This year we camped at Killarney - our second canoe camping trip! While last year was bumpy but fun, this trip was much more relaxed.
Day 1 - George Lake departure
We get up around 6:30, have a quick breakfast and head to the subway, carrying all our gear. We get picked up at Kipling and meet one of our new camping companions and hit the road. The drive is 4 hours with next to no traffic; a benefit of leaving on a monday morning.
We arrive at Kilarney and pick up another new camper we had not yet met (except online through a bit of planning). And we're off! The canoes this year seem infinitely lighter (they are kevlar instead of aluminum) and we start to paddle toward our first site on George lake. The weather is great and it's lovely. The rocks along the lake are very stunning and one immediately gets a view of the rings of low mountains called the La Cloche mountain range.
We land after a short 45 minutes of paddling at our first site which is a peninsula off the lake. We meet two campers who are just leaving (and we can tell they are sad to be departing a nice site). One says that she has been coming to Kilarney since she was 16 and is now 67. I find this inspiring, but I don't get to talk to her much as we still haven't landed and are out of conversation range.
We setup quickly and spend most of the afternoon on a rocky landing looking at the lake. I manage to do some painting, but it's uncomfortable to sit on the bare rock and try and balance watercolours on my lap. (If this had been a trip for the sake of painting, I would have brought way more gear to make it comfortable. Maybe some day.)
Jeff and Julia make chili for dinner and it's amazing (with cheese, and lime-chip toppings no less).
I sleep my best sleep of the trip.
Day 2 - O.S.A Lake
We pack up after breakfast and do a short 80 meter portage to get onto Freeland Lake which does not have any campsites. It's a quick paddle to our next portage, which is about 400 meters and takes us onto Killarney lake. I do this this portage in two parts with the canoe; I was hoping this year I wouldn't have to take breaks halfway through, but I still haven't gotten used to the feeling of the yoke digging into my shoulders (even with a kevlar canoe it is hard; Next time I'll probably buy a yolk pad).
Killarney lake has lots of nice winding stretches, include a beautiful low-water-level section with lots of tree stumps sticking out of the lake:
(After the trip I tried painting this scene with watercolours):
We make our way west to O.S.A lake to our site (# 32). We arrive and we make a one pot pasta that turns out pretty well (although when feeding 6 people, it was more like a 3-pot-pasta).
The site is an island that is plenty large for us. We all have a laugh because the thunderbox is located directly in the middle of the island for all to see. There is lots of wood and we are able to get a fire going with no trouble. I go for a swim after digesting lunch.
Day 3 - O.S.A Lake
The first night on our O.S.A. island is smooth and the next day rolls around with a bit of grey weather. I am thrilled to have a rest day, hoping that I can find more time to paint or just relax. The waters around the island are a lovely turquoise-emerald, depending on the sunlight. We play a game of yatzee and then go for a little daytrip to Muriel lake. The bugs are bad, but we enjoy the scenery. Some of the trees across Muriel lake almost seem a neon-green.
We head back and make dinner, setup the tarps in case of rain and relax in the evening by the fire.
Day 4 - Kilarney Lake
We wake up to a rainy day. Our tent is damp, but held up. We spend most of the morning waiting for a gap in the rain to get into the canoe and head back to Killarney lake for our last site. We set out in light drizzle which turns into rain by the time we are in the canoe. Despite getting soaked we are in good spirits. The rain is warm, and their isn't too much wind. We land and do the two portages from the previous day and start to crawl along the shore of Killarney lake toward our campsite. By now the rain has stopped and it is foggy and mild. We see some folks at a campsite and they ask about the weather and tell us they saw a bear around the corner (I'm more dreadful than excited about seeing bears). We land at our campsite, which has a nice point that overlooks the lake.
At this point the bugs are swarming us nearly all the time (me especially, as they seem to be drawn to the colour black). We are all wet and a bit miserable at this point. S & I start cooking to make lunchtime ramen. Once we eat we are less grumpy. Everyone sets up tents and some of us dry out gear on the point where it's nice and windy. I do a bit of painting and spend some time in the hammock, trying to read without stopping to smack black flies every 4 seconds. Despite the rain, I'm determined we will have a fire to make up for getting soaked and I set out to find wood (I feel there is a general vibe that I will not succeed but I refuse to believe it!). I find some dead wood that is dry on the inside and spend 45 minutes chopping it for later.
Eventually, one of our trip planners, Jeff, gently corals us to go and hike the crack. It's a bit gruelling after a long, wet day day but I think all of us are happy we did it.
We get the fire going and Jeff and Julia make a pasta bolognese that is a hit. We retire early for the night.
At one point I wake up in the night to the sound of something moving around outside the tent. This shoots my heart rate up as I am half asleep and remembering the bear mentioned to us (can you tell that I was bear-anxious this trip? Well, I guess that's what you get when you accidentally find an article on bear attacks on the internet before going camping).
I hear the soft steps pad away into the night and I finally relax and go back to sleep.
Day 5 - Home
In the morning we have a quick breakfast and set out to head home. The hard portage goes well, and the easy one goes easy. We get back onto George lake, avoiding a few rain clouds that start to drizzle. Before long we are approaching the same cliffs that we saw on the way into the park on George lake. All of us stop paddling to enjoy the site and the strange feeling of leaving as it approaches us in the shape of the shoreline we had launched from only four days ago. It is a strange feeling.
We land and put our canoes back on the outfitter racks, pack the car, and hit the road home.
It was another successful camping trip; our third canoe camping (second with portaging) adventure. I really enjoyed meeting some campers along our route and chatting with them - especially the experienced ones and the solo ones (the solo campers usually seem quite chatty since they haven't seen people in 5-10 days). Here are some things I would change / reinforce for the next trip:
- get splash pants
- definitely bring a bug hat (I did have one, but I don't want to forget this!)
- If it's true that bugs are drawn to black clothing… next time I have the opportunity to get a new rain jacket / camping gear, it probably wont' be black
- research how to better steer a canoe / portage (I'm getting better, but there is still room for improvement!)
- try and research the route before hand. Having looked at the map since the trip, I can see that it's not as intimidating as I thought it was.
Not much else to add, so I guess it was pretty successful.