Surprisingly, it didn’t take much convincing to get my loving wife to agree to an overnight backpacking trip in Frontenac Park for my birthday. Her only stipulation was that we had to keep an eye on the forecast, and if it was going to rain then we wouldn’t go.
On Wednesday, we made our final decision: our trip was a go. The only issue now was the route. You cannot pre-book campsites in April. We had three or four preferred campsites, but ultimately it would come down to whatever was available when we showed up.
When we arrived at the park office, we were advised that the park was quite full. However, cluster 13 was still completely free. The park officer recommended site 13A, as it is set away from the other sites, giving you a bit more privacy.
Just before we set out, I noticed that the office sells bug nets. We purchased two – and boy, were we glad we did. At times the Mayflies were awful.
We headed northeast from the Big Salmon Lake parking lot along the Big Salmon Lake loop trail – quickly realizing how much dryer the ground was than the previous weekend, when we did a day hike. We reached cluster 3 in just under an hour. Not knowing how long it would take to get to 13, we stopped for lunch (wraps with pepperettes, cheese, cucumbers, peppers and carrots) on 3C.
Shortly after you leave cluster 3, the trail turns into an access road, which we found to be a rather boring hike. Other than an old collapsed homestead and a rusted-out old truck, there really wasn’t much to see. That said, we were able to cover some distance quite quickly. This was good as the Mayflies decided to make their presence known. If you slowed down or stopped for a drink, they were swarming around, trying to get in your eyes or mouth.
Shortly after clearing Black Lake, we turned south and arrived at the tip of Big Clear Lake. This is my favourite lake in the park. The beautiful teal waters and large overhanging cliffs make for some awesome views. Despite the annoying Mayflies, we stopped for a few minutes to marvel.
We arrived at our site – I was hot and dripping wet from sweat so I instantly stripped down to my boxers, prepared to dive into Big Clear Lake, then I touched the water – ice cold. Ok, not gonna happen. Chickened out, I just soaked my feet and cupped water to cool myself off.
What a beautiful site! Large, no nearby neighbours, a great swimming area with gentle sloping rocks. It was perfect.
We quickly set up our tent and started a fire. Thankfully, by dusk the Mayflies were gone, which meant we could start dinner. Veggies (zucchini, peppers, cherry tomatoes and mushrooms) in foil and cooked in the coals and grilled sausages – as for the freezing cold water, we made great use of it.
The temperature dropped quickly so we decided to call it a night pretty early. First, we went down to the shoreline and enjoyed the thousands of stars in the clear night sky.
It was around 7:30 when I climbed out of our (Marmott Traillight 2P) tent it was windy, cold and drizzling. I started a fire and breakfast (English muffins, eggs and Smokies).
We took our time packing and, wearing toques and gloves, were back on the trail (towards the south side of the Big Salmon loop) at 11 a.m. We moved a bit slower that day because the ground was wet and because this portion of the loop is more rugged. It was also more scenic. Unfortunately, we couldn’t really enjoy it because of the unpleasant weather.
We tried to make the best of the situation when we stopped at cluster 4 for lunch by starting a fire and huddling around it. Unfortunately, stepping away from the fire was an instant freeze. We had the same lunch as the previous day, accompanied by roasted Smokies since we really needed something hot to warm us up.
We arrived back at the Big Salmon Lake parking lot and drove to the park office with just enough time to change into clean clothes before closing (5:00pm). Considering we spent roughly two hours trying to get warm over lunch, I’d say we made descent time.
In total, we hiked around 20 km. Despite having to deal with Mayflies the first day and cold, rainy weather the second, both Margarita and I enjoyed our trip. We experienced beautiful views and lookouts, sat by cozy campfires, ate delicious food, spent time outdoors and just enjoyed each other’s company – which is what it is all about.
Click Here to see a short video with clips from our trip.