Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Visit to Bon Echo

We recently spent 5 days at Bon Echo Provincial Park. The entire family had a great time. There was so much to do that we didn't even scratch the surface of our to-do list. It was the first time that we brought our bikes camping with us and we certainly put them to good use. I feel as though we biked 20 km in our first 24 hours, but that could be a bit of an exaggeration.

On our fist day we had lunch at the main beach then headed to our site to setup. Once we were setup we biked and did some swimming at the North Beach. The North Beach is much smaller than the Main Beach, the sand isn't as fine and there are lots of pebbles in the water but the view is far superior to that of the Main Beach.

North Beach with Mazinaw Rock in the background
Once everyone was shivering we headed back to the campsite to prepare our dinner. We had made some kabobs the night before, put them in a resealable bag (double then triple bagged) with some marinade. Come dinner time we just needed to start a fire and pop them on the grill. In addition to the kabobs we had bannock roasted on a stick. The kids really enjoy helping out. They get really excited when they can help prepare the food.

Bob, Not-Bob & Still-Not-Bob roasting bannock on a stick
Once we finished eating I took the two older kids (Bob & Not-Bob) for a bike ride to the Narrows while Sarah got Still-Not-Bob ready for bed. The Narrows is a great place to be while the sun is setting. Although you are looking East, the reflection of the sun off the rock creates an incredible view.

While we were at Bon Echo we took in a lot of the programming offered. On our second day Kevin Callan, The Happy Camper, was giving a 1 hour canoe tripping talk. We paddled from the North Beach (which was close to our site) to the Lagoon (map) where the presentation was being held. We weren't sure the kids would enjoy it but we thought we would give it a try, figuring we could always leave if they got bored. As it turns out they loved it. The presentation was very informative, humorous and really kept the kids' attention.
Kevin Callan helping Not-Bob with a heavy pack
Following the presentation we walked over to the Main Beach where we all had a great time swimming and playing in the sand. We made our way back to our site for a late lunch and a nap for the youngest member of the group, Still-Not-Bob. The others biked and played soccer at the grassy area of the comfort station. After nap time it was time to start preparing for dinner. We made nachos for dinner and S'mores for dessert.

Still-Not-Bob enjoying a S'more
After dinner we headed to the amphitheatre to see Kevin Callan give a talk about his family trip around Killarney last summer. You can find his videos of the trip here. Again the presentation was informative, entertaining and inspiring for the kids. One of the first things they said when we left was "When can we go to Killarney?". It's nice when they're asking to go places rather than us asking.

On the third day we decided that we would hike to the top of the Cliff Top Trail. You can take the Mugwump Ferry over for a small fee ($4 for adults/$3 for children) or you can paddle over and tie up at the dock. The ferry does not run on Tuesday or Thursdays making them good days to paddle over. We went on a Tuesday and only saw three other groups of people. The trail is only 1.5 km but is steep in places and has a lot of stairs. Having said that the kids did great. They got a little tired close to the top but nothing major. The trip was certainly a lot faster this time than it was two years ago. We made our way back down the trail and paddled along the rock for a bit observing some of the pictographs before heading back to the boat launch. Bob, Not-Bob & Sarah went for ice (outside the park) and then went to the visitor centre while I stayed behind while Still-Not-Bob was napping.

Snack at the top
We had pizza roasted over the fire for dinner. We've done this before with some success. Sadly this was probably our worst attempt. Not-Bob and Still-Not-Bob's pizzas were up first. They came off the grill just fine. For the most part the rest of us ended up with pizza that was either under-cooked in some spots or burnt in some (or even most) spots. I guess that's what happens when you forget to pack the make shift reflector oven. We'll work on it for next time.

The morning of the fourth day was cool so we got a fire going, which did little to heat us up but provided a great chance for cooking pancakes. It was a slow process but the pancakes turned out great. Once again everyone had a role in the cooking process. With our bellies full we biked to the High Pines Trail for the 1.7 km hike. As we arrived in the parking lot we spotted a baby snapping turtle. Once again the kids were great on the hike. The afternoon was filled with some biking, a stop at the gift shop and some burgers for dinner. After dinner we saw David Archibald perform at the amphitheatre. He's always popular with our kids. We make sure to see him at least once every summer at some park.

Snack time on the High Pines trail
On our final day Sarah took the kids to see a Living Fossils program while I packed up a bit. They really enjoyed the program and headed to the Visitor Centre afterwards to learn more about the native history of the park. Bob was very keen to learn about the pictograph and the stories behind them. Once we were done at the visitor centre we headed to our site to finish packing up and to have lunch. After lunch we were off to the main beach for an afternoon of swimming and playing in the sand. What a way to finish off the trip.

We had a busy five days but there were a few things that we didn't get to do. We didn't do any fishing. We had intended to but it seems that biking took over as the activity of choice. We saw lots of people fishing and heard from some of them say that Mazinaw Lake was a tough lake to fish. We'll have to give it a try next time.

In addition to car camping Bon Echo also offers some paddle-in/hike-in sites on Joeperry Lake. It's a neat lake with a beautiful beach at the North end. I thought it might be fun to paddle Joeperry and stop at the beach for lunch. It might also be worth testing out the fishing there.

Another point of interest in the park is the Kishkebus Canoe Route. It's a 21 km canoe route that essentially goes around the rock. The toughest part of the route would be a 1500 m portage from Mazinaw Lake to Kishkebus Lake. From there you could paddle across Kishkebus Lake and do a short portage into Shabomeka Lake. As you go into Shabomeka you leave the park and the shoreline is dotted with cottages. From Shabomeka Lake there is a 60 m portage around a dam into Semicircle Lake. Paddling across Semicircle Lake takes you to a 40 m lift over into Campbell Creek. The final lift over takes you from Cambell Creek back into Mazinaw Lake. With young kids I would likely do the route in reverse order in case we decided not to finish it. The lift overs and small lakes could make for some fun paddling. There are also a number of geocaches along the route that would be fun to try and find.

There is certainly lots to do at Bon Echo. We'll have to go back and do some more exploring.

No comments:

Post a Comment