Day 2: Highland Trail, Algonquin Park

Daily Stats

Date: July 3, 2016

Distance hiked: 18.4 km // 11.5 mi (Harness Lake to Parking Lot)

Steps taken: 32, 789

Time on the trail: ~6.5 hours

Calories burned: 2, 492

Fuel consumed: two packets instant oatmeal w/ raisins and walnuts, 1 packet instant coffee, 2 oz. dried fruit, 1 bag peanut butter M&M’s, 1 cheese string, 2 medium tortillas w/ peanut butter & jam, 500 mL gatorade, water

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Early morning lake views

Waking up this morning was a blissful experience. I was nestled in my warm, cozy sleeping bag, there was a dim light shining through the sides of my tent, and the birds were chirping in the day. It was morning! I had made it through my first night alone in the wilderness! I checked the time and it was a little before 5am, so I remained nestled in my sleeping bag for a little while longer. Shortly after 5, I got up and got dressed for the day. It was pretty chilly outside so I put on my fleece and beanie before exiting the tent. The first thing I did was go out to my rock overlooking the lake and take in the pre-dawn view. The lake was still as glass with a thick mist rising off of its surface. It was beautiful!

Camp breakfast on a chilly morning!

I then took my food bag down from the tree where it was hanging and started getting breakfast ready. I had two packages of instant brown sugar oatmeal, with added walnuts and raisins for a little pizzazz. And of course, a package of instant coffee from Starbucks (a key component of any trip for a caffeinated hiker!). I sat on my lake rock to eat, and watched as the first rays of sun illuminated the trees and water. After breakfast, I washed out my pot and mug and started camp take-down. My tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad were compressed into three compact bundles in less than 15 minutes! I don’t know if I’ll ever stop being amazed by the ease with which this ultralight equipment becomes portable. After I had everything back into my pack, I went down to the lake to filter some water. There was a note on the map that all water sources for the stretch along Mosquito Creek were stained and boggy, so I decided to fill up all my water bags in the morning. It would be nice to have enough water to not have to stop and filter again throughout the day, and would be a good test of strength to start the day hiking with almost a gallon of water in my pack.

All set to hit the trail!

I was ready to hit the trail by 7am, which means I spent about an hour and 45 minutes in camp this morning. That’s totally fine for a trip like this, but I’ll have to shave off a good chunk of that time for a true thru-hike. But for this morning, I was very content with my leisurely breakfast by the lake. I started out hiking feeling refreshed and excited for the day ahead. I think early morning hiking is definitely some of my favourite hiking. There’s a sense of peace and solitude in experiencing the world as it awakens, there’s the fresh morning smell, and there’s the sunbeams shooting through the trees.

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Morning trail

I wanted to try and push to a lookout point on the map without taking any real breaks, which was about 14km away from my site. It turned it that this was made easy by the BUGS!! Mosquito Creek most certainly lived up to its name, as any brief stop or even slow down brought down a swarming feeding frenzy. I would feel one biting my arm, and look down to see there were actually 5 or 6 there. Along with 5 or 6 on the other arm. I ended up hiking in my rain jacket for a long stretch, as it was the only material they couldn’t bite through. Despite this, the morning hike was still quite beautiful. The trail goes through such a variety of different landscapes. It goes from lush, bright green deciduous forest, to dense stands of balsam fir (which are somewhat dark and creepy, but smell like Christmas), to exposed rock trail bordered by pale lichens. I did have a kind of scary moment at one point where I was following what appeared to be the trail, when it suddenly disappeared, leaving me stranded in a dense stand of balsam fir with no trail markers in sight. I backtracked a bit, and found a trail marker a way’s back that I had missed when the trail took a sharp turn. The marker’s on this trail can be fairly spread out at times.

The trail crosses Mosquito Creek several times, and I was excited when it opened up to a wide view of some wetlands. I was hoping to spot some moose in these marshy areas (I had been seeing their tracks all over the trail!), but no such luck. I did however see two fat garter snakes sunning themselves on the rocks. I was very excited to get to Provoking Lake, as this marked the approximate halfway point for the day. Plus, walking around the lake was absolutely lovely. There was a nice breeze coming off the water, which meant LESS MOSQUITOES!! And every once in a while, the trees parted to reveal a gorgeous lake view. There were some really nice campsites around this lake.

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View of Provoking Lake

Soon, I had arrived at the lookout point where I planned to have lunch. It turned out that the lookout was down a 250m side trail, and when I reached the top I knew that the extra half kilometre was well worth it! The view was awesome! You could see the entirety of Starling Lake, plus a chunk of Lake of Two Rivers. Plus there was a strong breeze, and therefore, no mosquitoes. After lunch, there was only a little over 4km left to hike, most of it along the same stretch I had hiked in on yesterday. I soon arrived back at the little waterfall, where I ran into the same group from the lookout yesterday! We chatted a bit, and I splashed some of the water on my face to wash off a few of the many layers of DEET.

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View from the Starling Lake lookout!

I was able to get a good stride going on the exit stretch, and made good time. Shortly after the waterfall, I see another solo female hiker coming in, and she was hiking barefoot! And I thought I was being minimalistic! Close to the start of the trail, I saw another solo female hiker, which is so awesome! Love seeing the ladies out there doing their thing. When I got back to my car, I had around a 4 hour drive to get back home, and I stopped at both McDonald’s and A&W during that time. #hikertrashproblems

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Celebratory selfie to end the hike 🙂

Trail lesson of the day: I can do it! There’s a sense of pride in knowing you can survive alone in the wilderness, and I had a huge smile on my face the whole way out of the park. And seriously, don’t forget chapstick.

Pre-Departure Gear Round Up

Highland Trail Day 1

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