Killarney Canoe Trip, May 2009
Although I've done many May long-weekend canoe trips over the years, this one with my 11 year-old son and four more of my friends was fun, memorable, and challenging unlike any others I've completed. It turned out to be an unexpected good test of our mettle, and I'm happy to say we made it through fine to tell the tale!
This interactive Google map shows the route we took. This was a four day/three night base camping trip in Killarney, with the aim of completing several "bush whack" hikes along the beautiful La Cloche peaks. You can click and zoom in on this Google map:
Day 1: Friday May 15th, 2009
Devin and I got up around 5am, and drove to Toronto as usual to pick up Jorge. Dan C., Lee and Brian left from Kitchener an hour later, with plans to hook up at the Hungry Bear restaurant for an early lunch. We managed to actually hook up in Barrie at the highway gas station, which was all the better.
(Click any picture to see a larger view)
We planned for three canoes: me and Devin, Jorge and Dan C., and Lee and Brian. In retrospect, which should have gone for three people each in two canoes, given the windy weather that ended up blowing in. Alas... one must always pay respect to Killarney weather, and I suppose we were just a tad complacent after so many easy Spring trips.
The forecast for the long weekend called for COLD weather, but mostly clear. Here's the actual weather data for that weekend (for Parry Sound... Killarney was a bitter colder still):
Most of the rain Friday came in the late evening and overnight, sparing us a soggy setup. In fact, the day was quite clear for the paddle in and setup of camp.
We had hoped to get the awesome island site 29 on OSA Lake, but settled with the very nice island site 32. One of these days I'm going to get both a reservation on OSA, and snag that island site! Killarney in the late Fall and early Spring is quite different than in the summer: the tree line seems so sparse and dead, with only a hint of evidence of budding deciduous trees. But these are also ideal hiking conditions, as long as the bugs are not out in force. And with the cold weather that weekend, the bug jackets stayed packed.
Day 2: Saturday May 16th
It rained overnight, and continued to drizzle with an overcast sky Saturday morning. But there was not a breath of wind either, so we enjoyed a hearty breakfast of Lee's rehydrated apple turnovers and bacon, and packed lunch for our hike to Gulch Hill along the south shore of OSA, separating it from George Lake.
We mounted up in our three canoes, and headed out the short 1.5 km to the valley bay separating OSA and George Lake. I had heard that there was a portage here from George to OSA, which the park wardens used as well. Indeed, we found an old aluminum boat cached in the woods once we got to shore, and then stumbled onto the barely visible trail (portage would be an overly generous term for it). All the same, not 10 minutes into our hike up the portage, a couple of guys loaded up were coming down the trail to OSA! We said our Hellos and told then they were not far from the water. The two guys had not used the "shortcut" to OSA before, and I suspect they would not do so again. We hiked mid way up the trail to maximum height point, then cut west along ridgeline with the goal of reaching the peak of Gulch Hill. Having now hiked this shortcut section, I certainly would not opt to portage it in favor of long route around from Freeland and Killarney Lake. It's quite an elevation climb and drop, all for nothing (and no view either).
Around the time we reached the saddle point of the trail and cut west, the sun came out and the drizzle stopped. We continued to head directly west and gain elevation. Around 1:30pm we reached Tear Drop Lake from the south side and looked across to see the obvious tear shape. Once out in the open, a bitter cold wind coming down from the north west was starting to strengthen. We ate lunch, and decided to turn around at this point, out of concern paddling back to camp directly against that wind. Even from that height up, we could see a few white caps starting to churn on OSA.
on the trip back, we took a more direct route along the north ridge facing, which had many beautiful spring streams cascading down the range. Lee and I stopped quite a few times to snap some photos... I guess it's not just blueberries in July that slow me down on hikes!
I mapped our route with my GPS, and entered it into my mapping software to render the following 3D contoured map. We traveled the circle clockwise from OSA.
Of course, Mother Nature didn't let us completely relax and forget the experience, as the wind continued to howl throughout the evening, all night long (with rain of course), and all of Sunday following. In fact, it didn't let up until late Sunday evening.
Day 3: Sunday May 17th
A high today of 9C! And, a strong wind to boot. Brrrr....
After a slow and lazy breakfast, Jorge, Lee and Brian decided to go for a hike, while myself, Devin and Dan C. choose to take it easy and just stay in camp by the fire for the afternoon. With the wind still blowing hard and cold, and after yesterday's adventure on the High Seas, the others simply paddled the 10 meters across the narrow channel separating the island from the shore, and hike from there. We waved goodbye, and huddled by the fire and just goofed off for the afternoon.
Late in the afternoon, the other guys returned from their hike. They had intended to try and get to Gulch Hill, but stopped at the other end of Tear Drop Lake.
After dinner, around sunset, the wind finally died down after almost two days of howling. The sky was clear, and a bunch of us laid out on the rocks and stared up at the stars that night. One nice thing about camping early and late in the season is that you can comfortably stay up and star gaze without being eaten alive by bugs.
Day 4: Monday May 18th