We just wrapped up the 2009 camping season after taking the kids out of school for a few days and booting it up to Bon Echo. One thing we learned about camping during the week in September is that this is prime seniors’ time -it took us less than thirty minutes to get chewed out for being too noisy. It also gets bloody cold at night.
Bon Echo Provincial Park is located just north of Cloyne, Ontario; it’s about a five and a half hour drive northeast from our home in London (Ontario), or six and a half if you have kids. We decided to take the kids out of school for a few days because we wanted to get one more camping trip in this season and Bon Echo is simply too far away to justify spending just a weekend. We figured this early in the school year there’d be little harm done, and the outdoors experience is worth missing a bit of math.
As mentioned, when we pulled into the park we found it largely unoccupied (with only one of the park stations even staffed), with those few people who were camping being pretty much either senior citizens or retired folks. With three children under ten, we really messed up the demographics for our area. We brought the dogs too and despite my wife and I congratulating ourselves on one of our quietest arrivals to date, I hadn’t finished setting up the pop-up trailer before the elderly gentleman next door paid us a visit to complain about the racket. This was at two in the afternoon and before I’d unpacked the iPod dock, football or come anywhere near my cooler. Not an auspicious start to the trip. No worries though, he remained in his RV until the next day when his reservation expired, then motored off. I’m not slagging the seniors mind you; except for our neighbor, everyone was very friendly and we had a number of strollers stop by to chat and play with the dogs.
We spent as much time as possible hiking in the woods and taking in the lake and rock vistas the park is famous for. Wildlife observed included close encounters with deer, raccoons, chipmunks, blue jays, toads and a woodpecker. Mazinaw Lake is one of the deepest in Ontario (reaching a maximum of 476 feet) and features a 325 foot high rock escarpment. That rock face is the park’s namesake, producing a substantial echo effect -which we did not test out after our earlier dressing down. There are also hundreds of native pictographs on the rock, but we didn’t make it close enough to see any of these first hand. Apparently Bon Echo was once the site of a resort which was a bit of an artist’s hangout, which explains the Walt Whitman poem chiseled into the rock in foot high letters. The remaining buildings from this period are currently being used as the Visitor Center and Gift Shop.
Tasha and Jon actually ventured into the water, but it was way too cold for me. Temperatures at night were getting down to just over 40 degrees Fahrenheit and it was cool enough during the day that when we departed after four days there, only half of the ice in my cooler had melted.
By Friday night, the park had filled up, the air was full of the sounds of kids playing, dogs barking and campfire buzz. We were supposed to have one last trip scheduled for (Canadian) Thanksgiving, but someone with ogre fingers broke the trailer’s furnace switch in half, rendering the heating system inoperable (I already lost the camping purists with the iPod dock, so no need to hide the fact that we travel with an HVAC system). I’m not going to have time to replace the thermostat in the next few weeks, there are no sites remaining with power to run an electric heater and I’m not prepared to listen to complaints about freezing while I’m trying to cook the turkey over a campfire, so we decided it was prudent to bow out of that one for this year.