Monday, May 18, 2015


I have been quiet the past week.  There are a couple reasons for that.  First off the app I have been using to automatically send my posts to Facebook went away so people who know about my blogs from there haven't seen me.  If you know of a free app that will do that for me please let me know.  The other thing I have been doing is prepping for and going on a camping trip for four days to Algonquin Park.  Today I got home and my balcony quickly ended up looking like this:

In case it isn't obvious, this is lots of camping bits out drying in the sun before being packed away again for another six months.  It was an interesting trip for me because I was going with a new group of people and because I was doing all the food preparation, planning, and cooking.  I have done plenty of camp cooking before but sorting out exactly how much of everything to pack was new.  I am pleased to report that I did a fine job as we brought back a minimal amount of food and everyone seemed to enjoy what I created.  There are some adjustments to make for next time of course - I need to pack more of the barley, rice, and lentils so that if we need to bulk up a meal we can do it without carrying much extra weight.  I also should cut back on the g.o.r.p and other snacks because almost 3 kilos of that was twice as much as we needed.

Going out with a different group of people also brought a good bunch of culture shock.  My other group is very laid back and we plan relatively short travel days with lots of beer, extra food, fancy dining, and excessive candy.  We also enjoy staying up most of the way through the night and waking up quite late.  On this trip though everyone was out of bed incredibly early - I was the late riser at 7:15 one morning and that blew my mind.  I am used to people staying up till 4:00 around the campfire and then sleeping till 10:00!  I kept collecting tons of firewood thinking we would need it but everyone wanted to go to sleep as soon as it got dark so my mad woodsman skills went mostly untapped.

There is also a really tricky thing when you are going camping and the chain of command isn't clear.  I learned camping from my parents where I really didn't get a vote, and most trips I have been on Wendy has been in charge.

This time it was mostly Naked Man who ran the show but unfortunately we had some differences of opinion on how exactly that show was going to go.  Upon arriving at the park we discovered that the route we had planned for Friday was likely to take either 12 or 18 hours depending on who we believed - the map had it clocked at 11 hours.  I was thoroughly uninterested in paddling for that long and arriving at dusk but Naked Man was absolutely set on punishing us to the max and then doing another 12 hour paddle the next day.  For me that was a total non starter - I would have been miserable and bitter that my vacation was nothing but aches and struggle.  I want to paddle but four hours of effort is plenty to get the feeling that I have worked and then I want to chill at the site in the sun and spend time hunting down prime deadwood for the evening's entertainment.

8 hours into our brutal Friday trek we were clearly only a bit more than halfway to our destination.  The difficulty wasn't just the duration as we were doing single carryovers on long portages and canoeing down a river that was often completely blocked with overgrown alder trees.  Two of us were completely unwilling to commit to another 6 hours of travel so we had some tense discussions about whether or not we would stop at the really cruddy unmaintained site on the river or push on.  We ended up travelling for 2 more hours and staying at a perfectly reasonable place, which allowed us to finish that leg of the journey a day late at 14 hours total.  Thankfully our route allowed us to leave the next day perfectly on schedule but having skipped an entire day of travel.

It gets tricky when a group of four has to make a decision like that.  Camp at the terrible spot, paddle on hoping the next spot isn't taken, or go all day and some of the night to arrive in misery in the dark.  It ends up being a contest of wills and desire and that can be complicated.  We couldn't split up the gear and food in a way that would work so somebody was going to have to give in.  I was spending time inside my own head, wondering if I would have to actually say the words "I am staying here with the food.  You want to starve, go right ahead and paddle off."

I didn't think I would have to say those words, but there was always the possibility in my mind that Naked Man would be totally unwilling to back down and insist on finishing the route as planned.

I don't know if I will go out with this group again - it really isn't clear.  I like them well enough, but a group that wants to get up at the crack of dawn and paddle for twelve hours isn't a good fit for me.  I enjoy a different style than that, and I don't want to be the complainer that drags everyone down nor do I want to be pushed along on a trip that doesn't suit me.  It won't come up for another year at least though, so I have some time to sort out how I feel about doing it again.

One really great note though:  No bugs.  Going in May gave us nice temperatures and a almost complete lack of buzzing nuisances and that really made the trip so much better.


  1. eally interesting post. I've encountered these sorts of dynamics in lots of different ways. On the East Coast Trail with Adele, Danielle, and Gaz we missed a campsite at the end of a very long day and ended up climbing a hill into the bush in the middle of nowhere. Adele was (of course) a serious trooper and Danielle and Gary probably didn't even have it show up on their challenge meter but I was not my best self. Was very glad to have the crew of personalities that we did so it was very spirited.
    On the David Thompson Brigade ( I noticed how intensely important it was to carefully choose a team with personalities that meshed. We all got on one another's last nerve at one point or another. I really enjoyed Abe's eagerness to break from the pre-planned agenda to have random fun and Katie Zettek for how good she was at helping me coordinate daily stuff (she also bought me iced cream almost every day so that was nice too).
    On the Appalachian Trail the dynamics were a lot easier. Em and I were totally on the same page with pace (ie. no rush to get anywhere in particular) and we fell in with a wonderful group of people who seemed to be going the same speed and happy for one-another's company. We had an interesting group of about 6 at the min and 20 at the max that would separate each morning and then meet in the evening.. or not. Really laid back. Loved it.

  2. This was a lot more elegant the first time I wrote it, but apparently I didn't save it - still recovering from camping.

    There was no risk of confrontation. The trip is about having fun so if people won't have fun going forward, then I'm not going to push them. The challenge is determining "not fun" vs. "I'm a bit hesitant". Paul was hesitant to get as close to the moose as I got him, but it's an experience he'll remember for the rest of his life and I don't think he regrets it (and he was in no danger, despite your wild claims to the contrary). At the beginning of the day you were skeptical that we could do it, but you were willing to try - I consider that hesitant, not firmly opposed, so I was encouraging us to assume we could do it (my default assumption is that we're better than regular folks, no matter how far from fact that assumption may obviously lie).

    Once people were exhausted, wet and cold, it was clear we couldn't finish so, as you noted, I had no problems with stopping, though I did encourage us to push on to the campsite that wasn't also a portage route.

    And I made no effort to push the 2nd day of trekking on us - it was clear I'd misjudged what was possible/likely given the people and conditions. I certainly didn't have the energy to even try it!

    At no point did I think you were a complainer at all, so no worries there. Your paddling skills were excellent and appreciated. And your quartermaster role was spectacular - a real success story of the trip.

  3. I do appreciate your willingness to handle all the organization, as that is a hassle in itself for sure. Also it is bothersome when people second guess the organization after not being part of it, so I tried hard not to do that. With some, but not total, success.

    I grew up in the country and got imbued with a strong sense of respect for the danger of wild animals as a kid. I had wolves in my yard at points, chased horses and cows, etc. But I know how dangerous a huge animal can be and I stay back and respect that, especially when in a circumstance where we are a day away from any help should we need it. One thing here is that if a person doesn't want to be a situation they are more likely to panic and that increases the risk substantially. A totally calm person close to a moose is one thing, someone panicking is another entirely.

    Part of the conflict was simply stylistic - had you said "Well, this second day is kinda nutty but if we can't do it then that is fine" I would have been much more likely to push harder and go longer. The reason I was so hesitant was because you gave no indication you were willing to stop and that made me more certain I had to put the brakes on sooner. I don't want cheerleading and optimism, I want pragmatism and negotiation. I am aware that many other people are not like this, but that is how I am, and that made it more difficult for us. This may be a Thinker vs. Feeler thing (Myers Briggs types).

    Anyway it was a fine time overall, I just found the early nights and early mornings quite a surprise, and certainly different than what I would do by default.

  4. Having read this, I'm sure we would make excellent camping mates. I'm not a morning person but love a great campfire. And midday naps for the adults ;)

  5. Having read this, I'm sure we would make excellent camping mates. I'm not a morning person but love a great campfire. And midday naps for the adults ;)