Day 1: Highland Trail, Algonquin Park

Daily Stats
Date: July 2, 2016

Distance hiked: 16.8 km // 10.5 mi (Parking Lot to Harness Lake)

Steps taken: 26, 107

Time on the trail: ~5.5 hours

Calories burned: 2, 096

Fuel consumed: 2 oz. dried fruit, 1 cheese string, 1 snickers bar, 1 medium tortilla w/ peanut butter + jam, 1 clif bar, 1 box Kraft Dinner, 500 mL gatorade, 1 packet hot chocolate, water

I am currently sitting by my small campfire, enjoying a cup of hot chocolate after an awesome day of hiking.

I started the day by leaving my parents house around 7:30 AM, with a drive of a little over 2 hours to get to Algonquin Provincial Park. I arrived at the Mew Lake campground permitting office shortly before 10, and quickly and easily obtained my backcountry permit. I was at the trailhead, ready to start hiking by 10:15.

The customary trailhead shot, and the beginning of the trail.

The trail is absolutely beautiful! It winds through a variety of different forest types, with the occasional view of a lake or stream. I started with a 4km stretch to where the first loop branches off. There was a bridge with a cute little waterfall not far into the hike. Plus, the forest smelled amazing after yesterday’s rain!
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The “scenic waterfall”
Once I arrived at the ‘first loop’ there was a 1.7 km stretch along the edge of Provoking Lake, and then a 2.9 km stretch past Faya Lake and ending up at a look out point. The 2.9k stretch was the beginning of the longer ‘second loop’ of the trail. I had a bit of a spooky moment right at the beginning of the second loop, as I heard some weird noises off the trail that I thought might be some kind of large animal. I proceeded onwards slowly and cautiously, but didn’t see anything. I still have no idea what it was, it may have just been a trick of the wind. This trail is fairly difficult, and reminded me of my most recent hike on the Rideau at some points. There was quite a bit of rough terrain and scrambling up and down steep slopes.

More sights along the trail

I planned to take my lunch break at the lookout point, as it was pretty much the exact halfway point along my planned route for the day. When I arrived there was a group of four hikers just finishing up with their own break. We chatted a little bit, and one of the girls was quite impressed with my bravery in hiking alone, along with my lightweight pack. I found out they are staying on the same lake as me tonight, but I haven’t seen them since lunch. The view from the lookout was nice, but nothing too awe-striking. I ate my lunch and was able to text my parents and let them know I was still alive, since the lookout provided a pocket of cell service.

After the lookout, I had a 4.3 km stretch to Head Lake. There was quite a bit of flat trail, and I was able to reach a nice cruising speed and make some good time. When I reached Head Creek (just before Head Lake) I stopped to filter some water. The Sawyer Mini worked wonderfully, and once I got the hang of it I was able to filter water quickly and easily. I continued on around Head Lake, and then had one final stretch of 4.1 km to Harness Lake, where I am camping tonight.

Filtering water with the Sawyer Squeeze Mini! And more trail.

I took the first campsite I came to on Harness Lake, which actually cut my planned distance for the day down by probably around a kilometre. That means I’ll have an extra kilometre to hike out tomorrow. My campsite is pretty lovely, it’s quite large and has an awesome view of Harness Lake. There is also a wooden thunderbox provided, which is something of a luxury (no cathole digging for me!).

I set up my tent, which was super quick and easy, and got my sleeping pad and bag all ready for the night. Then I went down to the lake and filtered 3L of water. Filtering does get a bit time consuming when you do large quantities, but I’m really loving the Sawyer system. I then walked around the site and scavenged a bit of firewood. Campfires don’t exactly fit in with “leave no trace” ethics, but the park actively encourages backcountry hikers to have fires so I figured a small one couldn’t hurt. It’s a treat that I probably won’t get to enjoy much on a real thru-hike. Once I had collected a few handfuls of wood, I decided to make dinner. I had a scary moment where my stove wouldn’t light properly the first few times I tried, but now it seems to be working just fine. I made a pot of macaroni and sat on a rock overlooking the lake to eat. It turns out a whole box of macaroni is a lot of food, and I had to force it down a bit at the end…

A successful tarp tent set up! And a fancy dinner by the water.

Once I was done with dinner, I washed out my pot and got the fire going. I made myself a mug of hot chocolate to enjoy by the fire, and it was quite lovely. The fire has now gone out and I’m out of wood, so I think I’m going to start getting the site ready for bedtime. It’s only 6:30pm, but the sun seems to have gone away behind a wall of cloud so it’s already getting a little bit dark. I need to wash out my mug, brush my teeth, and hang my food bag (I’m thinking it might take me a bit of time to get this part right…). It’s probably going to be an early night, which is fine by me since I didn’t get much sleep last night and I’d like to be up with the sun tomorrow morning.
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Update: I’m now in my tent and ready for a good nights sleep. There was sudden thunder just as I was finishing typing up this post, and I even felt a couple raindrops, so I rushed to get everything ready for the night. It only took two unsuccessful throws for me to get my food bag hung up. The Z Packs bear bagging kit worked great! It turned out the thunder storm was just passing by in the distance, so it was a false alarm. The sun actually came out over our lake, and it was cool to sit by the water and listen to thunder while the sun was also brightly shining. I did a little meditation and some gentle twists and stretches for my spine on the rock that overlooks the water. Now I’m hoping I’ll fall asleep quickly. It’s supposed to get a bit chilly tonight, so fingers crossed my sleeping bag keeps me nice and toasty. I also keep having to pee, so I really hope I can make it through the night without having to get up.. The thought of leaving this tent in the dark terrifies me a bit.
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Watching the storm roll by.

Tomorrow’s hike starts out with a long section parallel to “Mosquito Creek”, which sounds lovely. The mosquitoes were bad enough today, so I’m kind of scared to see what that section will bring. My body is definitely getting an (un)healthy dose of DEET this weekend!

Trail lesson of the day: I love hiking alone, but camping alone seems to be a bit of a different story. Actually, what I really don’t like is sitting around with nothing to do alone. When there was stuff to be done around camp, it was absolutely fine, but then there ended up being too much free time and my mind started getting a bit anxious. I made the assumption that there would be next to no free time on a hiking trip, but my distance today wasn’t long enough for that and I got to camp too early. Next time I’ll bring a book to keep my mind occupied. It was definitely a good practice in solitude and just sitting with myself, but something to pass the same would be nice. Also, do NOT forget chapstick!!

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