What do you do when you have a few days of good weather and nothing planned? Well if you’re anything like me, you hit the road; the AdventureDawgs way. So, with a car full of dogs and a trunk full of gear, we headed out on the road with no plan in mind and no destination.
I decided to start driving north along the Trans-Canada Highway. Usually we leave home when it’s still dark so it was nice to see how it looked in the light as we leisurely drove north. I made a quick stop at the visitors centre just outside of Parry Sound and then we made another stop at the Seguin Trail.
I found a sign at the side of the trail that explained that this was a multi-use trail network that extends from Killbear Provincial Park to Algonquin Provincial Park. All I saw was a wide open gravel road and thought it would be a perfect place to stretch our legs and hopefully get some great photos. A notice posted at the parking area proclaimed that no vehicles were allowed on the trail without a permit. Content that we would have a peaceful stroll, we set off down the road under branches that formed perfect arches over top of us. There were no bugs. A slight breeze rustled the underbrush. Frogs boomed in the ponds to either side of us. A car suddenly rounded a bend, the narrow trail forcing us off to the side. Ok…that was a little weird but when I saw a house to one side, I thought that there must be a cottage or two. Or several as it seemed that car after car drove past. If they had all been going in the same direction I would have thought that they were going to or coming from a party. After pushing our way into trees for the umpteenth time, I abandoned our walk and returned to the car with no photos. Darn.
With the the dogs safely buckled into their harnesses, we turned back onto the Trans-Canada Highway. It may not have been a long walk but it had certainly stimulated the appetite so when I saw Captain Sammy’s Fish and Chips in Pointe au Baril, I figured that would be as good a place as any for a quick bite. I was going to bring the dogs with me as it is one of the many walk-ups along the highway but the large “No dogs” sign quickly ended that idea. Unfortunately, there weren’t any good places to sit with them and King fixated on every dog he saw which made him bark his fool head off. So when my locally caught whitefish and chips were ready, I got the dogs out of the car, poured them a bowl of water, and stood at the back of the car, using the trunk as a picnic table.
I had loaded the dogs back into the car when I saw a woman with a gorgeous dog that I soon learned was named “Her Royal Highness Xena Warrior Princess”. Yes that is her name. I was giving her highness some much deserved attention when I heard King behind me having an absolute meltdown in the car. I’m pretty sure I actually saw the car moving because of him throwing himself around the car to watch me. I think he could give any princess a run for their money. Shaking my head at King the Meathead, we continued north.
It was only about mid-afternoon but when I saw the signs for Grundy Lake Provincial Park, I stopped to see if they had any spots available. I had heard several friends talking about Grundy recently so it seemed like a sign since we were in the area. Well it was meant to be because we ended up finding a wonderful spot in White Pine campground. The site was massive and thickly wooded on three sides, perfect since there were dogs on both sites to either side of us. For the most part, my pack didn’t even know there were other dogs around until the Vizsla puppy on the right side went for a walk past our site. King took one look at that pup and let me know that he was not happy as he barked and lunged. Luckily I was able to distract him fairly quickly with lots of treats and he soon went back to playing with Leo.
While the site was large, it did not have many level places except for one patch close to the fire pit. Normally I don’t have a fire but this time I thought it would be fun. Of course I didn’t really realize how close the tent was until it was all set up but with the fly rolled back, that gave us some space so I didn’t burn the tent down.
As I was pitching the tent I noticed that the dogs, and King in particular, were staring at the site across from us and saw that a van had parked with two men and some boys. One man was talking so loudly that it seemed as though we were beside each other so I got to hear every word of his camping tutorial. Every. Single. Word. From where to situate your tent (I had to giggle when I looked at where mine was pitched) to how to build a fire, the whole campground was educated by this expert of the wilderness.
Needing some time away from the next Bear Grylls, I loaded the dogs into the car and we drove to Swan Lake Trail. It was a short trail that was labelled as being a hike of only 1.5 km, perfect for old Jack to navigate after a day on the road.
Swan Lake Trail is the kind of trail that I love: narrow and technical single-track with lots of rocks and roots. While it is a short trail and there aren’t any significant climbs, I would not recommend this trail for anyone with mobility issues or for strollers. There were a few places where I had to help Jack to get around some obstacles but we went slow and even took a break on some rock over the lake. I had expected that there would be some places for the dogs to get to the water’s edge and have a drink or swim but unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) there weren’t. While the dogs were a little upset by this, not having wet dogs in the tent is really for the best.
Check out these photos of the dogs posing. Getting them all looking in the same direction is a special kind of challenge.
When we got back to the site, Grizzly Adams was still lecturing about camping protocol so I poured myself some gin from Muskoka Brewery, which seemed appropriate since we were driving through Muskoka, and watched over my itty bitty fire. Even though I had spread out a blanket for the dogs and topped it with more of their blankets, they made no secret of the fact that they wanted to be inside the tent. Eventually I unzipped the door and let them all in, then crawled in a short time later. We all snuggled up together in a delightfully smoky-smelling tent and fell asleep.
We were awake before most of the campsites around us and we took advantage of the quiet to go for a walk. We started walking through the campground until we stumbled upon a trail. Now I’ve never been one to pass up on the chance to explore a trail so we followed it to where it ended at Gurd Lake Dam. The trail was wide and relatively level which made it perfect for Jack. The dam itself was small and kind of underwhelming but it was a great place to let the dogs splash in the water. After they tired of playing in the water, we returned to our site.
By the time we got back, it seemed as though the entire campground was awake. For the first in forever it seemed, I made breakfast in camp. I broke camp in between making my coffee and pancakes with cherries. Soon enough, we were on the road.
I continued north on the Trans-Canada Highway, which by this point had become Highway 17, until we came close to Sudbury. By that time, my morning coffee buzz had started to wane so I stopped at Salute Coffee Company. There are two locations in Sudbury however one is a quick hop off the highway which makes it perfect for this car full of road warriors. While there is a drive-thru, I prefer to go inside, use the facilities, and eye the baked goods. After a brief stop inside the coffee shop, I was soon sitting on some rocks at the side of the parking lot, eating a chicken toasty, while I had strings of drool dragged across my knee. What is a chicken toasty you ask? A bun topped with thick slices of chicken with a smear of cranberry sauce and melted brie. Oh my goodness was it a delicious sandwich and the chunks of chicken that fell soon found homes in little dog tummies.
With lunch safely stowed away and a hot coffee in my hand, we continued onto the Trans-Canada Highway. Normally I follow the highway to the west but I decided that this time we would drive east and see what Highway 17 is like across the province.
Since it is a major roadway across Ontario, the Trans-Canada Highway does have a lot of rest areas which is perfect for a car full of travellers. It gave us lots of places to stop and stretch our legs. This was especially important for Jack and helped to keep his old body from seizing up.
One thing that I could not help but notice was just how different the terrain was from east to west. When the road travels to the west, the land gets very rocky and hilly with spectacular views over the crazy blue waters of Lake Huron and the expansive Lake Superior. As we followed the highway to the east, we drove through gently rolling hills past several lakes and rivers. Many of the rest stops were also places used for launching boats which gave us lots of places with banks that gently sloped into the water and the dogs had fun swimming at almost every stop.
Eventually, it came time to find a place to stay for the night and when I saw Samuel do Champlain Provincial Park, I had to stop to ask about a spot for the evening. Luckily they had several and I soon pulled the car into a site just off the water of Amable du Fond River.
Much like our site the night before, this site was quite large. Unfortunately it was very rooty and the site itself was not very level so it took me a little while to try and figure out the best place to set up and orient the tent. Unlike the night before, I did not have some guy lecturing across from me. What I did have was a site of one woman, her daughter, and two of her friends. I know that because shortly after the tent had been pitched, they came over asking if they could visit the dogs. There was no way that I could say no. We had a long visit before they went back to their site and I put the dogs in the car to go to a trail.
The Forestry Research Trail was a short drive away although I was a little concerned that there was no parking area at the trailhead. I maneuvered the car as far off the road as I could and we set off down the trail. While the map that I had received from the gatehouse said that the trail was about a kilometre long, it was also rocky and rough. All of the travelling was taking its toll on Jack and he was soon having trouble navigating the trail so rather than try and push him, we turned around and went back to the car.
While the dogs ate their dinner, I made my evening meal of ramen and watched as King tried to push his way into the tent as Leo rolled in the dirt. Once I had finished dinner and put all of our dishes away, we all piled into the tent, and curled up to sleep.
We slept in late, snuggled warm in the the tent as we heard the rest of the campground come to life around us. Eventually I was able to extricate myself from under a heavy bulldog head and we emerged into the day light. We slowly followed the road until we arrived at the water of Moore Lake. After a splash in the water, we returned to the site and I broke camp.
As we were leaving, I decided to stop at Wabashkiki Trail. This trail was much easier for the dogs with stretches of wide open trail and several sections of boardwalk. There were still a few places where I had to help Jack over some rocks but for the most part, it was an easy trail for him to hike. Even though we walked past a lake, there weren’t any good places for them to swim so once we got back to the car, the dogs had a quick drink, and I soon had the air conditioning turned up to full blast as we continued east.
Shortly after noon, we stopped at Riverview Snack Bar for a burger, onion rings, and chocolate shake. The food was far superior to anything that could have been purchased at a nasty chain restaurant and the view could not be beat.
At some point, Highway 17 turned into the 417 and I realized that we had arrived at the eastern edge of Ontario. I was tempted to drive into Ottawa to visit with a friend of mine but by this time it was late afternoon and I was starting to feel tired. Rather than drive down to the 401 and take the major highway back west, I turned the car to follow Highway 7. While the road is smaller, the drive is almost the same amount of time and Highway 7 is a much more pleasant experience.
We eventually came to Havelock which I always seem to stumble across in the middle of the night. This time though, the Station Restaurant was still open and I thought that a pizza was in order. About 15 minutes later, we were back on the road with a meat lovers pizza perched on the passenger seat beside me. It was a good pizza but not the best I’ve ever had. Regardless, it more than kept me fed.
It was dark when we arrived home and the dogs rolled out of the car and into the house. This was King’s second road trip and his first real trip as an AdventureDawg; the kind of trip where we never know where we’re going to be and where we’re going to end up. If there were any doubts about how he would adjust to life on the road, this trip proved that he he going to be just fine.