A Very Close Call The importance of baby-proofing your campsite

January 5, 2018

Outdoors

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When you have children, you always want them to be safe at home, so you make sure you put poisons out of reach, you put gates on stairs, and you put covers on electrical outlets. There is a lot to be said about ensuring your home is baby proof, but making sure your campsite is baby proof is also a very important task.

In August of 2008 my husband Michael and I went on a trip to Algonquin Provincial Park with friends of ours, Laurie and Bryan, their seven year old son, Tobias, and our three children, Owen, Lily and Ethan, ages six, five and one. We were staying on a gorgeous site at Little Trout Lake — it was picture perfect.

We looked around to find a safe place to put our youngest, Ethan, then put his baby harness on him and tied him to a tree stump. He had about eight feet of rope to allow him to explore. When my husband and I were searching out a place to put him we made sure he could not reach the fire pit, and that the heat from the fire pit would not be too hot for him and we made sure there were not a lot of little sticks and twigs he could choke on. He was perfectly safe or so we thought. We did not consider one thing. It was hiding under a bush where we didn’t think Ethan could reach. We didn’t even think about it until it was too late, and although we had commented on how pretty the little mushrooms were we didn’t ever imagine in our wildest dreams our son would pluck one and have a taste.

I noticed first that Ethan had a fist full of mushroom and as I was taking it from his hand and telling him “no,” my oldest, Owen, exclaimed quite loudly “Mom, he’s eating some!” We had told the older three children that the mushrooms aren’t for eating or touching because they could be poisonous, but, we didn’t think about the baby being able to bother with them.

Once realizing Ethan had swallowed a piece of mushroom I turned to my friends and asked them “what do I do?” I had no idea. Their faces went white and they told me to make him vomit. I called to Michael and he came running. We couldn’t get the baby to bring anything up, we both tried. Then it occurred to Bryan that perhaps Ethan had an empty stomach, as when it happened we were preparing breakfast. Thankfully, Michael had thought to pack a few tetra boxes of soymilk. They don’t need to be refrigerated, so they are great for an interior canoe trip. We quickly filled the baby’s bottle with milk and he drank it. Once he was finished his bottle Michael took him and made him vomit. It was a nasty business, but a necessary one. After he threw up Michael handed the baby to me and searched the vomit. He found a piece of mushroom, about the size of a dime, a small relief.

The waiting began, and let me tell you, the next few hours were some of the worst of my life. We were all constantly watching for any slight change in Ethan. Is his temperature okay? How is his complexion? Is his personality normal? Is his breathing okay? I was scared out of my mind.

We discussed a plan of action on how to get Ethan out of the park as quickly as possible and signal for help should things have gone horribly wrong. Actually what happened was Laurie asked if we should start getting our gear packed up to get out in a hurry and Bryan flatly said “Laurie, you’re not coming.” Michael and Bryan decided if we needed to get Ethan medical attention they would paddle him out and leave Laurie and I at the campsite with the other three children, and Laurie and I were to make a fire and try to signal for help, because the guys could get him out a lot faster without us.

I was on the verge of panic and told Michael I wanted to take the baby out now. I was ready to pack up and go home, never to enter the wilderness again.

A few hours passed and I started to relax, then 12 hours, then 24 and Ethan was still okay. He was acting 100% normal. At that point, we were all fairly certain he was going to be fine.

While doing research for this article I discovered that even if a person appears to be okay the poisoning for some mushrooms can take several days to take effect. I have also learned there are no antidotes for mushroom poisoning. It is important to teach your children that eating or even touching mushrooms in the wild, including mushrooms found in your own backyard, is very dangerous. Consider all types of wild mushrooms to be a serious hazard to you and your children, and unless you are a mushroom expert (a mycologist), don’t eat ever pick them to eat them.

One thing to remember about mushrooms is they can pop up at anytime so you need to check your campsite at least once a day to make sure nothing new has come up where your children will be playing.

He gave us a terrible fright and taught us a lesson. We would never put one of our precious children in harm’s way on purpose. While sharing this story may be embarrassing, if I can help keep another child safe then that is more important. We have been camping since the incident with the mushroom, but when I step onto a campsite or I’m walking on a portage I look at the wildlife, flora and fauna, with new eyes.

I wrote this article to share my experience with you, but I am in no way suggesting if your child were to ingest a wild mushroom that you take the same approach as we did. I have learned since then that waiting for symptoms to appear is not the best tactic. Prevention is the best way to keep your child safe, and I hope no one else is ever subjected to an occurrence like this.

photography in the outdoors

January 5, 2018

Outdoors

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Before I became a professional photographer, I found that the best way to improve my skills was by doing. Books and theory were all great but self-assignments gave me a chance to push my limits and stretch my imagination. We thought that bringing self-assignments to Outdoor Adventure Canada would be fun.

To make it fair there will be two divisions—one for hobbyists and one for professionals. No prizes… just bragging rights and a chance to show off your work.

The Assignment – The Essence of Fall

Now that summer has ended and fall is upon us, your photographic self-assignment is to take a creative outdoor photo that illustrates the essense of fall. Think outside the box a little and have fun with it.

Rules:
1.) you must have taken the photo yourself
2.) you may submit more than one entry
3.) the photo must be sent in jpeg format (see below)
4.) the photo cannot be larger than 700 x 700 pixels and 1.4 MB
5.) Panoramic photos must not exceed 700 pixels on the longest side
6.) do not place any text or watermark on the photo
7.) by submitting your photo and entering the contest you are giving outdooradventurecanada.com permission to publish your photo on our website with credit to you as the photographer. You retain all rights to the photos you submit.
8.) the photos must be related to the outdoors or outdoor adventure in some way

Submit the information below with your photograph attached. Please send one email per photograph.

Real Name
Email address
Website URL (if you have one)
Hobbyist or Professional
Camera Make and Model
Lens make and focal length
If and how the photograph was manipulated digitally
The location of the shot
The outdoor activity were you participating in
The story behind the photograph (if there is one)

We will show images from each category that we feel are exceptional.

Adventure Cycling on the Nut Point Hiking Trail Saskatchewan’s Lac La Ronge Provincial Park awaits

January 5, 2018

Outdoors

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An exhilarating and challenging cycling adventure can be found on the Nut Point Hiking Trail located in northern Saskatchewan’s Lac La Ronge Provincial Park. This 15 kilometre trail meanders through the woodlands, rocky ridges, boreal forest, and muskeg. The trail runs along the peninsula that ends at Nut Point. Local wildlife includes bear, deer, moose, elk and beaver.

Lac La Ronge Provincial Park is the largest of Saskatchewan’s provincial parks. There are six campgrounds and a hundred lakes. The Churchill River also runs through the area. The park’s serviced campsites have access to hydro, telephones, water, showers and laundry facilities. Beaches, playgrounds and picnic areas are nearby. Boat, canoe, paddleboat and mountain bike rentals are also available.

As you head out on the trail, you will climb a rock ridge and then cycle over a boardwalk, which protects the muskeg underneath. You will pass through mossy woods, over another rock ridge to a cairn, which marks the beginning of the trail. Throughout the trip, you will take your mountain bike up rock ridges, down into low, wet areas and rumble over boardwalks that protect sensitive areas. You will pass through black spruce and mixed forest along the way.

After about 5 km you will find a cove with a beaver lodge. Waburton Island is also visible from here. Halfway through the trail you will reach Nut Portage. Between kilometres 9 and 10 there are low areas where water can flow onto the trail. Your efforts here are rewarded a kilometer later with a small sand beach where you can enjoy a swim. After the beach, there are two more beaver lodges and an old pole wharf. Near kilometer 13, a rocky ridge allows for a nice view of Nut Bay and Soutar Island, then, shortly after, you will find area where you will be able to get water from the shoreline. The next part of the trail can often be flooded by rainwater. As you near the end of the trail, you pass white spruce, twisted jack pines and a large rock left from the glaciers. Nut Point, at the end of the trail, has a stone fireplace, campsites and a spot to swim.

You may interior camp on the trail but because of the rustic nature of the area, you must boil or purify lake water. Camping areas that are close to water are marked on the trail map. You may also camp at unmarked locations anywhere along the trail except near privately leased land or cabins. Ensure that you practice Leave-No-Trace principles and make your campsite away from the trail. This will also give you some privacy.

Bears are common in the area so pick up the “Bears and You” pamphlet before you start your trip. You also will need a good insect repellent. If plan to bike through you should be prepared for an unscheduled overnight stay, bring food, water, a tire repair kit and a first aid kit. Nut Point Portage is a great place to top up your supplies and get any last minute items you may have forgotten.

When we think of Saskatchewan, we often envision flat expanses of prairie but Nut Point is a rugged and interesting trail and its many twists and turns make for an enjoyable trip.

Day Hiking Essentials Things to bring along on your adventure

January 5, 2018

Outdoors

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As I sat here, looking for inspiration to write the day hiking feature for this issue of Outdoor Adventure Canada, I was transported back to some of my first long day trips. One of these was a long hike that took us up a very steep trail to a wonderful lookout. The day was one of the hottest of the summer and I noticed that there were people on the trail who were ill prepared, one couple did not even have water. This made me aware that not all of us think ahead when it comes to packing for a day hike or geocaching adventure.

Water is the number one essential! To avoid becoming dehydrated which can happen easily, especially in hot weather. I recommend ½ litre for every hour. Of course, this will vary depending on your personal needs, the temperature and the difficulty of the trail. Be sure to take sturdy water bottles such as Nalgene or Camelbak. They are better for the environment than non-reusable bottles and won’t leak if the lid is on securely. I like to use two smaller water bottles. A water filter or purification drops are a good idea if you are going on a long hike and will need to refill your bottles.

Layer clothing when hiking in the shoulder seasons and in winter. A waterproof breathable outer shell is great for wind and rain. Polar fleece makes a nice layer over your inner layer of regular clothing. Wear a long sleeved shirt under the fleece in cooler weather and in warmer conditions a t-shirt. In the summer, pack the outer shell or a poncho in case of rain, even if the forecast is good.

Good footwear is crucial. For most hikes a high quality, sturdy walking or running shoe or cross-trainer will suffice, however in rugged or rocky areas you may want to consider a shoe or boot specifically designed for hiking. You might even a want a light backpacking boot if the terrain is particulary rough and difficult. Hiking socks are important. These help prevent blisters and tend to keep your feet more comfortable than an everyday sport sock. There are many types of hiking socks that will aid in wicking moisture away from your skin. If you are prone to blistering a liner sock may be a good solution. Bring an extra pair of socks and and perhaps even spare laces.

Other essentials may include a map and compass or a GPS, and first aid kit. Mine has bandages, moleskin, Compeed™ (for blisters), electrolyte replacement crystals and ibuprofen or tylenol. A flashlight or headlamp, bandana and a pocketknife are useful as well. Sunscreen is a necessity and you will want bug repellant or netted bug clothing in late spring when the mosquitoes and black flies are biting voraciously. If you own a cellular phone, take it with you in case of an emergency.

Your body needs fuel so food is an important part of your day hiking essentials. If hiking in cold weather you may want to bring a backpacking stove for a hot drink or hot lunch. If you don’t want to carry a stove think about filling a thermal bottle with your favorite hot beverage before you leave home. Your only limit is your imagination when it comes to lunch, not matter what the season. If the weather is very hot and perishables are on the menu just use a cooler bag and ice packs. I like those ones that you can refreeze. You may need eating utensils such as a mug, plate and spoon depending on what you decide to eat. Bring snacks to keep your energy levels up during the day. Things such as GORP (good old raisins and peanuts), fresh or dried fruit, veggie sticks, jerky, homemade energy bars or granola bars are all good choices.

Put all of this in a good quality daypack. Something with a hip belt and is more comfortable and I like having an outer pocket or two. I keep my full water bottle and outer shell at the top of the pack where I can access them easily.

Someone once said, “take only photographs and leave only footprints“, so remember your camera. It is a good idea to place it in a dry bag or waterproof camera bag when you aren’t taking a photo especially if there is inclement weather in the forecast. Don’t forget to bring an extra set of batteries. If it is wintery out, keep those spare batteries in an interior coat pocket—it can keep them from being drained because of the cold.

I don’t always use every item in my pack but for the one or two times when I have needed them, I am thankful for the little extras I pack. There is a certain peace of mind in being prepared for the unexpected. Packing properly for a day hike you will make your excursion more enjoyable.

The West Coast Trail Backpacking in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

January 5, 2018

Outdoors

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The The West Coast Trail (WCT) in British Columbia offers challenge, rugged beauty and adventure. Part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada, the WCT it is a spectacular 77 kilometers of deserted beaches and lush coastal rainforest. A portion of the trail was originally a telegraph route from the 1890s and around the turn of the century the WCT was instrumental in the rescue of shipwrecked mariners. The waters off the trail have been dubbed the “Graveyard of the Pacific”, with more than 240 shipwrecks.

Considered to be an extremely challenging trail, the 25,640 hectare strip stretches southeast of Barkley Sound between Port Renfrew and Bramfield, along the coast of Vancouver Island. The trail also passes through land that has been maintained by First Nations for 4000 years. The Quu’as West Trail Group includes wardens from native Indian tribes specifically Pacheedaht, Huu-ay-aht and Ditidaht First Nations. Quu’as works with the wardens of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve to patrol the region. In 1970 lobbying, by groups such as the Sierra Club, brought about park protection and trail improvements which were continued throughout that decade.

The journey will take from 5 to 8 days to complete. Because bad weather could cause delays it is recommended that you carry extra supplies. A very damp area, the WCT has an average annual rainfall of 300 centimetres. The most precipitation is during May and June but frequent rain is not unusual throughout the summer. Excessive rain can cause flooding and delays at swollen river crossings. Cable cars and ladders are in place at the numerous river crossings and crevasses. Camping close to rivers and estuaries should be avoided due to the dangers of flooding. Because of the dampness you may encounter heavy morning fog. Fog is more frequent in July and August.

The West Coast Trail contains some of the largest old growth trees in Canada, such as the Hemlock, Spruce and Western Red Cedar, which are towering and ancient trees. The rainforest floor is covered with thick undergrowth and fallen trees can become treacherously slippery after heavy rains, which sometimes may last a week. The coastal rainforest is another world explored on this trek, but there is a potential for danger. Bears and cougars inhabit this area so great care must be taken.

The beach sections of the trail have rugged coastline and sea stacks. There is also a “Hole in the Wall” which is a sandstone arch that has been formed by the eroding action of the waves. Waterfalls and tidal pools add to the beauty of this area, but be aware of the tide times as the high tides can pose a real danger if you are at a tidal pool or river estuary. An unwary hiker can easily be washed from the coastal rocks into the sea, with the beach sections from the Gordon River access being particularly hazardous. Tidal schedules are available from the park. You can expect to see wildlife such as sea lions, birds and tidal pools teeming with aquatic life.

This arduous journey is rewarded by the variety of breathtaking scenery, abundant wildlife and the satisfaction that comes from completion of the trek.

Notes: The WCT is open from May 1st to September 30th. Reservations for the trail are recommended between June 15th and September 15th. Without a reservation you may have to wait a few days on a waiting list. During the shoulder season reservations are not necessary.

The cost for a single permit is $127.50 plus a $24.50 reservation fee and there are quotas. Your fee pays directly for protecting and managing the trail. There are also two ferry fees. One is for the Nitinat Narrows and the other for the Gordon River. You must state whether you will begin your hike at the Gordon River or Pachena Bay and each hiker must complete a 30 minute orientation outlining the trail’s challenges. A waterproof tent with a fly is a must and sleeping bags should have synthetic fill due to the dampness of the area. Waterproof/breathable rainwear is also a necessity.