Thursday, May 29, 2014

Silent Lake Provincial Park -- This is Not the Sound of Silence

Hello camping my old friend,
A car, a tent and a fire... Perfect.
We've come back for more fun again.
Can't you see the fun?
Cause the cold last year was not a big enough warning.
HELP! I'm cold.
We got frost bite while we were sleeping.
Time for bed Bev?
But the quest that was planted in my brain, still remains.  Starting at a lake of silence.
"Shhh, I'm hunting Provincial Parks."
Welcome to Silent Lake Provincial Park May 17th 2014 and Bev's and my first camping trip this year.  This was also the first time I have went camping on May two-four weekend since I was a child camping with my parents, and I'm not even sure I did it then as I don't think we ever went this early in the year.  Question: Is it just me or when you call a weekend May two-four don't you expect it to come on or near May 24th. Answer: No, every seven or so years it's seven days early and next year it's a day earlier.  2nd Question: How is it that Queen Victoria has a magical birthday that can move around so it's always on a weekend?   Don't you wish you had that power?  Because of the nebulous holiday, Silent Lake was closed right until May 17th because it was covered in snow and most of the sites near us were puddles, luckily for us it was gone on our site by the time we got there (Otherwise I would have had to question the outfit above -- probably by just adding rubber underwear).

Our walk-in site right next to the beach, along a hiking trail and wide open to the world. 
This year I thought I'd be smarter (not much luck yet), and instead of leaving for camping on Fridays at 4pm from Toronto, I thought Bev could use our transit system to my advantage and take the 'GO' to Peterborough while I travel out ahead of time and set everything up.  Kind of a pain for both of us, but I would much rather do this than be in traffic for countless hours.  I guess setting up in the dark is on my Murtough list. When I arrived at Silent lake around 11am, I was the only one there (and ran around naked for hours) and I have to admit it was silent.  Even at 4:30 in the afternoon when I left to pick up Bev, it was still silent.  However, when we returned at 6pm it wasn't silent lake any more; it was party lake provincial park and I REALLY NEED TO ACCEPT THAT IS WHAT LONG WEEKENDS ARE FOR.  Note to self : if you want a quieter experience camping skip long weekends and go on a regular weekend like May 24th.

Whether 17th or 24th we were still too late to pick the Fiddleheads beside our site.  It's O.K. we brought our own and
we laughed and sung to these fiddlehead about how we boiled and ate their brethren.
With Bev there, we had dinner a little fire and went to bed.  Night 1 : Temperature low -3C vs. Layers of clothing for Beverley 2.  Suffice it to say Bev didn't sleep very well on the first night and at one point I found her on my back, vampiring my body heat for her own, with only about an inch of air mattress left for my comfort.  Skip forward to the next morning, we decided to hike the Lakeshore Hiking Trail (15km).  Likely the longest hike we have ever done, the trail follows the shoreline of Silent lake, Second Silent lake and goes by Quiet lake and Lost lake (found it).  This was probably the best hike I have done at a Provincial Park -- it was challenging, beautiful, well-marked, and unbeknownst to us... closed until further notice.  I guess I can say it should have been beknownst because a lot of the trail looked like this stream above, there were fallen trees across the trail, and if you got too far off you might never find the next trail marker.

Bev at hour four of our hike.  
Something that was funny if you ever hike this trail, there are steep incline signs when it was a gentle slope and nothing when you were climbing up or down a three storey hill.  It became a game for us to find the signs that were completely unnecessary.  Like this one;

As you can tell nothing to worry about here or behind us, but at other places it is like climbing a mountain.
Like this!  Grosse Morne National Park Newfoundland.

Night 2 : Temperature -2C vs. Beverley's layers 5.  Sleep no better.  The next day we hiked Bonnie's Pond Trail (3km) named after a horse that perished while dragging logs across it in the 1800's.  This was a nice leisurely hike in comparison to the Lakeshore hike.  It goes through boggy areas and mixed woods forests and of course by Bonnie's Pond.  This is a decent hike, but really if you are doing the Lakeshore Hike you should do this one first or it may seem anticlimactic.

Bonnie's Pond a great place to hear silence.
The last trail is the Lakehead Loop Trail (1.5km) and half of the loop is part of the Lakeshore Hiking Trail, so we decided half was enough, it's not eight but it's like four and better than zero.  This trail is an easy trail, good for families,  and it gives one an understanding of the landscape around Silent Lake which is mainly Canadian shield.  As a side note, the hiking trail maps that are normally printed in the provincial park guide are, in this case, sold for a twoonie at the park office -- cool little guide, but still nickel's and dimes wrong.
About as wrong as this.  But look what I found...
The Blue Headed Vireo.  The first bird in my blog. These birds are so tame you can supposedly pet them.
Silent Lake Provincial Park was opened in 1975 as a Natural Environment park about 20 minutes south of Bancroft or an hour north of Peterborough on highway 28.  It is a natural environment where people can explore by hiking, swimming, canoeing (didn't hear of a single person who caught a fish), mountain biking, or, in the winter, cross-country skiing.  It's only about 2 and a half hours outside of Toronto and it's open year round.  From talking with people who work at the park it sounds like fall is the time to visit.  They say the forest is more beautiful, the water is warm enough to swim in, there are more birds and other wildlife, and though they never said it, there would be wild mushrooms.

The only mushrooms we found were Morels just the wrong kind; False Morels -- deadly poisonous.
The sites at Silent Lake were built in the 70's and some sites are in hardwood bush (no privacy) and some in pine bush (should be privacy).  None of the sites except for ours and number 66 have a view of the beach, so don't hope for that either.  With this in mind the best sites are; in Granite Ridge Campground #94, 110, 134, and 137, in Pincer Bay Campground #30, 44 (a yurt), 45-46 (a group site), 47, 55-56 (another group site), and 57, and in the Walk-In Campsites #66, 73, 74, 80, 82, 83, 84, and 86.  You may have noticed I didn't put our site on the list because during our first day we noticed our site had a path through it open to everyone and that made it not very private at all.  Silent Lake to me is a conundrum, it is far enough north and large enough (3500 acres) that the sites should be large and private, but as you can tell out of 167 sites there are only 20 really good ones and none of them are right on the water.  This is a great provincial park for hiking, winter skiing and mountain biking, good for canoeing, and just O.K. for everything else. Night 3: Temperature -1 vs. Beverley's Layers 2 and she slept fine -- another conundrum.

Site Cleanliness:  Excellent, but so it should be as we were the first ones there for the year.

Privacy:  There were some private sites, but not enough to make this a good park if you want privacy or silence.

Hiking and Activities:  Excellent.  There was enough to do for easily five days even though they do not have programs put on by the park.

Park Class:  Natural Environment.  There are a lot of unique fauna that can be easily found in this park and when I arrived there were deer grazing along the road to my site -- they realized pretty quickly it was time to take off.

Beach Quality or Ease of Getting to the Water:  Beach quality was good (although it was way too cold for a dip), but most people would have quite a hike or even a drive to get to the beach.  One great thing is they have a raft at both beaches where you could swim to and dive off of.  It would have been great fun.
Here is what it looks like.
Recommended Length of Stay:  Five days -- I'm not a big fan of this park, but you could still fill five days.  It takes a whole day to do the 15km hike.  One day to recover.  One day for a canoe and maybe a fish. One day to do the small hikes and the beach and one day for put up and take down. 

Overall Impression:  I enjoyed my time at Silent Lake, but also it was the first camping trip of the years so it could have been utterly awful and I would have still loved it.

Now here comes the reorder of the year:

Rating out of 103: #51.5 I figure this is the benchmark middle of the parks we have visited so far.  Activities were great, the beaches looked nice, but privacy and access to the beaches have to put this park smack dab in the middle.

Some numbers have changed if you're keeping track:
#2 Algonquin
#3 Quetico
#19 Sandbanks
#21 Neys
#22 Wakami Lake
#23 Nagagamisis
#26 Pancake Bay
#30 Chutes
#51.5 Silent Lake
#52 Restoule
#53 Point Farms
#56 Inverhuron
#92 Rainbow Falls
#101 Turkey Point (has to stay there because of the bourbon)
#102 Bronte Creek

Old Rating out of 107: 
Again if you were keeping track:
#2 Algonquin
#3 Quetico
#19 Sandbanks
#21 Neys
#22 Wakami Lake
#23 Nagagamisis
#29 Pancake Bay
#33 Chutes
#52 Restoule
#53 Point Farms
#56 Inverhuron
#93 Rainbow Falls
#101 Turkey Point
#105 Bronte Creek

Coming Up Petroglyphs Provincial Park -- Day Use Only.