We began our backcountry camping weekend at Bon Echo Provincial Park by spending Friday night on site 440 in the Hardwood Hills section of the park. It was a great site – big, reasonably private and lots of space for two tents and a car.
We setup our tents and began cooking dinner: steak and grilled potatoes. We planned to cook the potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil in the coals, but as we began to prepare them we discovered that we forgot to bring the foil. So we improvised. We cut the potatoes into thick slices and placed them on the grill. Some were cooked perfectly, others – not so much.
After dinner, we sat around the fire enjoying a few “pops,” while Newman (four-year-old boxer) decided he wanted to go to bed. Since we were sitting only about 10 feet from the picnic table, we were lax about putting things away. Around 10 pm or so, we heard what sounded like a bag being crumpled and then it being dragged away. We got up and looked around only to discover our huge Ziploc bag of trail mix had been stolen.
Armed with headlamps and a knife, we set out in search of the culprit and our trail mix. About 30 feet from our site we spotted a set of eyes. Creeping closer, we also noticed our trail mix. As we moved forward, the creature moved back. By the time we reached the Ziploc bag, we could tell that the thief was a racoon. We had recovered our stolen goods but, unfortunately, the racoon had ripped a hole in the bag. So we had no choice but to throw our bag of at least 3 lb of trail mix.
Saturday morning around 10 am we set out on our 10 – 12 km hike to our backcountry campsite on Abes Lake (#529). This moderate to difficult trail (though I would say more moderate with just a few difficult spots) was beautiful. It had great views of creeks, lakes, dams, fields and just nice trails.
Unfortunately, most of the time the beauty of the hike was overshadowed by the hordes of mosquitoes and black flies. That’s how most of this trip was. I don’t think I have ever seen this many bloodsucking insects in my life – and the number of bites that we all received was just ridiculous.
Around 1 pm we crossed this beautiful little waterfall. We were about 3 feet above the little river on these large boulders that had about a two-foot gap that we had to step over. It was a beautiful view. At the bottom of the waterfall, the river opened up into a small lake that had lily pads and fallen trees.
After about another one and a half hours we reached our camp site. It was big, open and flat, with big rocks that had a gentle slope to a great swimming area. We couldn’t have asked for a better site.
Sunday, we decided to explore the area and maybe walk back to Little Rock Lake and take a swim but as soon as we stepped off the site and into the woods, we were swarmed. Even with bug repellent with DEET and long sleeves, it was nearly unbearable. So, our exploration time ended up being considerably shorter than planned.
Sunday evening, we drenched ourselves in DEET, covered up and huddled near the fire in an attempt to escape the waves of bloodsucking invaders – to some avail. Once the bugs thinned out a little, we sat on the rocks and were blessed by two awesome light shows. The first were hundreds of fireflies and the second was a crazy lightning storm that was off in the distance – both were just spectacular.
Monday morning we packed up our camp, put on our bug jackets and soaked ourselves in DEET again and set out for the trailhead. Unlike the previous day, Monday was HOT and sunny but we couldn’t take off our jackets or change into shorts because of all of the bugs. So, we had to sweat it out. By the time we reached our vehicles, I was so wet that I looked like I had just stepped out of a pool. So, the first thing that we did was head for the beach and take a dip.
While I had never seen mosquitoes and black flies that bad, the trip itself was great. The trails, rock-faces and views at Bon Echo are just amazing. Whether you’re car camping or staying in the backcountry, you will be treated to great scenery – especially if you go up the staircase at Mazinaw Rock, where you’ll find lookouts and native pictographs.