I’m an avid fan of the outdoors. I’m not hard core or anything but every so often, I like to push myself outside my comfort zone. I wanted to do a multi-day backcountry camping trip. In Ontario Canada, the first place that comes to mind is Algonquin Park. And rightfully so, it’s beautiful there. But this time around, I was less enthused about that option. I wanted more of a challenge, something a little more remote. And then I discovered the La Cloche Silhouette trail, an 80km loop, in Killarney Park! Perfect! The trail is difficult, rugged and has amazing views! You know how the saying goes: ‘be careful what you wish for’. This trip gave me everything I wished for and then some. Including an uncooperative bear!
Planning and Perseverance
I encountered my first hurdle pretty quickly. I wanted to see what I felt was the prettiest part. Picture high cliffs overlooking forest as far as you can see and rivers. This was in the second half of the trail. I wanted to hike this part, without doing the full loop or going in and out the same way. Everyone I talked to told me the same thing: those were my only 2 options. So after over a month of searching, I noticed an access point (Bell Lake) right in the best part of the trail. This was perfect! I negotiated with several outfitters before one agreed to rent me a canoe plus fee for an employee’s time to canoe us across the lake. I had successfully arranged coming in through one access point so we could hike out to the exit, where our car waited.
For any that are curious, this was our trek:
- Canoe across to Bell Lake access point
- Campsites: Silver Lake, Bunny Rabbit Hill and Heaven Lake
- Exit at ‘The crack’
This hiking trail is by no means easy. It IS difficult and I don’t suggest it as you’re first crack at backcountry camping. But for those with some experience and up for the challenge, I can’t recommend it enough!
My plan set a leisurely pace; three campsites over five days. This gave us ample time to hike this distance and explore along the way. We were able to sleep a few nights without the tent rain cover. After staring up at the stars, this was my view in the morning. Looks idyllic doesn’t it? This really was a trip of a lifetime!
Aside from a scenic way of getting outside my comfort zone, there are three lessons I learned that help me both in life and in my personal finances.
This picture to the right, this was the easiest climb on our whole trip. I knew there would be some difficult climbs, how else are you going to get atop the cliffs and see those gorgeous views?! I have a fear of heights but I had been working on conquering it and was doing pretty good. I wasn’t prepared for what I came across after leaving Silver Lake. I was following the trail through some woods, and came upon what I can only describe as a rock wall. One so high, I couldn’t see the top!
It made no sense to me; I assumed I had lost the trail somewhere along the way. After retracing my steps several times, it always led back to the rock wall… Then I noticed a little sign that pointed up.
I kid you not, every fibre of my being was ready to march right back to Bell Lake and wait until some random person decided to canoe my way. Even if that took a week. I DID NOT want to scramble up that cliff.
Long story short, I tackled the climb, after some cajoling from my trail mates and was rewarded with one of the best views on the trip. And to think I almost missed out on that because of fear. Sometimes you just have to tackle fear head on.
If you ever want to know what’s absolutely necessary, look at a backpacking camping list of essentials. When you have to carry everything with you, anything more than that will be carefully scrutinized, as it quickly adds to the weight.
Now I’m not saying there shouldn’t be comfort or luxuries. But in life, it’s easy to accumulate ‘stuff’ we feel is a need instead of want. In a backpack, the weight is much more obvious as we can feel it. Material possession we collect in our lives has psychological weight. This is quite tricky to spot and humans have an uncanny ability to ignore it’s effects.
Camping is my reset button, helping me appreciate the small things again and renewed perspective on needs and wants. After this trip, I couldn’t wait to have a GOOD coffee. When I walked into a coffee shop, that immediately went away when I saw a pitcher full of ice cold water with lemons. I stood there drinking glass after glass. The fact that I didn’t to find a safe, clean source, swim out into a freezing lake and then wait to purify the water was AMAZING.
Bears… Not really necessary!
For most of my friends, the bear incident is their favourite story. This was bear country and I had been hoping to see a bear. I’ve seen some in landfills but that doesn’t count. Yea, I get that I’m weird there. And no, I’m not part of the crazy or foolish crowd that want to get dangerously close to a bear. In any case, we had arrived at our last camp site and I was secretly disappointed I hadn’t seen a bear (at a distance). Remember when I said careful what you wish for?
Well, not more than 5 minutes after that, I was looking for a spot to store food, when the bushes in front of me jolted and a bear’s head popped up over them. It was pretty comical. A split second later, the bear ran off. I hid the food and walked back towards camp, elated I had seen a bear! What I didn’t count on was the bear persistently coming back over and over, closer each time. While the other two were busy making lunch, I quietly re-packed our bags and studied the map, seeing how far the next campsite was. Needless to say, everyone was in agreement to move on as far as we could, even if that meant improvising a spot to sleep.
As we were on a cliff, the only way forward was to follow the path along it and back down. For some reason that I don’t get to this day, the bear decided to park itself right on the path. There was no way around it. Unless we suddenly sprouted wings to fly. We tried several attempts at backing up and waiting, further and further each time. On the last attempt, the bear was still there, stood up and started bending trees. So that was that, we hiked 5 hours back to our previous site. I don’t think I slept at all that night. My ears were focused for any unusual sound. We broke camp before dawn and hiked back the same way, as that was realistically the only way out to the car.
The big lesson here, you gotta know when to face fears head on and when to fold. This was clearly an obstacle that we’d be on the losing end. Hiking back gave the bear hours of much needed space, and let us tackle the same issue with a different strategy: hiking through early in the morning hoping that the bear’s routine had it somewhere else.
What about you? Any fun or insightful hiking stories?