Friday, October 26, 2007


luc and i were supposed to do pukaskwa - out and back (i've done the trail before) and the lake superior coastal trail this trip.

the first night driving up from toronto, we stayed in pancake bay prov. park, north of the soo (i'm not a fan of driving much longer than 9 hours). returning to our site w/luc from a walk on a short hiking trail in the park, we got stopped by a couple who said 'excuse me, is he a black GSD?' - NOBODY EVER says that. so i said, well, i think he's a mix, though people on here have questioned that, but i'm not really sure. the couple had 2 GSDs (not with them, i guess it's a pain to take dogs over the border - ???) - a black&tan and a black GSD who they said was pretty well luc's twin - same amount of chest white and everything - so he got to be all handsome and impress them. later that night he stepped in lake superior (and stepped back out, but it's progress).

got up to pukaskwa national park the next day (a couple of hours past wawa) and started backpacking. hiked into our site no problems, luc crossed over a very high suspension bridge (white river), he was scared, but he did it, had a nice, uneventful evening.

next morning, good start, we made good time. we got about 8.5k down to a nice bay w/a huge beach and sites by 10.30, passed through, over another, smaller, suspension bridge (willow river), and kept hiking. we were halfway by that point for the day so i decided we'd do a nice relaxed pace, but i can see huge gains in luc's fitness.

then it happened. i fell/went over my ankle. i'm still not sure how - the trail can be very rough and rugged, but wasn't were i fell. i think my lace my have caught on something but i am not sure. at any rate, i went over, heard a loud 'snap/pop' sound, and felt searing pain. i taped the ankle, then walked another 20 mins. to see if i could walk it off. got to a boulder beach, realized the pain was not of the 'walk off' variety and that there was no way i could cross the beach.this trail is fairly isolated - it's not unusual not to see people for days - and people have died on trip on this coast, very experienced people, though as far as i know it's the kayakers/canoeists who die, not the hikers, but still. i realized - the further down i go, the more isolated i get, and i was going to get myself in a huge amount of trouble and need to be SAR'd out. also, if anything happened to luc - i can carry him, but not if i'm injured as well. and being solo, well, i thought i'd be an idiot if i kept on going injured into isolated areas. the non-isolated areas are isolated by most standards, so....we went back about 1.5k to the beach at willow river, and set up camp there. luc thought the beach was way too hot! i loved the sun, he's a shade baby.

lazed around, and late that afternoon - people (3 kayakers!!!) actually came in!!! hobbled over w/luc to meet them, they were really nice guys, they had me for dinner and they had spiced drambuie (yum!) which is of course a very good painkiller. medicinal and all.

luc, who is protective in the backcountry anyways, seemed to have switched into an extra-protective mode once i hurt myself. those guys were good w/them and he was with them, to a point, but he did not like them approaching me. it was ok if i chose to approach them, but he was very protective. anyways, they took off the next morning, luc and i stayed there - beautiful weather, lovely site and beach - figured i could stay there for a few days before heading back to the trailhead, and hopefully my ankle would heal, as i wouldn't be able to go back w/out serious pain. the kayakers found me a great walking stick, which i didn't take out w/me b/c it was too much, but it was really helpful.around noon that day, i was with luc on the site - all bear attractants, including the first aid kit (assuming meds have smells) were in the bear box (national parks are fancy and have steel boxes!) - except for luc's food. there were a lot of blueberries a few hundred metres back from our site, and taking luc that morning to do his business i had seen bear tracks on the beach. anyways, luc was on a tie-out, and around noon, he started barking and growling in a way i've never heard him before - it was more threatening than any other protective growls etc he's ever done - i looked up and saw a bear (fairly small, i'd place it 2-3 years old, black bear) taking off in the bush about 5 feet back from the tent. yay luc! so proud of him, praised him lots - again, i never got him to do that, but how amazing he did! i didn't worry too much about it, since the bear left, and you know, maybe it was just passing through.

around 10 minutes later i was down by the lake getting water and i heard the barking start again - very short duration though - but the same 'bear barking'. by the time i 'ran' the 50m back up to the site, i didn't see anything - but i trust luc that the bear came back. and that's not, we packed up, left the site about 1.10, and headed for the trailhead.

i could've stopped at a site inbetween, but once i started walking, i realized it was unlikely i was going to be able to do it the next day, and the inbetween sites were heavily forested, i didn't want to be there for a few days - so i just went out. 17k in 5hrs 40mins. and some SERIOUS pain as it was over rough terrain. luc was fantastic, he put up with my whining, helped me up hills (pulling or by letting me use him as a prop to get up) and was SO SO SO SO good. i love my boy. he was my rock. i did it b/c i didn't see any other choice - i couldn't stay w/the bear, not fair to me, to luc, or to the bear - and i didn't think i could stop once having started.

got out just before 7pm, everyone (no matter how well their trip goes) has to fill out a mandatory backcountry return form (they start SAR 24 hours after your non-return without question, unlike other parks). someone was there when i handed it in (also saw justin and julian checking in, julian took luc while i filled out my report), and they were very concerned about the bear - there's sites 5-7k down where there'd been a bear sited several times that sounded like the one i saw, but this was the first time it entered a site, though it wasn't aggressive. they decided to send rangers down the next day and they called the warden/superintendent for me to speak to (!) and said they would likely be relocating the bear.

also told me that i could have fractured my ankle and still walked out. so - at this point my ankle had swollen up a lot and i had blood pooling bruising along the bottom - i headed out - i didn't want to camp that night, i want to put my ankle up on something that wasn't a log (as i'd previously been elevating it - and icing it in lake superior), something like pillows - so i drove an hour until i found a motel, luc and i stayed there. had the biggest meal ever in their restaurant and got luc a patty, he deserved it for scaring off the bear :)

luc was good but got upset when someone leaving at 4.40 am walked past our window.... sorry people in the rooms on either side! got to wawa after a couple hours of driving the next day, went to the hospital there as was in a lot of pain at that point. not broken, but i tore two ligaments on the outside of my ankle. just outside wawa is an outfitters i know, on michipicoten bay (literally one end of lake superior) (naturally superior adventures) so i went there to say hello and to drop off a water pump that one of the kayakers lost - i stayed for lunch and then, b/c i felt awful (i can't take anti-inflammatories), just decided to camp there.

luc was pretty barky and jumpy - a lot of weird stuff happening, after all - but he did well. realized he was also underexercised - he's used to 2-3 hours a day, and at a faster pace then i can currently provide. we had a huge thunderstorm that night - the winds were insane, and i grew up canoeing on georgian bay in the great lakes - but luc did great, he was nervous, but i wouldn't say he was scared - so improvement over his first thunderstorm in a tent!

got back to toronto the next evening....very frustrating, not the trip i wanted! i'm sure luc felt it ended too early as well.

Luc on the La Cloche Silhouette Trail

This was Luc the dog's first backpacking trip, and if I may say, he did great. I was supposed to fastback the trail in 2.5 days but didn't think that'd be fair to Luc since I'd had him for a week, so we did an in and out. We did day hikes Friday/Monday as well.

Friday July 6: Left Toronto mid-morning, uneventful trip up. At check-in I am informed that going to H16 (16.4k not including side trail to site) is considered high-risk.....uhhh - ???? - but it is sorted and I am in fact very clearly not high-risk. I changed my reservations to make the trip easier for the dog! We stayed in George Lake Friday night - Trout Creek is a nice and I found quieter/less busy part of the campground, so that was cool.

Luc seemed to realize immediately that the campsite was 'our territory' and while I was setting up the tent (he was on a tie-out) started practicing his guard dog behaviour. Very strange to see; yes, he's a German Shepherd Dog, but he's been so underexposed he's not always that confident - but that was probably why he behaved that way. A lot of his current behaviour is b/c of the massive life changes recently. He was fairly good at standing down when I told him to, given that he's just started to learn any commands.

Walked out to the Granite Ridge trail after the tent was up and did that - good views of Georgian Bay in the one part, it's a pretty trail for sure. We chilled out for a while in camp, then checked out the lake and went for a couple of walks between dinner and before bed. Luc did fine in the tent (my two man).

Saturday July 7: Started hiking at 7.35 am. (I wake up early now to take someone to the bathroom....) Nice morning, overcast, but good. Met a dayhiker after H4 by the beaver dams (Luc got better at stream crossings as the trip went on, he was a bit sketchy at the beginning). Chatted for a bit and then left - I don't think Luc was a fan b/c he was happy to leave the guy behind!

After H6 we met two backpackers, only other people we saw that day. Luc did lead sometimes and was decent at finding trail. It was buggy, but not awful. Stopped for water breaks (for Luc) every 1/2 hour. We had lunch on the access trail to H8 overlooking the creek - and actually, we did see some canoeists, but they didn't see us.

Got into camp at 1.15, set up - really only one good tentsite at H16, and it was very close to both the fire and box. I think I've yet to see an official campsite where the tentsite, box, and 'food area'/campfire met LNT standards. But with parks I guess the idea is to concentrate impact into that one area anyways. Distinguished myself by sucking large at the bear throw. It's not my best skill ever, but I usually have luck in Killarney (I can usually stand on a hill and throw it over a branch on a tree further down the hill ).

Afternoon was spent lazing, swimming, sunning, and playing w/Luc's harness - it rubbed a bit on his chest so I duct taped it up and then used the bandana. He's too big for a medium and not quite big enough for a large. Good dinner, enjoyed the evening until the bugs got to be too much. Lots of loons, Luc was ensuring our site was safe (heh) from the snapping turtle that was in the water and ignoring him (he growled at it - I wouldn't have looked over the cliff to see what was going on and seen it otherwise).

Night - discovered Luc, in the one-man tent, likes to lean against the sides. Tent veers in a way that makes me nervous with his 68lbs going full tilt against one side. Everything held just fine. The most it does is pull the pole to the side so it is not directly under the fly seem anymore. Quite warm with the two of us in the tent, the fly door got rolled up. It had showered throughout the afternoon but I don't think it did at night.

Sunday July 8: On the trail by - I don't remember actually, but around 7.30 - a bit earlier than the day before. We moved at a steady pace, it was quite buggy, we still did the water breaks every 1/2 hour but they sucked at times (I didn't wear any bug spray this trip). Along Kirk Creek we saw a deer (well, I did, I'm not sure if Luc noticed it as he appeared to looking at a leaf). Lots of deer/moose poop, also saw the biggest moose tracks I've ever seen. Guy must be a monster!

Some showers but not bad. The trail here has a lot of tall grass/ferns so it was pretty if a bit wet at times. Going up the portage from Threenarrows to Baie Fine, met 4 backpackers - chatting about our sites and the trail - mentioned we were just training Luc, the guy was in Pukaskwa last year so he gave me some up-to-date information (it's been a while for me!) and that's looking good. They were doing the whole La Cloche and it sounded like a lovely trip. We met more people throughout the day, but it was pretty uneventful.

Had lunch just outside H4 at that pretty narrow strip. Couldn't be bothered to put Luc's pack back on for the 1k or so to H2, our campsite. Got into camp around 12.30. Set up - saw the world's most DISGUSTING thing ever, did better with the bear rope though there's not a lot of sites, I ended up basically back at the main trail. The clouds passed and the sun came out, I 'swam', sunned, read (the trail guidebook, I forgot a real book, not that the guidebook isn't great). Started dinner and the clouds started to come in again. Ate quickly and got the bear bag packed up, as I knew we were supposed to have thunderstorm and I had to walk along a low ridge to hang the bag.

We did that, and then chilled out under the tarp watching the showers. Luc was fine with the low rumbles. As the rumbles got closer, I took him into the tent, which was just as well since he was terrified. Didn't seem to care about the lightening though. He went to the one end, and shook and drooled (a HUGE pool). Since you're not supposed to comfort them in their fear, but I felt bad, I limited myself to reading the guidebook and saying brightly 'Did you know these mountains are 1.8 billion years old?'

The lightening and thunder passed and we went out again - there was LOTS to sniff at this site so we were pretty busy, also I saw the beaver for the second time - and figured out all those high-pitched yelps I heard in the afternoon weren't rampant schoolchildren on the trail but beavers (they started again after I saw the beaver swim towards and then dive down to the lodge). So....beaver talking! I'm telling people beaver babies but maybe the adults have squeaky voices, I don't know.... Oddly, for all he didn't like the snapping turtle, I don't think Luc evened noticed the beavers. The bullfrogs (in the lake below and pond above) were very interesting to listen to, apparently, and he told an algae bloom in the pond exactly what he thought of it!!!! (I like to think there was something in the algae I couldn't see). Didn't storm again until after I was asleep, though lightening woke me up around 2 am.

Monday July 9: Woke up early, didn't want to hang around in the tent (which held great through the storm), it was BUGGY outside so while I'd planned to hang around the site in the morning I think we were out of there by 7.15, 7.20. we did do a leisurely hike back, I showered, and then we did the Chikanishing Trail - DO this one, SO pretty! I love that kind of landscape!!!! Really fun trail The weather report had been unclear as to whether there would be more thunderstorms that morning, so we took a miss on the cranberry bog trail, and headed home, which was fine b/c with traffic I think I was returning the car to my mom's at 4, 4.30ish.

Luc at the Humber River, 3 days after I got him

Mel and I took Luc on an urban hike the day after Luc had done the Ragged Rapids Loop in the Ganaraska Wilderness with my family (Cda Day longweekend). The Ragged Rapids Loop was great, we saw an Eastern Hognose snake, Luc knocked me in crossing the first beaver dam but was an old pro at them by the end of the day, and the Ragged Rapids side trail - well. It was grown over, and not in a scrubby bush sort of way, but in a decent sized trees sort of way. We were able to walk blaze to blaze and or scramble/orienteer around and get through it, but there was significant deadfall in places, and it was an 8k bushwhack. Luc did amazing.

He did pretty good on the Humber River walk, though he did take the subway for the first time (he hates the subway!) and an elevator going up to Mel's condo.