Killarney Provincial Park is located in the Northeastern part of Georgian Bay. The park contains lots of lakes and creeks, and is a very popular place for canoeing and hiking. Many years ago, we came here for a canoe trip. I don’t remember much about that trip – or even when it was, exactly – except that it involved doing a 3km portage twice – once on the way in, and once on the way out. I seem to recall that we did the trip in a busy part of the summer, and the logic was that most people wouldn’t do that portage so if we did it we’d be escaping all the crowds… maybe it’s best I don’t remember anymore!
By sailboat, the park is less onerous, but equally beautiful. After leaving our anchorage in Beaverstone Bay (the location of that fiery sky!), we motored through Collins Inlet, a long passage that tucks in behind Phillip Edward Island. Normally, this is the kind of thing we would have skipped in favour of sailing around the outside, but the route had been recommended to us by one of the boaters we’d met in Midland. After a fairly shallow entrance, the inlet opens up into a 20km passage with low hills on each side for most of the journey. There are a few cottages along the way, as well as a few that were marked as hunting and/or fishing lodges. Where the inlet opens up into Mill Lake, there are many more cottages, as well as a small fishing and holiday resort. We had a beautiful day for the trip, and took our time motoring through. We raised the sails when we reached the Western end of the inlet, and had a beautiful sail into the town of Killarney, arriving around mid-day. We stopped at Herbie’s Famous Fish & Chips shop for lunch (it used to be a red bus, but is now a proper building), did some grocery shopping, and then had dinner at the local pub (conveniently located at the marina where we were staying, so we were able to do laundry at the same time!).
The following morning, with Birthday cinnamon buns in hand (courtesy of the local bakery!), we set out for Baie Fine, part of which is in Killarney Park. Said to be one of the longest freshwater fjords in the world, Baie Fine is shallow and long, but easily navigable if you’re paying attention. For the first night we stopped in Mary Ann’s Cove – the chart shows it as being too shallow to enter, but it actually has a good 20 feet of depth. After anchoring here, we climbed a short but steep hike to Casson Peak – finally, we found ourselves a mountain (albeit a small one)!
The following morning, we motored to the end of Baie Fine, and into what is known as The Pool. This part of Killarney Park was popular with the Group of Seven painters, so there are lakes named after the different artists. From The Pool, we took a hike up to Topaz Lake, the subject of Bright Land, by Arthur Lismer. Mike took a swim, and I stuck my feet in the water and ended up scaring a little water snake who swam by and wanted to make friends. We then hiked back down the trail, and went looking for Artist’s Lake (named after the Group of Seven artists), which was supposed to have been right on the other end of a 700m portage trail. An hour or so later – after being terrorized by swarms of mosquitoes and then chased by ruffled grouse who charged out of the woods at us in full attack mode – we finally admitted that we must be on the wrong trail, and pretty much ran all the way back to our dinghy to avoid the mosquitos. Fortunately the water in The Pool was warm, because we were definitely in need of a swim by the time we reached the boat!
After a brief stop at Heywood Island on Monday night (mostly to access better cell service for a phone call on Tuesday morning), we worked our way to the very end of McGregor Bay, navigating our way through the numerous rocks and islets. We dropped anchor in the eastern end of the bay, not far from the mouth of Kirk Creek. We found a spot out of view of any cottages, so it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. Thunderstorms came through overnight, but we took a chance on the weather and went out in the kayaks for the day. We paddled over to Kirk Creek, and then worked our way up the winding river. Years ago, Mike remembers seeing a couple moose in this creek, while canoeing through and back into the heart of the park (towards that same 3 km portage). Alas, the current moose population hadn’t seen the ‘find moose here’ mark on the map, because we didn’t see a single one. Instead, we found many large beaver lodges, a few deer, lots of birds, and even few turtles. The last one was huge – probably a foot or more long, with a shell that was maybe 5-6″ deep. We tried hard not to spook the poor thing, but he nevertheless decided to cartwheel off the beaver lodge he was sitting on, right when I was trying to take a photo!
The grey clouds blew across the sky the whole day, but never resulted in any rain. It was warm and humid though, and pretty buggy on each of the two portages that we did along the river (which meant 8 portages, since we had to do each one twice, and once in each direction). [As I write this I am trying very hard not to scratch the black fly bites I got on my arms – they start out as little red (bleeding!) spots, and three days later they dry into hard, itchy bumps!] The sun was starting to come out as we got back to the boat so I took a quick swim to cool off. The water temperature varies depending on where we are – if it’s more than 20*C, I’m willing to take a dip!
We ended our visit to Killarney Park by motoring out of McGregor Bay and over to Little Current. Again, we motored to the end of the Bay, and then sailed the rest of the way. The town of Little Current is on the West side of a 100 year old swing bridge, which opens for 15 minutes every hour. We missed the 2pm opening by a few minutes, so sailed around in circles until 3pm. A quick motor through, and we were able to tie up at the town docks, and begin the process of restocking for our next leg: fuel, pumpout, fresh water, groceries, and then dinner at the local brew pub! We had intended to leave Little Current this morning, but have been waylaid by the winds – we’re gettting 25 and 30 knot gusts while tied up in the sheltered marina – I can’t imagine what its like out in the North Channel! Far better to make it a boat work and blogging day, than try to get out in that storm!