Beaver or bear?

Beaver or bear?

July 2022

The Killarney Provincial Park is considered the jewel of all provincial parks in Ontario. Located on Georgian Bay at Lake Huron you can find here many lakes and countless hiking trails. So we headed out again to see if we could rent a canoe or kayak. At the rental company Killarney Outfitters we were also allowed to stay for free on the lawn behind the building, which we gratefully did for two wonderfully quiet nights!

Unfortunately, the “backcountry campsites” were booked out months in advance; and nothing was available, so we opted for a day trip and rented a kayak the next day. Our rented kayak was already waiting on the beach of George Lake, the largest lake in the Killarney Park. In this park there are countless lakes to navigate. We chose to do a day trip on the three lakes George Lake, Freeland Lake and Killarney Lake. Between these lakes there are short portages where we’d had to carry the boat.

It was still nice and early in the morning when we carried the kayak into the water and turned onto George Lake through a beautiful bay. The shoreline of the lake is rugged. The La Cloche Range traverses the park and dominates the view all around. The white granite peaks that rise above the forest provide a nice contrast to the blue sky above.

With the wind at our backs, it went quickly across George Lake and because of this we reached the first portage stretch of the day sooner than expected. A kayak like that is pretty heavy. Fortunately, this stretch was only 80 meters. Freeland Lake is quite shallow and the grass and large white lilies that rose above the water gave the lake a cheerful appearance. A greater task awaited us on the other shore, as to get to Killarney Lake you have to carry your kayak 400 meters through the forest. Knocking the mosquitoes off you while simultaneously carrying the boat is perhaps the biggest task.

We've made it!

On the other side of the trail, on the shores of Killarney Lake, a big surprise awaited us. There was a strange sound coming from the forest across the way. It resembled the sound of a beaver, or so we thought, and we decided to wait, until a slightly larger black animal with a small one behind it emerged from the forest. A black bear family less than 100 yards away! As fast as we could we sought the safety of the water and slowly paddled to a greater safe distance. What an experience, but we could not really enjoy the moment as the adrenaline was still flowing through our blood.

To cool off, we parked the kayak on a smooth rock on the shore and dove into the water, keeping a close eye on the bank in case a bear was also looking to cool off. And damn… not even half dried off, we saw the same two bears reappear on the other side of the cove. We decided to pack everything back into the kayak and head out on the water. We stayed at a safe distance, but this time we were able to enjoy the moment. What a stroke of luck!

In the afternoon we paddled the same route back. The wind had increased in strength, but was still blowing from the same direction as in the morning, so headwind! The smaller Freeland Lake was thus already quite a challenge. Just stopping the paddling meant that you were blown back two meters. We didn’t want to think about George Lake yet. At the portage, George came into view and the waves were clearly rolling in our direction. We waited another moment and then took up the challenge. It was really draining; we didn’t seem to be moving forward at all.

Preparing for the challenge

But today’s hard work was rewarded in the evening with a cocktail in the otherwise sleepy village of Killarney.

The next day, because of the predicted rain, we decided to do only one hike and chose the 6 kilometer long “Crack Trail”. On the trail through the forest we again saw dozens of chipmunks and always remained wary of bears since we were walking through the same area where we had seen the bears yesterday while kayaking. After a short but interesting climb over large boulders and through a crack created by falling rock, we climbed to a height from which we could enjoy the grandeur of this park from above. We didn’t see a bear in the end, but the whole Killarney experience was fantastic.

Eddy and Romy van Es © 2020, All Rights Reserved.

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