Thursday, July 7, 2011

Review: Killarney Interior - Bell / David Lakes

Location: Bell Lake Access Point - 40 km from Highway 69, 90 km from Sudbury
Website: Ontario Parks and Friends of Killarney Park 
Map: Google and a Rough Map of the Park as well as Google Maps
Camping Facilities: Backcountry and 126 Car Camping at George Lake
Grade: A
Summary: Easy access to Silver Peak, a sampling of all the highlights of Killarney.
The paddle in from Bell Lake
Thoughts:  If you've found your way to this site because you are looking for trip planning information, I don't think I need to waste your time telling you how beautiful Killarney is.  You know.  In fact, everybody knows.  That's why you can't get a site here without booking the minute your trip becomes eligible on the parks reservation system.  Booking a site on a weekend in July and August here requires setting your alarm at 6:55am five months prior to departure, with trip itinerary in hand and getting ready to hold for the Ontario Parks reservation agent.  But for those who haven't been to the park yet, you have to go.  In my view, there's nothing in Southern/Central Ontario that can compete with respect to natural beauty.  In addition, with its wilderness park classification, you can expect that development is minimal and the planning has been focused on preserving as much of the natural state as possible.

Sunset on David Lake
On this trip, we started early in anticipation of the relatively long drive our Guelph starting point.  Even with the early start, the put-in time is always later than you expect.  The trip along the 637 feels longer than it is, so does the 8 km drive along the unpaved road from the 637 into Bell and once you have your rental sorted out, you're twitching from the desire to just get on the water.  Believe me though, its well worth it once you take your first few paddle strokes and Silver Peak is in sight.

We stayed at a very buggy campsite that might as well have been on a stagnant pond at the south western terminus of Bell Lake.  This was a pretty big tease; you could see the white quartzite peaks from this spot on Bell, but the lake itself is a bit of a letdown, as its is home to a resort, which uses powerboats. As well there's a strong glow from the City of Sudbury visible to the northeast visible in the night sky. You definitely don't get any sense of seclusion on this lake.  But the next day, once we arrived on David Lake, it was a different story.  We stayed at a great site on a point, just off the trailhead to Silver Peak.  David Lake gives you everything you want from Killarney; the crystal clear (acidic) waters, the remnants of what once were mighty peaks, and the sparsely scatted campsites that ensure nobody tramples on anybody's backcountry camping experience.  There's great swimming as well (though I imagine that the fishing is still pretty poor).

View from Silver Peak, facing north 
We started the hike up to Silver Peak later in the day, around 3pm, which is getting on a bit for a hike this strenuous and long (its not really that long, about 3 hrs return, but you definitely want to take it slow to catch your breath and enjoy the scenery, stretching it to 4-5 hrs).  As a result, we were getting on to sunset by the time we returned.  The peak itself is probably worth reserving an hour for, but don't forget your sunscreen as there shade is hard to come by there.  Bring binoculars, you can see for many miles in each direction.   Even without assistance, you can see the Sudbury super stack on a clear day.

I've started the trail from David and from Bell and I have to say the David access provides a far more satisfying hiking experience than Bell.  You spend a good 1/3 of the hike from Bell walking on a relatively flat and densely forested trail, with plenty of mosquitoes and not much to see. Access through David has an initial hill that must be climbed which gives a splendid view of both David and Clearsilver Lakes, as well as a full view of Silver Peak to give you some notion of what you're just about to climb.  Its more open and much more rewarding.
View of Silver Peak and Clearsilver Lake
- Scoping out the climb ahead
I can't stress enough how magnificent Killarney is as a park, just from glimpsing the southern portion.  Its blue lakes, the La Cloche mountain range, the serenity, the seclusion...the whole package just makes for an unforgettable backcountry experience.  If there is one complaint is that the proximity to Sudbury can smudge out the night sky with an orange glow.  That being said, there are plenty of other reasons to visit Killarney, other than stargazing.  It's the only park that we in Southern Ontario can hold up next to those in the more mountainous regions and suggest that our province does indeed hold some unspoilt natural  beauty.  

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