Saturday, September 24, 2011

Killarney Canoe Trip: August 19th - 27th

Campsite at Low Lake in Killarney Provincial Park. Photo by Marianne Balkwill

Finally get a break to update the old blog.

This first update is about our annual canoe trip. This year we decided to go back to Killarney
Provincial Park. In 2007 we did the George Lake-Three Narrows Lake Loop (the interior of the park) for 5 days. This year we decided to be a little more abitious and do the Charlton-Great Mountain Lake Loop which would be an 8 day trip. This loop covers the entire west and central regions of the park allowing great views of the La Cloche Mountains with their famous range of white quartzite.

Distance: 88km
Portages: 32
Portage Length: 14.1km
Total length we portaged: Over 40 kilometres as we had to do some double overs (packs first and go back and get canoe)

Out of all the provincial parks I have paddled to date, Killarney is my favourite. It seems like every lake you enter after a portage is different from the one you just exited. We encounted pristine lakes, dead lakes (due to acid rain), marsh, creeks, and McGregor Bay which enters into Georgian Bay. We also struggled with an impassible marsh, 5 hours of backpaddling, overbooked campsites, a Black bear encounter, and dragging our canoe through a creek. We loved every minute of it. Here is a short synopsis of our trip:

August 19th, 2011
Day #1
Stop into see my sister in Barrie. Drive to Espanola for the night and stay at the Pinewood Inn.
A great Motel with awesome food!

August 20th, 2011
Day #2
Cloudy. High of 23 celcius

Picked up our Prospector 16 Scott Canoe at the Widgwawa Lodge, an outfitter at the Charlton access point. The canoe is supposed to only be 52 pounds and it felt heavier than our canoe at 62 pounds. Paddled into Charlton Lake. We paddled through a marsh and flushed a Great Blue Heron which squawked like a Pteradactyl (or at least what I think a Pteradactyl would sound like). We saw quite a few cottages along the outer corridor of the park. Camped at Van Winkle Lake on an island! For some reason I sleep better at island campsites.
As evening sets in a Whip-poor-will called nearby. My first Whip-poor-will for the year.
Sample of Wildlife Sightings: Ruffed Grouse, Broad-winged Hawk, Belted Kingfisher, Pileated Woodpecker, Common Loon, Eastern Chipmunk, Red Squirrel, American Redstart, Black-capped Chickadee, Blue Jay, Great Blue Heron, Yellow-rumped Warbler, people.

August 21st, 2011
Rain in the morning, partly cloudy afternoon
High 21 celcius
Common Loon. Almost every lake in Killarney had a pair of loons on it. Photo by Marianne Balkwill.

Woke up with Rain showers, along with our Whip-poor-will and a Sandhill Crane calling. 10 Loons also gathered nearby and had a party calling wildly while we had breakfast by the campfire. We start the morning by taking a shortcut north out of the park to miss a few portages. When we finished the portage into Goose Lake that takes you back into the park we found that it is now an incredibly shallow and impassible marshland!
This is probably due to the lack of rain this summer. In the end we had to backpaddle and detour for 5 hours through Howry Lake into Fish Lake for our next night. We arrived at Fish Lake at dark and much to our dismay all the campsites were occupied!! We ended up sharing an island with a couple of gentlemen from Michigan in their 70s that were very familiar with Killarney. It ended up being a nice night as we swapped stories of camping,and canoeing.
Some Wildlife Sightings: Common Loon, Sandhill Crane, Wood Duck, Whip-poor-will, Wood Duck, American Redstart, Canada Goose, Red-eyed Vireo, Broad-winged Hawk, Turkey Vulture, Black-capped Chickadee, people.
NOTE: Call park to make sure our route is passable next time.

August 22nd, 2011

Day #4
Sunny giving way to scattered showers
High 20 celcius
The white quartzite mountains that makes Killarney Provincial Park famous. Photo taken at Three Narrows Lake. Photo by Marianne Balkwill.

Left our new friends and headed to Three Narrows Lake. We had a mix of paddling and portaging today. Great Mountain Lake gave us great views of the La Cloche Moutnain range. Little Moutain Lake was a pretty shade of blue with no life in it. It is one of a few lakes in
Killarney that has a high PH level due to acid rain. We also paddled a winding marsh which reminded us a little of the Nippissing River we paddled in Algonquin last fall but not as neverending. We also had to paddle hard in the wind today which is always a pain in the ass.
Some Wildlife Sightings: Broad-winged Hawk, Eastern Chipmunk, Red Squirrel, Black-capped Chickadee, Blue Jay, people, Common Loon, Herring Gull, Fish, Red-eyed Vireo, Red-breasted Merganser, Beaver dams, Caspian Tern, Double-crested Cormorant, Wood Duck, people.

August 23rd, 2011
Day #5
Sunny skies today!
High 25 celcius
strong winds...crap

Today we just went from one end of Three Narrows to the other. We had a hard paddle in the wind yet again and still made it early to our campsite to just relax and explore our site. It is a campsite we had the last time we were in Killarny in 2007 which is neat.
We tried fishing today since we brought a little fishing rod. But no success. There are cottages on Three Narrows Lake. I would love to have a cottage in Killarney. Maybe one day? ...better start playing the numbers....
Some Wildlife Sightings: Common Loon (including 2 young), White-tailed Deer, Beaver, people, Red Squirrel, Song Sparrow, Blue Jay, Yellow Warbler, Black-capped Chickadee.

August 24th, 2011
Day #6
Rain. Thunderstorms in the afternoon. Tornado Watch in the afternoon. WHAT!?

Barely slept last night with wind and rain hitting the tent. Today we paddled to McGregor Bay. I am very excited as I have seen photos and paintings of this scenic area that eventually opens up into the beautiful landscape of Georgian Bay.
Before we got there we had to get through Kirk Creek. There were a lot of little portages which is all fine and dandy but killed a lot of time (2 hours) with a lot of steep areas of slippery rocks due to the rain. Kirk Creek also had a section where we had to take off our hiking boots, put on our sandals and drag our canoe through the creek. Luckily Kirk Creek had a gravely bottom so we don't sink.....much...
We got to McGregor Bay around noon. It had a different landscape than the interior of the park. There were scattered islands, more open water, along with a few cottages and motor boats going by. We had a very neat campsite, a small cliff on a rock outcrop overlooking the bay. After setting up camp we turned on the weather radio only to find out we were under a Tornado Watch. I guess it is better to have a tent on an exposed area when a Tornado comes whipping through than an area with large trees? Luckily we didn't find out.
Our campsite at McGregor Bay with stormy weather in the background. Photo by Marianne Balkwill.

Some Wildlife Sightings: Common Loon, lots of Double-crested Cormorants, River Otters, Raven, Blue Jay, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-capped Chickadee, Hairy Woodpecker, White Admiral Butterfly, Pileated Woodpecker, people

August 25th, 2011
Sunny in the morning, partly cloudy in afternoon
High 25 celcius

Interesting day today.
We paddled up McGregor Bay and had a hard time finding the entrance to the next lake. In the end it was a hidden opening around a rock that was as wide as our canoe! No way you could see it until it was infront of you. We also got a little lost in a marsh. It felt like you were a mouse in a maze and continued to hit dead ends!
We finally found the portage into Low Lake and made our way to the next portage (that also had a campsite) that take you into Helen Lake. We planned to camp on Helen Lake for 2 nights but the campsites were horrible. One was scruffy and had a few widow makers (dead trees) and the other was next to a scary abandoned cottage. We decided to go back and stay at the portage campsite. It was nice and had scenery similar to photos you see of Georgian Bay with smooth flat rocks and scattered trees. We had bear scat near the privy which made me a little nervous.
That night there were mice around our tent. They even climbed on the side of our tent...grrr
Some Wildlife Sightings: Common Loon, Double-crested Cormorant, Red Squirrel, Great Blue Heron, Blue Jay, Raven, American Crow, Caspian Tern, Black-capped Chickadee, Yellow-rumped Warbler, people.

August 26th, 2011
Sunny skies all day. Cloudy in the evening. High 23 celcius
Our campsite at Low Lake. Kind of reminds me of the Georgian Bay shoreline. Photo by Marianne Balkwill.

Today we got to just chillax. We washed our clothes in the lake (just with water) and layed them on the smooth rocks to dry. We too went into the lake for a swim and cleaned ourselves up. The water is cool but bearable. We saw a huge Large-mouth Bass close to shore so we instantly grabbed our fishing's broke! GARR! We never did catch any fish on this trip by the way.
The morning was spent basking in the sun. I can't even remember the last time I did that. IT felt so nice! I also watched the sexual behaviour of the local grasshoppers. Even though we were at a campsite that had a portage we saw no people!
That evening around the campfire we heard a Whip-poor-will and saw a life mammal, a Northern Flying Squirrel that landed behind our tent in a tree!

August 27th, 2011
Day #9
Sunny skies. High 24 celcius.

Today was our last day in the park, and what better way to celebrate with 3 portages! The first one had a length of 2525 metres, the second was 2085 and the third 1745.
The first was from Helen Lake into Nellie Lake. Aaron carried the canoe part way, but it was a tank so we went back to get it after we dropped our packs and the end. After we brought the canoe to the end of the portage we sat down for a snack only to hear something slowly moving towards us. It was a Black Bear. I grabbed a canoe paddle and began beating the canoe while we both yelled to the bear to leave. After it left we quickly hopped into the canoe and began to paddle. Nellie lake is the clearest (and perhaps deadest) lake in the park. The water is so blue you feel like you are in a swimming pool. There is no life in this lake due to acid rain. However the deep blue tinge with the white La Cloche mountains does make it look quite scenic. The water we pumped here to drink tasted funny.

Nellie Lake. No it is not the blue sky that makes this lake look so blue but the high PH level of the water. Photo by Marianne Balkwill.

Our next portage at 2085 was shorter but it felt waaay longer! This is because there was more up hill to it. We arrived on Grace Lake. This lake was the most beautiful lake I have ever been on in my life! There were rolling mountains with exposed white rocks made me want to stay another week. We reluctantly exited this lake and portaged one last time and paddled our way out of the park, back to the Widgawa lodge and onto the Pinewood Inn again for some real food.
Grace Lake. A beautiful lake with rolling hills, white rock and a nice looking guy with a canoe. Photo by Marianne Balkwill.

Some Wildlife Sightings: Black Bear, White-tailed Deer, Black-capped Chickadee, Common Loon.

That sums up the trip. Fresh air, homemade dehydrated food, the wilderness, and no cellphone signal. Best vacation ever!

1 comment:

  1. Good story for the 'ole blog.
    I need to get up to Killarny some day. Maybe next summer!