Bike Camping in Ontario

Another story from 2015, seems like forever ago:

Day one of camping and it’s a soft start.  We got a drive to Fenelon Falls and a stay in Moonrakers intending on leaving the next day, me for two weeks and Shane for one.  But the night brings Cards of Humanity and I win and I get drunk on beer and tequila shots.  We don’t feel like riding the next day until it’s too late to leave.  Before drinking games we sat in a semi-circle on the dock across the lane, down some stairs it protrudes into Cameron Lake.  A light breeze and clearing sky it goes from gray to blue before our eyes.  The wind makes small ripples all around us and the extra person has to sit facing the crowd.  So not thinking of myself I suggest musical chairs and whoever is in the hot seat has to tell a story.  Like an out of body trip I get a strong feeling that we are in a matrix surrounded by green screen, anything is possible, only limited by thoughts and ideas. Our world isolated from nature becomes more fake by the day.  The rocks around the house look fake, the trees are all pristine in place, everything perfectly packaged.  There’s me, Orla, Shane, Georgia and Fenton all connecting minds separated by bodies moving from identical chairs, all around just water and blue skies.  Patterns on the lake make me think about how perfect nature’s imperfections are.

We hit the road the next day with Tina’s pie in zip lock bags.  Biked to Elliot Falls and set up camp in the woods under three fallen trees.  We went out for lunch and took naps in our tents.  I walked around until it rained, after a small dinner we made a fire and stayed by it in the light rain and played gin rummy until we fell asleep.  After coffee in the morning we packed up and bought the rest of the food we’d need for the next two weeks.  We headed up highway 35 and stopped to look at the map a lot.  We found Deep Bay Rd. eventually after holding the white line for maybe 50 km. with no shoulder.  On Deep Bay we were alone and it was woods and lakes all around us.  No cars.  Just hills and open road.  The sky was threatening rain and scheduled for 3 p.m. It came right on time as we descended a big hill wrapping the top of Gull Lake. Blue sky on one side and heavy rain clouds on the other with a wind that quickly pushed the doom over us.

Now it’s Wednesday and we’ve camped two nights so far.  Now at our second location, in the Kawartha highlands.  Last night I was terrified by all the new sounds in the dark, paralyzed in total paranoia, every rain drop spiked my blood pressure.  I didn’t move a muscle not even my eyes for an hour just stared at the ceiling of my tent.  Adjusting my eyes to see the stars.  I made up a story in my head that involved some scary sounds we heard earlier and bloody murder, since we were so far away from anyone else my mind wandered.  I tried my meditation technique and went outside to brush my teeth and every star in the sky was shining.  I dreamt that night of shooting stars.  At 8 a.m. I wake and do standing yoga poses, meditate for not long enough then get the food down from the tree, eat blueberries, a granola bar, some quinoa, chips and an apple with peanut butter.  Then make coffee with my portable stove top.  It rains a bit more then gets sunny.  I think we’ll have to stay here another night.  I need to move my tent off the hill and away from the trees and stop worrying.  Two turkey vultures just walked past and gave me a mini heart attack.  It’s clouding over again.  I clean my teeth of apple peels with my knife, brew coffee and wait for Shane to wake up.  It’s finally raw nature and all green around us.  No toilets no rules no shaving no time just reflections in the water to think about.

That day we rode to Minden along Deep Bay.  It was hilly and I was tired.  We got to a café with Wi-Fi after maybe 30 minutes of hard riding.  I drank two bottles of water and a large coffee and banana bread.  We shopped for books and got Kawartha’s ice cream then burgers and missed our turn to Beer Lake and ended up circling Bobs Lake and hitting Devils Lake on the way to the site, we swam and had a beer on the dock. The water was warm and still with some reeds and lily pads.  It was like walking on a full head of hair if you stood up on the weeds.  We sat and dried off then biked back to make a fire and a fire pit and then dinner and cards.  I lay on my back on the rock shield of Canada and watch the sky as meteoroids fly by.  We saw over six of them shoot out of nowhere and disappear just as fast.  Shane saw one span over the entire view.  I could see them in my peripheral if I tilted my head back and laying down I saw two in a row.  I woke and ate early and hours before Shane woke I went off on my own and walked down a valley and back up to find an oasis of swamp.  I sat by a frog and sharpened a stick.  I left for the camp but didn’t make it back the way I came.  I crossed another valley and didn’t know where it went. I kept stomping through the woods looking for something recognizable but there was nothing.  I got hot and scared, then I found a trail and wound my way back.  When I was safe back on the rock I took a self-portrait with my 35mm film camera.

We spent the day swimming and laying on the rocks.  We walked back for lunch and went straight back to the water.  Shane made a gift out of birch bark and I watched the fisherman.  When it was getting late we came back and made a fire.  Made KD and played cards with whiskey.  Then a noise in the woods set us up to put the food back in the tree and pee out the fire.  While I was peeing under the stars there was a flash and Shane joked it was a camera.  I turned to see it flash again and again. No thunder no clouds but through the trees the sky was lighting up and getting more frequent and closer.  We got into our tents and it was a constant daylight flash after the next.  Just lightening then the heavy rain.  All night it rained with my tent lighting up every two seconds.  We slept in the next day and I dreamed of letting go and galaxy eyes.  Then coffee and cereal and a trip to the woods before a long ride down Bobcaygen Road. We rode all the way to Canarvon where we got breakfast at the Mill Pond restaurant.  Best bacon and eggs, toast, re-fried beans, sausage and home fries I’ve ever had.  We toured around a bit and went down highway 118 back to Minden.  Heading down Bobcaygen in the pouring rain.  It is a two way road with no lines and 100’s of blind hills and corners.  It went on for about 15 kms and straight through forest and the rock shield of upper Canada. Very few cars and incredible speeds going downhill and grinding uphill’s.  We spent that night hiding from mosquitos talking from our tents, watching the stars, and listening to wolves howl.  Our last day together was by the lake recovering.  After a week alone together in the woods we were talking our own language, and had nicknames, strange eating habits, no clocks or schedules.  By the time he left I was called Devils Crow and he was Gooseman.  Shane left the next morning and I was alone, 200 km north of Toronto.  I soon came to a cross road and still undecided whether I wanted to go home or go on, I headed north into the unknown.

I hit highway 21 after stocking up on water and essentials like peanut butter and bread.  I stopped and studied the map and weather forecast and decided on Halliburton, liking the name of a lake called Kennisis Lake, which had a road around it called Watts which is a family name.  I stopped and had a picnic and put my feet in Head Lake.  I was trying to get to Kennisis that day but the hills were too much.  A sign said 15 km to Fort Irwin and then the next sign said 11 km and I was already tired in the August sun.  So I turned on Indian Point road to try Drag Lake.  It was an incredible road, ups and downs and hairpin turns. I went to the end of it, probably 5km and went down one drive way called Murrays and knocked on the door after walking to the end of the dock for water.  I considered squatting there for the night but knew it was not safe.  I climbed back up the hills I had descended and was getting desperate.  It was nearing 6 p.m. and getting dark in the woods.  The bugs were already bad, horse flies were following me and I was retracing my steps when I saw a lone white poodle, then a little further I saw a man in the road.  He looked old and maybe lost.  As I approached he said it was lots easier going down and I said yes, do you know anywhere I can put a tent for the night?  He said well you can use my lawn if you help me move this outhouse.  I met his wife Kathy and Peter showed me to the A frame cabin where I could sleep.  I helped to load a bee infested outhouse onto a truck and after deciding these were friendly people we went swimming together.  He was naked and floating on a pool noodle.  I went and put on my bathing suit and jumped in after him.  It was a beautiful night on a quiet lake and after a dip they served me dinner and we chatted until 9.  I brushed my teeth and went out to my cabin and climbed into my bunk bed for the night with promise of coffee and breakfast at 8.

I have the rest of the week to make it home.  I woke up early and packed and went to the dock to photograph the fog over the lake as the sun was rising.  I came to Peter’s door as the coffee was brewing and grabbed a mug and talked.  He served breakfast of omelette and toast.  We talked until 9 about their charity in Kenya called the Ronnie Fund, where they support a small town.  I got on my bike after exchanging phone numbers and took off down Indian Point Rd.  I flew down some hills, and climbed back up for sometimes 10 minutes at a time.  When I made it to Fort Irwin I was supposed to go left but missed the sign.  I went straight and rode along another lake.  When I saw a small beach just big enough to stand on I jumped in the water and swam.  I took out the map and decided to keep going anyway, maybe Percey Lake would be good enough.  I came across a road cyclist mounting his bike and he waved me down.  We exchanged words and he asked if he could ride with me.  He was kitted out in carbon fiber everything, I said yes and assured him I wasn’t trying to get to Algonquin from here.  We got a good pace going as he noted all my gear. (I had front and rear panniers full plus a tent and sleeping bag, extra shoes, two water bottle holders, a map, and was riding in cycling shorts with no helmet or shirt)  He said hello to the locals as we climbed the hills together.  He was very old, maybe in his late 70’s but very fit.  We climbed to the end of the road and were both exhausted by the end of it.  On the way back he offered me to stop in for a sandwich and a swim.  I met his twin sister and her friend.  We swam and he did laps, I floated and dried off on the dock as he made lunch which included a tuna sandwich, chips and a beer.  We studied the map and told stories of travels.  I set off for Kennisis Lake with his number in case of emergencies.  It was 30 degrees and I didn’t even make it to Eagle Lake when through the trees I could see a lake with enough room for a camp site.  I cleared a patch and pitched my tent, swam and hung my food in a tree.

I went skinny dipping when I got hot, was bare foot when off the bike, wearing only my Tilly hat.  I’m literally watching the leaves turn from green to red as I travel along the shield.  I got to bed after wading into the water to watch the sun set.  Back on the road I finally hit Kennisis Lake road and after about 50 km in the burning sun I pull over to swim once more.  I lay down and close my eyes until it clouds over.  After biking to the end of the road which circles the lake I turn around because I couldn’t find anywhere to set up camp.  On the way back I pass a bridge and see a gap into the woods, I bike right into it as far as I could.  Then walk into the woods for a better look.  It’s all tall pines by a little lake.  I pitch my tent as it starts to thunder.  Everything is inside just as it starts to rain.  It turns out to be a good spot, I’m in the pines with a clearing behind me for drying my clothes and 40 feet from my own lake, it is a little bubble connected to Kennisis.  My stuff is hanging in a tree to keep bears from coming to my tent and I’m invisible from the road.  I’ve got a well paved winding road all around the lake and a restaurant and corner store 30 minute bike ride away.  I can even charge my phone in a utility box hanging on a telephone pole I found 20 minutes down the road, even though it was full of wasps.  The first night I dip into my freeze dried chicken and rice.  For breakfast I had two coffees, cereal and almonds.  The sunset last night was beautiful, especially after pizza, beer and ice cream from up the road.  The next day I picked wild raspberries and looked at trees and walked around my yard.  As I pulled out my knife to carve my initials into a dead birch tree I looked up as it clicked open to see a deer look up from its munching.  I waved hello and stared at it until it continued on its way.  It looked like a cross between a kangaroo and a horse; I could see its ribs.  I’m getting really good at snatching skeeters out of the air with one hand.  I continued picking berries and enjoying the warm air.  Just as the sun was going down I walked to the pole and left my phone charging and came back to put my feet in the water until the bugs drove me away.  It was a clear night and I was going to go back to the utility pole but decided to read and sleep instead.  The wasps would keep it safe.  As I was reading I heard a thump at my tent and shown a light outside to see nothing. I looked closer and there was a lumpy toad there eating ants.  He let me photograph him for some time, even touch him.  I woke at 6:30 that morning to retrieve my phone, it was off and I was walking back when I looked up and was face to face with another deer, or maybe the same one.  It ran away before I could turn my phone back on.

I took my coffee to a different rock that morning.  Ate some cereal, my back was stiff from straining up the hills and I was considering leaving the next day.  I had Shane’s family cottage as my next stop, about 127 km away.  The only reason I was going to leave early was because food was running low and running out of paper to write on.  I’d like some beer and a chair too.  Maybe a mirror to shave.  It rains from 8 am to 3 that day, so I put on my rain coat, leave my shoes behind and go out with my camera to document all the little things I’d miss once I was gone.  As I was wading through the shallow water, crouching in the rain to take pictures of the tree roots in the water, the water line on the rocks, all the different patterns in the sandstone, granite and slate.  I looked up the hill behind my tent and saw two men standing there in sweaters and ball caps.  I look away and keep walking then look back and they are gone.  They definitely saw my tent and probably saw me.  Later in my tent the sound of random falling raindrops from the trees on my tarp pulled tight over my tent is like knocking on my door.  Each thud alerts me that I’m not alone anymore.  And makes me think someone is ringing my doorbell. I think of packing up and leaving.  My resolution from this trip is not to be surprised.  That was a major lesson I learned that day and it stays with me.  That day I sat and watched a slug but it didn’t do much, then a caterpillar as it ambled slowly straight into the water, I eventually intervened.  The next morning I packed before coffee, I left my cereal for the chipmunk and called the realtor who had a sign on the property I stayed on.  She said it was $269,000 for two acres.  The rest of the trip was a straight shot down highways and side roads towards Fenelon.  I stopped for the same bacon and eggs at the Mill Pond, bought some souvenirs, talked to some locals about my bike.  The trip back took about eight hours of biking, when I made it to the cottage I had a drink with Shane’s dad, John, then a swim and a lay down and dinner.  As I sat back on the same dock I left two weeks earlier, reflecting on my trip, watching the water bugs as they skimmed the surface, dragon flies circling the lake scooping them up.  Then a fish jumped out of the water and ate the dragon fly


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