Aaron Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

This park was stinky. Literally. I pulled into a campsite generously decorated with dog poop. While I was cleaning up it occurred to me that I had a neighbour who either lets their, evidently large, dog run loose, or is the sort of person who watches their dog poop in someone else’s campsite and thinks, “I’m just gonna leave that sitting right there.” I was looking forward to meeting this person, and their dog. It was going to be great. I knew it.

Sure enough, on Milo and my first walk two retriever-ish looking dogs galloped toward us while their owners yelled from their camp chairs, you guessed it, “don’t worry, they’re friendly.”

I yelled back, “I’m not.” It just popped out, no mincing of words at all. And at that moment, it was true. “Those dogs need to be on leashes.”

The indignant response was, “I don’t know why you’re upset. We haven’t had any problems.”

I saw this as invitation to describe the poop, and, you know, the law, which didn’t go over so well. Who would’ve thought? The best part was when they explained to me, and my fabulous gigantic German Shepherd Milo, that if I didn’t like dogs, I probably shouldn’t go camping. Oh boy, time to walk away. That time was actually long past, but as they say, better late than never. Some people.

In case you are wondering, here are some relevant bits of law:

Domestic and other animals

6. (1) No person in control of a domestic animal shall permit the animal to be,

(a) in a provincial park unless the animal is secured on a leash that does not exceed two metres in length;  …

(4) No person shall permit a domestic animal, while in a provincial park, to

(a) make excessive noise;

(b) disturb other persons;

(c) damage Crown property or vegetation;

(d) chase or harass wild animals or birds;

(e) injure, or attempt to injure, a person or other domestic animal.  O. Reg. 347/07, s. 6 (4).

(5) The person in control of a domestic animal shall immediately dispose of excrement from the animal in such manner and at such location that it will not cause a health hazard or public inconvenience.  O. Reg. 347/07, s. 6 (5).  …

I am sure these people are not a permanent fixture at Aaron Provincial Park, but I let them colour my experience of the place more than I should’ve. Thank heavens I discovered the group campground, a grassy field with picnic tables, empty. Milo and I spent a lot of time there romping, playing tug, training, and reading magazines (Milo didn’t read magazines as much as sat there and chewed a toy).

a black and tan German shepherd dog looking up at the camera. Fis shiny black nose is the highlight of the picture.

I can’t stay mad when I look at this big happy nose. Also, notice the leash…

Aaron Provincial Park is conveniently located on the Trans Canada highway just East of Dryden, Ontario. It lacks a sanctioned off leash pet exercise area.

Rainbow Falls Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

Rainbow Falls Provincial Park straddles the TransCanada Highway, making it a convenient stopover if your trip takes you between Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay. The rugged mixed forest, rocky outcrops, and island dotted lakes of Superior’s North Shore inspired some of my favourite Group of Seven paintings. It’s a beautiful drive. Keep your gas tank on the high side of empty though, there are some long stretches between gas stations.

A black and tan German Shepherd on a long leash clamber over grey rocks

The gorgeous hike along the this park’s namesake falls is difficult. It seems weird to call a hike with a boardwalk difficult, but oh the stairs, it feels like you’re taking the stairs up the Eiffel Tower. I’ve been working on gratitude lately, and the walk up these stairs made me grateful for Milo the AwesomeDog’s powerful leash pulling.

Bright green ferns in the foreground of a waterfall cascading over grey rocks.

a bright campfire with sticks positioned at right angles from each other

My firewood appears to be left over from a building project allowing for a geometrically pleasing camp fire.

Milo and I stayed at Whitesand Lake Campground, it was nicely wooded, but the trees were mature and there wasn’t much as much privacy providing understory between my campsite and my neighbours as I would have liked.

Also, this park lacks an off leash dog area and I saw more off leash dogs in the campsite than I’d seen in other parks. I expect some people will give their dogs off leash time whether or not there’s a legal spot to do it–an argument for putting dog exercise areas in more parks. Either that or hiring more park rangers!

 

A lake surrounded by mixed forest and emptying over the top of a waterfall. A big dog nose is poking into the. bottom right corner of the picture.

Milo can’t keep his nose out of my pictures.

The beach at Pancake Bay Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

Oh my heavens, the white sand beach at Pancake Bay Provincial Park goes on and on and on. Since the bay is shallow the water isn’t as cold as you’d expect for Lake Superior. Some folks call it warm. They’re wrong. But, it is less cold. It only took a minute or two for me to catch my breath after jumping in.

a white sand beach between blue water and a pine and spruce forest.

How many dog beaches look like this?

The electrical spots in this campground are packed pretty tight and didn’t appeal to me. If you want a spot that feels more remote, forgo the electricity and get a campsite in the 400’s. Even though that end of the campground is a bit more rustic than the rest of the place, it boasts a modern comfort station with showers and laundry facilities.

I booked a site in the 400’s because it was close to the pet exercise area and the dog beach, both of which are fabulous. The pet exercise area is a green meadow sprinkled with daisies and plenty big for Milo to enjoy a good game of Frisbee.

The dog beach is continuous with, and just as nice as, the other beaches in the campground. The sand is soft and the water clear.

a German shepherd leaping forward on a white sand beach

I’m always impressed by Milo’s intensity when he’s chasing a ball.

A German shepherd splashing though blue water.

I enjoyed a nice swim with Milo (one of my favorite things), and Milo chased his ball into the water (one of his favourite things). Our afternoon at this beach was lovely.

a black and tan German shepherd dog sitting on a white beach under a blue sky.

Pancake Bay is a great place to enjoy a couple of restful days with your dog.

Mississagi Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada: Here be dragons

My navigation system expressed some concern about Mississagi. On the way to our campsite it warned me that we were entering an area of “incomplete map data,” and told me to “proceed with caution.” In my perfect world, it would have said, “here be dragons.” I was so pleased–this was the sort of camping I feared I’d lost when I bought a travel trailer.

My last stop was at Grundy Lake Provincial Park—a large professionally run park with programing and staff in pressed uniforms. A tousled teenager in a red T-shirt staffed the gate at Mississagi. The park only has 60 campsites, and I saw a total of six people during my stay. There was no cell service.

path from campsiteMy campsite had a path down to a tiny rocky beach and Milo and I spent most of our time sitting by the water’s edge. Every once in a while, I’d trundle up to the camper to get a snack and refresh my insect repellent. One afternoon a couple canoed by. That is all.

silhouette of a German shepherd dog at the edge of a blue lake surrounded by a pine forest.

This place is perfect, and I’ll be back.

Swan Lake Trail

During our stay at Grundy Lake Provincial Park Milo and I went on a guided hike along the Swan Lake Trail. I’ve found the Ontario Parks websites informative and easy to navigate. Here is how the Grundy website describes this hike:

Swan Lake Trail – 1.5 km loop (1 hour) moderate to difficult. 
Wind through a special area in the park which is protected as a nature reserve. This short hike crosses rocky ridges and lookouts as well as a variety of interesting wetlands. The centerpiece of the trail includes a boardwalk, where wetland plants and animals can be studied. While there, be sure to watch for the Great Blue Heron, beaver, waterfowl, bitterns and other varieties of birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, deer, moose and carnivorous plants.

dark green coniferous trees reflected in a body of water.

Swan Lake

Three crisply uniformed Park staff members lead this hike.

Close up of pine needles on a branch

I learned that White Pines look fluffy and have five needles in a bunch. ‘White,’ has five letters: five needles–I won’t forget this!

From their new boots and notepads, I assume two of them were trainees. They showed us where the rocks were scratched by glaciers, identified carnivorous plants in the nutrient-poor lake water, and even pointed out a pine tree where a black-backed woodpecker nested the previous season. Our questions received full, interesting answers.

As we were getting ready to set out I asked the hike leader if I could bring my dog. She said, “Absolutely, as long as he is on a leash.” Hurray. Milo flirted outrageously with the other hikers. When we stopped to look at something I put him in a down-stay to keep him out of the way, but he was so besotted with the hike leader that he’d belly crawl up to her, all the while staying ‘down.’ Not obedience competition winning behaviour, but he made the crowd smile.

This hike was beautiful and fun, and I am grateful I could share it with Milo.

German Shepherd laying on a grey rock.

Milo taking a little break from the Swan Lake hike.

Grundy Lake Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada–great for dogs!

Grundy Lake Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada is a good place to camp with your dog. Except for the beaches, you can take your leashed dog everywhere in the park, and there is a waterfront leash-free pet exercise area. The pet area, adjacent to a parking lot and boat launch, is not the prettiest part of the park, but it does offer a lovely view across the lake, and Milo didn’t seem to notice the aesthetic drawbacks.

grundy dog beach 1

Pet exercise area at Grundy Lake Provincial Park.

Probably due to the convenient parking, this pet exercise area gets used. Every time Milo the AwesomeDog and I showed up we met one or two other dogs. Since people tended to keep a close eye on their dogs I felt comfortable letting Milo enjoy this swimming spot.

German shepherd running along the shore of a lake.

Just a dog and his ball at the beach.

Although when one woman did show up with five kids and two big dogs, Milo and I beat a quick retreat. That just seemed like a disaster waiting to happen. Overall though, Milo spent enough time swimming to tucker him out, which is really the point.

German shepherd trotting along the shore of a lake.

Milo enjoying Grundy Lake.

 

Grundy Lake Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

Grundy Lake is a great place to camp with an RV trailer.  The park is large—almost 500 campsites—but those sites are grouped into several smaller and more intimate campgrounds.

Campgrounds with names like Poplar, Jack Pine, and Balsam. Walking into the park office was exciting because this would be be the first time I’d be camping with an electrical hook-up. My enthusiasm waned somewhat as I was assigned to a campground whimsically and romantically named “Trailer.”

Happily, it turns out that Trailer is a great little campground. Its large sites are ringed by mature spruce, pine, beach, and birch trees, which provide both shade and privacy. The campground is quiet and has feeling about it that encourages slow deep breaths.

Grundy Lake campsite

My site in the campground named ‘Trailer.’

I spent the previous two days at Killbear Provincial Park where I camped in the midst of a gaggle of young families—children tearing all over the place, dogs barking, clotheslines draped with beach towels, bedding, and underpants. The general hubbub reminded me of family camping trips when I was little.

Trailer at Grundy Lake has a completely different character. My 18-foot camper was the little one on the block and my neighbors were mostly retired couples in a very different phase of their financial life cycle than the young families at Killbear. The happy babble of kids was replaced with bird song and the sound of crackling fires. Sigh.

I have to admit that I was grateful for the electricity. For the past week or so the weather switched back and forth between torrential rain and blistering heat. I pulled up on a blistering heat day, but the rain left a gift–clouds of droning mosquitos. For some reason, I had to wrestle with the weight distribution bars when unhitching the trailer (looking back I think this was because the site wasn’t level) and by the time I had camp set up, I was a cranky, sweaty, mosquito-bitten mess. I walked into the camper and for the first time ever turned on its AC.

At full blast, it had my trailer at meat locker temperature in about six minutes and I could turn it off and take a delicious nap. That evening Milo and I took a long walk and as we were sitting down to dinner it started to rain. What a treat to be able to retreat into my cozy, dry camper, make a cup of tea, plug in my computer, and settle in for an evening of writing.