1st solo trip – AKA Badass vs. Dumbass

Maybe the title is a bit much. But that pretty much sums up how I felt while I was out there.  I’ve heard people say that it’s amazing or “Badass”, to venture out into the woods alone.  I definitely felt as if I had a few great moments of badassery.  Is that a word?  It is now.  (Apologies, I don’t swear often actually, but that’s another thing that happened a lot this weekend, so let’s go with it for now). And the Dumbass bit?  Well let’s just say I learned a few very important lessons about going solo.   I was happy that there was a lot I did right.  But there were a few things I did very wrong. And I use the word Dumbass lightly.  Only because I don’t believe in talking negatively about oneself.  In all honestly I just kinda like the way it goes with Badass. So there you go.

The adventure began wonderfully.  I was nervous about a lot of things, but tried to ignore it for the most part.  I think Goliath was pretty excited to get there too!

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We had the parking lot to ourselves when we arrived, until a group of four teenage guys arrived. I was just about packed up and ready to go on the 1st Portage when I heard them struggling to take a picture. I offered to take one for them and then I was off. I was doing pretty good at getting the kayak on while I was wearing Goliath in the bag but even my “pretty good” is still kind of awkward. So one of the guys ran over to help me get the kayak up on my shoulders. I found that starting out there was a lot of help along the way. The park is fairly secluded but still quite populated which is nice for a first solo trip. So I managed the first portage with the dog in the pack and a kayak on my shoulders. We seemed to be off to a pretty good start.  The one thing that I noticed about the difference between portaging with a kayak vs. a canoe is that it takes you so much longer to get everything organized at each end of the portage. You can’t just take your barrel and toss it in the canoe.  You have to take everything apart and squeeze it in just right.  Still, not a bad thing really.  Unless you’re in a rush.  The barrel is empty in the picture.  It was also my first time paddling a loaded kayak so I didn’t want anything potentially tippy.

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The view was lovely and we had a nice paddle to the first site across glassy still water.  My favorite 😆

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We passed a few sites along the way.  There was a dog that looked so excited to see another dog that I wouldn’t have been surprised if he jumped into the water to say hello.  Goliath wasn’t as thrilled and made it known.  For a little guy, he’s really a bit of a jerk sometimes.  But I love him to bits!

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We finally found the site I’d reserved after I was beginning to wonder if we’d passed it.  It was lovely.  A nice beach front to pull in to and very clean and woodsy.  It was also pretty far away from the others.  Actually the only thing I didn’t like was that it was hard to find a tree to hang our food on.  But maybe that was just my impatience or arriving late.  Who knows?  But I like to have the rope in place before it gets dark at least.  That was one of the things I did wrong.  Maybe there are no bears around this park, or maybe I just got lucky.  But I felt like I was just hanging up the bear welcoming bag.  “Here you go Mr. Bear, enjoy the treat.”  It seemed to take me forever to toss the rope in the right spot, and when I did manage to get it high enough, the weight wasn’t enough with the pulley to lower it down.  I may look into those bear vaults. Or I could use my arborist throw line before using the thicker rope.  That would have made things easy.  But when I was packing, I wasn’t thinking about climbing trees.  Either way next time I’ll be more prepared for that.  I was lucky each night not to have any visitors and still have food in the morning.

The sunset on Bottle lake was lovely.  The water was still glassy.  There’s just something about reflections in the water.

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I had a family show up as I was packing up.  It was noon, but the permits say you have until 2 to vacate your site.  I was about to tell them to stick around that I was almost done, but the guy just turned around and left, telling the kids they were going for a longer ride in the boat. They wound up coming back very shortly and setting up anyhow.  I don’t know what the protocol is around there for that, but I didn’t mind.  The kids were very sweet. They had a lot of questions about the dog and the boat.

Paddling out of Bottle was another story.  The wind had picked up the next day which made things interesting.  I’ve paddled wavy windy water in a canoe before, but not a kayak.  And not with my precious furry little cargo.  Yes, bringing the dog the first time may well have been something I should have reconsidered. But we made it.   As for something I did right?  I stuck by the shore.  And I’m pretty good at reading the ripples of the water for rocks and shallow areas.  So that helped.

The paddle out of Bottle was tiring.  When I got to the next portage there was a couple there who said hello.  As we chatted I asked if one of them wouldn’t mind giving me a boost with the kayak.  I was struggling with all the wind to get it on my shoulders.  They didn’t mind at all, but once I took a step the yoke fell off and I had to stop.  The nice man said let’s just grab an end and carry it together.  He was so kind, but I was glad I had only imposed for 80m. These were supposed to be easy ones but this one was straight up.  Of course 😆

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The paddle to the site on Sucker was just as windy, but I still managed to stay upright and near the shore.  Once again, it was lovely.  A pretty view and a nice site.  Although I was a little disappointed here.  People had left lots of garbage and food wrappers.  I’m hoping the chipmunks got it all.  As much as I don’t agree with feeding them, it’s nice that they’ll tidy up after people who don’t.

It also looked like someone was taking an axe to good trees. I hope I’m wrong but I can’t imagine what else that would have been.

Goliath was really tired once we arrived. I’m not sure why.  I did all the work. He actually slept in the kayak a little on the way there, so at least he wasn’t scared.  I was worried about that as well.  Poor little guy is like 90 years old. I guess he needs his naps. He didn’t even wait for me to set up this time.

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So that was nice. While he slept in the tent, (I put him in there once I got it set up) I was able to just close it up and leave him there to go hang the rope for the food bag. It went better this time, but still wasn’t easy. I definitely have to re-think that one.

Once again we had a lovely view. And there were even fewer people around.  I could see a few canoes parked at other sites, but couldn’t hear much this time and they seemed to be farther away.

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The last day was another time I did some things wrong. We still had another day there, but by this point Goliath was looking pretty miserable. He was shivering and sleeping all the time.  Part of the reason I picked this place was for him. Really small portages and if anything were to go wrong I could just leave. I was getting worried about the weather. The clouds were grey and the wind was picking up. But they were picking up in the direction we had to go to leave. I thought that’d make things easier, so looking at my poor little freezing dog, I decided we’d go home.  Maybe I should have chanced it and waited to see what the weather was like the next day, who knows?  On the way out, I really started to feel like this was a bad idea.  I was paddling in water that was beyond my skill level; at least in a kayak.  We almost tipped a few times.  At one point we actually took on a fair amount of water, but I managed to balance enough so we didn’t tip right over.  I think my skeg on the kayak is stuck as well. The wind really kept trying to spin us around.  It was a fight to keep us straight. I was really worried that if we were pushed sideways that the waves would tip us right over. The whole way back was a slightly terrifying struggle.  Thankfully, I won the fight against the wind and we arrived safely. But I really couldn’t stop thinking about how stupid that was.  I also wasn’t dressed for the water. You should always dress for dumping your boat. I may have managed.  The water wasn’t that cold. But I’m really glad I didn’t have to learn that lesson the hard way.

Maybe for some badass points I should mention there was no help on the way back.  I had to manage everything solo.  We survived! We made it out safely and made our way home and finally then saw some wildlife.

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Just a deer, but she was in the woods out there, so she counts! Yeah it was a side of the road picture, but that’s just the way it goes.

So everything considered my first solo went well.  I definitely know what I’ll do differently next time, and my pup had a fun little adventure, and that’s what matters the most!  It’s definitely always an adventure!

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14 thoughts on “1st solo trip – AKA Badass vs. Dumbass

    1. Thank you! There’s some great groups on Facebook that have helped me a lot. I tend to ask a million questions before I do something. I was told when I was younger that ladies don’t camp in the woods and certainly NEVER alone! It’s nice to see so many women these days just doing it 🙂

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  1. Badass indeed! No one realizes what an emotional roller coaster a solo backcountry trip is until they commit to the experience for themselves. Huge congrats for taking on the challenge. I’ve had the same troubles with hanging bear bags ☺️ Tying the end of my rope to a small Rock, throwing it into the branches and hoisting up the bag has proved to be successful.

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement! Yes definitely an emotional roller coaster! I’ve car camped solo plenty but this was an entirely different experience. Lol… I tried a rock, but no matter how I tied it, after a few throws the rock went flying 🙂 I have a little mesh bag for clothespins that I could easily put a rock in and tie to the rope. If that doesn’t work I may just get one of those fancy claw/teeth proof bags 🙂

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      1. Yes – it seemed to be an exceptionally determined critter. We made a mistake on where we hung the bag and it was pretty easy for the raccoon to access it. The next night, we were smarter about where we hung it and had no problems for the rest of the trip. But the damage was done and now the bag is a mess. Also, it shrunk in the wash! :O
        Ok. Now I think I better do a gear review over on my blog…. LOL!

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      2. Great idea! I love reading reviews! That’s great to know. Some reviews were saying you don’t even have to hang the bag. I’m glad I didn’t buy it now! (Maybe I’ll just work on my throwing! Haha! )

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  2. CONGRATS LADY!!! such a great post and I am so glad you made it out okay! Sadly, sometimes this is how we learn, what to do and what not to do, but it sounds like you did a lot right! You must be super proud of yourself! I have been wanting to backcountry in the Kawarthas for a while now. Maybe we can plan something ? Let me know! Happy travels my friend!

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    1. Oh! I knew there was someone who uses that! Sweet, I’m gonna go creep your blog for that 🙂 I was thinking about the soft bag, but Gayle just let me know it’s not that great. I hear good things about that dark bear vault… I forget the brand. Either way I’ve got to get better at it lol… I’m leading a group of ladies into Algonquin next month! We’re not gonna fit all our food in one vault. 🙂

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