We wanted to capture the magic of our first trip together to Killarney Provincial Park, but some things are just not meant to be. We gave it ‘the old college try’, had some great moments, but we definitely had some challenges along the way.
The previous year, we had the most amazing September weekend in Killarney, staying on O.S.A. Lake with friends, so the next year we decided to do it again; but this time heading into David Lake and hiking Silver Peak. Sounded good – what could possibly go wrong?
Two days before the trip I got a cold, a little September surprise. I did my best to fight it off and decided I could be sick in Killarney or sick at home, either way I was going to be sick. So off we went.
It rained our entire drive to George Lake, so we were really glad that we had a Yurt booked. It was also very cold; perhaps not what the doctor ordered. I remember going for an evening walk around the George Lake Campsite and wondering about the wisdom of going on a canoe trip in September, feeling like I did. Too late now.
We planned to meet at George Lake Thursday evening, however the couple we were meeting got held up at work and didn’t arrive until about 1 am. Then, Friday morning the Web Developer in the group got an email that there was a server issue and he had to spend a couple hours dealing with that, as the rest of us waited patiently in the parking lot. Luckily the rain had stopped and the sun was out and I was actually feeling pretty healthy.
Finally we were off, heading back out highway 637, toward highway 69. We planned our trip to start at the Bell Lake put-in. There is a parking lot and in the summer months you can actually check-in there, rather than at the main check-in point at George Lake. This meant we had some extra driving, however, it was September and our first night was at the George Lake yurt anyway, so it worked out fine for us.
Because of our late start, the drive to Bell Lake seemed to take forever. When we finally arrived, we got unloaded and parked quickly. We paddled down Bell Lake which eventually turns into Three Mile Lake. From there we did the easy 30 metre portage across an old “tramway’ into Balsam Lake. We stopped on Balsam Lake for lunch and a few laughs; apparently, we were all starting to relax and leave the city and our work behind.
The paddle toward the portage into David Lake through Balsam Lake was interesting. It snakes along between islands, passing isolated campsites along the way.
We then took the 665 metre portage into David Lake. For some reason I loved this portage, it was diverse and interesting.
We arrived on David Lake to some high winds. The sun on the water and the hills in the background were magical. The white hills are not as dramatic as they are at O.S.A. Lake but they are still different than what you would find on southern Ontario trips.
Our goal was to hike Silver Peak the next day, so we decided to paddle to the south west end of David Lake to camp, thinking that it would make it easier to get to the trails in the morning. However, we discovered cottages and a lodge at the south end of the lake. There was some tension when one person in our group wanted to stay at a site near the hiking trails, and another person wanted to paddle back up David Lake to find a more secluded site. You can see the private land marked on the map but it had not twigged for us that these were cottages.
Finally, we agreed to paddle back to the north east end of the lake to look for a secluded site. Of course the concern was paddling back, only to find that the sites were taken. Luckily we found an available site.
This tension can happen in a group when people are tired, hungry and have different needs. It all worked out, thank goodness.
We ended up picking Site 94. It was the only site in the bay. Although there is a cottage on an island just around the corner, you can’t see it from the site.
I was still feeling pretty good, I was getting ahead of the cold thing, so I enjoyed the evening and beautiful sunset. I crawled into the tent with Sinus Advil and Fisherman’s Friends beside me just in case. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to have a good nights sleep.
The rain had started sometime in the night and unfortunately it was still raining in the morning when we got up. Luckily we had put up a tarp.
When we had checked in at George Lake, they said “Do Not try to Climb Silver Peak if it is Raining!”. So we decided to heed their advice and stay put. It was hard to get excited about hiking anyway, it was such a cold and damp morning. We had a late breakfast and huddled under the tarp and then a few people crawled back into the tent to read.
When the sun came out around noon, we decided to pack a lunch and head to the trail, to do a little hike, stopping for lunch when we found an interesting spot. We started at H34, part of the Silhouette Trail. The hiking was great and we didn’t hike far before we stopped for lunch. The spot we picked had a great view of Boundary Lake and some pretty unique rock.
It had turned into a very beautiful day; the sun was out and it was warm. After lunch we thought we would do a bit more hiking along the trail. We kept going and going and going. We were enjoying the changes in the trail as it moved from rock to forest. The hike started getting steeper and steeper. It moved from a rocky trail along David Lake to a more forested trail as it turned toward Silver Peak. This trail is completely different from the more open rock type hiking you experience when you hike ‘The Crack‘.
Silver Peak is the highest point in the park. It is not actually part of the Silhouette Trail – the challenging hiking trail that circles Killarney Provincial Park. However, from David Lake you do hike along part of the Silhouette Trail for a fair ways before turning on to the trail that leads up to the peak.
We suddenly realized that we were actually getting close to Silver Peak. We could actually hear people talking; people we assumed were likely at the peak. However, we knew that if we kept going we would be in trouble, it was a long way down and our canoes were at the very far end of the trail that connected to David Lake. Also, it was September, which meant we needed to be aware that the days were getting much shorter.
So we made the very, very difficult decision to turn around. Perhaps one of the more difficult decisions we’ve ever made, but a very wise decision that luckily the entire group agreed on.
The hike down was quick and when we reached the Silhouette Trail it was still fairly bright. Love those white rock hills! We got to the canoes as the sun was getting pretty low.
The funny thing, if we had decided early on to do the hike and had a short lunch we would have had time to make it to the top. When we checked-in at George Lake, we were told how long it would take to do the hike. Either, we were much faster than average, or the young person at the desk tacked on a few hours based on our gray hair.
We were able to get back to our site just as the sun was setting. We knew we had made the right decision. It would have been a difficult paddle home if we had waited even 15 minutes longer. However, there was some disappointment. We were all vowing to return and hike to the top.
We had a very late dinner – I don’t like eating at night because I worry about attracting animals, when really I should be more concerned in the morning. The campfire was welcome because it was a very, very cold night. I crawled into the tent feeling pretty good, tired and cold, but not sick.
THEN I woke in the middle of the night – I was so sick. I was sure I was keeping everyone awake with all the coughing and nose blowing. Then I started to worry about whether animals might be attracted to Fisherman’s Friends. The list of irrational worries grew longer as the night went on. I kept thinking about the moose poop near the tent, what if a moose stepped on our tent….
In the morning I crawled out of the tent with a migraine. Seriously! Could I feel any worse?
It was a beautiful but freezing cold morning with fog so thick you could see nothing but the shoreline.
Regardless of the temperature, I knew what I had to do, I had to go for a swim; the cold water is a guaranteed migraine cure. It was actually more of a quick dunk, but it worked almost immediately. The previous September, we had all been in swimming many times, but not this year, it was just too cold. I was the only one who went in and only for ‘medical reasons’. The good news, my headache went away, the bad news, my cold got worse.
We took our time packing up. The sun burned off the fog and we had a perfect day for our paddle home. We made the trip a loop by heading out of the south end of David Lake, taking a 200 metre portage into a marsh, then a 745 metre portage into Bell Lake. The portages were easy, but on the longer portage, I started to get dizzy. That 745 metre portage felt like 7045 metres. It was a very long portage for me.
We stopped at a great place on Bell lake for lunch but I had some trouble enjoying the day. We did the short paddle back to the take out and the car.
There were a lot of good things about this trip, mixed in with the challenges, but I was very glad to get in the car and start for home.
We stopped in Perry Sound for a iced coffee at Tim’s which helped my throat. We arrived home very late, but I had to send my husband out to hunt for Buckley’s. When I told him what I wanted, he said, “Wow you must be really sick”.
I was very grateful for feeling symptom free the day we hiked Silver Peak. I have great memories from that hike.
We have never returned to do that hike again. Writing this and looking at pictures is just the motivation I need to start planning a trip to the top of Silver Peak. This time we will make it!
Rating: Very nice lakes, good campsite. It is nice to be able to make this a loop. Portages are not too challenging – 745 metres is the longest portage and it is pretty flat. The scenery is nice, just not as dramatic as the OSA area. David Lake is the perfect lake to use as a base if you want to do some, or all of the hike to Silver Peak. The trail is rocky and steep, but pretty manageable.
Lakes: Bell Lake, Three Mile Lake, Balsam Lake, David Lake, Bell Lake.
Map: Ontario Parks Map