I zoom in on a lonely red leaf tucked in between bare branches. Not ready to let go of the tree that has been its home for the past several months, it is basking in the sun, blushing under its fiery gaze. Eventually, it will get whisked away by the wind and twirl its way onto the ground, adding its warmth to an already thick blanket. Or it will zigzag through the air and end up on the steely surface of the lake below, a tiny red boat gliding into winter. I wish good luck to a brave little traveller and continue on my way.
It is hard to escape thoughts of change when the world around has been transformed beyond recognition under the fall`s painting brush. So Thanksgiving weekend camping trip inevitably turns into a meditation about the excitement of change and the fear of letting go.
This year, we chose Restoule Provincial Park as a site for our October reflections. Located just south of North Bay, this northern park suits perfectly the definition of a `hidden gem.` It is often overlooked by campers even though the park offers a wide range of outdoor activities and boasts some amazing movie-worthy scenery (Restoule was, in fact, one of the filming locations for Backcountry, a Canadian thriller about a fatal bear encounter). Smaller crowds and the park’s location away from major highways have their benefits: the only sounds we heard during our stay were the calls of birds and the rustling of leaves.
We arrived in Restoule on Friday night. It was the first time we booked a non-electrical campsite for our Thanksgiving weekend camping trip. Usually, we opt for electricity in case it gets cold and we need to use a heater. With the temperature hovering around zero on the first night, I started questioning the soundness of that idea. Turned out I didn`t have to worry. With extra layers, we were warm and cozy inside our unheated tent. When I got outside on Saturday morning, I could see why staying at a non-electrical campground was a great decision: there were no other tents or people in sight. The campground did fill up a bit by the end of the day but even then no more than ten sites were occupied.
The first morning of the camping trip is one of my favourite moments, even more so in the fall when the tent door opens into the golden magic of the forest. After a walk around the campground and along the lake, I woke up my husband who is always in charge of coffee on our camping trips.
With coffee in our bloodstreams and breakfast in our bellies, we decided to tackle the Fire Tower Trail. Seven kilometres long, it is the longest in Restoule (apart from Gibs, an undeveloped backcountry trail that leads out of the park into the adjacent crown land). After a short stretch through evenly spaced red pines, the Fire Tower Trail winds through a mixed forest all the way to the top of Stormy Lake Bluffs, picturesque Amber Lake and a historic fire tower that gave the trail its name.
And while the views of the lakes and woods were truly majestic, small details along the way were equally fascinating: a toad pushing its way through the leaves, bright orange mushrooms nestled in the groove of a moss-covered stump, glowing fall foliage…
Sunday was a day of biking.
Restoule has a couple of mountain biking trails: Rangers Point and Angels Point. Rangers Point is only one kilometre long and offers great views of Stormy Lake and the Bluffs.
Angels Point has two loops with several access points to Restoule Lake.
Once we were done with the bike trails, we just rode around the Putts Point and Bells Point Campgrounds, enjoying an unusually warm October day, the glowing forest and the crunching of leaves under our tires.
Apart from hiking and biking, there were also delicious meals, blazing campfires, and sizzling conversations. We played the guitar, flew a kite, read books, marvelled at the autumn foliage and simply took time to relax and slow down.
On our last day, I woke up early. The forest was wrapped in predawn quietness, only occasionally disrupted by the call of a loon. I knew that in a couple of hours we would have to start packing to head back home. I pushed that thought away, grabbed the camera and made my way to the lake. For the time-being, it was just me and the soft breath of fall.
The sun was about to rise. I could already see its fiery light pushing out the darkness of the night. I watched the golden orb peek above the horizon, balance over tree tops, and spill its light into the lake and the surrounding forest. Bathed in the early sunlight, trees were an explosion of colours. I breathed in the morning air and gave thanks for the magic of fall and the beauty of change. After all, it was Thanksgiving.
Restoule Provincial Park is now closed for the season but there are other great places to enjoy fall colours in Ontario. Check out my article on Parks Blogger Ontario for some recommendations and don’t forget to visit the Ontario Parks website for operation dates and the fall colours report.
Finally, for our post-camping fish and chips we stopped at Crow’s Nest Restaurant in Restoule. The food was good, even if a little undersalted, and a spacious patio was a great place to enjoy it on a beautiful October day.