Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Deep Freeze 2006 - "Florida Lake"

Another year had passed and it was once again time to begin thinking about the annual winter gathering, well ok a year hadn't passed it was August, but hey, it's never too early to start planning an outdoor adventure! I did some pre-scouting at the office - I look at a map of the CPR railway line from Sudbury to White River and look for an area that might be interesting enough to spend 9 days in February living in a tent. In 2003/4 we had camped on a small lake south of Metagama and in 2005 we pushed a trail up into the Nitro Creek area. The Path creek drainage area north of Nitro Creek looked pretty promising for 2006. 

I had been using the Ontario basemap series and found a series of old roads in the area that might be possible to use to gain access to a small lake about 2-3 kms from the railway track. I mentioned to Scouter Joe that I was thinking of a quick trip on the Budd Car to the area to scout and he agreed to come along. We headed up on a Saturday late in October to see what we could find. We hopped off the train at the Pogamasing light switch and found a spot to camp for the night. The maps indicated the trails or old road we were looking for, ran east from the river for about 1.5 kms before intersecting a road that ran in a north south direction. Well after wandering around a bit we found the old road on the west side of Path Creek and followed it up to where it petered out in some heavy alder growth along the creek. We crossed the creek and again we wandered around trying to pick up the road on the higher ground. We eventually came across the road that run north and south and turned north. We were trying to find a small unnamed lake that was part of a drainage system that flowed into Path Creek about 2.5 kms from the railway. We crossed the small creek flowing out of the lake and turned east again to the lake. The beavers had dammed the creek in a couple places between the lake and Path Creek creating a very sheltered open area surrounded by 50-60 year old jackpine stand. The area had the 3 requirements we needed - space, water and standing dead trees for the woodstoves! As it was late in the day we headed back to the tent planning to clear and mark the trail the next day. 

After a good breakfast we spent 3-4 hours clearing and marking the trail up to the lake area. The one section where the old road disappeared into the tag alders near the creek we just left as we decided that we could pick the trail up by using the creek when frozen to walk down. We cleared the trail into the campsite area, gathered up some tent poles for use in February and picked an area for our tents - all in all a productive day. We wandered back out to the tracks and waited for the Budd Car to pick us up for the ride back to Sudbury.

Throughout the fall and winter, folks made their plans for the gathering and finally February 17th arrived along with many of the folks leaving on the 18th for "Florida Lake". It was a sunny and cool Saturday morning as approx. 25 folks met at the train station for a 09:00 departure, however, it was not to be as the Budd Car was late as it had some minor repair problems to sort out first. This turned out to be a preview of the week to follow but the train arrived we loaded up and were on our way only a couple hours late. The winter snows in the area didn't really come till the end of January but there had been a major snow storm every week for the previous 4 weeks and there was probably in the order of 4' of light fluffy snow to negotiate on our way to "Florida". Suffice to say it's a long day getting everyone and all our sleds to the camp area through the deep snow. However, tents sites are quickly chosen, tents erected, firewood cut and everyone is taken care of before darkness really sets in.

This year there was a much larger contingent that came in on the Saturday, usually there have only been 10 - 12 who come in for the full 8 night stay. This year many folks wanted to experlence the trail breaking aspect of the trip and also due to personal committemnts etc some will be leaving on the Wednesday and Friday trains while more folks will be arriving on the Tuesday and Thursday trains! With the train running 6 days a week it is easy to customize your stay at the gathering to whatever length of stay works for you. With people coming and going on various days we had a total of 44 attendees this year but we never had everyone in camp at the same time as some folks left on Wednesday before the Thursday gang arrived!

As usual the week is taken up with hiking, camp chores (firewood etc), eating, visiting, comparing equipment and tent setups, ice fishing (but not catching) and the odd wee nip. The Budd Car had mechanical difficulties all week and the group leaving on Friday and Sunday actually were picked up in a makeshift train - 2 passenger/bagge cars pulled by a separate locomotive. The normal Budd Car train consists of 2 cars - a coach car and a bagage car with the engines underneath the cars and driven by the engineer from a small cab at either end of the cars, much like a subway car. As can happen with the train, especially in the winter, pick up times aren't always as scheduled. One group waited trackside in the cold and the dark huddled around a fire for an extra 5 hours! However, it's all part of the adventure for sure.

The weather was fairly typical for the time of year, temps ranged from -5 to -12 C during most days and averaged about -20 to - 26 C at night. We also experienced a day and night of snow and blowing snow with an accumulation of about 10" snow, It made for interesting hike back to camp from an ice fishing afternoon with visibility down to 5 -10' at times. The last night in camp was also the coldest with temps at about - 32C to -34C on Sunday morning depending on which thermometer you chose to believe! 

We had a good cross section of attendees with both new and old campers attending, 3 of the regulars brought their kids along and we had 4 in camp this year. Great to see and hear them having a good time doing something outdoors and they think it's cool as they are'nt in school!!!
So if this type of activity catches your interest and you think you might like to give it a go, then set aside some time between February 17th and the 25th, 2007 and come along to "Florida" with us. You can find information on the Canadian Canoe Routes website - look in the Winter camping, snowshoeing forum under Deep Freeze '07. http://www.myccr.com/SectionForums/viewforum.php?f=36


Photo Credits : SB or unattributed - S. Bredin, BP - B. Poort, MG - M. Graves

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