Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Everything is looking brighter!

For the past week or even two, I have been in a bit of a funk. I am not sick or anything, just have not felt like myself. As strange as this started, it all ended on the drive to work this morning and yet, nothing has really changed. Allow me to explain...

This morning as I was getting off the highway and turned east towards work, I looked up and saw one of the most beautiful sunrises ever. The sun was shrouded in a milky fog that made the entire sky appear to on fire. I pulled the car over to the side of the rode and just soaked it all in. I must have been there for 5 minutes just staring at first and just before I about to pull away I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I was smiling without even realizing it and it felt incredible. That feeling has stuck with me the rest of the day....funny how even now, that funk I was in seems so distant.

As for the trip, it is officially back on! We have had to move our arrival and departure times forward one day, to accomidate an important appointment Marie has...but we are going and this too has me feeling a little happier today. I called Ontario parks today and changed the dates with them. They wanted to charge me $9 to bump everything forward one day. It took some effort, but I talked the girl into waiving the fee....don't ask how. In case you were wondering, I have adjusted the count down clock for the new departure date...yes I am anal! ( stop laughing G)

We will be going down to MEC to get the remaining needs next Tuesday and again this has me pumped. I love going to that store and I love getting new gear..this will be fun!

I continue to train for the marathon and despite the incredible heat yesterday, still pulled off a personal best of 51:10 for my 10K hill course. I am still not loving the fact my favorite part about running is when I stop running...but I have to admit, it is getting less of a struggle and my goal of doing the marathon in 1:45 is looking very realistic these days.

Have to get back to work, but have to mention our new website is up and running. This will be the new home to our Algonquin adventure and this blog...eventualy. Feel free to let us know what you think...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

An Overdue Update

I could not tell you how many times I have tried to update the blog over the last week and despite these attempts, this is the first time I have managed to get even this far. The past week or so has been busy at times and something had to give, but for now anyway, this week is looking calm and relatively easy. So I will use this time to give a much overdue update...

This past weekend was Victoria Day weekend in Canada (affectionately called May 2-4 weekend). This is the first long weekend of the season and for most, it announces that winter is over and that summer is upon us. This is a great thought, but for anyone who like me was trapped here in southern Ontario this weekend, that thought was as close as we would get to nice weather. After three days of rain, sleet and cold I am happy to see this crappy long w/e gone and hopefully that we have gotten the bad weather over with early. The next long weekend is July first Canada Day and then the August Civic Holiday that is our Canoe trip! It is so close I can almost hear the crackling fire and haunting call of the loons...(and yes by that I mean Gerry and I)

I woke Saturday morning feeling sick. I almost never get sick and since Tanyia works every weekend, I did what I could to keep the kids happy, all the while wanting to go back to bed. Since that was not going to happen, we had a movie day with popcorn, treats and a big warm blanket on the couch. The weather was bad, I was worse , but the kids were suprisingly great and shortly after lunch time , I felt much better. I always make an effort to spend time with the kids, but this was even more special the usual and I won't forget how a bad day for me , turned into a great day for our family.

I did not make it to the gym on Saturday and this was the first time in over a year that I have missed a day! It felt weird not going, I almost felt guilty about not being able to go. Tanyia said later that day "if you didn't go to the gym you must have been sick" and this made me feel better about it. She always knows what to say. On Sunday I was back at my routine, but while running I still felt sluggish. Any of the hangover from my mystery illness was gone by Monday as I again felt strong and sailed through the running and lower body routine.

Trip Notes:

  • As Gerry noted in one of his recent updates, I found a great deal on a piece of gear at a garage sale last weekend. As I was taking a look through the dozens of tables of the usual crap, I found and later purchased an almost brand new Coleman Lantern for the brain price of $5.00. The funny thing was, the night before Gerry was talking about how it would be great to have that is Karma! On Gerrys advice I purchased the hard case to protect the lantern, but it does not fit my model. I may return it in favor of the soft case, but will give Gerry the chance to "McGiever up" the hard case first

  • The compass and watch I ordered off of eBay arrived from Japan last week and both are better then advertised. That makes 3 things ordered from the far east without a problem

  • Gerry and I still have to arrange a time to go to MEC to purchase our remaining items mentioned in my last post, but neither of us is in a hurry

  • Just over 2 months before we leave!!!

I will post again really I will!

Friday, May 12, 2006

New compass and Trip Map

I have been reading and re-reading the chapter in the Backpackers handbook on Map and compass work. This is another area of the trip that I find myself surprisingly interested in. After getting a good handle on orientering basics, I started to focus on working with the map and compass to take bearings. To do this you need an orienteering compass and I have a (so I thought) a very good one from when I was in the Air Cadets as a kid...yes I was and Air Cadet...I am a geek remember. (see profile)

Anyway, I go down to the basement to find my compass only to find the kids have broken it in half! After giving them the usual speech, I go to eBay and find a new compass and pick up this one from a guy in Japan. For a long time I avoided all eBay sellers from the far east for fear of being screwed, but if they have a high feedback score then the risk is no different then a North American seller. There are some great deals to be had, even after you factor in the shipping...this compass for example cost me $2.00.

Inspired by all of my recent map and compass work , I decided to redo the map of our trip. As you can see, it is now complete with a legend, clearer map and colour coded for the days of travel.

On a personal note, Gerry and Marie had there consultation with the neurologist and walked away feeling much better about her situation. As a bystander to all that has been happening to them over the past week, it is incredible to see the difference in both of them now the that the fear of the unknown has been removed. This is not to say that there are not problems, but they now seem more manageable and they both are happier as a result.

Just a great day...what a difference a week can make...

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Reminder that Family comes first...

Last Thursday Gerry's wife Marie had an unexplained seizure while attending a function at their kids school. Marie had no history of seizures and after an MRI of her brain she was diagnosed with a Brain Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM). She spent 4 days in hospital and is now at home and doing well, as she begeins to deal with the limitations and uncertanties assosiated with this diagnosis.

I was not going to write about this at all, but now that my best bud Gerry has in his recent post, I feel more comfortable doing so. Gerry's personal account of what they are going through is a frank and honest description and I encourage all to read it. It has me looking at my life and health in a far more appreciative way and I hope it may have the same effect on some of you.

As for our trip, we have to prepare ourselves for the possibility the trip may not happen this year. There are far too many unknowns at this point and although the likelyhood of the trip being cancelled is small, it is a possibility. In the event that the trip has to be cancelled, I will wait for next year to do the trip with Gerry as we planned. For me this trip has always been less about the challenges the back country have to offer, then it is hanging out with my buddy for 5 days and I would never do it without him. We thought of this together and we will do it together, this year or makes little difference to me. So we continue to plan the trip and will deal with any problems if they happen.

Now back to the trip planning! For obvious reasons we have not been able to make it down to MEC to buy the last few odds and ends for our trip. Here is a list of the items on my MEC Wish List:

  1. Outback Oven
  2. Source C-2 Hydration System
  3. Nalgene Bottle, 1 L, wide mouth
  4. Backpacker's Pantry Supreme Pizza
  5. Backpacker's Pantry Wicked Good Brownies
  6. Backpacker's Pantry Cinnamon Coffee Cake
  7. Backpacker's Pantry Sweet and Sour Chicken

I have updated the meal plan to add more variety and to add "a touch of gourmet" to our backcountry meals. (as requested/ complained about by Gerry)

I have also include a breakdown of our trip in terms of distances over the various days.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Free Map of Algonquin Park Canoe Routes

UPDATE July 31, 2009: Since I made this post a new map has been made available. It is the most accurate and detailed Algonquin map ever made and best of is also FREE! The original PDF map is still around, but really should only be used as a reference, as it is fraught with errors (for example, many campsites are missing or not where they are indicated and lake shapes are misleading or in some cases have bays that don't even exist!). PLEASE do not use this map to navigate the park, it is out of date and will only bring you problems. Use it at your own risk.

HERE is a link to the new map and be sure to let it's creator, Jeffrey McMurtrie, know if you like it and that you heard about it here.

As I was looking for a new Algonquin pic to use on my desktop, I stumbled upon something I have been trying to find for a LONG time....the elusive PDF version of the Algonquin Park Canoe Routes Map.

The group Friends of Algonquin Park publish a printed version of the map annually and I have been told that once upon a time, the PDF version was available for download directly from them. I guess they realized that with the quality of printers available today, almost anyone could print off a high quality map and forgo the $20 cost of the paper version, so the free map was removed. Until now, every link I have found referenced back to the original (now dead) link...until now. It is still being made available for free download from the University of Toronto's server.

I should note, I do own a paper copy of the map and I do not agree with screwing the good people at Friends of Algonquin Park. They do excellent work and deserve the $20 for the map. I just want to be able to print off sections of the map or use it to post my canoe route and now...we all can!

CLICK HERE to download the PDF version of the Algonquin Park Canoe Routes Map

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

We Leave 3 Months from Today! Sort of...

I say sort of, because technically it is 3 months from yesterday, but saying "We Leave 3 Months from yesterday" sounds retarded.

Spoke to Gerry about the Outback Oven and we both agree that we will get one too use for our evening meals. We will even be going as far as buying a few of the pre-packaged meals and desserts that are designed specifically for the Outback Oven. This will make dinner the tasty/ nutritional meal it should be, instead of the nurtitionly sound, but somewhat bland diet I had planned previously.

Gerry and I have been disagreement on what would be best to use for holding our purified water. Gerry was in favor of each of us using a hydration system that can connect directly to our water filer for filling and can then be zipped in our packs. There is a flexible straw that you attach to the front of you so you can have a drink at any time. At first I hated the idea, as I find sipping through a straw to be annoying when I am really thirsty and I had already planned on using a pair of Nalgene bottles. But when after talking to Gerry and reading about what the pro's use, I now agree with Gerry. I still plan to bring a Nalgene bottle to mix drink crystals, but will use the hydration system for all of my water needs.

We will be making a trip down to the Mountain Equipment Co-of in Toronto, Ontario to buy what will most likely be our last gear needs for the trip. The plan is to go down next Tuesday. I will meet Gerry at his work and we will go over together, then grab some dinner in the city. Just a small outing, but when he has anything to do with the trip, it is always a blast.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Fresh Baked Brownie or Pizza in the Backcountry?

After I posted the "Meal Plan" Gerry was quick to suggest that we add a touch of gourmet to the meals. Inspired by this , I searched for a product first mentioned in the Backpackers Handbook called the Outback Oven.

Here is an overview of the product:

Outback Oven 10"-Weight: 450.0 g

A civilized solution to the problem of mushy one-pot meals. A heat-dispersing burner plate, a non-stick frypan, a lid with a built-in thermometer, all covered with a heat-reflecting fabric “tent” to form a stovetop oven, letting you produce fresh-baked pizzas, breads, biscuits, and rolls on the trail. Convenient mixes made especially for the Outback Oven are available, or you can use supermarket mixes and your own recipes. Works with most single-burner campstoves (not for use with stoves where the burner sits directly over the fuel tank or fuel cartridge, due to the danger of overheating).

Still not convinced? Read this article about the experienceses of these guys using this oven and you will be lucky not to drool all over your keyboard.

Here is a list of Outback Oven Recipes I stumbled over.

I want to talk to Gerry about this before I make a final decision, but this could be the difference between a good meal and a gourmet meal!

Confirmation and Reservation...

What a great weekend! The weather is just incredible and I had the kids outside for most of Saturday and Sunday. It was so warm that there was even a hint of summer in the air…yes the trip is getting that much closer.

On Friday I received our “Backcounty Camping Confirmation” in the mail from the Ontario Parks Department. Ever since I opened that envelope I have not been able to stop thinking about Algonquin. I can not express how excited I am about this trip and it is still over 3 months away! Fortunately, Gerry is into all things Algonquin as much (if not more) then me, so neither of us has to bother anyone else.

I booked our canoe with Algonquin Outfitters today. It is a 16 foot Expedition Grade Kevlar canoe that weights in at a very slender 52 pounds! Kevlar® is a patented super strong, super light, heat resistant material. Made by Dupont, kevlar has a strength to weight ratio over 5 times that of steel and loses no strength due to U/V exposure. It is no surprise that this is the material that is universally used in bullet proof vests…and me and Gerry’s canoe!

  • Highly Stable

  • Above average load Capacity

  • Good tracking and speed

  • Versatile Hull design

I have included some pics that are similar to this canoe.