“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
Last week, I went for a walk in a nearby park during my lunch hour. It was a beautiful day with summer-like temperatures but the first signs of fall were already present: that earthy smell, the crunch of the first fallen leaves, yellows and reds breaking through the shield of green. That’s when it suddenly hit me that it was already October. I did know the date, of course, after all I have a calendar at work but I’d never fully processed it. Ever since we came back from our road trip, I was thrown in the work vortex . Plus with the deadline for a translation project I am working on fast approaching, the month of September flew by. If it wasn’t for a request to record my favourite summer memory for CBC Radio and to write a piece for Parks Blogger Ontario about the best places to see fall colours, I doubt I would have registered the change of seasons.
A lack of nature was beginning to take its toll, so needless to say I was excited about the upcoming long weekend and our trip to Killarney.
It was the third Killarney trip for our family this year and the fourth one for me. But then again there is no such thing as too much of Killarney.
I was hoping for a canoe adventure but our older son who’s not a big fan of water-related activities rejected the idea. I had to rethink my plan and suggested a backpacking trip, which received zero support from the other members of the family. In the end, we booked a site at the George Lake campground. Luckily there was a last minute cancellation so we got a very nice spot – site 20.
Not that we could appreciate it when we arrived late Friday night or should I say early Saturday morning. At least it’d stopped raining by the time we arrived and it was fairly warm so set-up wasn’t too challenging.
The next morning we took our time getting out of the tent because there is no better place to get a good sleep than in the forest. Staying in for so long had other benefits: by the time we emerged from our tents, the drizzle had stopped, the sun was peeking through the clouds, and the bright carpet of leaves was rolled out for us.
With such a late start to the day, we didn’t have much time left for activities. But then the trail to the Crack is only three kilometres one way, so could easily be completed before dark.
It was my fifth time hiking to the Crack, third one this year alone. But as I mentioned in my Parks Blogger Ontario piece, the view from the Crack is one of my favourites and I never get tired of it. This time I was especially excited about the fall colours. The last time we visited Killarney in the fall, our kids looked like this.
This time, a lot of the trees were still holding on to their summer greens while others were exploding with reds, yellows and oranges. Albert Camus once said that autumn is the second spring when every leaf is a flower. It’s hard to disagree walking through the woods in Killarney.
The trail was particularly popular that day. The parking lot was full and the section of the road near the trailhead was lined up with cars as well. That created a bit of traffic along the route, especially through the last section of the trail, which is pretty narrow and requires scrambling over jagged rocks and boulders. But at the risk of sounding repetitive, I’ll say it again: the view is worth it.
We found a quiet spot behind a rocky outcrop to hide from the wind and selfie-stick wielding crowds and spent some time at the top drinking in the view, bathing in the sun and fueling up for the trip back.
We got to the site with plenty of time to enjoy dinner around the campfire and even take in the fading light over George Lake.
We turned in early that night because we were hoping to hike to Silver Peak the next day and couldn’t afford to spend most of our morning in our sleeping bags again.
Silver Peak is the highest point in Killarney and can be accessed from the La Cloche Silhouette trail, which requires days of hiking. It is also possible to reach it from several lakes in the eastern part of the park. During our canoe trip to Boundary Lake this summer, hiking to Silver Peak was on the list but because of the rain, got replaced with napping. So I was pretty excited about finally being able to complete it.
The easiest way to get to Silver Peak is by paddling across Bell Lake and then hiking 5.7 kilometres to the top. The paddle was about 30 to 40 minutes long so our son agreed to do it although not without making sure we knew how much he hated it.
The put-in near the start of the trail looked like the parking lot near the Crack trailhead – canoes everywhere. We had to carry ours deeper into the woods because all the prime spots by the lake were already occupied.
After a false start, we managed to locate the trail and were on our way. The first four kilometres of the trek are fairly flat so didn’t take long to cover. And there was so much beauty to take in along the way.
When we got to the last two kilometres, the fun began. It was a pretty steep climb all the way to the top with lots of rocky and muddy sections, which were even harder on the way down because of the constant risk of slipping and falling. But all those small pools of water and tiny waterfalls were so pretty to look at.
Once we got to the top, there were lots of people, as expected. But with all the open space up there, it didn’t feel crowded.
And all the glorious views! We could see David Lake and a portion of Boundary Lake, where we stayed in the summer. In the west, the steely surface of Georgian Bay was gleaming in the afternoon sun, merging with the sky. Killarney’s signature white cliffs were peeking through the multicoloured carpet all around.
I wish we had more time to spend at the top. But we still had a long way back so after about an hour of lounging on the smooth polished rocks, we started to make our way down.
The next morning it was the usual last day ritual: procrastinating with a cup of coffee around the fire, finally getting to packing, last glimpse at the lake, world famous fish and chips at Herbert Fisheries. And just like that the trip was over. Not enough time. Never enough time…