I recently read a post in Cottage Life recommending “Canada’s 10 most perfect placid lakes for a canoe trip”. Their list included Mountain Lake in the Kawartha Highlands Signature Site Park.
We have been going to Mountain Lake for years, long before it included a campsite. We would often stay on Buzzard Lake and hike through the bush to Mountain Lake to fish. Although we never had any luck, it was a pretty lake to visit. A few years ago portages were added in and and out of Mountain Lake, along with a campsite, Site 435.
We were excited that there was now the option of staying on the lake so we booked it for a weekend in June, the first year it opened. I guess we must have been one of the first campers on the lake.
It was our first canoe trip with our puppy – he was 10 months old. His sister was adopted by family, which is how we ended up with a puppy in the first place. So we decided to take them on this trip together. For our dog, it was his first canoe trip and it was the second for his sister. We thought it would be a good lake to go to with the pups, because there is only one campsite on the entire lake. This privacy meant that that if … when… they barked, we wouldn’t need to worry about disturbing other campers.
We let them have a good play before putting them in the car and heading out on the trip. They had another little play while we loaded the canoes at the Long Lake Marina – both of them were interested in trying to catch waves. Unfortunately, our dog cried all the way down Long Lake because he wanted to be with his sister. So we ended up putting a lot of distance between the two canoes.
The Trip In
We arrived at the 340 metre portage into Buzzard Lake, not a moment too soon. This portage is very wide, and the hills are pretty easy to manage. The dogs each had their own little backpack with their food. Unfortunately the ‘girl dog’ decided to swim after another canoe at the put-in on Buzzard. She still had her backpack on, full of food. There was a lot of whistling to get her to turn around. She did turn around, but not quick enough – her food was wet – even though it was in a Ziploc. Good lesson; double Ziploc’s are best for things outside the barrel.
The 684 metre portage into Mountain Lake was a bit more challenging. It was new and saying that it was rugged would be an understatement, especially the last half. It was important to watch that we didn’t trip on a root. Not to mention the swarms of mosquitoes – it was spring. I am sure it is much better now and very pretty.
The last bit of the trail down to the shore of Mountain Lake was very steep and slippery, so we did a bit of hand-over-hand. From the portage the campsite was just around the first point. They are very close together, so it didn’t take long to get to the site. Actually, it is a very small lake, so everything is close together, it’s good that there is only one site on the lake
Mountain Lake – Site 435
As we mentioned, Mountain Lake is very pretty, and even prettier from the south side, looking at the rock on the far shore. The campsite is on the lower, flat and less dramatic south side.
The site is open, with a lot of deciduous trees, including a lot of very pretty mature birch trees; something we rarely see at campsites. This made it a unique, almost grassy/soil base, rather than the usual rock and pine needle floor. It was a very open site, we could see the stumps where the site had been cleared. This meant we had lots of potential tent sites. The small slope down to the lake is also very open with very little rock until you get to the shore.
The shore is easy to access with lots of small rocks. We didn’t swim but it looks like it may be a bit rocky for walking in. It is pretty shallow at the shore on the bay side. The dogs did a lot of swimming; unlike us, they didn’t seem to mind the cold.
The walk to the KYBO and beyond into the forest is nice too. We walked past the Thunderbox looking for a possible trail to the portage, but no luck. They are so close we wondered if it would be easier to portage right from the site.
We were travelling with a 7 year old so we discovered that the tadpole and frog catching was stellar at this site. She was a card shark too, so we had some great card games on a brand new picnic table.
The first night we saw a canoe paddling past our site very late, it was dusk. They either made their own campsite or did the portage into Stoplog in the dark. We wondered if they were expecting the site to be empty or if they didn’t even know there was a site on the lake, perhaps they had been coming in for years. We never heard or saw them after they passed the site, so we don’t know the story.
On Saturday we discovered that they were still working on the 680 metre portage out of Mountain and into Stoplog Lake. This meant we had chainsaw noise off and on throughout the day, I guess we didn’t need to worry about the dogs barking.
One of the people we were camping with has trouble with Whippoorwills. When the moon is full they sing loud and they sing all night. He is a light sleeper, so they keep him awake.
You can almost set your clock by Whippoorwills; they start singing around 9:30 PM. In fact when my mom was a kid that was her “sign” that it was time to head home. Sure enough, on Saturday night, they started singing right on time, and they were very close to our site. The moon was full too, so we knew it was an earplug night.
We’ve always wondered about the advantage of singing loud at night, does that not make them vulnerable? They are ground birds too. But we did some research and found that they ‘project’ their song, which keeps them safe.
Although the site was not a site that appealed to me, it was nice having the lake to ourselves – nice to have the privacy. We haven’t been back, but we would like to see what the site looks like now that it has been used for a few years. I am sure it is quite different.
Mountain Lake may have a bit more traffic now that it can be a loop with the portage out to Stoplog. Last year we met people on Long Lake who told us they were heading to Turtle Lake, via Mountain Lake.
Overall, it was a nice trip. The pups did well, and were pretty tired by the end of the trip – no crying in the canoe on the way home, only sleeping.
Of all the lakes and sites I have been to, I am surprised it is included on the Cottage Life list, however, I am sure it is well protected from wind.