Thursday, July 30, 2015

Family Adventure to Kawartha Highlands

Last year we visited Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park. I took our two older kids (Bob & Not-Bob) for a few days and we all had a great time. The only thing missing was...the rest of the family. The kids wanted to show their younger sister (Still-Not-Bob) and mom what this great park was all about. Given that Still-Not-Bob is now two years old we figured it was time to introduce her to the backcountry.

How could we not want to go back to this?
Our visit was only three days long and as far as backcountry trips go, it was a very simple trip. We booked two nights at Bottle Lake. Aside from the 210 m portage from the parking lot to the lake there were no portages and it was a fairly easy paddle up the lake. We chose to stay on Bottle Lake because of the amazing beaches at a number of the sites. We figured that the beach would be a lot of fun for the kids. As it turns out the kids were a able to occupy themselves both on and off the beach. Next time I would be more inclined to travel further into the park.

Day 1:
We arrived at the park around noon. We unloaded and carried our belongings across the 210 m portage. Nobody had any difficulty with the portage and we all could have done at least double the length without any trouble. After lunch we put the canoe in the water and started paddling to our site (site 107). The paddle took longer than might have been expected since we were battling a very strong head wind. Regardless we were all very happy to be in the canoe. Once we arrived at our campsite we unloaded and started setting up. The kids had a great time playing as we took our time getting setup. Once the site was setup I wandered back into the woods to find a good spot to hang our food. It took me a ridiculous amount of time to get something setup. It felt like a comedy of errors: broken rope, not high enough, too close to the branch at the top, etc. Perhaps I was being too picky but I felt that this was one thing to be over cautious about.

Upon my return from the food hanging adventure I discovered my wife and son testing out our new stick stove. What a great piece of gear. If you haven't tried one you really should. Bob was so excited by the stick stove that he made it his responsibility. He setup the fire and kept it well fed with sticks from around the site. We had frozen some sloppy joe mix the night before. It was now thawed and just needed to be heated. We dumped the meat in the pot, put it on the stick stove and left Bob in charge. It was fast, easy and delicious.

Taking care of dinner!
Once things were cleaned up we headed down to the beach to watch the sunset. What a beautiful spot.
Beautiful sunset
We headed into the tent to play some cards and get the kids set for bed. As they were falling asleep I heard a noise in the woods so I got up and made my way back to the food bag to find everything in tact. It was a beautiful night so I decided to take some pictures. This is when I discovered that I had forgotten the tripod. I managed to make do with the camera case.

Night Sky
Day 2:
We woke up then cooked some bannock for breakfast. We cooked it like thick pancakes. We made one per person so it was a lot faster than cooking pancakes. After breakfast we decided to paddle up Stoney Creek at the north end of the lake. While we were at home we thought this might make for a nice paddle so we checked it out on Google Earth. We saw a small beaver dam that we would have to lift over and further upstream was what looked like a waterfall. Our goal was to check out the waterfall. We made it to the beaver dam. The kids were so excited about us lifting them over as they sat in the canoe. So much so that when we were done they asked if we could do it again. We knew the waterfall wasn't too much further so we pressed on. As we rounded a corner we could see a rock strewn creek that marked the end of our trip in the canoe. We got out and made our way up the sometimes loose and sometimes solid boulders with water running between them. We covered the 40 or so metres to get to the beaver dam. Such a beautiful spot. The kids had a great time playing among the rocks, both in and out of the water. They looked to find where the water was coming from, what kind of insects were living where and noticed some of the plants that were growing along the shore. These are the rewards that we seek! Such a beautiful spot and we all had such a great time. We had lunch at the waterfall then made our way back to the campsite.

Dam at the top of the falls
Playing at the waterfall

A lunch time visitor
While Still-Not-Bob was napping at the campsite, Bob and I paddled to the portage into Sucker Lake. We wanted to see if by chance there was a Paddle In The Park Contest paddle hidden there. The portage was short at only 80 m but it's does go uphill. It would be very doable for the entire family. Sucker Lake looked just beautiful. It has a number of islands and nice bays to explore. It's also a motorboat free lake. After admiring the view into Sucker Lake we made our way back to the canoe and then paddled to the portage that leads to the parking lot just to see if a paddle had been hidden there. We came up empty handed so we turned around and battled a strong headwind to the campsite.

Back at the campsite we started a fire and the stick stove. The kids manned the stick stove to hydrate some dried vegetables, Sarah made a cheese sauce (I think she called it a roux) for our mac & cheese while I cooked the sausages. Dinner was a real team effort and it was delicious. After dinner we had a swim and did a little fishing. What a great day.

Day 3:
We had some oatmeal for breakfast then began packing up. The kids helped a little and played a little. As we were about to leave the woman who had stayed on the site next to ours (108) paddled over to tell us that her food, which had been hung in a tree, was completely destroyed. The only thing untouched by the animal(s) were her dill pickles. She wanted to warn us to be careful. Somehow I felt better about spending all the time I did to get our food bag 'just right'.

Just about ready to leave
We left the site and thought we'd paddle Bottle Creek on the way out. It was nice, but not as interesting as Stoney Creek was. I think it would be a great fishing spot. We made it to the dam that leads into Catchacoma Lake, had a snack and paddled to the portage leading to our van. The portage was very busy: a clear indication that it must be Friday!

We all had a great time and on the ride home the kids began asking when we could go again. We heard "Can we go back tomorrow?".  I love it and clearly they do too. #RewardsAreOutThere


  1. Nice write-up. We're heading to site 107 this weekend for two nights with some friends and their ~9 month old daughter.

    Do you have any other photos of the site? I meant to book 106 because I know it is very private but messed up. Just curious how close other campers will be in the event baby doesn't enjoy camping!

  2. Sorry, I don't have any more pictures of the site. The closest site is 106. You might catch a glimpse of its occupants if they are out on the point and you may occasionally hear them. Other than that, things were pretty quiet. When we were there, somebody was staying on 108. We didn't know they were there until they paddled past our site the next morning. Hopefully they couldn't hear much of us either.

    Have a great trip.