In search of a ‘home away from home’, Bishop and I took a chance on a lake our friend Mike Chan (@ontariogeardo) had been telling us about. After a few less than successful searches for a crown land basecamp we could return to, we decided to try our luck with a spot he had given us coordinates to.
We arrived at the trailhead in complete darkness around 20:00hrs., after our three hour roadtrip North from Toronto.
After a quick scout of the area (in the dark), we decided to play it safe and spend the night at the truck and have a traditional ‘Hudson’s Bay start'[1.The “Hudson’s Bay Start” Story: England’s King Charles II chartered the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1670. It is considered by many to be the world’s oldest continuing commercial enterprise. The company outfitted fur traders for expeditions out of Hudson Bay in Canada. In this part of Canada, referred to as “north of summer,” having the right supplies in the correct amounts was literally a matter of survival. And, of course, the company’s survival also depended on productive—and completed—expeditions. So the company provisioned the expedition’s canoes with the necessary supplies for the trip. Then they sent the expedition team a short distance in their canoes to camp overnight. This was a test. The first camp was merely a “pull out,” commonly called for many years a “Hudson’s Bay Start” (HBS). Said Sir Samuel Benfield Steele in 1874, “This was very necessary so that before finally launching into the unknown one could see that nothing has been forgotten, or that if one had taken too much, being so near to the base, the mistake could be easily corrected.” This risk reduction technique was not free. It cost the team precious time in a short trading season. They had shipping deadlines to meet. A likely phrase heard ’round the campfire the next morning; “Yes, but we really have to be on our way or we’ll miss our shipping schedule.”]. It was a chilly night, but nothing a little manly cuddling in the car couldn’t keep at bay.
After a cramped and uncomfortable night, we got up with the sun and started our trek.
We were up and moving pretty quickly atop the granite plateaus, clear-cut for an intersecting power line. Everything was covered in a thin layer of frost. According to the GPS, we were less than 3km from our destination in a straight shot West, through what looked like, a dense boreal forest.
Four hours, three foul swamp ankle soakers, two rolls of trail tape, and a disheartened feeling later, we stumbled upon a cross-country ski trail going North/South. In disbelief, we checked to see if the trail was headed in the right direction; to our surprise (and relief) the trail ended at the mouth of the lake we were looking for. After another small bushwhacking of the circumference, we settled on a location at small outcropping of granite overlooking the lake.
A previously established but forgotten stone fire ring remained so we made quick work improving it and settling in. It seemed as though it had been years since it was last used, as we had no trouble finding dry firewood all over; freestanding or dead fall. The fire started, and burning down to our cook lunch on, we decided to try our hand at catching a fish or two. I kid you not, we were hooking and landing a Largemouth Bass every third or fourth cast. Even caught a few Bluegill Sunfish on my Nalgene bottle fishing rig!
We decided to keep and cook up the two of the larger Bass we caught. Grilled over hot coals with a pinch of chicken bouillon and pepper made them a great supplement to our dehydrated meals.
After lunch we picked our spots and started setting up our bivy shelters. The granite covered in a thick layer of peat moss, would make our sleep a much more comfortable and restful experience. After catching a few more fish, the sun started setting and we decided it best to collect enough firewood for the night.
Tired from a long day’s hike and processing firewood, we spent the rest of the evening enjoying the warmth and entertainment of our fire and chatting about what we had planned for the next day.
We decided to spend the day as a recon day, and see if the trail that we stumbled upon, went anywhere useful. North, over all the high ground, above the beaver swamp and bog and nicely groomed, it seemed as though it was leading us right back to the truck. We carried on, checking the GPS every few minutes.
We heard the faint distant sounds of a motor, getting closer to us until finally a man dressed in full duck hunting camo came rolling down the trail on his ATV. He stopped and we chatted for a few minutes; he was impressed and shocked to see us hiking through the bush with our 40lb. packs; he went on to tell us that he and his friends had cut this trail 15-20 years ago and maintain it for the purposes of hunting and wild edible foraging, and that it met right back up with the road we had parked off of. We said our friendly farewells and continued North up the trail and towards the truck. Happened upon another intersecting trail and out came 2 more ATVers just out for a ride. Another chatty friendly bunch of locals.
No more than an hour and a half from camp, we were back at the truck and marking down the trail on the map. With a great trail, and a lake surrounded by crown land, I think we may have found a place to call home.
We had a great time in the woods, but we were both ready to see our ladies, so we hit the road.
– Drew (a.k.a. Sasquatch)