Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Trip Log: Killarney Provincial Park, May 20-22, 2013...sort of

I think this trip might have been cursed from the start.  I spent a week trying to get everyone to tell me what they wanted to eat.  Squatch's helpful answer was "food" (shouldn't have taught him sarcasm at a young age) and Chris just shrugged and said "Whatever you want to make."  It wasn't until the morning before that I finally dragged a few potential recipes out of them.

So the morning of our departure arrives...sunny, hot, humid.  Looked promising even though the weather report said it would be raining the whole week both at home and in Killarney.  I held hope the weather app on my phone was wrong.

The first little hiccup started just north of Parry Sound, when Bubbie had to go to the bathroom.  We decided to take a little side trip to Sturgeon Bay Provincial Park, use their facilities and maybe check out the park for potential future trips.  The kids loved the beach, and the sites we saw, though not incredibly impressive, were nice enough.  We figured it would make a good "lay-over" park on the way to a further north park sometime.

As we were exploring the campground, a group of trailers were parked on the road, blocking our way.  There were at least three of them, and it didn't look like they were just waiting for someone else to move.  They seemed to be having a picnic at one of the campsites.  Perhaps they too were using the park as a bit of a layover spot, but still, blocking the entire loop?  Not cool.  Chris backed into one of the campsites and turned around but when he did, we heard a little pop/snap sound.

I stopped in at the gatehouse to get a campground map, then we got back on the road.  Once back on highway 69, we got about 5 minutes along, when traffic came to a stop.  There were people milling about, looking confused.  We couldn't see anything but we figured it had to be an accident.  Chris headed up the road on foot to see if he could figure it out, and a few minutes later, an ambulance came up behind us.  About 2 KM ahead of us, a minivan had gone into the ditch.  By the time Chris got back to the car (having had to stop and tell the story a dozen times to people sitting in their cars) we'd been sitting there for about 45 minutes.  According to the info I found online, the road wasn't closed, just slow, but in that whole time we only saw 2 cars come past from the other way.  We decided to turn around, head back to the road that goes to Sturgeon Bay PP and continue on until it comes back out to the highway.  This is when Chris realized that pop/snap he'd heard?  Yeah, something to do with the power steering...cause it was like driving a classic car.  We had to hit the gas station a few KM back and buy more fluid.   Oddly enough, when Chris went to put the fluid in, he realized the car was still running.  I even took the keys out of the ignition and it was still going.  (That only happened one more time the whole trip...on the way back when we stopped at the same gas station to top up the fluid again...weird)

Apparently, a lot of other people were now using the detour, or police were re-routing people though we saw no signs of any at the end of the road..  The little narrow road was non-stop traffic and people were driving like they were still on the highway.

By the time we got back on track, we'd wasted probably 2 hours (including goofing off at Sturgeon Bay PP beach.)  And we still had about 2 hours of driving to get to Killarney.  By now the kids were ready to kill us.  They don't even like driving the 7km into town.  I'm having a hard time imagining a trip to Chutes PP like we'd been talking about.  Normally, as I'm not driving, I'd make use of my iPod to block out the whining, but that didn't seem fair to Chris.  We tried taking the mini-DVD player for the drive, road games...nothing worked. (on the way back though, they made a game of hunting for highway exit numbers and following our route on the map.  Kept them occupied the entire time)

Beautiful view from our site
So, we finally arrive and of course the gatehouse is closed, which wasn't a big deal except it meant we couldn't buy wood, and of course I'd planned to cook over the fire since we hadn't brought the little BBQ.  It was beautiful though.  We love rocks.  Chris waxed poetic about every rock cut we passed, every lake surround by rocky cliffs...(there are a lot of them if you haven't travelled highway 69 before) so he was excited and couldn't wait to climb and explore.  The kids couldn't have cared less by this point.  All they wanted was out of the car.

They were impressed with our site though.  Right on the water, on a big sweep of pink granite, it was perfect.  We set up the tent with an eye towards providing a perfect view, and then debated moving the second picnic table back so we could set up the screen tent over it.  The bugs were moderately bad (and seemed to love me more than anyone...) so we hauled it off the rock.

After a snack of tortilla chips and salsa, the kids and Chris went to explore a little ways down the La Cloche Silhouette backpacking trail, just to see if they could get to the little point across the lake from our house, and I started supper (switched to spaghetti).  Of course they were gone longer than planned, and by the time they could see me, supper had been ready for 5 minutes.

As we ate, we discussed the trails we could hike the next day.  We really wanted to do The Crack, but were worried that the kids might have troubles.  Granite Ridge was our next choice, though the Cranberry Bog held the appeal of being right by our site so we didn't have to drive the car anywhere.

Storm approaching over George Lake
After doing up the dishes the kids and Chris hunted through empty campsites for left over fire wood.  People often leave the last piece or two next to their fire pit, and we were able to find enough to get a fire going just to toast a few marshmallows.  It was while we were sitting on the rocks, looking out over the lake, that we saw the first lightening over the horizon.  We were hopeful it would stay that way, or was heading further away, but no.  We could see the line of dark cloud moving closer, and then it started to spit rain.  No biggie.  I was going to send the kids into the tent, but I hadn't closed the valves on our air mattresses, just opened them to let them inflate while I made dinner, so I sent the kids to the car while chris and I picked up anything that we didn't want to get wet.  In minutes a crazy wind had blown the tent over.  Before anyone gets the idea we hadn't pegged it down, we did.  We pegged the heck out of that sucker, and it was full of sleeping bags, coats, pillows, a big dry sack of clothes as well as a king size, flannel comforter I'd brought because the weather report called for cool nights.  That thing is heavy.  No the wind was just crazy strong. I seriously thought we were going to get a tornado.

The screen tent went down too, but we were more concerned with the fact all our bedding was going to be soaked.  The wind was so strong though, we couldn't do anything except hold the tent in place.  Finally, I unzipped the door (after finding it, it was all a tangle.) and started hauling pillows and sleeping bags out to the car.  It was like standing in the middle of a scene from the movie Twister.  We couldn't see, there was lightening striking all around us, and there we were, like idiots, trying to put a tent right side up.  At one point, the fire was blown so there were coals scattered for about 2 meters.  Thankfully, the downpour of rain meant no chance of forest fire.

After about 15 minutes we got the tent moved back and righted then took refuge in the car.  Another ten minutes and the rain had slowed.  Our neighbours showed up then with an extra tarp and some rope and helped us rug up a better shelter.  Our tarp was just a bit too small to totally cover the tent.  Honestly, if it hadn't been for their kindness, we night have spent the night in the car.  They saved our butts, for sure.

I was able to mop up most of the water and get everything back into the tent.  The extra blanket went over the air mattresses, but under the sleeping bags to absorb any moisture still clinging to them.  And we slept...not well, but we were warm and dry (mostly, it took my hair hours to dry and I looked like a Medusa in the morning) and I just want to say I love, love, LOVE the fleece liner/sleeping bags we got.  I got some for the kid's for Christmas, and they were toasty warm during our other trips this spring...I'm so glad we got some for Chris and I as well.

We woke up to cloudy skies and a ruined screen tent.  One of the poles had broken at the end and had punched a hole through the corner of the roof.  We managed to get it usable, dry off the picnic table and have some breakfast, then headed back to the gatehouse to get our permit as well as some loonies for the dryers.  We were still optimistic that we'd be able to go for a hike, take a picnic lunch, salvage the trip, but then it started storming again while we were at the comfort station laundry facility.  Not much wind, but lots of lightening and heavy rain.  We were hopeful the tent would hold up, though we'd given the bigger tarp back to our kind neighbours who had left that morning.  After an hour and a half of drying clothes, we got back to our site to find all our pillows soaked as well as Bubbie's sleeping bag and the bottom of the rest of them drenched.  The screen tent had gone down again as well, leaving us nowhere to sit that was dry, except the car.
view of the hills from the beach

Given that we had to leave early the next morning so Chris could get to work on time, we figured we might as well just pack up.  It was calling for more storms all afternoon and into the night.  We'd have to sit in the laundry room for another hour or so (the door on one of the dryers kept popping open so we couldn't leave it unattended) then maybe, if we got a few hours of no rain, do a hike.  The bugs were bad because of all the rain (adding mosquitoes to the swarms of black flies already enjoying our presence.)

We did spend a bit of time at the beach, not swimming, just throwing rocks in the water.  I only got to see the quartzite hills in the far distance while the kids played there.  It was kind of depressing to pack everything up a day early, and I felt like a big failure.  If this had happened when we were in the back country I suppose we would have just found a way to deal with it, but the kids were antsy from being cooped up.  We decided to have a big banana split party when we got home and bought a whole bunch of ridiculous toppings so the whole day wasn't a waste.  Of course once we got home, the power was out for our whole area.

The park itself was great, what little we got to see of it.  With the car acting up, Chris wasn't keen on driving around looking at campsites, and it never really let up raining long enough for us to explore on foot. A light rain wouldn't have stopped us from hiking, but with the intermittent heavy downpours, it wasn't really conducive to spending a few hours on the trail. But I'd go again for sure, take the canoe, do all the hikes, and plan for more than 2 nights...and pray for better weather!


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