Ten months of anticipation and preparation was released as we stepped through the dunes onto the beach at Agawa Bay on a warm, sunny August morning. With an endless supply of optimism, we bolted down the sandy shoreline, revelling in the fact that we were finally here. Now before you get the wrong idea, this is not a story about a leisurely afternoon at the beach. In fact there was not much leisure happening on this expedition at all. That sandy beach would shortly change into the most difficult and beautiful trail I had ever hiked.
It had been 17 years since the first time I witnessed the beauty of Lake Superior’s east coast – 8 years since I was there last. Both of those instances I was there as a camper, staying at the Agawa Bay Campground in Lake Superior Provincial Park. While spending the day with my wife kayaking in Sinclair Cove, I noticed a sign posted on a large tree with a symbol of a tent. I knew of a trail in the park but had no knowledge of its location. Seeing that campsite had sparked in me a desire to kayak or hike the coast, in order to access these remote campsites.
ARE YOU UP FOR A WALK!
Scott didn’t hesitate when I asked if he was interested in hiking up in Superior Country. This was a brand new landscape for him. Ever since we had completed the La Cloche Silhouette Trail (2016), the Coastal Trail had come up in conversations as the next short film in our Wilderness Trails Series. For both of us, exploring this part of the country represented a major commitment because of the 10 hour drive to get there and the related expenses for a trip like this. With assistance from MEC and Naturally Superior Adventures, we were able to make this project happen. For anyone considering hiking the trail, it is worth the investment to get there.
We were warned that this trail was not for novice hikers. The beauty of this landscape was possibly only equalled by the ruggedness of the terrain. I suppose that part of the reason it is so spectacular is because of how remote and rugged it is. What I hadn’t anticipated was how diverse the trail would be.
The mostly sandy beach (that we had started from) had changed to mostly small stones after we crossed the Agawa River. From Agawa Point to Sinclair Cove we hiked under the shade of trees, high above the vertical cliffs, periodically coming to sun filled openings with stunning views looking out to the Agawa Islands, Gainly Island, Rock Island and Sinclair Island. There were times that we encountered no one on the trail and moments we felt like the side show at the beach, as we hiked past the herds of tourists spending the afternoon at Katharine Cove. It was very difficult walking past all the picnic baskets and coolers overflowing with fresh food and a plethora of cold drinks. There were sections of trail that we longed for the shade of the inland forest, while other times longing to be out of the forest, to feel the cool lake breeze blow across our sweat soaked shirts and smell the fresh lake air. Many portions of the trail we alternated between a flat forest trail and sections of trail that saw us testing how quick our hand, foot and eye coordination was as we navigated long stretches across the tops of boulders, 3 – 6 feet in diameter. The slope was in constant flux as we traversed the landscape. Bald Head was intensely steep in places, often requiring climbing up on hands and knees and sometimes requiring pack removal and scaling down sections backwards. Even the beach sections could not be considered truly flat because of the sideways slope caused by the waves creating a terraced like effect with the many sizes of loosely packed stones.
A PLACE TO REST
Each campsite had its own unique flavour. Most sites were structured in much the same way – tent pad and fire pit nestled just inside the trees with some sort of beach area. Our last night on Gargantua Bay had a generous view (from our fire pit) of the lake while most others had no view to speak of. Beaches were comprised of small pebbles, large rocks or sand. Our site where the Bald Head River flows into Lake Superior had a south facing lake access as well as a west facing. Most sites had a view to the south-west. Our favourite site, at Robertson Cove, was unlike all other sites. It was a sandy spit of land that was just high enough to provide dry access to the small island located just off shore. It was, by far, the largest site.
WHAT’S THE WEATHER LIKE?
I’ve seen many of the moods Lake Superior has to display (only in the summer though). While on this hike of the Coastal Trail, we witnessed a tranquil lake – mostly. One of the days the waves finally produced small whitecaps and a cool breeze. I have, in previous visits, kayaked in large Superior swells and swam in pounding, deafening beach waves. During our hike the weather was very stable and we experienced mostly vast, cloudless, blue skies. Most sunsets were simple – large red sun illuminating a blank canvas of sky and water in subtle shades of pink. We rarely felt the morning sun on us while at camp. Even with a 6:00AM sunrise, we only saw the effects of the sun by mid morning because of the hills and tree cover to the east of our campsites.
If you aren’t enjoying the trail at any given moment, it won’t be long until it changes. Hiking the Coastal Trail is a diverse experience – you will witness steep granite rock faces plunging into the lake, long expanses of coastal beaches, the most beautiful assortment of white pine, cedar, aspen, hemlock and jack pine I have ever seen, boulder beaches, gently sloping rock terraces and water flowing from inland hills into the largest freshwater lake (by surface area) in the world. Hiking the trail is comparable to a sensory overload. The smells are more intense, the sights are glorious and the sounds are both subtle and loud. Diversity is to be expected while you traverse this rugged and beautiful landscape. Sometimes it is welcomed while other times it seems that you can never get enough of the present moment – whether it be the calm lake you’re swimming in or a flat section of forest trail that is helping to reduce a high core body temperature. Regardless of the constant change in trail conditions, some things will remain the same and that is an appreciation of the beauty of this place and a healthy respect for the ruggedness of the trail.
This will be the second film in the Wilderness Trails series. If you missed the first one you can view it at this link.
We intend to hike the trail and document the beauty of and experience of hiking a 65 km section of the rugged Lake Superior coastline in a visually creative and professional manner. The Coastal Trail has been described as rugged and demanding. This is a wilderness trail that has few encounters with civilization – the trail heads back inland for a few river crossings (Agawa, Barrett & Sand Rivers) utilizing Trans Canada Hwy bridges. We travel light on the trail with minimal impact and follow the ‘leave no trace’ philosophy of hiking. We have successfully hiked 100 km on the La Cloche Silhouette Trail in 2016 and continue training for a hike of the Coastal Trail in 2018 and the John Muir Trail in 2019. We also have many years and experiences on canoe trips in the backcountry in Algonquin and Killarney.
COMMUNICATIONS & OUTREACH
We have received financial and product support from M.E.C. and Naturally Superior Adventures. We are excited to have the opportunity to partner with these businesses! A short documentary film and a photographic portfolio will be made documenting the beauty and experience of hiking a 65km section of the rugged Lake Superior shoreline. As in the first film, Scott Jordan will be creating the musical soundscape once again. Film screenings will be planned, with interested organizations, for the beginning of 2019.
“This is so the best day ever” my daughter exclaimed as she watched the popcorn kernels explode into their white, fluffy glory. The handle for the Jiffy Pop was much too short and I had to set it on the fire. I should have known better. She paid no attention to my apology for burning the popcorn – just continued to selectively work her way through eating as much of it as she could. I guess the experience of making popcorn, while camping, was more important than my ability to produce a perfect bowl of camp ‘Jiffy Pop’.
I love how excited the kids get when I tell them we are going camping, how we get to sleep in a tent, with our sleeping bags and special camp pillows, that I brought hotdogs to cook over the fire and of course how they get to go to the bulk food store to pick out their own snacks for the canoe trip. They were even more excited, after we all gathered firewood, I told them they could help me place sticks on the fire. That was a first for them after always being told no, up until this point in their young lives.
Watching my kids as they participate in a canoe trip is inspiring. They are never bored. There are times when I need to lead (when to go to bed, brush your teeth, don’t hit your sister – parental type stuff) but most of the time I follow their lead. They seem to move along seamlessly from one activity to another and from one discovery to another. I just tag along and join in on the sense of wonder they exhibit at each new experience. Our campsite (#56) was high up on a rocky peninsula with views on three sides. It was very large with a lot of area to roam – even room for small children to run. The site had an expansive view of the lake with views of both sunrise and sunset. If we were quiet, we could hear the sound of a waterfall located across the lake from us to the north. This was a site that would need a stay of a few days to fully enjoy every aspect of it.
I guess the next time I bring popcorn, I will have to lash a stick to the Jiffy Pop handle so I can safely hold the popcorn out over the fire. I don’t intend to burn the popcorn twice in a row, despite my daughter’s gracious gesture.
I was asked to participate in a canoe trip this past Summer (2017) with a group of guys I mostly had never met before, in a place I had never been before and had no problem saying “yes!” The opportunity to experience something new in a familiar situation was all too enticing. The itinerary was four days and three nights on the Lady Evelyn River and Lady Evelyn Lake in the infamous wilderness area known as Temagami. This area lies in Northern Ontario, close to the Quebec border about 1-2 hours north of North Bay. Seven of us arrived in Mowat Landing around noon on a Monday morning in August and were paddling up the Lady Evelyn River an hour later, looking for our first campsite of the trip.
This wilderness gathering of men was organized by a couple of men from Bethany Community Church in St. Catharines, Ontario. As I mentioned before, this was not a trip consisting of close friends – I knew only one of the seven men! This was a group on a mission: to enjoy some canoeing, fishing and camping while getting to know some new people and getting to know ourselves a little bit deeper through a study from the book of Joshua.
During the trip we experienced a little bit of everything. There was plenty of good food to eat and thankfully there was only one portage to carry it over. We mostly enjoyed sunny skies and warm temperatures, but also got caught canoeing in a downpour and spent an entire evening huddled under a tarp, around a smokey fire and contemplated how early was too early to just go to bed. We got to spend a playful afternoon (swimming, eating, fishing & resting) on an island on Lady Evelyn Lake, but had to quickly head back to camp after seeing the sky quickly change from blue skies to dark clouds in a very short time. As I alluded to before, we did not manage to outrun the rain. We experienced some great campsites, good conversations, plenty of opportunities to swim and fish, one cold night followed by a beautiful morning of heavy mist on the lake and an intense time of self reflection and meditation while reading through and discussing the experiences of Joshua.
“I will not be afraid, I will not fear, for You alone are a shield about me.”
Here is a link to watch the short film made during this trip.
There is no such island in Killarney, but in my daughter’s mind we were on Mosquito Island for the duration of our shortest canoe trip to date.
We drove up to the park for the weekend to host a film screening of Wilderness Trails at the park amphitheatre. Scott (co-creator of the film) and his family joined us for lunch (fish & chips) in the town of Killarney before we headed to the park to set up our camp sites. After supper we headed over to the amphitheatre to set up equipment and do a sound check. What a perfect setting to watch the film we made of our hike on the La Cloche Silhouette Trail. Thank you to Rachelle from K.P.P. and the Friends of Killarney Park for bringing us up to show our film!
Since we were already in the park we thought why not a short canoe trip. The following morning we set off to the Bell Lake access point to canoe to the only lake we could reserve (last minute planning) that was close enough for our ‘one nighter’ – Grey Lake.
This was to be the kids (ages 3 & 5) first experience with a portage – 595M from the east side of Bell Lake into Grey Lake. They were excited about the hike because each of them had been allowed to bring their own backpacks. So off they went, down the path, deeper into the forest as I walked close behind them, weighted down with a pack on both my back and front and a camera in one hand. Thankfully I had one free hand because the mosquitos did not take very long to zone in on the two inexperienced mosquito swatters. So with that free hand I swatted mosquitos away from my son and daughter while they walked as fast as their little legs could go. When we finally arrived at the end of the portage, I dropped all my gear and quickly retrieved the bug spray while I listened to my daughter confidently announce, “I do not like Mosquito Island, this is the worst day of my life!”
Site 239 on Grey Lake is a fantastic spot to camp! Nice views down the lake to the east, a couple of good tent pads and a few different options for swimming. We swam for an hour or so that afternoon, enjoyed a supper of salad, steak and potatoes, the kids wandered all over the site, looked for frogs, climbed rocks and later we all enjoyed a warm fire & conversation on a cool summer night with good friends. I know that my daughter had earlier said that it was the worst day of her life, but from the looks of the activities from the rest of the day (watch the film), I think it might have been one of the best days of her life – even though she seems to mostly recall the mosquitos.
“There’s a place, a garden for the young
To laugh and dance in safety among
The shimmering light in the shade of the trees”
(Josh Garrels / Morning Light)
For the past eight consecutive years, I have taken my kids on a canoe trip in Killarney Provincial Park. This place is truly “a garden for the young” and the young at heart. We spent four nights and five days, away from our daily routine, with just our canoe, paddles, backpacks, a bit of food, a few clothes and a heightened sense of adventure. The air was fresh, the lakes were glassy blue, the forest alive and the company – simply perfect! There are moments for contemplation and solitude here, but away from the distractions of our day to day lives, we have so many opportunities to connect and strengthen relationships. This is one of my favourite ‘playgrounds’ and we have many fond memories of time spent here.
“The times are changing, I can feel it in my bones
Cause I’m standing on the edge of the other side of all that I’ve known
It’s been a long time coming, I take one last breath
With my eyes open wide, smiling up into the skies, it begins with a step”
(Josh Garrels / Run)
As a Dad, I could sense that times were changing and if I couldn’t feel it in my bones, I could feel it in many other ways. It seems that not that long ago I held my kids until they begged to be let down to run off to their next adventure. My son had recently turned eighteen and is no longer a boy. Picking him up and holding him for any prolonged length of time is now unfortunately awkward. I know there is nothing magical or religious about the moment you turn a specific age, but at some point in a boy’s life, things must and will change.
A launch: is a point at which something begins, or to launch: is to put into operation or to set in motion. So at the launch of his voyage into manhood, we decided to embark on a new place in the park to celebrate the occasion. We have never been to the infamous Grace and Nellie Lakes in all the years of canoeing in the park. At first, the long paddle into the park and the 1000m+ portages kept us away when the kids were younger. Later on the excuse was it added so much more time onto our already long drive. It was finally time to take that metaphorical first step and journey into the unknown. This particular unknown was not necessarily scary, but when you have loved the past canoe trips so much, the unknown can be a bit intimidating and exciting all at the same time.
I have the same sense with my kids growing up and becoming responsible for themselves. It is a bit intimidating and yet there is the potential of so much that I am excited for them. May you take that first of many steps toward all that God has created you to be. It has been a joy to have had the responsibility of setting the stage for this launch into the next stage of your journey. May the fires that burn inside you provide for you more than mere warmth – but purpose, direction and meaning.
The photographs are all taken from campsites along the La Cloche Silhouette Trail (with the exception of Shingwak Lake) in Killarney Provincial Park. Each image is printed with Epson Ultrachrome K3 Ink on Epson Exhibition Fibre Paper. Image size is 11″ x 22
If anyone is in the St. Catharines area on Saturday, April 8, 2017, mark down in your calendar to attend the premiere showing of Wilderness Trails. Location of this event is in the Fireside Room at Bethany Community Church (1388 Third Street Louth, St. Catharines) at 7:00PM. You can order tickets through me, at $5.00 each. There will also be a display of photographs from the trip and DVD’s for sale. Doors open at 6:30PM.
Where are the canoes?
I keep looking for the canoe in the photos because it has been such an integral part of all my trips into Killarney. My first trip into the Killarney backcountry was 1994. Last winter I got inspired to mix it up, try something new. I abandoned the familiar mode of travel to see a different part of the park. I decided to attempt the La Cloche Silhouette Trail and asked a long time canoeing/camping friend (Scott Jordan) to join me. The (80km) trail did share some of the lakes with canoe routes, but many would be new to me. The views from high above the lakes would also be new to me as well as not being in constant proximity to the water.
The average time to hike the trail is 5-7 days. We would be spending 10 days on the trail for a couple of reasons: to give us more time during the daily hike to spend filming and photographing and to see and spend time at more of the campsites along the trail. I have included a rating (0 – 5 stars) for each of the campsites we stayed at. Sites are rated based on availability of a flat spot to pitch a tent, how easy it is to access the lake for drinking water, how nice it was to swim at the site, the overall view from the campsite and how sheltered you were from the elements such as wind and rain.
DAY #1 / TOPAZ LAKE [H7] / 11.1 km / 4.25 hr / 31°c
Our first night was spent at Topaz Lake. It took us 4.25 hours to get there, passing Lumsden Lake, Acid Lake, Cave Lake, stopping for a break at Artist Creek and then passing by the end of Baie Fine until we finally climbed up to and over the ridge to the entrance of Topaz Lake. We still had to make our way around to the other side of the lake to where the campsite was located. Half way there we both concluded that we had missed a trail marker because the ‘trail’ that we on was much to narrow and treacherous to be used by hikers with large heavy backpacks. On our way out the next morning we confirmed that we indeed had missed the trail marker. My line of site to where the campsite was lead me to plough straight ahead and made me see a trail that was not there. Because of our late start (2:00PM) and anticipating rain at any time we decided to forgo plans of jumping off the infamous Topaz Lake cliffs and head over to the site to set up, make supper and swim before it got dark. The site was completely under tree cover but very spacious and open underneath. I had plenty of choice for hanging my hammock, however very few level spots to pitch a tent. The water access was isolated to one spot and only a mild slope down to the water’s edge. Swimming was decent – clean & deep – not as nice as the other side of the lake though. The mosquitos are a non factor by the end of July and on into the season. We did however need to retreat to our tents as the sun set behind the mountains and as we were enjoying our evening campfire. Our fire did not produce enough smoke for us to hide and we had freshened up with a swim in the lake, so we were easy prey for the mosquitos. It was late enough to go to bed, so applying bug spray was not necessary. We were safe from physical harm, but the whiny drone of those tenacious little bugs on the outside of our shelters tormented us for what seemed like hours. It would take a few more nights of this routine before we learned to tune them out.
tent setup availability★★ water access★★★ swimming★★★ view★★ shelter from elements★★★★
DAY #2 / THREENARROWS LAKE [H19] / 15.5 km / 8 hr / 28°c
We awoke to an overcast sky that looked like it could go either way – rain at any time or clear up. After making breakfast and packing up our equipment, we started on day two of our adventure, leaving Topaz Lake around 9:30AM. After finishing the ‘Pig’ portage (that we had started the previous day), we headed away from the southern tip of Threenarrows Lake and stopped at the dam where the lake flows over into Kirk Creek. The weather had begun to change and it looked like it would be a beautiful day after all. In mid summer it was dry and very tempting to cross there. Set on completing the trail in it’s entirety, we headed on down the trail as it followed the winding creek until reaching a foot bridge. We crossed Kirk Creek here and followed the trail east, as it eventually reconnected with Threenarrows Lake and then headed northeast until reaching H19. We made stops at both H16 (to eat and refill our water supply) and at H17 for a little victory celebration. It was there, that we had to turn back (in the spring) because of knee problems I was having. My knee pain was behind me now and we were venturing into new territory with each new step. We arrived at H19 around 5:30PM and were amazed at the beauty of a part of the park we had not yet seen before.
This site is on a flat, open rock outcropping with views to the north facing Doris Island. Water access is easy and abundant. Swimming here is delightful, but with a shallow descent into the deeper water. It was at this site that I first missed our non existent canoe. Looking out across the lake as we sat and ate around the fire, made me instinctively want to hop in the canoe and explore.
tent setup availability★★★ water access★★★★★ swimming★★★★ view★★★★★ shelter from elements★★★
DAY #3 / THREENARROWS LAKE [H21] / 6.7 km / 3.5 hr / 25°c
We were in no hurry to leave H19. Day 3 was a shorter day, hiking for only 3.5 hours until we reached Threenarrows Lake (H21). This was the first day that we met anyone on the trail – one solo hiker and a couple as well. The solo hiker passed us as we were labouring up a hill and we later met with him again at H20 where we decided to stop for lunch. Nice campsite with a great view over an unnamed lake, but along way down a steep incline to get access to water.
The side trail to H21 was the longest of all the trails to campsites – .75 km. It was well worth the effort! This site was another open rock outcrop jutting eastward into Threenarrows Lake this time facing the west side of Doris Island. It was not as flat as H19, but was more interesting. The swimming was amazing here and water access was every where you could see. After setting up camp, we both had a mid afternoon siesta. The rest of the day was spent relaxing – photographing, exploring and swimming. After our usual routine of supper and a brief camp fire we headed to bed, hopefully recharged and refuelled for the next day – the most physically demanding of our 10 day trip.
tent setup availability★★★ water access★★★★★ swimming★★★★ view★★★★★ shelter from elements★★★
DAY #4 / LITTLE MOUNTAIN LAKE [H33] / 12.6 km / 9 hr / 23°c
It took us just over 9 hours to make it to Little Mountain Lake. We started our ascent up into the highlands of the Hansen section via a slowly rising valley, criss-crossing the small stream that flowed at it’s base. That eventually lead to us climbing up an almost vertical rock wall, as water rushed over the precipice and down beside us. I knew about the waterfall, but did not expect any water to be flowing over it during one of the driest summers in years. We eventually stopped briefly at an unnamed lake where H22 is, to have lunch and refill our 2L hydration bags. The 2L bags seemed to be the right choice for the distances we were hiking, the availability of lakes and the warm temperatures. This site is just off the trail, but is nicer than I had anticipated. The water access is very long and steep as it is situated high above the lake. I would not want to swim here, unless I was filthy and needed to get cleaned up. We were not long coming to H23, a steep descent and then the long climb up to Moose Pass where we were eventually rewarded with spectacular views looking south over the Kirk Creek Valley toward, the Blue Ridge of the South La Cloche Range.
It wasn’t until 5:00PM that we saw, through the trees, the distant shimmer of the turquoise water of Little Mountain Lake. We still had another hour of the trail descending into the basin that Little Mountain Lake occupies. At times this section was not safe to climb down forwards and was advisable to undo backpack buckles so you could sacrifice the pack and not yourself incase of a fall.
I’m not sure why, but this lake was the coldest of all we swam in. It was also the one we needed the most to clean off a good helping’ of a day’s worth of grime. There is really only one access to swim and get clean water – off to the eastern tip of the site, once you leave the cover of trees which dominates this site. Since we arrived later than usual, there was not much leisure time after our ritualistic swim/clean up in the lake, set up shelters, cook and eat supper and hang our food bags. Our fire, that night, was probably the smallest and shortest of the entire trip. We probably were also too tired to stay up very late after an intense hike like we did that day.
tent setup availability★★★★ water access★★★★ swimming★★★ view★★★ shelter from elements★★★★
DAY #5 / BOUNDARY LAKE [H35] / 6 km / 4 hr / 25°c
The early morning sun penetrated through the wall of trees that lined the shore, obstructing our view of the lake and brightened the previously very dark site that we experienced the previous night. Since the campsite was located at the bottom of a very large hill and facing east, we had not seen direct sun on our site until this morning. After breakfast, as we were packing up, we heard the sounds of canoeists passing through our little lake – on route from Great Mountain Lake on to Threenarrows Lake.
Day five was much easier than the previous day – only 4 hours of hiking and nowhere near the vertical ascents and descents that we had experienced. This section of trail gave of views of Little Mountain Lake and Great Mountain Lake (to the north of us), Silver Peak off in the distance (southeast of us) and a bit later on, David Lake (to the north) and Boundary Lake (to the south).
After another steep and long descent from the ridge, we arrived at H35. It was nice going down, but we were both thinking all along that we would have to go back up this tomorrow morning. Going up first thing in the morning is always easier than if we had to do it at the end of the day.
This campsite has a wooded area at the back and a flat, open area between that and the shore. As soon as we arrived we set up our shelters and I went for a swim. Our site on Boundary Lake was on a canoe route with only one campsite for canoeists and one site for hikers. While eating dinner we heard the sounds of distant conversation and paddles drumming on gunwales as a lone canoe paddled by to reach their site. Late afternoon, the sky clouded over and begin to lightly rain – not enough to send us packing and hiding in our tents. As I continued to photograph the sky started to clear up and the early evening sun shone through a break in the clouds and illuminated isolated areas of the landscape. This lasted only minutes during which I frantically photographed the scene before the light disappeared.
tent setup availability★★★★ water access★★★★★ swimming★★★ view★★★★★ shelter from elements★★★★
DAY #6 / SILVER LAKE [H37] / 6.8 km / 3 hr / 30°c
It took us 3 hours to get from Boundary Lake to our next site on Silver Lake. Most of this trail was already familiar to both of us because it is the trail that also leads canoeists from the David Lake to Boundary Lake portage up to Silver Peak. Most of the trail is relatively flat or downhill until you get to the junction where you decide to stay on the L.S.T. or go up to Silver Peak. Going up to Silver Peak really means going up – it is quite a steep climb the rest of the way up to the highest point in the park. We continued to follow our blue trail markers that led us down the widest, flatest, smoothest section of the trail, until we then headed south and back up to the top of the ridges again.
It wasn’t long until we were at Silver Lake, setting up camp and trying to decide if we were going to swim. Neither of us like to swim if the lake is full of plant life. Our water access had one small area (not deep enough to dive and too deep to walk into) in which to propel ourselves, rather awkwardly, out past the marshy area into the deeper and clearer water to swim. We both exited the lake about as fast as it took us to get in – just enough time to clean ourselves off! While entertaining ourselves for the afternoon around camp, we realized just how close H38 was to us. If we listened closely enough, we could have joined into our neighbours conversation. I started having car camping flashbacks of listening reluctantly to neighbouring conversations ’til the wee hours of the morning while desperately trying to sleep. In the end, it was not our H38 neighbours that kept us up – it was a combination of the heat and the frogs that night!
tent setup availability★★★ water access★★★ swimming★★ view★★★★ shelter from elements★★★★
DAY #7 / BUNNYRABBIT LAKE [H45] / 5.1 km / 3.25 hr / 29°c
Bunnyrabbit Lake, from the map, does indeed look like a rabbit, but not so much from the shore of the lake. From the shore of this lake all you see is this vividly clear blue water drawing you into its refreshing depths. It is a bit of a steep descent down to the waters edge, but has an intimate rocky area in which to enjoy the lake from. It was a beautiful warm summer afternoon with nothing to do except enjoy where we were, reflect on the journey that had brought us here to this point and to anticipate the trail ahead of us. Three guys, who left the main trail to refill their water supply, stopped by our campsite and we chatted for a good half hour or so. We did not have much contact with others on the trail. It was always a pleasure to talk with fellow hikers and share in the experience of hiking the La Cloche Silhouette Trail.
While hiking the trail there are three predominant things that occupy our conversation. The first is the obvious practical details of the trip – hows your water supply, I need a break when we reach the top, did we miss the trail marker and so on. The second is conversation about how incredibly beautiful this place is and lets stop to film here or which campsite do you like best so far. The third topic of conversation that occurs many times a day starts with what are we having for dinner tonight, quickly followed with talk about what things we would love to be eating that we cannot have right now. The conversation seems, at first, a bit masochistic but remarkably feels more so like a celebration of food and all things culinary. We have years of dehydrated meal preparation between us both and we enjoyed some good food. Meals like pull pork wraps, chili, sausage with pasta & peppers, Indian chick pea curry & rice were a good reason to get excited about what we were having for dinner, especially after hours of backpacking every day. So, I believe we enjoyed a chicken & herb pasta dish that night, while sitting around a campfire delighting in our surroundings and all that we had experienced so far.
tent setup availability★★★★ water access★★★★ swimming★★★★ view★★★ shelter from elements★★★★
DAY #8 / LITTLE SUPERIOR LAKE [H49] / 6.5 km / 4 hr / 31°c
During the night we received a light rain, only enough to dampen everything. We did have to scramble in the early hours of the morning to retrieve our clothes that had been drying on the line. By the time we awoke, the sun was already out and starting to dry the rain on our shelters. We set off around 10:30 (our latest departure time) and it wasn’t long before we started to witness the many beautiful mountain lakes in the Killarney Ridge section of the trail. First was Whiskeyjack Lake and then a brief stop on the shore of Heaven Lake. After a small downhill section, the trail joined (temporarily) with the Kakakise Lake to Norway Lake portage. Then it was back uphill again until we eventually were standing high above, looking out over Shingwak Lake, one of the highest lakes (386m.) in the park. Proulx Lake is not visible from the trail and neither is Little Superior Lake if you are hiking the trail clockwise.
Somewhere on the trail, between Bunnyrabbit Lake and the portage from Kakakise Lake to Norway Lake, we crossed paths with 4 young guys. While chatting with them I noticed the amount of gear they had and especially how much of it was dangling on the outside of their packs. They told us they had camped on the portage trail the night before because it was too dark to reach their intended site for the night. We wished them a good trip and continued on our way. About 5 minutes later, one of them was running down the trail after us, yelling “Have you seen our map?” When he had caught up with us, he explained that he could not find their map. While deciding on a course of action with him, I noticed the duct tape and gauze bandage haphazardly wrapped around his knee, with a bit of dried blood on his shin. I dared ask what happened and was told that his machete slipped while chopping wood and got his knee. After a bit more searching, we suggested he photograph our map with his mobile phone and continued on our way, all the while imagining what further adventures these boys were going to have.
Our first glimpse of Little Superior Lake was that from our campsite. The site was situated on the eastern shore of the lake. We spent another afternoon of photographing, swimming and relaxation on one of the best campsites of the trip. The water here was some of the most intense blue we had witnessed and the white quartzite shoreline was a beautiful contrast with the water. We knew that we had an early start planned for the next day, so we got the business of supper and fire started earlier than usual, hoping that sleep would not evade us as we retired earlier than usual.
tent setup availability★★★★ water access★★★★★ swimming★★★★★ view★★★★ shelter from elements★★★★★
DAY #9 / LITTLE SHEGUIANDAH LAKE [H53] / 12.5 km / 7 hr / 32°c
On day 9 of our trip we were on the home stretch, headed to Little Sheguiandah Lake. The 5:30 wake up was by far the earliest of the trip, but was necessary to get early morning light when we reached the crack. Packing up and making breakfast by the light of our headlamps was a first for the trip.
We experienced dawn’s first light as we made our first climb of the day and were treated to a spectacular view (to the north of us) of Little Superior Lake. We reached the Crack around 8:30AM and enjoyed the panoramic view of Killarney and O.S.A. Lakes, nestled between the Blue Ridge and the Killarney Ridge of the South La Cloche Range. During the summer months the Crack is crawling with hikers – unless you get there early or arrive late enough to avoid the crowds. We witnessed only two people during our 45 minute break and they were fellow L.S.T. hikers. It is easy to see why many hikers make this spot a destination, where for us it was another place to enjoy the view along the way to the end of the trail. After descending from the Crack, the trail became relatively flat as we passed by Kidney Lake, Kakakise Lake, Sealey’s Lake, Freeland Lake and Wagon Road Lake before we arrived at Little Shegiandah Lake.
We stopped at Sealey’s Lake to eat lunch and realized I had just run out of water. I was not excited about filtering water to drink out of this lake. It is not the type of lake you would want to swim in, let alone drink out of. I scooped up as much water as I could with the dirty bag of the Platypus Gravity Works filter and tried not to include and plant life or small fish. The filter did its job – I did not get sick from drinking Sealy’s Lake water. The rest of the days hike was fairly flat and we could move at a good pace – something we had not been accustomed to since the small section of trail that took canoeists from the David Lake/Clearsilver Lake portage to Silver Peak, back on day six. We arrived at Little Sheguiandah Lake around 1:30PM because of our early start. That left us plenty of time to enjoy the site (exploring, swimming, camp fire, reading, our last supper).
tent setup availability★★★★★ water access★★★★★ swimming★★★★ view★★★★★ shelter from elements★★★★
DAY #10 / GEORGE LAKE / 2.8 km / .75 hr / 33°c
This was a bittersweet moment of our trip. Waking up and knowing we would not be hiking to another campsite on one of Killarney’s beautiful mountain lakes, but would be instead hiking to our vehicle and then driving back home. We both were excited to go home (especially to reconnect with our families) but were also sad that we could see the end of our adventure together. The weather seemed to reflect our current mental state of mind as well. It started to rain and stopped, started to clear but didn’t. We poked around the campsite and surrounding area for awhile, maybe hoping that the rain would clear or maybe delaying the inevitable. For the first time of the trip we had to pack up our tents wet. The rain did not last very long and when it did clear, the humidity came out with the sun. Thankfully the hottest day was also our shortest day.
The first item on the ‘let’s go home list’ was a shower and a change off clothes for the drive home. A hot shower at the campground facilities combined with the sudden increase in temperature and humidity made the A/C in the truck an ‘oasis of cool’ that we had been dreaming about for ten hot and sweaty days!. The second item on that list was a lunch in the village of Killarney – beer, burger and fries, but not before we made a stop at Killarney Outfitters to return a few pieces of equipment they had loaned us for the trip.
There were many times throughout this 10 day hike that I wished I had a canoe, to further explore these new lakes I had never seen before. Since we spread out the trail over 10 days, I believe we had a handful of shorter hiking days (that most L.S.T. hikers don’t have) and so the extra time (on site) in the late afternoon, especially gave way to thoughts of “If I had a canoe I could paddle over to the rock face across the lake” or “It’s kind of swampy here, let’s find a better spot to swim”. I am also very used to the freedom of photographing anything I can see across the lake, because I have quick access to it by canoe. It is also much easier to carry your gear in the canoe instead of on your back. I know that some of the portages are long and hilly, but the majority of travel is done on a flat body of water with no change in elevation.
However, there is something intoxicating about life on the trail that I had never experienced before. On canoe trips, I have enjoyed the sense of solitude of being out on these lakes with very few people around. On the trail, that sense of solitude is more intense. Because of our mode of travel and the location of the trail, we are even more removed from civilization. Travelling through the valleys, up and over steep hills, crossing many creeks and walking along treeless mountain ridges we found ourselves moving days away from any quick exit from the park. As we looked at the map, we saw where we had been the previous day, where we were, where we still needed to go and realized just how far we had travelled – by the power of our own 2 feet with all our daily necessities on our back. The simple act of walking, I also found quite therapeutic. There is a wonderful rhythm to it, similar to paddling, but strangely different. I still love canoeing, but have found a new love, a new way of enjoying the backcountry.
A trailer for the upcoming film of this trip is available for viewing and I have started the process of writing, research, music…all the post trip part of the project. I hope to have this film ready for viewing Spring of 2017. I am working on arranging locations and venues to host a film screening and a photography exhibition. If you have any ideas or contacts, I would love to hear from you!