The south shore of Phillip Edward Island Georgian Bay
Gunkholing, the Hawks, the Foxes and Green Island
July 3rd to 9th 2013
Sunset at Camp 5 Le Hayes Island.
Doug and Ted's Excellent Adventure
Georgian BayLooking south to Green Island on the distant horizon and the Hawk Islands on the right. Scrapes in the rocks made by long-ago glaciers Phillip Edward Island is just east of Killarney Provincial Park. Three of its sides are quite narrow, busy with power boats and sorely lacking in campsites and views. The southern shoreline facing Georgian Bay is, however, the typical long fingers of glacial sculpted ortho- and para-gneiss that makes for hours and days of superbly serene gunkholing and exploring through small inlands and inlets.
Wednesday, July 3rdAfter a good 7 hour drive from Ottawa, we were anxious to start paddling. The put-in is on Chikanising Creek, part of Killarney Provincial Park, so the requisite $14.00 per day parking fees had to be paid first. That's right - that's just the parking fee. We would be camping outside the park on Crown Land. We finally hit the water about 16:40 to clear skies and calm seas. The intent was to find a campsite close to the truck for our last night out and it didn't take us long to find a spot. It wasn't until after we had set up camp that the mayflies came out in droves. A large flock of seagulls started dining on the mayflies so we were inundated with swooping and noisy birds until well after sunset. Not to be left out, hundreds of spider webs popped up for the spiders to dine as well.
A mink having fun amongst the rocks.
More fun in the rocks.
Doug, doing his regular walkabout with camera in hand, noticed two mink playing or hunting in some rocks and shallows near the camp. One went straight into a crevice; the other was quite bold, spending some time darting amongst the rocks and making for interesting attempts at photography. It bounded around rocks and scrub for a good 15 minutes so it must have enjoyed all of the attention. Either that or trying to get us away from the crevise and the other mink. I discovered that hand-held telephoto photography can be a challenge that requires lots of practice; something that I'm in serious need of.
Thursday, July 4thInteresting water erosion rather than the glacial. Iris trying to survive in the most inhospitable of places. As would become the norm, it was a misty start to our morning. We hit the water around 08:30 to paddle over to the East and West Fox Islands. 13km later we arrived back at camp around 2:30. Although the afternoon winds stirred up waves, they were of no great concern. However the claptois near the islands made for some interesting paddling.
A really beautiful Northern Water Snake.
Her markings blend so well into her surroundings.
Sharp-eyed Doug spotted this gorgeous almost meter-long water snake hunting in the shallows. Isn't she beautiful! She had just finished moulting as can be seen by the white skin on her head. Water snakes have a reputation of being agressive when aggravated, even when not shedding their skin, but relatively shy when left alone. I was taking photos when she rather quickly moved forward right over my water shoe. I didn't dare move even the slightest as not to scare or aggravate her. A definite highlight of the trip.
Friday July 5thDoug is off into the morning haze. Notice the dearth of possible landing spots. Time to move campsites, heading east again. Our three primary criteria for finding campsites are a suitable place to land, flat rocks for pitching our two tents, and trees that will give us some shade from the oppressive sun and heat. After some serious searching, we finally found a decent spot 12km away on the east side of Silver Island. A strong afternoon wind kept us ashore but we enjoyed hiking around the island a few times.
Saturday July 6thLooking north from the top of East Hawk Island . Another great view from the top of East Hawk Island. It was off for a nice 12km round-trip to the Hawk Islands today. The North-east Hawk Island is very pretty. With a short but agile climb, a high point can be reached for great viewing of the surrounding area. There is even a Sandhill Crane nest. They make a very strange and unique call that can't be mistaken for any else.
Death by Cormorant - Another view of the total destruction. Death by Cormorant - the total destruction of an island.
The next island was the South-west Hawk Island. Unfortunately it had been completely taken over by resting Cormorants. What an unbelievable stink! The island had been completely covered and destroyed by cormorant excrement. I call it "Death by Cormorant". What a shame. The dead shrubs and trees indicate that it was, at one time, a lovely spot to stop and relax.
Sunday July 7thGunkholing through little passages is challenging but fun. I wonder where this clay-looking 4 foot diameter glacial erratic came from. Today was move-camp-day, so we packed up and headed further east. When we got as far as Beaverstone Bay, we quickly concluded that the motor boat traffic was too noisy and the bay too busy. So we just reversed course and headed back west. We found our third camp on a small island right below the larger Deer Island. It wasn't a great site so the plan is to head further west in the morning.
Yes, there is a rattlesnake hiding in there. The rock on the left is where I placed my foot! A stock photo by Ryan O'Connor, Wisconsin DNR. On one of my jaunts around the island, I found what Doug and I had been hoping to see on this trip . Yes, a small Sistrurus catenatus - the Massasauga rattlesnake. Having grown up in prairie rattle snake country and having lived in other posionous snake areas like East Africa, I am rather careful of where and how I tread. I had just gently put a foot down when I heard a rather high-pitched, almost insect like, rattle of a snake. I withdrew my foot and started looking for her. She was fairly deep in matted brush so getting a good photo would have necessitated moving some of it, most likely distressing a snake that is on the Ontario endangered list. Therefore no photo but I got a great view of her before she slithered deeper into the brush leaving just her tail and its small and quickly vibrating rattles. What a little cutie; I figure about a 2-footer maximum. I was rather surprised to find her less than two feet from some quiet backwater. Perhaps she was looking for frogs or salamanders. Another super highlight of this trip.
Monday July 8thThe perfect campsite. Painting with clouds. We had our breaksfast and coffee, packed up and were on the water by 08:30. Not bad at all. About 9km and a few hours later, we found a really nice camp in a horseshoe bay - lots of tenting, lots of shade, good landing spots all in a quiet bay. We may have to stick around here for a longer than our planned two night stay. For a change, it was overcast and windy so Doug and I decided to do little protected bay gunkholing. I was interested in paddling up Dejardin Bay to find "Parker Landing". Although the GPS indicated that we'd found it, there was absolutely nothing to indicate human activity. No concrete dock pylons, no overgrown structures - nothing whatsoever; so very disappointing. Back at camp, we had 2 large sandhill cranes fly right overhead. But, of course, my camera was nowhere close by. The rest of the day was spent hiking around as much of the island as I could. At a rocky point above our camp, we came across many places where bears had been digging for grubs as well as lots and lots of blueberries. My thought was that, with the large number of blueberries, any nearby bears would have eaten them already; therefore no bears in the vicinity. Nope! Wrong!
Tuesday July 9thMomma bear. Lousy Photo - early morning, point & shoot camera, and a nervous Ted. Moss overturned by bears looking for a grub lunch. At 05:30 this morning I had the urgent need to get out of bed to find plants in need of watering. Just as I unzipped my tent, I heard several rather large snorts and woofs from behind me. I rolled out, stood up and there, about 30 feet away, was a mother black bear and her cub. Momma really started to woof sending the cub straight up the nearest tree breaking branches in its rush to safety. My first thought was "Where's my camera?" then "And me without my bear spray!"
She stared at me and I stared at her. She finally got the hint, backed away and disappeared behind a large rock outcropping that horseshoed the camp. A few minutes later she reappeared about 180 degrees from where she had disappeared. Again a short stare-off competition. Finally, a few minutes later, momma snorted once more, the cub smashed its way down the tree and they were gone for good. It was then that I remembered that I was buck naked! Not a stitch on, not even a fig leaf. Perhaps seeing a white non-plused blob scared her off. Perhaps, I should leave out the part where I turned around and bent over to pick up my camera. That is correct. I mooned a moma bear that was about 30 feet away from me!
Well, since we were up early anyway, we decided to paddle over to East Hawk on our way to Green Island. A really good idea. It's a good 15km round-trip and we wanted to be back before the bright sun and big winds. Green Island was lovely and Doug spotted an 8 inch long fossilized cephalopad. We circumnavigated the island, which, on the windward side, was quite windy with waves. The claptois was enough to keep us away from the very rugged shoreline. On the way back we stopped in at East Hawk Island again to find "fossils" that we had been told about. No joy on land but just as we were paddling away, there below us in, say, 3 feet of water were a very large number of fossilzed tube worm casings. I just grabbed my little waterproof camera, stuck it underwater and started clicking away. Some good fun on an almost debilitating hot day. When we got back to camp, I just walked into the water, clothes and all. Eventually stripped them off, gave them a well needed wash, then put them back on wet and went ashore looking for a bit of shade.
Wednesday July 10thWindbound. Rocks for tentpegs. Windbound. A great time to be in a quiet secluded bay. The sun was shinning but the wind and waves were getting way too serious to go anyway. We tried to do a little gunkholing but as soon as we tried to get into an open area, the winds would send us scurrying back to shelter. My ADC anemometer showed winds gusting to 47kph. Note the use of extra cord wrapped around rocks in lieu of tentpegs. Today we needed to add extra rocks to keep the tents in place. We were hoping that tomorrow would bring quiet seas so that we could head west and get within a quick distance of the take-out. In the meantime, it was hiking and photography time.
Thursday July 11thOne of the prettiest mornings on the trip. Our last campsite. Off to camp5 on Le Hayes Island. A quiet and very enjoyable paddle. This campsite is one of the best that we had. Although I did leave a little more gelcoat on the landing rocks than I'd planned, coming ashore was relatively easy. Lots of shade and good flat rocks for tenting. It was obviously either a power boat campsite or perhaps an expeditor's for group camping. Other than that, great.
Friday July 12thThe morning was beautiful - no winds and water like glass. Time to pack up and head out. A real fun paddle. We went by way of the "inside" passage doing our best of avoid shoals and hidden rocks. And not always successfully, I should add for anyone ever looking at the underside of my gelcoated kayak. After over a week of rocky shores and big water, it felt odd to end the trip winding up an almost overgrown Chikanising Creek.
What a fantastic trip and I look forward to many more on Georgian Bay.