Killarney’s La Cloche Silhouette trail 2013

DAY ONE

-Pick Kim up in the dark at 5am, showered, with coffee and Ezekiel.
-Arrive in less than 7 hours from Ottawa and polish off last good meal before the trek: couscous with raw beets, kale, chickpeas, apricot, dates and orange slices.
-A few minor adjustments to what we’ve packed and we’re off! Find the trail head at Dog Beach.
-Kim’s pack is pretty uncomfortable and uneven; this really worries me. But after a few adjustments she says its ok. I really have doubts we’ll complete the loop!
-Gorgeous, hot, sunny day and we trek on soft forest floor breathing in that delicious pine scent. Heaven!
-Stop briefly at Acid Lake, beautiful blue. See several turns for campsites and am surprised it is not indicated which site is which. Guess you have to count up yourself.
-After over 10kms we arrive at the turn for our site, H7. As Topaz lake comes into view we are greeted with a small group who’d day hiked in by a motor access lake nearby.
-Topaz lake is gorgeous! Brilliant topaz colour.
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-There are 3 boys at our campsite when we arrive, we later find our their names are David, Kevin and Ethan. They explain the trail had been too much for them. They stayed at H7 the night before, and were too exhausted to make it to their intended campsite the next night (H21 like us); they only made it to H17. They gave up and are on their way out. They’d also had a bear encounter at H7 but they were able to scare her and her cubs off eventually. Bit scary! They packed up and said they’d trek to the next site, but ended up just camping a few hundred feet from us.
-Chili dinner followed by chocolate and a dip in the lake for Kim.
-Food bag hanging fiasco: The bag is really heavy. We finally find a semi-suitable tree. After my several unsuccessful attempts at throwing the rock tied rope over the branch (everytime was time consuming because it was thrown over a cliff so we had to find a new rock or scramble down to get thrown one which always came untied from rope during throw) Kim finally succeeds. BUT the flimsy rope I’d brought wont even begin to pull the pack up. The boys had hollered up asking if we needed help so we gladly accepted. They gave us a substantial climbing rope and suggested I get my karabiner to attach to the bag. Finally, I’m sure after an hour, the food bag is hung securely in the tree.
-The boys invite us to their campfire but we’re exhausted and its after 8pm. Straight to bed!

DAY 2

-Slept well except for a brief wake up when a mouse ran right across my face (on the other side of the mesh tent wall) *shudder*

-Still dark at 6am but decide to get food bag anyhow. Quite the hunt and it take a while to find it in the dark.
-As every other morning of the trip ahead, we boil lake water for 5mins and add 4-5 Starbucks VIA packets and a few scoops of whitener. Decide to look into using whole milk powder in future – instead of chemical concoction
-As every other morning I thoroughly enjoy a Bridgehead Fruit&Seed bar; Kim a hot cereal. We both love breakfast time!
-Very warm morning but totally overcast and a bit of spit as we set out at 8:30am. Kim feels much better today and her pack feels better too.
-Shortly after we set out we pass a couple hiking in the opposite direction. When we tell them of our long day they tell us of a shortcut that would save ~2kms. Despite my fear of getting lost we decide to try it, and it was a success! That felt great.

Dam we cross during the short cut

Dam we cross during the short cut

-Stopped at H16 for a Lara bar and a dip in the lake. Water felt amazing. Decent site, though pretty close to trail.
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-Back on trail we cross paths with a couple our age who are giving up after only 2 days. They’d stayed at H18 with their dog and were harassed by a “big pack” of coyotes “all night”. The guy was pretty freaked out, but said we’d probably be fine – it was the dog the coyotes were interested in.
-Tell Kim I left my bear spray at home and she’s none too impressed!
-Lunch of cashew curry at H18. Really steep water access on slippery rock face. It had been drizzling most of the day so was precarious going up and down and made as few trips as possible. We both swam again though.
-Were passed by two older guys (50s or 60s) with just day packs on. they’d started at 9am and planned on either doing the whole trail or one night at H31. In this drizzle in the dark! I don’t even get the point. I figure at the pace they’re at they’d be hiking til about 9am if they do it all in one shot.
-Arrive at H21 at 5:15pm. Thankfully the drizzle (which had turned to rain) had mostly subsided by the time we got there so we were able to keep our things mostly dry as we set up camp. However, it got pretty windy so suddenly was a bit cold with the wind/dampness.
-Read a few reports saying H21 is one of the best. Nice site, but the lake is big and there is a cottage very close by. Not very remote feeling.
-Chana Masala for dinner (basically Dal Bhat) and I hunched over in the damp wind sucking on a bit of chocolate – not very relaxing!
-Food bag hanging goes much smoother, afterwards a brilliant rainbow appears!
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-Manage to get all our gear under the shelter of the tent tarp (which I discovered is all sticky for some reason) but my pack leans heavily onto my side of the tent and the tarp leans against Kim’s side and some water gets in. Fix that with a hiking pole.
-Settle in damp but warm and next thing we know a giant mouse (or some rodent) scurries right over the mesh of our tent.
-I suddenly can’t stop laughing heartily and uncontrollably: Kim normally won’t go to bed without showering, clean feet, good quality sheets and plenty of hot water. She’s got 100s of itchy mosquito bites, marked up legs, dirty feet and fingernails, damp, howling wind, and next the mouse. She takes it all in stride though, and cant figure out why I’m laughing so much.

DAY 3

-Howling wind all night but wake close to 6am feeling refreshed.
-Still mostly overcast til the afternoon but no rain today!
-Catch Kim humming away “The Greatest Love of All’ by Whitney Houston, which we laugh about and becomes the trip song.
-After our usual breakfast and routine we are on trail around 9:30am
-We soon gain some elevation onto white quartzite rock with views of the lake and hills in the distance. Starting to get pretty!
-We come to a steep descent down precarious boulders and we have to ditch our poles a few times. Glad it was dry!
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-Lose and gain quite a bit of elevation, then through soft forest and past calm lakes til we arrive at H22 for lunch. (4.5kms from H21)
-Another steep water access site, but at least this one is through forest rather than rock.
-Lovely swim followed by the first of 3 Mary Jane lunches (couscous). Nice to be able to burn the paper bag after, but these lunches are NOT very substantial! Had a Luna bar with it, and a Vietnamese coffee.
-Kim and I both feeling energized and happy and we continue the hike up and down steep ridges, occasionally dipping into the soft, pine scented forest.
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-After a 10+ km day, we arrive at Campsite H32 on Shigaug Lake… it is gorgeous! The serene lake is a bright aqua colour and our private site has good swimming access and quartzite cliffs in the distance . Favourite site of the trip.
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-Dive in for an amazing feeling swim halfway across the lake.
-We’re so pleased with the site we keep yelling in exclamation… but that was also to scare any coyotes or bears away!

Getting good at hanging our food

Getting good at hanging our food

-Rice and beans for dinner followed by chocolate on the rock by the calm water under a beautiful sky. Write for a while before heading to a half tarped tent, just incase it starts to rain overnight. We see the lake, cliff and the stars from the tent.
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DAY 4

-Sleep surprisingly less well than the other nights, but reasonable. Up for a bit wondering what we would do if we woke up to find our food bag torn apart in the night.
-Short swim followed by the usual breakfast and coffee and we’re on our way at 8:45am
-Climb uphill until we reach a plateau with a view of Little Mountain Lake way below – gorgeous!
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-Steep terrain, continually up and down today, mostly on quartzite ridges. Lovely views, hot day.
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-Stop atop a ridge at 11:30 for lunch of Kathmandu curry (dal bhat). Sky starting to look a bit ominous.
-Before we know it we’re at the turn for H34 on David Lake. It’s a short day at only 8.5kms and we arrive between 1-2pm.
-Our least favourite site. David Lake is big and there are many canoeists and a few cottages. No flat spot for our tent but we do our best to find something level. Easiest water access though!
-There are 4 canoes at our site but no tents so we figure they’re doing a day hike to Silver Peak.
-Rain proof the site (not easy without having packed a tarp) and jump in nude for a much needed dip. Shortly after we hear voices approach. Kim rushes out and covers up, I stay in to wait out their departure.
-Crabby woman with two kids informs us we aren’t supposed to camp here, it is an “emergency site” – that’s why the camping sign is orange. We explain we reserved this site and its orange because it is a backpacking site but she doesn’t seem to believe us. Kim tells her to have a great night and they push off in their canoe with a grunt to say we’ll see a lot of traffic because this is a trailhead. (its not supposed to be- we paid for this site).
-After a little rest in the tent, I notice a pile of birch bark by the fire pit so decide to make a little fire.
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-Eventually the other two groups arrive, and another guy informs us this isn’t a camp site.  I explain that it is for backpackers… I don’t even think they’d heard of this. They also tell us its supposed to rain tomorrow – our longest day!
-Dinner of rice and curry again and I tell myself I will make my own lightweight camp dinners in future. Chocolate after 
-Beautiful red sky and a bit of wind this evening, no rain all day.
-Kim and I toss a bit in the night. I think because of the sideways slant and many skitter bites. Calamine next time.

DAY 5

-Up around 6, quick packup, breakfast and coffee and turn on my iphone (which I’d brought in case of emergency) to check the weather report. Now only 30-40% chance of rain.
-Off we go at 8:05am to climb many quartzite ridges throughout the day, with intermittent treks through the pine scented forest.
-Decide it is best to skip Silver Peak unfortunately. Its just too long a day already and I don’t want to overdo it.
-Begin under a dramatic sky, but soon we see bright blue sky and the clouds turn white.
-Stop at H38 on Silver lake and it is stunning! The lake is an emerald blue with lush green trees and white quartzite cliffs. Steep water access but we scramble down and go for a swim, followed by lots of gorp on the rock. Wish we could’ve stayed here instead of David lake!
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-Trek along one breathtaking view after another, til we arrive at the campsite at Heaven lake where we stop for lunch around 2pm.
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-The site is right on trail so not very private, and the lake is so small I wonder if the swimming would’ve been any good.
-Have the last 2 Mary Janes and burn the bags
-Only 4.1km to go after lunch, but we’re both a bit tired! Kim is a bit skeptical we’ve continued the right way, but soon enough we’re sure and climbing again to more spectacular views.
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-Walking along the ridge we see the vast waters of Georgian Bay on our left – even Manatoulin Island.
-After stopping for a photo, there’s a bit of confusion which direction we should head on the trail. I tell Kim I’m starting to lose faith in her sense of direction and feel confident I know which way to go.
-Eventually we come to more views of Georgian Bay… but this time on our right side. Hmmmm… Then Kim swears we just past the same branch she’d got caught on earlier. Uh oh.
-Eventually pull out the map to see what side Georgian Bay should be on. Still confused so I turn on my phone. I do get satellite but its still not clear which way to go. We turn around and hike back, but then think we’d been going the right way to begin with, so it’s a big of a gong show for us up there, nearing the end of an exhausting day. I do start to have visions of having to set up tent without knowing which way to go.
-Eventually realize there is a compass in my phone so compare it with the map and it becomes obvious Kim was right all along. Sheepish Faye! A couple appears and they confirm Kim was right and our site is max 10 mins away.
-we’ve sure added kms and time during this debacle!
-Surprisingly, we stay in good spirits throughout this, but are very happy when we reach H49 on Little Superior Lake at 5:20pm. What a great site! It is private and it is another picturesque lake. Even a flat spot for our tent.
-Dive into the lake and the water feels great against tired muscles, bones and skin. Look down and the water below me is the deepest, brightest blue I think I’ve ever swam in. Quite a contrast again my white skin.
-Set up camp, dinner on the rocks by the water of a kind of pad thai. Really lovely evening – wispy clouds, blue sky.
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-Do our best job of food bag hanging yet and then to the tent for a much needed rest.
-Shortly after we were settled in the tent, a group of 3 people our age approaches and tells us they are too exhausted to make it to their reserved site at H52 and have to stay here for the night. A bit annoying, but I tell them they can find something a bit away from us. One guy limps by.
-Out like a light.

DAY 6

-Wake close to 6am again after sleeping like a log.
-Fuel container runs out as I’m boiling our last pot of water for the trip. Lisa used it before us, so I’m guessing we’d have gotten away with one container for the whole trip if it was brand new.
-Enjoy one last breakfast and coffee on the rocks on this cool but beautiful morning. Too chilly for a swim.
-See our guests in the morning and Kim wishes them good morning. I don’t think they’re too bright to have planned to stay all the way at H52 (about 4 hours from here). I know its expected to share in these situations but they could have at least apologized for their ill-planning.
-We’re off around 8:30am and the trail is steep and opens out to more views of lakes, ridges and Georgian Bay.
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-Eventually we arrive at “The Crack” and have some gorp while taking in the view.
-It’s really steep and a bit precarious navigating the big rocks and boulders but its really neat.

making her way down "The Crack"

making her way down “The Crack”

-Pack feels heaviest today which is ironic because its at its lightest.
-Thankful when we are eventually back on soft forest floor and hopeful for a flat, easy trek to the car.
-Sign says 6kms left so we figure we’ll be back in 1.5 hours… actually took us 2.5 hours but I’m SURE it was more than 6kms with the trek through George lake campground.
-Stopped at a private spot on George lake and stripped down for one last swim.
-Little celebration when we emerged from the trail, then beeline for the car as we were both hungry and anticipating Herberts Famous Fish N Chips in the town of Killarney
-Finally arrive at Herbert’s… couldn’t believe it – closed! How disappointing.
-Lunch on the patio of Pines Inn and the lone waitress/owner, a 90 year old crab, is totally overwhelmed by the 4 tables and we wait for an hour for food.
-Enjoy the almost 7 hour car ride home, and finally got to hear Whitney sing “The Greatest Love of All”

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11 thoughts on “Killarney’s La Cloche Silhouette trail 2013

  1. Thanks for trip report and pictures. I was just wondering where the short cut was that you took? Are you talking about when you get to the top of the portage route “the pig” and then cut across the the small river using the dam between H7 and H8? Thanks, Kevin

  2. Would it be cool with you if I post a link to this on our group page for others to benefit from it?
    This a link to the group page if you want to check it out first,.or even join.
    Dylan.

  3. Great trip report, I’ve done the trail twice but have not done the dam short cut yet. Could you give more specifics on its location?

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