Dave and Helen Damouth
Oct 5-8 1985
We left Rochester about 6:15 PM Friday, Oct 4, and spent the night at the Holiday Inn in Barrie, arriving about 10:20 PM. (a bummer - our room was in the middle of a huge group of conference attendees who were partying in the hallways till 3 AM. Management clearly thought that the conference was a more valuable customer than a random tourist.) We left Barrie about 7:30 am and arrived at Killarney park headquarters at about 11:45 am, driving through rain and wind most of the time.
The park is closed for the season - a sign in the window says we're welcome to use the facilities, no services available, but no fees either. We drove back to the west end of Carlyle Lake, where a dirt road leads from highway 637 a few hundred yards down to the lake. There is parking space, an outhouse, and a place to launch the canoe.
We left the beach at 12:30 PM. The rain stopped and the sun was out briefly while loading the canoes, but it soon started raining again. We proceeded up Carlyle Lake, through a swampy section into Johnnie Lake, and lunched at the first corner, where the lake doglegs west, at 2:30. There was a fairly strong NW wind, but the lakes have some protection from high hills, and the wind was behind us so it was easy going. Began the portage (970 yds) to Clearsilver Lake at 3:40 PM. Portaged (1100 yds, 210 yds) to David Lake arriving about 4:50. Site 102 has a nice view in several directions, but is exposed to the wind. We chose site 103 - more protected, less view.
No problem with crowds - we saw no occupied sites during the entire trip, and met only one other group. These three lakes, except for short stretches of the south shores of Carlyle and Johnnie lakes, are entirely within the park. But they all have some cabins and all allow motor boats (probably with a horsepower limit). Most of the cabins were closed up, and only once did we see a powerboat in use.
We spent October 6 loafing and climbing Silver Peak. The rain stayed away until evening, and the clouds were high enough to give good visibility from the peak. It's only 1783 feet high (Lake Huron is 580 feet), but it is the highest point around and the view of all the lakes as well as Georgian Bay is spectacular. From site 103, we bushwhacked SSW to hit the "future" hiking trail shown on the park map. This section of the "trail" is well marked with blue blazing tape, but is otherwise undeveloped - no brush has been cleared, and you have to look hard to tell it has ever been traveled. From the east end of Kirk lake, the trail does not follow the route shown on the map. Rather, it goes west close to the south shore of the lake for perhaps half a mile, then turns south to cross a swamp at one of the few dry places, then turns back east to join the developed trail as shown on the map.
On Oct. 7 we left camp at 9:30, canoed the length of David Lake, portaged (680 yds) to Balsam Lake, portaged (50 yds) to Bell Lake, arriving at Bell about 11:45. It was dry while we ate breakfast and broke camp, but then drizzled off and on all day. There is an interesting "marine railway" between Bell and Balsam Lakes. A steel carriage running on four small boat trailer wheels is guided along a wooden track - pulled by hand with an attached rope. You let it run down into the water, float your boat onto it, pull it over the several feet of elevation change, and let it run down into the water on the other side. It is maintained by the Blue Mountain Lodge on Bell Lake.
Further down the lake, we stopped at the head of the access road to Blue Mountain Lodge, which I gather is a fairly fancy resort, and appears to be partly on an island and partly on the north shore, with access only by boat. In addition to the private dock for the lodge, there is a public parking area and canoe launch area. We met the owner of the lodge and talked for a few minutes. He said that the park (which now surrounds him completely) has no plans to buy him out, and that they like having him in the middle of the park as a safety factor, because he has a telephone for emergencies. Business must be good - he was booked full for the coming weekend and for Christmas and New Years. The winter guests park at the highway and ski to the lodge.
Portions of this end of the park, which were just acquired recently, still allow hunting for another year or two. We indeed saw hunters along the access roads on the south and east shores, and heard gunshots. The north and east shores were posted, however. Blue Mountain Lodge now offers canoe rentals at the landing on Bell Lake (new canoes, although I forgot to ask what kind). Killarney Outfitters charges $20 to bring the canoes here. The Killarney Outfitters' canoes are old and battered 17' aluminum Grummans.
Portaged (210 yds) to Log Boom Lake, portaged (95 yds and a carryover) to Johnnie Lake, portaged (85 yds) to Ruth Roy lake, where we occupied campsite 73. The wind was strong all day, but had swung to the south and this site was quite sheltered.
On Oct. 8 we rose late, had a leisurely breakfast and left at 10:45. There is a substantial elevation drop from Ruth Roy Lake to Johnnie Lake, and the creek between has several little waterfalls which are worth exploring. It's raining lightly again, with a stiff wind from the South. We retraced out route through Johnnie and Carlyle Lakes, arriving back at the car about 12:45 PM.
We drove straight through to Rochester, arriving home at 9:30 PM.
The QEW outbound from Toronto at rush hour is not a pleasant place to be.
Launching sites: The three access roads shown on the park map (to Carlyle Lake, Johnnie Lake, Bell Lake) all have public canoe launching and parking. On a future trip, we'll probably launch at Bell Lake and explore the lakes to the north (Deacon, Fox, Peter, Harry, Hideway, and Panache). Panache is a huge lake with road access from the North, near Sudbury, so it may not prove very interesting).
Freeze dried foods which we had not previously tried: Mountain House Shrimp Creole: quite spicy, rice with lots of shrimp. The shrimp reconstituted to a remarkable imitation of real shrimp texture. Mountain House Sweet and Sour Pork: ok - nothing special. Mountain House Beef Stew: ok, quite bland. tough chewy beef. Backpacker's Pantry Beef Stromboli. ok, nothing special. Unlike the Mountain House items, this requires bringing to a boil and simmering five minutes after adding hot water. Since we were cooking over a wood fire, this was not a problem. For those who depend on their stove and carry limited fuel, it is something to think about. Also, many backpacking stoves won't simmer - they are either on full blast or off.
Weather: The leaves along the highway were about at peak color. On the lakeshores, they were at least a week away from good color. The birch and oak, in particular was mostly still green, although maples were colorful. Temperatures for this time of year were moderate - probably low 40's at night and high 50's during the day. We intended to take a small thermometer, but forgot. It was windy most of the time, and rained a lot, which made it seem colder.
Clothing: This was my first chance to try out my new L. L. Bean Maine Hunting Shoes. The bottom two inches are molded rubber and the uppers are leather, bonded to the rubber with waterproof seams. After treating with SnoSeal, the whole thing is supposed to be waterproof. They come in a wide range of height. I got the 8" version (but would probably order the 10" if I were doing it again). They are intended to be worn with removable insoles and heavy socks, which I did. They are light, soft, and flexible so they worked well in the canoe. They are indeed waterproof, and the leather uppers breathe sufficiently so that they did not get damp inside from perspiration. It's a real joy to be able to step out of the canoe into a few inches of water, slog through the wet muddy portage trails without worry, and reach camp with warm dry feet. They are sufficiently comfortable so that I did not feel the need to change out of them in camp.
Because of the wind and damp, we appreciated having lots of warm stuff. I wore light polypropylene long johns most of the time. This, with jeans, T-shirt, light flannel long sleeved shirt, heavy wool outer shirt, and lightweight lined Goretex rain jacket and pants, wool knit hat, and Goretex/Thinsulate ski mittens was often just barely enough. When working hard or when the sun came out briefly, or when we were out of the wind, several layers would come off.
Equipment: Early in the trip, while climbing forward through the canoe to exit over the bow, I placed most of my weight on my knee on the forward thwart (located just behind the front seat). It buckled and broke in half. It is 1" diameter aluminum, with approximately .040" walls, probably one of the high-strength alloys. I have done this many times before, so it is not clear why it chose this time to break. The behavior of the canoe did not noticeably change, either in or out of the water. I believe that the framework for the sliding seat provides enough rigidity to eliminate the need for this thwart, except in white water. (This is on the Wenonah Odyssey, with the optional wood gunwales).
Mattress: This was the first chance to try our new Thermarest mattresses (3/4 length, standard thickness). These are an open cell foam bonded to an airtight and waterproof nylon skin, with an air valve in one corner. With the air valve open, they can be compressed and rolled into a package about half the diameter of a 3/8" Ensolite pad. When unrolled, they self-inflate to about 3/4" thick. With the air valve closed, they are firm enough to provide good padding and insulation. You can blow in more air for added firmness, to tailor it to your own weight and preferences. Weight, if I remember right, is 25 ounces. Thermarest makes several other models of different width, length, and thickness. We also got the "couple kit", a pair of nylon fabric bands which lock two mattresses together side-by-side, for use with zipped-together sleeping bags. It works. I found this mattress to be much more comfortable than Ensolite as well as being more compact to carry. The question, of course, is durability. How likely is a puncture? Should I carry a patching kit? How long before it will start leaking from deterioration of the nylon/plastic outer layer? How long before the foam fatigues and collapses? This brand has been on the market for quite a few years, so I presume it is at least not a disaster. These are advertised in the Indiana Camp Supply and (I think) Early Winters and L. L. Bean catalogs. They are (or at least were) carried by Curtis Canoe.