Last week a buddy and I decided that we should make a quick trip up to Killarney before the Holiday season. We were unsure of the weather and the snow conditions so we kept our route options open until we arrived to the park.
We hit the road around 530am and hoped to be at the park around 10-1030am. We had a uneventful drive up there and were greeted to having the entire park to ourselves. We parked our car in the access parking lot that is the trailhead for hiking into "the crack". We loaded the packs and we were on the trail for 11am sharp and we were treated to 5-10cm's of wet snow with lots of wet puddles under the surface. We opted to wear our Salomon Speedcross shoes with a gaiter, as we knew that no matter what we did we would end up with wet feet. We made it the 4 km to the top of the crack in around 1hr and we had a spectacular view of the surrounding landscape. For some of you who know my relationship with Killarney and especially the La Cloche Trail, which is 78km long and circumnavigates the majority of the park, I have only ever run this route and never hiked it! Running it a total of 3 times over the last few years, I was always unable to really slow down and enjoy the beautiful park stacked with big ridge views so rare in Ontario. We had no intention of lolly gagging, but in any measure it was refreshing to see the park from a hikers perspective.
We were hoping for sunny blue skies that would really bring out the blue in the lakes that make the park so famous for. We only were fortunate over three days to have 10 to 15min of sunshine and for the majority we had to settle with thick clouds and fog. We hiked along the Killarney ridge section soaking in the cloudy, yet gorgeous views along the way. We came up on the campsite on Heaven Lake and tossed around the idea of making camp here, it was only 245pm and we decided to keep hiking until dark. We made our way over to campsite H38 on Silver lake and arrived around 505pm. We set camp, made dinner and were in bed by 630pm. After the lights went out, Ryan was asleep in 6 seconds flat and I was not even done zipping up my sleeping bag and I was treated the pleasant sound of logs being milled, or snoring. I kept hearing the plastic ground sheet rustle and just put past the idea that it was the wind... That is until I turned my headlamp on! There was mice everywhere! I have never seen them this bad. I have spent many nights out under the stars and I have never ever seen this many little rodents so persistent to get either our warmth or our food. I had a rough nights sleep with a consistent waking up from the little critters crawling around me, or on me. At one point I looked over at Ryan and managed to see one little mouse crawl right out of his sleeping bag and over his head! What a night!
After assessing the conditions we decided on a plan for the remainder of our two days in the park. Tomorrow (or day two) we would leave our packs in camp and hike up to the top of Silver peak (4km from camp) and back to finish packing up and make our way roughly 10km back along Killarney ridge until we either found a nice spot to camp or we ran out of daylight. The plan sounded good to me! Silver Peak in these conditions would be a fulfilling 3 days.
The next morning after breakfast we made our way from camp to the summit of Silver Peak at 539m. From camp H38 it took us just under 90min to get to the socked in rime ice covered summit. We were hoping for good views and there was none of that. Although it is only 539m above sea level, it is 362m above Georgian Bay, so it can make for some bad weather. We left the summit and made it back to camp in just over a hour. We loaded our packs and hit the snowy trail following our footsteps we had left the day before. We made it halfway along Killarney Ridge and at around 4pm we arrived at H49 on Little Superior Lake, we decided to call it camp for the night. We set up the tarp, laid out the sleeping bags and made our delicious dinners. Not log after the sun set we decided to climb into the soon to be warm sleeping bags and as usual Ryan was snoring before I was even in my sleeping bag! I brought along my little ipod nano incase I needed some distraction during the 15 hours without daylight. I listened to cbc radio one, all the while I could hear and feel what we had encountered the night before, mice. No way not again I thought, how could this be? Never have I encountered mice situations like this before! I kept turning the volume of the ipod up hoping to drown out the sound (and feel) of the little critters crawling around all over us. At around 730pm and after a solid 60min sleep Ryan awoke to the pleasant sound (or feel) of the little buggers in all of our gear. We tossed out a idea... We were only 8km from the car and it was only 730pm... Hmmm. We could potentially be to the car for 10-1015pm. We decided to break camp quickly and hike out to the car.
The Section of trail separating us from our car was one of the more technical sections on the La Cloche and we were going to try and hike it not only at night, but in winter with very slick conditions. We enjoyed the hike along the ridge, stopping to soak up some of the views of the big dark sky above us. We made it to the crack faster then anticipated and would soon be on easier terrain. We descended down off the ridge and through the crack unscathed and really enjoying the hike we just did. We marched the last 4km to the car and set up a rodent free camp in the confines of a metal car. We had a solid yet cool sleep in the motor vehicle and just after 6am awoke and made our way slowly back to civilization. It was very refreshing to get out in the wilderness for a few days and especially as we are approaching the holiday season. For me it makes me feel not only recharged but more appreciative of the friends and family close to me.
To see some of the great views we were treated to, check out www.ericbatty.blogspot.com