THE DOG FRIENDLY SPOTS (Bon Echo Provincial Park, Part 2)

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Continued from A Paddling Adventure    Back in the car, after an early morning filled with canoeing and hiking, we once again sat with the park’s map laid out in front of us, this time in an attempt to jog our memories of the location of the Visitor Centre and Greystones Gift & Book Shop. The directions looked easy on paper, but had proven difficult to follow in a three dimensional forest. The previous evening, we had eventually stumbled upon the buildings—dark and quiet, leaving us to wait for a new day when they would be open again. Giving up on the map, we disappeared into the woods, moving in the direction of where we thought the buildings were hidden. Our quest was easily resolved by joining up with the river of campers we unexpectedly encountered churning along the route. Since the dogs were unsurprisingly not allowed in the buildings, Helen and I alternated in watching them outside. The Visitor Centre houses a bit of a museum. The gift shop sells the standard tourist fare, stocks a respectable range of books and offers a gallery of impressive artwork of Mazinaw Rock. We were dashed in our hopes that one of the businesses sold coffee. We would eventually satiate ourselves outside the park at the Snider Service Centre. While there, we grabbed a couple of colas to feed our addiction the next morning. Loose-Doggy Trail In the afternoon, we decided to look for the Dog Swimming Area. Driving in what we thought was the general direction, we found an empty dirt parking area to leave the car in. While wandering around, we discovered the nearby beach has “no dogs allowed” signs. On the other side of the parking area, we eventually came across the Pet Exercise Trail. I was pleased to see it featured an off-leash trail through the woods. We only hiked part of it since I desperately needed a nap by then, even with all the coffee I’d consumed—something I’d regret once snuggled in my sleeping bag. Helen and I agreed the trail’s 1.4 km (almost a mile) length would offer a pleasant morning walk. The sky had gradually darkened earlier as we had finished our canoe outing. Nothing seemed to come of it until in my drowsing, I thought I heard a few spatters on my tent. I knew the area really was suffering a draught when even my tent couldn’t attract rain, as it’s usually prone to do. The sky just spit a bit then stopped. In the evening, we headed back down the lengthy road to find a shower station. Helen had walked to the one located in the Hardwood Hill campground, where we were staying, and discovered it abandoned, only in company of a sign saying it was closed due to draught. Fortunately, the busier Mazinaw Campground had a few shower stations, one of which we easily found, to pick from. I had been noticing how excessively dusty I was feeling on this trip, proving how dry our surroundings were. A forest that had flourished for centuries was looking weary. Even the absence of decorative beads of morning dew kept everything dry. At least it made it easier for packing up our tents. No damp bottom or wet sticky sand to fight with. (Read about our Algonquin adventures.) The forest’s energy seemed further drained as I had been noticing how still its surrounding leaves were. The ones at the tops of the trees rustled in the occasional wind, but the canopy kept most of it from reaching us. Heavy Breathing Once darkness filled our vision, we retired to our tents for the night. I enjoyed an exceptional sleep other than the unusual heavy sniffing I heard at one point on the other side of my tent’s thin nylon of a wall. Tessi barked once and it stopped. I unnervingly realized our isolation; we still camped alone in our immediate vicinity. Helen recounted the next morning that she had heard scraping on her tent, like something dragging its claws down the side. Her yelling “hey,” which I remembered hearing, had halted the noise. Reaching the Dog Swimming Area The next morning, after warm colas and a breakfast in the company of our chipmunk buddies, we returned to the off-leash trail. A quiet walk led us over the slightly hilly terrain. From all the dogs we saw over the weekend, I’m surprised we didn’t come across anyone else using the trail—maybe it was too early yet. Afterwards, as we tossed comments back and forth about how it would be convenient for the trail to have a garbage bin for poop bags, we came across a nearby receptacle down the road. I had been perplexed as to how to reach the dog beach the map had indicated. Since I wouldn’t want to encroach on people’s rights to enjoy all these beaches without dogs—we hadn’t seen anyone at any of them other than at the main beaches—the only other possible way seemed to involve hiking the Bon Echo Creek Trail. I hesitated at entering the trailhead, which was thick with trees and mosquitoes. Helen had suffered a few bites on her face during the off-leash walk. I had applied a bit of bug spray on myself; yet, the insects’ presence still annoyed me. The trail was a reported easy kilometre (.62 mi), so to satisfy my curiosity about the dog area, we checked it out. After pushing through the concentration of trees, they thinned out and with it the mosquitoes. The mostly flat trail followed the shrunken, pitiful-looking creek. At its end, we walked out of the woods and into a group of dogs and people. Wanting to ascertain exactly how to reach this beach other than hiking for a kilometre, I asked a woman how they managed. She said her family came along the adjacent beach and crossed the small footbridge spanning the creek. After I mentioned that beach being off-limits to dogs, she said they just kept to the backside. They were camped back there anyway so it was convenient for them. While pointing to the beach in the other direction—between the off-leash trail and dog swimming area, she suggested the option of coming in from that way. I informed her it was also off-limits. A shrug of the shoulders indicated I’d find no further answers from her. I think it doesn’t make much sense to have a dog-friendly beach stranded between two unfriendly ones, when there’s no easy way to reach it otherwise. Not everyone enjoys hiking like Helen and I; however, I appreciate that they offer off-leash areas anyway. I gave up on trying to figure it out and enjoyed watching the dogs romping on the beach and playing in the water. I was satisfied to be able to give Tessi a last bit of freedom knowing we would be in the car for the rest of the day. It was our last outing before heading home. For More Info

(c) Cheryl Smyth, 2012


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