I had one of those rare weekends off from work and knew I had to get out and make the most of it. With only two days, I wanted to stay close to home rather than make any long drives and I was really itching to get back to McCrae Lk after my mis-guided adventure almost two weeks earlier that landed me at McDonald Lk when I had planned on being on McCrae ( I wasn't exactly lost just misdirected lol ). I packed up Friday night after work, quickly filling my bag and making a concerted effort to cut out some weight as I wasn't sure how far I would be hiking in. I headed out down the 400 hwy, for the hour long drive,making the exit onto Georgian Bay Rd at about 9:00 am ( yes I slept in ! ). I turned into the parking lot, to see only three other vehicles which meant I would have the park almost to myself. I quickly parked and unloaded my pack and headed down the trail to McCrae Lk. New snow over the last few days made for a clean blanket, on the thawing ground, as I made my way up and down over the trail. As I walked, the sun came out, revealing all the potential that a beautiful day holds. I came upon the snowmobile trail which I had crossed over on my last trip and rather than crossing to the other side and continuing down toward McCrae, I turned North hoping to find the bridge that would take me to the end of the lake close to where it lays next to McDonald Lk. It was another short hike of about 15 minutes I saw the bridge and made my way across. I quickly discovered on the other side that there were no longer any marked trails as there was on the trail that headed up to Crows Cliff overlooking McCrae Lk. I found a campsite but it was so close to the bridge I decided to move on. With the recent snow fall, I couldn't seem to find any kind of trail, so I began wondering if I shouldn't head back to the big trial and find a spot on the open lake. Some fairly high winds were forecasted with tempertures of -7 and windchill -14. Were I was, was very sheltered, and I new it would be warmer than being on the open lake. Even so, I turned around, and headed back over the bridge. As I walked I noticed prints in the snow. They were unaccompanied by any human companion and I wondered if they were coyote. I got to the other side and began climbing the hill back up the trail, only to see 4 young guys coming down from the other way. I stepped aside to let them pass but then asked them how well they knew the lake. I was pleased to find they were able to offer some great advise as they had been to the area several times and me, not having any map, was very grateful to find out there was a great campsite lea- side to a rocky overcrop on the hill that would offer shelter. I followed the guys back over the bridge and they were kind enough to show me the camp spot before heading further into the bush a couple klm for their overnight stay. The spot was great, on the leaside of a group of large rocks overlooking the hillside that swept down to the water way below. I was below the small falls that ran under the bridge and could hear it in the distance. I had a great source of open water which I likely would not have had on the lake proper. This was it! I unpacked and set camp.
*Looking over the bridge from both sides *
I set up my hammock and made the error of setting too close to the fire pit.
Rather than taking the whole thing down I just moved one end of the setup to another tree. This would prove to be a mistake as that night I slid down into the centre of my hammock which caused my feet to slip down to the end of the hammock out of the range of my underquilt. I woke up that night with my feet FREEZING....a first. Go's to show you have to take the time to set up right.
After setting up, I had a quick sandwich and made a big pot of coffee, a rare luxury for me to have two cups. Camp coffee is the best in my opinion and so easy to make. I simply boil the water, remove from heat, add the coffee grounds directly into the pot ( do NOT stir ) and cover it in an insulating blanket/cozy. The key is to let it sit undisturbed for 10 min.......don't touch it!
Resist the urge to look inside, if you can. After 10 min, remove the covering and gently stir any floating grounds and they will settle to the bottom. Gently pour the coffee into your cup and enjoy.
For a great cozy, I made one out of foil and bubble wrap sheet insulation that I got at the local Home Depot.
You can see I made one for my titanium mug too in the photo below. Weighs nothing and keeps things hot
By 6:00 pm it had begun to snow.....great big fluffy snowflakes that quickly filled the top of my tarp that was set in porch mode. I was cooking my dinner at the time, pasta with cream sauce and oven roasted black olives. I closed my tarp, clearing off the snow that had collected and finished preparing my meal. I gobbled it down hungrily. All the fresh air and the exercise really builds an appetite. I finished it off with a cup of hot chocolate and some dates stuffed with walnuts. The snow had stopped by this time and I retreated to my hammock where I read until 9:00. I turned the lights off, as the absolute quiet of the woods, filled my ears. My back was a little cold and I tucked my top quilt under me as much as I could. My gear really wasn't quite in the range I needed given the conditions so I made sure to wear a couple layers of clothing ( including a fresh base layer ). See my spring snow experience here https://youtu.be/AoidYLOfh9g
I slept well through the night and at some point, I heard the snow begin to fall against my tarp.....again. Later on, I could here the gentle
"swoosh" as it slid in sheets off my tarp onto the ground below.
I stayed in my hammock until 8:30, after all, I was on my weekend off so why not sleep in. I swung my feet over the side of the hammock. groping for my boots which were under me ( It's always a struggle putting my feet in those cold boots in the morning ). I had tucked them into by back pack just to keep damp and snow out but still.....brrrrrr! I was up and out bed checking out the beautiful morning. Fresh white snow and sunshine greeted me. I grabbed my water bag and headed down to the water below. When I got there I noticed a pair of geese also enjoying the quiet morning. Other geese flew in and throughout the day I would hear their noisy honks keeping me company . I looked over the water to the other side of the channel and noticed what I believed was a hunters tree stand??? Thankfully, no hunters! I filled my water and headed back up to camp.
You can see the hunters tree stand in the photo to the right
I had a quick snack of dates and walnuts and then headed back out to get fire wood for the day. With my fire going I made a brunch of vegetable "Mr Noodle" soup with two eggs cooked into it.....comfort food! I cleaned up and put on water for hot chocolate. As I was sitting, enjoying the warmth of the fire, I heard voices. I turned around to see the four young fellows standing over the rock wall in behind my camp. I got up and we started talking. Like me, they had also been hammock camping, and talked about the "long" fire they made the night before that they all camped around to help stay warm. I told them about the hunters stand I had seen and they told me they had been out once before and heard people with shotguns firing for about an hour. I do not understand why anyone would choose to be in this area hunting, even though it is crown land, as there will be campers around......dangerous for everyone. They told me they had seen tracks around their campsite that they thought were fox and I told them about my coyote theory.......we are all wannabe trackers lol. They were heading out early as they all had long drives home ( up to four hours, yikes! ) so we said goodbye. I hope to see you guys out there again sometime. Cheers fellow hammock campers, Adam, Jason, Justin and Glenn. Hope to see you guys "hanging" around the parks.
I enjoyed a few more hours of sitting around the fire reading, before packing up at 1:00. By 1:45 I was heading back down the trail for the 40 minute to the car. A relaxing walk in the sunfilled afternoon a great way to end my weekend. I will definitely be back to McCrae Lk as I still want to paddle the lake itself. Maybe I'll see you out there.
Packing out trash......I believe we all
need to do our part in maintaining
the environment we love. I pack out
what I can.
The hunters stand.....a good view
of the geese!