We read somewhere that 80,000 people entered the city of Toronto for the fireworks display during the Victoria Day long weekend. On top of that, Prince Charles and Camilla were in town for royal festivities during the Diamond Jubilee. With droves of Royals fans and firework junkies entering the city this past weekend, we found this a great opportunity to get out and explore one of our favorite parks in Ontario, the Kawartha Highlands Signature Site Provincial Park. It was a chance to escape the crowds in the city and enjoy the solitude and tranquility of the backcountry.
The Victoria Day long weekend is also known to be the official weekend to start the camping season for the average camper. May 2-4 weekend as it is also called, has always been a time of hightened activity in Ontario’s parks, at least this is what we are used to. This past weekend, however, the TwoCanoe crew spent 3 days and 2 nights in the Kawartha Highlands, with very few people enjoying it with us. Throughout the entirety of the trip we came across only 2 groups of canoe trippers, and quite a few empty camp sites. Perhaps this was because of the increase of mosquitos and black flies at this time of year, or maybe Charles and Camilla were far more appealing than a weekend on the water. Whatever the reason, we enjoyed the solitude, knowing that we were the only ones on the lake.
This trip did not cover a lot of distance. In total we only made it about 30 kms in 3 days. That includes our way in and out of the park, portages and some exploring. The portages were not difficult either, so we got a relaxing trip, perfect for the welcome heat. We focused our time in the south western region of the park entering at the Long Lake access point. From here we paddled through to Loukes Lake, hiked two portages of 85m and 72m in length to Compass Lake, followed by a final portage of 297m down into Stoplog Lake. Here we spent our first night and were the only occupants of the lake.
Day two consisted of very little paddling. A short trip across Stoplog took us to our first portage of the day and longest portage of the trip, 993m. Although a portion of it was straight up a steep slope, it wasn’t a big problem. The biggest issue was not the terrain, but the inhabitants of the woods, the pesky mosquitos and black flies. They were numerous and relentless. If only we could train an army of dragon flies to defend us on our portages through the woods, to keep the mosquitos and black flies at bay. Although the dragonflies might not care too much for me, the fact that they help keep the pesky bugs in check has earned them my respect.
This portage took us into Turtle lake where we stopped in some shade and enjoyed our lunch and relief from the heat and bugs. There were only two portages on day two, the second a short 345m into Cherry lake where we spent our second night. Again we were alone on this lake, but an evening paddle into the adjoining Triangle Lake presented us with our first encounter of fellow campers.
Day three consisted of the most paddling of the trip. With 4 short portages 15m, 166m, 72m and 85m in length. The first portage took us into Crane creek for a brief paddle, the second back into Compass lake. We ended up back in Loukes lake for the final stretch through to Long lake. Arriving on long meant we were at the end of our weekend.
While we do enjoy the solitude and peacefulness of being alone on the lakes, it’s always nice to come across fellow enthusiasts to share a smile and know that others are enjoying the park along with us. Meeting a group on a portage and sharing a quick story about your trip, or where you are staying for the night adds a welcome social aspect to canoe tripping, and often a nice distraction from all the heavy lifting.
Mosquitos and Black Flies aside, the weekend was a success. The weather was perfect, the water was warm enough for the first swim of the season, we explored some lakes we haven’t seen before, and Anthony caught his first fish ever! Stoplog Lake had a great looking campsite close to where we stayed, and we’d like to come back to it next year.
Don’t forget to tell us where you went for the Victoria Day long weekend. We enjoy hearing your stories!