Friday, August 22, 2014

Wheeling away

We're outta here again!

Sunday we'll be rolling on throttle and heading North. Killarney Provincial Park for a couple of nights, then out through Sault Ste. Marie to Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Science North. The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. Fayette Historic State Park. Riding H58, U.S. Route 2 and the Mackinac Bridge.

U.S. Route 2 photo from Wikipedia

Camping along the way, with everything we need strapped onto our motorcycles.

Looks like heaven.

To end the week, we'll arrive at a friend's place near Detroit to whoop it up with a great bunch of folks at the infamous Great Lakes Rally. Campfires, groups rides and revelry right through Labour Day Monday!

Can we just leave right now?


Friday, August 15, 2014

A full day at Bon Echo

After leaving Frontenac, we drove through backcountry roads to the gorgeousness known as Bon Echo Provincial Park on deep and lovely Mazinaw Lake.

Bon Echo rock

Seemingly endless quartzite cliffs

We set up camp, started a fire, and enjoyed gawddamn filet mignon cooked over an open fire with spinach mushroom risotto. When coming out of the backcountry, a hearty meal feels like a fine reward.

New home


That may or may not be an adult beverage in a tiny plastic mug.

The next morning, it was up and at 'em for a full day of exploring. Of course, it started without pants.

Because you've gotta have rules.

Coffee and breakfast were had, while the local wildlife came and checked out these weirdos who were invading their turf.

Tanker chatting with a chipmunk

"Excuse me, can I see your camping permit?"

"What do you mean 'your table'?"

With full bellies and a car filled with gear for the day ahead, we set out on the Mugwump ferry to cross Mazinaw Lake, bringing us to the base of the Cliff Top Trail.

Trail rehabilitation area: visitors are asked to bring gravel across and dump it to mitigate the soil erosion.

Natural steps formed by roots, to accompany all of the man-made stairs.
 The early afternoon brought the hottest weather we'd seen so far on the trip. Most days had been in the 17-22c (63-72f) range, but we sweated in the 32c/90f sunshine as we climbed atop the 100 metre/325 foot tall cliff.

Looking back at the lagoon from whence we came

Rocks and roots and blissful shade
Northern Mazinaw Lake

Back down at the ferry dock.

After our descent and return journey across the lake, we enjoyed a simple lunch on the shore before heading out to explore some more trails.

Big rock on the High Pines Trail

This tree is disintegrating into a jigsaw puzzle

Highest point of the trail

Local resident

We then made a grievous tactical error. Despite knowing that the mosquitos were vicious in the park (it was August 1st, after all), we decided to hike the Bon Echo Creek Trail. It might as well have been called the Blood Donor Trail, as we were assaulted with extreme prejudice by tiny winged vampires from the moment we set out.

Bon Echo Creek is nice, though.
Emerging at the creek's mouth back at Mazinaw Lake, we elected to take the park road back to the car instead of traversing the bloodsucker gauntlet in reverse.

Bon Echo Creek with a soon-to-be-anemic canoeist

The lovely footbridge at the creek's mouth.
The highlight of the day was still to come, though. We'd confirmed with the gent who runs the boat rental earlier in the day that paddling opportunities continued right up until darkness falls in the park. We grabbed our PFDs, paddling gloves and a snack from the car, then hired a pair of kayaks to explore the park's most incredible features.

Gobsmacked by the sheer scale of the cliffs

Centuries-old pictographs on the rock face

The Walt Whitman memorial, carved into the stone in 1920.

My little playboat

Tanker under an overhang

Rocky shore

Seams of pink granite - evidence of some vigorous geography

The Nanabush panel of pictographs - the unofficial mascot of Bon Echo

As we paddled along the 1.5km / 0.9 mile of breathtaking vertical geology, the sun began to set, demonstrating how the colours of the rock seem to change with the shifting of the light.

Golden hour paddling

Heading back toward the narrows

A last look at the cliffs

Tanker chasing the sun trail

Setting sun in the lagoon

After our delightful evening's paddle it was back to the campsite for another hearty, delicious dinner and a campfire lasting deep into the night.

Using up our firewood

We headed home the next morning as the hordes descended on the park for Civic Holiday weekend, but this will certainly not be our last visit to Bon Echo.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Frontenac in 25 photos

I took Tanker out on his first ever canoe trip last week, and it was amazing despite raining every. Single. Day.

Setting out in full Gore-Tex
We left our hotel in Kingston on Monday the 28th in heavy rain, had a full breakfast at Denny's in steady rain, hit a gluten free bakery in more rain, picked up our rental canoe from Frontenac Outfitters in pouring rain, got out permits at the Frontenac Provincial Park office in wet weather, and left from the Big Salmon Lake launch in persistent rain.

Paddling for all of 2mins in our rain jackets, we hit our first portage up to Little Salmon Lake. We could have avoided it by doing a longer paddle & longer portage directly to Little Clear Lake, but it was the only way we'd see Little Salmon Lake.

And encountering these loons almost immediately on Little Salmon Lake was worth it.

Another portage up to Little Clear Lake and a paddle to the North end, then we set up the tarp over the tent pad so it could dry out. I had conveniently packed said tarp in the bottom of the canoe pack, because I'm a planner.

"Can't sleep - pack will eat me"
A hike to Tetsmine Lake and Lynch Lake (not accessible by portage routes - backpacking destinations only) gave the ground under the tarp some time to dry a bit while providing some nice sights.

Lovely lush forest trail

Pretty spillway under a footbridge

By the time we returned, the rain had ceased and we set up camp.


We were treated to a lovely sunset on Little Clear Lake to end our first day in the park.

I could get used to this.

Next morning we set off again after a good breakfast and a bit of time spent filtering water down at the shore in the company of some of the park's residents.

Rat snakes are a threatened species, though this one was pretty chill.

Back across Little Clear on our way to Black Lake, the forest gave way to some rockier shoreline.

Tanker manning the bow.

Another 2-portage day, with Tank carrying the pack and me as Captain Canoehead.

Like my hat?
A bit of extra investigation of the portage and backpacking trails between Black Lake and Big Clear Lake, then on to our second campsite.

Rocks and trees

Water lilies were everywhere!

The North shore of Big Clear Lake is gorgeous stone cliffs, which we paddled under and then hiked atop after setting up camp.

Tanker meets Big Clear Lake

Base of a scenic lookout

It rained again overnight and into the morning, but a sleep-in brought lovely sunshine.

View out the tent flap on Wednesday morning.

Tanker does breakfast dishes at campsite 13

From Big Clear we paddled down and portaged to Labelle Lake, then our last portage of the trip brought us back to Big Salmon Lake. Arriving at our campsite before 2pm, we did our longest afternoon of hiking to a couple of scenic views.

Mostly of swamps.

Some of which had residents.

We put up the tarp again as there had been thunder rolling around, but no actual rain fell that evening. We enjoyed our first campfire of the trip that didn't need a lot of faffing and hand-holding to stay lit - the joys of actual dry wood - as the sun set on our penultimate day in Frontenac.


View from our tent pad
 We awoke Thursday morning to incredible stillness and solid cloud cover.
You can see the underwater rock shelf in the bay

We had hoped to have a cup of coffee down by the water in peace & quiet, but unfortunately while it was brewing the two 4-year-old boys from the next campsite woke up and it began to rain again. We drank our coffee and had breakfast under the tarp instead, then packed up and headed for our extraction point.

Rocky shoreline

Frontenac putting on a show

Coming back in to the launch

Great times!

Then it was off to Bon Echo, but that will have to wait until next week..