They were calling for ‘heavy rain’ – whoever ‘THEY’ are. We decided to go anyway, really what’s a little rain? We had been waiting all year for this trip and didn’t want to delay it another day. We have also learned from experience that if you change your plans because of the forecast, you are often disappointed. It was a warm day and the forecast for the next four days was full sun – with warm temperatures. We figured that if the rain wasn’t to arrive until 1 we would be fine if we started out by 10. That would get us to our campsite on Buzzard Lake by 12. We would be all set up and ready for the rain. WRONG. The rain started an hour and a half early.
We had the most beautiful, peaceful paddle down Long Lake. We started our trip on a Tuesday to avoid the busy weekend traffic on the highways, lakes and portages. Long Lake was calm, which is very unusual. Our paddle was quick and we were at the portage into Buzzard in no time. On the 340 metre portage it started to sprinkle, so we hoped the rain would hold until we got to the campsite. NOPE. By the time we were putting in at Buzzard, the rain had started really coming down.
The first mistake we made was deciding to stay in t-shirts and shorts, since it was a warm day and we were hot from doing the portage. OK, I need to admit here that the others in our group put on their rain-gear. So why can’t they make rain-gear like in the old days when it would keep you dry for a few years, rather than a few days? But more on that in another blog post.
When we got to site 425, we put out some plastic on the rocks by shore, set our gear on top and then wrapped it up to help keep it dry. Then we went up the hill to the site and started to put up the tarp. Let the shivering begin.
So how do you get your rain-gear and dry clothes from your pack when you are soaked to the skin. Then, where do you change? I knew that if I tried to open my pack I would risk getting everything wet. However, I couldn’t stand the shivering any longer. I managed to get changed into some dry clothes while huddled under the tarp. Good call, I warmed up quickly. Then I realized I was starving! I savored a very very soggy sub – it tasted absolutely delicious.
One of the best things about arriving to a site in the rain is getting to see where the water pools. Two of the prime tent sites on either side of the firepit were completely underwater. If our plan had worked and we had been able to set up our tents before the rain, two of the tents would have been under water.
The rain was intense, but it actually stopped in time for us to get set up and have a great dinner. We had steak on our new stick-stove. The next day the sun came out and it was beautiful so we were able to dry out our things.
The site is steep and rocky in spots. Because of the rain my sister-in-law slipped on the steep wet rock and hurt her wrist. In the night she woke in a lot of pain. She decided she needed to go back in the forest to get Advil from her food barrel. Now, she admits that she has no sense of direction, so she knew the risk of going on her own, in the middle of the night, into the forest. But her wrist hurt enough she knew it was her only chance of getting any sleep. She wasn’t concerned about waking her husband because he takes his hearing aids out to sleep so she was able to leave the tent unnoticed. Sure enough, after getting the Advil, she turned around and saw several trails leading away from the barrel. Her plan was to keep the lake on her left – smart. She tried a few trails before seeing the reflectors on the tent. Thank Goodness! She is very brave.
Site 425 is very nice. It faces East so the sun was the best in the morning, it is a shady site later in the day. We could also see a few cottages from the site and there is a campsite right across the lake. We couldn’t hear the people across the lake, but one night a young couple staying on the site were unaware that when there is a light inside the tent you can see shadows. No privacy!
There are motor boats on the lake and the site is in a channel, so there are paddlers going past often. None of these things can take away from the beauty of the site or the view. It is also a very active loon watching area – I guess because of the channel. The swimming is pretty good near the base of the rock near the takeout.
In the picture above – the one of the site from the lake, you can see a low area between the two steep rocks. There is a flat area there that makes for a great take out. There are also many large beautiful pine trees. It was a perfect place for the canoes. My brother-in-law also pitched his tent there. It was a small space, but an ideal spot – and one of the driest tent locations. When you are swimming in the morning the water reflecting in the pine trees is quite magical.
There are paths in the woods which we assume go all the way to a campsite on the point. We had no problem finding lots of firewood walking back behind the KYBO.
One morning we got up to sunshine, then the fog rolled in for about 45 minutes, then it lifted just as quick. It was so beautiful.
We spent several days exploring Buzzard Lake. We found Pitcher Plants, beautiful rocks, old cabins and interesting trees. My brother-in-law was out fishing and saw a bear on shore. Lots of bays, channels and rocks to make the lake interesting.
The rangers have a campsite just up the lake from the site and they stopped to check in on us the day we were leaving. They are always so nice.
After 4 days on Buzzard we headed to Shark Lake for the next 4 days.
Two people in the group needed to go back to Toronto for a bit, but they were joining us again later in the trip. So three of us and the trusty Border Collie headed out on our own. The BC kept cool with his sarong on this very beautiful, hot, sunny day.
The 215 metre portage into Vixen is very short and easy, even though it is a bit rocky at the end. We met a group of people staying on Vixen who had been exploring Buzzard on a day trip. They were our age. So nice to see people over 50 enjoying the back-country.
I love paddling through the lily pads on the way out into Vixen. After the lily pads, we paddled toward the narrows that open into the main part of the lake. The narrow area is rocky, but not a problem if you watch carefully. We paddled out into Vixen to discover some very high winds, so we were glad it was a short lake. At the end of Vixen we went through another set of narrows on the West end which opens into another very pretty lily area.
Unfortunately, the least skilled map reader of the group was leading the way. We ended up at the biggest beaver dam we had ever seen. On the other side there was a swampy area. We sat there looking at the muck thinking we had to make our way through ‘that’ to get to the portage. When I looked at the map, I was happy to realize that the portage was actually behind us – we were very very happy to realize we were not going to be in the muck for hours. We just had to turn around and paddle back a short distance. We considered this trip to be very easy so we were not paying much attention to maps and markers. I don’t even want to think about our experience if we hadn’t figured this out? Another lesson.
When we got back to the small ‘water path’ to the portage we saw that there was a post in the water to identify the path. We could also see the portage sign up in a tree. How did we miss that?
We had to wait a bit for people who were heading in to walk the portage. The takeout is small, although once on shore there is lots of space for canoes and gear. We were feeling anxious because we could see the weather was changing. Dark clouds coming in. We knew rain was coming later in the day but after our last experience we were not going to take any chances. We felt driven to do the portage quickly.
The portage into Shark is pretty long – it seems longer than the 543 metres posted. Maybe because it is hilly and very steep, especially near Shark Lake. There is a board walk at the end which is helpful for getting through a low area. The put-in at Shark Lake is wide open and shallow and lots of places for canoes and packs. Regardless of how you slice it – this portage is a workout!
25 years ago we camped on the large island near site 452; this was long before it became part of Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park. At that time, there were only two sites on the lake, the island and the point north across the lake. No beach sites at that time. I am glad the island is closed now, it looks delicate. I remember it being a nice site, but full of wood roaches. We also remember a father and son coming in and shining a light into our tent at 4 in the morning from their fishing boat. The son said “pa there is someone on the island”. We never saw them the next day, so we have no idea where they ended up and how they got to the lake at 4 am – did they portage in the dark or were they at the hunt camp at the east end of the lake? We have friends who also camped on the island years ago and at night they saw a large campfire with people dancing. The next day there was no one there. The mysteries of Shark Lake.
When I was booking this trip, I was comfortable booking this site thanks to a blog called “Have Canoe Will Paddle“. It is so great to read about camping experiences from other campers.
Shark is a very small lake and all four sites were full every night. Two beach sites across from our site had families with young kids; beach sites are great for kids. Site 453 near the portage into Sawmill Lake seemed to be used for people just staying a night. From the water it did not seem as inviting as the other sites on the lake.
We were booked to stay on Shark for 4 nights then we were off to the small island on Vixen for 2 nights before meeting our camping friends back on Buzzard for the final 4 days. We were watching the weather because the day we were to move the forecast was for storms and high winds. We were ready to move on and explore another lake, but the prospect of doing the steep portage back to Vixen, in a thunderstorm, was not appealing at all. The solo paddler in our group was also concerned with the high winds, so we decided to call the Park office in Bancroft to see if we could extend our stay on Shark. It worked out and it turned out to be very relaxing staying the extra days – we got some extra reading done. The people who work in the Bancroft office are always amazing and so helpful.
One night we made a quick dash to the tent because we heard thunder and saw lightening in the distance. While we were getting settled, we noticed something pushing in the side of our tent. The dog didn’t seem to notice and there wasn’t a sound. My brother-in-law was sitting under the tarp watching the storm coming up the lake, so we told him what was happening and asked him if he could shine his light at our tent. Now, my brother-in-law has often told us bears will push their nose into the side of a tent, so it was not surprising that his first question was “how big is it”. We said we didn’t know and he said “look yourself”. We teased him a lot about that. He did finally shine the light, then he walked up to our tent. We heard him laughing, he had discovered a giant bullfrog clinging to the side of our tent. The storm was big and it took a while to fall asleep – to clarify, the dog and I had trouble falling asleep. Hope the frog managed to find a better spot to wait out the storm.
Site 427 is fairly small and steep at the back. There was a trail up the hill but it seems to end not far from the site. The tent sites were pretty good, two flat areas, and one that would be OK. The site does open up near the water with lots of space to sit on the rock. The fire pit is near the water which is always nice. There was a lot of wood, good swimming and the lake has a family of loons. The best part of this site is the view of the island and the sunsets. So pretty. I have about 100 pictures of the island just off to the south of the site.
While exploring, we did find a dead beaver close to the site and spent time speculating on what happened. We explored the lake as well, paddling a couple times a day. There are lots of little nooks and crannies to explore, and some very pretty islands on Shark. On a calm day, behind the island, there is a perfect reflection of a fish in the water from a crevice in the rock.
We met some other campers. Two people paddled up to our site to chat, both solo paddlers. One woman out for a few days in a very cool, hand built, canoe that was as light as a feather. Another solo paddler came to visit; he had been coming to Shark Lake since he was there on a boy scout trip many years ago. He told us a lot about the history of the lake. He was often fishing right in front of our site, so we laughed when later in the day my brother-in-law caught a fish right in front of his site.
I always admire solo paddlers especially women on their own. However, I just don’t know if I will ever do it.
Finally, it was time to leave Shark Lake and meet up with the other paddlers in our group. We had a nice day for the trip out. Sun, no wind and the perfect temperature. The portage was easier with less wine and food to carry, but it was still a workout, especially starting with that very narrow steep hill.
We checked site 441 on Vixen; this was the small island site we had booked earlier. The site faced the far shore so it was private and well treed. It would have been dark on the rainy days so we were glad we stayed on Shark. It was nice to have our decision confirmed.
When we arrived at Buzzard, the two people we were meeting at site 427 had already arrived. This is a site we hadn’t stayed on in years, and strangely this year we stayed on the site twice.
The people we met up with told us a story about arriving at the portage at Long Lake and being offered a drive across by the folks with a cottage on Buzzard; they have a truck. When we heard they had taken them up on their offer we accused them of cheating. What a nice thing though. Apparently, the cottagers were lovely people. The cottage has been in the family for over 100 years.
The best part of meeting up with people after camping for 10 days was cold beer (shush don’t tell the Rangers). They brought in 4 cold beer for the two beer drinkers in the crowd. Their smiles were HUGE. The bonus for me was strawberry shortcake with fresh strawberries. After eating dehydrated fruit for 10 days, it was a real treat.
We have been on Buzzard many times, but we have never seen the buzzards (turkey vultures) up close. But when we arrived there were two in a tree at the site. They are amazing and so large.
This site (427) is very nice. The best part of the site is the view up the lake from the top of the rock. The site has several large flat tent sites and a fire pit near the water. There are two other sites and two portages very close to the site, but you can’t see them from the main part of the site. The swimming is good, but walk in, not jump in swimming. We have seen people jumping in from the rock point, but it didn’t look like something we would want to do. Some people in our group went swimming in off the point near the marsh.
Lots of loons and we saw beavers swimming past often, near the marshy areas on both sides of the point. One night a beaver slapped his tail, it is a loud noise.
We went on a day trip into Vixen to explore since we didn’t get to stay there this time. We met some fishermen who had seen a couple of bears on shore. I love exploring a lake when there is lots of time and you are not in a hurry to get to the next portage.
One day we missed a very big storm. We could hear it and see it, but our site stayed in sunshine. However, we heard that the people in Apsley were not so lucky. Glad we missed that big one.
Our favorite story from this site was when someone in the group accidentally used their Grand Marnier bottle rather than their water bottle to rince their mouth, after brushing their teeth. Can you imagine, toothpaste and Grand Marnier. The horror.
It was nice to be a group of 5 again. We ate good food, shared stories, paddled, swam, drank sangrias, sat in the hammock and reconnected by the campfire.
We had a light rain one morning and some fog, but for the most part it was sunny.
Finally, it was time to go, heading back to the real world. The paddle out was nice, sunny and calm. Leaving on a Tuesday is always nice because we avoid the crowds. The portage is busy on the weekend with lots of boats tied up to the docks.
The paddle out is made easier by thinking about the restaurant and the French Fries that were only hours away.
Rating: Nice trip, beautiful lakes, portage into Shark the only real challenge. Cottages and small boats on Buzzard. Portage between Long and Buzzard busy on weekends.
Lakes: Buzzard Lake; Shark Lake; Buzzard Lake.