5 questions with a backcountry ranger

Welcome to our “5 Questions” series! We chat with park staff around the province to give you an inside look at what it’s like to work at Ontario Parks.

Jason Lorbetskie has worked as a backcountry ranger in Algonquin Provincial Park for over 17 years. He is currently a Group Leader for Operations South, where his job duties include supervising other rangers, maintaining trails and campsites, and assisting with all facets of the backcountry program.

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Take a walk on the wild side on Lake Superior’s Coastal Trail

Today’s post comes from Carol Dersh, our natural heritage education leader at Lake Superior Provincial Park.

Slippery, steep and rugged sections ahead. . .

…what a fitting description of Lake Superior Provincial Park’s 65 km Coastal Trail.

If you like wild places, rugged hikes, varied terrain, dark night skies, an endless horizon, fewer biting insects and spectacular rocks, this is the trail for you.

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Backcountry fishing in Quetico

For today’s post, we chatted with Trevor Gibb, Superintendent of Quetico Provincial Park (and longtime angling addict!).

You’ve spent the day on the water. It rained all morning, and you spent the afternoon paddling against that strange weather phenomenon, best described as the multi-directional headwind.

Time to make camp, kindle a fire, and relax listening to the crackling logs and sizzling frying pan.

For backcountry campers at Quetico Provincial Park, the tantalizing aroma wafting from that frying pan is the smell of fresh-caught fish.

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Are you ready for the Missinaibi River?

Backcountry-lover Scott Elliott, a Partnership Development Specialist from our main office, shares the story of his nine-day wilderness adventure.

Many parks are easily accessible; you just pack your tent and sleeping bag, hop in the car and roll into your weekend campground.

But some parks require planning, motivation, and a refined skill-set.

Missinaibi Provincial Park is one of those parks.

Continue reading Are you ready for the Missinaibi River?

Your first interior trip

These expert tips will help you stay safe and have fun

All of us need a little solitude now and then. So why not consider heading to the backcountry this summer for a little communing with nature extraordinaire. You might just emerge a changed person, never to camp with the madding crowds again.

No matter how long your trip, by trying something new and embracing your inner explorer, you too can join the legions of long distance backpackers, canoeists and backcountry campers who venture into the backcountry every year.

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How to be a happy winter camper

Guest Blogger: Matt Olsen from Paddle In


Friday January 31, 2014 –I joined two others, packed up some sleds, rented a beautiful canvas tent and stove, and headed off into Algonquin’s interior for five adventure-filled days.

Camping in winter?  Most definitely!! Winter brings about a wonderful change in Ontario Parks and with research and proper planning, you can be a happy winter camper!

Preparation is the most important part of any backcountry trip, even more so on a winter excursion. Gear needs to be checked and re-checked. Winter camping is not the time to skimp or forget certain pieces of gear. I recently purchased a new -30 sleeping bag and when I awoke at 3 am on Sunday morning to temperatures creeping down around -25, I was very grateful for all the preparation I had done to make sure I was nice and toasty while sleeping.

Some things to consider when prepping for an overnight winter camping trip:


Layers! Layers upon layers!

Layering your clothing allows you to shed outer clothing quickly when you start to heat up. Believe me -pulling a sled behind you with all your gear will warm you up very quickly. To break it down even more, this is what you’ll want to equip yourself with:

Base Layer: Synthetics or Merino wool will help wick away moisture from your skin.
Middle Layer: Insulating layer designed to retain body heat. Fleece works well here.
Outer Layer: A waterproof, windproof layer.  Gore-tex products work very well.

Choose your adventure

We chose the beautiful rolling hills of the Western Uplands Trail in Algonquin Provincial Park. While we were aware that this trail is not necessarily suited for a sled and snowshoe trip, we knew we were only traveling a few kilometres to set up base camp. That being said, make sure you pay attention to the time. We spent all day lugging sleds and looking at our surroundings, which meant we had to make a quick camp at the end of the day because it was getting dark. Luckily, we also happened to stop at one of the best areas for a campsite I have ever been on.



Do you have snowshoes? You should!  As I found out early on in the trip while stopped for a snack, if you step off the trail…down you go.  While it was easy going on the snowshoes and along the hard-packed, frozen trail, anywhere else was way too deep to access with just boots. Snowshoes displace your weight evenly allowing you to stay “afloat” on the snow. They are also crucial in setting up camp. Stomp yourself down a nice area to set up your tent, let it freeze for a bit and voila you have a great place where you can walk around outside your tent with just your boots. Nothing like making a quick bathroom break in the middle of the night and finding yourself chest deep in snow in only your long johns…


A roof over your head

We used a wonderful SnowTrekker “hot tent” equipped with a stove. Now some people call this cheating. All I have to say is the extra weight to carry it in was easily made up by the fact that we could dry off all our clothes inside and warm up the tent each morning. WARMTH! We were astounded at how warm a small fire inside the stove could keep our tent. Some words of caution while hot tenting would be: never leave the stove unattended. You don’t want your tent filled with smoke while you are sleeping and you don’t want a fire on your hands! If it’s too cold to not run the stove, simply take turns/shifts and keep a small fire going while you drink a hot chocolate and read a book.  Small reflectors are provided with the stove that stops the snow around the stove from melting and may save any sleeping bags that get too close. Whatever tent you use, make sure you are familiar with it and that you’ve packed all its parts. Forgetting the poles after walking off into the bush would be a drag.
“What did you do for fun out there?”

My favorite question when we got home was this. “What did you do for fun out there?” I thought about this for awhile. You’re going winter camping for the experience- that is the “fun”. As for what we did each day it was simple:

Gather firewood
Snowshoe the trail and surrounding area
Eat!  Carbs, fat and protein! YUM YUM!
Did I mention getting firewood?  

Being winter, it is very easy to find dry standing dead firewood in the bush.


Our experience

Silence! Absolute silence. I wasn’t prepared for how quiet the trip was going to be. We heard the odd Chickadee and Gray Jay, saw lots and lots of snow stories (animal tracks) including moose, deer, and rabbit and were sung to sleep by a plethora of owls each night. The parks are beautiful in the winter I strongly recommend getting out here. That being said, I come to my final point.


Your experience 

You don’t have to camp to enjoy a winter experience. Not ready for an overnight stay on a hiking trail? That’s okay. There are loads of things to do instead. Winter camping isn’t something you should jump right into. Work your way up to it.

Once you feel comfortable enough make the gradual move to overnights. Spend two days or even spend five days enjoying yourself in the parks.

When we returned from the trip someone asked “why do you spend so much time outside?”  I thought about this for a moment and said “The real question would be why do you spend so much time inside?”


Learn more about winter in Ontario Parks: http://www.ontarioparks.com/winter/