We left the campsite at noon and followed the same path back to the portage leading to Cache Lake. Due to the rough night, we decided to save the optional hike up to Skymount for another time. It tuned out to be another beautiful day and the journey out was much easier as we followed our own broken trail. By the time we reached Cache Lake (which wasn’t very far from our camp on the Madawaska River) it was warm enough that I needed to remove a couple under layers because I was beginning to sweat. We took a short break then continued across the lake with ease. As we approached the shore near the hiking trail we saw something strange in the bush. It looked like two wolves running along the trail, one all black and another multi-colored. We both stopped in a bit of both awe and shock. Ty and I put our backpacks down and grab our hatchets. A few seconds later we could see a couple of people moving along the hiking trail right where the wolves had just come from. I was worried about them at first, but then instantly felt like an idiot. They were hikers and the wolves we saw weren’t wolves, they were their dogs. One was a husky and the other was all black so it was hard to tell from a distance. But c’mon – the husky looked like a wolf, what were we supposed to think?
Cache Lake looking south
Madawaska River back to the Track & Tower parking lot
Day 2: Madawaska River back to the Track & Tower parking lot
I was awake before Ty, around 7am and it was already becoming bright out. I honestly can’t believe we didn’t die last night. That was the coldest I’ve ever been, it was unbelievable. Neither of us slept very well, it was just too cold. There is no way that was minus two – I doubt it was minus ten. I couldn’t wait to get back to the car and check the weather records for the area.
After a few minutes of laying in my sleeping bag contemplating moving, I decided it would be best to just get up and get a fire going. I tried to put on my boots but they were both frozen solid. I stomped, kicked and pulled but to no avail. I had to walk around camp with my feet tip-toed and half into my boots as they slowly defrosted. My feet were freezing and I desperately needed a fire. It was cold enough that it froze the inside of my nostrils. Part of me wished I was still in my sleeping bag, but I quickly remember what an awful night it was and wanted nothing more than a massive fire – it was still very cold out. Luckily there was plenty of wood left from yesterday and I didn’t have to forage for kindling either. There were no birch trees anywhere in the area so it took a few minutes to get the fire going using tiny twigs then working my way up to bigger branches from there. When I finally had a small fire going, I took off my gloves and just crouched-down over the warmth. It felt so wonderful words can't describe it. It took the sting out of my hands and put the feeling back in my face. I really wanted a coffee but I also didn’t want to move away from the fire. Eventually the thought of a hot coffee to go along with my warm fire was too good to resist, so I put my gloves back on and tossed a bunch of wood on the fire to really get it going.
Taking a quick break while crossing Cache Lake
Relieved that we weren’t just taken out by wolves, we continued on across Cache Lake eventually reaching the creek and meadow it flows through. This time we took the meadow as far as we could, avoiding as much of the hiking trail as possible. When we couldn’t go further we bushwhacked back to the hiking trail. It ended up working out much better because we avoided the worst part of the hiking trail in exchange for a stroll through the meadow. It took us about an hour and a half to get back to the car – snowshoes would have really helped out on this trip. It was 2pm by the time we had the car packed up and ready to go. Before pulling out onto Highway 60, I remembered to check the weather records and I was astonished. The forecast of minus two somehow turned into minus twenty-one by 7am, then four hours later it was back to plus three. I had to take a screenshot – I know the forecast is just an estimate, but to be off by 19 degrees, just wow! Lesson learned. Having skipped breakfast at the campsite, the mandatory stop at Wendy’s in Huntsville was even more important. Following a great feast at Wendy’s we got back on Highway 11 and made the rest of the trip home. I’m not sure Ty will ever winter camp again – but I’ll come back. Just not in minute 21.
Our sled was packed pretty tight
Our fire pit has been extinguished and buried in snow
My turn to pull the sled
Another beautiful Day on Cache Lake!
Cache Lake looking west
The entrance to the creek & marsh we followed out
The hillside along P360
With a good fire going, I put on the kettle over the grill then pulled up a folding chair and took off my boots, resting my feet up on an adjacent chair. I placed my boots towards the fire in a effort to at least soften them up a bit so I could get them on properly, it was really hard to walk around with them half on my feet. It took the kettle much longer to boil in the freezing cold temperature but eventually I was rewarded with a hot cup of coffee on this sunny morning. It was very quiet out and I really enjoyed my solo time by the fire with my coffee – very relaxing and peaceful. This is why I come to Algonquin Park. Eventually Ty emerged from the tent, looking as though he actually did die last night. I asked him how he slept and his reply was, ‘I didn’t think I was going to make it through the night.’ I’m not exaggerating, it was very cold last night and still very cold this morning. I threw a bit more water in the pot and got a coffee for Ty along with a second cup for myself. We both just sat around the fire, not really saying much but instead simply trying to warm up.
Around 9am it was still pretty cold out but it was becoming noticeably warmer than it was when I woke up. We brought oatmeal and dried berries for breakfast but neither of us felt like making it, just too lazy and low energy (Literally too lazy to pour hot water on oatmeal in a bowl). The cold night took every ounce of motivation out of us. Instead we enjoyed multiple cups of coffee by the fire along with some very cold granola bars. By 10:30am it was actually becoming warm out – it was the strangest thing. The sun was shining and you could really feel the heat on your face. It was so cold last night and this morning, I couldn’t believe how warm it was becoming. I was now even more interested to see the weather records for the day!
We let the fire burn out because it was no longer needed and it was time to start packing up. Sometimes a quick, one night getaway is all you need to keep you going until ice-out. With the tent down and the chairs folded up, I began to strap everything to the sled for the journey back to the car. The small amount of effort required to secure the sled was actually enough to make me sweat – it had to be at least +5 by now – unbelievable! With everything secured and the fire completely out, we decided it was time to head back to the car.
A screenshot of today's weather records for the East Gate - a 24 degree difference in 6 hours.
Ty's the only guy I know who camps in jeans - no matter the season. I don't know how he does it