Winter yurting at Silent Lake: birds, friends and bonding moments

We love our Saturday microadventures. They are a great way to recharge at the end of the week, explore new places nearby, plus they don’t require a lot of planning. Sometimes, though, the need arises for a more intensive reboot, which means it’s time to plan a camping trip.

A few weeks ago, as I was browsing the Ontario Parks reservation site, I saw a yurt available at Silent Lake Provincial Park. It was a stroke of luck since roofed accommodations for winter usually get booked months in advance. We visited Silent Lake a couple of times before, including for my birthday last summer, but never in the winter, so it was a great opportunity to see it in a different light.

Silent Lake Provincial Park sign

Unlike the yurts we stayed at in the past, this one didn’t have electricity. There was a wood stove instead of the usual electrical heater. When I called the park about the check-in procedures (something they ask you to do when you book the site), the ranger warned me that there was a bit of a walk from the parking lot to the yurt and sleds were provided for transporting gear. This wasn’t new as a lot of parks have similar arrangements in the winter. It did mean, however, that it was in our best interests to arrive earlier rather than later so we would have enough time to transport our gear, start the fire and warm up the yurt. We began packing Thursday night, but even with all the advance preparations, we weren’t able to leave until 7 p.m. on Friday. We arrived at Silent Lake around 10. Needless to say, it was already dark. Good thing we had our flashlights close by. Another group came right after us and they were very surprised to learn that their yurt was a walk-in, plus they were strangely upset about the presence of snow.

yurt 5 at Silent Lake

It took us about two hours to move our stuff, split some wood (wood is provided in a large blue bin right on the site, an ax and newspapers are included too) and warm up the yurt. We had some minor hitches along the way, like not closing the stove door properly so smoke was escaping inside the yurt and our smoke detector wasn’t happy about it (it was good to know that it was working properly, though). Eventually we figured it all out and fell asleep to a beautiful golden glow in the yurt. ‎Now, in spite of all the work required to operate a wood stove and inconveniences it entails (like having to wake up regularly throughout the night to add more wood), it was a way more pleasant experience than using an electric heater.

inside yurt 5 at Silent Lake Provicial Park in the winter

fire wood bin at Silent Lake PP   wood stove in the yurt at Silent Lake PP

When we stepped outside the next morning, we felt almost blinded by the light. It was a warm sunny day so we had breakfast outside. The yurt had a BBQ with a side burner for cooking and a picnic table.

Silent Lake Provicial Park in the winter   suny winter day in the forest

Silent Lake Provicial Park in the winter

child cooking outside at Silet Lake   child cooking outside at Silet Lake

After breakfast we set out on a walk. Our goal was a lone geocache hidden along the Lakeshore Trail. Silent Lake has over 19 km of skiing trails but they were already closed because of warm weather. There is also a 3km snowshoe trail with snowshoe rentals available at the park office. We decided to skip snowshoes, which was a mistake as there was still a lot of snow on the ground.

ski trails map at Silent Lake Provicial Park in the winter

Silent Lake Provicial Park in the winter   hikig at Silent Lake Provicial Park in the winter

Lakeshore trail map at Silent Lake

hiking at Silent Lake Provicial Park in the winter   hikig at Silent Lake Provicial Park in the winter

Silent Lake Provicial Park in the winter

Silent Lake Provicial Park in the winter   hiking at Silent Lake Provicial Park in the winter

There was also water and icy bits along the way so some of us had pretty wet feet by the time we finished our hike. Also the geocache refused to reveal itself but we got some pretty views of the frozen Silent Lake along the way.

Silent Lake Provicial Park in the winter

Silent Lake Provicial Park in the winter

Silent Lake Provicial Park in the winter

Upon our return, we quickly changed into dry boots and socks looking forward to an evening of great food, campfire and Settlers of Catan.

The next morning, it was time to pack and head back, always the least favourite part of the trip. And with the beginning of the daylight saving time, we felt like a whole hour of camping time was stolen from us. So we stalled, slowly enjoyed our coffee, tea and sunshine, then took our time packing.

deck railing

pouring coffee outside   tea in thermos cups

Finally, as we were ready to leave, we noticed chickadees and nuthatches swooping around. We searched our remaining food supplies for some seeds and nuts and the next thing we knew as hour was gone watching the birds.

chickadees at Silent Lake Provicial Park in the winter   chickadees at Silent Lake Provicial Park in the winter

chickadees at Silent Lake Provicial Park in the winter   chickadees at Silent Lake Provicial Park in the winter

feeding chickadees at Silent Lake Provicial Park in the winter

chickadees at Silent Lake Provicial Park in the winter   chickadees at Silent Lake Provicial Park in the winter

chickadees at Silent Lake Provicial Park in the winter

nuthatches at Silent Lake Provicial Park in the winter   nuthatches at Silent Lake Provicial Park in the winter

Eventually, we ran out of nuts so it was time to leave, especially because we had to pick up my friend who’d been spending the weekend at her sister’s place in Maynooth, about 30 minutes away from Silent Lake. (You’ve met my friend before on our trip to Scarborough Bluffs and that time we went looking for trees in High Park, also on that memorable Christmas hike at Mono Cliffs, which, according to her, was about 20% too much adventures).

transporting gear in sleds at Silent lake PP in the winter

We also had a few more things to do before heading out, like find a couple of geocaches. We quickly located one right across the park entrance. Emboldened by our success, we decided to venture further into the woods but the GPS unit became uncooperative and refused to update the information. After about 30 minutes of going in circles,  ripped pants (mine) and a badly scraped thigh (also mine), we decided to call it quits.

We also stopped by the day use area before leaving the park, mainly to use the comfort station located there, but also to have another look at the lake. Canoes were chained to the rack, waiting for the lake to cast off its frozen armour, longing to get reunited with the water. I could feel the longing too.

Silent Lake Provicial Park in the winter

Silent Lake Provicial Park in the winter   Silent Lake Provicial Park in the winter

canoes at Silent Lake Provicial Park in the winter

Our traditional post-camping fish and chips had to be cancelled as there was lunch waiting for us in Maynooth. The meal my friend and her sister prepared for us was definitely worth breaking the tradition for. The part we all enjoyed the most was spending time with my friend’s 11-months-old niece.

But the most memorable part of the trip was a frantic search for a bathroom for my friend on our way back home. It ended up in the woods by the side of the road, which, according to her, was a very bonding experience. It wasn’t our most “exciting” bathroom moment (there is another one that I haven’t got a chance to write about, which involves a port-a-potty at Silver Creek Conservation Area), but definitely the top-five material.

 

 

14 thoughts on “Winter yurting at Silent Lake: birds, friends and bonding moments

  1. The name of this place, Silent Lake, just makes me want to visit! I’ve never stayed in a yurt so this is very intriguing. A state park near where I live has one, and I’ve always wondered what it’s like to stay in one. May have to check it out after reading this. Your photography is beautiful, by the way–especially those birds in flight!

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    • Thank you for stopping by and for a great comment! Yes, Silent Lake is a very peaceful place, no motorboats allowed on the lake so it’s great for canoeing in the summer. Beautiful in any season. Staying in the yurt is fun, a bit different than a tent or a trailer, definitely less work. I checked your blog and see you live in Michigan. The only state park we visited in Michigan is Porcupine Mountains, which we absolutely loved. They have quite a few yurts and cabins scattered around, most of them require some walking. I’d like to do it one day. We stayed at the Gitche Gumee cabin twice but that one is a drive-in very close to the road.

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      • Yurts seem to be showing up more and more at the state parks. I’ve never been brave enough to winter camp so far, but that might be a good way to try it. My husband & kids would be outside no matter the temp, but I take more persuading when the temp dips near/below freezing! 🙂

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      • I haven’t always been a winter fan either but discovered that with proper clothing and planning, it can be a lot of fun. And a yurt is great for winter camping as you always have a warm place to come back to.

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    • Thank you, Heather! The birds were fun to watch. Staying in a yurt is fun, and less work than setting up a tent 🙂 We usually only do it in the winter, though, or on long road trips when we only stop for a night or two.

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  2. I am impressed by your can do attitude to finding a yurt in the dark. Being well equipped is half the battle I suppose and you always seem to be well prepared. The ski trails looked very inviting so it is a pity that it was too warm.

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    • Thank you! We are used to arriving and setting up in the dark, and as much work as the wood stove was, it was still easier than pitching up a tent in the dark. I know some people are very good at arriving very early in the morning. We are not those people. We know that if we leave it till morning, half the day will be gone by the time we get to the campsite. So we prefer to arrive the night before. The trick is to keep flashlights and all the stuff you’ll need first at the top 🙂

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  3. I’m fascinated by this whole yurt accommodation! I’d love to try it. You must have been tired by the time you got everything set up and the fire going properly. Fantastic shots as usual. How awesome that the birds were tame enough to land on people’s hands! 🙂

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  4. Pingback: Our camping trip to Silent Lake or a recipe for a perfect de-stressing experience | Gone Camping

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