One sunny weekend in September I found myself in the wilderness of Canada. I was fulfilling one of my biggest dreams: I spent three unforgettable days of canoe camping in Ontario. This is the story of a picturesque getaway in Killarney Provincial Park, 5 hours north-west of Toronto at the edge of the Great Lakes.
“Did you hear that noise?”
No one answers. Obviously. I’m alone in my tent in the middle of Killarney Provincial Park. My tent is the only one on the little clearing in the forest. I was the only one who could have heard the noise. – There it was again. A quick and scratchy sound right next to my head. I open my eyes. It’s light out, but the sun hasn’t risen yet. There is no rain sheet covering my tent, so I can see the treetops high above me.
The scratching is back.
I realise it is actually not all that close, but rather a bit higher up in the tree next to my tent. It is coming closer. Something is moving down the trunk. I sit up and suddenly everything goes super quickly. Alarmed by the movement in the bright red spaceship-like structure there on the floor, the black squirrel races down the tree, zooms past the tent and disappears in the leaves across the clearing. Had I really just been woken up by a squirrel? Just in time for sunrise?
Or was this a dream?
Far off from that – I found myself in the wilderness of Canada for a weekend by the lake – I was canoe camping in Killarney Provincial Park in Ontario.
I could have started this article the way I started my trip – staring at my feet while asking my male canoe guide whether bears would attack me in the middle of the night, because – well, it was that time of the month. But I thought my little encounter with the squirrel – the only animal that came near me and my tent actually – would set the stage in a more suitable way.
To answer the question and reassure you, should you ever find yourself in said situation (and spare you from asking the same question) – bears don’t care about that sort of thing. You’re welcome!
Back to camping though. During my trip with Ontario Travel for Travelettes I got to fulfill a big dream of mine, a dream I have had ever since I visited Canada for the first time in 2012. Admittedly it all started at the other side of the country in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, but the idea of canoe camping in Canada had persisted.
So, when Killarney Outfitters came along and offered to take me on a canoe camping trip to Killarney Provincial Park – how could I have said no?
With my guide Mike, who has more years of canoe experience
on his back in his arms than he looks like, I sat out to paddle from George Lake to Killarney Lake, spend two nights camping by the shore, hike up the top of a hill called The Crack and eat s’mores like there was no tomorrow. Paddling sure makes hungry!
Look at the amount of gear and food we packed for the weekend! The blue bear barrel gets hung high up in the trees over night (ideally 3m high and 3m away from the tree trunk) so the bears can’t reach it. In it is all our food and toiletries – anything scented really!
On day 2 we climbed a hill called The Crack – the path leads literally up a crack, and even though the hill only reaches 355m elevation, this is quite a strenuous hike – especially because there are not many trees up on top to protect you from the midday sun. The views are worth it though!
One of my favourite experiences was staying up late on our first night – paddling also makes you tired – and watching the stars and milky way brightening up the sky.
If you ever dreamed about canoe camping in Canada, I can’t recommend Killarney Provincial Park enough. It might lack the dramatic peaks that you find over in Alberta or British Columbia, but the lakes, the views over Georgian Bay in the distance and the woodlands of Ontario create a truly magical experience too!
// In collaboration with Ontario Travel //