Day 1: Arrival at Mew Lake

Date: Friday, January 16, 2015

Weather: Sunny, -15 degrees Celsius at Mew Lake on arrival

I packed up my car Thursday night to try to reduce the amount of separation anxiety I cause in my Wheaten Terrier. I didn’t want three trips down to the car on Friday morning. As it was, he came down to the car with me and an armload of last minute items (oh hello camp chair!) Friday morning before our first walk. Not a great start.


All I needed to do was marinate the eggplant and chicken for Saturday night and get on the road by 11AM. Right.

Almost an hour later, I pulled out of the garage leaving a barking pup behind. Noon didn’t seem so bad as I squeezed in a shower, some last minute odds and ends for this site’s launch, and jotted down the directions to Mew Lake.

The sun shone brightly as I zipped up Highway 400 and on to Highway 11. I stopped in Orillia for a late lunch and coffee, where I checked my messages and realized everyone else was running late as well.  I made one more stop at the Wal-Mart in Huntsville to pick up 20 of the 33 liters of water I brought with me.

Onwards to Mew Lake!

I arrived at the campground around 3:30 and drove past the yurts back to site 84 where the first of our party had set up. Michael had already shoveled out a tent pad for himself and kindly shoveled me a lovely spot to set up while I pulled badly-packed gear out of my car. When I car camp, all but the kitchen sink ends up coming with me and I don’t bother finding bags and bins to transport it. I can be relatively compact when I backpack – as compact as my discipline will allow me to be with an 80L pack.

The two of us set up our tents while we waited for the others to arrive. Pegs took extra time to pound down into the frozen ground. I gave up on two spots on my fly, tying them instead to my avalanche shovel and my bottle of windshield washer fluid (ah, car camping – I could have looked for a sturdy branch or log).

Next I lay out my sleep system: I folded my emergency tarp in half so that the metallic sides were facing out and reflecting cold away from me. I placed my yellow foam sleeping pad on top of the tarp and my Thermarest on top of the foamie. I shook out my sleeping bag, fleece liner, and overbag. They had plenty of time to loft up before bed. I tossed my stuff sack of clothing layers into my tent and then zipped it up, ready to move on to the next task.

I realized I was starting to chill even with a set of base layers on, my softshell pants, a couple of fleeces, my winter jacket, hat, mitts, thick socks, and waterproof boots. I threw on my Gore-Tex gaiters. I love that they give the bottom of my legs a little extra warmth as well as keeping the snow and moisture from seeping into the tops of my boots. I added my snowpants for good measure.

As the two of us started to organize ourselves to get a fire going in the fire pit, the rest of our crew arrived pulling a trailer full of firewood. After hugs and introductions, Brian set out to find himself a spot to hang his hammock, Michael continued working on the fire pit, and Bill and I started working on the weekend’s grand experiment: a homemade hot tent. The sun had set and temperatures were dropping steadily so we worked quickly to put the poles together and get the former dining tent strung up on them. We’d rotate standing by the fire pit to warm up toes and fingers and then get back to work. By now all four of us were working together. We brought in the stove and pipe, lay the wood in the stove and added a firestarter brick on the top to get the whole works going. Our digital thermometer now registered -30 degrees Celsius.

We chatted, protected from the wind by the dining tent, munched on snacks, and pondered how to get and keep the stove pumping out the heat. We weren’t that successful, yet. Around 10pm I felt too cold to stay up so I retired to my tent and slid into my cozy sleeping bag for my chilliest night outdoors yet.

For the rest of the trip report, click here.

Published by Kate Monahan

Travel happy. Outdoors professional. Writer. Photographer. Educator.

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