By Jon Moreno
It was my wife's idea. Planning a five day canoe trip in Killarney Provincial Park is something that I can do with my hands tied behind my back. It was what we were doing afterwards that was the sensational addition to the trip: a two-night stay in town at Killarney Mountain Lodge.
But, let's start at the beginning. It's a long drive to Killarney from Peterborough, followed by lots of paddling to our planned campsites. The decision was made ahead of time to leave after work on Thursday and stay at George Lake Campground so that we could get an early start to our put-in on Bell Lake the next morning. Also my wife's idea, and it was a great one. Getting to George Lake around 8:30 pm, we had just enough time to set up our tent, start a fire and have a drink before bed. Perfect.
Day one of the actual canoe trip started off without a hitch. We had a quick cold breakfast and drove the 30 km to the put in on Bell Lake. Easy. A twisting gravel road took us to the parking lot once we were off of Highway 637.
Our first campsite on Bell Lake was terrific. It was the kind of campsite that has a great view, some tree cover for shade but also an open area out front where the wind can blow away the bugs. As always, a decent swimming area is a must and this site had one. So far, the only portage was the one from the car to the water. Sweet.
Day two. This day we paddled from Bell Lake to Three Mile Lake and a short 40 metre portage into Balsam Lake. At this portage we saw the remains of the Marine Railway. Just a short 30 metre section of it that seemed rather surreal and gave us a glimpse of what must have been once upon a time.
Balsam Lake was also beautiful and our campsite only a 25 minute paddle. We camped at a narrow section of the lake. A bit of a scramble to get to get up to where we would set up our tent and bug shelter, but once again we had a low lying area close to the water where we could swim and have some (mostly) insect-free time. It was also a good place to watch passersby as they paddled from the portage from Three Mile Lake to Balsam and vice versa. A busier thoroughfare than we had expected really, but entertaining to see some people’s idea of lightweight back country camping.
For day three, we’d saved the best for last. We had a slightly longer portage into David Lake. At 620 metres it gave us enough time to realize we hadn't actually had much time to become accustomed to carrying any of our load. Luckily, the portage was just long enough to challenge us but not so long that we were hating having brought some of our extra gear.
David Lake was now open before us as we put our gear down after our portage. Right away we could see that this truly was the Killarney experience we were waiting for. Here we had a view of the mountains Killarney is famous for: huge ridges of white quartzite. A quick look at the map and we were on our way, heading to what we had hoped would be the best campsite of the trip. All I can say is that it was and we were ecstatic.
Now here is where it gets good. Day four and the paddle out. Normally, we would have woken up, had a fast breakfast knowing the paddle out would take a few hours and then we’d have the long drive home. Instead we chose to head into the town of Killarney where we had reserved a room. We had a warm shower, clean sheets, a drink or two and somebody else doing the cooking to look forward to. Within an hour of putting our boat on the car, we had all of these things. Paradise.
The town of Killarney was a terrific place to stay as well. Small enough to leave our car parked, but large enough to have a nice walk after dinner. We watched the boats coming and going in the marina, both local and en route from The Big Loop. Another highlight was taking our canoe out on Georgian Bay - something we had talked about for some time. A short paddle out from the channel running through Killarney and we were in crystal clear water with all the beautiful red and green coloured granite stone that makes Georgian Bay such a special place.
My wife is full of good ideas.