22 days over three trips into Massasauga Provincial Park in one summer – well that was a first.
On one of these trips we stayed on three sites, all on Spider Lake. One portage in and one portage out, the rest of the time spent paddling, exploring, relaxing, eating and of course sipping wine.
On the way in, we met a couple on the portage coming out from their trip. They were about our age. They had a canoe, one small barrel and one pack. We had about 4 times that amount of stuff. I thought “I bet they were only in for a couple of days.” So I asked. “Hey, how was your trip?” They said “Great, our first trip to Massasauga in years.” They went on to say they had a fantastic 7 days. 7 DAYS!!!! How embarrassing! I hope they didn’t look too close at our canoe. I wanted to tell them we were heading in for a month to justify our excess, but to be honest we were only going in for 10 days. I was thinking, “WELL, I bet they didn’t take 8 liters of wine with them.” But that was even more embarrassing. I have always used our age as an excuse, you know “At our age we need all the comforts.” Meeting this couple made my excuse seem weak. But I have come to realize we don’t need any excuses. Even as I watched the woman throw the canoe on her head with ease and head up the hill to start the portage, I set aside the excuse loop in my brain. We camp, we take a lot of stuff, we are happy.
Spider Site 23
This site wins the award for the best walk to the KYBO – big trees and winding trail – beautiful. Although this year the KYBO was in very rough shape. It was sitting on a 45 degree angle and we had to fix the lid because there was nothing to hold it open.
While on site 23 we had the best view of the moon. It was mesmerizing and we would wait for it each night. It came up later each night if course, but it was worth the wait.
Site 23 also has the best skinny-dipping rock ledge. The swimming off the rock in front of the site is great too because it has ‘steps’ to make getting in and out easy. I love the rolling rocks down by the shore. Funny, the site seems to get steeper and steeper each time we visit.
It is nice to paddle the shore from that site too. There are lots of places to explore close by. This year it was so hot we hugged the shore anytime we went out. We were desperate for shade.
There were people at the next site with paddle boards. It looked fun. We wondered how they are on portages. We once saw people deflating a canoe so perhaps the paddle boards were the type you can deflate. I will need to wait to see them on a portage. This summer we also saw a woman paddling a stand-up board with a barrel strapped to the back, backpacks and two kids sitting near her feet. She was amazing! The kids were grumbling but still, so nice that they were out camping! My little made up story – her husband got the canoe in the divorce and she was not going to be deterred.
Spider Site 16
Our next site was site 16. We booked it for old times ‘sake. It has been years, and it was actually nice to be back. It was very ‘tired’ compared to the old days, but holding up OK. The view is so great.
It was our first time back to this site since the death of our paddling partner John. He is so missed. We talked about the time we were sitting out on the rocks one evening when John mentioned our 5 day trip. We all looked at each other wondering who was going to be brave enough to tell him it was a 7 day trip. He handled it well, and it became one of our favorite stories. Luckily, he had a phone so he could call his kids (who worried about him) and luckily he had packed extra food. After that, we always made sure he knew how long the trip was – we were subtle about it of course.
We did a lot of paddling from this site. You see so much when you take the time to slowly paddle along the shore. It is nice when you are not in a rush to get from point A to point B.
It is a bit of work walking up and down to the water – which we seem to do a lot. However, the advantage of being up high is having a great view.
The swimming is pretty good at this site. There is even a little bit of privacy if you climb down on the right side of the rocks to a little sheltered area. Most of the shore is steep and the water isn’t really accessible. Speaking of privacy…there is very limited traffic past the site.
One night we got to enjoy watching a mom and kids (young teens) jumping off the rock cliff on the island. The kids were desperately trying to convince their mom to jump too – and she eventually did! It is a long way down! Funny hearing the kids encouraging her and reassuring her she could do it. She has likely modeled that with them for years. One of the best things about camping is seeing families having fun together. When they paddled away they were all singing some song from the 70s.
Spider Site 15
Our final site of the trip was site #15. This site was just a few minutes paddle from Site 16. This was a good thing because it was just after a storm had rolled through and the winds were wild. This was our first time staying on 15. We thought it would be a high traffic site, but the canoes travel the far shore so it is more private than you would think. It is a small site, very rocky and steep. My sister-in-law was going to her tent and said “I am going upstairs”. It really was like climbing a flight of stairs. You need to watch where you walk because of all the rocks. The main area of the site is small, however that may just be because we had just stayed at two very large, open sites.
The take out was easy, but it was a climb to the main part of the site. The swimming at the beach was nice but it gets mucky before it gets deep. Swimming off the rocks was better. The view is lovely, the campfire is sheltered and the KYBO was excellent (brand new). The two tent sites were very flat and had a nice view down to the lake.
Each site has its own unique beauty, but some are just a better fit for group size, age, and preferences. I like a site that is high up from the water, with a good take out, flat tent site, open forests, and deep swimming. I do like a beach but prefer a rocky site. That sounds like I want a lot, but I really do find something to love about every site.
Our dog got sick on this site. He doesn’t eat anything that is not in his bowl so we assume it was the water. He shivered for hours and his tummy growled and he kept thinking he needed to get out of the tent. He never actually had to go, but I was not taking any chances. It was a long night for both of us. Luckily it was our last night. He was lethargic the next day but came around as the day went on.
He also had a sore under his leg. It started off as a large puffy area, then progressed into a lump. When we got home we took him to the vet because it was not healing. Turns out it was a botfly larva – IN MY DOG! I am attaching a small picture for those of you who want to see. It will help you recognize it in your pets. It is a small picture so those who are squeamish can just scroll past quickly. The vet removed the larva and asked me if I wanted to see it – that was a hard NO! It took me a very long time before I went online to search it. I had no idea it was even a thing in Ontario. Wish I had known.
I always say that portaging is hard but also the source of many stories. On our way out we met a very hungover (or maybe drunk) young man with his girlfriend. They were with another couple who appeared not to be talking to them (they actually left them behind on the portage and they paddled away about 30 minutes ahead). We watched the young man weaving along the portage, carrying a canoe in flipflops, dragging a rope, moving at a snail’s pace, his girlfriend encouraging him on. It was about 11 am and when he reached the other side of the portage he cracked a beer. Sigh. To add to the adventure, we were following her at one point watching as she was trying to hike up her pants while carrying bags in both hands. Finally her pants fell down so she had to stop to set all her bags down so she could pull them back up. Fortunately she was wearing underwear. She had a good laugh and so did we. I must say I worried about their future as a couple.
We also saw a family and the kids looked about 4 and 6. They were portaging alone holding hands. They did the portage twice, never once walking with their parents. I would never let kids do that – forest, dogs, bears, swamps, drunk campers… Is it a great learning experience for kids to gain independence, or too risky? I try not to judge, but I do.