We’re back from July’s Rideau Trail adventure! 4 days, 3 nights from Perth to Bedford mills, another 90km of the Rideau Trail behind us. The whole experience was intense! Amazing sights from fabulous heights to horrible nights filled with insect bites. We made some major mistakes and learned some valuable lessons – which I’ll condense into it’s own post when the full journal is posted.
Day 1: Jack and the Mega Spider, the Mica Mines and Murphy’s Point
Our journey started in Perth, we hiked out of town and made our way south through the fields which farmers graciously allow us to hike though. We could hear the buzz of machinery approaching in the distance as we glided through the groomed and comfortable trail on our fresh and motivated legs. As the mechanical buzzing got louder we suspected the sound emanated from either a lawnmower or a weedwacker manned by a farmer tending to his property. We rounded the next corner and came upon Jack – a RTA (rideau trail association) member who was battling the tall grasses with a monster sized weedwacker in hand and noise cancelling headphones on his head. Even from behind we could tell that jack was simply covered in plant gore, we tried our best not to startle him as we approached – for our safety and his as he was holding a devastating weapon with no way to hear us coming up on him. We came to a stop about 10 feet from him and waited for a few moments. He must have noticed us out of the corner of his eye, startled, he turned off the grassy death machine and asked about our hiking adventure. After our usual schpeel Jack was kind enough to warn us about the potential for bears in the region and the fact that we would likely be facing a whole lot of tall grass on our way south. Jack’s Godzilla sized weedwacker would not be available to us past this point. I didn’t think much of it, what’s a bit of tall grass to motivated amateur hikers like us? As silly and naive as we were(are), Jack still wanted to hear about our adventure and asked us to send him some details of our adventure to firstname.lastname@example.org which I intend to do.
Our first wildlife spotting worth mentioning was this monster:
We spotted this epic creature inside an outhouse at a hunting cabin along the trail. He had obviously been stalking these grounds and feasting on insects, lizards and likely small children for years so we left him to his own devices and quickly continued our way through the mica mines conservation area pictured bellow.
Around 6pm we crossed into Murphy’s point provincial park. We still had to hike some kilometers off the trail to make our way to the registration cabin but it was well worth the effort as the staff at Murphy’s point were amazing, They warned us of rain coming overnight and even drove us to our campsite once we explained to them that we were hiking through. We had traversed ~34kms and we were tired, we setup the tent and prepped supper around the hour of the mosquito (sunset) which promptly forced us into our tent. Once inside we quickly got comfortable and went to bed. We slept well for a few hours before the thunder and lightning rolled through.
Day 2: Rain, Swamps and The Foley Mountain Conservation Area
We had seen lightning and heard thunder for some time before the storm came over us, at about 2am the rain started to come down, and come down it did! It was an absolute downpour and the second true wet test our tent had faced. A drop or two of water did manage to trickle through the rain fly through a tiny hole which somehow seemed to have spontaneously appeared during the night, but a few drops was completely negligible compared to what was happening on the other side of the fly. With morning upon us the tent had not disappointed us, but we failed to treat it as well as it had treated us. Taking the tent down in the pouring rain was a disaster, I managed to get the inside of the tent absolutely wet and dirty while fumbling to put the whole thing back into the stuff sacks. Any outdoorsmen (or outdoorswomen) watching us that morning would have laughed their ass off. Once we had packed away our gear and suited up and we got back onto the Rideau trail and continued our journey.
I had read the trail alerts about the upcoming part of trail which had experienced flooding a month prior due to beaver dams. I thought that the alerts were still up as more of an archive than a persistent issue, it had been an entire month, right? Big mistake! The area is still flooded, and the many hours of intense rainfall made the flooded area a legitimate drowning risk to naive amateurs like ourselves. It may as well have been an ocean crossing. We had to cross multiple swamp / small lakes on top of large dams, some appearing natural and others made by beavers. The water on either side was at least waist deep in some areas and the dam’s ridges were a few inches across with slippery and loose branches and vegetation across the top. It took us hours to push through a few kilometers of this terrain but once we finally reached the shore of the last swamp and started gaining some elevation Rachel and I were ecstatic and exhausted.
The areas which weren’t dam crossings were filled with tall grasses and vegetation (Bless you for trying to warn us Jack) with aquatic saw grass. This stuff just chewed up our legs, especially just above the sock line, leaving them scratched and bloody before navigating the knee to waist deep waters. Great way to get a cool new disease. This picture does not due justice to the damage done to Rachel’s legs, but it gives you an idea of what we were up against.
We got out of the swamp and still had 20km to go. Luckily the terrain was more forgiving on the legs and most of the day’s remaining hours were uneventful yet rain filled. Much of the trail followed paved or solid roads. Road walking is much easier in terms of pace and distance, but the hard top is tough on the feet. Grass mud or dirt provides some cushioning, asphalt provides none. Nonetheles, we were thankful to avoid sawgrass as our legs were still bleeding lightly for most of the day. We reached the Foley Mountain Conservation Area’s beach, which is open to RT hikers who get a permit ahead of time, at sunset. The temperature was dropping and having been soaked through after a full day of rain we were cold, surprisingly cold… shivering and starting to worry about warming up soon cold. We had decided to leave the down jackets at home, it’s the end of July and the forecast for the week were all in the high 20’s (celsius). I started thinking about stories of how people die from hypothermia in the summer, it’s often naive and unprepared people who venture out into the woods, get soaked in the rain and freeze when the temperature drops at night. Luckily we had dry sleeping clothes and a dry sleeping bag. I threw my shoes off my aching feet, the road walking had done a number on them, and slipped into my camp shoes (flip flops). We quickly setup the tent, crawled in and changed out of our soaked hiking clothes into our nominally warmer sleeping clothes, ate a warm meal – which I cooked in the vestibule, to avoid the swarms of mosquitoes and chilling wind, and crawled into our sleeping bag. Shivering cold and exhausted, we fell asleep to the sound of the raindrops… which had not ceased to fall since 2am the night before. Hopefully the next few days will have some sunlight.