Memories of Silent Lake or Adventures in Camping

Last fall a friend and I drove to Silent Lake Provincial Park to enjoy the autumn foliage. The fall colours were beautiful as were the happy memories that the park invoked. Silent Lake has a special place in my heart since my late husband and I used to camp there frequently. In the early days of our relationship, we would often go camping on summer weekends to escape the city and his student boarders! Friday afternoons would find us packing the car and tying the canoe on the roof before heading for Silent Lake, about an hour’s drive north of Peterborough. We would be at the park with the tent set up while the Toronto folks were still stuck in traffic on the 401. Silent Lake is a beautiful wilderness park with large wooded campsites. It’s a perfect place to canoe since there are no motorboats allowed. Gary’s bright red canoe, made by Voyageur Canoes in the village of Millbrook, was his pride and joy. However it was a racing canoe, not a family canoe, and was rather tippy being built for speed not safety! I have to admit I was a bit leery of the canoe since I’m not much of a swimmer. Fortunately for me, Gary was very experienced at handling a canoe and so, as long as I did what I was told (a rare occurrence for me!), I reckoned I would be quite safe. BG (before Gary) I had never been in a canoe. In fact, my only camping experience was a one week stint with family friends at Honey Harbour on Georgian Bay when I was ten years old. Our water craft at that time was a lovely mahogany cabin cruiser, built by my host and my Dad the year before.

Communing with nature can be a double-edged sword, the pleasures of sparkling lakes and forest breezes offset by somewhat spartan toilet facilities and vicious mosquitoes. Mosquitoes unfortunately are part of camping in Ontario. Bug spray is an absolute necessity. I remember one hike along Bonnie’s Pond trail where we were followed by a swarm of mosquitoes. As the bug spray wore off, the swarm would get closer and closer. We judged when it was time to reapply from the volume of the buzzing sound behind us. Of course, you could escape the mosquitoes by hopping in the canoe and paddling along the lake. Silent Lake was, and still is, an enchanting place to canoe. The only sounds are the splash of the paddle, the whisper of the wind and the songs of the birds. You can drift quietly through the marshes along the shoreline and perhaps spot an otter or a mink. You can pull up on a rocky island for a quiet picnic. And if you paddle a bit further, you will find two adjoining lakes to explore. When you’re tired of paddling, you can sunbathe on one of the sandy beaches or fish off the docks for bass.

While we spent many happy hours canoeing on Silent Lake, I do recall one rather tense incident. We had left our campsite for a paddle one sunny afternoon and ventured across the lake to the marshes for a bit of birdwatching. We were so engrossed in the peace and quiet of the marsh that we didn’t notice that the wind had come up and the lake had turned choppy. Under darkening skies, we headed back across the lake. It was quite a struggle to make any progress as the wind was blowing down the lake pushing us away from the campground and threatening to tip our canoe. Rather unwisely, I commented to Gary that we should have put our life jackets on instead of just throwing them into the canoe, and that, if we were to capsize, and if we were to survive, my mother would no doubt kill us both for being so foolhardy! Luckily, he was too busy trying to steer the canoe to whack me with the paddle! I knew I was out of my depth, in more ways than one, so I thought it best to keep quiet and follow his instructions obediently. We were quite relieved when we finally made it back to shore for a belated dinner. But we were back out again the next day. This time we wore our life jackets!

Meals too are always an adventure in the great outdoors. Blackened steaks are one thing but I never could get used to those pieces of ash which settled on my morning eggs. Luckily with all that fresh air and activity, we always seemed to be hungry. And, in spite of the inclusions, the food always tasted better cooked outdoors over an open fire. Besides in those days there weren’t any restaurants close by so we didn’t have a lot of options. I might add that there is now a wonderful restaurant, The Swiss Bear, just a short drive away and their schnitzel is to die for. You know, just in case you burn your steaks. Campgrounds open May 8th.

Copyright Anne Corke 2015

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