I haven’t posted in a few days because I slipped away to do a little camping. One of the reasons for this trip was to test out some new camping gear. I decided to switch from tent camping to hammock camping.
I’m using a Hennessey Safari Deluxe Zip XXL hammock setup. This comes with a fly, the hammock, straps to go around the trees you’re hanging from and a pair of “snakeskins”. Snakeskins are tubular bags that live on the ridgeline of the hammock. When it’s time to take down the hammock, you remove the fly then simply pull the snakeskins over the hammock, disengage it from the tree and stuff it in the little sack it comes in. Both the hammock and the fly are asymmetrical and when you get in, you lie on a bit of an angle to the line of the hammock. The whole system seems to be very well thought out.
The experience of hammock camping is quite different from being in a tent. Like in a tent, you lie on an insulated camping pad (alternatively, you can use an expensive underquilt, but for summer camping I think that’s overkill), but you’re suspended from the ground and you don’t have a lot of room to maneuver around. It kind of envelops you. I found it to be very comfy. I did not experience the sore back I always get tent camping. There is no crawling about on a tent floor. You sit down on the hammock, swing your legs up, close the bug screen and you’re ready to sleep. I found sleeping on my back was best, although I did try on my side for a while. I did very little moving around once I found the right position, and I slept very well. It rained on my last night camping the and hammock and fly kept me comfy and dry.
Set up and take down are easy to do. I learned not to hang the hammock too high in the tree. You want it to be at a comfortable level to sit down and stand up again. For me, putting the straps around the tree at about eye level seemed about right. I found that instead of using my sleeping bag in the usual way, opening it up and putting it on top of me like a blanket worked best in the hammock. The insulated camping pad kept me warm from below. After getting in and out a few times, it was easy to find the most comfy position for sleeping. This system would not be so good for someone who is claustrophobic, but for me it was an improvement on sleeping in a tent.
I stayed in Samuel de Champlain Park, east of North Bay. It’s located where the Amable du Fond River flows into Moore Lake, which flows into the Mattawa River. My musical partner Ted loaned me a beautiful solo canoe, so I could paddle around the lake and do a little (mostly unsuccessful) fishing.
The nearest town to the park is Mattawa, which is located where the Mattawa River flows into the Ottawa. I know you’re thinking, Mattawa – Ottawa, where I have heard that before. If you came up with Big Joe Mufferaw, you’re on the right track.
So who was Big Joe Mufferaw anyway? Joseph Montferrand was born in 1802 and passed in 1864. He was a logger whose life inspired the legend of Big Joe. Eventually, exaggerated folk tales grew around Montferrand, whose name became the anglicized Mufferaw. His folk hero status grew thanks to the song written about him by the late great Stompin’ Tom Connors.
Mattawa is a small town with a large French Canadian community. It is situated where the Mattawa flows into the Ottawa.
While I was in the area, I went scouting for trout streams for future reference.
The Little Jocko is a beautiful trout stream. Below the bridge, it’s slow and deep and you would need a canoe to explore this area. Upstream though, it looks perfect as a walk and wade stream. I pulled out my fly rod and got my feet wet fishing a short stretch upstream from the bridge, but no trout. I so wanted to venture further upstream, but I’m being very careful about doing anything which might damage or slow the healing of my knee, so I didn’t venture past this point. There is a bit of a trail going upstream but it disappears to nothing very quickly. Wading is really the only reasonable way to access this part of the stream. One day I’ll go back and explore upstream.
I’m back home now but it was good to get away for a couple days of camping.