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PostPosted: September 17th, 2016, 3:06 am 
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Joined: August 19th, 2011, 8:28 am
Posts: 435
During the winter I bought one of Alpacka's larger models of packraft, the Explorer 42, and the Shred-Apart paddle. I'd had fun with it on various little day trips all summer, and then on the weekend of August 13-14 I finally took it on its first backcountry trip, an opportunity to use it in a context that actually involves "packing" it. My girlfriend and I spent the weekend in QE2WPP for this purpose.

Basically the mission was hike from the Devil's Lake access point to Sheldon Lake to set up camp on the Saturday, and on the Sunday paddle/hike the loop formed by Sheldon Lake, the Sheldon-Scrabble portage, and the Ganaraska Trail back to the north end of Sheldon. With what time we had left after getting in on the Saturday we'd hike west and north on the Ganaraska Trail to the unnamed peak labelled as the highest on Brad's map (I'll post here a grab of the relevant chunk of said map so no one has to tab back and forth.)
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The big question of course was packing for this. On a typical 2-person canoe trip we take two full-sized backpacks and one day pack. For the hike to Sheldon Lake we would need to use one less bag (i.e. one full-sized backpack each, no day pack) to carry one more system (the packraft, paddle and lifejackets). It didn't end up being too hard, though: I put the tent and both thermarests in one pack, the tandem sleeping bag, packraft and paddle blades in the other pack, paddle shafts and butts in a side pouch of that second bag (collapsable fishing rods in the other), and a lifejacket strapped to the outside of each bag. This setup still left enough space for what other odds and ends one needs for camping, though of course it helped that we were only bringing food and clothing for one night (and meagre at that... more on that later).
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We arrived at Sheldon Lake middayish and nabbed the site marked on Brad's map that's connected to the trail just south of the portage to Devil's. There seemed to be more sites on the ground than are shown on the map, not sure about their legalities. The site on the point (west of the portage to Devil's) was taken, as was one of the unmapped sites along the trail east of the one we got. We were lucky to get a site with trail access, because I'm not sure we could fit two people plus the camping gear in the packraft, so if we'd gotten a site we had to paddle to we'd have had to ferry to it in two trips.

The site we took is perched on a cliff high above the lake, nice view, but not immediately obvious how to access the water... in fact I'll admit that it wasn't until evening, after the hike to the peak, that we found the little narrow trail on the left (south) side of the campsite leading down to a landing.
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As for the Saturday afternoon hike to the peak, we had previously planned to carry the packraft, and then after reaching the peak continuing along the Ganaraska Trail to the Cooney-Peter's portage and paddling back across Cooney's. But right after we'd got camp all set up, with perfect timing, a heavy rain opened up and kept us hunkered down in the tent for an hour or more. Given the lost time we decided to simplify things and just hike to the peak and back without carrying anything. There was moderate rain on and off while we were hiking, but since this was the first day of rain after that long summer drought, we really didn't mind it.
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The peak itself has a nice northeast-facing lookout, and was worth the trek. Though definitely not a clear day, we could see as far as the hydro line that marks the northern boundary of the park.
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We ate when we got back from the hike. Since we had been trying to pack so space-efficiently, dinner was freeze-dried food packets, but since there's always room for a fishing rod and a frying pan, we supplemented them with a small bass I caught off the campsite landing while they were rehydrating.
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Where I think I went too light on the packing was clothing, especially socks... I thought I'd learned my lesson on a late season canoe trip a few years ago about not skimping out on socks, but anyway, I didn't bring enough, the bush was soaking wet even before we got any rain directly on us, and I was running out of dry socks by the end of the day. I tried desperately drying a pair of socks on the frying pan. It may have helped a bit but also ruined the socks.
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In the morning we inflated the packraft and paddled south down the length of Sheldon Lake with one backpack containing only snacks/lunch, working our way down slowly to take in the cliffs and overhangs along the eastern side of the lake.
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When we arrived at the portage landing we deflated the packraft and loaded it and the paddles into the bag, and strapped the PFDs to the outside. Actually we were a bit unclear at first if that spot on the left side of the lake's outlet was the portage landing -- there were boats cached there, but since the spot seems from the map to be on private property, I was a bit nervous about being in the wrong place. But yes, that is where you land for the portage that goes up the ridge before descending into the gorge.

Descending the gorge itself I was frankly impressed that anyone does this portage with a canoe over their heads, because we needed our hands for the scramble. Maybe it's a little easier when the rocks are dry and not slippery?
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After that it was a generally straightforward and pleasant hike of 9 km or so up the Ganaraska Trail to Petticoat Junction and then east on the Devil's Lake Section back to the campsite. Scrabble Mountain was actually a bit disappointing compared to the nameless peak we'd seen the day before. The Ganaraska Trail Guide calls it "a beautiful view in all directions", but all we found there was a partly obscured view in one direction. Nonetheless it was a pretty and breezy spot for a lunch stop.
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When we got back to the campsite mid-afternoon we broke camp and hiked back out to the car at Devil's Lake.

I think out of all the segments of trail we hiked that weekend, my favourite was the bit between the access point and Sheldon Lake, that we hiked fully loaded at the start and end of the weekend. Great mix of scenery over those 3 kms with some bare ridges and lots of ponds. Pretty rugged in spots too. A few photos of this section:
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So, that was my first backcountry packrafting adventure, of sorts, using the packraft to make a loop day trip out of what otherwise wouldn't be one. I still need to try it out on a trip that involves carrying full gear in the packraft (will probably have to be a solo), that involves paddling for a large part of the travel distance, and that involves portaging rather than just packing away the raft.

Thanks to Brad/Wayne for the mapping and inspiration!


Last edited by Dan M on September 17th, 2016, 11:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: September 17th, 2016, 6:42 am 
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Joined: August 15th, 2015, 10:17 am
Posts: 59
Location: Along the Grand
Well done on getting out and enjoying the park and company. I think people need to embrace the overnight trips and take advantage of these short stays with the way life has become so fast paced.

I hope your raft performed the way you were hoping.

Dan


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