1 After the success of our canoe camping on Big East Lake the previous year, we naturally turned again to Kevin Callan's "Paddler's Guide to Ontario's Cottage Country" for more suggestions. The chapter on Crab Lake got our attention. When the book was written, this area was still free to canoe, but we soon found out that it had recently become regulated, maintained and would require us to pay for reservations. This was quite OK with us - we prefer structure to chaos. The Camis registration system for these sites (Backcountry in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park) showed pictures and availability.
All guides and forums pointed to Crab Lake as THE destination, since Wolf Lake, through which you had to paddle first, had cottages and motorboats. But, for the sake of our comfort and the ease of bringing in two canoe loads of gear, we swallowed our aprehensions and and booked one of the two sites on Wolf Lake. When we arrived, on the July holiday Monday, we were nervous because the lake and its shore were teaming with cottagers. We had left home early in order to get a good start so we got to our reserved site by 10:00 a.m. But there were still two couples there lounging around and showing no evidence of being in a hurry to pack. Oh boy! After confirming their intentions to leave, they agreed that we could pile our gear off to the side, and we went back for the second load. We got back with that just before noon and they were still packing, so we went to a small neighbouring island to have some lunch. By one they had departed in their failing motorboat and we finally had the spot to ourselves. By four, Wendy was sitting with coffee reading a book and I was taking my first pictures.
The quality of this campsite was not immediately obvious to us, but we very soon began to experience this spot as the most beautiful of any we have camped on. By the end of the first day, the week-enders had gone and for the next four days we had almost total privacy and exclusive access to a whole peninsula of gorgeous rocks and trees, surrounded by water perfect for swimming in and canoeing on. There was plenty to explore close by, and though we did paddle to the bottom of Wolf Lake, we never did feel the need to go on to the popularly preferred Crab Lake.
If we weren't so driven to keep exploring, we would happily come back to this spot every year.
2 This Google Earth image shows the portion of Wolf Lake around site 301. From this site you can see five cottage docks 400m to the east. From the back porch you can see large cottages in the distance to the west. We occasionallly heard cars driving the out-of-sight gravel firelane across the channel to our south. The only other campsite on the lake was several kilometres away. So the whole peninsula was ours to enjoy and the only people we saw were in a few passing canoes and the wardens who came to check up on us. Click on the google map icon to view a map location.
3 The registration system map showing campsites on Wolf Lake and Crab Lake
4 My wife and I have long disagreed about the reading of books while camping. She sees free time during vacations as an opportunity to do something that was rarely possible during her busy life as a working homemaker. She commits to reading a whole book, a big book, when we go camping. And she always picks one for me to read.
Now, I've always loved reading too, and I can happily while away the hours with a book when there's nothing else to engage me. But the idea of travelling to a really exotic location to read a work of fiction seems strange to me. I know the arguments I'm up against: I can't get around to reading if I stay home because I always get distracted by the things that need doing. It's so nice to read a book in a beautiful setting. I've got to do something - I can't just sit there. I don't read all the time.
So, I don't harp, and I read too. But I'm always on edge, watching and waiting for the real world to turn a page and draw me in to its richly nuanced stories.
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6 By four in the afternoon on our first day we were more or less set up and could enjoy time for reading and our first coffee.
7 But I quickly returned to playing with ropes, trying to get a high wire (16'-20' up) between two trees, for hoisting our food out of reach of critters.
8 Henry never did make much progress in the big book -- early twentieth century human machinations in Europe are no match for the beauty of God's creation.
9 By sunset (~9:00 pm) on the day of our arrival, as seen from the north side of our peninsula, the cottagers enjoying a holiday Monday have departed, and all is peace and quiet. They pay an arm and a leg for their views. We got ours for $25 a day.
10 At 6:45, Tuesday morning, the sun is growing strong, Wendy is still sleeping, and we have our first full day ahead of us.
11 The campsite is still tucked in and the food hoisted out of reach.
12 My beloved brings style along with her second cup of coffee to the rock on a sunny morning.
13 The interplay of earth and sky and water in locations like this continually surprises and inspires me, especially when graced by the human form.
14 The rock slope is richly textured and coloured as it slides beneath the water - so unlike the limb that lies astride.
15 ~ When the unseen surface stirs to life, the molten shadows mingle lively with the light.
16 We have a number of pictures of this cleft rock and only in this one does the light shine just so as to turn half to gold while leaving the other to keep its cool.
17 In this reflection on the deep water beside the rockface that Wendy was exploring, she catches the strong light of the setting sun, adds her own warmth to it and casts it onto the inky darkness, which seems almost malevolent in the way it tries to regain territory.
18 By lunchtime Tuesday the skies had clouded over, rain threatened, and we set up our dining tent just in time to shelter us from the day's drizzle. But by breakfast time the next morning the shelter was gone again, for good. Nothing beats being in the open, especially for tall people.
19 We had our Wednesday early morning coffee time down by the canoe launch. Wendy has a penchant for cutting off my head or my feet.
20 Before breakfast we took delight again in slipping beneath the surface of water, rippled dark and blue-light beneath the forest's face and the clear sky above.
21 We had our Wednesday breakfast at ten. The recycling bag hanging on the tree has been repaired. A large racoon visited during the night. Don't they understand that blue bags are for recyling and that it's pointless to rip them open. Our white garbage bag was still safely hanging between two trees.
22 While actually doing dishes, Henry posed with a dish brush in hand and a smile on his face to disprove commonly held notions. Notice the disposable propane cylinder for the stove. We forgot our five pound tank this time. Now it's on a list of last minute checks.
23 We relaxed in the shade for a while on our porch beside the big rock, looking north-east out over the lake.
24 The loo is out of view of the campsite, but not the lake.
25 The view from the loo, across the lake to a Canada Day monument. Someone went to a great deal of work to hoist that flag.
26 Henry comes in for a landing below the campsite. For an overview of the stuff that we take with us for this kind of camping see the Equipment album under Canoe Camping.
27 There is time to read again on our north shore lookout.
28 The clear water sparkling in the warm sunshine kept calling our names.
29 This lovely spot at the foot of our campsite was a good place for a mid afternoon swim on Wednesday. This was somewhat staged to supply us with presentable photos.
30 The rock incline is 20% or more, and it is slippery and abrasive at the same time. So getting carefully in and out of the water takes time.
31 Photo-op role reversal has Henry warning Wendy not to chop off his head. Close call.
32 We went through one tin of coffee this trip. On this late afternoon break, Wendy is clearly winning the battle of the books.
33 Henry sits up on the hump of the peninsula looking south-east over the channel and down to the canoe launch and campsite.
34 In the evening we paddle out to catch the setting sun.
35 The many varied rock types and formations in this area are fascinating. This little pyramid basks in the sun yet, before falling again into the shadow of dusk.
36 Within sight of our campsite we caught the sun bursting out from behind a neighbouring island.
37 We loitered for a while along the shore opposite our campsite just to watch the light show.
38 The evening sun warms the back the peninsula's massive rock spine.
39 We enjoy coolers while watching the sun set from our back porch.
40 The sun set at 8:36 on Wednesday evening.
41 At 5:30 a.m. Thursday morning I leave the warmth of our sleeping bag to go again in search. What I find I will never see again, except for the soul's discerning that no-god could never be the source of such delight as this.
42 Thursday morning, at 5:30, the sun is still down and the full moon is still up. This view from the tip of the rock into the channel looks away from the sun.
43 And God said, Let there be light, and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness he called night.
44 By seven, Wendy is up and Henry is tying off the canoe across the channel in preparation for making panorama shots.
45 The pine trees on this site were most beautiful to behold. Their large sprays of long needles always seem so soft in the sun, even more so in this infrared photo.
46 Wendy cracks up, looking at the deep blue water in the early morning light.
47 Thursday morning at seven, the sun is warm and still low. Perfect time for a panoramic view from accross the channel. Our balcony still sits in the shadows, high above our campsite nestled under the trees to the right. At the end of the channel, on the left is an impenetrable marsh. Wendy is standing at our bathing spot.
48 In this panorama continued, the campsite is now on the left and the rock (our front porch) juts out into the lake like the snout of some prehistoric beast. Wendy is up top, sitting in a lawn chair.
49 A panorama taken from the south shore of the channel shows the marsh on the left, our balcony rising up to the highest point of the peninsula, the low spot under trees where we camped and swam, our front porch - 'the rock' where we sat to get the sun and the view, and the lake meandering off to the east and north.
50 Wendy takes a picture of Henry taking a picture of the campsite.
51 After the panorama expedition, while coming in for a landing, the campsite is just catching the sun. The food bags are still hung high. The sky light throuh the trees shows just how narrow our peninsula is. To camp on the water is a treat. To have water on three sides is amazing.
52 First coffee is at 7:30. It's the first chair rest for Henry since getting up at 5:30. But re-creation is better than rest.
53 On the rock, Henry is taking portraits of the 'little man'.
54 There may be as many ways to vacation as there are people who do it. With the time available to us we go on trips, become tourists, return to cottages, go camping, go fishing, party, reunite with family and friends, get away, see the world, reconnect and re-honeymoon. The style and destination of the vacation is, no doubt, affected by the supply of money. For us camping has, quite simply, been an affordable way to go on holidays. And our province's (Ontario) provincial parks have been reasonably close enough to keep the travelling costs down.
That said, camping in our provincial parks has been a rich experience for us, way out of proportion to the price. We count ourselves blessed to be able to enjoy their many natural wonders. We're also glad that camping is not everyone's cup of tea, or we'd be crowded out.
55 By nine, breakfast is almost ready.
56 Breakfast is blessed that's well prepared and simply shared.
57 By 9:30 Henry was back in the canoe looking for detail. Lillies in the marsh are the first to catch his eye.
58 Lots of this Pickerelweed everywhere
59 This relatively rare (for this area) yellow lily has two visitors at once.
60 A lily pad shelters under a rock, accross the channel from our campsite.
61 This is one of just several wild roses that we saw on an island.
62 Interesting forms are everywhere.
63 This is the only one of its kind that we saw here.
64 This small bird at water's edge serenaded us for some time.
65 This large (~1 foot long) oak leaf impressed Wendy.
66 On our trip out to the parking lot, Thursday evening, to bring away one load of stuff, we were fortunate to see a heron, and watch him take flight twice. Here you can see evidence of a cottage.
67 The wary heron is ready for take-off.
68 This evening, the water was almost perfectly calm, so we saw many refelections.
69 We spent some quality time with a pair of loons, taking pictures and one movie. This is the sharpest of many photos of loons taken from a moving canoe.
70 By 8:15, returning from loading our stuff into the van, the shadows are growing and the lake is like glass.
71 Friday morning at six, Henry is taking pictures again. There are only six hours left to make memories of this wonderful place before we have to leave.
72 Wendy's favourite view of the rock is immortalized for her while she sleeps.
73 We had swum to this narrow strip of rocks and trees in the middle of the lake.
74 Our campsite comes into the sun at 6:50 a.m. on its last morning.
75 Seen here, just four feet out from the shoreline, from which we swam, is the large rock rising just out of the water to give us a hand-hold going in and out.
76 An infrared view of our campsite shoreline. Wendy is standing still on a rock in the water for the four second exposure. For more infrared pictures click here.
77 There is no more glorious feeling than that of basking in the sun after an early morning swim, with a warm breeze carressing the whole of your being.
78 There is still time for coffee, breakfast, reading and walking this morning, in addition to packing, before our scheduled noon departure.
79 Our campsite is cleared of all our gear. Only the picnic table and (unused by us) fire pit remain.
80 This is all of our remaining gear, ready to be loaded for the final trip.
81 We made landing, at the parking lot, at 11:45. Within half an hour we were on our way to pick up Jovita at Camp Shalom.
Newmaker is the spirit that drives a lifetime of creativity, and is a reflection of the Creator who continues to make all things new.
H.James Company is the business name for the renovation services of Henry de Jong since 1991. Services have been offered as sub-contractor and as contractor, but primarily as a professional craftsman working alone. Working on small to medium size jobs allows a personal committment to executing every detail with the same care, and to working one job at a time, on a steady and predictable schedule.