April 10, 2013    The search for this year's canoe-in site was concluded on April 10. Of the nine provincial parks with backcountry sites. (shown in the drop-down under 3. in the screen shot), we've done only two (Algonquin and Kawartha Highlands). Charleston Lake Backcountry Camping    We'd camped at Charleston Lake before and loved the landscape there. There are only ten backcountry sites available, so we looked at them all. The  Ontario Parks reservation system  supplies a brief description and several pictures of each site. 506 appealed to us the most. It was in a group of one so we wouldn't have to share a privy. Site 506    This is the first of three pictures of Site 506 supplied on the Parks reservation service. We've camped next to big rocks for two years running now, so this is very appealing. I imagine that the view of the sunrise will be excellent. I will take pictures again so that Wendy can see them sometime (without getting out of bed at six a.m.) Site 506    This platform for our tent will be a first for us. It will certainly save us time deciding where to set up. I estimate the deck to be just under ten by ten feet. (21 boards x 5.5" = 9.6') and solidly built of two by eights. Site 506    The campsite 'group' is called "Hidden Cove" and this picture confirms the name. We'll be able to get in and out of the water without attracting attention from the lake goers. Park Map    There's much to explore in this park. We'll be right around the corner from the entrance to Slim Bay and Mud Bay which are off-limit to motor boats. We'll also be just off of the Tallow Rock Bay East Trail, so we'll be able to hike to some interesting spots.
Google Satellite view    I was able to resize and sync the Google satellite view with other maps to get a better feel for the area. The large expanses of bare rock are typical of this whole area and will be a fascinating feature to explore visually. Topographical map    This topographical map  (also synced with the other maps) provides an easy way to judge distance.  Each square on a 1:50,0000 topographical map is a square kilometre. So the distance from the boat launch in the park to site 506 is around 1.5 km (or a mile). That will be an easy paddle. And the nearest cottages on Hedge Hog Island are half a kilometre away. This map is Westport 31 C/9 in the official Energy, Mines and Resources Edition 6. Search for 'Westport' or '031C09' on the  GeoGratis  website to get to the  CanMatrix - Print Ready - 031C09 page where you can download a PDF or TIFF. Unfortunately the park straddles four maps (C9, C8, B12, B5) so getting a complete picture is time consuming. To find the map reference for any area of Ontario use the commercial site  Maptown . Frontenac - Charleston    I love looking at the earth through Google eyes - zooming in and out to look for features and patterns. The area that encompasses Charleston Lake Provincial Park seems so distinct from its surroundings that I decided to outline it. The result is a somewhat triangular shape that is invaded by two tentacles of flatter, inhabitable farmland reaching towards Westport and Seeley's Bay. The land to the west of this area is also largely wilderness, but the texture is totally different. April 13, 2013    A most wonderful thing about exploring is the stumbling upon things that are new to you. In researching Charleston Lake and Killbear (our other destination this summer) I came across a new concept, a way of characterizing land with which I was already very familiar from camping (Balsam Lake, Big East Lake, Kawartha Highlands, Silent Lake, Bon Echo), from driving  through countless times going north, and which is also beloved by cottagers in the Muskokas. This area is known as 'The Land Between', and as the name suggests it is the border between the populated southern Ontario and the northern Ontario wilderness. I superimposed the outline (in gold) of this area on a collated Google satellite view, along with outlines of Algonquin Park and the Frontenac Arch to better get a feel for it. Our summer camping destinations actually lie outside of this outline, one on either end, but the characteristics of this area will also apply somewhat to them. The Land Between     The Land Between website  explains how the transitional nature of The Land Between makes it very rich in plant and animal species. Documentary Trailer    Known as an "ecotone", The Land Between is a liminal space between the Canadian Shield and the St. Lawrence Lowlands in Ontario, Canada. This YouTube trailer to a full length documentary is fascincating.
Frontenac Arch    I soon also discovered, from browsing the internet,  that my outline snaking around Charleston Lake was partly encompassed by an area that has been designated as the Frontenac Arch. Frontenac Arch    The Frontenac Arch has its own support community (like the many Friends of various parks) which hosts a   website . This website promotes a multi-faceted experience of the area so you can 'Learn About the Arch, Hike the Arch, Paddle the Arch, Cycle the Arch, Dive the Arch, Tour the Arch, Savour the Arch and learn about Arts on the Arch'. Frontenac Arch Biosphere    The Frontenac Arch rates as a Biosphere - one of 16 in Canada and 600 worldwide. The Frontenac Arch Biosphere Network has its own  website . Geological Map    I've owned an old-fashioned, folding paper geological map of southern Ontario for decades already, so I was pleased to find a digital version on the web. I have yet to decipher the significance of this mass of colourfull swirls, but I'll make some work of it soon. Blue Mountain Trail    I doubt that we'll do this trail - it's on the other side of the lake. But this video does give a very nice over-all impression of the terrain we'll be seeing, on our side as well. Check out this trail on the  Trails Council website. Flickr Photos    There are lots of photos of Charleston Lake out there. Here's  one set .
On July 1st, 2013 we finally set out for our destination, leaving home at 6:15 a.m. My own photo of the campsite marker, also marks the beginning of our own trip photos. The park map marker for site 506 (Hidden Cove) suggested to me that it was at the end of the long bay just around the corner from the Slim Bay bridge, but it is actually further up in a much smaller cove, just past a group of two large and two small rocks close to shore. This is the approach to our Hidden Cove campsite. Later in the week, when this picture was taken, the water was calm, but on the Monday of our arrival the wind was brisk (from the north) and the water choppy. We were glad to get into the shelter of this cove. We had checked in at the park office at 11:00, got to our site by 12:30 in time to have lunch, and after setting up our tent to shelter our first load, went back for the second. Monday afternoon at quarter to five was our first chance to sit (not in a car or canoe) since leaving at quarter past six in the morning. Canoeing thrice through the waves has tuckered Wendy out.  The wind was steady, and remained so for another day. We awoke Tuesday morning to another grey and windy day. I slept till eight. The sun never rose so there was no point getting up early. We were happy with our platform. The tent was secure, there was space at the side to spread out our gear when needed, and the height made it easier to work from. I've seen it before, but I'm not sure what the foamy stuff is. The steady wind from the north had driven it in overnight.
A tour around the camp site turned up some lovely flowers, like this Purple Flowering Raspberry. This pair of Dwarf Dandelions, lying low in our path, knows the value of keeping its head down. They've learned this from their city cousins. There were lots of  St. John's Wort around. I can never figure out why trees are felled by beavers so far away from any pond. This one at least, beside the privy, served to point the way back to our campsite. After lunch we headed out to walk north a ways along the Tallow Rock Trail. It's a good climb from the shore by our Hidden Cove campsite over our very own path. This is the only lake lookout we found on the trail section that we walked.
The Tallow Rock trail skirts a a double beaver pond, high up above the level of Charleston Lake. A stalk of Purple Loosestrife standing beside the Beaver Pond. My guess is that if really look you'll find ants everywhere. This Swamp Milkweed  included. No smile from Wendy as she waits for me to finish shooting. The now submerged trees of pre-beaver days still abound, but have long since been colonized. A bridge not too far
Dainty Daisy Fleabane This live tree root conviently bridged the burbling brook. Balance required. Two smiles This butterfly hung around our campsite several times during our stay. Opening the book to the middle for this portrait is cheating. By Wednesday morning the wind was dying down, even if the sun refused to show, so the Evening Primrose by water's edge stood quietly for this shot.
The grey day at 9:30 that morning The floating bridge over the entrance to Slim Bay marks the provincial park boundary, completes the Tallow Rock Trail and keeps out the motor boats. One of the first things we saw on our canoe expedition into Slim Bay and Mud Bay was a Blue Heron. Blue Herons invariably fly off when you approach. Catching the flight is a challenge. At home, I'd call this a big weed. Out here, I don't know. This meadow under the trees along the north shore of Slim Bay looked idylic.
These blooms of algae (?) underwater were very common. The Blue Flag Iris was still blooming everywhere we went. The Whilte Water Lily This root  cropped up all around Mud Bay. An invasion perhaps? Swamp Milkweed Pink/purple spikes
Seed pods This stand of Blue Flag Irises has gone to seed A cluster of Nightshades overhanging a beaver lodge A feast of nectar supplied by a Milkweed The Blue Heron prepares to fly away, again. Cinquefoil are abundant.
Some sort of crustacean washed up onto a rocky ledge of Slim Bay This Rock Tripe lichen grows abundantly on the rock faces around Charleston Lake Harebells hanging out at water's edge Wild rasberry bush growing on a rock ledge A stem of Harebells nestled against the rock cliff This recently fallen tree exposes unweathered rock
Wendy tries out the bed on the path rising up from our campsite. The meadow of delicate plants covering this crest of granite is riven by a small stream. A large rock, cleanly split in two, is brought together again. Back to the book This is the view from the loo. Yes, that's a screen door you see. The path down from the loo to our campsite
Wednesday evening, at supper time, the campsite is cast in shadow while the islands to our east still bask in the sun. After supper we travelled north as far as the Captain's Gap campsite. This was occupied by See-Dooers. Charleston Lake is huge. We saw only a very thin slice. Thursday morning at 5:08 the lake is still shrouded. The four rock mounds that mark the way to our site rise up from still waters. The first glimmer of sun reaches over the curve of the earth into the clouds. Smouldering light on the waters
Hidden Cove at 5:34, just before sunrise . To the left you can just see our canoe and the tent where Wendy keeps sleeping. Charleston Lake in the pink By 5:38 the sun had fully risen, only to disappear again minutes later behind the clouds. At ten-thirty, though it was still heavily overcast, we set out up our Hidden Cove trail to walk the Tallow Rock trail to the Slim Bay bridge. By the time we arrived at the bridge it was drizzling again. Henry surveys the listing bridge with dismay. In the distance is a designated picnic spot that would be fun for any family with kids in better weather.
By the time we headed back for home the humidity was one hundred percent and we were soaked from sweat and rain. Jackets just make it worse. After a refreshing dip and a change of clothes By mid afternoon the sun was out again and we enjoyed a cup of coffee by the cove. The late afternoon sun, still skimming in over the trees, lit up the rock ledge beneath the water. The water of Charleston Lake is crystal clear, thanks largely to the lake's pervasive infestation of zebra mussels. The tent is still tied off to trees to counter the stiff winds that we experienced the first two days. In the back, on another platform, is the dining tent that served more as a storage facility during the night and when it was raining.
Thursday evening, our last, we paddled back under the bridge into Slim Bay. The sun felt wonderfully warm. We were rewarded by our first and only close-up experience with loons. We'd been hearing and seeing them in the distance since we arrived. They seemed to be resting when we arrived and were probably annoyed that we kept following them around. But they never dove down to get away. Friday morning a short rain shower woke me at five. The sky was still leaden and I almost returned to bed, despairing of another sunrise. But at the last minute a soft glow caught my eye and I lingered long enough to catch the delicate show of colour. This morning again, the sun shone briefly over the horizon before rising into the cloud cover.
This was the view of our campsite from inside our tent. We had slept the whole night with the  front fly tied up to enjoy the air and the view. By eight thirty the sun had risen above the clouds and we were enjoying our last coffee before an easy breakfast of freeze dried scrambled eggs and ham. After that we needed to get packing. The fishermen were out plying the sparkling waters, looking for their breakfast. At ten-thirty we were ready to push off with our first load of gear. Fortunately, the waters were much calmer than when we arrived on Monday. Our tents had been left standing to dry off, but by quarter to one they were packed away too and we left for good. By two we were rolling with our van and trailer, and after a short stop at the day beach to refresh ourselves we were on our way back home.