Saturday, August 11, 2018

Finally Back to Frontenac Provincial Park

Frontenac Provincial Park is located 45 minutes north of Kingston and is an easy drive for us. We haven’t done a canoe trip there for a long time. In fact, our youngest daughter hadn’t been born the last time did one. We wanted to go on a fun camping trip with some family so we chose Frontenac. Unfortunately, they couldn’t make it so we went by ourselves.

Frontenac is a beautiful park and every time we go I think we should spend more time there. I must admit that I’m not a fan of the clusters of sites at Frontenac, but it wasn’t as bad as I was thinking it would be.

We left on a Friday. The goal was to paddle up Big Salmon Lake to the portage into Little Clear Lake, do the portage and make our way to the campsite cluster on Little Clear. Our site was 9a. It turned out to be a great site. The only downside was that the access to the water wasn’t super easy.

We arrived at the park just before lunch on Friday. We picked up our permits at the park office then headed to the Big Salmon Lake launch. We unloaded all of our stuff then had a quick lunch at the boat launch before heading out.

It was a beautiful sunny day with the wind that would push us along. I paddled with our two daughters in the yellow canoe and Sarah paddled with our son in the red canoe. The girls and I were a little ahead so we decided to paddle around a small island. As it turns out it wasn’t an island at all, but rather a long narrow point. If we’d had the map we would have been able to tell, but it was in the other canoe. Frontenac is probably the only park that we only have one map for. It made for a nice detour. By the time we came out of the bay (on the North side of the lake) the other canoe was way ahead. That didn’t stop us from crossing the lake to the south side so that we could paddle under the overhanging rocks. Very rarely do I paddle this lake without going under the rocks. It’s such a cool formation. It was a fair bit cooler under the rock and we saw a bird's nest along with some raspberries on the rock ledges.  
Overhanging Rocks

After visiting the overhanging rocks we made a solid push to catch up to the red canoe. We caught up a little bit before the portage into Little Clear Lake. Sarah and our son had a good chuckle when we told them we thought were going around an island. They had obviously looked at the map and knew we were headed to a dead end.

Almost Caught Up

We made it to the 970 m portage, had a quick drink and were on our way. I made sure everyone got off with a load then grabbed our barrel and the canoe. The kids stopped after a couple of hundred metres for a rest and to shuffle who was carrying what. I passed them and thought it would be a while before I saw them again. When I made it to the end of the portage I unloaded and headed back. Within a minute all three kids were coming around the corner. I was blown away by how fast they had covered the portage.

While the kids were waiting for us to return at the end of the portage they had some snacks. They must have finished them because nobody offered me any upon my arrival. Once the canoes were in the water we rafted up and paddled most of the way to our site together. One of the nice things about Frontenac is that it doesn’t take long to get far enough into the park to feel secluded. Our entire trip took about two and a half hours and it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere.

Rafted Up
Upon arriving at our site Sarah and I setup the tents while the kids had a swim. We discovered the cool food storage bins that have been installed at all of the sites in Frontenac. It was so handy to be able to throw the food into the box and not have to worry about it. It was great that the kids would be able to retrieve food as needed.  

A Tight Squeeze on the Tent Pad
Food Storage Bin
Hanging Out in the Hammock
It’s been a really dry summer and while we planned for the trip we figured that there might be a fire ban in place so we planned to do all of our cooking on the stove. As it turns out there was only a partial fire ban in place. We were allowed to have fires from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. We came prepared to cook all of our meals on our stove and that’s what we did. In cooking our dinner we realized that it has been a long time since we have actually used a gas stove in the backcountry. Our go-to stove is a stick stove.

Haven't Cooked Like This For a Long Time!
You Can't See Me
Our son wanted to fish after dinner so we paddled out to the island on the lake and fished. He caught a good sized smallmouth bass and eventually I caught a small one. I guess we should have fished before dinner.
First Catch of the Trip

It did start to rain in the night which is when I realized that the new fly for our tent needed to be seam sealed. It wasn’t a big deal, but through the window in the top of the tent I could see drops forming perfectly along the seams.

The second day of our trip was meant to be spent hanging around the site and exploring the lake if anyone was up to it. Our son wanted to fish more (he was keen to catch some lunch) so we headed out and fished. The girls played in the hammocks and around the site as Sarah had a relaxing morning of reading in one of the hammocks.

We had some lunch then went for a swim. As part of the swim I thought it would a good time if the kids figured out how to get in the canoe from the water and how to jump out of the canoe without tipping it (We haven’t practiced a canoe over canoe rescue yet but we probably should). The kids and I got into the canoe and paddled into the lake. Our older daughter wanted to jump out first. She jumped out without any thought about what might happen. She ended up in the water, as did the rest of us. The dunking was a good experience for all of us, especially our youngest daughter. We brought the canoe back to shore, emptied it out and talked a little about the physics of jumping out and getting back into the canoe. We spent much of the rest of the afternoon jumping out of the boat and getting back in. We had a blast.

The Kids Exploring the Water

We came back to shore and got changed. Most of us were happy to relax for a bit, either lying in the hammock or reading. Our son decided that he would fish from the shore. He tried for a bit without much luck. He was about ready to give up but decided to cast one more time. Then we all heard, “I got one!”. He saw the fish jump and by the time I got to the water he wasn’t sure he had a fish anymore. He said it felt like he was caught in the weeds. He kept reeling in and discovered he had a huge largemouth bass. I helped him land the fish, we took some photos and then I went off to clean it. While cleaning the fish I decided that I needed more practice. I guess we’d better catch more fish.

Biggest Catch of the Trip
When I returned to our site with the fillets we figured it would be best to cook the fish over an open fire rather than on the stove. We waited until 6:00 then made a small fire to cook the fish. It was delicious. Cooking it over the fire was certainly the right thing to do. As we ate the sky looked a little threatening. We were prepared to retreat to under a tarp we had setup but it wasn’t necessary. It turns out the clouds blew right past us.  

Fresh Fish Over the Fire
A Millipede Friend
A Beautiful Evening
Amazing Sunset
The next morning was sunny and calm. I went for a short paddle and brought back some water. We had some breakfast and began packing up. While we packed up the girls played and our son fished and helped pack up. While our son was by the water he noticed a large snake along the shore it turned out to be a beautiful gray ratsnake (formerly known as the black ratsnake). It’s been a long time since we’ve seen one of these beautiful creatures.

We left our site around 10:00. It was quite warm and the air was very still. It was going to be a very hot day. We leisurely paddled the lake and covered the portage quickly. When we were done the portage we had a great swim. The water was so clear and refreshing. We had lunch at the portage and kids tried fishing for a bit. It was a hot paddle back to the access point. Our son got hot enough that he decided to jump out of the canoe to cool off. He managed to get out and back in without upsetting the canoe.

Blasting Through the Portage
All Loaded Up

So Refreshing

Beautiful Day on Big Salmon

Couldn't Ask For Better Swimming Weather

After Lunch Fishing

More Fishing

Off Again

Man Overboard!

Checking Out the Rocks

Break Time
We made it back to the access point. The kids were so hot they wanted to swim. The water is a bit swampy at the dock but that didn’t stop the kids from swimming. After a bit of shenanigans that included a sandal stuck in the mud and a knee split open on the gravel parking lot, we were ready to go. Although the trip was short we had a great time. We will be back.

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