Even though Frontenac is the closest wilderness park to my home, this was my first time canoe tripping in this park. One of the reasons I had not tripped here before was due to the popularity of the park and the fact that the campsites are in clusters.
Back in June 1996, two of my sons and I did a 3 night hiking trip on the staying at Big Salmon, Slide Lake and Doe Lake. It was a grueling adventure, mainly due to our inexperience. It was before the days of dehydrating our food and owning a water filter. Nevertheless, it was an amazing trip that none of us will ever forget.
It was a cool morning on October 1, 2006 when Fred & I launched our canoe at the west end of Big Salmon Lake. This was the first day of our 7-day canoe trip of Frontenac Provincial Park. Our goal was to relax, do some fishing, photography and many side trips. Our itinerary was made up of all easy days including a two night stays at both Little Clear Lake and Little Salmon. A trip that could have been completed in two or three days was purposely expanded to a leisurely 7 days.
It was Sunday and the park was still quite busy. We paddled the calm lake to the far east end to our camp at Cluster #5. It consisted of two campsites that were very close together and with no privacy. After setting up camp, it was off for a hike. The landscape was scenic and the fall colours were at their peak. That evening we enjoyed a few beverages with our neighbours, swapping adventure stories and experiences and listened to the coyotes yelping just to the south.
The next day we rose to a gorgeous misty morning. After a quick breakfast, we packed up and headed for the portage (491m) to Labelle Lake. A short paddle across Labelle and a short portage (190m) to Big Clear Lake and we headed for our next campsite, cluster #13. It was now Monday and we were the only paddlers camping at this cluster. Although Big Clear Lake had a few cottages and the odd motor boat disturbing the peacefulness, it was a beautiful clear lake. Once we arrive in the bay of cluster #13, our only visitors were the local loons.
Day 3 included a couple easy portages (666m & 503m) and the crossing of Black Lake before arriving on Little Clear Lake. Since we were staying two nights on Little Clear, we had plenty of time to explore the area and try some fishing We caught few nice smallmouth bass, snapped their photo, and released them back into the cool waters.
There was an abundance of wildlife in throughout Fronentac park. We witnessed deer, beaver, mink, turtles, frogs, snakes, salamanders, loons, ducks, Great Blue Herons and variety of other bird species. Even though we were deep in the park, we could still hear the sound of death in the mornings. We assumed it was the killing of ducks.
On Day 5, we portaged (856m) to Little Salmon Lake. For Fred, the portage was a bit longer as he took a wrong turn and ended up followed the hiking path rather than the portage. Little Salmon was a two night stay and, again, we had lots of time to explore and relax. We did plenty of both.
We had no neighbours since our first site, but we were aware there was going to be others on the sixth night. It was the Friday before Thanksgiving and the park would be filling up for the long weekend. Sure enough, Friday night, a pair of hikers arrived on the site beside ours and a pair of paddlers landed on the next site.
On Saturday we spent the morning exploring and slowly finding our way to the final portage (974m) back to Big Salmon Lake. A quick paddle and we were at the dock.
The highlight of the park (besides the fact that it is less than 2 hours from my driveway) was the abundance of wildlife in the park. The scenery was beautiful as the fall colours were at the peak. I am not a fan of the cluster style campsites, but I can understand that it is necessary in a park like Frontenac as I am sure it is the best way to maintain and preserve the environment. Since our canoe trip in 2006, we have made several return trips from a couple of nights to 5 day extended weekends.