Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Yeas Outnumber the Neys Provincial Park

We arrived at Neys Provincial Park September 3, 2013, after a six hour drive along the coast of Lake Superior, and we immediately knew we should have stayed for longer than a night (but maybe in the summer).  Neys is situated about dead centre between Wawa and Thunder Bay off the Trans-Canada Highway #17 and used to be a POW camp, yes a prisoner of war camp; “Neys Camp 100” a camp for rowdy Germans during WWII.  After that it was turned into a minimum security work camp for civilian prisoners from the Thunder Bay Area.  So I guess you could say it has always been a camp.  The best sites at Neys follow the norms – close to the water and not too wide open, but at Neys there are no beachfront views and thank Jebus.  At times a cold wind can blow off Superior making camping less than enjoyable, so at Neys they have left a wind-break.

Chairs, check.  Cooler, Check. What else do you need?
Our night at Neys wind wasn’t the issue, cold was, it went down to 1ÂșC during the evening -- I guess summer ends August 31st?  I’ve never been winter camping, but what temperature does it have to be to be considered winter camping?  Luckily, my body runs on broil after the lights go out (That's what the fox said), so everything but my face was fine.  However, Bev buried herself in the sleeping bag only coming up for air when completely necessary... brussel sprouts are a funny thing, don’t you think?

The Bobrick for morning head warming.  Originally I thought, who's using these for their head?  I thought it was for your hands.
 Other than the night weather, Neys was wondrous.  On the first night, we went for a half hour long hike on the beach and I found some more boletes and a couple of puffballs to cook for dinner.  

Neys beach au naturel near sunset.
On the second day, we only had time for a hike and a half before hopping on the road.  The first was Lookout Trail (2.5km) a trail of medium difficulty to a lookout of Lake Superior.  

"I can see my house from here!" Tired of the panoramic shots yet?
Again there were a fair amount of mushrooms, but the highlight of this hike, other than the view, were the wild blueberries. Right at the end of the hike we were able to pick about two pints in 15 minutes while eating as many as we wanted.

Bev's attempt at a panorama or she was trying to tell me not so subtly I have my head in my own _____.
 The second hike, or the half hike, was the Under the Volcano Trail (1km).   One billion years ago there was an active shield volcano located near Neys.  Throughout the trail there are information signs explaining interesting geological events you can see in the rocks right before your eyes and that's without hallucinogenics.  If you have someone in your family interested in geology it is fascinating, but for the average person the walk along the water is what you're going for.  Turn around when you feel like it because this trail joins the Coastal Trail (19km) which could take you all day to finish or if you're feeling like some adventure to one of three interior/backcountry campsites.  Next time.

Under the Volcano at Neys.
Before leaving, I chose to visit the campsite clean-up station. I originally thought this was just a clever joke of an employee at Neys until I saw the same thing at Quetico, Lake Nagagamisis and, I’m sure many other northern provincial parks.  

Someone must have borrowed the second tool or they are one.
I succumbed to my OCD by cleaning our entire campsite turning it into a facsimile of a Japanese rock garden.  

It's an illness, but the next people will have the cleanest campsite in all of Ontario.
I know most people will only ever get to Neys Provincial Park once in their lifetime, but I highly recommend it.  If it helps you’re only 5 hours from Quetico Provincial Park (The Algonquin of the North) so this is a perfect stop before one would get there.

The best sites at Neys are as follows: Area 2 68 to 72, 75 to 77, Area 3 29e, 43e-46, 48, 50-53, 55, 57, 59, 61, 63, 65, 66, and 68, Area 4 99, 103, 106, 113, 120, 122, 127, and 138. In my opinion #53 and 68 are the absolute best.  I think this park is a recreational park as there is so much to do here, but it also has an historical element.  I guess recreation.  And the answer is...  Natural Environment.  Ahhhh.

Site Cleanliness: Excellent.  After we left it was #1 out of all the parks.

Privacy: Great.  Again with the northern parks there is more space and therefore more privacy -- we could see our neighbours a tiny bit, but with proper placement of a tent they all but disappear.

Hiking and Activities: Amazing.  There is so much to do at Neys, but the water is still Lake Superior and therefore swimming is going to be a bit cool. There is fishing and canoeing here as well.

Park Class:  This 5384 hectare park is a natural environment class park that includes Pic Island, Detention Island and the Sullivan Islands.  The ghost village of Coldwell is just on the eastern border of the park consisting of some foundations, shipwrecks in the harbour and a cemetery if you're not afraid.

Beach Quality or Ease of Getting to the Water: Excellent.  Each of the recommended sites have beach access or less than a 2 minute walk to the beach.  The beach itself may not look like much from the photo but it is gorgeous.

Recommended Length of Stay: 4 to 5 nights. 3 great hikes, good Beach, fishing and canoeing in the area, and loads of nature to check out.

Overall Impression: I loved Neys and I also loved the historical and geological elements of this park.  This would be a great park to teach out of in those two disciplines.  We went at the wrong time of year and still had one of the best camping experiences, and oh... the blueberries.

Rating out of 107: #21 this is a true coming of age park and should be treated as such.  I have a troubling concern though as I think I may have to move the 20s up to accommodate parks that I have yet to see, but for now I am happy with where they sit.

If you're keeping track:
#2 Algonquin
#19 Sandbanks
#21 Neys
#22 Wakami Lake
#23 Nagagamisis
#29 Pancake Bay
#33 Chutes
#93 Rainbow Falls
#101 Turkey Point