We made the last minute decision to add three days to the start of our trip to Massasauga Provincial Park. We booked one of the few sites still available, site 19 on Spider Lake. Site 19 is a campsite just across the lake from site 16 where we had originally planned to start our trip.
Spider Lake – Site 19
The site has a limited number of flat tent sites and a steep slope to the water which might be why it was still available. It’s situated at a narrow part of Spider Lake that connects two larger parts of the lake. People travelling to the portages into Clear Lake and Georgian Bay pass right by the site, so it is a high traffic area. However, we found that the site was fairly private because the main part of the site is back in the wooded area.
We actually ended up really liking the site. It was very pretty with a great view and great swimming. It’s also close to a good fishing spot. One night sitting beside the campfire, we had a large owl glide in and land in a tree just over our heads – what a treat.
Within 5 minutes of arriving at our site two Rangers arrived by boat to ask for our permit. They also checked the site to make sure the last campers left it clean. As always, the Rangers were friendly and we had a nice chat. They asked us what we had planned for our ten days. When the conversation turned to our planned trip into Creswieke Lake later in the week they told us about the low water issue.
Low water levels in recent years had forced the park staff to expand the portage between Vicary Lake and Creswieke Lake. The easy, flat 100 metre portage was now a very challenging 600 metre portage. Yikes. I think I saw a hint of a smile from one of the Rangers.
Adding the extra three days to our trip was a great decision. We enjoyed our time exploring Spider Lake. We paddled, fished and had lunch on a little beach at the far end of the lake. We also swam, relaxed and enjoyed some amazing meals. It was the first time I had fruit crisp cooked on a fire.
On the way back from a day exploring the lake we were able to pick up some amazing speed using our sarongs.
Years ago we were gifted with sarongs from friends who did a lot of camping. We have used them for years and all the people we paddle with now have sarongs as well.
Sarongs can be used as towels and coverups for both people and food barrels. We have used them to provide shade for dogs in the canoe on hot days. They dry quickly, pack small and they are light as a feather. But the most fun is using them as sails on windy days.
Spider Lake – Site 16
On the day we were scheduled to do the big paddle across the lake from site 19 to site 16 we woke to steady rain on the tent. What a drag – packing up and moving in the rain is never easy.
We could actually see site 16 if we paddled out just a bit from our site; so we sat in the rain, under a tarp, taking turns paddling out every hour or so, with binoculars, looking for movement across the lake. The entire morning and part of the afternoon passed without any movement on site 16 at all. They must have stayed in their tent waiting for the rain to stop. Finally at 2 pm, we saw someone heading to the canoes. By 2:30 they were paddling away.
The 2 pm checkout is rarely a problem because in most cases, people leave in the morning so they have time to get to their next site. However, if the day is sunny they may just hang out until 2 making the most of the day. As we discovered, rain can also delay a departure.
We always feel bad if we are still on a site when the next group of campers arrive, even if it is well before 2 pm. We once had people sitting in their canoe, floating in front of our site at 10:30 – NO PRESSURE. We have also had people ask if they could share the site until we get packed up. We said yes once and were overwhelmed with kids and dogs and gear. If you arrive early to your site, consider exploring the lake or find a place to hang out, have lunch and swim while you wait for people to leave.
Sunshine on Site 16
When we arrived on site 16 the sun came out – it was like a new day. We put things out on the rocks to dry – everything was slightly damp and the sun was so warm.
We have stayed at site 16 on Spider Lake several times. It is getting a bit tired, but the rock and the great view keeps calling us back. The sunset is behind the site, but the morning sun is a gift. The swimming is pretty good and the walk down to the water is great exercise.
There was a large water snake on the site that spent a lot of time hanging out around the picnic table. We quickly learned to check the ground before jumping out of the hammock. Snakes also make it easy to remember to keep the tent door zipped up tight. We didn’t see the snake the last time were were there which was sad. When we were packing to leave we did see a snake with a rattle – the only time we have ever seen a Massasauga rattlesnake in all the years we have been to this park.
We had three relaxing days hanging out on the rocks, until the day of reckoning – it was time to head to Creswieke Lake.
Creswieke Lake – Site 107
It was a warm, sunny day, perfect weather for the trip.
To start the trip we did the short paddle to the 500 meter portage into the Beaver Pond. The portage was steep at both ends but very pretty.
There were a lot of beech trees on this portage! We love looking for bear claw marks – bears climb up to get the beech nuts in the fall.
We met a young couple on this portage that made us laugh. It was easy to tell portaging was new to them and the guy grumbled and swore the whole way. When he saw the steep hill at the end of the portage, he actually said “kill me now”. Sometimes canoe trips can be a test – both physically and emotionally. Someone once told me canoeing with a partner was “a love test”. It’s all about communication. I think every couple I know who has paddled together has failed this “love test” at least once. I think this trip for them was a test – I hope they worked it out.
The put-in to the Beaver Pond was a bit mucky and the paddle to the next portage was short – I think it took about 2 minutes. The 90 metre portage to Vicary Lake was overgrown but OK.
Vicary Lake is very pretty and I hear it has great fishing, but you want to hope for good neighbours because the sites are very close together.
We had arrived at the dreaded portage to Creswieke Lake. Because the portage was new it was not well worn. It had lots of ups and downs, twists and turns, but we made it successfully. My brother-in-law was portaging a very heavy canoe and at the end of the portage he said, “That’s it, time for a new canoe”. He now has a canoe that weights 50 lbs less than the canoe he portaged that day.
The advantage of site 107 is the privacy (it’s the only site on the lake). We only saw one canoe pass the site in 3 days. It was a family heading to Georgian Bay where a water taxi was meeting them to take them into Perry Sound.
The fishing was great (we had a big largemouth bass caught for dinner, before we even arrived at the site). The site has a great beach take-out, and a beautiful forest. However, as mentioned in the “Black Flies and Bathrooms” post, the Thunderbox was in plain site of the kitchen.
The site has an inviting rock ledge overlooking the lake; the view was spectacular. The only small drawback to the site is the rock ledge is small so the space for sitting in the sunshine is limited- but that is likely a good thing in the big picture.
We were at site 107 for three days and enjoyed every minute. As my brother-in-law said “I am really going to enjoy this lake because I am NEVER going to see it again!” The portage WAS a killer.
We had lots of fishing success (throwing back all but the one bass), heard a screaming fox two nights in a row, heard owls and saw a bear near the portage to Speyer Lake.
We had sunshine every day and even had a full moon that crested the tree line right across from the site. We sat on that rock ledge in awe.
We had booked site 16 for our final night, so on our final morning on site 107 we got packed up and prepared ourselves for the trip back over those portages. I believe the biggest challenge to portaging is the negative anticipation.
On the way out we saw a group trying to paddle through the swamp so they could avoid the long portage. We could just see their heads over the reeds as they were mired in the muck and trying to get turned around. There was an awful lot of swearing in that group too.
Back to Site 16
Back on Spider Lake we set up on site 16 again. It was time to start cooking the evening meal (Lentil Stew – recipe to follow). We had a good laugh when we realized I had forgotten the recipe was enough for 8 and I forgot to divide it. As we cooked the stew, it started to grow. It was like a monster stew – it just kept getting bigger and bigger. We ate as much as we could and then packed the rest up in a Ziplock and stuffed it in our food barrel – it was way too much food to burn. Boy did our barrel ever smell the next morning.
All in all it was a great trip: 1/2 day of rain, excellent fishing, great sites with amazing views, full moon, perfect swimming, lots of reading time and lots of yummy food.
Rating: The three portages into Creswieke Lake (500 m, 90 m and 600 m) and the muck at the portages are the only things that made this trip a bit challenging.
Lakes: Spider to Creswieke then back to Spider.
Map: Google Map with site ratings and Ontario Parks Map