There is a community of canoeists who frequent the Canadian Canoe Routes
website and in particular the forums. Over the years some of these
folks have "gathered" to meet in person instead of just through the
online forums and by email. These gatherings have been held both during
canoeing season and in the winter or "the hard water" season. Some of
the folks had previously done some winter camping together before but
these outings have grown somewhat in the last 2 years.
A gathering was held in 2002 in Sudbury and was attended by 8
people. This consisted of a 2 night stay at a campsite along the
Vermillion River just north of Sudbury, On Sunday, 4 of us continued on
for a trek, however 2 of us dropped out the next morning and the last 2
continued on for a couple more days. This gathering was of the "cold" or
"alpine" style of winter camping using dome tents etc. Folks on this
trip began to to talk and think about trying "hot tenting" for the 2003
gathering. In the fall of 2002, a gathering was held in Algonquin Park,
which was attended by several of us who had been to the winter gathering
the previous January and a winter gathering and "hot tents" were again
discussed with more folks expressing interest in attending. Needless to
say what follows is a bit of a description/story of that trip.
As the fall season progressed, once again the talk started about a
"winter gathering". Gatherings tend to take on a "life cycle" when the
planning process begins and they basically follow the "5 W's" of
: a forum discussion begins on CCR, people begin to post
and express interest, momentum builds and finally Richard sets up a
separate thread with a password for those interested and the planning
starts to get real busy. Oh yeah, Who? - anybody who wants to go!
: a gathering of some sort. A gathering is a time and
place where all the "who" congregate and swap stories and experiences,
paddle and maybe fish (if a canoe gathering), hike, x country ski or
icefish and stay warm (winter gathering), tell stories, check out
everyone's gear etc. A chance to meet the folks that we interact with on
the CCR forums. (any excuse to get out there!)
: why not!! (any excuse to get out there)(can't canoe on "hard water", gotta do something!)
: this one can be troublesome, so enough lead time to let
all the interested "who" try and convince whoever they need to convince
that they just have to go is in order! Then after a suitable length of
time where all the "who" try to convince everyone else their dates would
be best, someone takes the bull by the horns and "when" is decided,
usually with adequate time for all the "whos" to try and work out their
attendance if the dates are not the same as their "when".
: another one that can be troublesome as well. Ideas are
floated amongst the "who" and a destination is eventually agreed upon.
The most important criteria is to agree on a place that has enough room
for all the "whos" to camp close enough together to have a good "what".
The ideas came fast and plentiful from all the interested folks and
one idea seemed to really resonate with everyone:" lets use the "Budd
Car" service from Sudbury, head up the tracks to a suitable area for a
gathering. This idea stuck and then several ideas for the "where"
started to surface along with a host of "when" ideas. The dates bounced
back and forth until finally Thursday Feb 25th to Sunday Mar 2nd was set
as the time frame for the main gathering period. As the Budd Car only
travels 6 days a week, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (Sudbury to White
River) and Wednesday, Friday and Sunday (White River to Sudbury) this
also impacted on the decision. Two of the attendees, Dave and Hans were
actually leaving the Saturday before and heading further up the tracks
to camp for a few days in a different area and would then travel back to
the gathering area later in the week. Another group of 5 decided to
head in Tuesday ahead of the main group for an extended trip. There are
many different styles to one of these outdoor gatherings. Two options
were discussed for this trip, basecamp in one spot for the duration or
pack up and move daily to a new spot. In this case a basecamp trip was
decided upon, although Dave and Hans did some moving on their early part
of the trip.
"Where" was discussed at length as well with different
ideas floated out to the group. I managed to get a look at an area I had
picked out on the map from an aircraft and it seemed to suit our
requirements, with trails and lakes to make traveling on snowshoes and
hauling sleds easy, lots of firewood, a sheltered area for camp setup
and several lakes to try our hand ice fishing in.
|Areal view of the area|
Along with all this planning, a discussion around hot tenting vs cold
tenting was also in progress. At the end of the day the camping
arrangements turned out to be as varied as the folks attending. There
were 5 hot tent setups at the gathering, 3 "prospector" or wall tent
setups and 2 different homemade tents. Richard made a lightweight nylon
copy of an "explorer" style tent and Merlin (Dan) and his wife Joyce
used a modified canvas tent portion from an old tent trailer they had.
These 5 tents all used small wood stoves for cooking and warmth. Dave
had a custom made nylon/canvas wall tent, Scouter Joe had a commercially
made canvas wall tent and I modified a nylon wall tent by sewing in a
canvas corner where the stove would be. Dan's tent was long and narrow
with the stove on one side and Richards tent was constructed with a
canvas panel in the rear where his stove was set up. The rest of the
gang slept either in small dome tents or under a tarp or in one of
several quinzees that were built. The different groups also combined to
cook their meals as a group also, as this cuts down on the duplication
of gear and weight you have to haul on your sled.
Like the tents everyone had different ways to haul their gear into
the site. Dave Hadfield has a website that contains information on home
made outdoor gear, stoves, sleds etc and there were many variations on
his basic sled constructed with old downhill skis. In addition, several
folks used lightweight plastic and traditional toboggans along with
backpacks to carry gear. One interesting rig was Moe F's, a regular
toboggan with a wooden box attached, kinda doubled as a kitchen counter
and a bar! Snowshoes are a must when traveling in these conditions and
again there were different styles used, traditional wood, modern
aluminum frames, plastic and Moe also made a pair out of slats of thin
wood with a set of old leather harnesses tacked on...Moe's retired, too
much time on his hands!!
The dates for the trip approached and plans
were finalized. Dave and Hans posted a quick note to forums, see you
next week and they headed off for a few extra days ahead of everyone
else. Moe worked out his timing and committed to the Tuesday departure
along with Georgi, Bill P.,Mike S., and myself. Moe was in early but he
was also to leave early to head down to the Kearney area for another
yearly outing with the boys at the hunt camp! Bill picked up Mike and
Georgi and headed for Sudbury along Mike's husky, Nakina on Monday and
arrived around supper time. We did some quick planning and sorting of
gear, cut a piece of styrofoam for the "thunderbox" and watched the
"weather forecast" for the next week - cold! as in -30 degrees C.
dawned and while having coffee Moe arrived from his friends place just
north of Sudbury. We packed and headed for the train station all
marvelling at the temperature - cold! The train was more or less on time
and after quickly throwing everything up into the baggage car we all
piled in and we were off on another adventure.
|Georgi, Moe, Mike & Bill at the Sudbury train station|
The trip up to our drop off point was spent mostly hanging out in the
baggage car or wandering through the rest of the train - the passenger
car! While purchasing coffee from the conductor we spied a black wolf
bounding away from the tracks into the bush, a beautiful site for sure.
After we confirmed our drop off location with Donny the engineer and
Jimmy the conductor we settled in watching the scenery unfold. We headed
north past small settlements such as Benny and Sheehan along the
Spanish River where the railway runs.
Soon we arrived and the train slowed to a stop and off we went and
in the space of about 4-5 minutes we were standing there in the cold
watching the train roll around the curve and disappear from sight. We
spent a few minutes loading and tieing all our gear on the sleds and we
started off down a trail the local trapper has cut into the first lake
we would be crossing. It didn't take too long to figure out that we were
going to have a few problems getting to our destination. Due the
extremely cold winter and lots of snow, we were sinking quite deeply
into the snow and it was a struggle to keep the sled moving especially
for the person breaking trail. After struggling along and repacking
sleds, fixing a snowshoe or two, I decided to leave the sled and break a
trail to the lake first then haul the sled. This turned out to be the
answer when in deep powder snow in the bush or protected areas. The
small lakes were very windswept and not a problem to travel on.
We managed to make it to the second area where we would have to cut
through a creek system and bush area into the next lake. This area had
snow that was even deeper than our first and we soon bogged down in the
powdery snow, in fact I was sinking up to my waist even on snowshoes!
After struggling for awhile we decided to retreat to a sheltered area at
the end of the swale and set up camp as it was starting to get late
into the afternoon.
|Home sweet home - hybrid nylon/canvas prospector tent |
One thing to always keep in mind at this time of the year is the short
days/long nights. While 4 of us set about making camp, cutting poles and
firewood, Mike began to make a huge batch of clam chowder for supper!
30 below zero and Mike is making one of the best chowders you can have,
sometimes life is too good. After setting up and arranging everything,
eating supper and having a glass of wine it was evident that everyone
was pretty bagged and sleep came fast and early especially in a warm
Wednesday dawned clear and cold.
|sunrise on the ridge out front|
After a prolonged and leisurely breakfast of bacon/sausage/eggs/much
coffee and fresh baked muffin, we began to improve conditions around
|Moe cooking on the coleman|
|Mike amusing himself while making breakfast|
A spot was picked and the thunderbox installed, tent pads and poles were
cut for the groups coming in on Wednesday evening (Dave/Hans) and
Thursday afternoon. Dave and Hans arrived around 4:30 that afternoon and
set up just down the way. Everyone was again pretty played out from the
days activities and another early night was in store.
The morning was again taken up with another long leisurely breakfast
and camp chores plus visiting with Dave and Hans, Somewhere around 1:00
or so in the afternoon there was a bit of a commotion and the rest of
the gatherers arrived - 13 strong.
Georgi went out to meet them in shorts and Moe was wearing his bug
net hat. After greeting some old friends and new - tent areas were
pointed out and everyone set up their accommodations in between visiting
etc. More firewood was cut and split etc. Once everyone was set up
people wandered around camp visiting and looking at all the different
setups and equipment being used.
|Richard and Peter|
|Richard's homemade tent - based on the Explorer tent from the turn of the 20th century|
Friday morning our tent again settled in for what was our now normal
practice of a long leisurely breakfast, must eat! Suddenly the tent flap
was pulled back a shovel thrown into the tent and Georgi was called to
get moving, time's awasteing - it was Scouter Joe and today was quinzee
or snow shelter construction day! 3 quinzees were soon under
construction, pile snow, let it set and then hollow out a sleeping
chamber or at least that's the theory. Tony C. was doing just fine when
his suddenly collapsed on top of him. There's a fine line there where
you can't shave too much snow off or it will collapse. Sam, Kate and
Lloyd's quinzee plus Georgis survived this stage and were left to harden
in the cold. While this was underway, we also hauled some fresh snow to
re-level the sleeping area in the tent.
|adding some snow to the sleeping platform|
|Georgi building a quinzee|
|well...the light at least looks warm!|
Whilst this was occuring there was more visiting and even an outdoor
eucher tournament going on in the sun along the sheltered treeline of
camp, Moe F. had to depart in the early afternnon to catch the train so
he headed off to his second engagement after saying his goodbyes. Bill
and Jim walked out with him to the tracks to meet the train and then did
some ice fishing on the way back. That night Georgi elected to stay in
the tent again but the others stayed in their quinzee and passed a
Saturday was another gorgeous day and a group of us headed south
through the next lake over a trail into another lake where several of us
tried our hands at ice fishing. In fact, the ice fishing was tried in 3
different lakes over the course of our stay but sadly the fish came out
on top in this contest. A few small pike (Bill claimed he had eaten
bigger hot dogs than these fish!) were all we had to show for our
efforts. That night Georgi spent the night in his quinzee with Jim B.,
Georgi reported a comfortable evening except that his shoulder was a bit
sore in the morning, however that turned out to be from Jim smacking
him as it appears that Georgi snored a bit!
Sunday arrived and it was time to head back out to the tracks and
wait for our ride back to Sudbury. Everyone packed up their gear, tent
poles were stacked away and the area was scoured for any gear and/or
garbage etc. It turned out that Sunday ended up being the coldest day we
experienced and it came with a strong northerly wind for the hike back
to the tracks. Once everyone was there we retreated back into the bush
out of the wind and starrted a fire for tea and a bite to eat.
|Sleds at the tracks|
|time for a snack and some tea to warm up|
Since it was so cold the Budd Car was also running late and some of us
paced up and down the tracks and some stood around the fire and we all
strained our ears listening for the train's whistle to announce it's
arrival. Suddenly around the corner it came, slowed to a halt and the
door to the baggage car slid open and 20 people and 18 sleds were loaded
in the car quickly and we were on our way, a bit late but man were
those warm cars ever nice!
|loading the gear|
|on our way home|
|Mike and Nakina|
|waiting for the track switch to be cleared|
Normally it's about a 3 hour ride to the Sudbury train station, but due
to a slow travel order on the tracks due to the cold weather and then
with a frozen switch problem in Sudbury we didn't arrive to the station
till almost midnight and it hadn't warmed up any either! The baggage car
was quickly emptied and goodbyes were said all around with the promise
to "lets do it again next year" the most used phrase of the night. Folks
headed home or to the homes of the Sudbury contingent for the evening
for morning trips home.
|Most of the gang minus Dave and Hans|
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