Friday, October 27, 2017

Bear for Thanksgiving

Killbear Provincial Park, that is.

With the best adventure partner ever.

Instead of a Campsgiving backcountry expedition as we've done the past 2 years, I ended up racing on Thanksgiving weekend. After that, I took a day off (well, I actually ended up running Sunday morning, but that's another story), then Monday we packed up and Tuesday morning we set off North to explore a new-to-us park. I hadn't been there in about 2 decades, and Tanker had never been there at all, so we had loads to discover!

We arrived in sunshine at our Kilcoursie Bay campsite, right on the stunning beach opposite Scott Island.

If it hadn't been 15c I might've dived right in.

As it was we enjoyed a lovely sunset, and then some s'mores around the fire.

Despite the chilly air the next morning, I managed to keep my "no pants before coffee" streak while camping alive with the aid of a morning fire and some recently acquired warm clothing.

Not to mention Tanker's incredible camp coffee.

Wednesday we only got to enjoy a single trail in the park before leaving for a pointless road trip (note to self: always check if you have concert tickets before making camping reservations, and don't believe that a band who was amazing for 20 years will still be worth a 500km round trip), but we did absolutely love the Lighthouse Point Trail.

Amazing blend of rocks and trees on the way to the point

Incredible striation in the rock

The lighthouse itself

Then we saw this gorgeous young buck right by the park office!

We finally got home to our campsite after being surrounded by hipsters and horrified by what an oldschool punk band has become around 3am, sleeping far past Thursday's dawn but awaking to sunshine once more.

Our sprawling campsite
Toasting bagels over our morning fire

We added an extra tarp as it was predicted to rain most of Friday.

After a hearty brunch in the chilly air, I got out for my first run in a few days - on the delightful Lookout Point Trail, which at 3.5km is the longest singletrack trail in the park. Lollipop-shaped, I ran it out along the "stick", then did the "lolly" clockwise until I reached the "stick", then turned around and ran it counter-clockwise. 

The "stick" is mostly boardwalks through wetland areas

Neat rocks in the woods and lots of colourful fallen leaves

My skirt fit right in!

The actual lookout over Georgian Bay

Classic Canadian Shield rock along the shore

I met up with Tanker - who was hiking the trail clockwise - at the point after I turned around.

Lots of rocky bits in the woods

Sunshine through the trees here and there

Neat rock shoulders rising up out of the soil.

The wind had stirred up a lot of chop during the day, but as afternoon turned to evening the wind settled and we decided to try paddling Kilcoursie Bay. I packed up a couple of sandwiches I'd made while cooking brunch and we headed for the water.

50m carry from our site to the beach
The bay was still a little rougher than we'd have liked for the first leg - 1.5" troughs in a 16' canoe are a bit intense!

We made it safely to Davy Island for our picnic!

Neat clouds and rough water from Davy Island

We paddled across the mouth of Kilcoursie Bay to check out Harold Point, happy to finally reach its wind shadow and the calm waters therein. The sun was setting, so we decided to head straight back as we hadn't brought lights - the wind died to a whisper as the day came to a close, and we were guided back to our site by a flaming red sugar maple on the edge of the beach.

Harold Point at the East side of Kilcoursie Bay

No better beacon for finding our way home.

We did a lot of campfire cooking throughout the week - toasting bagels, using our Dutch oven for some baking, and even trying out our Gourmet Camper grill. Designed by an Ontario Parks staff member, it's perfectly sized for the steel fire rings that are ubiquitous at parks throughout the province. The end result was fabulous; well worth the $30 we paid for the grill!

Zucchini, asparagus and mushrooms on the grill. We added steaks toward the end for a perfect meal!

Then for some added decadence, I loaded up the Dutch and made what ended up being the best cherry cobbler I've ever had in my life.

Scared it'll burn - scared it'll be undercooked.

Golden perfection! The individual foil bowls meant zero cleanup, too.

As promised, Friday began as a wet and windy day. We were perfectly happy to huddle under the tarps making a leisurely brunch of French toast - at least it was milder, as the wet and gusting wind would not have permitted a morning fire.

Tank looks chilly.
Scott Island looking very lonely - the rain made the further islands disappear.

After brunch, we nonetheless set out to hike the Twin Points Trail. The weather mostly cooperated, with only a couple of showers at the beginning and end of what turned out to be a lovely wander.

Still lots of green in the forest for October

We sat and had a snack on this bench at the very Western tip of Kilcoursie Bay

Looking past the point and across the narrow channel to our picnic spot on Davy Island

Looking East toward Harold Point and beyond

The second point - closer to the day-use beach - with Scott Island in the distance

Returning to our campsite, I changed and headed out for a run on the Recreation Trail. Opened in 2003 through the hard work and donations by the Friends of Killbear, it spans the length of the park as a 6km groomed multi-use pathway. While not as spectacular as the hiking trails, it had enough elevation change to keep you on your toes, and its own particular brand of beauty.

Lovely fall colours
Happy girl despite some steep little climbs

A pretty leaf-strewn stream beside the trail

Looking out to Lighthouse Point from the beach at the terminus of the trail

On my way back I was even lucky enough to spot a young doe grazing near the entrance to the Kilcoursie Bay campground. While she took no notice of me initially, I managed to get her attention for a photo.

The deer in the park are so very acclimatized to human contact.

A steady stream of people had been arriving in the park through the afternoon to camp for the weekend (despite the poor forecast for Saturday night into Sunday), and I ran past many of them setting up tents, tarps and hammocks as I came into Kilcoursie Bay. Returning to our site, I grabbed a quick snack and changed into dry clothes, having noted that the bay was looking much calmer than it had in the last couple of days. We grabbed our canoe and set off for a paddle around Scott Island in the last of the afternoon.

A whole bunch of seagulls awaited our arrival

The fall colours on tiny Scott Island were much more vivid on the far side

With just a few minutes left before sunset on our final full day in the park, there were only a couple of other things I had wanted to see. One of them was the big shoulder of smooth granite we'd seen at the Beaver Dams campground as we'd paddled past on Thursday, so after consulting our park map we drove over after putting the canoe to bed to have a look.

You'd never know there was a bustling campground on the other side of that rock.

Classic Georgian Bay view, with just a hint of sunset to the Southwest.

Then it was back to our site for one more campfire, over which Tanker cooked us up an amazing mincemeat fire pie.

He's so good with this thing.


I awoke early on Saturday morning and enjoyed the peaceful stillness before the campground came alive with the fresh batch of campers who'd arrived the day before - while we'd been mostly alone in our particular circle of Kilcoursie Bay, a few more brave souls had appeared to brave the rain that was to come. A few spells of light mist in the early morning were all we saw of it, though, with sunshine breaking by 9am so we were actually able to pack up our campsite dry for nearly the first time this year!
Saturday morning sunshine

The best look we got at the fall colours along the Western side of Kilcoursie Bay

We were all packed up with the canoe loaded securely by around noon, so decided to drive over to the Amphitheatre parking lot and hike down to Harold Point to clamber around on the rocks. It was a perfect afternoon - the lightest of breezes; gorgeous sunshine; cool enough that you didn't get all hot and sweaty but mild enough to be comfortable in a light sweater.

Love the ruggedness of the rocks and windswept trees
Looking across Kilcoursie Bay with the hump of Davy Island in the distance
Tank down on the tip of Harold Point

Joining him and looking back up the point

One last look at Lighthouse Point in the distance

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay, though we weren't terribly sorry to be leaving when we did. There were potentially damaging winds and torrential rain - leftovers of some of this year's historic tropical storm season - blowing in that very evening, and we'd scheduled our stay so we'd have a full day to unpack before returning to work on Monday. The only thing I would have changed about our visit to Killbear was the stupid roadtrip on Wednesday afternoon/evening/night: I would rather have been sitting 'round a fire even in the freezing temperatures at the park than wasting most of a day on a disappointing show.

There was even a small farewell party at the park gate as we left.

The stay in the park did me a world of good, too. I'd been having some trouble with my right calf being unreasonably tight for the past couple of months, and the few days off running after the Sticks n'Stones 50k combined with some easy hiking, a bit of trail running, and lots of relaxing seems to have helped it resolve. Even if it hadn't, though, I wouldn't trade those days spent right in the heart of Georgian Bay for anything - it's where my soul lives, and the place I most enjoy sharing with the love of my life. I'm so thankful to have had the time, resources, and reasonably cooperative weather to be able to take this trip to such a beautiful place!

No place I'd rather be.

So now it's time for the last race of the year for me: my annual run-around-in-circles-for-hours at Horror Trail is tomorrow morning, and it looks like it's going to be a rainy one. Good thing my Halloween costume won't melt!

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