Day 31 – First Day on La Cloche Silhouette

We wake up to a light rain, which is disturbing because it was 80 degrees with a cloudless blue sky yesterday. Walt says the long-term forecast is for clearer weather for most of the week with a chance of thunderstorms at some point.

It doesn’t matter. We have been permitted to hike La Cloche Silhouette trail, a 48-ish mile loop in 5 nights/6 days. We can only camp in designated campsites – Parks Ontario maintains privies, firepits and well-marked trails to each – and only in the exact campsite we’ve been permitted for since it’s one group to a site. If we don’t start today and hike the 7 miles to our designated site H7, then we have to hike 17 miles tomorrow to H20 (the campsite numbers have nothing to do with the number of miles hiked).

So, we’re off. The rain has tapered to an occasional drizzle. Still, because we’re in the lowlands among lots of dripping wet ferns, I opt to wear my Gore-Tex rain pants, stuffing my hiking pants into my pack.

The picture we took at the start shows us smiling, with crammed packs. We have our HMG lightweight packs and they’re designed to hold about 30-35 pounds of stuff. We have three liters of water each (2 pounds/liter) plus 6 days’ worth of food, tent, 2 mattress pads, 2 sleeping bag liners, our synthetic blanket (in lieu of sleeping bags), rain gear, lightweight jackets, bug spray, sunscreen, stove and fuel and cooking pot. We have very little extra clothes, although I have to have a warm hat, a wool sweater and an extra pair of socks to sleep in. Nights can get cold in a tent, especially if it’s raining.

We’ve worked hard to pare down our stuff but even so I need Walt’s help to close my pack and decide to abandon the lightweight sneakers I was going to bring to wear in camp. (It’s really nice to take off your heavy, often wet, hiking shoes and socks at the end of the day and still walk around camp.)

Initially the trail is gentle ups and downs but because it had poured two days earlier and rained last night, the trail is muddy, requiring us to pick our way across the edges of the mud or over logs through the mud, making for some slow going. But overall, it’s not too bad.

Halfway up a stony slope, we reach the side trail, marked with a distinctive yellow blaze, for our camp. While all the campsites on this trail are private – many sit on their own lake – it can take as much as half a mile to get from the main trail to the camp. This, our first camp, sits 400 meters (1/4 of a mile) from the main trail. I know that doesn’t sound like much distance, but remember it’s not flat, we’re carrying heavy packs and it’s extra distance that we didn’t really think about when we calculated how long our day would last.

We arrive in camp at about 1:00 p.m., pleased with our 5-hour trek with heavy packs. We normally calculate 2.0 mph as our average speed on a day hike. We’re often slower going up and faster coming down.

Setting up camp is a pretty quick process; our time in Maine has made us a pretty efficient team. We get all set up, stash our gear in the vestibule under the tent fly and crawl in for a little nap just as it starts to pour. I spend the next three hours horrified that while we’re dry now, if it doesn’t let up, we’re going to get soaked when we pull up camp tomorrow.

The rain does let up and we get our stuff out to cook dinner, pausing for another brief rain shower.

I spend the night tossing and turning, worrying how wet the trail will be tomorrow…

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