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What went wrong? Lessons I Learned Glamping | Mew Lake Yurt | Algonquin Provincial Park



This trip to Mew Lake wasn’t my first time glamping, but, to be honest, Airbnb accommodations are vastly different than staying at an Ontario Parks yurt.

With COVID-19, there are restrictions in place, such as the showers and laundry facilities are unavailable, “[…] check-in/ check-out times may be modified, and some amenities may not be available (e.g., kettles, dishes and linens) at some provincial parks.”

Planning can save you headaches once you arrive, but there are more than a few surprises that can catch you off guard.

Here’s what I learned from my mistakes when glamping at Ontario Parks.

1: Sometimes, the water runs dry.

When I arrived at the Park Office, I discovered no water flowing at Mew Lake! That meant the comfort stations were closed, and the water refill stations in the campground were out of order. I had arrived 3 hours past the estimated time of repair, and it wasn’t until late evening that I found out the water would not be turned back on until morning at the earliest!

The broken water pump was at Lake of Two Rivers, which supplies Mew Lake; this meant the closest source of H2O was either the LOTR store to buy water or driving 10 minutes to Cannisbay Campground to refill water at their taps.

I had not anticipated the water pump issue. Still, I always bring more than I need, so the two frozen 2L water jugs that went in my cooler and four unfrozen 2L containers were enough for drinking and other purposes for a two day, one-night glamping adventure.

What I learned:
Bring extra water.
Be Prepared to ration your H2O.

2: The Wrong Yurt

When it comes to travel, I’m organized. I plan, make spreadsheets, count everything from distance to how much time I need for every aspect of my adventures.

For this trip, I had printed maps and directions and had handwritten instructions and kilometres for the trails and campground. I had studied the route and the campground so I would know where to go once I arrived.

I had checked in at the Mew Lake Park Office and confirmed, one more time, where my yurt is, and I still pulled into the wrong spot. I’m so excited just to be there – I take a dozen photos, walk up to the front door, and it’s locked. I peek inside, and there is no furniture.

I quickly walk over to the campsite address – this is Yurt 40! I’m two spots farther along AND across the road.

What I learned:
Check the number posted at the campsite with your reservation.

3: BBQ Preparedness

It’s mid-September, so I had planned to BBQ my dinner of Lester’s hotdogs, fluffy La Fournier brioche buns, and Miss Vickie’s Chips for my side.

I packed condiments, napkins, fork, knife, spoon, and even a cute charcuterie board to serve myself dinner.

I turned on the BBQ and realized I HAVE NO BBQ UTENSILS!! I had extra aluminum foil for cooking s’mores, so I lay down a half sheet, place my hot dogs on top, and use a butter knife to roll the meat to cook.

The hot dogs blistered on the outside and were cold on the inside, but they look good, don’t they?

Honestly, there might have been BBQ tools in the barbecue’s cabinet, but I forgot to look – I didn’t even think about it until the next day.

What I learned:
Bring BBQ and Cooking Utensils.

4: Campfire Safety

A few weeks before my glamping trip, I made newspaper logs for my campfire as I had read about how wood sold by the parks tends to be damp.

They seemed dry enough, catching fire rather quickly. The outer layers burned beautiful and clean, but once the flames reached the center, my warm little fire became a smoke show. The semi-burnt logs left behind by the previous glampers didn’t catch – and because I didn’t bring a fire poker or even a stick, I couldn’t even try to rearrange to pile to allow for better airflow.

It was time to give up.

It took two full jugs of water to put the fire out safely. If I had not brought extra, I would have lit a fire as I could not refill the water with the pumps down.

What I learned:
Bring a Campfire Poker.
Have enough water on hand to put your fire OUT!

5: S’mores Cones

I tested this S’mores recipe at home; waffle cones stuffed with mini marshmallows, dark chocolate chips, and graham crumbs mixed with butter filling in the cracks. My home versions were so good that I ate through the supplies, making them for my family before the actual trip, so I had to buy more supplies.

As you now know, my campfire never really, you know, took fire, I switched to the BBQ to make the s’mores. I set my aluminum wrapped desserts to heat up on the bbq but forgot to set a timer.

Perhaps 20 minutes had elapsed when I remembered my delicious dessert. I used a fork to roll them off the BBQ onto my wood board.

The cones had collapsed on themselves, and the stuffing had turned to liquid. It was a sad and inedible mess.

What I learned:
Set a timer.
Bring tongs.
Bring oven mitts.

6: Bladder Busters

Most seasoned campers will slow their consumption of liquid past 7 or 8 in the evening to reduce the need for nighttime bathroom calls, but thanks to my salty hot dogs and chips dinner, I could not drink enough to slake my thirst.

I downed three tall cans of Peach Green Tea, from supper until sleepy time, plus who knows how much water, so I woke up needing the facilities more than a few times. Before I returned to bed, I guzzled even more water as my thirst was constant through the night.

What I learned:
High sodium equals thirst.
Only sip water at night, when needed.
Reducing liquid consumption equals better sleep.

7: Where are the bathrooms?

I studied the map and read all the yurt details, such as how far it is to the bathroom and the nearest water faucet’s distance. There’s a vault toilet on the map – see it between yurts 34-36-38 and 54? – I assumed there was access off the main path that passes by 38 and that I would find it.

I walked a total of 6km, back and forth between the vault toilet past the beach and my home for the night, Yurt 39.

I made a point of going by Yurt 54 and taking the pathway past the vault toilets, trying to spot the way to the pits, but I never saw it. I asked nearby campers, but they would only direct me to the (out of order) comfort station.

I had an extra-large zip-close bag with cat litter should I have an emergency need during the trip, and with the amount of liquid I guzzled that night, this emergency loo was the best thing I had packed.

What I learned:
Emergency zip bag loos (with cat litter) are great, but a portable bucket loo would have been better.

8: The Fireplace

I chose Yurt 39 because it has a propane fireplace, so even in the event of power loss, I would have heat, so I didn’t check my sleeping bag’s thermal ratings, but I did bring two of them, plus an insulated blanket.

Before calling it a night, I set the fireplace thermostat then crawled under my blankets for a well-earned sleep. A few hours later, I awoke to a freezing yurt as the power had gone out to the entire campground.

Perhaps it was the cold air, but my mind was not working clearly – I should have flicked the manual switch on the fireplace, but instead, I stumbled around, layering up my clothes and the sleeping bags for maximum warmth. Topped off with a warm and fuzzy hat, I managed to fall back asleep.

Next time, I’ll remember to turn on the propane fireplace manually.

What I learned:
Propane fireplaces have a manual switch for use in power outages.

9: Keeping Warm

While I didn’t freeze under my pile of sleeping bags, if I had not brought extra gear, it would have made for an incredibly cold, and perhaps, a danger to my health.

I wasn’t toasty warm, barely comfortable would describe my sleeping experience, but I survived.

When staying in yurts with electric heaters, then proper planning for power loss is essential. Even yurts with propane fireplaces can let you down – whether the tank runs dry or human error like me – so have a plan to keep warm on cold nights when the heat goes out.

What I learned:
Don’t assume the power and heat won’t fail.
Use Sleeping Bags rated for the season of travel to stay warm no matter what.

So, this wraps up the lessons I learned during my first time glamping at an Ontario Parks yurt.

Hopefully, this is the worst experience I’ll ever have, but one thing is for sure, I won’t make these same mistakes a second time – at least I hope!

Algonquin Provincial Park 📍 Traditional lands of the Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ, and, Omàmìwininìwag (Algonquin)

Don’t forget to Pin my misadventures in Algonquin Provincial Park!

Take a stroll down Algonquin Provincial Park’s Spruce Bog Boardwalk in this photoblog.

#notsponsored – This trip to Algonquin was an out-of-my-pocket adventure! I’ve wanted to explore the park for years, and I finally did – with some colourful memories that I’ll never forget! I hope you enjoyed it! I’ve already started booking next year’s Ontario Parks adventures – I can’t wait to get back out and explore Ontario’s wild spaces!


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