Have you attempted your first solo camping trip yet? I have, and I am about to tell you the story of it. It went as you might expect… horribly hilarious. It’s pretty much the only way I role.
I went on my solo camping trip a while back (Summer 2014), and now that the temperature in Ontario is feeling like spring, it got me thinking; it is time to tell the tale. You would think that my reasons for doing the trip would be survival, for the thrill, for the skill… but you’d be wrong. My solo camping trip was a result of everyone else being busy, and I wanted to go. Pretty simple. I wanted too, I wanted to see if I could do it, and I wanted to see if I liked it. I enjoy the hell out of my own company so why not? I wanted to head out on a canoe trip, so I started asking around to see who else wanted to go. The wife was busy with working, my family mostly thinks I am nuts for going drinking with the bugs, and some of the regular camping boys were busy with family events. My canoe however, was ready and willing and so was my flask. “Looks like I’m headed out alone”. A man doesn’t stop what he wants to do because of other people! Right?
I wasn’t going far, or for long, just a quick overnight trip up to the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park’s Cold Lake. I tried to reserve a site online on a Friday night but the reservation system was down. So I called in to make my reservation. No luck here either, the whole system is down and no reservations can be made. I’m starting to think the world is trying to tell me something. The gentlemen on the other end of the line, told me to “Oh Just go anyways. If a ranger stops you, explain the situation”. Who am I to argue with the park reservation guy? You don’t have to tell me twice.
I grabbed my gear, filled my flask, left Mississauga and headed north to pick up my canoe on Saturday morning. I got up to Peterborough and then up to Catchacoma Lake, Beaver Lake Rd Access Point 2, unloaded the boat and got ready to push off. I had all the gear I needed for once. In ManCamping’s world, that never happens. From the launch point I needed to head south slightly into the top of Mississauga Lake and then east to where Mississauga Lake meets Cold Lake. I would stay there one night and then head back in the morning. A simple, easy over-night solo trip. Doesn’t sound like much does it? Just wait, it turned out to be one of my most memorable trips I have taken yet.
Off we go. I pushed off from the access point with my back pack loaded up with gear and using my non waterproof phone as my GPS and map (Well planned as always). I headed south, just like I was supposed to. Then instead of heading east, I headed south some more. Followed by some south, some more south and finally south some more. Yep, I’m lost. That didn’t take long. Good thing I am good at being lost.
When I thought I figured out where I was and I turned east, and paddled until I hit a land. I was in a dead-end armpit bay of the frigging lake. It lead nowhere. I had now solo paddled my ass about an hour and half out of my way. After farting around, floating in Armpit Bay for 20 minutes, with cottagers staring at me wondering what the hell I was doing, I finally figured out I was on the opposite side of the lake that I needed to be and I got myself turned back around.
After what seemed like a century or so of paddling, I finally saw something I recognized. My Car. Bloody hell, I am only back at the launch. Well, I can’t give up now. I am committed, and a ManCamper doesn’t give up once committed. He sees it through to the death if need be. Onward I majestically paddled, cursing and swearing up a storm.
Finally after getting on the right track, I came to a swamp area that leads to Cold Lake, but I am losing daylight quickly. I make it through the swamp, around all of the sweepers and submerged rocks that are EVERYWHERE. Oh the sweet site of Cold Lake. Time to find my camp site. I had planned on staying on the site that I tried to book. But guess what. I can’t find it. I finally decided to take the campsite that is mark as “Emergency Only”. I needed a beer, which counts as an emergency.
I made land, had some whiskey from the flask and sat down for a dry land cigarette. The campsite was nice. Nice little fire pit, a rock wall beside it to block any wind, flat areas for the tent, and some cut wood. Thank you park rangers! I lit the fire, setup the tent, made a quick bit to eat. Freeze-dried spaceman food. Yum. (Yes we ate a freeze-dried meal instead of making real food. This wasn’t a planned trip). This did give me the perfect chance to once again, take a shot at making a Pat’s Backcountry Ale. The concentrated beer, that you add water to and carbonate while in the woods. This stuff is just terrible. I’ve tried it a few times, and even if you can get it to carbonate, it just tastes terrible. I drank it anyways, because I cannot bring myself to waste beer.
I sat around the fire, just taking it all in for a few hours and around midnight. I called it a night. Off to the tent I went. Surprisingly, I didn’t have any trouble getting to sleep. I thought it would be tougher when camping alone. It may have had something to do with the flask of whiskey but hey, we’ll never actually know. After about a half hour, I woke up to the sound of branches breaking and something rather large at the back of my campsite. I said to myself – “Self… it’s nothing. Go back to bed.” No noise for a few minutes, so I tried to get back to sleep. Again, I get woken up to the same noises. Ok, let’s go through my wild animal knowledge…. If it’s a bear, it’s going to be a black bear considering where I am in Ontario. I should make noise and scare the thing away. If it’s a moose, I should shut up and let it do its thing. Ok… no help there. I can either shut up or make noise. Good options. I yelled out a few obscenities to make some noise and let whatever it was know that I am here. The noise stopped. Good. Time to get some shut ass, I mean shut-eye.
So, I look at the time and it is now 4am. The noises have returned and have been consistent for hours now. I am starting to get mad. I have gone past the “This is it. This is how my story ends” phase of thinking and now its action time. I am getting pissed off. I dig through the darkness and I find my flashlight and I find my knife. No time for pants…. I pop out of my tent, knife between the teeth, ready to Rambo style kill whatever the hell this thing is. I am almost certain it is a Sasquatch that is just toying with me. I shine my light in the direction of the noise and to my surprise, I see not one, but a pair of moose. Two freaking moose just staring at me! Now I know at this point I should just be quiet and let them be, but I am sleep deprived and angry. So I started yelling at the moose like a crazy homeless person screaming at traffic in Toronto. Yelling at them to leave my site. I cannot be certain because everything happened so fast, but I am pretty sure they turned to look at each other in disbelief like “Marge, would you look at this idiot?” looked back at me and then walked away. That’s right. I am such a bad-ass manly fresh-water canoe captaining pirate that I scare moose away. Lol that’s what they get for attacking me. Your moose plans have been foiled! I am very thankful that I didn’t try this in the rutting season, as I am pretty sure they just would have killed me.
I decided to stay up, have a smoke, and of course some more whiskey and reflect on what the hell just happened. Realizing that I am an idiot for yelling at moose. I stayed up for another hour or so until the sun came up, grabbed my gear and tossed it into the canoe. I paddled (without getting lost this time) straight back to the car, loaded up the canoe and I was on my way home. Instead of making breakfast on my campsite like normal, today I was opting for a less-moosey Tim Hortons breakfast.
So… What did I learn from my first solo camping trip? I learned, that if needed, I WILL take on a dangerous, hell-bent, attacking Sasquatch and I reinforced the knowledge that using a compass is probably something I should start doing. Although I won’t. I own a few, and I know how to use them. I just don’t. Don’t ask.
Have you done a solo camping trip? How was it? What did you learn about yourself?