Kerosene Lanterns

Hubby and I had just returned from camping in Bon Echo Provincial Park when it reminded me of our family camping excursion to Killbear Provincial Park years ago with our children. The eldest was five, middle child three, and the teenage boy was two. It was pretty amazing what a good time we were having that week considering most of it had been spent in the kitchen tent due to rain. The kids had been through most of their clothing, so when it had finally stopped raining I washed all of their socks which were covered in mud and then dried them over a fire. Once they were dried, they were warm but smelled quite smoky, the kids of course didn’t mind, they were troopers. During the evening we would sit in the kitchen tent playing games with light from one of our kerosene lanterns.

One evening though, turned out to be quite frightening. The one kerosene lantern we were using was quite old and probably not our best choice. The kids were sitting around the picnic table, I was at the other end in a lawn chair and hubby was sitting across from middle child, filling the lantern with kerosene. One minute all was quite calm as we were watching hubby work on the lantern when for some reason the lantern sprayed kerosene all over middle child. In a split second, hubby had middle child in his arms telling her to keep her eyes and mouth open as I poured jugs of water over her face and body. When all the water was used up, middle child was in awe of what was happening but not understanding the seriousness of the situation. Once we realized she was okay, hubby took her to the comfort station for a long shower to make sure there was no lingering kerosene on her. After that frightful evening, the kerosene lantern was disposed of and never to be used again.  We still use kerosene lanterns but they are new and when filled, hubby is far away from everyone.

Our first trip to the back country of Algonquin Provincial Park – the East Arm of Joe Lake

Years ago, when I first mentioned to my husband that I would like to take a trip into the back country of Algonquin Provincial Park, he thought I was nuts.  Especially since what I actually meant was we would canoe, then portage, then canoe some more while looking for a campsite. We would rent three canoes, one for me & the fifteen year old, the second one for my husband and the ten-year old, and the third one was for our twelve-year-old and my brother (who said he had canoeing experience).  Though my husband thought I was crazy, he started to prepare for the inevitable by doing chin-ups, push-ups, upper body strength exercises, etcetera.

This would be a five-day trip so we needed to bring quite a bit of food for the six of us, plus all of our gear. We crazily had an insane amount of gear, six sleeping bags, three air mattresses, one very large sleeping tent, one very large kitchen tent, six small lawn chairs, cooking utensils, two coolers, back packs, towels, life jackets, fishing rods, an axe, rope (for tying the food in a tree), one book for each child, one toy for each child and the map.

We started our trip with the four and a half hour drive to Algonquin Provincial Park arriving at our destination around lunch time. We rented the canoe’s and started the careful packing. An hour or so later we were finally off into Canoe Lake, our starting point. This is a pretty big lake which can either be very calm or full of white caps. This day would not be a calm day and as it turned out, my brother was not the best at steering a canoe! We were not even a quarter of the way across the lake when we realized my brother and middle child were very far behind and not going anywhere fast. What to do? Naturally we had loads of rope with us so my husband decided it was best to tie the lagging canoe to his and he would basically pull/paddle/steer for the two (good thing he had been working out for months). Three hours later we were finally across Canoe Lake and at the portage to Joe Lake. We unloaded the canoes, giving everyone something to carry as we walked the 295 metres to Joe Lake, numerous times.

295 metres

Once we repacked the canoes, tied the one canoe to the other, we were off to our destination the East Arm of Joe Lake. Now each campsite is marked with an orange triangle and there are exactly ten sites on the lake. It was starting to get dark when we entered our destination and hubby was getting very worried that we would not find a campsite even though I reassured him numerous times that a site was pre-booked, of course it is still first come first serve. We paddled and paddled and paddled finally finding a site that wasn’t occupied – the second last one on the lake! It was a gorgeous site, but we couldn’t appreciate it at that moment because we had to unpack everything, set up the tent and get some food into our tummies. Sandwiches for the first night. Next we had to find a suitable tree to tie the food up so the raccoons and/or bears would not be tempted. We found a rock to tie some rope around it and them we started the fun of throwing the rock in the air trying with all our might to get the rope around the perfect branch that was high enough from the ground and strong enough to hold our food.

After a good night’s sleep, we untie the food from the tree, collect water from the lake which is boiled for five minutes (most say three minutes is enough, but we like the extra two minutes) to make sure it will not give us an upset tummy. Porridge with dried fruit is made, plus coffee for the adults and yes I always bring cream no matter where we go which infuriates hubby since he drinks his black. Dishes are washed while the kids investigate our campsite, particularly the toilet. The following is a picture of the toilet from one of our other campsites in the backcountry during a spring camping adventure:
Toilet in the woods

The day is filled with swimming in the lake, fishing, more canoeing and just relaxing whilst the kids play. When swimming we always wear are life jackets regardless that all of us can swim well. We are in strange waters and it is always best to be safe. For example, on the one day while the eldest was practising her canoeing skills, hubby & middle child were swimming around her, my brother, my son and I were canoeing around the lake. My son asked if he could jump out of the canoe and I said sure when we get back to our site but what I didn’t realize at the time was that he would jump without the “okay you can jump now” statement from mom. As soon as we were close to our site, the boy jumped, and since we were not prepared the canoe went over dumping my bother and I in the lake. Hubby was not able to see if we were okay and for a moment he did not know what to do – the eldest was drifting down the lake, middle child and the youngest were in the water. Luckily my brother came up from under the water quite fast, but it was a couple of minutes for me since I had been hit in the head by the rim of the canoe. Once up from under the water, I yelled that I was okay and we started the task of retrieving the upside-down canoe. I can laugh at the situation now, but at the time I was quite upset. I refrained from yelling at my son since I had given him permission to jump, but explained the importance of not jumping out of the canoe when the others were not prepared. I believe we spent the rest of the day just swimming and relaxing.

Sadly, my brother had to return home earlier then expected so we packed him up, canoed back to the portage, unpacked, walked, packed and canoed him back to his car. We returned the one canoe, and paddled, portage, and paddled back to our site (the one benefit of all the paddling is I did lose quite a few pounds).  The last day of our adventure was amazing, the kids spent hours sitting around the campfire, feeding chipmunks which actually would sit in their hands after filling up on nuts. They sang songs, and got along fabulously! Hubby and I packed everything up into one canoe deciding it was best to put all five of us in one while towing the other (he didn’t think I had the strength to paddle a full canoe and he was quite correct). Once off, we paddled, portage, and paddled our canoe train back to the car where we unpacked and packed the car this time. We returned the canoes, and started the long drive home.

Since then we have purchased our own canoes and a kayak for our eldest and have returned to the back country of Algonquin Provincial Park numerous times, each time a different site and different adventure. We do limit ourselves to one portage even though the now teenage boy would like to do quite a few.

Note: this was first published as a page in 2012, but the actual trip had occurred years before.

Twenty-nine years and counting

My husband knows how much I love camping and the outdoors, so this past weekend we camped in our backyard.  We dug out the 4-season tent, the goose down sleeping bag with its wool lining, and our quilt from the bedroom for extra warmth. Now since your head gets cold while sleeping I wore my hat. Yep, I looked pretty darn funny, in my pajama’s & hat. I can’t show you the picture of me in my pajama’s or my husband in his blue long johns and blue shirt (imagine a tall smurf), but here is the tent:

Eureka Tent
Inside of tent_2

It sounds silly, but just being outdoors seems to revitalize me and I am very lucky to have a husband who will pretty much do anything to please me. This October we will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary, but what I found even more impressive is that we have been together for 29 years this summer. My exact words to him were: “I have been sleeping with the same guy for 29 years!” Okay, that sounds pretty crude, but truth be told, it was the first thing that popped into my head.

Where does the time go? Our eldest will be 23 this year but I still remember the day she was born, all twenty-four hours of a very painful labour.  Middle child will be 20, another twelve hours of labour etched into my mind. Lastly, the teenage boy will be 18 this summer, and again, twelve hours of painful labour. Would I do it all again? In a heartbeat, but this is where the time went, three children who I gave an enormous amount of time too and still do.

So what does all this have to do with camping in my backyard? Well sometimes you just have to get away from it all, you need a change, and I am very easy to please (well sometimes). I will choose camping in the bush over a 5-star hotel any day of the week, and right now we are unable to go away, thus the backyard. By the way, here is a picture of the toilet when we go camping:

Toilet in the woods

It was very cold Saturday night, –10 Celsius but the tent was warm and cozy and then there was the cuddling. You can never pass on a good cuddle! Now, of course, the dog was not too impressed with the tent that night. We eventually put him back in the house but he kept howling and barking, so hubby went and got him again, and this time he settled down. The second night was warmer, only –3 and the dog stayed in the house because the teenage boy was home (Cocoa, the dog doesn’t like being alone). Back to us: the night was perfect! More cuddling and I only woke up once to go pee!

Where’s your getaway? Backyard camping or 5-star hotel?