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Crossing Algonquin

by: Ryan Atkins

In March of 2011 I got into my decrepit Pontiac Vibe, drove up to Algonquin Park and parked on the side of the highway. I got out, put on my snowshoes and jumped into waist deep, soft snow. What followed were athletically, some of the hardest days of my life. There wasn’t a single selfie. No one was live-streaming or posting stories about it and certainly there was no race results to show. I was woefully underprepared. I had “Racing” snowshoes, which are very small. The snow was very deep (3-6 feet) and wet. I was thinking that I would cover about 20-30 km per day. This figure was much closer to 10 km, as I plodded along, putting in 10-12 hours. Brutal.

The silence was deafening. The ice that I fell through was freezing. But I came out of it with one of the richest most raw experiences of my life.

Since then, I’ve done a lot of races and been to some amazing places, but I’ve always wanted to come back and give it another shot. When my friend Eric Batty asked me about doing a crossing of the northern part of the park, expedition style, I was super stoked. I cleared my schedule and started planning/dreaming. To get ready for this adventure, I’ve been tailoring my training to include lots of vertical ascent in the snow (similar muscles to pulling a pulk), as well as just being outside a lot. I love running and skiing in the winter time, so any excuse to do a bit more is welcome to me! We will also have an experienced outdoorsman and great athlete named Buck Miller joining us. We are doing this to commemorate the 125th anniversary of Algonquin park, but also as an excuse to get off the grid and have a wonderful adventure in a truly wild winter wonderland. We are going to be crossing the park, south to north, in one continuous, self-supported push. The route is approximately 156km long and will take us 10-15 days. I’m going with Eric and Buck because they are great guys, fit, knowledgeable and level headed. At the end of the day, we will be spending a lot of time together, so having fun, capable people is most important to me!

SAY HELLO TO ERIC & BUCK

Eric Batty is a Photographer, Athlete, Arborist and Adventurer. He also teaches Arboriculture at the college level. Growing up on a farm taught Eric from a young age about hard work and always completing everything you do properly. Because on the farm, just like out in the wilderness, or in photography there are no shortcuts, only long cuts. Eric is at home while in the wilderness, be it in the Mountains or the forest.

 

Buck has zero mountain/alpine experience but knows the the low ridges, swamps and bush of Northern Ontario in every season very well. Buck works for a children’s camp in Muskoka as a Facilities Coordinator, enjoys carpentry, cycling (road & mountain), backcountry skiing and all things bushcraft. His adventures have taken him by land, water and ice over much of James and Hudson Bay.

A DAY ON THE TRAIL

If everything goes according to plan, a typical day in the life while on our adventure will look something like this:

  1. Wake up
  2. Make some Oatmeal and Coffee (my go-to is Stoked Oats and Crowsnest)
  3. Gear up i.e. getting dressed for the day
  4. Break camp i.e. breaking down the tent
  5. Hit the trails skiing (Altai skiis) or snowshoeing (Tubbs Snowshoes) until dark
  6. We plan to cover 10-15km per day. This may sound like a very small amount, but its THICK brush out there, and the snow will be crazy deep. So averaging 1 mile per hour will be a good pace.
  7. Once the sun is going down, we will make camp, collect firewood and get our hot tent (Seek Outside).
  8. We will then cook some freeze dried meals and probably go to sleep.
  9. Repeat

WHAT WE ARE TAKING WITH US

  • Toboggans: We need to haul with us over two weeks worth of supplies, plus a good amount of other types of gear like cameras and such. For this expedition, we’ll be using Tobaggans handmade by Whisky Jack Outdoor Co. who are located right here in Ontario.
  • Hot tent: Because we will be trekking through the snow and winter wonderland that is Algonquin, having a hot tent (Seek Outside) will be great to allow our clothing to dry out at night.
  • Nutrition: To fuel our days, we will be using a number of different products to help get us what our body’s need to handle this expedition.
    • We will be drinking maple syrup (Untapped) and eating Prima bars (which are delicious).
    • On top of that, we will be eating some chocolate, candies, and whatever else seems appealing and keeps our energy and spirits high!
    • Because we can’t take a ton of vegetables with us, like a bushel of beets, and to help with the circulation in our hands and feet, we will be having some humanN BeetElite on a daily basis. It works really well in the colder temps to help increase oxygen delivery in the body and I’ve been using it personally on lots of outdoors cold-weather trips lately.

If you are interested in following along for the adventure, check out the “Crossing Algonquin” Facebook page, and like it! And a big thanks to all our sponsors for this trip. I’m really excited for it to start!

_____

Crossing Algonquin 2018 Sponsors List

Whisky Jack Outdoor Co. BeetElite Osprey Packs Exped Crowsnest Coffee Company Seek Outside Prima Liv Outside Altai Skis Algonquin Outfitters Stoked Oats Trail Toes Anti-Friction Foot and Body Products Explorers’ Edge Ontario Parks Muskoka Tourism The Friends of Algonquin Park

Author

Ryan Atkins, OCR Champion, Mountain Runner, & Outdoorsman

World's Toughest Mudder. Battlefrog Champion. Mechanical Engineering Background. Ryan is someone who is always on the look out for a new challenge, and his analytical mind pushes him to find the best ways to train and get better each and every day. When he's not training for OCR, his favourite things to do are to go mountain biking, rock climbing with friends, or chop up some firewood and play with chainsaws.

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