Thursday, December 12, 2013


In August, 2009, Catherine and spent almost a week camping on Johnnie Lake in Killarney Provincial Park, on a very lovely campsite.  During our stay we did several days trips and one day we paddled to the adjoining lake, Carlyle Lake.  Some of the campsites we saw were so nice that we decided to visit that lake again.  And four years later Deja vu!

Killarney Park, also called ‘the Jewel of Ontario’, is one of the most beautiful parks in Canada.  Its main features — wilderness, picturesque lakes and unique La Cloche Mountains, composed primarily of white quartzite — attract plenty of travellers who want to experience mother nature at her best.  Although there are drive-in campsites in the park, the only way to really come into contact with its beauty is to hike or canoe along its many hiking and canoeing routes.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of canoe routes require plenty of portaging, some over 4 km. long (some people say that if you go canoeing in Killarney Park, you do two trips at the same time: hiking and canoeing!).  Luckily, Carlyle Lake at least does not require any portaging and is connected to Johnnie Lake and Crooked Lake, allowing for several hours of leisurely paddling.
During our last visit we had seen two campsites that we liked: the first one, between Terry Lake and Carlyle Lake, just near a small rapid, was our first choice.  The second campsite, just across from th first campsite, appeared to be very nice as well (yet we hoped to get the other campsite).  Since we were departing on a Tuesday, we did not expect anybody else to occupy that site at that time.

Our tent at Carlyle Lake campsite

Of course, getting a campsite in Killarney Park, especially over a long weekend (after all, we were going to stay during the Canada Day long weekend) is not an simple thing: you cannot just show up and get a permit!  In fact, we had made the reservation some time in March, meaning that we could stay on any vacant campsite on Carlyle Lake.  Since each campsite can legally accommodate up to 6 people, we also invited several friends who were going to join us later.

As always, the drive to the park, although long (over 400 km), was quite pleasant.  We stopped in Parry Sound, where we did some additional shopping (there is always something you need!) and arrived at the park before 3:00 pm.  First, we had to go to the main office (Lake George), get our parking & camping permits and then drive back to the Carlyle Lake Access Point, just off road 637.  Near the park office we saw a group of several young people who had just arrived, but we did not really think much about them.  Then, while we were slowly unloading our van at the lake parking ramp, a truck arrived, dropping off three canoes... and soon the group we had seen at the park office showed up!  They did not have much stuff (unlike us, but it is a different story!) and in less than 30 minutes they were on the water.  It took us probably another 30 minutes or so to finally commence our trip.  There was a nice campsite just across from the parking lot (well, if somebody were determined to camp in Killarney without a canoe, it would probably be possible to swim there), but of course, we kept paddling towards a channel on the left leading to a bay with two campsites.  There was another vacant site in the channel, but not as nice as the other two.  In about 30 minutes we entered the channel... and soon saw that the campsite we were aiming at had already been occupied... by the very group of people that we had just seen!  Honetly, what were the chances of that happening?  It was like somethting from a Benny Hill Show.  Well, since we still wanted to stay on that lake, we took the other available campsite.  It seemed to be very lovely: located on a hilly rock, faced the west (meaning wonderful sunsets!) and gave us a breathtaking view of the lake.  It was a little difficult to unload the canoe, as there was not any natural bay, but we managed.  Dragging all our stuff up the hill was not something I enjoyed, but once I reached the top, I agreed that the site was awesome (and when we finally were able to examine the other campsite, we realized that ours was much better).

Having a great time around the fire!

As I was setting up the tent, Catherine brought all the other bags and set up a kitchen area.  Soon, we were sitting on the rocky top of the hill, drinking cold beer and enjoying a sunset.  I suggested that we hang our food for the night, but Catherine being Catherine, did not want to bother, hoping that no bear or other animal would be interested in our food (and fortunately, this time she was right).  Even though it was the end of June, we got bitten by black flies that were still active; fortunately, after two days the very warm weather killed them off.  There were mosquitoes, but well, it was something we had to accept!  We also set up a cheap picnic shelter which was supposed to protect us from bugs and rain, but when it was windy, it would twist and turn so much that even being near it was probably much more risky than being getting a few bug bites.  I also attached a big, Canadian flag to it to celebrate the Canada Day.

View from our campsite on Carlyle Lake and setting sun

On June 27, 2013, we paddled back to the parking lot, chained the canoe to a tree and drove to the lovely town of Killarney where we traditionally had Fish & Chips at the Herbert Fisheries and bought cold beer at the nearby LCBO store.  We also drove to the Chikanishing parking lot where we did part of the Chikanishing hiking trail: we had visited this place so many times in the past, as it was our departure point for our trips to and around Philip Edward Island, but she never had the time to do it.  We also sent text messages to our friends, letting them know the campsite number we were staying on (no cell coverage at our campsite!).  It was about 8:00 pm when we drove back to the parking lot, put our canoe on the water (it was still where we had left it) and on the way to our campsite, we explored the lake, paddling around the big island near the entrance to the channel.

Canoeing on Carlyle & Johnnie Lakes-plenty of beaver lodges, some
occupied by otters

On Friday our British friends, Ian and Sue, arrived, along with their dog called Miro, named after the Spanish painter.  In the evening we enjoyed the famous Polish soup, zurek (white borsch) that I made.  The next day Joe and Andrea came.  Since the weather was very nice, all of us paddled through a narrow part of the lake to Johnnie Lake and back.  We saw a few beaver lodges — I remember that in 2009 one of them was actually occupied by a family of otters, who got quite agitated when we were paddling by and made various sounds, presumably trying to scare us off.  Another day, after Ian and Sue had departed, Catherine, Andrea and Joe decided to paddle on Kakakise Lake; since a portage of about 900 meters was required, I passed on this opportunity.  Apparently the portage was quite rough, they got bitten by mosquitoes and while paddling on Kakakise Lake back to the campsite, they had some problems finding the portage!  Of course, they did not bring a GPS unit with them — and I never leave home (or a campsite) without it or a map!

Ian and Sue near the small Waterfall between Terry Lake and
Carlyle Lake

Andrea and Joe had departed on July 1, Canada Day and again we were alone on our campsite.  Every day we paddled on the lake, as well as again left the canoe at the parking lot and drove to the town of Killarney.  This small town has certain charm, especially in the evening, when the sun is setting, all businesses close and streets become empty.  We walked to the town’s only General Store, Pitfield’s, and then to the Killarney Mountain Lodge.  While standing on the shores of the channel (between the town of Killarney and George Island), far away I saw an outline of the Foxes, a group of islands in Georgian Bay, just south of Philip Edward Island.  In 2011 we stayed on West Fox Island and I was pretty sure it was the island I was looking at.  In fact, some canoeists (especially kayakers) depart for the Foxes from the town of Killarney, yet this route requires paddling on totally unprotected waters of Georgian Bay... as well as is much more boring than paddling from the Chikanishing River access point.  After sunset, we drove past the airport, to the very picturesque lighthouse.  On the way back we also stopped at the local garbage dump, but it was locked and no bears were in sight.

Town of Killarney, Herbert Fisheries

When we arrived at the Carlyle parking lot, it was dark.  We put on the headlights and soon were paddling on Carlyle Lake in total darkness, eventually getting to our campsite after 10:00 pm.
On the last day of our trip we decided to paddle to our ‘desired’ campsite and take a look at it.  Its ‘original’ occupants had already left, but there were three other guys who let us take a peek.  Catherine said that our campsite was much better, as that campsite did not get sunsets and they did not really see the rapids located nearby — on the other hand, we could see and hear the rapids, as well as get a glimpse of Terry Lake, a small lake near the rapids.

Ready to go home-nothing lasts forever!

On our way back to Toronto we took a shower at Killarney Park, then stopped at the Hungry Bear Restaurant and several hours later safely arrived in Toronto.