With the uncertain state of affairs in Ontario, I did not get my hopes up about going camping when my next vacation rolled around. I thought that the chances of getting any campsites were slim to none. Luckily I was was wrong. Once I saw that sites were available in Lake Superior Provincial Park, I knew there was hope to get Lilly on the road.
Since she came to live with me, I have been working on getting her prepared for the long road trips that we love so much:
- She had been introduced to the tent in a safe and fun way. During the off-season, the tent is loosely packed in a large plastic bin so it needs to be packed up in it’s stuff sack. I take the opportunity to set it up and check it over before packing it up. This is the perfect time to let a new pup sit in the tent and see how they manage. With King and Leo helping, Lilly had no problem with the tent. Had she shown any anxiety, I would have left it up and made a game of sitting in it for progressively longer times with lots of treats and maybe a favourite blanket or toy. Luckily, all of my dogs have taken to the tent with no issues. The only concern that I had was that she might bark at every sound overnight but short of a front yard sleepout, there was no way to know until we got to the campground.
- Trail commands. While her leash manners are better, Lilly can be really bad with pulling. Fortunately there are a few commands that she is really good with on the trails:
- “Whoa” (which I pronounce as whhoooooooooooooo) means slow down.
- “Wait” or “hold up” to pause.
- “Step down”. I use this with “wait” on steep downhills so that I can get to a good place before having them step down to me. The last thing I want is for them to drag me down a steep and rocky trail.
- “This way” to come towards me. King has gotten to the point where I can use this command to guide him which is great when we're walking down a river.
- “Go on” means go ahead of me. I usually use this when we’re going uphill so they can use momentum to power up.
- Introducing her to car rides. With trips ranging from 20 minutes to a couple of hours, Lilly has become quite comfortable being in the car. I was not sure how she would manage day-long drives but I was prepared to stop every hour if need be to let them out for a break and leg stretch.
- Going new places. This was actually the hardest part: the pandemic and lockdown made travelling difficult. This also affected King because when Lilly gets excited, it acts as a bit of a trigger. I knew that she was reactive to other dogs and figured that was going to get worse at the site. I was hoping that as she became comfortable at the site it would get better but there was no way to know.
Ultimately, the only way I was going to know how things were going to go was to go and find out. Whatever happened, we would deal with it and work on improving with each trip. I'm not a believer in waiting for things to be "perfect"; sometimes you just need "good enough" to start and work from there.
As usual, the Standard Road Trip Rules would apply. The Road Trip Bottle was Barnburner Whisky.
I booked a site in the Agawa Bay campground of Lake Superior Provincial Park for three nights to start. Since it’s a relatively short drive from home (only about nine hours), I wasn’t worried about getting up at the crack of dawn. Unfortunately, I was overthinking and underthinking and we had a couple of false starts leaving before we were properly on the road. On the positive side, our late start meant that we could stop at Mariposa Market in Orillia for a much-needed coffee and blueberry fritter. There’s a reason why we always stop there: everything is out-freaking-standing.
The fritter held me over until we stopped at Salute Coffee Company in Sudbury for the next hit of caffeine which was accompanied by a beet chocolate cake. I had never seen such a thing and needed try a sample. For research purposes of course. The dogs came out of the car for a walk and some water. They put on quite a show as we walked next to the drive thru with Lilly pouncing on King and Leo rolling in the grass. I got so tied up that I was surprised I was able to stay vertical. I swear they sometimes act up just because they know they have an audience.
The drive was uneventful with a backseat full of quiet puppies. Lilly did exceptionally well and spent the entire time sleeping, waking up only when I made quick rest stops. That is, until we made it to Agawa Bay campground in Lake Superior Provincial Park. We are obviously going to have to work on her staying calm when I get out of the car because I could hear her from inside the hut as I was checking in. If there was ever a need to sneak in to a place, it is not going to happen. Luckily check-in was quick and we were soon heading to our site.
When I pick campsites, I try to be as far away from anyone else as I can be and in this case, we were at the far end of the campground. The great thing about Agawa Bay campground is the dog beach: as far from our site as we possibly could be. It’s not ideal but it was a large site with a nice view to the lake and not on the side of Highway 17. I made that mistake once and I will never make it again.
This was the first time that Lilly has been on a tie-out and she promptly got herself tied around the picnic table. Managing three different leads is challenging and something that I can never get right. I want them all to be able to reach each other but not get tangled up. I think this will be a work in progress for a long time.
Once the tent was set up, I collected the pups and we walked to the beach. They were actually really good with most of the dogs we passed; only one really kept King’s attention so I had to walk him on the opposite side of some trees while Leo rolled in the nearby sand. He has no shame with it either: he will literally drop with the slightest bit of sand.
When we got to the beach, I was delighted to see that we were the only ones there so I let Leo off his leash and used it to extend Lilly’s leash. King practically dragged me to the water and Lilly was right next to him…until she saw the waves come in and she literally slammed herself into reverse. They weren’t even big waves but she was not having anything to do with them. Not even watching King wade in up to his chest could convince her to follow him. So she won’t be body surfing any time soon.
We walked to the end of the beach and turned around to head back to our site. Because King has such big feet with deep toes, he tends to get sand rubs so we left the beach and walked along a path back to the road. By this time, the boys were tired and even Lilly was slowing down. I was pretty tired too so once we made it back, I didn’t even bother with dinner. King walked to the tent and tried to claw his way inside, having a little meltdown when I wasn’t fast enough to open it up for him.
On a side note: King is very particular about bedtime. When he thinks it’s time for bed, he will throw himself on the ground and bark until I open the tent for him. Sometimes he’ll paw at the fly first or try and wiggle his way under the fly. This usual happens around 7:00 to 8:00 pm. Leo will go in with him, probably because it’s the best chance to get a spot on my sleeping bag. They have two closed foam pads and a TON of blankets from microfleece to down comforters but they still want to sleep on my sleeping bag. Maybe it’s my inflatable pad. I might have to indulge in one for them too.
King and Leo were quite displeased when I took over my sleeping bag but eventually sprawled out on the blankets. Lilly curled up next to me and was passed out in no time.
The next morning, I broke out my GSI Selkirk 540 camp stove and made some oatmeal and coffee while I pondered the hikes we would go on today. Once the dishes were done, we piled into the car and headed out for a day of adventure.
Our first stop was Crescent Lake. It was listed as an easy hike but the guide book failed to mention that the trail was closed. We could still hike it but it had not been maintained. When we left the parking lot, it seemed fine. We found some of the backcountry sites on the side of the lake but from the sites, the hiking became almost unbearable. It would have been fine for just me and maybe one dog but with three leashes on an overgrown trail with fallen trees and branches, it was just frustrating for everyone so we turned around and went back to the car.
We went to Pinguisibi (Sand River) next. I expected the parking lot to be full of cars but thankfully it was not. I really enjoyed hiking this trail the last time we had passed through and it was just as much fun on this trip. We took the time to watch the waterfalls and the dogs made friends with a family that we passed on the trail. I was happy that we didn’t see any large dogs on the narrow trail; the dogs didn’t even see the little dog that was being carried by some people we passed at the trailhead.
They were still very lively when we got back to the car so we went for one more hike at Orphan Lake Trail. This is a beautiful trail that leads to the shore of Lake Superior before going back along Orphan Lake. There are a few parts of it that are extremely steep with uneven footing and it makes me glad that we’ve worked out the “wait” and “step down” commands.
By the time we made it back to the trailhead, I had some very tired dogs and we made the short drive back to our site. Once we parked, I realized that the family that we had met in the trail were our across the road neighbours and they stopped by a few times to visit. It turns out the father was a vet and one of the daughters had just been accepted to vet school. I should have asked where they were but at that time of night, my brain was not exactly firing on all cylinders. Which may have been why I decided to cook over a campfire instead of using the stove.
It seemed like a great idea until I could barely get the fire lit or keep it going. King and Leo went straight to bed and Lilly just watched me try and cook with an increasingly perplexed look on her face. Eventually I gave up and ate mostly cooked potatoes topped with a couple of eggs and some cheese. We went to the nearby dishwashing station to do the dishes before we collapsed into bed.
We woke to a cloudy morning and the dogs seemed to be in no rush to get going so I decided to do something different for breakfast. I added hot chocolate mix to my instant pancakes which seemed like a great idea. Too bad I didn’t check the pan temperature before adding the oil. I had forgotten that the camp stove runs hot and oh boy does it ever. It was a mess in the pan but I figured it doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to taste good. That was when I realized that I had lost my fork. Not just any fork: it was an ultra low-weight backpacking fork. I scoured the dishes I had washed the night before and checked the gear bin with no luck. I must have forgotten it in the dark at the sink. Luckily I had a backup that came with my cookware but it was not the same. I’m not ashamed to admit that I miss that fork.
While I was preparing my meal, some other campers were packing up to leave and asked if I wanted their leftover firewood. Seeing as how firewood costs around $8 a bag, I was quick to accept. My elated feeling quickly turned to dismay when they dropped loads of brush and dead wood next to my firepit. Gathering and burning dead wood is against the rules and had they left before me, I would have gone and thrown it all back around their campsite. Unfortunately, I was faster than they were. I wasn’t about to linger and waste perfectly good hiking time to dispose of ill-gotten firewood so it was going to have to wait.
After I finished the disaster that was breakfast, the entire pack came with me to wash the breakfast dishes, scouring the road and washing station for that fork before we headed out on the road. We started our day of hiking at Trapper’s: an easy 1.5 km (1 mile) loop. I thought it would be a perfect warm-up for the rest of the day. I hopped out of the car, gathered my camera, GoPro, and dogs and we set off down the trail.
It was an easy trail with a boardwalk over a small pond. The dogs were mostly good, except that Lilly got overly excited at a couple with a Golden Retriever on the boardwalk and it felt as though she were trying to rip my arm off. It took a little bit of work to get her focused on me again but eventually she cooled off. Then we got back to the trailhead. I was walking to the garbage bin with some poop bags and didn’t see a dog walk out from around a car. Well Lilly and King did. King wasn’t too bad, just some stress barking but if there was any wildlife Lilly’s barking sent it packing. Facepalm.
I deposited my pups in the car and we set off for our next hike at Noisy Bay. This is a trail that I have not hiked before so I wanted to make sure that we were ready for great photos and video…and wait… where’s my GoPro? It was in a small handheld gimbal. I have the gimbal but not the… oh noooooooooooo… I was pretty sure I had it when we hiked Trapper’s. So back in the car to drive 30 kms (almost 19 miles) back the way we came. Scoured the parking lot: nothing. Hiked the trail again: nothing. Oh (insert expletive here). Side note: I didn't take pictures either time we hiked it.
I stopped at the park office to see if anyone had turned it in. No luck there either. Well that’s no good. It was an older GoPro but it’s the fact that now some random strangers may have footage of my dogs and those really creepy under chin views when you turn it on that bothers me. If I’m lucky it rolled into a hole and is gone forever.
Not much to do but drive back to Noisy Bay and continue on our hike. I’m not going to let a lost fork and GoPro ruin our trip. I missed the trailhead for Noisy Bay because I initially didn’t see it across the highway from the Fenton-Treeby parking lot. I had to drive for a while before I could find a safe place to turn around. It was just not my day.
Finally we made it back to the parking lot. The sign for Noisy Bay trailhead is across Highway 17 from the parking lot. Which means you have to wait for a break in the traffic. Luckily, traffic was light and we didn’t have long to wait but it’s still a little nerve-wracking standing on the side of the TransCanada Highway as transport trucks speed by.
That was all forgotten when we got onto the trail. The guidebook lists it as a trail with moderate difficulty and the footing gave us plenty to worry about other than a missing GoPro. We were winding our way through a relatively wide section of trail when I saw a grouse poke out of the bushes and scurry down the trail ahead of us, eventually losing sight of it around a bend. Unfortunately Lilly saw it too. My GAWD does that pup have a set of lungs on her. I thought that the grouse (and everything else within a five mile radius) would have cleared out. Nope. That bird walked back towards us and turned and ran away again. I waited until Lilly and, to a lesser degree King, regained their composure before heading off after the grouse. I thought that with all the noise and the four of us that bird was long gone. NO! It walked down the trail, lowered its head, and RAN AT US. I just stood there, holding onto well over 100 pounds of dogs while we were charged by a 10 pound bird. I can only assume that it was trying to lure us away from a nest. I would have happily left it if it had just gotten out of the way without giving me a back and core workout.
The trail to Noisy Bay is a linear out and back and while the trail is only 5 km (3 miles) it is probably the most varied trail we hiked. We went from bright and wide trail, to narrow winding and hilly trail, to a wide rocky patch, until we finally emerged on the shore of Lake Superior. We spent some time walking the rocky beach before we turned and headed back to the car.
The dogs seemed to have a little more energy in them so we made one final stop at Nokomis Trail. This is another trail that I haven't hiked so I wasn't sure what to expect. We didn’t make it very far. After a very steep climb to a stunning view over Lake Superior, the dogs were done. Rather, I know they would have kept going but I didn’t want to push them even more. King in particular seemed exhausted. After all, I can’t imagine it’s easy to lug around that mass of muscle.
Since we were driving by the dog beach anyway, I asked the dogs if they wanted to stop. I didn't expect a response so I was surprised when I got perked up heads and little whines. We weren't at the beach for very long. I think King just wanted to walk in some water and flop in the sand.
When I parked the car, King practically rolled out and went straight to their blanket. We were just getting settled in when the park ranger I had spoken to at the office stopped by my site. “Oh I didn’t know it was you!” Well sir, you know how to make a girl feel special. That’s when he mentioned the rather obvious pile of wood next to the fire pit. Facepalm. I explained the misunderstanding without hopefully giving away the source of the firewood then quickly threw it into the trees around the site. Now for more important things to worry about.
Well for King and Leo, that was bed. King actually tried to paw his way into the tent and practically bowled me over to get inside. Once the boys were snuggled in, Lilly and I turned to dinner.
A light drizzle had started to fall but with a good bit of tree cover, I was able to comfortably cook a pretty tasty meal. I started by boiling a pot of water and added two eggs whose shells I had washed. After seven minutes, I fished the eggs out and tossed them in my wash bucket, covering them with cold water. I then added some dehydrated vegetables and a pack of ramen noodles with the seasoning packet. As the noodles cooked, I peeled the eggs. After three minutes were up, I took the pot off the stove, added in a few spoons of three cheese powder, and topped that off with the eggs that I sliced open. It was so good, I didn’t stop until it was all gone. And I didn't take a picture. My bad.
Lilly and I took the dishes to the wash sink, luckily without losing anything in the process, and crawled in with the boys. In no time at all, we were all out.
I awoke to the sound of rain falling on the tent. I waited, hoping that it would stop for just a little bit but no luck. Fortunately it was a light rain so we still went for a short walk and my delicate little ones were happy to jump in the car with some food to wait for me while I broke camp.
Normally packing up is very orderly and I usually take my time. This time, I packed everything up in the tent before loading the car so it was a couple of trips with blankets and sleeping bags and sleeping pads. Then came the tent itself. Rather than rolling everything up nice and tight, I thought that I would try stuffing the fly and tent into the stuff sack. Let me tell you: I won’t do that again. I did not save any time at all and I think I wasted even more because whenever I shoved on the fly, some other part of it would pop out. It was even worse with the tent since it would balloon out. Hey lesson learned right?
With everything packed up and me wearing a fresh layer of pine needles and dirt, we headed off north on Highway 17. Because it was a Monday, all the smaller local establishments were closed which was too bad because a cup of coffee would have been perfect. On the other hand, the Morganator burger from The Golden Rail in Schreiber sure hit the spot. Then onward to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.
I had booked us a site that was near the boat launch. It looked like a large site, it was close to water taps, and the vault toilets which was appealing. The downside was that it was near the boat launch but I figured that since we’d be exploring during the day, we would miss most of the traffic. It wasn’t the people that I was really worried about though; it was other dogs.
So of course, I parked the car and brought the dogs out on their long lines, which were fastened so that they did not go anywhere near the road. As I started to set up camp, they heard the sound of dog collars tinkling across the road. That set them off and King and Lilly lunged in that direction. Now my friends, I have made no secret that King is reactive to dogs with definite fear-aggression. With Lilly, I think she was never properly exposed to other dogs so when she sees a dog, she barks and yelps her head off then crouches down as she gets closer to it. Thanks to covid, finding dogs to socialize with is even harder than it was before and there aren’t any dogs around where I live that are in any way close to balanced. I try my best to minimize their barking to avoid bothering other people and ease their stress to help them get better at these situations. I cannot begin to imagine how they must feel. King has gotten SOOOOO much better but being in a new place and having Lilly losing her mind doesn’t help. You'll see why I’m going into this.
After I had set up camp, we took a long walk around the campground and then went straight to bed. That’s right. No dinner, no fire, just crawl into bed, and go to sleep.
The next day was sunny and just the right temperature for some hiking. I studied the trail map and picked out a whole bunch of trails to hike. That’s when I realized that Sleeping Giant is one of the places that will name sections of trails rather than just having it one trail. So you look at the list of trails and say “Oh this one is only 5 km so that’s perfect. But I have to hike 20 km from the trailhead just to get there.” It’s so aggravating. Regardless, I knew where we were going to start and with the dogs loaded, we headed out.
The South Kabeyun Trailhead is a short drive from the campground. To get to the Sea Lion Trail, you have to hike about one kilometre down the Kabeyun Trail. I wanted to go to the Sea Lion Trail because I knew that we were going to have some amazing spots for photos, which is only fitting for Lilly’s first camping trip. While Kabeyun Trail is wide and relatively level, the short Sea Lion Trail has a difficult section at the start, with a steep and rocky trail. If you need mobility devices, I would say this is not a trail to use and just forget about a stroller. After the first section, the trail leads past a rocky beach which the dogs wanted to check out before climbing up to a view of a rock arch. The trail then goes back the same way.
Back at the Kabeyun Trail, we continued south another five kilometres until we came to Tee Harbour Trail. I stopped to let the dogs rest on the beach before we turned around and headed back. It was really tempting to keep going but the farther we head down the trail, the farther we have to get back home and we hadn’t done as many conditioning hikes as I would have liked. At least going back to the car forces the dogs to rest and I can see how they act when we get to the next spot.
As we were getting closer to the trailhead, we met more people. I knew it was just a matter of time before we met another dog. The first dog we met was off-leash and running with it’s owners who were on bikes. The woman in the lead had to corral the dog with her bike because it wasn’t coming to man behind her that was calling it. Well that put the dogs on edge. Not even a minute later, there’s another dog. The dogs had barely calmed down when we saw another few dogs coming down the trail. Oh freaking great. I did a double take and realized it was the people in the camper across from us. I had no idea that they had three dogs because I had only seen one of them. I had my pack off the side of the trail to let them pass and I know what a sight (and sound) it must have been. Finally they got by me and we made it back to the car.
I had never driven past the trailhead before so I continued south until we got to the town of Silver Islet. The first thing that I noticed was the deer grazing on the side of the road. As we drove, I couldn’t help checking out the houses. Living right on the shore of my favourite lake is pretty tempting…For some reason, the houses reminded me of Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia.
The road looped around until we were heading back north again and then I saw the sign for Middlebrun Bay Trail. The trail guide says that it leads to a secluded sandy beach and that sounded perfect. While the entire trail is an out-and-back of almost 10 km, the beach is just over two from the trailhead. We didn’t get past the beach. There was no one there. Not a soul. So I took the chance to kick my shoes off and we slowly walked the length of the beach, pausing to let Leo roll in the sand every dozen steps or so. We walked back, then continued past the trail to a flat rock in the water. It was wonderfully warm from the sun and I sat and watched the dogs sniff around. King was fascinated by a crack in the rock. Lilly just kept buzzing around with that busy beagle nose. Leo was upset that we had moved away from the sand. It was so soothing just sitting there and not having to worry about anything. Well except maybe the clouds gathering over the trees. Oh my…time to move on.
We were almost at the car when it started to drizzle and then it began to rain. Rather than head back to the campsite, we drove into Thunder Bay. I had a crazy craving for fish and chips so what better way to appease the hunger? After picking up some beer at Sleeping Giant Brewing Co. of course. I needed to go that way for gas anyway. As we were leaving the gas station, I saw a sign for a bakery and thought I’d stop and grab something for later. Not only was it a bakery but it was The Persian Man. I have never had Persians but kept being told I had to try them so I knew it was a sign. Persians are kind of like a cross between a cinnamon roll and a berry-frosted donut and are a local specialty.
With a box of Persians secure on my front seat, we drove to 5 Forks Restaurant for fish and chips. The reviews were raving about how good it was. I should have known as soon as I walked in the door that it was too fancy. The fish was crusted with salt and vinegar chips before being cooked. It was good but not what I was after.
With a full belly, we went back to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. The rain had stopped during the drive so we had one last hike at Joe Creek Nature Trail. This is a short trail and is easier to navigate than many of the other trails we had hiked; perfect for tired pups. And it runs next to a pretty river.
As I was driving back to the campground, I noticed something on the side of the road opposite from the driveway. I was slowing down to make the turn and slowing down even more because I wasn’t sure if whatever it was was going to run across in front of me. Holy cow it’s a black bear. That’s when I did the stupid tourist thing and stopped on the side of the road to get a picture. Insert facepalm here.
We had just settled back at camp, me with a beverage and the dogs with their food and water, when a car stopped in front of the site. A woman leaned out the window and asked “Are you here alone?” Ummmmm not quite sure how to answer that. Think quick… “Maybe,” I replied.
She laughed and explained that she was travelling alone and was looking for someone else that was travelling alone to go hiking tomorrow. Oh okay, suspicion level fading… or maybe that’s what she wants me to think… no definitely fading. We agreed to meet tomorrow and she drove off as quickly as she had appeared. I’ve made it kind of a rule to go along with any opportunity that presents itself (as long as it’s safe) so we’d see how it played out.
Even though it was still early, we all climbed into the tent to relax. Since there was no internet service, I sat with the dogs and scribbled down our adventures of the day. I heard a couple approach the couple across from us and start asking them about their camper van. As my goal is to someday also own a camper van, I was paying more attention than I normally would. Ok yes I was eavesdropping but considering I could hear them from across the road, I don’t feel too bad about it. After they got comfortable with each other, the conversation turned to dogs and that was when the woman mentioned the dogs across from them. Wait a minute. She’s talking about us. This woman went on to tell these strangers that they had just met about how vicious my dogs were and lunged at them on the first day, about how she won’t walk by the site anymore and goes around so she can sneak in the back. Then of course, we got to the incident in the trail earlier and how I was barely holding onto the dogs and the little Boston was just sitting there shaking. Oh it was so sad it just awful. Now I was fully prepared to let that all slide and was actually in the process of changing into my pajama pants when I heard “I don’t know what she’s doing. She should get a trainer or something.” OK that does it. Welcome to Snapsville. Population: You. I put my big girl pants back on, clipped the leash on Lilly (since King and Leo had no interest in budging) and we stepped out of the tent.
They all looked at me and then went back to their conversation. Oh no folks. You asked for it. So I very politely, actually starting with “Excuse me” instead of what I really wanted to say, before I then proceeded to explain how I had just gotten Lilly, how this was her first trip, how she had not been properly socialized, how King had saved Leo from getting murdered (yes I used murdered), how we get attacked by dogs near us, and so on. As I rhymed off all of these facts, I watched her husband turn and start edging away. Eventually she had her hand resting on her chest and just kept saying “Oh bless you for doing that.” She may have been lying but I didn’t care. You had back down in front of your new little friends so I count that as a win.
I’ll tell you something: it was hard to hear what she had said. It was so hard not to scream at her for all these assumptions and all these accusations. I should have asked her who these trainers are that can snap their fingers and make all the undesirable dog behaviour stop overnight. If anyone knows any, send me their info. And I’m not ashamed to admit that what she said had really hurt me. As we sat back in the tent, and I reclaimed my sleeping bag from Leo and King, I kept hearing everything she had said. I work hard, I work so hard to give my dogs a good life and I try to help make their lives better. That means helping them to cope with new situations. Part of me wanted to drag King out and show her the puncture marks on his head. Seeing as how Moby Dick couldn’t wrap his mouth around that meathead, it must have happened as a pup. Never mind protecting his little big brothers from a vicious attack. Let’s not forget all the people around us that get rescues but then leave them in the yard or maybe walk them around the block. And why worry about fences. I can’t tell you how much fun I had when two Great Danes tried to bite King in the face. Now we don’t run a gauntlet with every walk and meeting other dogs is pretty rare but even one incident like that sets back his progress. Don’t even get me started on the spazz that is Lilly.
I did not sleep well that night as I kept replaying everything I could have said and should have said in my head but eventually sleep did win.
My plan had been to get up early and make a nice breakfast and coffee while we waited for our hiking buddy. What actually happened was I made a cup of coffee and worked on a Persian. She showed up just as I was packing the stove and we went back to South Kabeyun Trailhead. She had originally suggested walking the Head Trail which takes you to the head of the Sleeping Giant. Once I read the description and saw that it has the steepest trail in the park, I told her that I wasn’t going to do that with the dogs. It’s not the up that’s the problem; I was worried about the downs and thankfully she agreed. So we set back off down the Kabeyun Trail, passed by Tee Harbour and continued on.
Now I’ll admit, I wasn’t really paying attention to where we were going. She had a map and seemed to know where she was going. At some point, we ended up on an outcropping of rock that jutted out into Lake Superior but we weren’t really sure where we were. It was irrelevant because we decided that it was time to head back anyway. She was moving on to another park that night and had a drive to make. I had a tired bulldog.
It wasn’t until after we drove off that I thought I should have asked her for contact info. I had that rattling around in my head, wondering if it would have been weird. Then I thought about talking to the across the road neighbours again, having a calm discussion without an audience, and oh there they are driving out. Huh. Probably for the best.
I wasn’t sure if they were gone or just out for a hike until I parked the car and indeed, their site was vacant. In some corner of my brain I wondered if I had anything to do with it. Within hours, the site had another van parked in it so I’m going to say that it wasn’t me.
After a quick snooze, the dogs seemed to want to go out again. Who am I to slow them down? We all piled back in the car and drove north to the Thunder Bay Lookout Road. It's a rough road so if you have a delicate car, you might want to skip this. The parking lot isn't a parking lot: just cleared sections of flat rock. The view from the lookout is pretty spectacular. We started off down the trail but at one point, there's an almost sheer rock face to climb down. A person could do it but there was no way I was going to try and get King down that. We let the trail win this hike.
I cooked up another bowl of cheesy camp ramen and it tasted even better this time. I was sitting on the blanket with the dogs when our new across the road neighbour asked if she could meet the dogs. Why couldn’t we have had this couple before? Especially since we were leaving the next morning.
The sun was falling when Leo decided it was bed time, a sentiment that was echoed by King. Leo actually managed to burrow under the fly before I could get to him and I barely got the door unzipped before they practically ran me over. I wasn’t quite ready for bed so Lilly and I walked down to the boat launch for some pictures. She seemed very interested in the pelicans that were floating by us. I had wanted some dusk photos but I just could not keep my eyes open and we had a long drive ahead of us so Lilly and I went back to the tent and climbed into bed.
As usual, my plan for an early start flew right out the window. We did not have an early start, a fact that I knew was going to bite me later. When I had seen that sites were available in Killbear Provincial Park, I was very excited. I had never been there but everyone I knew talked about it. It was almost impossible to get sites but I had found one. One. So I had booked it for two nights. The problem is that it’s a 12 hour drive from Sleeping Giant.
There was no time to make coffee or breakfast since I had put sleep ahead of all that. The dogs climbed into the car to wait for me to finish breaking camp and we were back out on the road. It was an uneventful drive, stopping only at rest stops, for gas, and to grab a taco bowl and potato-onion pretzel (oh and a coffee) at End of the Line cafe in Wawa.
It was well after 10:00 pm when we got to Killbear and I had to pitch the tent in the dark by the light of a lantern and headlamp. The hardest part was choosing the spot to put the tent but eventually it happened, despite the caterpillars crawling all over everything. That’s right: we were there in the middle of an outbreak of gypsy moths. Apparently this happens every seven to ten years but I don’t think I remember it ever being so bad. You could actually hear them chewing. Although, I’ll take caterpillars over ticks climbing on the tent any day.
Even though it had been a day of driving, we did get to sleep pretty quickly. That was until about 4:00 am when someone in a site near us decided to play car jockey. Doors opening and slamming, talking, engines revving, more slamming, more revving. That went on for almost an hour. Finally they did whatever they were trying to do and I fell back asleep.
When I woke up the next morning, it was to the sound of rain falling on the tent. Oh great. More rain. I don’t mind the rain myself but three wet dogs in a little tent is not my idea of fun. I checked the weather and it looked like it was supposed to be a light drizzle. Then thunderstorms. For a week. Well that isn’t going to happen.
When we stepped out of the tent, I was shocked by two things: the site was massive. As in MASSIVE. That’s likely because there’s no cover between the sites but it was surprising to see. Second was how much devastation had been wrought by the caterpillars. It seemed as though the trees had been almost completely denuded. It was like being there before the snow but without the fall colours and it was warm.
I took the opportunity before the heavy rains came to walk the dogs on the Lighthouse Trail. It’s a short trail that climbs over some rocks and I could see it being difficult if you have shoes without good treads.
I decided to ask at the park office about leaving a day early and as long as I was out by 2:00 pm, I’d get a partial refund. Sweet. That left us with some time so we drove into nearby Parry Sound and stopped at Trappers Choice Restaurant for breakfast. I placed my order to go, explaining that I had dogs with me. That piqued the staff's interest so while I waited for the food, I brought the dogs out of the car to walk around the parking lot. My little ploy worked and the staff were in love with them. They gave me directions for a good spot to eat but I got a little confused and just pulled into a random parking lot. The dogs helped with breakfast. They’re good like that.
Even though I had ordered a coffee with breakfast, I felt like another was in order and I made a quick stop into Ogiimaa Cafe. I ended up leaving with a buttertart too. The coffee was outstanding and the buttertart was pretty good too.
Luckily, the rain was still holding off and I was able to break camp without any troubles. In fact, a woman walked by the site with a dog and my three didn’t even bat an eye. I just stared at them like "NOW you're fine?" It was while I was loading the car that it hit me: this was the last site that had been available at this campground. Now there was hardly anyone there. I guess I wasn’t the only one bugging out because of the weather.
Some of the campsites across from us were on Parry Sound so we the opportunity to visit the real Parry Sound. King and Lilly were quite displeased that I wouldn’t let them go swimming and Leo was unhappy with a lack of rolling. Eventually I pulled my water babies back and loaded them in the car. After a brief stop to check out, we were headed home.
The thunderstorms did hit and they hit hard. I was really glad that we had left as we negotiated the highways. We did make one more stop: Cafe Seoulista in Orillia. I have been wanting to visit this Korean cafe because I love bubble tea and bingsu and they sell both! I didn’t even realize that it’s right next to the highway. I have been driving by for years and never clued in (here’s another facepalm).
I love the textural contrast of the cold liquid and chewy tapioca pearls in bubble tea. Bingsu is shaved milk ice and it is so addictive. I walked into the cafe empty-handed and walked out with green tea bingsu and a few containers of coffee bread. I have never even heard of coffee bread but it is exactly what it sounds like: a coffee-flavoured bread shaped like coffee beans. I should have taken photos but I had started into the bingsu before I got back to the car.
After that, it was less than an hour until we made it home. Lilly’s first camping trip was a mostly success. I had expected her to be insane in the tent, either barking at everything or trying to claw her way out and she did neither. She did try and get herself into my sleeping bag every night. Every. Night. It got to the point where I just unzipped my bag so she could curl up at my belly and throw blankets over the bag and King because he wanted to snuggle too. Leo only wants to cuddle if he’s in the foot of my bag. Then he gets too hot and walks over my chest and throat to go sleep in a corner. I have a baseline for what we have to work on and we will continue to work on her reactivity to other dogs and being left alone in the car. There’s no doubt about it: she’ll make a good AdventureDawg.