Tag Archives: hiking

Trip Report – Bruce Peninsula

This past weekend we spent 2 nights backpacking on the Bruce Trail in Bruce Peninsula National Park. There are two backcountry campgrounds in the park, Stormhaven and High Dump. We drove up from Toronto on Friday morning and went to the main office at Cyprus Lake to pick up our permits. Originally we were going to park at Cyprus Lake, hike to Stormhaven on Day 1, hike to High Dump on Day 2, and then hike all the way back to Cyprus Lake on Day 3. The staff person working at the main office suggested that we park at Halfway Log Dump instead, which is between Stormhaven and High Dump, thus making our Day 3 trip a lot more reasonable.

We took the wise staff person’s advice and drove on over to Halfway Log Dump. When you first leave the parking lot, there is a nice, easy trail that takes you down to the beach that’s 1 KM long or so.


Once you get to the end of this trail you want to turn left for Stormhaven. Be careful as the trail to Stormhaven is easy to miss and isn’t marked when you are coming from the parking lot. If you have extra time take the pebbly path down to Halfway Log Dump, it’s very lovely!


The sign says that Stormhaven is 2.7 KM, but the map says it’s 2.0 KM. I’m not sure which is correct, but 2.7 sounds about right to me. It’s a very rugged trail, so even though the distance sounds short, it will still take you awhile. The trail is very rocky and there is a lot of climbing and descending, but you are rewarded with views such as this:


Although beautiful, these views can be a bit terrifying if you are scared of heights and/or plummeting to your death (like me).

We reached Stormhaven around 5:00 PM or so and made our way to our camp site (#9). We were right by the beach and a bit secluded from the other sites, I’d definitely recommend it.


Once we set up camp we spent some time exploring the amazing beach.



That night it started to rain and it didn’t stop until we were out on the trail again heading to High Dump. This meant the trail was very slippery, as it’s mostly exposed rock. It was extremely slow-going.


We hiked the 2.7 KM (or 2.0, who knows) to Halfway Log Dump and then continued on the Bruce Trail for another 6.6 KM to High Dump (again, the map has a different distance listed, which I can’t remember at the moment). This trail starts out easily enough, it follows the forest floor with a gradual incline.


Don’t get too comfortable though, soon it will turn into steep ascents (some of which we had to scale and climb) and descents (some of which required sliding down the rocks on my butt like a slide). Again, everything was super slippery from the rain and so we had to be really careful.


It wasn’t all bad though, there were still amazing views:


Eventually you get to a point where you take a side trail to High Dump. By the time we got to this point the rain had picked up again. The descent down into High Dump is so steep that it requires a rope that is hanging from trees in order to support yourself. To me, this was terrifying in the slippery rain and it took me awhile to make it down. Eventually we got to the bottom and set up camp at 5:30 PM or so.

We had site #9 and it’s quite a distance from the bear poles and toilet, but you are really secluded and off by yourself. There’s even a small cave right behind the camp site which came in handy for keeping things dry in the pouring rain. The light was horrible and I didn’t want to take out my camera in the rain but I managed to get a few shots at our site:


The rain continued all night and all morning. If there was an easy way to teleport back to the car I would have, but unfortunately the only thing to do was to pack up, climb out with that rope, and carefully make our way back over the slippery rocky trail. It took us about 5 hours, but eventually we made it back to Halfway Log Dump.

Oh, and given all the rain, I had a chance to try out a trash bag rain skirt, which was amazing for keeping our pants dry!


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Trip Report – Algonquin Western Uplands Trail

I just returned from my first backpacking trip – 3 days and 2 nights on the Western Uplands trail at Algonquin Park. The trail has three different length loops, ranging from 32 to 88 km. We did what’s known as “the first loop” – the 32 km option, with an extra 6k thrown in.

To get to Algonquin we took the Parkbus – a terrific initiative that takes city-goers in Toronto and Ottawa to several park locations, including Algonquin, Bruce Peninsula, Killarney, and the Georgian Islands. We caught the bus at 7:00 am right at a nearby subway station (York Mills) and after picking up some more passengers in the city we were off. The bus makes several different stops in Algonquin, for the Western Uplands trail you will need to get off at the West Gate stop. This is where you need to pick up your backcountry camping permits.

Earlier in the week I had phoned and asked if there was potable water at West Gate and the lady assured me that there was no problem with asking the staff in the office to fill up our water bottles and bladders. Wrong. The staff made a big deal about it but in the end my husband was able to talk them into helping us out. The sinks in the washroom are very shallow and you need to keep one hand pushing down on the faucet to get water so that would have been a nightmare if we had to use those.

We arrived at West Gate right on time at 11:00 am and after collecting our permits and filling up our water we were ready to hit the trail and leave West Gate at 12:00 pm.


The trail head is actually 3 km down the highway from West Gate, and so the beginning of your journey looks like this:



After not too long you finally arrive at the parking lot and trail head. There are outhouses here and water fountains, so we could have filled up our bottles here but ah well, live and learn.


The first leg of the trail is 4.4 km. It starts out easy enough, but soon you are going up and down a lot of hills. There are a lot of tree roots and rocks on the trail and it is somewhat slow-going. We made it to Maple Leaf lake for a little break around 3:30 pm. There were quite a few people set up at Maple Leaf already. This photo of the camp site where we took our break is pretty indicative of what you’ll find on this trail. Fire pits with a surrounding bench, a place to pitch your tent, and a bit removed from the site a privy toilet. All in all, much better amenities than what I was expecting!


We still had 6.6 km to go to where we were spending the first night – Maggie Lake. There was some more ups and downs and the trail was much of the same. Along the way you pass some neat rock formations like this:


The first site we passed at Maggie was empty but didn’t offer much in the way of a view so even though we were really tired at that point we pressed on. There are sites all around the lake (15, not including the 2 canoe-in sites in the middle of the lake). Luckily the second site right off of the main trail was really great (and empty!). It was secluded and we had a ton of privacy, plus the camp site was HUGE. We arrived at the site around 5:45 pm and we were pretty wiped out.


One note of caution – the chipmunks and mice are not afraid of humans AT ALL so be very judicious with your food and keeping your gear neatly stowed in your tent! The chipmunks weren’t too bad, but once the sun went down there was tons of tiny little mice all over the place! They will run right over your foot and try to get into everything!

Maggie Lake is stunning. It’s a dead lake, so if fishing is your thing it’s not for you, but it’s a fair size, has a rocky bottom, and has beautiful, clear water.


There were a ton of loons on the lake and it was amazing to hear their calls through the night. We also woke up at one point to hear a barred owl, which has such a unique call. No doubt he was after the hundreds of mice at our site!

The next morning we took it pretty slow and luxurious – we made some coffee, had a nice warm breakfast and took our time packing up camp. We set out on the trail at 10:00 am on the nose. We had a long second day planned with 16.6 km of hiking. We weren’t planning on the trail being quite so rugged from Norah Lake to right before Ramona Lake. There were quite a few of very steep, rugged hills. It was fun, but it was also slow-going. Originally we planned to stop at Eu Lake for a lunch break but we decided to push through and just eat snacks on the trail as we were running behind schedule.  One word of warning – right after Oak Lake the trail takes a turn that’s not well marked and if you’re not careful you’ll end up going the wrong way down a portage (not that it happened to us or anything…*cough*).

We arrived at Ramona Lake around 3:00 pm or so and we took a little breather and filtered some more water. The trail had been pretty rough up to that point and we were exhausted, but we still had another 4.5 km to go until we arrived at our second camp site at Guskewau Lake. Luckily the trail gets a lot easier after Ramona. We made pretty good time and hit our site at Guskewau at 5:45 pm.


A lot of the sites at Gueskewau were already full but surprisingly the most secluded site (the most northern one) was free. It wasn’t as nice as our site at Maggie Lake, but it was still pretty good.

It’s hard to tell from this photo, but Guskewau is a more muddy lake with some marshland. The mosquitoes were quite a bit worse than at Maggie, but died down once we had a fire going.



Speaking of mosquitoes, they of course were awful this time of year. I may have looked like an idiot, but my bug jacket came in SO handy! Best $12.00 I have ever spent!

The next morning we didn’t have far to go, but we wanted to make sure we left extra time to make it back to West Gate to catch the Parkbus back to the city. We only had 3.9 km of trail which was fairly easy-going and downhill most of the way. Finally we arrived back at the parking lot and took a much needed break.


Unfortunately we still had to walk 3 km on the highway back to West Gate, which was the hardest 3 km of the entire trip! It was hot and sunny on the highway and it seemed to take forever. Once at the West Gate we cleaned up in the bathrooms (yay flush toilets!) and relaxed in the shade until the Parkbus came to take us back to the city. All was well on the journey until we were about 30 min. north of Barrie. We switched bus drivers and the new driver took us on a really weird “shortcut” that included driving around Barrie for 30 minutes, and then he decided to take a side road with a 50 km/h speed limit. How that’s quicker than going on the freeway I’m not sure. We ended up getting home 1 hour and 15 minutes late, but at least we were in an air conditioned bus with a cushy chair, so it could have been a lot worse.

All in all I would say our first backpacking trip was a success! I can’t wait until September when we have another trip planned for Bruce Peninsula. I can already see why this is such an addictive hobby!


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