My friend Cheryl and I headed to Killarney Provincial Park at the end of September with high hopes for our 8-day canoe trip starting at the George Lake access point, where we would paddle a route that included many new-to-me lakes. Cheryl and I had previously started a trip at this access point, but that was our 8-day, 90k hike of the entire La Cloche Silhouette Trail – we had never paddled in George Lake!
Day 1: George Lake to Freeland Lake to Killarney Lake
We were on the water by 2:30 PM, on a day that was rainy, foggy, and cool (high of 15C?). Nevertheless, the scenery was beautiful. We started out with Cheryl in the stern of her canoe, and me in the bow, but we would change that up over the course of the trip, sharing the power and steering responsibilities. We also shared the navigation, with me using my new Unlostify map, and Cheryl using the official park map.
Our first portage of the trip was a very short 50m into Freeland Lake, so we decided to carry the packs, and then go back for the canoe. However, our goal for the trip was to single carry (i.e. carry everything at once) all portages except for the tiniest ones, something we had never managed to do on a trip together before. In fact, I had never single carried on any canoe trip, but with a 3km portage on this one, it was a necessity!!
We paddled through Freeland Lake and then portaged 430m into Killarney Lake, where we would stay the night. We didn’t have our eyes on a specific site, but we hoped to be fairly close to the portage to Threenarrows Lake, which we would tackle the next morning. As it turned out, we passed 2 unoccupied sites and then several occupied ones, which made us wonder whether we should backtrack to one of the empty ones we had seen, or go further and hope that there was a site available and we wouldn’t have to paddle all the way back later. We pushed on, paddling against the wind, and were relieved to find that site #24 was free! Phew. It had been raining all day long, and our wildlife sightings for the day included only a single frog!
We set up our campsite, putting up a 2-man tent, a small tarp for a dining shelter, and throwing a rope over a tree branch for our bear bag. This would be our routine when we reached each campsite. Then we boiled water for hot chocolate, added Baileys to it, and enjoyed a yummy energy square alongside it. Later we ate “Thanksgiving on the Trail” (essentially dehydrated chicken, with stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberries and gravy) before climbing into the tent for the night.
Overnight, there were thunderstorms for more than 4 hours, but we were fortunate in that the thunder and lightning never came close (though the rain did!).
Distance paddled: 7.96 km
Distance portaged: 50m + 430m
Day 2: Killarney Lake to Threenarrows Lake
After a cup of gatorade, mug of tea, and bowl of hot cereal, we packed up our campsite and set off for the 3k portage to Threenarrows Lake. We had no idea how eventful our day would be!
It was a short 700m paddle to get to the portage. According to the time estimates on my Unlostify map, the portage would take us 2 hours if we single carried (we assumed that we were “typical” paddlers, not “relaxing” or “speedy” ones). This would mean that the person carrying the canoe would take the lighter pack, and the other person would take the heavier one (an uncomfortable, non-ergonomic canoe pack) plus the paddles and my camelbak.
Getting ready for 3k portage.
Taking a break on the 3k portage.
Cheryl took the canoe and her backpack, knowing that I was willing to switch part way if need be. We had already decided before we started walking that we would definitely be taking a few breaks along the way! This portage starts with a steep uphill, but then isn’t too bad really. It had streams, rocks, hills, slippery sections, creek crossings and tree obstacles to navigate. And there was rain at times. And thunder. We stopped two times for a few minutes to free ourselves from the packs and boat, and then continued on our way. At one point, Cheryl slipped and fell on a wet rock, but thankfully, she was not injured (she even managed to hold onto the boat). At the end of the portage, there is a short paddle across a small lake before another 430m portage! But once we were done the second one, we were into Killarney Lake…and facing a paddle into the wind…and whitecaps!
At this point, I was in the stern. We approached a narrowing of the lake and felt the wind increase in strength. The waves were big, and the wind was pushing the bow to the right. We had hoped to go through the channel and head left. We paddled as hard as we could, but we could not turn the bow dead straight or to the left. The waves were hitting us broadside and the canoe was rocking. I briefly considered letting us get blown to the right shore where there was a bit of an eddy, and trying again to go through the channel. Instead, we allowed ourselves to float backwards, and decided to paddle hard (from a spot with less wind/waves) back to the left and into an eddy there, where we could regroup and decide on our next steps. We did not want to flip!! One idea was to make the little peninsula our campsite for the night (we wondered if it might even be the campsite we were looking for). Cheryl got out of the boat and scouted out the peninsula. She proposed that we portage our stuff over it to the other side, where there was a calm area for us to get back into the canoe and paddle around the left corner to the campsite (she had found it – but it wasn’t on the peninsula). We agreed that if we couldn’t paddle around the corner to the left (into the wind), we would instead turn the boat and ride the waves to another campsite on the other side (a different part of the lake).
Thankfully, we had no trouble paddling around the point (we weren’t trying to fight our way through a narrow channel), and so we landed the canoe at the campsite and were grateful to be done paddling for the day. I’ve never been defeated by wind and waves before! We later saw three guys in a canoe make it through the channel, none of them wearing lifejackets!
After setting up our campsite and hanging some things to dry, we sat down to have a snack, and were amazed at all the little bits of vegetation that were being pelted at us by the wind! Small boughs were flying, as were little bits like twigs. The wind was something else! We kept our eyes peeled for trees about to fall. Thankfully, none did at our site. Later in the trip, we saw many huge trees freshly fallen, both on campsites and on portages. It wasn’t until our trip was done and we were back at the George Lake office that we heard from a Park Ranger about a tornado in Ottawa that same day!!
We “swam” to feel somewhat clean again, but the water was cold and air temperature not really conducive to warming up post-swim, so we just went in part way and splashed ourselves!
The first time I opened the thunderbox lid, a salamander ran across the seat and fell inside! I apologized and hoped I wasn’t peeing on it.
At some point, Cheryl spotted a glove sticking up from the ground, and was very relieved to not find a body with it!
Distance paddled: 1.35 km
Distance portaged: 3110m + 400m
Day 3: Threenarrows Lake
We had planned to stay 3 nights on Threenarrows Lake, but hadn’t decided before the trip began whether we would change campsites every night, or stay put. Based on weather forecasts from my Garmin InReach (which communicates using satellites – no cell signal required), it looked like Day 3 would be a better weather day than Day 4, so we decided to travel on Day 3 to a different campsite – and get ourselves closer to the west end of the lake, so that we would have less distance to travel when we started moving again. This turned out to be our sunniest day of the whole trip.
We slept in, and weren’t on the water until 11:30 AM. We headed west for site 45, then paddled in an upside down U shape, finally reaching site 46, which we briefly considered taking. But we decided to continue paddling against the wind (the majority of the trip, we paddled against the wind!), and to hopefully be able to stay on site 47 or 48. We were in luck! Both were empty, so we took site 48, the closest one to “the Pig” – the steepest portage in the park, which we would tackle on Day 5. We decided that Day 4 would be a “stay put” day.
But before we reached our campsite for the night, we had an interesting encounter with a float plane! We were in the water near site H21 (a backpacking site) having a snack when Cheryl noted that a float plane seemed to be coming straight for us. In fact it did land in the lake, and proceeded to zoom past us through a narrow channel that we would soon be paddling in. Once we got around the corner, we saw that it was at a cabin – it had either dropped people or stuff (or both) off. We watched it take off again (safely out of its way) before we started paddling.
Before setting up our campsite, we ate lunch on the rocks by the shore, and tried to warm our feet in the sun at the same time! Then we set the campsite up, and gathered wood for a fire.
I used my stick stove to boil water for hot chocolate, and then we built a fire to make pizzas. They were delicious, with pepperoni, bacon, cheese, pineapple, peppers, broccoli, mushrooms and onions. YUM!
We saw a beaver swim by our site while we were sitting at the water’s edge, but didn’t see any people all day long!
After getting ready for bed, I climbed into the tent. Cheryl was part-way to the thunderbox when I heard a screech, a howl, and then the unmistakeable sound of a Barred Owl. I yelled to Cheryl, “You okay out there?” She was. We still don’t know what happened – had it been me, I would not have continued on to the bathroom on my own! We heard Barred Owls again multiple times that evening and overnight, but it never sounded as close as it did the first time.
Distance paddled: 8.73 km
Distance portaged: 0 km
Day 4: Threenarrows Lake
Since we weren’t changing campsites on Day 4, and it was quite cool out (down to 3C with the windchill according to my InReach!), we decided to go for a walk after breakfast to stay warm. We stuck close to the shore and headed in the direction of the Pig. We picked a path through the woods, climbing over branches, under tree limbs, around bushes etc. for about a kilometre. Then we turned back. Just before reaching our campsite I spotted a jaw bone on the forest floor. I’m not sure what animal it belonged to.
We had a snack, then started a fire to try to warm up. It was too cold to just stand around. Unfortunately, it was too windy to get much heat from the fire. We couldn’t sit too close to it for fear of embers burning our clothes – unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened to me. I felt something burning my leg, and brushed the ember off my rain pants, but not before a small hole was burned into them. My pants underneath didn’t get burned, but now sport a small white patch.
We had mugs of hot water to drink (I was rationing the hot chocolate, and didn’t feel like tea), and then went into the woods to have lunch, where it was a little more sheltered from the wind. We sat against big trees for backrests, facing the thunderbox just a few metres away. Not exactly scenic.
We then climbed into the tent to try to get warm. Despite being inside my sleeping bag and wearing a winter hat and gloves, I was still cold! I wondered if I would be cold in the night (I had packed my summer sleeping bag, not realizing the temperature was going to drop so much).
It was in the tent that we first started talking about the possibility of shortening our trip, because the weather forecast looked bleak – 80% chance of heavy rain for the last couple of days of our trip, and continuing cool temperatures. We studied our maps and tried to figure out how we could change our route. We didn’t want to stay on lakes that we hadn’t reserved, because that may mean someone with a reservation wouldn’t be able to find a site. This is more of a problem on small lakes – on large lakes, provincial parks often leave a few sites unreserved. Thankfully, I had my InReach, so what ensued was a 4 hour+ confusing text conversation with my husband, to see if he could change our route. Messages were being sent or received out of order, so it was funny at times (and frustrating). I learned my lesson: start each text with a time stamp! The Ontario Parks reservation line told Alasdair that once we started our trip we couldn’t change our route, but when he called the park directly, the Park Ranger was very helpful and got us the lakes we wanted!
At some point during this conversation we forced ourselves out of the tent to make dinner (as Cheryl would say, the answer to the question, “Should we go in the tent?” is always no… because if you do go in, you never want to leave!). After dinner, we climbed back into the tent for the night! Once we knew that our reservation had been changed, we could go to sleep!
Distance portaged: 0 km
Distance hiked: 1.95 km
Day 5: Threenarrows Lake to Artist Lake to Muriel Lake to O.S.A. Lake
After packing up our campsite, we set out for the Pig, a short paddle away. We had walked this portage before, when we hiked the full length of the La Cloche Silhouette Trail, but I’m pretty sure at that time we were glad we weren’t carrying a canoe!
We decided that I would wear Cheryl’s pack and carry the canoe, but as soon as I got the canoe up, I realized there was a problem – I couldn’t tilt the canoe back, which meant I could only see the ground immediately in front of my feet. I walked for a short time like that, then realized it just wouldn’t work! Turns out with our slight height difference, or maybe just how the pack sits on me, it was too high, preventing the canoe from pivoting. Cheryl removed everything from the top of the pack, put it into hers, and bingo! I could walk and tilt the canoe and see in front of me! Kind of important if you don’t want to walk into big rocks, trees (!) or people.
When walking this portage, you essentially climb the first half, then descend the second half. The ground is rocky – small and large rocks – uneven, wet in places, and very steep! The pictures don’t quite do it justice. I took a break part-way down, and then stopped again before reaching the end and turning to start the 650m portage to Artist Lake!
We paddled through Artist Lake, where we reached a small waterfall at the other end. We decided to carry the packs first (140m), then return for the canoe. But we didn’t walk far before we realized that we couldn’t possibly be on the portage, despite having walked on a well worn path. It ended, and we were forced to cross the creek. We continued along the other bank, but it too seemed like a very weird portage. And the end was a steep climb up a bank. We wondered how we’d manage with the canoe. We realized that we must have missed the portage, and in fact, we did. We found the portage sign at the end and it directed us a different way. We hadn’t seen a portage sign when we arrived at the waterfall, but we weren’t surprised – not all portages seemed to be marked.
From here we paddled a very short distance to another short portage, which would take us into Muriel Lake.
We paddled through Muriel Lake, did yet another portage, and then found ourselves on the shore of O.S.A. Lake – the sun had come out, but so had the wind! And you guessed it, we would be paddling against the wind as we tried to find a campsite. There were 4 campsites on the west side of the lake (where we were), and only 1 on the east side. We wanted to stay at the east side if we could, because then we’d have less distance to travel the next day, but we also didn’t want to paddle the entire way across the lake only to find that the site was taken! We stopped at one of the island sites and almost decided to stay – there were whitecaps on the lake and we were pretty much done with fighting wind for the day. But, we checked the weather, and the winds were expected to be the same in the morning, plus rain, so we decided to go for it and hope that the site across the lake was empty! As we paddled across, the whitecaps continued and a couple of times the waves broke over the bow of the boat. As we got closer to the site, we saw something that looked like a canoe… we hoped that it wasn’t. Eventually, we could see that it was a rock. Phew. We arrived at the site, couldn’t see a canoe, tent, or person, and said, “Hello?” No response. We had a site!
This was our most scenic site of the trip, with a view of the mountains across the lake. It also had 2 private beaches, one on either side of the site. After setting up I made us some Baileys hot chocolate, and then we sat on the rocks at the shore planning future Killarney canoe trips! We made really yummy egg wraps for dinner, which also had tons of veggies, bacon, cheese, and salsa. As we were eating, the wind was blowing dark clouds in, so we made sure we were ready for the oncoming rain. We had already made ourselves an awesome kitchen shelter, complete with backrests!
It turns out we were in the tent for the night before the rain came.
Day 6: O.S.A. Lake to Killarney Lake to Freeland Lake to George Lake
We awoke to more rain on our last day. We cooked our breakfast and ate it under our kitchen shelter, then packed as much as we could under the tarp. Then it was time to finish packing the tent and tarp, and set out for the last time.
We had two options for portaging into Killarney Lake, and we chose the one with a shorter portage plus a beaver dam lift-over (rather than the one with the longer portage).
We encountered a few canoes as we headed out, and then a large group of about 10 canoes of students near the end. We had two portages to tackle on our last day, one into Freeland Lake and then one into George Lake. We were travelling at a similar pace of two men that we had met a few days earlier, so we chatted with them for a bit at one of the portages. They made me want to go paddle in Alaska! While we had very few wildlife encounters this trip, they saw 2 wolves, a bear, moose, otters and some kind of weasel! They highly recommended that we paddle the more northerly parts of the park.
It rained off and on while we paddled, but when we arrived at the George Lake access point, it had stopped. It wasn’t the weather or trip we had hoped for, but we still enjoyed ourselves!
After the canoe was back on the vehicle and all our stuff was packed away, we headed to the park office to get a refund for the nights we wouldn’t stay at Killarney. That’s when we heard about the crazy wind storm that blew through the campground the same day we were being pelted in the face with tree bits. Apparently the campground and office lost power for 60 hours, and downed trees in campsites meant that park staff had to cut them so that cars could be freed from campsites.
Once we left the park, we headed to the town of Killarney for fish and chips at Herberts Fisheries. I had never been to the town, but Cheryl had. We walked into the building and who did we see but Mike Ranta, a modern day canoe explorer (he has paddled across the country by canoe – with his dog Spitzy). He plans to do it again to raise awareness for Canadian vets. We enjoyed our fish and chips, then headed home.
Killarney, we’ll be back!
I remember this October 2013 trip for the glowing eyes in the night, the “Amazing Race” adventure, and paddling in strong winds and waves! My friend Cheryl and I had never been to Killarney Provincial Park before, but we had heard great things.
As we drove to the park on a Thursday morning, the sun began to disappear, clouds covered the sky, and we wondered when we would get rained on. We made a quick stop at the French River Provincial Park to eat our lunch, and then we were on our way again. At the Bell Lake access point, more than 400 km from home, we went into the Killarney Outfitters office to get our camping permit. We were immediately asked how we enjoyed our trip! Surely we looked too clean, dry, and chipper to be heading home? Permit in hand, we got the canoe down to the water, loaded everything in, and set out, with me in the stern.
We had chosen the popular Bell Lake/Three Mile Lake/Balsam Lake/David lake/Bell Lake circular route, because it also gave us an opportunity to hike to the highest point around – Silver Peak, part of the La Cloche Mountain Range (which apparently used to be higher than the Rocky Mountains out west). Our first campsite was to be on Little Bell Lake, a very small lake with just one campsite on it, and only a short portage (130 m) from Balsam Lake. We learned quickly that you need eagle eyes to spot the portage and campsite signs at Killarney! The signs are significantly smaller than the ones at other parks. Before we got to Little Bell Lake, we had to portage 40 m from Three Mile Lake into Balsam Lake – the portage was on an old marine railway, which apparently used to be like a moving carpet that you could put your boat on… and watch it portage itself! That little mechanism is no longer in action. At the start of our paddling, the lakes were super smooth, with no wind and awesome reflections in the water. That changed when the light rain started. It then rained off and on for the entire time we were at Killarney.
We arrived at our campsite after 2 hours of paddling (a distance of about 8 1/2 km), and set up the tent and the bear bag to hang our food – we used the “Reg method” for the first time, which is my go to method now. It took 5 minutes, used just 1 bag, 1 long rope, no pulleys or carabiners, and was dead easy to do! Unfortunately it rained while we were cooking our tortilla pizzas (with rehydrated dehydrated veggies and pineapple), but they were delicious. I also discovered – while prepping dinner – that we had failed to pack forks, knives and spoons (the guilty party shall remain nameless)! I did have a Swiss Army Knife, and Cheryl had a knife too, so all was not lost. We also had a big stirring spoon and a spatula. But, we spent the next few days experimenting with sticks as chopsticks, stir spoons, scoops, and knives! Cheryl lit a 1-match fire later, which we would have enjoyed more had it not been so wet out! That night when it was pitch dark out (no moon, no stars), I spotted what I thought was a 5-Lined Skink while I was sitting on the loo, but later at home I realized (with some photo comparisons) that in fact it was an Eastern Red-backed Salamander. It didn’t seem too bothered by my headlamp, or later my camera!
On Friday morning we had an awesome pancake breakfast with rehydrated dehydrated bananas, peaches and kiwi, Chai tea and gatorade. We packed up, and with Cheryl in the stern this time, we headed back to the portage to Balsam Lake, and then paddled our way to David Lake. At the 630 m portage we met 2 girls who were studying at Laurentian College in Sudbury and taking an Outdoor Recreation Management program – or something to that effect. They had to do a 3-night 4-day canoe trip before they could graduate. However, based on the STUFF they had with them, they clearly hadn’t yet learned how to pack lightly. One of the girls did carry one of our paddles and a pelican case, since she had a free hand. Getting under the boat with the canoe pack on was fun, and the portage started straight uphill, but it wasn’t bad. It turns out the girls were also hoping to camp close to the trailhead for the hike to Silver Peak, since they intended to do the hike the next day as well. When we saw the girls the next day near the top of Silver Peak, we found out that they saw a bear just after we left them (sleeping on a rock)!
We paddled David Lake toward the trailhead, getting increasingly concerned as all the campsites were taken (we had a permit to camp on the lake that night, but not on a specific site). We were really hoping that we didn’t get to the far end of the lake only to discover that we had to paddle 4 km back (into the wind!) to find a site. And we knew that the girls would be behind us, also looking for a site. We decided to forego lunch in favour of finding a site, and our determined paddling and race against the clock (we eventually saw their canoe behind us) made us feel like competitors on the Amazing Race! Finally we saw what we thought was a site, but it said that it was NOT a site and we should NOT camp there. We continued, passing a few more occupied sites, until finally we found a free site! We weren’t sure why it didn’t have a campsite sign visible from the water, but we pulled everything out of the boat, put the boat on shore, and breathed a collective sigh of relief! And then… we could see the girls’ boat… and at our site, we saw trail markers… that’s odd, we said… we quickly realized we were on a backpacking site, which we did NOT have a permit for! Survival instincts kicked in. We also felt badly that the girls may not have a site… but not badly enough to not take one ourselves! We quickly debated staying there anyway, or putting everything back in the canoe and heading further down to the lake to the last possible site (which we couldn’t see). Thankfully, the last site was free and we took it. We saw the girls paddling in the other direction (not sure where they were going). We had a site and we were very relieved!!! We put up our tent and bear bag, and then we had our lunch at 5 PM – a yummy carrot raisin pepper peanut salad – eaten with chopsticks, followed by some delicious apple crisp. I used the rehydrating apples (in very hot water) to warm myself up!
We gathered wood, and had a great fire! While Cheryl was filtering water and I was keeping her company at the shore, an otter swam up out of the water about 10 feet from me, stood on its back legs and took a good look at us. Then it ran up the hill away from us. (I had seen what I thought was likely an otter on the first day too, but while we were paddling and it was scampering up a rock on shore.) That night, I was almost at the loo – in the complete dark – when my headlamp caught glowing eyeballs not too far away! Coyote? Wolf? Fox? Bear? Moose? Do I stay to pee?? I did, and the thing clearly saw me, because it moved a bit higher up the hill. I walked back to the campfire very quickly and told Cheryl that I wasn’t going to the bathroom alone again that night!! It was freaky! (And maybe it was just a raccoon! But it seemed higher off the ground…. )
Saturday morning it was quite windy. We had an awesome oatmeal breakfast (with nuts, raisins, and rehydrated dehydrated fruit) with Chai tea and gatorade, and then headed for the trailhead to hike 5.2 km up to Silver Peak. It was a short paddle there, and when we arrived there were 2 other canoes pulled up on shore. The trail was well marked with little signs, but in some places they used big rock piles to mark the route. When we were nearly at the top, a group coming down asked us, “Did you see the bear?” Apparently we were the only group going up who hadn’t seen it. We kept our eyes open, and as we made the final turn up the hill, we heard that group yelling at the bear “Go away bear!” They were loud! A few minutes before meeting that group, we had heard another group (around 15 men and teenage boys) yell something but we figured it was because they reached the top… later we realized it might have been them yelling at the bear. In any case, we got to the top, and as we arrived we met the 2 girls from the day before heading down (being “escorted” by 2 guys they met at the top) – because they too had seen the bear. I forgot to ask them where they found a campsite the night before!! We looked around, took some pictures, accidentally discovered a geocache, and then had our lunch before heading down. Of course the rain started pretty much as we arrived at the top! While eating our lunch 3 women reached the top, one carrying bear spray (Cheryl had some too), one carrying a fog horn, and one a massive knife. The one with the knife said she had no idea what she would do with it, but her husband made her take it!
We started our descent knowing that a bear was in the area, and it didn’t take long before I spotted it! We backed up, talked so the bear knew we were there, Cheryl pulled the bear spray out of its holster, and we waited for the bear to make a move. It was happily eating, but did eventually cross the path back towards the way we had come (uphill). Unfortunately, we lost sight of it, and didn’t want to keep walking because there was a big mound of earth that we couldn’t see over or around… and the bear could be right behind it…. eventually we did proceed, and saw that the bear wasn’t behind the mound – it was sitting or standing with its bum in a little den (at the base of a tree) watching us! The bear really didn’t seem bothered by us, so no bear spray was deployed! Just before arriving back at the canoe we decided to check out Boundary Lake, so we walked about 500 m and had our snack there. It was cold so we didn’t stay long. We walked back to the trailhead and paddled back to our campsite, and on the way passed very close to a man who was slowly – very slowly – going into the water in his white boxers! His friend said that he had intended to get in before we got there! Back at our site we gathered more wood, had rehydrated dehydrated minestrone soup, and fresh baked corn bread for dinner. Later we had chocolate pudding and Baileys. Yum.
On Sunday we awoke to rain, and decided to pack up the tent and put everything under our tarps while we had our no-cook breakfast (homemade bran muffins and dehydrated applesauce – eaten like fruit leather – with gatorade). We had another windy paddle, but not quite as windy as the day before. At the first portage (210 m), Cheryl had a go at portaging the canoe, which left me to carry the huge pack, 3 paddles, and 2 pelican cases. At the 2nd portage (705 m), we were just pulling the boat out of the water when a fleet of canoes arrived – the group of 15 or so hikers from the day before, and I took the opportunity to ask for help to stand up with that huge pack on. Two men quickly ran over – “How long have you been sitting like that?” one said, “3 days?!” – let me tell you, it made standing up EASY! Part way through the portage Cheryl and I switched, so that I took the boat and she got the rest of the stuff. I was hoping that when I got to the end there would be at least one of the big group there and able to help me get the canoe off (I haven’t mastered that part solo yet). I was lucky! I got to the end and asked for help – 2 different guys jumped up, took the boat right off of me (I only asked for help for them to take the weight off one end) and asked where I wanted it – I said anywhere, so they put it right in the water for me! For the rest of the paddle back to the van it was pouring rain, and we were relieved when we arrived, knowing that we would soon be in clean and dry clothes (left in the van)!
All told we paddled/portaged/hiked about 42.2 km. Despite the rain, it was a great trip!
Do hiking, canoeing, backcountry camping or car camping force you to face your fears? In this guest post, my backcountry camping partner Cheryl explains her mental battles. She wrote this after our 8-day, 90k hike along the La Cloche Silhouette Trail at Killarney Provincial Park.
I truly believe this hike was equal amounts mental and physical. Maybe more mental.
And it started before I put one boot on the trail.
In the days leading up to our trip, my brain was overloaded with all possible “what ifs”, each involving various degrees of plausibility. What if I twisted an ankle four days in. What if a bear ate our food. What if someone got sick. What if a monster serpent of Loch Ness proportions emerged from Three Narrows and swallowed Kyra whole, leaving me alone and without the Personal Locator Beacon, that was, in an ironic twist wrought with chapter-ending suspense, carried by … Kyra.
You get the idea.
At night, in the tent, I would listen to podcasts that I had downloaded at the last minute, to distract my mind from the next day’s hike.
The words, “almost 30-metre vertical descent”, printed in bold lettering on our map to describe a steep section of trail after H21, weighed on my mind for the first three days.
This trip, more than any others I’ve done, taught me to “be” in the moment. Breathe. Experience. Enjoy the journey. I reminded myself to do this throughout the day.
Kyra is right: I’m not a fan of heights.
Sometimes, in the midst of descending a steep, rocky section of the trail near the top of a mountain peak, and fighting a heavy pack that always seemed to push you forward, looking out into the distance was scary.
I learned to focus on the path in front of me. One step. Then another. And maybe, in a moment of either planned courage or unfortunate miscalculation, I’d sneak a peek at the stunning view that extended below my feet.
Some days were long, and we were exhausted by the time we reached camp. I think the human body, and the inner spirit, is designed to just keep going, when there’s no other viable option available, like asking Kyra for a piggy back out.
I’m very proud of our accomplishment. And, oddly, I am both relieved that I’m home, and sad that I don’t have one more day in front of me, in Killarney.
In order to reduce the weight of our backpacks as much as possible for our 8-day, 90k hike of the entire length of the La Cloche Silhouette Trail at Killarney Provincial Park, we cut our “kitchen” down to what we considered the bare essentials.
2 x 325 ml MSR bottles, one filled to maximum fill line, and the other filled to the cap
1 Swiss army knife (not used)
1 pocket knife (not used for kitchen)
biodegradable dish soap
3-4 coffee filters in case water was murky (not used)
2 large ziploc bags marked for 2L of water
chlorine dioxide water treatment drops
2 water bladders (2 L size)
1 waterproof bear bag with bell on it
1 waterproof bear bag without a bell on it (not used, because all the food fit into one bag)
rope for hanging bear bag
homemade tarp plus thin lightweight rope
We had everything we needed! My mug did triple duty for gatorade, tea/coffee, and measuring liquids (I had marked it with permanent marker in 1/4 cup increments), and Cheryl’s Nalgene did quadruple duty for gatorade, tea/coffee, a hot water bottle and measuring liquids.
We left behind some things that we used to bring, like a lightweight sink, forks, knives and plates!
In March I posted the menu for my upcoming 8-day hiking trip at Killarney Provincial Park. My friend Cheryl and I planned to hike the entire La Cloche Silhouette Trail, and prepared all of our food months in advance.
For us the food is an important part of the trip! We enjoy getting together to plan out the menu, and to decide who is going to bring what. Then it’s time to buy what we need, prepare it, get it all together, sort it into meals/days, and put it in the freezer until our trip!
The original post I did on the menu drew lots of feedback. Many people were interested in how it all worked out. I can now tell you that it worked out great!!
At the last minute, Cheryl added 6 or 8 instant coffee packets, as well as 8 electrolyte tablets to add to her water bladder.
We both started our hike with a granola bar in our pocket, one that wasn’t part of our original menu! Consequently, we didn’t eat our bedtime snack. We started a bag of “leftover food”.
At lunch, we only ate a few of the nuts, as we had enough food without them. We put the nuts into our leftover food bag. We also had a very small amount of bannock left over from lunch (31g, weighed at home), which went into the same bag. That night, my stomach was a little “off”, but Cheryl ate about 1/4 of the 1st night’s bedtime snack. We put day 2’s bedtime snack with the leftovers.
We both felt that there was too much oatmeal for breakfast, but later on we were happy to have eaten it all. We had a tiny bit of cornbread left over at lunch (36g), but ate everything else as planned.
Everything eaten as planned.
Everything eaten as planned. Poached leftover chocolate treat from a bedtime snack to make “specialty coffee”.
Everything eaten as planned. I had my first night’s bedtime snack as well. Poached leftover chocolate treat from a bedtime snack to make “specialty coffee”.
Everything eaten as planned. Poached leftover chocolate treat from a bedtime snack to make “specialty coffee”.
Added leftover fruit from bedtime snack to apple crisp at breakfast. We arrived at our vehicle with our afternoon snack not yet eaten. We did, however, eat them on the way home!
So in the end, the only thing we didn’t eat was the nuts from lunch on day 2, and Cheryl’s lunchtime gatorade from day 8.
We did wonder, however, whether we should have packed a meal or two extra, in case we were delayed for any reason and had to spend another night. Do you pack extra meals?
Finally, we used about 6 L of water per day, a combination of water that we drank in our water bladders, water used to make gatorade, tea and coffee, and water used to rehydrate or cook our food. With the exception of cooking eggs twice and baking bannock and cornmeal once each, all of our meal preparation involved simply boiling water. We estimated that we used approximately 597 ml of white gas in our MSR Dragonfly stove.
We were happy with all of our meals and snacks! There wasn’t a single one that we wouldn’t want to have again. A few of my favourites were our day 4 dinner (pasta hit the spot!), our day 7 breakfast (apricot granola) and our pizza gorp! Yum!
After 2 previous 4-day hiking trips along the La Cloche Silhouette Trail at Killarney Provincial Park (1st trip 2 days in clockwise, 2 days out, and 2nd trip 2 days in counterclockwise, 2 days out), I knew that I wanted to hike the entire trail in one go. My friend Cheryl and I did some research and finally settled on an 8-day route from May 5-12 (after ice out but before the black fly season!). While most people seem to hike it in less time (some in 3 days!), we wanted to actually enjoy ourselves and not experience a torturous backpacking trip. This would be our longest one to date. We booked the campsites in December, but couldn’t reserve for the first night because reservations weren’t accepted for dates earlier than May 6. Thankfully, when we arrived at the park around noon, our preferred first night’s site was available!
The La Cloche Silhouette Trail is challenging, rewarding and beautiful. There are constant ups and downs, including some difficult ascents and descents. For more background information on the trail, check out the Killarney Outfitters site.
Shortcut to the full slideshow. Click on the first picture, and then on the little “i” so you can read the picture descriptions.
Despite cutting back as much stuff as possible, our packs still weighed between 45 and 50 pounds each at the start of our trip (including 2L of water per pack).
Time stopped (to admire the view, catch our breath, have a snack or lunch, chat with other hikers or canoeists, take a pee break!): unknown (did not track until day 3)
Hiking speed: 3.3 km/h
Highlight of the day: treacherous approach to the campsite
On our first day, we hit the trail by 12:45 PM, under clear sunny skies and temperatures close to 20 degrees Celsius. We had expected to find a bit of snow on the trails (based on reports of trail conditions at Algonquin Provincial Park), but only spotted small patches here and there. We crossed 5-10 streams, but never had to remove our boots and socks to cross in sandals (as we had to last year). We also crossed one very large beaver dam, just one of many beaver dam crossings along the trail. Part way up “the pig” (the steepest portage in the park), we turned onto the 500m side trail to our campsite. We somehow missed the end of the side trail, instead picking our way along the side of a cliff dangerously close to the water rather than hiking along the cliff top. During our hike we saw a heron, turtles, frogs, a grouse, a muskrat and a butterfly. By the time we arrived at our campsite, I had a blister on my right heel. We set up our tent, found a tree suitable for hanging our food in a bear bag, threw a rock over it (tied to our rope), and made our dinner. We were beat, and had no interest in gathering wood for a campfire! All we burned was a piece of parchment from our dinner! We realized days later that we should have been burning things as we went along instead of carrying them (e.g. toilet paper that we used on drippy noses). A beaver swam past our campsite. There were spring peepers close by, very loud for a time, and then all of a sudden becoming quiet. Each night we read a description of the section we had hiked that day, and looked at highlights for the next day’s hike. Before climbing into the tent for the night, we heated up a cup of water for Cheryl to massage her sore butt (pre-trip injury), and continued to do this every night. Overnight she either heard an owl or heard Stuart McLean talking about an owl on a Vinyl Cafe podcast!
Day 2: H7 (Topaz Lake) to H17 (Three Narrows Lake)
Distance: 12.0 km
Time hiking: 3 hours 46 min
Time stopped: unknown (did not track until day 3)
Hiking speed: 3.2 km/h
Highlight of the day: “swimming” in Three Narrows Lake
On our first morning waking up at Killarney, we packed up everything in our tent before getting out of it. I took down the bear bag, and while Cheryl packed up the tent, I cooked breakfast. This became our morning routine. We loved our cup of gatorade, hot breakfast and tea each morning. We soon learned that it took us about 2 hours from the time we decided to get up to the time we started hiking. We heard several grouse as we hiked, but saw very few people. We encountered a dead deer on the trail. We ate lunch at H16, where we noticed that the sleeping bag we had found in the base of a tree last year was still on the site. By the time we arrived at our campsite (120m off the main trail), I had blisters on both heels! It was a hot day (+20 degree Celsius), so I decided to “swim” as soon as we got to our campsite. In my bra and underwear I did a cannonball into the water, then got out as fast as I possibly could. It was c-c-c-cold (remember, the ice just melted days ago)! So refreshing! Cheryl got wet without submersing herself. There was enough sunlight and heat left to dry my clothes and hair before bedtime. We had a hot drink to warm ourselves up, and continued to do this most afternoons, from tea to “specialty” coffee (instant coffee with milk powder and some sort of chocolate treat added in). We crawled into the tent before it was dark, but came out one last time to pee before falling asleep! This too became a routine.
Day 3: H17 (Three Narrows Lake) to H21 (Three Narrows Lake)
Distance: 9.52 km
Time hiking: 3 hours 10 min
Time stopped: 1 hour 22 min
Hiking speed: 3.0 km/h
Highlight of the day: yellow-spotted salamander
On day 3 we woke up to the sound of raindrops on our tent. Thankfully we had put up a tarp the night before (and continued to do so every day for the rest of the trip, just in case), so we had a dry area to cook and eat our breakfast. At times we hiked through the pouring rain, but we were dry in our rain clothes, and our packs were dry under their rain covers. We saw another dead deer on the trail. We chose H21 because a friend told us we had to stay there. It was 460m off the main trail, and seemed to take forever for us to get there. Mind you, the last couple of kilometres every day felt like that! The site is on a point, and other than a nearby cottage (no one was there), it was a great site. However, it was so wet and windy that we decided not to put our tent on the site, and instead to walk back up the side trail and set it up in the shelter of the woods. It worked out great, but meant that we had to walk 165 steps (yes, I counted!) to reach the toilet. We set up a tarp for the kitchen shelter, and Cheryl went looking for a rock to reinforce one side of it – she lifted a big rock up, and found a yellow-spotted salamander (aka Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma Maculatum))! Of course, I tried lifting up other rocks to see what I could find and never found anything. The rain stopped and we were able to enjoy the setting sun down at the point. We watched some birds of prey flying high in the sky. I saw an unidentifiable small animal scrambling across some rocks on the other side of the lake. Because we spent time in the woods and at the point, we carried our bear bag back and forth with us – just in case! We enjoyed a hot cup of tea in the afternoon. There were a few black flies, but they weren’t biting. This was the only day where we didn’t see a single person other than each other! I saw a bat just before getting into the tent, and heard a Barred owl in the night. We also heard a bird in the night that may have been a Whippoorwill. Some days we were also treated to the beautiful, haunting sound of loons on the lake.
Day 4: H21 (Three Narrows Lake) to H32 (Shigaug Lake)
Distance: 11.0 km
Time hiking: 4 hours 6 min
Time stopped: 3 hours 33 min
Hiking speed: 2.7 km/h
Highlight of the day: 30 metre cliff descent and climb up waterfall
On day 4 I fell on my butt within the first kilometre of the hike (down a wet rock). Thankfully, I was fine. We would have had many more falls without our hiking poles! This was the day that we would descend a 30m cliff and then climb up a waterfall on the other side of the creek. Reading the description we had visions of descending a very steep cliff and ascending an equally steep rushing waterfall. It didn’t turn out that way. We needed to be careful where we put our feet on the descent, but it was not bad at all (Cheryl had worried about this part for days, as she is not a fan of heights). On the other side of the creek the path continued for a ways before eventually turning up the waterfall. It wasn’t exactly like Niagara Falls, and we only had to step a short way up into the falls before the trail turned to the side. Later we decided to see if we had cell signals, and lo and behold, we did! We were able to connect with our families and tell them that we were okay. Cheryl heard a mystery big animal along the trail as we sat having a snack, but we never did see anything. After following an 800m side trail to our site, we were relieved to finally arrive. I swam again. We were quite hungry and our pasta/veggie/parmesan dinner hit the spot!! At this site, the toilet was so far that cairns guided our way up the hill – I measured and it was 190 steps from our tent. When we got into our tent for the night, we put on multiple layers of clothes, because it was very cold! I wore long johns (top and bottom) plus my pants, a long sleeved shirt, a fleece sweater, hat and mitts. Even my -7 sleeping bag didn’t keep me warm. Cheryl and I were both cold, so eventually we covered ourselves with a thin metallic survival blanket in hopes it would keep some heat in. We’re not sure it worked, but when the sun came up, we started to roast! Other nights we were able to sleep in underwear and a t-shirt!
Day 5: H32 (Shigaug Lake) to H35 (Boundary Lake)
Distance: 9.1 km
Time hiking: 3 hours 13 min
Time stopped: 2 hours 17 min
Hiking speed: 2.8 km/h
Highlight of the day: lunch at a small stream
On day 5 we enjoyed eating our lunch along a little stream, where we put our bare feet in the (cold) water. By now we both had blisters on our heels, and our sweaty feet meant that bandaids would not stick to them for long. We changed our socks frequently during the day (those 5 pairs came in handy!) but still the bandaids fell off. I’d love to hear your recommendations on the best bandaids for blisters and sweaty feet! At our campsite (700m off the main trail) I swam again, this time falling back in while trying to get out! We smelled a campfire and discovered that there was a smouldering log in our fire pit. We had a very luxurious kitchen shelter, complete with log backrests – so nice, as our backs weren’t too happy otherwise! I used some Gorilla tape to repair rips on the backside of my rain pants, which I must have ripped while scrambling down rocks. We heard owls again in the night, and we also heard wolves or coyotes just after we got into the tent. They were very far away at first, but were definitely moving closer. It was kind of spooky!
Day 6: H35 (Boundary Lake) to H37 (Silver Lake)
Distance: 11.1 km
Time hiking: 3 hours 33 min
Time stopped: 2 hours 49 min
Hiking speed: 3.1 km/h
Highlight of the day: mama bear and baby bear
On day 6 we were wakened by an owl that must have been in a tree above our tent! While eating our breakfast we watched a Common Merganser couple swim by, with what we can only imagine was another male swooping in to try and woo the female away. The male of the couple would have none of it, and did an admirable job defending his mate. Eventually, the challenger flew away. Even though we had already hiked the Silver Peak trail during a previous canoe trip to the park, we decided that it wouldn’t really be hiking the entire trail unless we hiked it too! So, we set out for the side trail, but left our big packs at the junction with the main trail, and hung our food in a bear bag. We carried food, water, and our valuables with us. Not 200m up the trail, Cheryl realized that she hadn’t hung her toothpaste etc. We decided not to go back. By the time we reached the top of Silver Peak, there were only 2 guys there, but we had passed many coming down. In fact, we saw 15 people that day (the most of any day of our trip). We had cell signals again, and enjoyed our lunch at the top. The views are spectacular. When we were near the bottom of the hill, we started looking for our backpacks and bear bag. Just before the final switchback, I spotted a mama bear and cub – the cub ran up the hill, but the mama bear just wandered along slowly. We waited a short time, then continued down the hill. We were relieved to eventually see our things, and to find out that even if the bears had checked out our stuff, they didn’t do anything to it! I swam again at our campsite (140m off the main trail). In the evening, Cheryl spotted a beaver, and we watched it go onto the shore just across from our campsite and find something yummy to eat. Cheryl heard the beaver slap its tail a few times in the night.
Day 7: H37 (Silver Lake) to H48 (Proulx Lake)
Distance: 11.9 km
Time hiking: 4 hours 4 min
Time stopped: 2 hours 20 min
Hiking speed: 2.9 km/h
Highlight of the day: “reward” of chocolate from Ted from Hamilton
On day 7, we decided to stop for lunch at H47, which was right on the trail. However, when we got there, there was a man and a dog. It turned out that they were just resting, waiting for the man’s son and nephew to hike “the Crack”. The 11 year old dog wasn’t able to make the hike. We got talking to Ted from Hamilton, and he told us that we deserved a reward! He gave us part of a chocolate bar, 2 delicious pieces each, which we ate after our lunch. Thank you Ted from Hamilton!!! What a treat. We chatted with him about different canoe routes, and finally we packed up and headed on our way. At our campsite (400m off the main trail) I had trouble for the first time all trip hanging the bear bag. I managed to loop the rock over the branch twice, getting it stuck. Luckily, I was able to get it unwound, so that we didn’t have to cut the rope. At that site alone there were 2 ropes in trees that people had gotten stuck. There was a hum from the black flies (lots of them), but they were hanging out over bushes and not bothering us. We used the last of our bandaids in the morning. From then on, we had to improvise, using gauze and gorilla tape!
Day 8: H48 (Proulx Lake) to George Lake Campground
Distance: 14.8 km
Time hiking: 4 hours 40 min
Time stopped: 1 hour 31 min
Hiking speed: 3.2 km/h
Highlight of the day: completing the loop!
For the first time all trip, we set our alarm to make sure we got an early start. We were on the trail by about 8:45 AM, hoping to get back to the park office before it closed at 3:30 PM. We knew that we had a long day ahead of us, including a 5 hour drive home at the end! The day’s hike was split into 3 sections: from our campsite to the top of the Crack, from the Crack to the Crack parking lot, and from the Crack parking lot to the George Lake campground. Finally the black flies were starting to annoy us – flying around our heads when we stopped (and a bit when we walked), but not biting. We encountered a group of high school students and their teacher from Michigan at the Crack, whose school has been doing the same trip since 1960! We carefully picked our way down the big boulders. Once we reached the turn off to the Crack parking lot, we saw a sign saying that we had just 6 km to go to reach the George Lake campground. Yay! Unfortunately, that 6 km turned into a few more! That last section of hiking was fairly flat, but we were pretty ready to be done hiking, and the end couldn’t come soon enough. We stopped for lunch, and eventually, we reached one last very steep uphill and an equally steep downhill (which Cheryl’s knees really did not like) before we came to the end of the trail. We knew that we had to walk through the campground to our vehicle, parked at the other trailhead, but we weren’t sure exactly how to get there. We managed, but it added 1.8 km to our trip!
In the end, we hiked 90.32 km! We enjoyed our time at Killarney, and while the hiking was difficult at times, the trail was beautiful. Different sections of the trail brought different kinds of trees, different kinds of rocks, and different spectacular views! It is such an amazing place! Check out the Killarney Provincial Park page on the Ontario Parks website. It’s well worth a visit!
Are you looking for new ideas for things to eat while backcountry camping? Take a peek at my menu for an upcoming 8-day hike along the entire length of the La Cloche Silhouette Trail at Killarney Provincial Park. I’ll be going in early May with my friend Cheryl.
We’ve done two 4-day hiking trips at Killarney now, the first time hiking 2 days in counterclockwise, then hiking back out, and the second time hiking 2 days in clockwise, then hiking back out. It was on that second trip that we realized we need more food when hiking compared to what we need for canoe trips! On a canoe trip to Killarney, we paddled from our campsite to the trail and hiked to Silver Peak (and saw a bear). What a beautiful park.
For our last couple of hiking trips, including last fall’s 38.6 km hike along the Highland Trail at Algonquin Provincial Park, staying at Faya, Harness, and Provoking Lake East, and this February’s 4-day snowshoe adventure again along the Highland Trail, we’ve been able to estimate very well our energy needs! We’ve arrived back at our vehicle with only our last day’s lunch and afternoon snack. So, we are confident that the amount of food we’ve packed will be just right – however, I’ll be reporting back in May after the trip!
Cheryl and I got together a few months ago to plan this trip, setting out our menu and dividing up who would prepare what. All of our food was assembled at home meal by meal, and labelled with instructions if needed (e.g. add 1 1/4 cups of boiling water). We packed lots of our favourite meals, but are also trying some new things this time!
Given that we will be carrying 7 days worth of food on our backs, we wanted to pack nutrient dense food that didn’t weigh a ton (it’s an 8-day trip but we’re not carrying the 1st day’s breakfast, morning snack or lunch, or the 8th day’s dinner and evening snack).
We each used our Excalibur 9-tray dehydrators to remove as much weight as possible and keep things fresh on the trail. Where normally we may have used skim milk powder, we used whole milk powder instead to have extra calories for the same weight. I added coconut oil to some things, more cheese and bacon than I might usually, etc. However, we’re not willing to eat bars for every meal, or pre-packaged store-bought meals. We want to eat real food, healthy food, and a variety of things! All told, our food weighs 23.6 pounds.
The recipes we used come from the following books:
Backpacker Backcountry Cooking by Dorcas Miller (B)
A Fork in the Trail by Laurie Ann March (F)
LipSmackin’ Backpackin’ by Christine and Tim Conners (L)
The Trailside Cookbook by Don and Pam Philpott (T)
Where a recipe was followed, you’ll see a (B), (F), (L) or (T) after the recipe name. The weight of each meal is also included in brackets.
Breakfast: at home
Morning snack: in car en route
Lunch: picnic lunch en route
Afternoon snack: peanut crisp (T) (151g)
Dinner: quinoa spinach soup and bannock, including bannock for lunch the next day (F) (502g)
Evening snack: dried fruit and chocolate treat (e.g. dehydrated banana + mini turtles) (97g)
Breakfast: strawberry peach muesli (F) (277g)
Morning snack: honey mustard gorp (F) (142g)
Lunch: bannock from night before, cheese, nuts and dehydrated fruit (276g)
Afternoon snack: peanut butter chocolate squares (117g)
Dinner: minestrone soup and cornbread, including corn bread for lunch the next day (F) (569g)
Evening snack: dried fruit and chocolate treat (88g)
Breakfast: oatmeal with nuts and dehydrated fruit (344g)
Morning snack: trail mix (144g)
Lunch: corn bread from the night before, pepperettes and cheese sticks (168g)
Afternoon snack: beef jerky and applesauce (115g)
Dinner: huevos rancheros (F) (237g)
Evening snack: dried fruit and chocolate treat (83g)
Breakfast: apricot/pecan cream cereal and dehydrated fruit (B) (518g)
Morning snack: quick energy bar (T) (130g)
Lunch: hummus, dehydrated veggies, naan bread (374g)
Afternoon snack: beef jerky and applesauce (117g)
Dinner: pasta with tomato sauce, dehydrated veggies and parmesan (280g)
Evening snack: dried fruit and chocolate treat (71g)
Breakfast: Canadian maple blueberry granola (F) (287g)
Morning snack: pizza gorp (F) (140g)
Lunch: peanut butter, dehydrated apple, sunflower seed, blueberry tortilla wraps (369g)
Afternoon snack: peanut butter chocolate squares (121g)
Dinner: chili and mini pitas with parmesan (324g)
Evening snack: dried fruit and chocolate treat (92g)
Breakfast: maple pecan couscous and dehydrated fruit (F) (290g)
Morning snack: quick energy bars (T) (117g)
Lunch: black bean dip, veggies and bread (278g)
Afternoon snack: honey mustard gorp (F) (140g)
Dinner: egg, bacon, cheese, and dehydrated veggie wraps (T) (302g)
Evening snack: dried fruit and chocolate treat (85g)
Breakfast: big river apricot granola and dehydrated fruit (L) (380g)
Morning snack: peanut crisp (T) (155g)
Lunch: tomato and toasted almond spread (B), cheese, pitas, dehydrated veggies (276g)
Afternoon snack: trail mix (148g)
Dinner: pasta alfredo with dehydrated veggies, bacon bits, parmesan cheese (277g)
Evening snack: dried fruit and chocolate treat (95g)
Breakfast: apple crisp (190g)
Morning snack: pizza gorp (F) (139g)
Lunch: carrot raisin peanut salad (F) (416g)
Afternoon snack: trail mix (164g)
Dinner: on drive home
In addition to the above, we packed gatorade to have at breakfast and lunch (516g), tea and whole milk powder for breakfast and 2 mugs of hot chocolate for each of us over the 8 days (325g).
Sometime soon, I’ll take all the bags out of the freezer, open every ziploc bag and make sure I squeeze out as much air as possible so we can actually fit all this in our packs! And speaking of ziploc bags, a concerned facebook reader noted (when I posted a picture of all our food) that we were using an awful lot of plastic bags, and that we should try to find an alternative. I agree. While we do use some of them to store our garbage during our trip, the vast majority are brought home. Some are thrown out (e.g. greasy ones) and some are washed to be re-used. But that’s a lot of water and soap to clean them. In any case, I did a quick google search and found this idea – wrapping food with wax paper using masking tape and a stapler. I will definitely consider doing this to cut down on the amount of plastic. Thanks Michelle D S for raising the plastic issue!
After the trip, I’ll do another blog post on the food, noting how far we hiked each day, whether we had the right amount, too little, too much, what we loved, what we wouldn’t make again, what we forgot to pack (hopefully nothing, unlike one particular canoe trip at Algonquin or another trip where someone forgot to pack utensils!!), etc.
UPDATED May 2016: Menu review here.
Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete
Follow me on Twitter: @kyraonthego
Follow me on Instagram: @kyraonthego
Another late ice out, another canoe trip converted into a hiking trip! What was supposed to be a 4-day Massassauga Provincial Park adventure turned into a 4-day backpacking trip along the La Cloche Silhouette Trail at Killarney Provincial Park! I’ll remember this trip for the epic boot fail, stream crossings, and animal encounters!
Day 1: George Lake Campground, Killarney Provincial Park, La Cloche Silouette Trailhead to Cave Lake (H6) — 8.4 km
For the first time, we headed out without a reservation – this caused mild concern, but I assured Cheryl it would all work out! By the time we cancelled our canoe trip, Killarney was no longer taking reservations for backcountry sites (flood watch?), so we had to hope that not too many others planned on hiking when and where we were intending to. After an early morning start, we were at the George Lake Campground office by noon and paid for our backcountry permit – we had hoped to camp on H6 the 1st night, H16 the 2nd, and H6 the 3rd. As it turned out, H6 was booked for the 3rd night, so we chose H5. If you haven’t been to Killarney, you wouldn’t know that the hiking campsites are quite spread out – if one is booked, you might have to hike much further to the next campsite. But H5 and H6 are near one another, so it wasn’t a big deal.
Cheryl and I were due for some good weather camping for a change, and the weekend delivered! The forecast was for +9 to +15 degrees Celsius, and pure sun!
We were at the trailhead just before 1 PM on Thursday, April 30, heading in the recommended clockwise direction (last year, we did a 4-day trip in the counterclockwise direction from “the Crack” parking lot – much more challenging terrain). When we opened the trunk of the car, we discovered that my cambelbak had completely emptied – it seemed to be absorbed by cardboard lining Cheryl’s trunk, but the wet cardboard didn’t seem to be as big an area as you might expect…
A very excited woman seemed thrilled to take our pictures at the trailhead. Cheryl had decided to leave her sandals in the car to save weight, so I did the same – I could just wear my boots at the campsite! And then…
… well, we headed out, enjoying our hike through the spring forest. Cheryl had brought a walking stick with her, and found me one early in our hike. The ice was out on all the lakes, but there were a few small patches of ice in the forest. We encountered many stream crossings, some easier than others. We heard the distinctive thumping of ruffed grouse many times, but didn’t actually see many of the birds. We stopped for a carrot date bar snack, and within about 200 m of our campsite, I experienced an epic boot fail.
I managed to flop my way to our campsite on Cave Lake (H6), and understood why I had wet feet! I took my boots and socks off and put them in the sun to (hopefully) dry before morning. We were disappointed to find that someone had left a big garbage bag hanging from a tree, as well as a deflated raft, a hat and a small bag! We put up the tent, the bear bag, pumped water from the lake, and heated up our pre-cooked butter chicken and naan bread, which we ate with carrots. Yum! I had forgotten to pack the “scorch protector”, which lifts the pot up off the stove a bit, so we had to be careful not to burn our food. We also discovered that my camelbak had mostly emptied onto Cheryl’s sleeping bag, which was pretty wet! Thankfully, there was enough sun to dry it before bedtime. After dinner we cut one of the lightweight tarp ropes into 3 and melted the ends so the rope wouldn’t fray. We were counting on these pieces to hold my boot together!
We enjoyed the sunset with our Baileys, dehydrated banana, chocolate treats, and one bat fly-by. There was also something making loud noises and splashes in the water, but we weren’t sure if it was a fish or a beaver! We were accompanied by a few very large mosquitoes, but they weren’t really biting. I had a great night’s sleep!
Day 2: Cave Lake (H6) to Three Narrows Lake (H16) — 11.4 km
The morning started with a big cup of gatorade and whole wheat cheesy mushroom pancakes with tea. We packed up camp (sleeping bags were damp at the feet), put on dry socks and boots (!), and headed back out on the trail. Not long after we started, we reached a stream that seemed impossible to cross without either getting wet feet or taking our boots off and crossing in bare feet. We chose the latter. We picked the slowest moving water with the least slippery rocks, and managed to cross without falling in! After drying our feet and reassembling my boot, we were off! It wasn’t long before I stepped in mud (the trail was very wet in places!) and my foot was soaked all over again. Sigh. We heard – and then watched – as a limb fell from a tree just off the path. We met 2 women who had camped at Topaz Lake the night before (H7), and based on their description of the lake, we decided to take a detour and eat our morning snack there. We left the trail midway up “the Pig” (the steepest portage in the park) to go to Topaz Lake. We enjoyed our trail mix and dried fruit while admiring the blue-green water. Later we stopped at a man-made dam to have our lunch – homemade sesame seed crackers with hummus, dehydrated peppers, and a few leftover carrots. It was delicious! We continued on our way, and were shocked to discover that the blue trail markers appeared to be sending us across this:
Instead, we avoided certain disaster by walking further along this:
We eventually reached our campsite on Three Narrows Lake (H16), only to discover what on quick glance appeared to Cheryl to be a body stuffed in the base of a tree trunk (it was a sleeping bag – why it was there, we’ll never know). We also found a very tilted toilet quite close to the trail! Otherwise, the site was nice but not as big as our previous one, there were no flat rocks at the water to sit on, and it wasn’t West facing, so no great sunset viewing! We set up camp and cooked our minestrone soup and cornbread, then enjoyed the fading light (and nearly full moon) with our Baileys, bananas and chocolate! I think it was Day 2 that also saw my left boot fail!
Day 3: Three Narrows Lake (H16) to Cave Lake (H5) 10.9 km
An egg/bacon/veggie wrap, cup of gatorade and a mug of tea is how we started the day. We packed up camp, and then headed back the way we had come, toward Cave Lake and site H5. We crossed the beaver dam again, and had a morning snack of beef jerky and dehydrated applesauce at campsite H8. We did the boot-less stream crossing again, where we encountered a group of 4 women and 1 man, and wondered how they could possibly carry everything they needed in the small packs they had! They even had a dog which would entail carrying dog food! This is where we ate our lunch (pepperettes, cheese sticks, leftover hummus and cornbread, and gatorade). At one point, we turned a corner and there was a young deer lying on the trail. It took a while before she got up, and then she took a couple of steps – toward us! She scratched her head, had a snack, and then finally took off!
We reached our campsite on Cave Lake (H5), and were really impressed with it! It was big, West facing, with great rocks, a private toilet, and no garbage! We were hot from hiking, so I decided to “swim” (dunk – first before I was ready, the second time intentionally). It felt great! Cheryl had a “sponge bath” (didn’t dunk). It was warm enough that we just lay on the rocks on the sun for a while. After getting into dry clothes, we boiled some water for our Skor hot chocolate with marshmallows, and ate a harvest oat bar with it. We enjoyed the sun, the view, the rock backrests and the busy beaver, before finally deciding to make our pasta carbonara for dinner. It was the only “miss” of all our meals. I would have liked less pasta, more veggies and sauce. Cheryl would have preferred less pasta, more bacon, and more sauce. We won’t make that one again! We enjoyed the beautiful setting sun, and you guessed it – Baileys, bananas and chocolate – before climbing into the tent for the night! Before falling asleep we heard an owl, but weren’t sure what kind it was.
Day 4: Cave Lake (H5) to George Lake Campground — 8 km
On our last day, we had a bowl of oatmeal, dried fruit and nuts, gatorade and tea for breakfast before packing up and heading back to the car.
We stopped for a snack of homemade jerky and energy squares at campsite H3 on Acid Lake. It looked like a great site for kids, with deep water for swimming. We heard a barred owl as we were hiking, and experienced a few drops of rain – the only rain all weekend! It wasn’t until we reached the car that we had our lunch of granola and dried fruit.
It was a great weekend. We packed the perfect amount of food, had awesome weather, very few bugs, and managed to deal with my epic boot fail! In addition to the animals already mentioned, we saw: loons, ducks, geese, hawks, chipmunks, squirrels, a water snake, turtles, frogs, a crayfish, and heard woodpeckers, bullfrogs, and tons of spring peepers.
Next time, we’ll try to muster up the energy to forage for wood and make a fire! We’re dreaming of hiking the entire 80 km trail in one go!
Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete