Some said we were fools; some, idiots; others, some kind of fool-idiot hybrid. But we went winter camping in Killarney Provincial Park anyway. Here are our favourite pics along with my witty commentary. For the sake of authenticity, I have made this post from a snow cave deep in the boreal forest of Upper Canada. It is minus 47 C outside and my cave is lit only by moose fat burning lamps. The moose fat smoke is hard on my dry eye condition, so please forgive any typos.

 A bit about our trip. Killarney is located about 500 km from sunny Toronto. It’s famous for its crystal clear lakes (thanks to acid rain from Sudbury), bordered by steep white and pink quartzite and frilled (borders are frilled right?) with waving white pines.  In the summer, it’s a canoeist’s paradise with dozens of options for extended trips. For backpackers, it also offers the LaCloche Silouhette Trail, a 100km 5-8 day loop that makes for one of Ontario’s best walking trips (we’ve done it and will post those pics some other time).  Because of its many charms and proximity to Toronto, the park is popular from April to October.  But in winter, it’s a different beast. A beast with snowy teeth and chilly breath. A beast that thirsts for frosty reddy blood and cool gooey entrails. A beast that smacks summer in the face and says “keep the change!” A beast… well, you get the point. It’s colder and there’s not as many people. For our four days there in Feb. 2007, we had it to ourselves.

Bravery by the heated car…

Day 1. This is the brave pose you’re supposed to strike before leaving the safety of your heated motor vehicle.  Actually, I’m not posing – I got frozen in this position and Janine is trying to thaw me out with the fumes from the car’s exhaust pipe.

George Lake


Heading out over George Lake, the first in a chain of 3 lakes that we’d travel to reach our base camp. A base camp is what you set up when you’re too scared to go any further in the woods with all your stuff. 

George Lake Ice

I hauled my gear in a sled. It was a dream on icy surfaces like this, but something of a nightmare on deep snow and hilly terrain.   Fortunately, the whole thing can pretty much go on Janine’s back in that situation. 


For a real comfy night’s sleep, try a snow cave.  It’s far warmer than a tent as it never gets much below zero inside. This camp was built by some keeners the weekend before we got there.  We would have slept in there but we had a new tent and wanted to use it. Because if you buy new stuff and don’t use it, a man comes and takes it away. 

Sunglasses   Janine with the Sled 

It’s okay, you can think it – I’m sexy as hell in this picture.   I think it’s the $8 MEC sunglasses.


One of many frozen ice waterfalls we encountered on the lakes. Check out the little pine shooting straight out of the top.  Isn’t it beautiful? I cried when I chopped it down for firewood.


Our first day out turned into a real beauty.  The bright thingy in the background is the sun. It’s awesome.


Base camp in a sheltered clearing of pine and birch. From here we’d hike up to the highlands overlooking the park and explore the surrounding lakes. We also made s’mores here.


Nothing beats a campfire when it’s 15 below! The stars that night were incredible.   As were the S’mores.  


Janine makes her way through the “Gap” in the Killarney range that leads up to the height of land (actually, it’s called the “Crack”, but that doesn’t sound polite) .  


The view from the top’s always worth it . The narrow lake in the top left is where we’ve come from. This was part of a lovely 10k loop we did that day.  The only sounds we heard were our own voices and the wolf howls. The top eighth of the picture is a snow storm rolling in. It dropped 10-20 cm on us overnight. 


A huge frozen waterfall.  I’m actually a fair way from it in this picture.  You could see it all the way from the height of land in that last picture.  The light was fading but you can still see some of the blue-green streaks in it. Beautiful.  It killed me to knock it down and melt it for drinking water. 

img_6459.jpg    img_6460.jpg

It snowed all night through our last night in the park and we awoke to a marshmellow world.  Again, excellent for s’mores. 


In conclusion:

–  Killarney is a land of contrasts.
–  Idiot-hybrids can have lots of fun winter camping. They just need warm sleeping bags and the right attitude. 
Bring books – it’s dark 14 hours of the day. 
–  Best
 temperature to go: between -5 and -10.  It’s not too cold but you don’t get wet because the snow is powdery.
–  As with all nature,  get out there and see it before it’s all chopped down to make more of those free newspapers.