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Where is Killarney Provincial Park?

Killarney Provincial Park is located roughly 400 km north of Toronto along the northern edge of Georgian Bay. The park is 645 square kilometres and known for its pink granite and white quartzite mountains along with its clear sapphire lakes. Check out the park online at: https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/killarney.

What will the weather be like?

Summer is the warmest and the most popular time to visit Killarney. In September, the weather will be starting to cool down (14-19°C) with low to moderate humidity and cooler temperatures at night. There is intermittent rain during the summer and early fall.

Check out Environment Canada for the most up to date forecasts for Killarney, ON: http://weather.gc.ca/city/pages/on-146_metric_e.html

What’s our itinerary?

Day 1: We’ll gather at 10:30 am at Bell Lake Access Point and get to know one another, load up our canoes, and embark. We’ll paddle for about two hours to get our bodies warmed up and get used to the canoes. We’ll end at the north end of Bell Lake and settle into camp, write, eat, and let our bodies rest after a long day of travel.

Day 2: We’ll have a long paddle, including two short portages. We’ll end at David Lake, which will be our base camp for the next two days. We’ll settle in for a big meal, some well-earned rest, and of course some writing time.

Day 3 and 4: We’ll spend two nights on David Lake, with abundant time to hike, nap and of course write, write, write. You’ll have the opportunity to hike to Silver Peak (about 10 km), spend the day exploring the lake by canoe or simply stay at our basecamp and enjoy the beauty and stillness.

Day 5: We’ll spend around three hours paddling out to the access point, arriving back to our cars by 2 pm in time for a celebratory final meal followed by the journey home.

How do I get to and from the Bell Lake Access Point?

You are responsible for arranging your own transportation to and from the start and end point of the trip. We will circulate names and email addresses of participants who want to carpool so you can travel together if you don’t drive or have a car. The access road is not paved and only accessible by car or truck.

How long will we be paddling each day?

We will be paddling anywhere from 3 - 5 hours/day, except on Day 4 where you’ll get to choose your own adventure at our base camp on David Lake. The total intended route mileage is around 35km. Generally, there is plenty of time available each day to travel and see the sights, so the group will be going at a comfortable pace and enjoying the changing scenery and views. Some sections will require a sustained effort and it’s worth noting that headwinds make paddling more strenuous.

What are the conditions like for canoeing?

This is a flatwater trip, so it’s highly unlikely that we’ll encounter any fast moving water or waves. These lakes are also quite small and therefore there is little risk of large wave action due to windy days and stormy weather. We may be paddling into the wind, which requires more effort, but there is plenty of time to take breaks and the shore is always close by (we will generally paddle fairly close to shore). We may be paddling in the rain, and in the event of a lightning storm, we take protection under cover on shore.


What if I’ve never done a backcountry trip before?

We welcome all levels of canoeists. This trip is for beginner paddlers and experienced paddlers alike. It’s not about mileage covered, it’s about beauty, writing and the journey. If you’ve never been on a canoe trip before, great! If you’ve been on many, also great! We’ll take time to teach you the skills you’ll need to be comfortable on and off the water. We’ll also make sure that more beginner paddlers are paired with more experienced paddlers while we’re on the water. Plus, you’ll have two guides available to you for canoeing tips and tricks.

What types of canoes will we have?

We will be using lightweight Kevlar tandem (2-person) canoes that are 16 feet long. They’re sturdy and pack a lot of gear, but are also lightweight and ideal to carry over portages. All gear (tents, equipment, food and personal items) will be packed into the canoe, making for heavier but stable boats for paddling.

What is a portage?

The lakes we will be traveling on are connected by pathways called ‘portages’. They vary in terrain, some are rocky, some are steep, some are long. Most will be located in a forested area and you may need to step over big logs or crouch under branches. As a group, we will unload our boats and carry gear and canoes across the portage to the next lake. We’ll teach you how to carry canoes and packs safely. Portages are well-marked and will have a range of distances from 30 metres to 750 metres.

Do I have to wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD)?

In the canoes we will always wear PFDs. On campsites, there’s no need, unless you’re a non-swimmer and you’d like to go for a dip in the lake. If you are a swimmer, you won’t need to wear your PFD while swimming.

What level of physical fitness is required for me to participate?

This trip is appropriate for beginners; however, it is an active trip with paddling, hiking and possibly swimming as the primary activities. You’ll need to have a basic level of fitness. To us this doesn’t mean being “strong enough”, but being mentally prepared for hard work, and having rudimentary swimming skills and a general level of confidence in hiking long distances. There will be an optional 10km hike on Day 4. Comfort with sweat and sore muscles is a must.

If you are affected by any condition, medical or otherwise, that might affect your or other people's enjoyment of the trip, please be in touch so we can understand what’s going on for you. There will be days where activity feels strenuous, but there will be ample opportunities for breaks.

Where will I go to the bathroom?

Each site will have a thunderbox. It’s like an outhouse, without walls, set aside from the main camp area. We’ll need to pack out all feminine hygiene products. There are no showers or sinks, the only running water is the lake. We will bring a bathroom kit on the trip and will set up a hand washing station at every campsite. We want to keep human and other waste such as dish soap and dirty dish water well away from the fresh-water lakes and rivers we paddle on! We will also have hand sanitizer available for before meals and after washroom use.

What about wildlife?

Wildlife like bears, squirrels, beavers, deer, moose, birds, snakes, and insects live in the park and surrounding areas. We’ll be traveling through the park with great respect and awareness of wildlife and will do our best to ensure safe sightings. Most of the time, the animals are more afraid of us than we are of them. We’ll pack all of our food in barrels during the day and each night we’ll secure them to a tree a distance away from where we’re camped. We’ll pack out all of our garbage and food waste.

What should I pack?

Once signed up, you’ll be given a detailed packing list. Generally, you’ll need lightweight and quick-drying clothing to keep you protected from the sun, bugs, or rain during the day, warm and lightweight layers for the campsite, two pairs of shoes (one pair for the day and one pair for the site), a sunhat, writing materials, bathing suit, sunglasses, and a big backpack/canoe pack to carry your all your gear (70 litres is an ideal maximum size).

Don’t worry, we’ll make sure you have the essentials. Simplicity is key. Remember, we’re carrying everything! So, the lighter your bag, the happier you’ll be on portages.

Do I have to bring my own equipment?

Equipment like canoes, paddles and PFDs will be provided for you and sized the morning we meet (unless you have your own paddle or PFD you’d like to bring). Other gear like tents, sleeping bags and pads, canoe packs, dry bags you’ll need to bring. If you have your own equipment, great! If not, these items are easy to rent or borrow. But don’t worry, we’ll make sure everyone is outfitted properly before getting on the water. If you have any questions about gear, please get in touch with us after registering.

Where can I rent or purchase equipment?

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) rents all kinds of gear. If you’re not a member, then you’ll need to become one for $5 (for life). Visit www.mec.ca for more details. You can also purchase gear at MEC, Atmosphere, Sport Chek and SAIL.

Value Village, Salvation Army and Goodwill are all great places to find gently used quick drying items for a fraction of the price. Also, ask around your community! Often, outdoorsy people have equipment they can lend (when they’re not using it!), especially when it’s specialized gear like dry bags and big packs.

Will I have a tent to myself?

Because of campsite space restrictions, we’ll all be sharing a tent with at least one other person. We also want to be traveling lightly since we have to carry all of our gear in our boats and over portages. The fewer tents we have, the lighter we’ll be and the better we’ll fit on the campsite. If you bring your own tent, you may be asked to share your space with another participant who didn’t have their own to bring.

What happens in an emergency?

We will be traveling to remote areas where limited medical facilities exist. A medical emergency situation is unlikely; however, should it arise we are prepared with an inReach device, first aid responders, and medical first aid kits. Should a participant need to be evacuated from trip, we will be responsible for assessing the best route out in the safest possible way. We will take time at the beginning of the trip to convey safe canoeing practices and procedures as this is the best preventative step to avoid foreseeable emergencies.

What will we be eating? Can I bring my own food?

We will create a nutritious menu that takes into account the collective needs of the group, including specific restrictions and allergies. We’ll provide all the essentials for each meal. In the backcountry, the only diet we cannot accommodate for is Keto. When registering, please be sure to provide all food allergies and restrictions. Meals on trip will be freshly prepared, however because we are carrying everything in canoes or on our backs, our guiding value is simplicity.

If you want to bring your own light snacks, you’re welcome to. Whatever snacks you bring will need to be carried in your pack, and waterproofed. All food items will be placed in bear-proof barrels at the end of each day to keep the group (and our food!) safe from unwanted visitors. This includes your personal snacks and sometimes even scented products and toothpaste.

What about drinking water?

During our trip we will be drinking water from the lakes we’re paddling through. The water is known to be clean, but we still need to take precautions to make sure consuming it is safe. Our main tool will be a water purification system that we’ll hang at our campsites, that lets gravity push the water through a ceramic filter. We may also boil water or occasionally use purifying tablets as an additional treatment during the day.

Will we be outside the entire time?

Yes. For the entire 5 day trip we’ll be living out of doors. Tents and tarps will be our shelter and there won’t be any buildings or running water to rely on. The lake will be our shower, fire will be our stove, the sun, moon and stars (and headlamps) will be our lights. In the case of a heavy storm or the presence of lightning and thunder, we’ll set up tarps and wait it out off the water.

Can I bring alcohol and/or cannabis?

In a word, no. We won’t tolerate any trip participant to be under the influence of alcohol or cannabis while participating in paddling and hiking activities (see the regulations for small crafts under Transport Canada’s laws for more details). If we think that you are not in the appropriate condition to undertake the activity, for any reason, we have the right to decline your participation or may suggest a modified approach. We want you to have the best possible adventure and appreciate you helping us create an inclusive, healthy and alert group environment that is about taking excellent care of ourselves and each other.

The use of illegal drugs is not permitted and any use of these will result in being evicted from the trip at your own expense.

Can I smoke?

We encourage a non-smoking environment around group members and smokers are asked to smoke in a designated area. This area will be determined once we get to the campsite each day. As already mentioned, we will be packing out (carrying) all of our garbage, so this includes cigarette butts.

Can I bring my phone? What about photos?

You can bring your phone, but it won’t have service where we’re going. This retreat is off grid and it’s designed for people who want to be away from their phones and computers. Participants will not have access to a phone line unless there is an emergency. The Quiet Guiding Company has an emergency access number that can be reached while we are in the backcountry and messages will be relayed from headquarters to Kate if necessary.

If you want to take photos on your phone, go for it. But make sure to bring a waterproof case for it and a solar-powered charger or an extra battery. There are no electrical outlets in the backcountry!

Have a question that’s not on this list?

If you have any questions about canoe trip logistics or equipment please email Kate at: kate.mingsun@thequietguidingcompany.com.

If you have any other questions, please email welcome@fireflycreativewriting.com.