Day 3: Leah, Sunshine and Being a Ferry Captain
The previous day’s shenanigans were behind us. As we awoke on the morning of our 3rd day on the trail the thoughts of the obstacles we had faced -a never ending torrential downpour, a swarm of aggressive bro-squitoes and the dangerously chilling cold of the evening- were fading quickly and we were ready to face what was ahead. It was dawn and the sun began to PEEK over the horizon as the pitch black darkness of the night subsided . It took only a few moments for us to recognize that we could hear something amazing on the other side of the tent – silence. The all too familiar sound of rain drops splattering on the nylon of our tent’s rain fly had finally come to an end and this brought a smile to my face, there was hope for a dryer day. I had setup the tent in my flip flops and my foot felt itchy, I reached down and scratched with my hand- and that’s when I felt it- THE BUG BITES! 52 bites on my right foot alone. Kicking off the shoes and setting up the tent in flip flops was a mistake!
We fell back asleep, comfortable on our air mattress pillow combo until a new noise came into periphery – an engine… a truck driving down to the the beach. We remained silent, unsure what the person disembarking their vehicle was doing driving down to a beach with a truck in the early morning.
“You heading north or south?” he asked,
“South” we replied,
“Hope you brought your rubber boots, we got 110mm of water in the region”
“Check for ticks – there’s a lot on the trail this year” he added,
“Thanks, we will”
And with that he was gone. 110mm! No wonder the swamp seemed nigh impossible to navigate. With the beach to ourselves again we began our morning ritual. Coffee and hot chocolate to go along with our standard breakfast, poptarts. We began to pack up, slipped on our still wet clothes and made our way to the Foley Mountain’s Interpretive Center. We were greeted by Leah, who was a super helpful resource. She had internet access and helped us navigate our way out of the area as well as plan our day out. With Leah’s maps and Google we realized some our plans had to change. Resupplying in Westport was no longer possible, we had to reach our next campsite before sundown and simply had no time to detour into town. Luckily, being amateurs we packed too much food and resupplying was not a necessity. We promptly made our way up Foley Mountain to the spy rock lookout for a quick photo of Westport.
Rachel took this photo. It was this moment I realized my phone was no longer in my pocket. I had dropped it somewhere in the last kilometer, luckily we had been taking occasional pictures as we ascended the mountain and I knew it couldn’t be too far back. I dropped my bag, and feeling light as a feather, I jogged up and down the path scanning the ground for my phone. I made it all the way back to the previous lookout where I spotted it, crisis averted! We made our way around Westport Sand Lake climbing and descending the mountainous terrain and eventually made our way to a path connecting Centreville Rd and McAndrews Rd. This path was swampy and treacherous, the flooding in the area combined with a few fallen trees made for some unforgiving hiking. The swamp saw grass and wild raspberry fields were dense and relentless. Our fresh cuts and scrapes from the previous day’s swamps were reopened and multiplied, the progress was slow and painful. We went through our gear trying to concoct a way of protecting our shins from the onslaught but couldn’t come up with anything, we would simply press on and suffer. This misery carried on for several kilometers until we reach McAndrews Rd. The rain had spared nothing and even parts of the road were flooded.
After making our way through the roads and flooded pathways we came upon the highlight of the day, The Rideau Trail’s pull ferry near Bedford Mills. We absolutely loved this thing, it was awesome to cross a body of water on a hand powered ferry instead of plowing through on foot and getting soaked. The extra rain and flooding had made water traversing difficult and this was a treat.
With the pull ferry behind us we continued along the Rideau Trail and made our way into Bedford Mills. We had hoped that the ghost town would have something in it. A general store or a roadside diner perhaps, heck even a gas station would have been a welcomed sight. Some different food, a chair to sit on, any of these small luxuries would have gone a long way at this moment. Our legs were battered and exhausted, the daily grind of ~30 kilometers was too much. The swamp grass and raspberry bushes had taken their toll and we just wanted a few moments respite from the trail and dip back into civilization. Bedford Mills offered us nothing. We lost some time trying to find some place to stop and lost even more time when we got off track towards our campground near mosquito lake. Luckily for us, it did not rain during the day. Our feet were soaked but our clothes were relatively dry when the sun started to set, before we had camp setup, once again. Trying to find the mosquito lake campground in the dark was a difficult task, the markers are dark green or brown which fades directly into the background in near darkness. According to our map, we were very close to the campground, but we just couldn’t pinpoint it. We setup our tent next to a small bridge along the lake and quickly ate supper. It had been another long, exhausting day and we slept deeply to the sound of rushing water.
Day 4: Stealth Camping and Going Home
After our first night ever “stealth camping” we completed our morning ritual. Coffee, hot chocolate and pop tarts, we packed up the gear and snapped a few pictures of our camp spot.
We discussed the plans for the day, even with our bags feeling lighter than ever, most of our expendables either low or depleted, we were unsure if we could complete another 30km day. Our plan was to make it further down Perth Rd and hitchhike back on day 5. However, we couldn’t sustain the pace we thought we were going to maintain before heading out. The flooding and the difficult terrain seemed to make our plans unrealistic. We had been setting up camp in near darkness every night and doing another 30km of difficult terrain was just too much to ask of our feet and legs at that moment.
The maps foreshadowed much more swampy and wet terrain and our shins could not bear much more. We had made many mistakes on our journey so far and we chose not to make another one, we would listen to our bodies and avoid injuries. We would let the Rideau Trail win today. As we made our way back to Perth Rd we immediately spotted where we should have been camping. The markers were obvious during the day and we were about 20 feet away from the location. We got to the road, stuck out our thumbs, and our next super helpful individual came into our journey. Gavin gave us a ride back to Perth where the car was parked. We were disappointed that we left early, but were eager to head back out with longer pants. Aug 13th is when we return to mosquito lake, with the many lessons we learned and only 108km to go, we are making it to Kingston!