Canada Day Long Weekend Bicycle/Camping Tour

I recently took a bicycle trip during the hottest weekend of 2018 (so far). It was the 2018 Canada Day Long Weekend and temperatures soured into the 40’s (Celsius) with humidex readings reaching almost 50C in some areas.

They graded the trails (also got on the wrong trail) and I had to work 3x harder than normal (with 50lbs of pack) during that heat wave over the weekend. The trip was not at all what I was expecting.

So, how was my trip? Here’s a point form of the highlights:

DAY 1:

-Got going late – meant to leave at 4am but didn’t get going until noon.
-Nice day, easy riding.
-Got to Hastings where I intended to have dinner, but got the idea of skipping dinner in favour of getting to a campsite at Ferris Provincial Park in Cambellford Ontario. We’ll have dinner there.
-Ferris Park office closed when I got there and the Park Warden (Ranger, Gestapo, whatever) answered “Absolutely NOT” to my question of “Can I pay in the morning?”
-Now after 9pm – Rode to east of Cambellford in the near dark looking for suitable camp spot.
-Set up camp in dark – skipped dinner because I was swarmed in mosquitoes.

DAY 2:

-Woke up after getting next to no sleep – bad leg cramps (also nature is NOISY!)
-Breakfast, then continue on the east trail to northern turnoff toward Tweed
-Trail was crap!
-Hours later (like 4-6 hours) I realize I am on the wrong trail – likely missed the turn off in the dark the night before.
-Travelled the crappiest gravel/sand ATV trail EVER – for 45km – luckily these trails eventually led me toward Tweed
-20km of the hottest highway riding (on a long weekend!) of my life. No trees along highways.
-Arrived in Tweed exhausted.
-Ate a bag of Cheese Curds (everyone in the Tweed area seems to sell these).
-Back on trail west of Tweed – Find camping spot for the night.
-Eat dinner & crash for the night

DAY 3:

-Slept well, but woke up to massive thunderstorm @ 4am. (Now THAT was intense!)
-Mosquitoes were thick after storm but still made breakfast while getting eaten alive. I was head to toe in my rain gear just to keep them off me.
-Pack up camp and start heading toward home on the proper tail (Trans Canada)
-Discovered the trail had been recently graded and is nothing but sand and loose gravel – horrible riding for my loaded down bike (50lbs) with thinner tires.
-More crappy trail.
-After 30km of this I leave the crappy trail and opt to ride on side roads. (Almost out of water at this point)
-Bike NOT packed for doing hills! Much too heavy! Just as much work as the loose gravel on the trail.
-Found water just in time in the town of Ivanhoe (apparently the cheese capital of the area LOL)
-Arrived in Sterling around dinner time which allowed me to hook back up with the original ATV trail (that wrong trail I took earlier) as a route back toward Campbellford. Yay! More loose gravel/sand trail.
-Absolutely BURNT OUT at this point.
-Find a camp spot, eat, sleep and end this day!

DAY 4:

-Woke up exhausted.
-Had to break camp in a hurry since morning birds were crapping all over my tent
-Exhausted…
-Tried breakfast – failed – too exhausted and nauseous to eat.
-CAN’T EAT? TOO TIRED? HEAT EXHAUSTION!! – END OF TRIP!
-Still had 24km to get to Campbellford – with NO energy and feeling super ill.
-Took me 5 hours to cover the 24km as I had to keep stopping to catch my breath. EVERYTHING was winding me! Heart going nuts.
-Started to hallucinate.
-Scared! Thought I was going to die and likely wasn’t very far from it.
-Pushed on and made it to the River Inn motel in Campbellford.
-No rooms (it was 9:30am) so I had to wait for checkout time (11am) before I could get in. Staff saw I was hurting and rushed to get a room ready ASAP. (Thank you!) 10:30 saw me in an air conditioned room.
-Shower, nap, then a food run.
-Looked at self in mirror – ZERO body fat left. DONE!
-Spent the rest of the day eating/drinking constantly! So depleated!!

DAY 5: 

-Not up for riding yet. Still feeling super burnt plus threat of massive thunderstorms looming.
-Paid for the room for another day. (This part REALLY hurt! LOL)
-Again, ate and drank constantly all day. There simply was not enough food for the intense hunger plaguing me.

DAY 6:

-Good to go! Packed up the bike and headed out toward home at 8:30am.
-Back to the GOOD TRAIL! That stuff was exceptionally easy to ride after the crap I’d been through. Pretty much just sailed the last 90km home.
-HOME!

Total Trip = 305km – 4 riding days (2 days down)

This was not a typical ride by any means. I normally do quite well – even in the high heat like we had. Been doing it for years. My method to keep cool in the ultra-heat is to ride at least 15-20km/hr creating a nice breeze as you ride. It regulates me nicely. This time out I simply could not get that kind of speed up on freshly graded trails. Tires sink right into it. Hell, I had to get off and walk some sections.

At the end of the day on any trip I take, I always have enough money in my pocket for a Motel Room in case of something like what happened here. I’ve always counted Heat Exhaustion as a possible outcome of any ride. Good thing! Besides, I’m a pessimist and tend to be ready for the worst – even at the best of times. 😀

Still an awesome trip. One I won’t forget anytime soon.

Thinning the Forest at the Emily Trails – aka Money Grab!

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One of my favourite hiking destinations over the past couple years has been the Emily Trails just north east of Omemee in Ontario, Canada. I loved walking around looking up at the majestic ~200 year old trees. I make several treks through this area each year. It gives me an emotional high with each visit.

However, last year (summer of 2013) my emotions were dashed at the sight of destruction that had taken place. The City of Kawartha Lakes had decided that “thinning” of all the Red Pine was required and posted the following news item in the fall of 2012:

October 2, 2012 – The City of Kawartha Lakes will be thinning/harvesting red pine plantations in the Emily Tract in October, the Pontypool Tract in October and November, and the Somerville Tract from October until January.

These plantations are owned by the City of Kawartha Lakes and require periodic thinning for maintaining forest health. The thinning will also assist in the conversion of pine plantations to more natural mixed forests.

Some trail use could be temporarily interrupted. For safety reasons, please avoid areas where thinning/harvesting operations are active.

Ok, thinning is one thing, but destroying half the place in the process is quite another. They chopped down a Grand Musclewood tree that was reportedly about 300 years old (see the stump in the picture above). Why? Because it was in the way of the harvesting equipment getting to the Red Pine beyond – they didn’t even WANT that tree. Below is a sign that was on an adjacent tree explaining how this was the “Oldest stand” of Musclewood in the area. Not any more!

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If you look through my Flickr Photo Set of this destruction, you’ll see paths cut throughout the area by harvesting equipment and other trees just tossed aside. If this wasn’t enough to bring tears to my eyes, the following was…

Each time I go to these trails, I always meet up with an elderly gentleman who has spent most of his life hiking through these trails. He’s always there with his little Jack Russell dog just sitting on a log enjoying the nature around him. He always has stories to tell about the area and he informed me of just how old some of these majestic trees are. His great grandparents likely never saw these trees as seedlings.

On my last trip there (I haven’t been back since seeing all this), he told me of the process these harvesters went through to get to their precious Pine – cutting and splitting their way through land that had never before seen machinery. They took the valuable Red Pine, and discarded anything that held no value. His voice broke and crackled as he fought back the tears. This was his playground – now violated and raped!

Who the Hell are we (humans) to dictate to Mother Nature that her forests need thinning? She’s been looking after the forests for a Hell of a lot longer than we have. Why is our species so frikkin’ arrogant to think that we know what’s best? They claim this was to “assist in the conversion of pine plantations to more natural mixed forests.” I have trekked from one end of this area to the other and let me tell you, there is NO PROBLEM with the mix of trees – there is a HUGE variety!

This was no mere “thinning operation” but rather, a quick money grab as Red Pine fetches a decent price on the market. And, as you can see from the press release above, two other “conservation areas” (whatever!!) saw the same fate.

(There is also a rumour that half the area has been sold for sub-division development, but I cannot find any information to validate that.)

I will likely return there this summer, but the scars left will dwarf the wonderment I once felt. 🙁

I’m A Minimalist

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As I dig into my 51st year, one thing has become very clear: I’ve become a minimalist. I really can’t pinpoint when or how this happened, but suffice it to say I have a very ordered and uncluttered life.

I live in a decent sized bachelor apartment containing items that likely wouldn’t fetch $500 if I were to sell it all tomorrow. My walls are void of pictures and there is ample walking room due to my lack of typical furniture such as sofas, recliners, and the like.

I own a bicycle, bed, a cheap $70 camera, a couple ancient desks containing computers assembled from scrounged or gifted parts, and the bare essentials for kitchen ware.

I have no need for insurance as everything I own wouldn’t add up to the premiums I would pay over the years. I have no need for money over and above what I need for basic survival. Since I make and spend less, I pay the least amount in taxes of just about anyone I know.

I have no desire for travel outside my own country, no need for vehicles (beyond my bicycle), no need for stylish clothing, no need to seek relationships, and no need for approval from anyone.

I desire less and am happier for it. This is a close to freedom as I can get.

And you know what? That’s good enough for me!

Here’s An Exercise…

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Just for fun, give this a try: Go to your fridge or cupboard and grab a few pre-packaged items and bring them to your computer desk. Next, go to Google and start looking up any ingredient you do not immediately recognize. First investigate the ingredient, then search further for how those ingredients affect the human body. I promise you it will be a major eye-opener.

I must warn you, however. When I did this a couple years ago, I threw away half of the things in my cupboard – never to be brought back again.

Let me know in the comments how you fare… 😉