It finally happened: a day with no plans and blue skies with nary a hint of rain. Needless to say, I wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass us by! In short order, the dogs were in the car and we were on the road to Killaloe.
Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of Killaloe (pronounced “Kill-a-LOO”). Neither had I. While the area is known for excellent angling and often being the coldest place in eastern Ontario, that was not why we were going. We were going because it is the birthplace of BeaverTails, a Canadian treat of deep-fried dough with any number of sweet toppings. While the iconic red huts can be found at any number of tourist destinations, and I’ve sampled from many of them, I wanted to have one from the location from whence they came. With it being only 255 km (or 159 miles) from home, it was a perfect day trip. Best of all, none of the drive was on any of the major highways.
We were about halfway to Killaloe when I saw a sign for Furnace Falls and a rest area. I thought it would be a perfect place to let the dogs out to splash in the water and maybe get some nice photos of the waterfall. We all climbed out of the car and made our way to the water. That was when we descended into a special kind of hell; the kind of hell populated entirely by swarms of mosquitos. It was the kind of swarm that gets into your eyes and nose and mouth and your skin crawls with the feeling of every bug landing or anything that even brushes against your skin. I had hoped that once we got out of the shade and into an open section of the riverbank, the breeze would blow the bugs away. Nope. The dogs didn’t even get into the water. They had a quick drink before we scrambled up the rocky bank and hustled back to the car as the dogs trailed a cloud behind them. I barely paused long enough to snap one quick pic of the river before we climbed into the car, desperate for any kind of refuge. I tried to brush as many of the those pesky little bloodsuckers off the dogs as I could but there were still plenty buzzing around the inside of the car as we made our way back to the road. Well…that was fun.
Soon we found ourselves in Killaloe and parked the car near the little red hut with the BeaverTails banner over it. Next to it was another hut, Creekside Grille, which offered up food like sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, french fries, and poutine (of course). I was delighted to see a plethora of picnic tables with umbrellas overlooking a river. I was not so happy to see the big sign saying that pets weren’t allowed. Fine, a nearby retaining wall in the shade would be good enough for us.
I sauntered up to the BeaverTails hut to order up some awesomeness. Here’s a little suggestion for the people running this particular establishment: if you want people ordering and paying at one location, maybe put up a sign. I say this because the young man in the BeaverTails hut was obviously tired of telling people they had to pay at the Creekside Grille hut next door. At first I was put off by what seemed like a rude tone but if I had to repeat myself who knows how many times a day, I’d be irritated too.
So I walked next door and that was when my plan to just get a BeaverTail was thrown out the window as I saw a Buffalo Chicken sandwich on the menu. It had been hours since breakfast after all and a girl cannot run on sweet fried dough alone. With my sandwich in hand, I brought the dogs out of the car, poured them some water, and sat in the shade to eat.
I had just finished my sandwich when a large group of motorcycles pulled into the lot. One gentleman barely had his helmet off before he came over and asked if he could meet the dogs. They were all over him, hopefully because they’re friendly dogs and not because they were trying to mooch food from him. Eventually he went to join his friends and I went to get my treat. I tied them up to a nearby pole and went to place my order for dessert. King has not yet figured out that when I walk away, I am going to come back, and he had a mini-meltdown when he lost sight of me behind a car. So rather than relax in the shade, I used the time to train him: I’d walk away and go behind the car, check for my BeaverTail, then go back and praise a quiet King. Repeat until my BeaverTail was ready. I may have actually done so many laps that I worked off the sandwich. I had ordered the Oreo BeaverTail but in hindsight, that may have been sugar overload. I still finished it but I was in desperate need of a walk.
Being a Sunday, everything in sight was closed so I didn’t bother exploring the town and instead we walked through the nearby Killaloe Station Park. It was a small park and a short walk but it was shady and blissfully free of bugs.
Once we had piled back into the car, I pulled out my phone. It was too soon to go back home and I wanted to take a different route home anyway. And that was when I saw Lake of Bays on the map. Now I know there is a Lake of Bays Brewing Co. so I programmed that into the phone and away we went. The route would also take us through Algonquin Provincial Park which has a special place in my heart as I had been there backcountry camping with Piper many years ago. I suspected that it would be really buggy but if you never go, you’ll never know.
We were passing through Barry’s Bay when a sign caught my eye: Madawaska Coffee Co. Perfect timing. I had been craving a coffee but thought that my only options would be stale diner brew and had given up hope of finding a locally roasted americano. It was a good robust cup that needed only a splash of cream and a bit of sugar before we continued on.
With Highway 60 cutting across the lower section of Algonquin Provincial Park, you can enter without having to buy a permit. I’ll admit that I was completely pessimistic of the chances of being able to walk without being drained dry by the insect population so I didn’t bother with a permit. We passed by any trailhead with bog or pond in the name. When I saw Peck Lake, I thought it might be promising. I stepped out of the car just as a couple were leaving the trail and when the gentleman saw me, he called over “I hope you have bug spray”.
“Is it that bad?” I asked.
“Oh yeah. If you need bug spray, I have some,” and he held out a bottle to me. When he saw the dogs he just shook his head. “I wouldn’t take them in there.”
Well that settled it. I walked the dogs a couple of times around the parking area as I watched people come and go with bug net clothing and covering themselves with clouds of bug spray. Then, suddenly it seemed, the bugs found us and we hurried back into the car. Perhaps I shouldn’t have stopped to gawk at moose tracks in the soft gravel. I had wanted to get photos with the dogs for scale but they wanted back to the car and NOW. I guess I could have run back but after swatting several bugs off me, I decided that marks in the dirt weren’t worth it.
I was happy when we arrived at Lake of Bays Brewing and saw an outdoor patio with next to no one sitting there. That was because they had closed; 20 minutes before we showed up. I guess I should have checked the operating hours but who would have thought that they would shut down at 4:00 pm on a Sunday? One woman was staring at me as I got out of the car. I looked at her and gave my standard “How’s it going?” greeting complete with head nod and got no response from her. OK that’s weird.
Well if Lake of Bays was closed, Muskoka Brewery was not and it was close by…relatively. A friend and I had been talking about going and I knew that according to their website, dogs are allowed at the brewery. So we drove on over. I hopped out of the car to scope it out and see if there was an army of dogs inside before I brought King the Meathead out of the car. All I saw outside was a poodle-cross lounging on the grass beside the patio so I went inside to check. Again, I was met by stares and awkward glances. No one seemed keen to talk to me so I went to use the facilities and when I looked in the mirror it all suddenly made sense. I had blood and bug smears all over my face, neck, and arms. Oh jeez. After cleaning up and looking somewhat more presentable, I went back to the tasting room and found out that because they serve food now, dogs aren’t allowed on the patio. Dogs have to stay on the grass but they have clips for leashes on the side of the patio. Well that’s far from ideal but not a dealbreaker since we were already there. I ordered a flight, claimed a spot to sit, and brought my pups from the car. I sat on the floor of the patio and acted as gatekeeper to keep them from climbing up next to me. Jack tried once and then was content to watch the traffic on the road pass by. Leo and King, being the stubborn boys that they are, kept trying to sneak onto the patio. They were all really well-behaved and King didn’t pay the poodle any attention until it walked by us. Then for all of seven seconds he was a complete lunatic before he happily munched on the treat I practically shoved into his nose. It’s almost like a switch with him: “DOG! DOG!! DOOOOOGGGGG!!!!!! I’m going to tear it apart!!!! Oh treat! I love treats! I love you.” <snuggles and stump wags>
I put the dogs back in the car which I had moved into the shade before I settled up the bill; after I picked up a few souvenirs. Nothing too crazy, only a few of the beers that I had sampled. And a glass. And some of the unique gin that they make there and can’t be found anywhere else. Then onward to home!
We didn’t make it far when I saw a sign on the highway for Sawdust City Brewing Co. in Gravenhurst. Oh my. We stopped in the parking lot and at first I was apprehensive when I didn’t see a patio but I was happy to learn that the dogs would be allowed inside, if they were well-behaved. A quick glance to see if there were any other dogs (and there weren’t) and I smiled and chuckled and replied “Oh they’re good dogs” before I scurried out to the car. When they stepped inside, you could actually see them scan the room to size up the crowd. In a snap, they knew where the love table was and they practically pulled me over so they could meet their newest fans. In fact, after the initial rush of attention Jack actually defected over to the other table and made himself at home with them. Traitor. It’s not the first time he has done that and I know it won’t be the last. He soon moved over to be closer to the bar and set himself up as the newest greeter.
They have flights of four or five beer samples (I decided to go with four) and after a quick discussion with the staff, I asked that she surprise me. And surprised I was; in a good way. All of the beers were very unique and all very tasty. I don’t remember everything that I had since everything was listed on a large menu board that I couldn’t really read from where I sat and I wasn’t about the drag the pups around tables to figure it out. Suffice to say, it was all good. They also have some of the coolest swag of any brewery I have visited, even selling pillows and blankets. I gathered up a selection of beer, a glass, and oh these butter tarts from a local bakery look good too, then we went to the car.
Interested in more dog-friendly breweries? Check out our list here.
Rather than jump in and start driving, we went for a short walk. Almost directly behind the brewery, we found several statues of Norman Bethune near the Bethune Memorial House National Historic Site. At first I was laughing at King’s confusion about these weird people that don’t move, then read the nearby plaques as I had never heard of Norman Bethune. He was a doctor from Gravenhurst, an incredible and dedicated doctor who died of infection after cutting his finger during surgery in China. I did a little bit more research on him when I got home and saw that he was an early proponent for universal healthcare and had established remarkable innovations including mobile blood transfusion units and battlefield paramedics. Some of his accomplishments may not have been praised as much as they deserved because he was also a card-carrying member of the Communist party.
With the sun falling, we finished our walk and climbed back into the car. Gravenhurst is roughly an hour from home and it was still light out when we pulled into the driveway. The dogs dragged themselves from the car and collapsed on the couch after a quick drink. Needless to say, I was not far behind them.