Beginners Guide to Backcountry

At a glance, back country trips can seem mystical and awe inspiring.  Photos of your friends or “favourite blogger”… cough.. retracing the steps of explorers and voyageurs long since gone can be mesmerizing.  The concept of becoming “one with nature” on these trips, is not only mystical and romantic, but quintessentially Canadian.  After all, our country was built on hardy folks who had an unhealthy penchant for spending most of their lives in the backwoods.  Unfortunately when it comes time to actually plan one, the weight of the task can leave you feeling inadequate and unconfident.  Especially if these sorts of trips weren’t part of your youth.

cropped-blog-cover3.jpg

So how do you go about planning and actually executing one of these trips? I’m sure there are many folks out there who are infinitely more qualified to answer this question, but I’d like to weigh on with a beginners/intermediate’s point of view on the subject.  Here is what I have learned.

Have a Good Plan

Decide how much time you want to spend on a trip. Decide where in the province, country, or even world you want to go. Once you have answered these questions narrow down your search to a specific route.  In Canada, Canadian Canoe Roots  would be your best option.  Alternatively you could look up Trails.com  for trails in the states.  Once you have narrowed it down to a specific route, get your hands on  a map of your route showing the path, portages, portage distances, and topography.  I’m a big fan of Jeff’s maps http://jeffsmap.com/ .  They guy has seen a good portion of the parks in Ontario and has lots of handy notes on his maps.  Not to mention they are fairly current, and best of all made available through donations.  Thanks Jeff!

If your still deciding on what route to take consider your level of physical fitness when selecting a trip that’s right for you.  Consider choosing a trp that is well travelled if your new.  There may be others present should you get into a bit of trouble.

Don’t be a hero and don’t bite off more than you can chew.  A two day trip may not sound as epic as a week long excursion, but its definitely easier and safer. Every year lots of people decide to head into the woods with very little gear or food expecting things to just work out.  News flash, they wont, unless you prepare for it.

Choose Experienced Trip Mates

Personally, I prefer learning by doing and by seeing.  So it worked out when I was invited on my first trip by some seriously experienced trekkers.  I got to learn the ropes with minimal risk to myself.  I recommend this method of grafting yourself onto a trip.  I bet there is nothing worse that being in the middle of a trek running out of food and having no idea how your going to get back and no one to ask for help.

Plan Your Meals

Understand what your dietary needs are and pack accordingly.  Its important to watch your weight here though, and I don’t mean your waistline.  I’m taking weight of your pack.  Bringing a case of beer and fresh steaks may work for a 2 day canoe in trip where you don’t mind packing it in, but that wont really fly on a long haul 7 day trip with numerous portages.  Your not going to want to haul that crap in or haul the remaining garbage out. Consider meals that are light and full of calories like wraps and peanut butter or oatmeal.  Dried meats are a favourite as well.  Basically anything that doesn’t require refrigeration and is light.  Remember, its not the food that usually weighs a lot, its the water present in your food.  Try to avoid bringing meals that contain lots of water and rely more on things like pasta, rice, or oatmeal.  They have a high calorie/weight ratio.

Water

Consider how you will get your water.  A couple Nalgene bottles wont cut it for a long haul trip.  Bring a water filter designed to remove all the lovely bacteria and parasites or use purification tablets/drops.  Simply boiling your water wont save you from a severe case of “beaver fever”.  Oh and avoid drawing water from swampy boggy areas or from near shore.  These areas can be teaming with parasites.  If in an emergency you need to drink untreated water, get it from a fast moving stream or from the middle of a deep cold lake.

Gear

Gear needs are tied directly to the trip you plan to take.  You’ll need at least: a compass, your map (preferably in a water proof case), fire starting equip, pack, sleeping bag, therma-rest or sleeping pad, water filtration or purification equip, minimal cooking gear (preferably pots that fit within one another), a stove or way to cook (something light is great like a whisperlite or similar), life jacket (if canoeing), and assortment of medication (ibuprofen, Benadryl, antihistamines, personal meds).  A bit of rope and a good knife are never bad things to bring along.  Try to minimize gear and reduce redundancies.  Discuss equipment with your group to avoid duplicating gear.  No need to haul 6 camp stoves in when one will do the trick.

Resist the urge to bring along your favourite axe, clunky propane BBQ, or other gear that has no direct use on trip.  Believe me, you’ll only make the mistake of over packing once, especially if you have a few long portages to deal with.

Maintain a dry set of clothes, but don’t bring the whole wardrobe.  Accept that you wont have a fresh set of clothes to wear each day unless you pack them in.  I keep one set of dry clothes for camp and one for the hard day of paddling and hiking.

Organization

Reduce clutter and loose items. Make sure you reduce items that need to be carried in your hands or that are loose.  This makes for easy portages and minimizes lost items.  You will tire quickly of having to pick up a ton of crap each time you move.  Also, one pack containing all your gear is easer to pick out of the water than a mess of gear if you capsize.  As a plus, your pack will likely float minimizing loss of equipment!

Read Trip Reports

Although you may be hoping to experience your very own Lewis and Clark moment once you are in the woods, its likely someone else has been there before.  Use resources such as myccr.ca folks on that sit have piles of information for the new adventurer.  Don’t forget to use Google and read posts like those you may find on your favourite outdoor blog based in Southern Ontario “wink, wink”.  If there is a problem with a trip, someone somewhere is likely to mention it.

Weather

Be prepared for it or plan around it.  Remember as nice as a light rain shower is in the summer, the same rain can be deadly if your travelling in cold temperatures.  Staying dry is key when the mercury drops.

Stay off the water during thunderstorms or in high winds. Likewise, learn your route and constantly be looking to landmarks that indicate where you are. Stay alert!  you don’t want to be the person who misses the portage only to head into a class 5 rapid un-expectantly.

Well that’s my two cents.  I’m not a pro by any stretch, but hopefully this information will help you make some good decisions up front about your trip.  If I can leave you with one thought its this: don’t be intimidated.  This may seem like a lot of things to think about when tripping, but you’ll learn quick.  Start small, be eager to learn and humbly take advice for more experienced trippers.

Lastly, and above all else, enjoy the experience.

Cheers from somewhere in the middle of nowhere,

Albert

Ontario Craft Beer, Cheese, Liquor, and Food

The Wilderness across Ontario is my favourite thing to write about.  But a close second would have to be the province itself.  The area is rich in diversity and is currently nurturing a healthy “farm to table / locavore” movement.  For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m talking about artisanal meats, cheeses, food, beer and liquor made locally with local ingredients, fostering local economic benefits.  I could go on here touting the benefits of supporting this way of life but really, what’s more beneficial than eating and drinking something that a fellow Ontarian has poured their life into?  In my mind, its a no brainer.

So how do you set about finding all these hole in the wall places? I’m sure many of you may have a favourite craft beer you like or perhaps you’ve stumbled upon a some amazing cheese that’s made in the farmhouse down the road.  That’s great.  Now imagine having access to each and everyone of these places across southern Ontario.

Actually better yet, don’t imagine.  This ability already exists in website form.  Check out the following link and discover the taste of Ontario.

https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0645/5925/files/DiscoveryRoutes_2016_Full_insert.pdf?16132010561433434178

Cheers

Albert

craft-beer

Current Aerial Imagery + Weather Conditions Resource

Winter has finally begun here in southern Ontario.  Our temperatures have finally dropped into the negative teens, although only for a couple days, according to the weather network.  Still I’m optimistic for competent Ice, hopefully by mid to late January.

So to pass the time, I decided to add a few more resource links to the blog.

The first is a website called Flash Earth, which displays images obtained by NASA.  This website provides daily aerial imagery for the planet.  The scale isn’t great but it should give you a general idea of where Ice has begin to form and when things have begun to thaw in the spring.  WARNING, there is no real way to tell if any Ice is safe from just looking at aerial imagery.  Practice good Ice safety and pay close attention to local warnings and ice reports.  More detailed ice conditions may be available on the various  fishing forums found on the internet.

http://www.flashearth.com/

The second is an App/website called Accuweather.  Accuweather offers hyper local weather reports which go as far as predicting precipitation down to the minute it will occur with an two hour window into the future.  Although this level of accuracy and precision is hard to attain, the app seems to be accurate for my location so far.  Added features include reporting conditions from your location (which no doubt increases the accuracy of the app) and access to radar images.  Overall a worth while app for the outdoorsperson or anyone for that matter.

http://www.accuweather.com/en/ca/canada-weather

Here’s hoping I’ll have some Ice fishing reports on here soon.

Cheers from my desk,

Albert

 

Wild Duck au Poivre

Wild ducks are versatile things when it comes to the culinary world.  They make great stews, are great cured, can be pan seared on their own, and go great with a number of taste profiles and sauces.  In my opinion, there are very few individuals who understand this more than one of my favourite chefs, Hank Shaw. So whenever I am looking to try a new recipe, his website (http://honest-food.net/) is one of the very first places I look.  With inspirations from a number of international cuisines and cultures, you are guaranteed to find something interesting on his website. And if my endorsement isn’t enough to get you to try it out, consider this: The guy wrote a friggen book on cooking waterfowl titled “Duck, Duck, Goose”.  If that doesn’t give him a serious amount of street cred, I don’t know what will (Duck Duck Goose).

And so I found myself with a couple plump and delicious looking mallard breasts the other day after a hunt (Mid-Season Waterfowl) and a desire to try something interesting with them. After a brief consultation with you guessed it, the duke of duck cooking, Hank Shaw, and his handy dandy website I settled on a classic French dish, Steak au Poivre.  Or what I’ve come to call Wild Duck au Poivre. Recipe

I wont take away from Hank’s great, comprehensive instructions, so go check out his website if you want to know how to make this tasty number.

DSC_0401r

I did make a few adjustments, mostly to accommodate the ingredients I had on hand.  Instead of porcini and bitter greens I substituted in some nice German Feldsalat which my inlaws grew late into fall.  I added a bit of a dill vinaigrette just to spice it up a bit.

DSC_0402r

Next I decided to roast some potatoes I had grown this year in m y backyard garden.

The recipe for the potatoes is as follows:

peel and cut potatoes into coarse cubes.  Lay in a pan and cover with water, a dash of salt and a dash of chicken stock.  Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until the water boils.  At which point let them simmer for around 5 minutes.  Once the potatoes start to soften, remove and Drain.  Rough up the potatoes in a strainer, coat with flour and seasonings (chives, salt and pepper), and fry in hot oil until the edges brown.  throw back in the oven at bake until crisp.

DSC_0404r

Everything tastes better when cooked in butter.

DSC_0409r DSC_0411r DSC_0420r

Voila, Wild Duck au Poivre!

 

Cheers from the kitchen,

Albert

 

Controlling Rust in your Tackle Box

Year after year, countless scores of anglers dust off their tackle boxes just before their favorite fishing season and crack the lids to find a mess of rusty neglected tackle.  Has this happened to you?  Don’t feel bad, you’re not alone.  Many anglers just don’t have the time to meticulously maintain their tackle.  Thankfully you don’t have to spend hours pouring over your gear to get rust free baits as there are many low-cost, easy to implement ways to control rust issues in your tackle box.

Common rust is more specifically, iron oxide, which forms after the redox reaction between iron, oxygen and water or moisture.  Seeing as how fishing tackle inherently comes into contact with both air and water, rust can seem almost inevitable.

So how do you control the degradation of your favourite tackle?  The following are popular methods used to slow down or inhibit the development of rust.  These tips are ranked from worst to best (based on my own personal opinion of course).

7. Use a rust inhibiting agent.  Coating your lures in a light oil can prevent air from getting to your gear.  This is a popular method to prevent rust in general, however I wouldn’t recommend this approach as it can leave you with a greasy tackle box and most importantly can have negative environmental impacts on the water body your casting into.

6. Buy hardware for your baits that is made from an iron substitute.  This is the more expensive option and gear for this solution can be hard to find for freshwater purposes.  Furthermore hooks that rust are designed to break down very quickly if a fish breaks you off.  This in turn, likely reduces mortality.

5.Store baits in individual resealable bags.  This makes sense for terminal tackle, however can be impossible for larger crank baits with hard to manage treble hooks.

4.Owner has developed sacrificial anodes that can be cut and attached to your lures using a provided adhesive.  These anodes will preferentially corrode, leaving your hooks rust free.  This may be a good option however treating each hook can be costly and time-consuming.  Take a look at the product for yourself and decide if it works for you:  https://www.ownerhooks.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=159?osCsid=d187e18c1b199b2f83144054f7d4cbda

3.Use rust inhibitor pads.  These pads are popular with pro bass fisherman, and with folks who have water tight compartments in their boats.  The concept of these pads is to act as a giant desiccant for each storage compartment in your boat.  These may not be ideal for boats with non-sealed storage compartments or for those who don’t store their tackle in their boat.  Bull frog makes a great unit if this method is for you:  http://www.bull-frog.com/products/

2. Dry tackle before putting it away.  This can be as simple as leaving it out on the deck of your boat for a day or two or you could get proactive and use a blow dryer.  However you do it, do not put wet tackle back in your box.  This is recipe for disaster as the moisture from one lure can evaporate and cause rust on nearby lures.

1.My personal favourite, and the winner of this ranking, is to add desiccating packs (silica gel packs) to each tray of my tackle box.  These little guys are inexpensive and can be found almost anywhere.  I recently purchased a large bundle of these packs from amazon and have stocked each of my trays with several.  Heck I even put a few in my gun cabinet.  They may take up some space, but the longevity gained by your tackle makes up for the loss of real-estate.  Here are a couple examples:

http://www.amazon.ca/Dry-Packs-10gm-Cotton-Silica-Packet/dp/B00967JFMM/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1434547087&sr=8-9&keywords=silica+packs

http://www.flambeauoutdoors.com/en/fishing/page/zerust

SilicaGelPack

As good as any of these methods may be on their own, the ultimate solution is likely a combination of options 1 and 2 and in some cases 3.  Each of these three methods are quick, easy and inexpensive to implement.  Try them out and enjoy a few more years out of your favourite baits.

Cheers from the tackle box,

Albert

Angler Atlas

For many of my fellow Ontarians, Finding bathymetry for your favourite lake can be a challenge.  Especially if your like me and your favourite lake is located in the middle of nowhere with very little interest from the general public.

Thankfully Anglers Atlas has just recently added a big chunk of maps for many smaller lakes in southern Ontario and to my delight, a bunch of my favourites made the list.

Spend a few minutes, sign up and check out Anglers Atlas.  Who knows, maybe you’ll find a map for your favourite back lake!

Cheers from my desk,

Albert

http://www.anglersatlas.com/mapSearch

Wild Boars in Ontario

Ask any farmer or landowner from the southern United States and they will tell you feral pigs, otherwise know as the Eurasian Wild Pig are one of the biggest nuisances they face.  With populations at unprecedented levels and their presence being felt in 39 states (or more), these beasts terrorize farmers and landowners by destroying crops and rooting up land.  Simple put they are the definition of invasive.

So why discuss them on a blog centred around Southern Ontario?

It seems we too may soon have to deal with these invasive pests according to recent memorandum released by the Ministry of Natural Resources.  Apparently feral pigs have been spotted in the united counties of Prescott and Russell which are located east of Ottawa between Ottawa and Hawkesbury.  According to the memorandum, the MNR have authorized farmers and hunters to kill feral pigs under the authority of a small game licence (See a copy of the memorandum below).

All pertinent hunting rules and regulations regarding safety still remain in effect while hunting these animals and all kills or sighting should be reported to the ministry of natural resources at 1-800-667-1940. Those interested in more information on Wild boars in Ontario are also encouraged to contact the MNR.  In addition, “Wildboars in Canada” is a website dedicated to tracking sightings and encounters across the province.

http://wildboarcanada.ca/#sthash.ra8UktVY.dpbs

Invasive species can be a problem for any ecosystem and those found in Ontario are no exception.  Do your part and report any sightings of feral pigs, or any other invasive species for that matter, to the MNR.

 

http://www.invadingspecies.com/

Cheers

Al

P.S (If you see one, don’t be afraid to leave a comment below or send an email.  I make a mean smoked bacon and I have no problems travelling!)

WildBoars_Russell_Prescott_Page_1WildBoars_Russell_Prescott_Page_2