I’ve said it many times before: for me camping is all about connections. It’s about spending uninterrupted time and strengthening ties with my family. Sometimes, it’s about getting lost in nature (not literally) and reconnecting with myself, like during my solo trip. And then at times, it’s about connecting with my friends. Case in point: our recent trip to Bon Echo.
Bon Echo Provincial Park, located in Eastern Ontario in traditional Algonquin territory, is famous for its 100-metre-high Mazinaw Rock and 140-metre-deep Mazinaw Lake. The rock features over 260 pictographs (the word Mazinaw, by the way, means “painted rock” in Algonkian) and an engraved quote by Walt Whitman.
The park has two campgrounds, a large Mazinaw campground in close proximity to the Lake and a smaller Hardwood Hill campground further away, as well as backcountry canoeing and hiking options. It’s been a location of many interesting camping trips in the past and one twisted ankle during a backpacking trip on Abes and Essens Trail.
Like many other Ontario Parks, Bon Echo often becomes a victim of its own fame, overrun by crowds, especially in the summer. For that reason, I decided to book a campsite at Hardwood Hill campground. Ideally, I would have liked to stay at one of the paddle-in sites on Joeperry but not all our friends could join so Hardwood Hill was a compromise. Tucked away in the forest, it is much quieter than the area near Mazinaw. We managed to book a walk-in campsite so we didn’t have to stare at our car the whole time or see other cars passing by, for that matter. It was quiet.
Our site # 494 was only a short walk away from the car so we could store our food in the trunk when we were leaving the site or at the end of the day. It was a very decent size too, with lots of space for tents, and had a big log and a tree stump that we used for seating. Lots of privacy was on of its biggest attractions for me.
It came with some disadvantages. The campground can only be reached by a 10-kilometre unpaved road (read: dusty when it’s dry and probably muddy after the rain). There is no beach within a walking distance, and since we didn’t have our bikes with us, we had to drive. We tried to find access to water on Bon Echo Lake with no luck so we ended up going to Mazinaw. The area was even more crowded than usual because it was the Friends of Bon Echo Art Exhibition and Sale weekend. But we avoided crowds by foregoing official beaches and swimming in the curve of the peninsula that separates Upper and Lower Mazinaw. With a towering rock as a backdrop, it was not a bad place to swim.
Our only active pastime during the weekend was the Cliff Top Trail hike. The trail is 1.5 kilometres long and can only be accessed by water. We caught Mugwump Ferry – an easy and fun way to get across the lake. And sure we didn’t paddle there and the trail was not long but it required climbing lots of stairs to get to the top. Plus we carried buckets of gravel with us to help with the trail restoration.
Goes without saying, views from the top were amazing.
Other than the trail and swimming, there were lots of conversations, wonderful meals, reading, campfires and songs. Most importantly, the trip had one very important ingredient – good friends!