also, there’s nothing more comforting than a fire at night time when you’re out there in the darkness. It really lifts the spirits and huddling around a void to shoot the breeze is just not the same.
Now here is a picture of the infamous thunder box. We were doubly lucky that this one was (probably) brand new for this season.
Speaking of thunder boxes, our second site’s toilet was pretty sketchy. Not only did you have to walk up an overrun path to get there, but it was also covered in moss, half rotting and tilted backwards. I even found a snake under the lid during a trip to it. Not cool.
Anyway, there wasn’t too much to report on our second day since we were straight cold chillin’. We basically had all day to play around, log some hammock time, swim and we even practiced flipping canoes and rescuing each other.
First of all, it’s super easy to flip a canoe (like ridiculously easy) and the last thing you want to do is flip a canoe full of gear. When we started the exercise my cousin was like, how do we flip it? All I did was lean a little too far one direction and we were both instantly in the lake, anime styles.
Secondly, if you’re out there all alone in one boat, then it’s (probably) impossible to flip it back over without flooding it again. I’m pretty sure you just have to swim that whole mess back to shore and deal with it there…or, if you can get back in, just paddle to shore with a canoe half full of water…if it doesn’t sink.
We actually tried (with two strong swimmers) to flip the boat back over/empty it, but it’s so damn hard - it just re-filled with water every time. Maybe some more amazing swimmers could do it, but unless you can tread water without your arms and get well above the surface to hoist the thing straight up into the air and then throw it back upright without scooping any water up, it’s just gonna flood again.
With two canoes it wasn’t so bad. The basic technique is this:
1) Slide the upside down canoe onto the middle of the second canoe, thus getting it out of the water and draining it.
2) Flip the canoe upright and slide it back into the water.
3) Now here’s the tricky part. The two people gotta go on opposite sides of the canoe and try to balance each other out as they climb in. I’m pretty sure everyone got bruises from this step. Everyone.
We all tried it and we all managed to pass the test. How would we do if the canoes were actually full of gear? I have no idea. It would probaby just be a catastrophe.
And finally, I’m happy that the perpetual photographer somehow manged to get a picture of himself carrying a canoe on his shoulders aka portaging like a boss. I’m totally going to frame this one.
Next up, the move…