Sunday, February 4, 2018

Winter Camping at Silent Lake

We decided that for this past Christmas we would get a hot tent. We've set it up in the yard and spent the night in it (a cold one at that) to make sure we knew how everything worked. The time to test the tent out in the wild finally came last Wednesday.

We packed up the van (as well as the car) and headed for Silent Lake Provincial Park. Silent Lake offers a number of options for a winter stay. They have a new set of cabins, as well as a number of different yurts. These roofed accommodations seem quite busy so be sure to book early. In addition, the park also offers winter camping. They have electrical sites that you can drive into and non-electrical sites that you have to hike to. If you wish to winter camp you don't need to book ahead, as they have a good number of sites available.

The comfort station located at the day-use area is open in the winter. It is close to the cabins but would be a long walk from the yurts or winter camping sites. Vault toilets are available in the campgrounds.

Silent Lake
In terms of winter activities, the park officially offers 40 km of cross-country ski trails, some snowshoeing and ice fishing. We saw a number of people taking advantage of the frozen water. Some people hiked out onto the lake. Others shovelled off a section and created a skating rink. The thawing and freezing we had about a week ago made for some perfect ice. We even saw some kids sledding down the hill by the comfort station.

We arrived Wednesday around noon and as it turns out it snowed most of the day (Welcome back winter!). We began setting up our tent right away. The kids explored the site and played around in the snow. We probably should have had lunch first because after a while the kids started to get hungry and cold. We ended up pausing the tent setup so that we could get something to eat but then our four year old started to get really cold. We quickly put the rest of the tent together and got the fire going. Once the fire was going and everyone was happy we proceeded to setup the interior of the tent. The kids were happy to play around inside the tent building forts and playing games.

Loving All the Snow
After some time in the tent we headed outside. The kids decided to make snow sculptures. It was cool to see their creativity in action. 

All Setup
After the sculpting was done we headed inside for some sloppy Joes. They were filling and really hit the spot. We cleaned up, got ready for bed then read a story. I love it when all of our kids can be interested in the same book. Sarah brought along a book called Stick Cat: Cats in the City. All three kids were totally into the book and kept wanting to hear more. I had intended to go outside for a walk and perhaps take some pictures after the kids fell asleep, but I was exhausted and fell asleep shortly after they did. I woke up a few hours later to throw some wood on the fire and went back to bed. It was a fairly warm night but I did seem to wake up every few hours. While I was up I put more wood on the fire. I'm hoping that with a little more practice we'll find the optimal night time setup for the fire.

Thursday was our first full day in the park and I wanted to make the most of it. It started with some pancakes cooked on the wood stove. Our son was the master flapjack flipper. After breakfast we headed to the comfort station to get some water, do the dishes, brush our teeth and do some skiing.

Looking Across the Lake
Once we were ready to go, we hit the trail. 

It started as a perfect day for skiing. The sun was out and it was fairly warm. The trail followed the shoreline of the lake for the first part. It was very picturesque. 

We're Off
Trail Blazing
Over the Bridge

Looking Down Stream
We skied for a total of about an hour. The kids had had enough by this point. It probably just as well that we turned back when we did. The temperature had warmed up to above 0°C and the snow was clumping to the waxless skis.

We headed back to our site where the chicken noodle soup, that had been warming in the slow cooker, was waiting for us. This was the first time we've ever camped at a site with electricity and having a warm meal waiting for us upon our arrival was amazing.

After lunch our son and I made our way back to the comfort station and headed out onto the lake to do some ice fishing. Ice fishing is a new sport to us this winter. Our son has been very excited to try since last winter. He read a ton of books and is teaching me about fishing in the winter. It was very windy so we drilled our holes (the ice was 19" thick) and setup our shelter.
Even In Winter Parents Have Are Responsible
Ice Fishing
We fished for an hour or so but came up empty handed. So we packed up an headed back to the site. We split some more firewood then cooked some pasta and sausages.

I had to work on Friday so I got up early and headed out. Sarah and the kids stayed and enjoyed the day in the park. They did some reading, played some games and went for a couple of walks. One of their walks took them to the campground with the walk-in sites. They walked around and saw that some of the yurts were occupied but they didn't see any tents. It turned out that we were the only tenters in the park during our stay.

I arrived back at the site around 4:30. I was dressed for work and as a result I was quite chilled. We needed more firewood so we loaded up the van, stopped at the comfort station then picked up some wood at the gatehouse. Once back at our site we split the firewood which warmed me up nicely. Then I strapped on the snowshoes and followed what ended up being the easy ski trail. It was a great evening for a walk. 

Although it would have been nice to stay the entire weekend we had decided that Saturday should be our last day so that we could spend Sunday getting everything unpacked and put away. We woke up on Saturday and cooked up some bacon and cinnamon buns. As our eight year old daughter pointed out, this wasn't exactly a healthy breakfast.

After breakfast we went for a ski as a family. I had discovered that just down the road from our site we could connect to the ski trail. So off we went. We made it as far as the trail before our youngest daughter started complaining about cold feet. We usually bring along some hand and foot warmers on winter outings, but for whatever reason they didn't seem to be a priority for this trip (but will be for the next one).
One Last Family Ski
I took her back to the tent, got the fire going and then we read some stories. We packed up some of our stuff and tried to get a bit organized. After a while we drove to the comfort station to use the heated bathroom and to get some water. Sarah carried on with the kids and had a great ski.

Once everyone was back at the tent we packed up some more and had lunch. I was jealous that I didn't get to ski in the morning so I decided to sneak away for a quick ski. Our son decided to come along. We skied the 2.5 km loop opposite to the recommended direction. I think next time we'll go in the recommended direction.

Upon our return we furiously packed everything up and somehow managed to get it to fit in our vehicles.

Our first winter camping trip was a big success. We had a great time and are all looking forward to the next outing. One of the things I love most about coming back from a trip is having dinner together and talking about our favourite parts and things we could do next time to make the trip better.

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