Volume 92, Issue 2

Friday, May 22, 1998

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Heading into the interior

Gazette Staff

While many people are drawn to the luxuries offered by a four-star hotel, those who appreciate the powerful serenity of the great outdoors can understand the appeal of sleeping in a tent in the middle of a forest, cooking over an open fire and bathing in a cool lake.

Many Canadians love to camp, as is evident by our numerous campgrounds often full of avid hikers, canoeists and nature lovers. Some like to put up their tent in a campground and spend their days sunbathing or fishing while more serious campers prefer to put their gear on their backs and take a canoe into the park's interior.

"Canoe tripping has become very popular in the last few years but the popularity has plateaued, a lot of people are still doing it but it's not really increasing," says Robert Stronach, operations supervisor of Algonquin Outfitters.

Canoe tripping is loosely described as trekking into parts of a park which can only be reached by canoe. This usually also involves portaging – carrying canoe and gear over land to get to the next lake.

If this sort of economically sound vacation is what's in mind, those in the industry have some tips on the best way to do it.

Gearing up

"Probably one of the most important things to take is a bear-hanging rope to hang your food pack in a tree, away from bears," says Stronach, adding anything with a scent should go in the food pack, even toothpaste, deodorant and gum, so as not to attract unwelcome night visitors to your tent.

Other important items to include are a tent, sleeping bags, cooking utensils, a stove, matches or a lighter, a newspaper (to start the fire), a tarp, a water filtration system (to avoid sickness), flashlights and a saw.

Most interior campers also invest in a good backpack that will carry a substantial amount of gear. "You'd want to be comfortable, so not too big a bag, about 50 to 60 litres at the most for a three to five day trip," says James Kushny, advisor in the paddling and tent department at Mountain Equipment Co-op in Toronto.

Fine dining over an open fire

Sensible meal planning and food packing is a must. Perishables can be used for the first day and a half but after that meals should consist of non-perishables. "In Algonquin there's no cans or bottles allowed – you have to use re-useable containers," says Stronach.

"A lot of companies make freeze-dried foods for camping that are all pretty good. The good thing about them is that they have a lot of carbs and you need a lot of them when you're expending so much energy."

Some good foods to take are pita bread, peanut butter, trail mix, instant oatmeal and pastas – all great sources of energy. It's important to plan each meal before the trip and take only what you need – remember you have to carry everything you pack.

Camping fashion

Packing proper clothing is also something that should be considered. Stronach says in the summer it's important to protect your skin from the sun, so hats are very important. Loose clothing which dries quickly is also good; synthetic fabrics such as nylons, polyester and polypropylene are among the best choices.

"Take a minimal amount – the less weight you have, the better," Stronach advises. "One pair of pants, one pair of shorts, a sweater, rainwear, a hat and a solid pair of boots."

He also warns against wearing Teva-type sandals, as many campers have been wounded by "Teva-toe" – a badly stubbed toe that results from walking through a rough trail carrying a canoe.

Moose, deer and bears, oh my!

One of the great things about camping is the opportunity it presents to see wildlife in its natural habitat. Some of the wildlife often sighted in Ontario's campgrounds include moose, deer, bears, wolves, raccoons, foxes, loons, beaver, muskrat, otters, mink, weasels and bald eagles. The list goes on.

"We've a pretty full range of wildlife in this area. You don't often see them because they're shy animals but people do sometimes see them," says Peter Briand, assistant park superintendent of Killarney Provincial Park. "Dawn and dusk are generally the times when you're most apt to see the wildlife. Marshy areas are good too. For example, you'll often find moose feeding on aquatic plants in marshy areas."

Keeping it green

One issue of concern with interior camping is its environmental effects. The land is still fairly pristine and the people traipsing through every summer often disrupt the surroundings by leaving litter and disturbing plant and animal life.

There are a number of rules set by Algonquin, Killarney and other parks to protect the environment. These parks rely on the honour system to compel people to follow the rules.

"We have a can and bottle ban. As far as garbage is concerned, we ask people to take out of the park what they take in. We ask folks not to put soap in the lake as even biodegradable soap is not biodegradable in the water. We strongly suggest people use it on land away from the lake and use a minimal amount," says Briand.

Many parks also ask campers to have a minimal amount of campfires when they are in the interior. The number of people going through every summer greatly deplete the amount of firewood available, which may provoke future campers to cut down living trees. Parks prefer that campers use stoves for cooking, rather than having a fire at every meal.

"Some of the other general regulations are no cutting of live growth, no littering and no collecting of artifacts," adds Briand.

As for the environmental effects caused by well-behaved campers, Stronach says they're minimal. "There's definitely a disturbance but [provincial and national parks] have designated sites so it's a contained disturbance."

A day in the life...

Canoe tripping is obviously not all rest, but most people find it to be quite relaxing. An average day "en route" would usually start fairly early, with a nourishing breakfast, followed by packing all items, doing a check of the site to make sure nothing is left behind and getting the canoe on the water by nine or ten.

"Most people like to canoe for about six hours a day. That puts you at your destination early in the day so you have lots of light to set up camp and look around," says Briand.

The evening is usually spent having a meal, cleaning up, hanging the food pack and enjoying one another's company around the campfire.

This sort of vacation probably sounds pretty tiring to many who've never endeavored to partake in such a holiday – so why do people do it? "It's very liberating. The freedom of being part of the environment without disturbing it and enjoying the peacefulness," explains Kushny.

To Contact The Focus Department: gazette.focus@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998