24 Jul 2020

Camping at Wakami Lake

Seeing as I didn't post any camping content whatsoever on any platform, I figured I'd dedicate a full blog post to it. In light of the ongoing pandemic, my husband and I had changed our vacation plans for the summer. We opted to book a campsite in a Provincial Park for a week of nature and sunshine. We are no strangers to camping in Ontario Provincial Parks, but we decided to visit one that's new to us: Wakami Lake, in Northern Ontario. It's a smaller park on a very secluded lake and we picked a site that was very much in line with the social distancing guidelines. 

We booked our week back in April, not knowing what the situation would be like in July. We figured that the worst case scenario was potentially being out of pocket for the camping fees. Should that ever be the case (which now we know would not have been), we would have chalked it up to a donation to the park. We figured it was a low-risk booking. On the plus side, we had vacation plans that seemed promising. 

We are very well equipped for camping because we used to go regularly and often each summer. A few weeks prior to leaving, we took stock of the gear we had and what was missing. We made a list and picked up the missing bits and bobs along the way. We also set up our tent in the back yard to, on the one hand, see if we remembered how to, and on the other, to weatherproof the lining once more. You can never be too prepared!

We packed up the car, the boat and the dogs, and we were on our way one rainy Saturday morning. We travelled a solid eight hours the first day, only stopping at roadside rest stops and for gas along the way. Travelling during COVID-19 is challenging as very few places allow use of the public restrooms. Either way, with the dogs, it's simpler to use the roadside picnic areas so we made it work. We stopped at my parents' for the night before heading out to Wakami Lake the next day. It was still a good two and a half hours away. When I say we picked a secluded spot, I was not kidding!

We arrived around three thirty p.m. on the Sunday and got busy setting up camp. Our site number was 17 and it was a very large site for a Provincial Park! Also, the area in which we were was totally deserted for the week. We were the only ones for at least a kilometre around! The perk of this is that it was very quiet, there was very little, if any, car traffic and practically no people traffic. This meant we were able to keep the dogs off leash practically the entire time. This was a really great perk! Our dogs don't roam much, but if people were walking by, they'd want to go say hi. Another great point about this site location was its proximity to the water tap, the bear-safe garbage and the outhouses. We had the outhouse to ourselves for the week and, I must say, that was reassuring during a pandemic and social distancing. They were very well-kept and deep-cleaned twice a day. So, as far as respecting the guidelines while on vacation, this couldn't have made it any easier!

When setting up camp, it became painfully obvious that our site did have a major downfall: the entire thing was on a steep incline... Not exactly great for finding a flat spot to pitch a tent. We did manage to nestle the tent on a relatively flat spot under a little clearing. There was already an obvious fire pit set-up surrounded by a few rocks and boulders with a picnic table that had been placed evenly, so we left that one there. The real challenge was finding a spot for the dining tent. It ended up near the road and we propped up the legs on the one end of the picnic table. The beauty of a roomy site is that we could park the boat, the car, and still have plenty of room to run around and not block our beautiful lakefront view. We made it all work and set up our little home away from home comfortably. 

Other than getting everything set up, we had a late dinner, sat by the water to enjoy the sun set a bit and retired for the first night. While on the drive up, we realized there was absolutely no cell service whatsoever. This was a blessing in disguise because it forced me to do a digital detox of sorts. I wasn't planning on spending the entire time on my phone, but being forcibly cut off from it was just what I needed to completely disconnect and live in the moment. It provided the perfect escape from the world right now and much-needed respite from the constant news cycle. We were in a bubble and it instilled such a sense of calm and serenity. Being so deep in the bush and away from the all the noise, it made reconnecting with nature so much more meaningful. Being a country girl, it always does me such good to leave the hustle and bustle of the city at times to recharge. This need became even more apparent during the pandemic. Camping was the best vacation idea and it was perfectly suited to the current climate. 

Speaking of nature, we were definitely surrounded by wildlife! We were right by a little patch of reeds and there were so many ducks there at all times of day. There were plenty of cute little ducklings following their moms around. I had never really noticed just how quickly ducks can swim. They just zoom at times! Every now and then you'd hear a little bickering quacking and they'd leave in a huff. It was quite amusing. On a slightly less amusing note, we also got to see the circle of life in action. One evening, during our dinner, we heard a bigger "sploosh" than normal near the reeds. Moments later, we spotted a rather large red fox just strolling along the street next to our site with what appeared to be a duckling in its mouth. He had just caught himself some fresh dinner. I've seen this type of scene many times in nature documentaries, but there is something awe-inspiring about witnessing it in real time. The wild will never cease to amaze me!

While I didn't mind spotting a fox (which were very prevalent in the park), I was rather glad not to encounter a bear. We were smack in the middle of bear country and had spotted one on the side of the road on our way in. The park takes bears very seriously (as they should) and they enforce the importance of keeping your site clean and free of any food or scented items. They even give you an info packet on how to deal with bears should you end up meeting one. I'm not going to lie, reading that sort of amped up my paranoia. It's good to be informed, but we weren't going to stop living out of fear. We'd dispose of our garbage in the dedicated bear-safe areas daily, we'd keep all our food in the car at all times and even put away our dishes and BBQ in the car at night. We weren't taking any chances. 

When the sun would go down, the loons would start calling. Let me tell you, they were so loud! I love the sound of a loon call, there's something soothing about it. But there were so many of them on the lake and their calls resonated all night long. To be honest, I'd take that over hearing city sirens any night. We'd also hear the sound of little frogs jumping on the sides of the tent. That was a first for us. We've heard the croaks of bullfrogs plenty of times, but never had frogs jumping on the tent. It was harmless and kind of cute.

Scarf: Sole Society | Top: Halogen | Joggers: Walmart | Shoes: Crocs

Speaking of cute, we were surrounded by squirrels! Lots and lots of squirrels who made their presence known in all of the trees around our camp site. The little buggers would screech and make so much noise. I don't think they were too pleased having visitors in their home! They sure kept the dogs amused! My least favourite part of being in nature (okay, I straight up didn't like this part) was the bugs. They were absolutely brutal! When the sun was down, the mosquitoes were out in swarms and when the sun was out, it was the black flies, deer flies, horse flies and then some! We got no break from the bugs whatsoever. We sure were happy to have a screened-in dining tent and all the bug repellents possible. We spent our time swatting and scratching. I can't remember the last time I had so many bug bites! Even the poor dog was not loving the bug situation. I'm guessing she got stung a few times because she'd go all spazzy whenever a bug would whiz by her and she'd try eating them. She'd jump in the car or the tent every time we opened a door because she was trying to get away from them. It was a little sad, but she eventually caught on to the fact that the dining tent was relatively bug free, so she'd spend time in there. Not all bugs were unpleasant, there were some nice bugs too. We saw tons of beautiful butterflies and big dragonflies. I can see why they were so huge, there were plenty of smaller bugs for them to munch on! 

We quickly fell into a daily routine. A lot of the day is spent making meals and doing dishes, which is fine because there's no rush involved. It's all so organic. We had meal prepped beforehand, so when meal times came around, we had very little prep (if any) and it was pretty stress-free. There was a boil-water advisory, so that complicated things a bit. We had a kettle and plenty of water bottles, so we'd boil water every chance we got and filled up our water bottles. Then, we'd tie them to a bungee cord and plop them in the lake to cool them down. This worked perfectly and felt very old school! We'd got check on our water bottles and swap them out a few times a day. We never ran out of clean drinking water because we had a good system going. Ironically, on the last day, they took off the advisory because the test results came back negative. Basically, we would have been fine not boiling our water... I guess it made our experience that much more authentic!

Each day, we'd go out to the main store to buy a bag if ice and some wood. We'd switch out the ice in the cooler every day and it was just enough to keep everything cold. My husband would then play around a bit with the wood to get everything ready for our evening campfires. Once a Scout, always a Scout! He set up the most perfect fires that light up with one flick of the lighter. We'd sit around the campfire reading off trivia questions and eating s'mores. We'd brought the cards from a game of Trivial Pursuit and just read them one by one. Who needs the board anyways? It made for some relaxing evenings. We had gotten this double-wide camping chair that we dubbed the couch. It was ideal to have the dogs curl up next us, they really loved it!

We got lucky with the weather. It was a bit windy on the Monday and rained quite a bit on the Wednesday, but Tuesday, Thursday and Friday were beautiful days and we went for boat rides and did a bit of fishing. The dogs enjoy being on the boat (probably because the bugs were not buggy!) Wakami Lake is a big lake with a lot of massive boulders along its shores. It's surrounded by tall conifers that look like they've not been touched in hundreds of years. I found myself thinking of the Voyageurs in their birch bark canoes and of simpler times. Canada is such a vast country that there are still many areas that seem untouched. There are no homes whatsoever on this lake, only a Provincial Park. It sure gives it a unique cachet and I hope that many more places like this are preserved because it would be a shame to lose such magnificent areas as this one.

Other than boating, we'd spend all our time on our site. We had an amazing view with a vast amount of shoreline and big boulders on which to sit. We'd go for a dip every day and just rinse off in the fresh water. Let's just say, soaking my bite-ridden feet in the cool lake was the most soothing thing for the itch! Even the dogs would hop along the rocks and go for a swim. We did a whole lot of reading, relaxing and just hanging out. Living the simple life and soaking in every moment of peace and quiet. 

Before we knew it, it was time to pack up and ship out! We started packing the moment we woke up on the Saturday. I got all the inside of the tent including cots, mattresses, sleeping bags and other bits and bobs while my husband packed up the outdoor bin, the kitchen bin, the BBQ and the boat stuff. Then we took down both tents, folded and packed those up as well. We are pretty efficient and have it down to a science. I'd say it probably took us a total of maybe an hour and a half, including little breaks. When we were all packed up, there was time for one last dip in the lake before driving off. We got lucky with our timing because not even ten minutes after we left, there was a big downpour! Packing up in the rain is no fun at all... We drove back to my parents' farm and spent the remainder of our vacation there. Still in nature, but with modern amenities like plumping! A girl can only go for so long without a shower ;)

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