Friday, July 8, 2016

An Open Letter to the Friends of Bon Echo Provincial Park

Dear Friends of Bon Echo,
So after going to your friend and mine, Bon Echo Provincial Park, for our big camping week in 2015, I have a single question.  Namely, how do you become a permanent friend of Bon Echo?  To find my answer I went to your site  A top your home page you ask for donations then welcome me to your site.  No thank you and thank you, in that order.  No offence.

I made my Grandfather's outfit look as cool as possible just for you.
For the second heading on your website you state your values; "The Friends of Bon Echo Park is an association of volunteers."  I'm in.  "We value the significance of teamwork," Bev and I work okay together.  "And initiative in effecting change." I think I'm showing that by writing this Blog, whether I change anything or not is up for debate. "We are empowered to serve this active provincial park by our commitment to our natural and cultural heritage."  Ready and willing to serve.  "We strive to act in a manner that is environmentally conscientious."  Firstly, whenever I arrive at a campsite I always pick up any garbage I see which is serving the active park and environmentally conscientious.  While this is not unique to Bon Echo it should show you the level of respect I have not only for Bon Echo, but all of its ilk.  For all of your future friends out there I thought it would be good to serve this active park by telling everyone the best sites first.  

Site #317 at cocktail hour, just before fancy time.  The main beach is just beyond the trees.
Our favourite sites, not to say any of them are bad, are;  in Sawmill Bay #'s 5, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 29, 33, 34, 52, 62, 64, 66, 67, 79, 102, 105, 115, 135, 137, 139, 150, 160, and all of the walk-in sites 164 to 168 with possibly the best site in the park being site 166.  In the Midway #'s 221, 224, 233, 240, 242, 243, and 247.  In the Fairway #'s 289, 290, 292, 295, 302, 304, 306, 308, 309, 311, 315, 317, 318, 320, 321, 350, 352, 354, 356, 358, 359, 360, 362, 383, 388, 389, 393, 394, 396, and 400.  And in full disclosure we only checked out half the sites in Hardwood Hill (story to come later) but here are the #'s 406, 407, 408, 410, 412, 413, 424, 425, 426, 428, 433, 434, 435, 437, 441, 447, 451, 453, 454, 456, 458, 464, 465...  Lastly every site in Joe Perry cannot be beat -- 500 to 525.

Bev photo bombing my main beach picture.
The last heading on the homepage of your website you state your vision, mine's 20/20 so far: "Our Vision is to provide and assist activities that encourage recognition of the inherent beauty of the environment as well as the dedicated balance in the natural habitat."  I have always been told that you must have meals while camping that are better than you have at home.  We thought that this meal would encourage the inherent beauty of Bon Echo and we "spared no expense", Jurassic Park style.

"We were so preoccupied with whether we could, we forgot to stop and think if we should."
You state in your vision that you, "endeavour to generate a positive climate within the park" and what better way to do that then to exercise through hiking.  To try to do all the hikes at Bon Echo you really can't stand still and with that in mind we hiked the Bon Echo Creek Trail (1.4km/ 1 hour) the first night.  This is a perfect after dinner stroll along Bon Echo Creek which is easily accessible from the main beach. Here one can see some water fowl, mushrooms (yeah!), chipmunks, and a variety of hardwood trees.  Mosquito kill 16. The Shield Trail (4.8km/ 2 hours), mosquito kill 37, black fly kill 14; and High Pines Trail (1.7km/ 1 hour), mosquito kill 11, black fly kill 4; are both moderate trails that show different landscapes of the park as denoted by their names and of course mushrooms, specifically some perfectly ripe oyster mushrooms! (photo at the bottom of the blog)

Groovy, a High Pine.
The shield's getting rusty covered in all
that water.
And our table was ready said the bowing tree.

Penultimately, the Cliff Top Trail (1.5km/ 1 hour), no kills, which can only be reached by ferry or you should rent a canoe.  This is a must see.  Now not to be negative but for all of the aforementioned hikes there were number posts without any trail guides.  I am more than willing to help with these, but was told by the staff that they are on the way.  I hope that this negativity doesn't stop us from being friends so here is the positively splendiferous view at the cliff top.

And while you have the canoe rented you must go and see the pictographs immediately north of the Walt Whitman memorial.  It is our cultural heritage and I'm encouraging everyone to see it.

Old Walt 1819-1919 Dedicated to the democratic ideals of Walt Whitman by Horace Traubel and Flora MacDonald
"My foothold is tenon'd and mortised in granite.  I laugh at what you call dissolution and I know the amplitude of time."
Over 260 pictographs, it is impossible to see them all in just one visit.
The last line of your vision states, "Projects in which we engage, endeavour to generate a positive climate within the Park." To that end as you may have already noticed we tried to massacre an entire year of bugs.  Well, for some time Bev and I have been touting the amazing Watkin's Bug Repellent as the only thing we will use.


The Deet is high, but not too high and it is a cream which doesn't dry out your skin or leave a plastic like film over the areas of application.  The Abes and Essens Trail (17km/ 7 hours) may have changed Beverley's mind forever.  The only bug repellent we had was the Watkins. Black flies killed 89, Mosquitoes too many to count. (And that's just Rob, Bev refused to count.)  Final kill count from all the hikes black flies 107, mosquito infinity.   The Abes and Essens Trail is where once a year someone has to be rescued.  It's hilly, obstructed by fallen trees, fairly well marked, and in late June insect infested.  If there is one reason we should be a Friend of Bon Echo it is our diligent endeavour to make that trail a positive climate.   Bev and I both declared an insect jihad during the breath-taking hike, Bev maybe more so than I.

Notice the footwear for a 5 hour hike.  She sure is a trooper.
Immediately after this hike, I absconded to the gift shop in search of a bigger bug spray and unfortunately bought this.

You may or may not notice the black fly bite on my forehead.
I admire your assistance of a small entrepreneur, but for anyone going by the gift shop, don't do it.  Since we visited your park in June there were no planned educational programs, but we were presented with an education anyway. On our way to back country camping at Joe Perry I took Bev on one of our classic detours to rate the camp sites of the Hardwood Hills Campground. While perusing the camp sites our trusty Versa gave up the ghost.  The engine just stopped.  I don't know if you have ever had this experience, but this wasn't my first rodeo.  The bad thing was Hardwood Hill wasn't open to the public yet and we were the only civilians there with a really long road back to the gate house (Park Road Trail? 10km/ 2.5 hours).  I thought it would be a good idea to get the car off the road so we put it in neutral and accidentally put it in the ditch.  Well, the ditch is no place for a car so we then spent an hour trying to push a fully packed car out of the ditch.  Then we hit the road in search for saving.  Luckily two maintenance staff Kayla and Queenie were driving by and gave us a ride.  Praise Bon Echo!  When the tow truck driver finally got to our car he glibly remarked, "You could have left it in the ditch."  Well duh.  Now with no clue whether or not our car was fixable we had to decide whether to continue our adventure to back country camping or give up.  After much soul searching we decided that even without a car the show must go on.  And with that welcome to back country camping on Joe Perry Lake and the best experience you can have at Bon Echo.
Out for a paddle around Joe Perry Lake.  This can easily take half a day.
The opening line of you vision states, "Our Vision is to provide and assist activities that encourage recognition of the inherent beauty of the environment as well as the dedicated balance in the natural habitat." Well you'd have to be blind to not recognize the inherent beauty and balance at Joe Perry Lake.  A note to all the future Friends of Bon Echo -- when going to camp at Joe Perry you will need to hike all of your gear in half a mile to the docks and then canoe to your site.  Therefore, only bring what you need or like us bring everything and the kitchen sink, but you were warned about the hike -- fantastically for us because our car died the park ranger drove us to the dock.  Bev couldn't have been happier.  Now I don't know much about arachnids, but there was the largest one I have ever seen in Ontario waiting to greet us at the dock.

Might be a wolf spider howling at the sun and I think it's winking at us.
Things to note for your excursion into back country camping at Joe Perry Lake include; If it works in your plan the canoe rental goes for both Joe Perry Lake and Mazinaw Lake so you can canoe to see the pictographs then travel to Joe Perry and you do not have to pay twice.  Joe Perry is full of fish so you can count on a meal of fish while there, we had a delicious large mouth bass, and if you can find a freshwater mussel you can use that as bait instead of bringing worms.  Lastly, our site number 502 is undoubtably the best.  It has a sandy beach, beautiful view (while being guarded from the elements),  hot tub, and of course there were mushrooms everywhere.

View from the site and you could use the out cropping on the front for your picnic table if the weather agrees. 

Your very own private beach and easy landing for the canoe.

On the left you could create a hot tub with some hot rocks from the fire -- not a deep hot tub, but a hot tub.
For the people who like hiking there are trails away from site 502, but at all times know where you are as they are unmarked and you don't want to be one of those rescued in the future.  If we go back again, Bev and I both agreed that we would return to this site and make day trips into the rest of the park as long as our car was working.  To finish that story, our car was towed to the nearest town on Wednesday.  On Friday, our last day, I hiked, fingers crossed, back to the gate house.  I was lucky enough to hitch a lift from another maintenance staffer from the Hardwood Hill campground after hiking and killing bugs for an hour.  Turns out the engine air sensor was plugged with dust and it really only cost us for the tow.  Hail Bon Echo, and Versa.  I know I'm getting long in the tooth about this park, but in my opinion it deserves it, so in the spirit of friendship, I will now give the ranking and continue for the really keen on the other side.

Site Cleanliness:  Great.  They also have rakes to clean up your site when you are done which I enjoy.

Privacy:  Excellent, especially the back country and walk in sites.  There are 88 sites that met our criteria and that is excluding all 25 at Joe Perry and what we couldn't see because of our car malfunction.

Hiking and Activities:  One of the best.  There is hiking, swimming, boating, history, a dog beach, a BBQ every Saturday, and in the summer they have programs every weekend.

Park Class:   Great question.  It could be any of the classifications, but is in fact natural environment with 66 square kilometres to explore.

Beach Quality or Ease of Getting to the Water:  Top marks here too as every site is minutes/ seconds to a beach.

Recommended Length of Stay:  I would suggest to my friends to go for no less than a week, but that you could be entertained for at least two weeks.

Overall Impression:  This park was a joy.  Other than the car problems this was one of the best provincial parks Bev and I have stayed at.  I just wish it had of been a longer stay.

Rating out of 103:  I am giving all my friends out there a high #5 for this one.  It could definitely move up as this experiment moves forward and is a must see for every camper I know.

Ranking for all my friends:

#2 Algonquin
#3 Quetico
#5 Bon Echo
#19 Sandbanks
#21 Neys
#22 Wakami Lake
#23 Nagagamisis
#26 Pancake Bay
#29 Chutes
#30 White Lake
#40 Mississagi
#43 Long Point
#49 Marten River
#51.5 Silent Lake
#52 Restoule
#53 Point Farms
#56 Inverhuron
#58 Rene Brunelle
#69 Sibbald Point
#82 Rainbow Falls
#91 Turkey Point
#92 Bronte Creek

Day Use
#1 Petroglyphs

A Common Merganser that likes to hang out at the lagoon at Bon Echo a not so common park.

Something I am starting from here on out is I will be including the trail guides so you at home can print your own trail guide instead of acquiring one at the park.  You should be able to drag and drop the pictures onto your desktop and print from there.

Abes and Essens, as well as being an incredible hike, also has hike-in campsites which you can see on the map and website for Bon Echo, but they do not have pictures for sites #529 and #530.  So here they are;
Site 529 on Abes lake.
Site 530 is on Little Rock Lake.
Site 530 has both this picturesque fire pit and a second spot out of the wind.
Lastly in case you thought, he talked about mushrooms throughout the blog and didn't show one picture.

Oyster Mushrooms.  Which we enjoyed with steak.
Painted Bolete which was too pretty to pick.
And a Pale Bolete.  Which I didn't touch because we were at Joe Perry.