General Update

Since the weather is a bit ‘iffy’ today, I thought that I would spend some time doing a blog post about my general state of affairs, and any intentions that I may have for possible trips or changes to the status quo.

We’re, presently, in the grip of the first overly warm day of the season, with quite high humidity levels. Couple that with the fact that bug season is ramping up around here, caused me to rethink going on a hike today. After all, I can go any day I want to go, so why not pick and choose the most favorable ones?

This warm spell is only slated to last for one day, so it won’t be a long wait to get back to my main purpose in life these days…exploring.

I have been scoping out some new areas that seem interesting, all of which will require driving to them. I mention this because the cost of gas has to be factored into everything I do, and there is only a certain amount available per month, due to a somewhat limited budget. I’m not complaining at all, I do have enough financial resources to live the way I want to live, I just have to spread it out in a way that gives me the best bang for my buck.

Anyway, it’s the end of the month of May and, with the new month approaching, I can start working on June’s budget, which will mean some new explorations, and possibly some new equipment, with which to explore.

Let’s look at the new explorations first. I’m always poring over different maps of the area, to look for areas that I can access via my truck, my kayak, or just on foot. In the summer months, the kayak usually takes precedence, since I do love to paddle, and I can get into some really remote areas this way. I’ve been looking at another lake system that is begging for exploration, and it does have a somewhat limited access point along Dunlop Shores Road.

This system includes Marsh Lake, and Summers Lake, with a couple of portages separating them. One of the portages is only 50m long, and the other one is a bit more demanding at 210m, but I’m thinking that, with the high water levels we are currently seeing, I might be able to shorten that portage. Here’s a look at what I’m talking about;

As you can see, it’s quite an extensive area, and the route marked out will cover around 20kms. However, this is within my comfortable paddling range, but the unknowns are the portages. Portages can be very easy, but they can also be very difficult, depending on the terrain encountered. Steep uphill grades, with questionable footing, can be tough to negotiate, and therefore would add to the overall difficulty of the trip.

Still, this does seem like an area worth investigating because there is limited access via roads or ATV trails, so motorboats should not be a problem in here. There are also seven official campsites listed on my Recreational Map within these two lake systems, and there are other portages, going out of these two lakes, into other small lakes, so it is quite an extensive paddling route.

Anyway, it is my intention to give this route a shot when the next favorable weather day appears. Right now it’s looking like early next week. I will, of course, be doing a blog post on the trip after I have completed it.

Now, on to other stuff. As I’ve mentioned many times, my main purpose up here in Elliot Lake is to explore the wilderness. It’s what gives me the most pleasure in life, so that’s what I do. You see, I don’t measure how successful I am/was in life with dollar signs. I measure it by how much joy I managed to squeeze out of every moment. That’s what will count on the day I draw my last breath, and I intend on doing that with absolutely no regrets.

Also, as I’ve mentioned before, I do have a limited budget that sometimes dictates when I am able to do things. I’m okay with that because it does tend to give me time to recover from one trip to the next, so that I don’t exhaust myself doing what I love to do. However, I do like to keep my eyes open for any type of equipment that might compliment, or extend my ability to do those explorations, and I’m not afraid to put some money into those things, if I feel the pay back in enjoyment would be worth it.

My kayak is a most outstanding example of something that I put some money into in order to extend my ability to explore. It has been a huge success in adding joy to my life experience, and I will never regret buying it, although it did take a fair financial bite out of my budget, but it was definitely worth it.

Although the kayak has added so much to my ability to explore lakes and rivers, it does have it’s limitations. I’ve already discovered some lake systems that I’d like to explore, but cannot get the truck close enough in order to bring the kayak in. The kayak only weighs 36lbs, but if I add to that all the other stuff I would need to take on a days paddle, it would be closer to 50lbs at minimum. This is a lot of weight to carry any kind of distance, especially if the terrain is rough. I’m not saying it couldn’t be done, but it would most definitely not be enjoyable. Remember, I’m not 21 anymore 🙂

Recently, I became aware of another piece of equipment that, after some thought, would compliment my kayak very well, while adding quite a bit to my ability to explore areas that I can’t reach with the kayak. This piece of equipment is known as an Alpacka Packraft.

Along the same lines as the Advanced Elements kayak that I presently use, the Alpacka rafts are built tough and durable. As with the kayak, these are not just pool toys that you see selling in the big box stores. They are proven by many wilderness explorers to be reliable and immensely durable exploration tools. As usual, I did a lot of research on these rafts before I even considered the possibility of buying one.

One of the amazing things about the model I’m looking at is that it only weighs just over 3lbs. Nope, that’s not 31 pounds, it’s 3 pounds! So, how can a raft capable of carrying an adult, with some gear, only weigh 3 pounds? Anything is possible, but it will usually cost you.

Modern materials can create very light weight and durable products. Carbon Fiber, for example, which is used in many products, can reduce weight quite significantly, but it costs a lot more. So, one must decide for themselves if the higher cost is worth the price. For example, I don’t have a carbon fiber paddle for my kayak. I just don’t think that it would add enough enjoyment to my paddling for the price they’re asking for them. I use an aluminum shaft paddle, and I find it to be very acceptable.

Having said that, after extensive research on these Alpacka Packrafts, I do think this product would add a significant amount of enjoyment to my adventures. It would allow me to reach those lakes and rivers that I can’t actually drive to. At just over 3 pounds, I could carry it in a backpack quite comfortably. Also, I can use my existing kayak paddle and my PFD for this raft.

Alpacka has a number of different rafts suited for different purposes. The larger they are, of course, the heavier they get, but none of them are all that heavy. I’m looking at getting their smallest model called the Scout. Here’s a picture;

Scout

Check out the inflation process;

Here’s a video showing what these rafts can handle, although mine will never see this kind of action;

This Alpacka raft will suit my purposes very nicely. It is available in any of the colors shown on the raft, and I will probably be choosing full green. You can get a striped, multicolor raft, but I’m not much for loud colors. I like to paddle under the radar, as much as possible.

Another complimentary aspect of this raft with my kayak is the fact that I can carry this 3 pound raft with me in the kayak, as a back up, or I can use it as a sort of water trailer behind my kayak, to put extra gear in should I need the space. You see, how, all of a sudden, it seems to fit in very well with my intentions?

But, as I mentioned before, light weight comes with a high price. This raft is $545.00 US. It’s not for the financially faint of heart. However, the price does not deter me. I feel that the enjoyment that having this piece of exploring equipment will add to my adventurous lifestyle will prove to be more than worth the hefty price tag. I paid almost the same price for my kayak, and that’s certainly worked out for me.

I’ve done my research on this raft, by reading many reviews and customer remarks, and I haven’t found even one detractor in everything I’ve read. Of course, not everyone would be interested in a raft this expensive, only those who already have a special purpose in mind would consider laying out this kind of cash for a small raft. But I was very impressed by the performance capabilities of these rafts, in some very tough conditions, including winter’s in Alaska, and whitewater in the highest degree.

These rafts will bounce off rocks all day long, and not suffer any noticeable damage. In the rare event that they are damaged, they are easily repaired in the field. I saw one raft, that had been torn apart by a grizzly bear, and they were able to repair it quite easily. This is one tough raft that will likely last for years under the conditions that I would use it.

Anyway, it is my intention to add this raft to my exploration equipment, but I’m not sure yet when that will happen. A purchase this large needs to be worked into my budget so that it doesn’t cause any undo strain. I don’t want to be taking away from my enjoyment of life by trying to add to it. But, it’s a very strong possibility that it will show up sooner rather than later, so watch for the maiden voyage of the Packraft.

Moving on, I’m also considering other trips this summer, that will take me farther north of Elliot Lake. It could be that, either my brother, or son, will also be back for another round of man vs wilderness, which would be awesome.

I have a festering interest in going up to Aubrey Falls Provincial Park, which is a non-operating, wilderness park, with a vast area of interesting looking paddling opportunities. This would be a 3 or 4 hour trip from here in Elliot Lake, so it would most likely be a camping trip. Also, I would like to get up to Mississagi River Provincial Park, which is another non-operating, wilderness park, not to be confused with Mississagi Provincial Park, which is closer to Elliot Lake. My brother has expressed interest in this trip, since he just purchased a four-wheel drive vehicle, and we will need to drive almost 30kms in on a bush road to access the launch area. This could prove to be extra challenging, and I wouldn’t try it alone in just my truck because, if I ever got stuck, it’s hell and back from nowhere, so help would not be forthcoming.

Anyway, these are possible trips this summer, along with many other adventures that might pop into my mind at any moment.

As of this moment, I have no intention to leave Elliot Lake. As always, moments change, and so do intentions, so nothing is set in stone. However, I still have so many interesting looking areas to explore, and the town of Elliot Lake suits me just fine, even though the structure, both physically and politically, seems to be falling apart. I have very limited needs for those types of things. As long as I can buy groceries, and access the very few services that I use, I’ll be just fine.

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