This past weekend, on a beautiful summer day, my friend Megan and I slapped about 40 pounds of gear on our back and took to the backwoods of Kejimkujik National Park.
Like, 10 kilometres into the backwoods, into the backwoods. Let me say that again, because blogs and even park rangers don’t seem to know how far it is from the Eel Weir parking lot to the Wil-Bo-Wil Cabin: it is 10 kilometres.
I’ve always been a camper; it comes with the territory of being a member of Girl Guides of Canada for 25 years. My first camp as a Brownie was in a cabin, my last as a girl member was under a sheet of plastic (in December) in a lean-to I built.
So when my fellow camping friend said, hey, let’s do this, I didn’t balk; we’d have a cabin so no lugging of a tent, the tools to clean the lake water and most importantly, a fellow camper with you. The latter a vital piece of the puzzle. Backwoods camping is not for everyone.
Kejimkujik, or Keji for short, is a beautiful park. I’d never been before this past weekend. You can come for a day and hike and swim, stay in the campground, or canoe to a secluded island site. We had chosen to stay in a newly built (but sparse) cabin. On the site we were given firewood, picnic table, pit, latrine, and bunks. The cabin also has a wood stove for those chilly nights (which we had none).
I learned a lot on this weekend trip. If you too think you are a camper, or if you are thinking about taking a Keji camping trip, here are some tips:
1. Plan what time of day you will be hiking. Avoid the hottest parts. We walked in to the site around 1 p.m. It took us 2.5 hours to do it and we were kinda miserable. We made sure to be on the road when we left around 8:30 a.m. and guess what? We knocked an hour off our time!
2. Bring water with you for the hike. I know, you don’t want to add more to your person in regards to weight, but on the hike in we didn’t drink enough water; our legs were jello and my hands actually bloated, I couldn’t make a fist. Again, on the way home, we stopped every kilometre to drink and our bodies felt better.
3. Pack your bag properly and learn how to wear it. Megan walked down her street the night before with her pack and had the store show her how to strap herself in. I did none of that, packed the night before and paid the price. On the way back I learned from Megan how to pack (light on the bottom, weightier items in the middle, light on top) and could definitely feel the difference.
4. Research the essentials you will need. When you are a 10 kilometre walk away from the car and even further from a store, you need to be prepared. Water tablets, light weight stoves, ability to hang your food and bringing something to do (cards, books) are essential to backwoods camping.
5. Just because you are out in the middle of nowhere, doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice a good meal! Forget hot dogs and PB&J sandwiches! Megan packed a delicious trout and potato foil dinner that we did on the fire. In the morning she made eggs and bacon on a light weight stove. It’s about being prepared. I pre-wrapped in foil the bananas for the dessert of banana boas. I cooked all the items for our stuffed peppers the night before. I also sectioned everything in large Ziploc bags (I am convinced campers are some of the top purchasers of Ziploc bags).
One of my favorite campfire treats is to bake a cake. You heard that right, a cake. And if you are heading to Keji or another campsite this summer, you can too!
Your favorite small cake, batter prepared but not baked
Two large navel oranges
In the morning or at lunch, slice open your orange, segment the pieces with a knife – but don’t slice into the peel! Scoop out the orange and enjoy.
Have a fire going for awhile, you need coals.
Fill each half of your orange with the cake batter
Wrap each half in tin foil, make it a packet
Place packets near or in coals (depending on your coal situation) and cook until batter is firm. Now you have orange flavoured cake!
I love camping, but I have to admit, backwoods camping is not for me. I will say the last lesson from the weekend is to not doubt yourself. Doing something new is scary and hard. I am proud that the Sarah that complained and got angry on the hike up, was singing Girl Guide songs on the way down.