Middle of no where adventure, looking for tips and tricks.

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Old 08-10-12, 05:46 AM
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Middle of no where adventure, looking for tips and tricks.

So... What started out as cool idea back in college, is going to become a reality.

A roommate of mine in college had family that lived up north in a cabin off one of the rail lines. To get there, you had to take the train and get off at a specific mile post. No one had been to the cabin in 20 years (back then, now going on ~35yrs).

So... me being me, and looking for a new adventure for next year (and now a bit better funded then I was in college), I asked my old roommate if he was still interested in making the trip.
Five minutes after asking him, I get a reply with specific information (exact mile post, etc) and a tentative date to sit down with his great uncle, who is the only living relative of his who has been there.

So now, here is what has taken a cool idea, and turned it into what will be an amazing trip.
With the info I have now, we (my former roommate and I) now know that a short hike from where we are hopping off the train, is a true ghost town. It was a former lumber mill that was shut down in the 1930's, and abandon by the permanent residents in the 50's and 60's.
All information I have found so far indicates my concern that we might be hopping off the train into dense bush. We kind of expected this, even back in college.
Knowing that finding a tent location will be probably out of the question, this will be our first hammock trip.

Here is where the forum post becomes relevant....
Knowing we are hopping off a train, in dense bush, zero cell coverage (even with my booster kit), what special equipment would you consider bringing?

As mentioned above, we'll be hammock camping (any tips would be awesome), and I expect we'll be light packing (week's worth of gear in a 40L pack each) with the exception of the camera gear.
We do not have poisonous snakes, bugs or spiders this far north, and the only real danger from animals is the attraction of foreign food.

On a bit of a side, my wife is really pushing for me to get one of those Alert beacons. Anyone have any experience with them?
They are pretty expensive from what I see.
 
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Old 08-10-12, 06:16 AM
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Man! That sounds like fun.

Do they rent satellite phones? Even if they do I guess the cost would be prohibitive.

Edit: Yes, and not that expensive if you don't use it that much.
 
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Old 08-10-12, 06:26 AM
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My dad has a sat phone in his truck. I think it was something like a buck a minute plus something like $20 per year to have it activated.

I personally would like to go without. I like quiet, and don't want to drag anymore gear then I have too (going with full camera gear, so I'm already overloaded).

Going with someone is my safety precaution. I do a lot of these trips solo.
 
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Old 08-10-12, 06:56 AM
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You can also rent those alert beacon things. Here's the first one I found Rent a SPOT 2 Messenger Personal Rescue Device. Shipped Direct to You Anywhere..

Unless you would really be using it on a regular basis....renting might make sense.....depending on how long yer gone.

I have to ask....the train will actually just stop and let you off in the middle of nowhere? And pick you up again if you happen to be there when they come back by? Have you checked to see if they still do it or is that what it was like 35 yrs ago?
 
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Old 08-10-12, 07:13 AM
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Vic,
I will probably rent one if the wife still insists. I do these trips maybe once a year, and if I have to have something, I'll take the best I can get.

As for the train stopping... In Northern Ontario, this is sometimes the only way to get to some of the small isolated communities.
Here is a link to the Via Rail info on the "Stop between stations" service.
Stops in between two stations | VIA Rail
 
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Old 08-10-12, 08:29 AM
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That's pretty wild. You really do live in the Great White North!

Nothing like that down here that I know of. I still can't see why the express From LA to Chicago takes almost 2 days....and that's if there are no delays.
 
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Old 08-10-12, 09:07 AM
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It's a totally different world up here once you get out of the cities.
Although slightly more expensive cost of living (fuel, etc), I wouldn't give it up for the world.

We also do not have poisonous animals when you start going further north, so if you are cool with it, open air sleeping (tentless) is a non-issue.
 
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Old 08-10-12, 09:11 AM
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What about rain, bears and wolves?
That said, if I was 25 yrs younger, I'd have jumped at the chance to go along
 
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Old 08-10-12, 10:06 AM
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Re the train stops will I be the first to say shades of "Petty Coat Junction"?
 
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Old 08-10-12, 10:15 AM
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Marksr,
Rain and bears are a non-issue.
All my outdoor gear I carry is either waterproof, or can get wet. I even have a non-programmed key for my vehicles so I can get the key wet on not kill my expensive programmed keys.

As for wolves.... This is an interesting question. Never had to deal with them in person. Generally they are reasonably skittish. From what I have been told, treat them like a bear. Don't corner them, and don't get in the middle of them. Standard bear deterrents is what is suggested (bear bangers, noise, etc. If there is only one wolf and it approaches, kill it. They travel in packs and a lone wolf means there is something wrong (sick).

For bears... we have black bears here. No polar bears this far south (they are extremely dangerous) and no brown bears which are still little to no risk. Black bears are primarily vegetarians and really skittish. Don't corner one and make sure it's well aware that you are there, and it'll go the other way.
On all my away from vehicle camping, food is kept in an air tight container (dry sacs generally) and away from the sleeping area in a bear bag arrangement (hanging from a tree, in a rope arrangement). Being a sporting kind of guy, and not willing to give up my food while camping, I attach a bell to the bear bag and one to the rope itself if I have a second bell handy.
 
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Old 08-10-12, 12:57 PM
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My SIL used the SPOT system when he hunted in Alaska a few months ago. He sent me "I'm OK" with a map of where they were, and "Bear down" with a location. I guess communication is short sweet and to the point, but at least you have a coordinate should they lose contact with us.
 
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Old 08-11-12, 07:15 AM
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Thumbs up This sure truly sounds like the trip of a lifetime!

I have a few thoughts on some of what you said.
I am not exactly sure where this cabin would be but based on your profile it looks like it is somewhere in the Canadian Shield area which is a semi rugged mix of rocky areas, forest and water, not to mention hoards of biting insects......Is this so?

This is the same terrain I am near and spend a fair amount of time in it.

My wife and I seem to have the knack of picking our holiday time when inclement weather occurs and although we now mostly stay in our truck camper, days of rain can still wear on you.
You may have much more stamina that we do but I can't imagine being in a remote spot with the only opportunity of leaving being the next scheduled train and having continuous rain.

I also question dealing with biting insects.
Unless you are doing this trip very early in the spring or very late in the fall there are times in the early evening where bug repellants become mostly ineffective.
Bug jackets do work but you need the type that have solid cloth panels, the completely mesh type will allow insects to bit through them in areas that contact the skin.
A tent or sealed shelter would be a refuge at these times.

I saved the best for last!

Bears:
It is not true that Black Bears are "mostly vegetarian".......They are omnivores meaning that they eat both vegetable and meat food sources.
A Black Bear could be seen as actually more of a threat to people that the larger species because of the fact that if the unthinkable occurs and you are attacked, the minute you stop fighting back they will try to eat you!........which leads to the very wrong advice to play dead if attacked by a Black Bear.
Correct advice: Don't play dead if attacked by a Black Bear......"Fight back with everything you have and don't stop fighting back."

Also, because Black Bears are more commonly found near people they are less likely to be skittish than a larger species and are more likely to be encountered.

My wife and I both carry fairly small packs with each of us having a large sized bear repellant spray on a lanyard as well as bells that come in a magnetic holder that will turn off the tinkle when stalking birds or other wildlife.
We also carry a readily accessible whistle on a lanyard and I carry a knife.

We take a lot of really short hikes, often only a half a km or so and will take the packs.
If I was to go on a trip like yours I would likely take a firearm.
Because carrying handguns is not allowed (beyond the direct path from your home to a gun range, if you belong to a club and have a carry permit), a short shotgun would be my first choice.
The reason being that if you are unfortunate enough to have a nuisance Black Bear hanging around I would prefer to scare it away at a greater distance than the range of bear spray.

Having said this there is no reason to be paranoid, you should only be aware.
I have spent fair bit of time in the woods similar to where I think you are going and a bear siting in the wild is a rare and welcome treat.......I just would want to be prepared.


But, maybe I'm wrong about where you are going.
 
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Old 08-11-12, 07:49 AM
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I think much of what I have to say goes along with Greg H.

1. I would have each person take a good water purifier pump if there are only two of you. One would be enough but the other person's is a backup in case of trouble with one of them. I hate the taste of iodine and boiling takes too long consumes a lot of fuel if using a stove and can be difficult if burning wood and you happen to get several days of rain. Being out in the bush and getting Giardia is not fun and potentially dangerous.

2. Depending on the laws in Canada and if possible I would take a pistol of some sort. A .357, .44 mag or even a .40 S&W loaded with FMJ would be my minimum. Wear it at all times, even when you step aside for a leak. You will probably not need it but if you do you may need it badly and in a hurry. It's a good noise maker if yelling and banging is not enough to scare a bear and it can be used as a signaling device and cartridges can be taken apart to help start a fire if needed.

3. I think renting a SPOT or sat phone is a good idea. A badly twisted ankle or broken leg can be a real problem when out in the bush. When I was younger injury was never on my mind but I now that I'm older and hopefully smarter I try to at least have a plan B in case it happens.

4. If going during insect season I would treat all my clothes before the trip with permethrin. It's available ready to use from outdoor suppliers but is pricey or you can dilute the concentrate available in garden centers. I spray my clothes until saturated with a 1/2% solution and let thoroughly air dry for at least several days. It's got a strong chemical smell that will go away when properly dried. It lasts for about a month and a half and through 6-9 washings and it great at stopping mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers and many other biting insects. Contact with human skin quickly deactivates it so it's only good on clothing and keep it away from cats as it's toxic to them.

5. Take the trip and have a great time. I've been on a train near the arctic circle in Finland and it came to a stop in the middle of nowhere, pitch black, snowing and -30. There were two people by the tracks with snow machines to pick up the two that got off the train. Instantly I thought "how cool is that". I've also done bushwhacking and exploring in Alaska and absolutely love it and it's something best done. Plan thoroughly but don't come up with reasons to talk yourself out of it. Oh, and take a small camera. I want to see some pictures when you get back.
 
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Old 08-11-12, 08:34 AM
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I have handguns but they are not engrained in our culture.
Canadian law relating to handguns totally prohibits their use or carry outside of sanctioned target shooting.

Because carrying handguns is not allowed (beyond the direct path from your home to a gun range, if you belong to a club and have a carry permit), a short shotgun would be my first choice.
Something I forgot to mention and may be the best non-firearm deterrent would be an air horn.
Just think about how obnoxious they are at sporting events..............doesn't get much worse than that!
 
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Old 08-11-12, 09:23 AM
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Out of curiosity I Googled bear fatalties. According to Google black bears are responsible for many more human fatalities than brown bears. Undoubtably because there is more human contact. I think an air horn is a good idea. One of the golf course I used to play in northern New Hampshire used to have them in all the carts during the moose rut. BTW - Black bears are indeed omnivores. I watched one feeding on a dead calf once. The calf was fresh deadbut I don't know if the bear killed it.

My guess is that in the area you are considering B29's might be a bigger problem than 4 legged critters. It sounds like you're an experienced hiker so I'm sure you'll know how to deal with them. I wouldn't forgo a tent though. Three or four days of rain in a hammock could get really old.
 
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Old 08-11-12, 09:23 AM
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Not to get off track...but I'd like to know from our Northern friends...can you buy something like this?

[ATTACH=CONFIG]2534[/ATTACH]

I have one in 20 GA and even fully loaded it's not that heavy. Large buck or slugs make it the equal of any handgun at closer range. If I was a camping type...it's what I'd take if I was going to be in one spot for a while. Not sure I would if I had to hike 5 miles.
 
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Old 08-11-12, 10:33 AM
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Yes, compact shotguns are allowed.
My compact shotgun is a old sawed off (legally to 18 1/2") 12ga single shot.
Light, dismantles to a compact size, slugs slide effortlessly out of the end and hard to miss close in with a cyl choke and 0 buck!

We do have strict ownership requirements as a possession certificate is required to own a long gun and a possession/acquisition certificate is needed to purchase and then own a rifle or shotgun.
Furthermore you would need a handgun endorsement on your PAL to own a handgun.
The only justification to own a handgun is for competitive target shooting or as a collector.
To be considered a collector you need to provide the registrar with some kind of proof that what you want to collect is in some form collectable and you have knowledge about the collection you have/want to have.

One category of handgun that is now prohibited and can't own is any handgun chambered in .25 or .32 auto or similar that are considered "Saturday night specials".
I was fortunate to have owned a German Police surplus, Walther PPK in 32 auto when these regs came in and am now grandfathered.
 
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Old 08-11-12, 05:01 PM
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A full size gun is where it crosses the functionality line for me in this scenario. If you were hunting a long gun would be the obvious choice. If backpacking or otherwise in the bush but not primarily hunting then it's a pistol. If a handgun is not permitted you have to seriously consider if a long gun is worth carrying.

If I feel the need to take a long gun it would not be a pistol gripped pump shotgun with no stock. That's in the movies macho defense category. Fine if your drug deal goes bad or if a bear is 10 feet away but what if the weather turns bad and your stay is extended or the food you brought spoils and you need to hunt? That stockless pump gun is almost useless. For the same weight I'd much rather carry a light weight rifle that is both useful in defense and for getting dinner. A simple carbon/plastic stocked rifle may not be as saxy or macho as a pistol gripped shotgun but it can hit dinner from 200 yards.

I'm not bashing the short shotgun. My sawed 12ga lives on my golf cart and it's my most loved and most often used gun. It's very useful against snakes and if I'm sneaky even on groundhogs but not the gun I'd take if I heading into the bush mainly because it's a single purpose tool. If I have to carry it, it should serve as many roles as possible.
 
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Old 08-13-12, 05:46 AM
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I suspect Greg has a rough idea of the terrain I live in as most of Manitoba is like what we have in Northern Ontario.

Lots of contents, little time, so I'll try to nail the main items.

Guns...
We are restricted to long guns here, which is pretty useless in dense bush as protection. I am thinking about bringing one of my bird guns, but that is still up in the air due to weight and efficiency for protection. I also don't like to expose them to the elements too much as they were both very old, and gifts from my grandfather.
Both myself, and the guy I am traveling with will be properly equipped with knifes for closer encounters. I'm not a big knife person (have the latest and greatest, read the magazines, etc), but I do have a selection I use for specific tasks, and a 4" fixed blade that is always on me in the bush.

Bears...
I might have down played them a bit, but they are not a huge concern. I have had a lot of exposure to these animals, and many, many encounters.
I use to bait and track bears back when we still had the spring bear hunts. Day old donuts and frozen fish guts with a bit of table syrup was the bait of choice. The fish guts where more an attraction, and the donuts was what they liked. These animals would rarely eat the fish as they weren’t rotting.
More recently, I had spent some time tracking these and other large animals of wild life photography (in the actual wild). I've also crossed paths with bears many times while mtn biking in the back country.
It was mentioned in a previous post about bear bells. As annoying as they are, I do wear one and carry a couple spares. Our food stash and anything else we string up in bear bags gets one.
I hate bear spray, and will not be bringing any. I had one southerner spray that crap near camp one time, and never again.
Bear bangers, cap guns and air horns do work. Bear bangers can be a pain in dense bush, and temperamental in wet weather. Cap guns are great (when they work) as it keeps he noise where you are. Air horns are great, rarely fail, and have many uses. They are just bulky in some cases.

The important thing with bears is, do not give them a reason to be around, and if you do encounter them, make sure there is a clear exit path for them, and preferably some space between you and them. Making sure they know you are there is probably the most important thing (hens the annoying bear bell).
No food, gum, toothpaste, (open pack of cigarettes), or anything else like that in your sleeping area. All that stuff goes into air tight dry bags, and strung up in a bear bag arrangement, located downwind (if possible) and definitely way from the sleeping area.

Weather and bugs...
Pretty much no getting around these two. They are just something you prepare for and deal with it.
Early spring (super wet and no fun) or late fall (could snow) are the only times there is likely to be little to no bugs. We could get lucky and have great fall weather, or as I've seen on a few of my trips, cold wet rain. ~0'C and rain sucks.
All the gear I carry on these trips are either water proof themselves, or packaged so that they can get submerged. I've flipped canoes and kayaks with full gear and also (only once) taken a fall into a lake and had to swim with my pack. Zip lock bags are definitely my friend. All my stuff that can't get wet (and/or food) is packed in freezer bag zip locks, and generally stored inside a dry sac in or on my pack.
Late spring/early summer will be black flies. Small quiet flying insects that do bite, but are not poisonous and only annoying.
Early summer to late summer is generally mosquitoes. Like black flies, they bite, are not poisonous, but really, really annoying as they buzz when flying.
I do have some repellants that work reasonably well. Pants, long sleeve shirts and a hat are a must for the deep bush stuff. These are really an annoyance more than anything.

A bit of a side...
I thought I would give everyone (not so much Greg) an idea of the terrain and landscape in the area I'm going into. Although I have not been in the area I'm going into, I have been in the middle of nowhere in areas that far north. The link below is a thread I started on a forum I own about Ishpatina Ridge. It was more a resource thread and a dumping ground for all the information I obtained prior to going, and afterwards.
Northern Ontario Geocachers • View topic - Ishpatina Ridge (Travel Resource info)


There is a picture about mid way down the first post of my pack. This was one of my early multi-day backpack trips, so yes, I did over pack (too much food, tools we could have done without). The bear spray attached to my pack was found while bushwhacking. Although not a tree hugging hippy, I don't leave junk behind, so I carried it out with us. My trusting 4" fix blade is also visible, attached blade up, on the chest strap of my pack.
I should mention that I did a large part of the on foot hiking with a 8.5x11" topo and compass due to gps power issues (later resolved with a quick disassemble at home).
 
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