Saturday, August 30, 2008

Balsam Lake


Kawathra Lakes, Ontario, Canada



Travel Month:

August 2008


Wilderness of Ontario, Camping, Trekking

Total Distance Covered:

500 Kilometers on tarmac


This trip is from one of our camping out during our summer vacations trip to Canada and the US in 2008. Kawathra lakes is very famous for its lakes, natural beauty, and wilderness. It is located in South Central Ontario in a picturesque natural setting. The lake is small as compared to the other lakes in the region but still boasts a length of 16 kilometers and by and average 3 kilometers in width. Being the highest point in the Trent-Severn Waterway at about 256 m above sea level is said to be the highest point on Earth to which a boat can be navigated from sea level. It has been on our list of travel for a long time and finally Asif (my brother-in-law) pushed us to visit this place on our first weekend of our vacations.


As we were traveling and did not carry our camping gear therefore had to borrow from our friends. As per plan we left Mississauga to drive for about 170 km to reach Kawathra Lakes passing by Lake Simcoe. Our first stop was at a Wal-mart to pick up a new stroller for our son Hassan as we lost the other one yesterday by forgetting it in the parking lot of a shopping centre. We picked up some supplies as well from here. To enjoy the drive we picked up the inner roads rather than the highways. Country side in summers is marvelous, its lush green and offers amazing refreshment just by looking at it.

We had booked 2 campsites as we were three families - us (2 adults and 3 kids-3yrs, 6yrs & 10 yrs), Asif & fmly (2 adults and 2 kids - 3 yrs & 9 months), Shahid & fmly (2 adults and 1 kid - 6yrs). In all national, provincial and regional parks they allow 6 number of people at one campsite without exception but we always end up using only one because its more enjoyable and we have to put a spare camp on the other site which we always take adjacent or in front of each other or we use the other site as our kitchen.

The map that we checked to reach our destination finally took us to the lake but on the opposite side of the campsite. So we had to drive around to reach our final destination. All the campsites in this country are absolutely incredible. These are well maintained and still they keep them in natural settings. One has a choice to pick the privacy level, noise level, site size, site quality etc. etc. according to one's wish. But during the summer most of the good sites are booked in advance, therefore the tricky part is to decide early to get the good sites. I am amazed to see hundreds of sites at one campsite and all booked during holidays. There are a number of private campsites but I never liked them due to the city like facilities they provide and kill the whole purpose of camping.

We reached our sites which were in front of each other and as we requested secluded these were right in the middle the forest making us realize about the mosquitoes for which the only protection we had was the spray. Our kids make noise while they play so we tried to stay in an area where we do not bother other people. We started pitching the tents and setting up the site the way we wanted it which in itself is a task. We did not have the kitchen tent this time so we used tarp to save us from rain but that could not do any good to save us from the flying insects. Once we were up and running we realized the light we have is not enough therefore had to visit a camp store just outside the boundary of the campsite to buy a lantern and wood. It was a damp place and was getting cold even at the sunset time telling us clearly to get ready for a cold night. Canadian summers are very short and even during summers the temperature may dip below zero but still we always enjoyed camping here. The night brought absolute darkness to our sites due to its location in the middle of the tall and dense forest. Fire was on and everyone was sitting around to warm themselves.

Dinner was served in a fairytale environment and we loved every bite of it. Hungry stomachs filled with delicious food and pops. One has to be ready to make a few trips to the bathroom due to drinking juices and pops whole day. Its a task to come out of the tent in cold night to pee. What can you do, when nature calls we have to answer, which we did a few times shivering with cold and scarred with the settings around us. We did not have the courage to walk all the way to the bathrooms which were about 200 meters away and pass it on close to the site, rain washes everything away by morning. The brown bear warning at the entrance played a major role in this. There are numerous type of animals that we have seen during our campings including moose, raccoons, lizards, snakes, deer, fox, skunks, flying squirrels, chipmunks, beaver, lots of birds and several other but have been lucky not to experience a bear. We have always been extremely careful not to keep any eatables out and keep the garbage hanging very high before going to sleep, where there is any chance of such animals wandering around. I found the park rangers are very helpful in providing information and usually the info posted on the message boards is very useful, therefore always read it.

The night was cold as we thought and damp and rainy too. But we had a good time on borrowed air mattresses and blankets we carried. Sleeping mats have always proven themselves one of the most important investments in camping gear.


I got up early and had a walk in the area to see the morning lake and to smell the morning freshness. It has a soothing effect on my mind and I enjoy early morning walks. Kids were also up and we all took the trek to the lake and suddenly at one corner we were stopped by stunning view of a stag. It was grazing in the middle of a field and did not notice us, we would be less than 50 meters from the animal. By the time second party reached there who was carrying the camera and so they brought noise along, the deer looked around and found some aliens looking at him. He did not like it and gave us a bad look before setting off in the dense forest. This made our day right in the morning. Watching animals in natural setting is charismatic, the feeling is unmatchable. Our kids love animals, especially Sajeel my oldest son has such a love for animals that he reads about animals from his collections of books almost everyday therefore he was the most excited person amongst the whole gang.

We continued walking to the lake and enjoyed the beach and beautiful landscape around the lake. This lake is not very wide so you could see on the other side dotted with cottages but its miles long making it comparatively different from other lakes of its size. He head back to the site for breakfast of omeletes, muffins etc. We had to do two trails during the day and after the breakfast we were all ready to go. By now the effects of mosquitoes were already evident especially on Iman (our daugther) and Hassan's (our youngest son) faces. The spray was working for the adults probably but not for children obviously.

There are two trails in this provincial park i) Lookout Trail and ii) Plantation Trail and both of them are 3 kilometers long and it take about two hours to do each one of them. The drove to the trail head and decided to take the lookout trail first and then would decide accordingly to the physical condition of everyone about the other one. The trail is lush green goes through preserved jungle but the bugs were very very disturbing and they kept biting us no matter what precautions we took. The signs for the trail were not very well marked which was quite unusual. It goes up and down in the hills giving spectacular views and a good exercise to city people. At places it was dark due to tall tress. Plantation is excellent and preserved very well. The two mentioned trails cross each other somewhere and we crossed onto the other one somewhere without knowing and that made us do both the trails in one go. It took us a few good hours to complete due to very young children with us and also started raining on the way making the trail very slippery. Everyone was cautioned to be careful and not to slip. Bugs continued bugging even in rain. We finally made it to the road about 800 meters away from where we parked. I'm sure we did some extra trail that was not marked at all. Everyone was happy to see the cars to have some snacks. We jumped in to have a drive around and visit the camp store outside the park. I find these stores very fascinating due to the local thing collections and camping related stuff.

We headed back to the campsite to finish our adventure for the day and enjoy the cooking and camping. Due to rain it was muddy and slippery. We cooked under the shelter and later put on the fire to bring some warmth to the damp site. The smoke also helped us to get rid of some bugs from the site but not much.

Shahid and family decided to jump into our tent due to the comfortable two queen size air mattresses. We adjusted all the kids on thin mats and the adults on to the beds with a separator curtain hanging on.


It started with the usual morning walk and cooking of breakfast and tea. The only difference was that the breakfast was prepared under the tarp shelter due to rain. We were all cold and wet but the food was good and tea was warm. Rain stopped and children wanted to go for canoeing, so we came to the lake again but were refused the canoes due to windy conditions. While in the booking office we noticed fishing rods and other equipment and thought to rent it and do fishing instead of canoeing. Upon inquiry they told us those we could borrow free of charge which we happily did. We came to one side of the lake that we thought would be rich with fish. Fishing is such a patience game that we could count the total number of fish that we might have caught in several ventures of fishing but kids love to cast into water. So casting practice without catching a single fish was called off after an hour.

Tents and other stuff was already packed and loaded in the cars before we came for canoeing but ended up doing fishing. Kids had some snack here and they enjoyed in the purpose build play area. Once they were tired rather we were tired we hoped back into our vehicles and drove back and were stopped after half an hour by police check post that also was quite unusual. They were randomly checking cars for illegal hunters obviously we were not so they didn't even bother checking our cars. And we were once again en route to Mississauga and surely through the inner roads and not through the highway making it to Asif's plan by evening.

It was a wonderful trip despite all the bug problems that Hassan had to live with for the next few days. Its a good place for camping and the drive is good and more importantly its not far from the city.

We visited Lake George and Upstate Newyork a week later, please check for the other topic for details.