Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Day Trip: Hiking in Balsam Lake Provincial Park

I'm going to apologize now because I didn't have my camera with me on this trip.  We'd gone in to town to get coffee and decided to go for a hike.  So no Camera, no pictures.  Sorry!

Balsam Lake Provincial Park has two hiking trails, the plantation trail (4.7km) and the lookout trail (1.7km) which are close enough that there is a 1.7km connecting trail between them so you can do a big loop.  Chris and I had hiked the lookout trail with the kids when they were really small, and didn't get too far because the mosquitoes were really bad at the beginning.  They weren't too bad, just in a few spots when we were there this time.  (note: The Ontario Parks website gives the length for the trails as 3km each, which doesn't match with the info on the signs in the park itself...next time I go I'll use my walking app and figure out the real distances)

Both trails are located along the road leading into the park.  Head to the gatehouse to get your permit if you are on a day trip then back towards the highway.  We started with the plantation trail.  There are little guidebooks you can use to give you information along the way.  They are set up like the ones in Algonquin, where there are numbered posts along the trail, and there's a short historical lesson linked to each on in the booklet.  We grabbed one, but the bugs were a little swarmy at most of the posts, so we didn't always stop to read.

My first  thoughts on the plantation trail were....boring.  Okay, it's a trail, a nice hike through the woods.  But I'd done a fair number of trails lately where there was a spectacular lookout, or a river or waterfall, and this doesn't have anything like that.  It doesn't make it a bad trail.  It's not too hilly, though you really gotta watch for poison ivy even in the middle of the trail itself.  (Make sure you don't wear open toe shoes.)  If you're camping at Balsam and the kids are driving you crazy, it's a good way to use up some of their extra energy so you can sit and relax for a while after dinner.  

Chris and I had fun trying to catch butterflies, and there's a little pond where if you're patient you can see tadpoles (depending on the time of year, obviously.)  Part way around, you are given the option to take a short cut.  We kept right and took the full loop, then when the park road comes into view, cut across it to take the link trail to the lookout trail.

I admit, I was surprised with this one.  I guess when we thought we'd gotten to the lookout before, we really hadn't.  The link trail takes you along a series of snaking eskers, or maybe it was just one, but it felt like we were climbing the ridge of a giant serpent's back.  Very cool.  When we were there, there were all these flowering bushes which I can never remember the name of (maybe honeysuckle?) which made it even cooler.

All in all, these two trails make for a good day's outing, and since you already have a day pass you might as well take a picnic and head to the beach afterwards.  Balsam does have a fabulous beach.

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