Day 1: Arrival at Mew Lake

Snowtrekker set up outside of Mew Lake

Date: Friday, February 12, 2016

Weather: Overcast, -8 degrees Celsius on arrival at Mew Lake

It worked out that Russ took Friday off and could get me to a spot to carpool to Algonquin, leaving him the car to get to my in-laws for dinner on Sunday. We met Stephane at the King City ONRoute at 10am, transferred my gear from the GTI to his Echo and away we went.

The Ride

It’s anxiety-inducing for me to share a car with someone I’ve never met; however I put on my social face and soon relaxed as I got to know the person I’d spend the next four hours with in a steel box.


The closer we drove to Algonquin, the cloudier and snowier the weather turned until we could only see the car ahead of us near Bracebridge. All traffic except the big rigs slowed to a crawl. The band of snow squalls cleared after about an hour and we picked up the pace to meet Lyn, the organizer of this weekend, the connecting factor for all four of us, and the owner of the all-important four-person Snowtrekker tent.


Arrival at Mew Lake

When we arrived at the campground, she had the tent rigged up and was in the process of hauling the pieces of the stove out of her Mazda 3. Hugs all around. She hadn’t seen Stephane in nearly ten years. She and I had at least paddled the Madawaska together in May.


As Stephane and I unpacked our gear, Lyn scooted out to the front for park-approved firewood. We wanted a toasty warm tent for when Deb arrived later.


Staying Warm

We walked the grounds looking for frisky pine martens, but were rewarded only with blue jays (who I don’t remember seeing last January. That’s how different a winter we’re having this year, despite the weekend’s Arctic blast.). We waved at other hearty souls braving the cold. We searched for social media friends, not realizing other social media friends were also spending the Family Day weekend at Mew Lake. Eventually we wandered back to the tent to get the fire going and heat up dinner.


It takes a little while to get into the groove of being in essentially someone else’s space. I’m hyper-aware of not stepping on toes or messing with someone’s routine until he or she tells me to stop worrying about it. We were developing our own camp system together.


We chatted over dinner about summer trips, people we knew in common, goings ons in our day-to-day lives. This is one of the things I find fascinating about when outdoorspeople get together: the generosity in sharing ideas, stories, tips and tricks. Sure, sharing goes on in other communities of people and sure, there are those outdoorspeople who are in it for the one-upmanship. It’s something I can appreciate having been in distinctly different communities of late.



My cell service was holding up and from a few tests, we estimated Deb would arrive closer to midnight so we hunkered into our sleeping bags and dozed/chatted while we waited.


Funny story about hunkering into my sleeping bag, really my sleep system. After last year’s bad night’s sleep at similarly bitter overnight temperatures (-40ºC for this year’s trip) I had two sleeping bags with me, plus my fleece liner, my overbag, the foamie, Thermarest and emergency tarp. Layering all those together and with each layer containing a different side for its zipper, I worked up warmth wiggling into my bed and tried not to panic as it took me several minutes to emerge victorious from my cocoon.


When Deb arrived, there was a flurry of activity to get her settled in and then we all passed out as soon as we turned off the Luci light (brilliant invention!). The only overnight rule we abided by was: if you were up and it was cold, stoke the fire.


For more on this winter weekend getaway, follow the trip report here.

Published by Kate Monahan

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

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