I still need my cream, streamlining for our camping trip

camping barrel

Each time my husband and I go camping in the backcountry of Algonquin Provincial Park, he tries to very hard to streamline what we he will be carrying. This trip will have has traveling about four hours by van, then canoeing and portaging another four and a half hours, with our final destination being Burnt Island Lake.

Since we are going so far into the backcountry, are supplies are divided into two categories: items deemed to be necessary by both of us, and those items deemed necessary by me. The must have items are:


  • safety bailer
  • extra paddle
  • paddles
  • life jackets
  • fishing rods & equipment
  • fishing licence
  • rope
  • whistle
  • flash lights
  • first aid kit
  • Medication
  • toilet paper
  • bug spray
  • sun lotions
  • Duck Tape
  • bear spray
  • Map
  • Compass
  • camera
  • folding chairs


  • tent
  • tarp
  • air mattress
  • sleeping bags
  • some sort of pillows (hubby had blow up spiderman inflatables for pillows, I had boring red squares)
  • rope

Kitchen Equipment

  • fork, knife, spoon, tongs,
  • very sharp knife
  • Coleman stove or burner
  • fuel
  • plate, bowl, cups
  • reusable coffee mug
  • water bottles
  • something to hold water (folding plastic jug)
  • frying pan
  • pot with lid
  • kettle, coffee filter, paper filters
  • coffee
  • food
  • tin foil,
  • baggies, small and large
  • shamwow’s, clothes pegs
  • dish soap (biodegradable)
  • fire starter
  • axe
  • saw


  • shoes/sandals
  • towel
  • sweater
  • jeans
  • shorts
  • t-shirts
  • socks
  • pj’s
  • sun glasses
  • hat
  • Rain poncho
  • underwear, bra (I can go braless, but that depends on my mood)
  • tooth-brush & toothpaste


  • two walking sticks for me

Now this is by no means a complete list, but a start. Remember we have to pack all of this in two barrels, two knapsacks, and the canoe. For food, because we are going into the interior of the park, bringing a cooler is just crazy, it would just add another thing to carry, so we eat dried food where you just need to add boiled water (lake water we have boiled for five minutes).

Now I can understand his point, but really I need cream for my coffee.

Burnt Island Lake, Algonquin Provincial Park

Middle child decided that her dad and I needed to get away, and knowing how much I love camping, she booked a last-minute trip to the interior of Algonquin Provincial Park, Burnt Island Lake. Normally we would not book Burnt Island Lake since it involves four portages and with me not being able to carry anything heavy, it is a lot of work for my husband, but it was the only spot left with available sites. There are three creeks that run along side the portages, and middle child was betting we would be able to take them.
Canoe all ready for Canoe Lake
We arrived at Access point 5, Canoe Lake around 12:30 p.m. this past Thursday. While I picked up our interior permits and maps, Matt loaded up the canoe. We made it across Canoe Lake and the first portage (190 metres, this portage is unavoidable) and into Joe Lake in a little over an hour. We then paddled up Joe Lake, making a right into the East Arm, passing by the very first site we had camped on with the kids years ago and then as luck would have it, we saw our first Moose of the trip. MooseAfter the East Arm, you enter into Little Joe Lake, then the second portage at a length of 120 metres but as luck would have us, we were able to take the creek. It was a beautiful zigzagging creek before we came across the third portage of 430 metres. This time we were only able to canoe part of the creek, the second half I walked and Matt pulled the canoe over the extremely slippery rocks. He said pulling the canoe was still far easier than unloading, carrying, walking back, carrying some more gear, walking back, putting our 17ft canoe on his shoulders and carrying it, then reloading everything! Matt pulling the canoe

The second creek led us into Lost Joe Lake, where yes, you could say we became lost. We had accidentally paddled to the end of the lake, just missing the opening to the third creek. Matt had seen something in the corner of his eye, not realizing it was the creek we needed to take. Using the compass on my phone, we reoriented ourselves, just to double-check we hadn’t really screwed up as we doubled back and followed the creek into Baby Joe Lake. We were only able to walk up half of the last creek, it became far too rocky with very little water. As Matt walked ahead to take a better look at the rest of the creek, I waited by the canoe. Being the curious type and thinking he was taking too long, I started walking and of course I fell, regardless of the fact I had two walking sticks for balance, lol. More bruises added! Me in the creekWe couldn’t go further up the creek, but there happened to be an opening taking us up to the portage, now we only had half of the 90 metres left. We were finally entering Burnt Island Lake.

Burnt Island Lake is very large and has fifty-one camp sites. I am never worried about finding a camp site since we had reserved one but I certainly didn’t want to have to paddle the entire lake. We paddled along the left side of the lake, and we were lucky to find the sixth site available. It was a lovely site in a small bay, completely isolated. We arrived on the site around 5:30 p.m., it had been a long day of travel, we set up our tent, cooked some food, hoisted the barrel up into a tree (hanging your food is the only way to keep bears away from your site, there was a bear warning out for where we were). Food barrel hung in tree

Friday morning. We awoke to a beautiful calm morning and a blazing sun. We spent most of the day resting, exploring our camp site, playing scrabble, then later we went for a swim. Actually, I ran into the water, lost my breath because the water was so cold and high-tailed it as fast as I could out of the water! Around 7 p.m we were preparing out meal,Our food which meant boil water, add two and a quarter cups of water, wait 13 minutes, then eat. (Taking dried food into the bush is easier and can be quite good.) Well we were waiting the 13 minutes, all of a sudden heard there was this very loud sloshing sound. We ran to the edge of the water, just in time to see a cow with her calf climbing up onto the shore behind our site. It was amazing.Cow and her calf

On Saturday we saw one mink swim in front of our camp site, then another swim to a tree stump in the lake, crawl all over it, swim to the next tree stump, crawl all over it, then swim to the last tree stump, doing the same thing, crawling all over it. I have no idea what it was looking for, possible food. We spent this day fishing but not catching anything, playing scrabble, and canoeing. We stayed up late Saturday to look at the stars in the sky. We took the canoe out on the lake around 11:30 p.m. making sure we knew exactly where our camp site was (under the big dipper and the largest pine tree). As we looked at the stars, we saw a number of meteors streak by.

Sunday morning. We packed up and started the long trip home. When in the East Arm we saw another moose and a loon with her chicks (once they are able to swim they are also called loons), so we actually saw 3 loons swimming in front of our canoe. I was exhausted by the time we entered Canoe lake, and trusting my husband with my life, I fell asleep in the canoe, leaving him to paddle the lake.Yes, I am sleeping in the canoe

A school trip, written years ago by middle child

The other day, while my husband was cleaning up the kids rooms, he came across an essay written by middle child, when she was in high school. We used to save all of the kids stuff when they were in grade school, but it just became overwhelming. Thus when they entered high school, we would read whatever they gave us, but most of the time, it was tossed in the recycling bin. So I always find it fascinating to find something written/drawn years ago. With her permission, I am reprinting it here, because I loved reading her perspective of a school trip.

Ragged Lake

On Friday, September 26th, my outdoor education class went on a camping trip to Algonquin Provincial Park. I had woken up at 5:30 a.m. to eat my breakfast and left at 6:00 a.m. I got out of my mother’s car after saying my goodbyes and slowly walked to the freezing and tired looking group of teenagers. We waited and waited for Mr. B. and the yellow bus to start us on our great adventure to the bush. A couple of minutes later the mustard yellow school bus drove into the parking lot, we loaded our gear and headed for the seats. We were finally on the road, life is a highway played in the background as we sat and watched the cars beside us drive past. Mr. B. called out everyone’s names, making sure we were actually on the bus.

The bus ride was long and dreadful but I held on, I could hear the laughter and cheers of the other girls and boys clapping, singing and dancing to their favourite songs. I just wanted to close my eyes and drift away in total silence. An hour into the trip we were all awakened by Mr. B. saying “it’s time” and then he handed out papers to us. “We are playing wink murder; wink at the person on your sheet but let no one see you do it.” Luckily for me, the person I had to kill was sitting right next to me. I turned my face and said Stuart, he looked straight at me and I opened and closed my left eye “ON NO” he yelled, you’re a liar. I showed him my sheet and just like looking at me he was dead, in 30 seconds I had killed the first person on my list.

We were about five minutes to our lunch stop when all of a sudden we heard a big bang! The noise was dreadful, big thumps and bangs rattled the school bus. We thought we had killed an animal, some said it sound like a deer, snake or giant octopus. In the end we agreed that the giant octopus popped our tire. We pulled into McDonald’s with our popped tire and waited two long excruciating hours. I walked into the McDonald’s and ordered a giant Oreo Mcflurry, it was so tasty it just ate all my feelings away. I ate and ate, every 15 minutes because when you’re stuck at McDonald’s for two hours all you do is make ‘sugar mountains’ and eat. The mustard cheese bus was finally ready and we still had two hours left to travel. I slept most of the way so I cannot tell you what occurred in those 120 minutes.

When we arrived at Smoke Lake we loaded our canoes and headed off in the deep freezing cold water. We paddled and paddled until I wanted to kill everyone around me. When we came to our first portage I decided to impress all of the guys by carrying the canoe uphill through the woods. I did this for the next four portages; I paddled and carried, paddled and carried like every other student. We got to our campsite, set up a tent, and had some nasty chicken dogs and Pop Tarts then fell asleep.

The next morning we decided to eat Pop Tarts, pre-cooked bacon and eggs. They were the crappiest tasting eggs I have ever eaten. For the rest of the day, we paddled and portaged, paddled and portaged, through forests, through rocks and marshes and finally paddled some more. I believe by this time my canoe was last, I pretty much didn’t care because my arms hurt and nothing would get me to go any faster.

We pitched our tents all in a row then headed to the camp fire. We played games until our stomachs ached from laughing and we played hide and seek until you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. I was exhausted and freezing but what was even more hilarious was when the rain came down splashing in our tent, “a hole! Our tent is leaking” I screamed at the top of my lungs, we decided that we’d have to switch tents. I ended up moving into a one-person tent that I would have to share with three other people, we were squashed but we were warm. In the middle of the night our tent ripped, soaking our sleeping bags and making me almost catch pneumonia. I knocked on our teacher’s tent and asked if I could bunk with them, they agreed and I fell asleep in wet clothes. The next morning the other girls and I couldn’t feel our feet and hands because we were so cold from last night’s rain and then realized we had to paddle home. We were super tired and paddling with numb hands sucks.

We were almost at our goal; home was so close yet so far. I could see the dock from afar, and dreamed of the long warm bus ride ahead. When we finally arrived at the docks, the group and I carried our equipment to the bus. The bus was warm as anticipated, our adventure was almost over; we were almost home. We sang and danced to our favourite songs during the bus ride. I slept and dreamed. I dreamed about how it doesn’t matter what sex, race or who you hang out with, it (the trip) can bring any group of people together. I learned so much more about myself, and how to overcome my fears, I hold this experience close to my heart and wish that this opportunity comes again. 

By middle child 

Note: For the camping trip, students are divided into groups and are responsible for putting together the gear they need plus the food they will eat, thus the nasty eggs, pop tarts, and pre-cooked bacon.

Note 2: For years we have been taking our children into the backcountry of Algonquin because of the beauty and my love of canoeing. They have learned to canoe for hours, portage when they were exhausted from canoeing in the hot sun or the downpour of rain. They have seen amazing wildlife, everything from extremely large snapping turtles, to red-tailed deer and moose.

A family portrait June 16 2005 taken at Ragged Lake

A family portrait June 16 2005 taken at Ragged Lake