Day #1 Carlyle Lake to Johnnie Lake
Carlyle Lake launch in Killarney Provincial Park. Photo by Marianne Reid Balkwill
Ahhh Killarney Provincial Park, my favourite place to paddle and backcountry camp in. The pearly white quartzite that is the La Cloche Mountains, the crystal clear (though somewhat acidic) pristine lakes, and the songs of Swainson's Thrushes that serenade the sun to rise and lullaby you to sleep.
After picking up our permit at the George Lake Campground, we drove to the Carlyle Lake launch, loaded up our new carbon fibre Swift canoe with gear, and paddled away into the wilderness. This time we paddled a heavily travelled route, and this particular section had quite a few cottages on it. We paddled for a few hours into Johnnie Lake and tried to find an unoccupied campsite near the end of the lake to give us a head start in the morning....they were all occupied!! In Killarney, like other backcountry camping destinations, you don't reserve campsites, you reserve the lake and have to find an unoccupied site. We really didn't feel like paddling back to the other end of the lake so we camped on a small island under the stars. That seemed like a good idea until the mosquitoes swarmed, so up went the tent. We also had wild blueberries on our little island.. NOM!
Johnnie Lake "campsite" on an island. We placed our tent in a glacial groove which was quite close to the edge of the island on one side. Luckily I don't tend to roll around in my sleep. Photo by Marianne Reid Balkwill
Day # 2 Johnnie Lake to Balsam Lake
The next day we woke up quite early to get a head start so we could hopefully get the island campsite we wanted on Balsam Lake. This is the problem with camping in Killarney in the summer in one of the more heavily travelled routes, you sometimes feel like you have to race to the campsites. Not only that, but you should probably bath with at least some clothes on, which I found out when I had to quickly jump out of the lake and duck beside the canoe when someone in a motorboat showed up. However, as what often happens, when you rush, you make mistakes. For us, we left our rope we hung our wet clothes up on tide between two trees. A rope is one of those things you DO NOT want to leave behind as it has so many uses. (like tieing your pack up in a tree for one) We realized we forgot our rope around noon. We didn't feel like going back to get it when half the day was already over. Luckily we are doing a loop, and we will paddle by that island again on our way back and pick it up. Right?
When we get to Balsam Lake there were people everywhere! We paddled hard to an island campsite before anyone else got there. It's a pretty big island with two campsites on it, but it feels private enough.
That day we had a loon swim right next to our canoe, we saw a Mink along the shoreline, a White-tailed Deer, and I took a photo of one of the coolest dragonflies ever...the Dragonhunter. We heard a Barred Owl calling that night as well.
Dragonhunter. Photo by Marianne Reid-Balkwill
Day # 3 Balsam Lake to David Lake
This morning we slept in a little bit and had pancakes for breakfast. For some reason, pancakes taste best out in the wilderness. We left our campsite eventually and did a 665 metre portage into David Lake. David is a nice clear lake and our campsite was great! It had a nice smooth rock that was convenient for drying our clothes on, and for laying in the sun/shade. I decided to go for a swim and saw some Common Loons. I decided to swim towards them, and unbelievably got within 10 feet of these magnificent birds! I guess they are just so used to people that they think nothing of it. Plus they could easily swim circles around me.
Morning sun with Common Loon. Photo by Marianne Reid Balkwill
After a homemade dehyde (mac and cheese with cauliflower and broccoli) we snoozed on the flat rocks in the shade, and later went to gather firewood for supper. While going out into the lake to pump water we investigated a Herring Gull nest on an island, and later we saw two Snapping Turtles at the edge of our campsite checking out the leftovers in the water where we rinsed our dishes. Tomorrow we climb Silver Peak! The highest summit in the whole park!
Bald Eagle on David Lake. Photo by Marianne Reid-Balkwill
Day # 4 Silver Peak
This morning we climbed Silver Peak, the highest summit in the park at 2100 feet. We paddled over to the portage/trailhead, put our canoe aside, and began to climb. We had to climb 2 little mountains before the long climb of 4.7 km up to the top. We also got onto a section of the La Cloche Silhouette Trail that also takes you up Silver Peak. Along the trail we see 6 Ruffed Grouse, Red Squirrels, many warbler species and, of course, people. It was quite warm out and we had to take many breaks. It's worth it when you got to the top! You can see the whole park from the top as well as Georgian Bay and Sudbury! We saw the La Cloche Range, the Killarney Range, and even some of the lakes that we had paddled on previous camping trips! Breathtaking! The sun was shinning, there were white puffy clouds, and wild blueberries are everywhere which we ate like gluttonous bears. We also saw huge clumps of gluttonous bear poop at the top of the mountain!
See that mountain behind me? THAT is where we had to climb. We aren't even halfway there yet! Photo by Aaron Balkwill
One of the views you get from Silver Peak. In the background, along the horizon you can see Georgian Bay. Photo by Marianne Reid Balkwill
Proof that we made it up to the top. Photo by.......the camera....
The city of Sudbury, zoomed in with the camera, as seen from the top of Silver Peak. Photo by Marianne Reid Balkwill
Coming down from Silver Peak was a heck of a lot easier than going up it! We got back, relaxed at the campsite after a nice refreshing swim from being all sweaty, and had some homemade dehydes for supper. We even fed the Snapping Turtle some as well! We could tell this isn't the first time this turtle scavenged. It had a tumor on the bottom of its jaw which I'm sure gets in the way when it is going after prey. I'm not one to feed animals in the wild, but for some reason I couldn't help feel sorry for this little (little?) guy.
Snapping Turtle with a tumour on its lower jaw. Very tame he came in for scraps. Aaron even fed him some Shepard's Pie from his spoon. Photo by Marianne Reid Balkwill
The rest of the night was for relaxing and campfire. Tomorrow morning we are only doing a little paddle and portage to Clear Silver Lake which has only one campsite on it, and it is ours!
Day # 5 David Lake to Clear Silver Lake
We did something this morning we rarely do on our canoe trips....sleep in! It was very warm today (around 26 Celsius) and you could feel it while paddling as well as portage 980 metres into Clear Silver Lake. Clear Silver Lake is an example of one of the many lakes in Killarney's ecosystem that is recouperating from having a low ph level due to acid rain. The water is very clear and there is little vegetation. Our campsite is not very attractive (I didn't take any photos) as the campsite is very dusty from being heaviliy used, though it is still better than anything within 3 hours (or more) from home! At this campsite we also had a chimpmunk that liked to investigate both around, and even inside our tent! Tonight we decided to stay up late, have a campfire, and watch the stars while listening to a chorus of frogs and toads. I guess there is some life to this lake after all!
Day # 6 Clear Silver Lake to Carlyle Lake
Today we began to head back the way we came. This is our last full day in the park. Starting the morning off with a pankcake and a 830 m portage back into Johnnie Lake, we decided to go back to our non desgniated island campsite from our first night to retrive our rope....IT'S GONE!!! Some blueberries still remained on the island so we had a snack, hoped into the canoe, and continued paddling. As we leave we noticed that the island was once graffittied and then cleaned up, though the graffiti was still visible. It is hard to believe that anyone would vandalize such a beautiful park like Killarney. I guess when you are in the section of the park that has some cottages it shouldn't surprise you?
Our campsite on Carlyle lake is in a mouse hole which is neat so we cannot see the cottages at all, though once in a while hear motor boats. We are up pretty high at this campsite and had to drag the canoe up a hill. We had a breeze today which is nice because it was warm. A little stream sets the background melody, a chorus of frogs began trilling, and Swainson's Thrushes sang as the sun set that night. I didn't want to go home the next day!
One of the views from our campsite on Carlyle Lake. Photo by Marianne Reid Balkwill
Day # 7 Carlyle Lake to Carlyle Lake Launch
For some reason, on the last day we always get up before the crack of dawn. This day was no exception. When the chorus of frogs ceased and the Swainson's Thrushes started to sing (which to Aaron sound like they are launching into space) we crawled out of the tent, shared a Kind Bar, loaded up the tent, and paddled through the early morning glow and mist back to the launch. This was the most calm and scenic paddle of the whole trip and unfortunately I packed my camera too far down in my bag to reach it. After loading the canoe onto the Subaru, we drove into the town of Killarney for breakfast.
We have now paddled the whole park in three separate trips. For now we will say "goodbye" to Killarney Provincial Park for awhile as we explore other areas to paddle in Ontario. However, the beauty of Killarney will be hard to match!