Do you have children? Do they enjoy camping? If they haven’t been to Grundy Lake Provincial Park then make it their next destination for car camping or pseudo backcountry camping.
Located about 10 km inland from the north east corner of Georgian Bay, there is so much to do at this park, it’s well worth the long drive. Without hesitation my nine year old daughter will tell you that jumping off small cliffs into the lake was the most fun for her. I loved canoeing around the lakes; some of which are quieter than others. If the weather had cooperated I would have done more of it. One of the things that I wanted to do was investigate the backcountry sites for future trips, but settled for an informative duo-tang, at the Interpretation Centre, that even rated the swimming conditions at each site. Why is that information not online?
With 2,554 hectares, five beaches, three hiking trails, six different types of fish in seven lakes, ten backcountry sites only accessible by canoe; no motorized boats allowed on any of the seven lakes; two of the nine campgrounds are radio free; this park has something for everyone.
We arrived mid-day and once camp was setup, we headed down to the Red Maple campground beach, about 30 meters away, with the canoe we rented just outside the park at Grundy Lake Trading Post. We paddled out to the small “Jumping Rocks” across from the beach. I was expecting the usual Ontario “Near North” shock of jumping into a lake but was pleasantly bewildered at the warmth of the water. A few teenagers swam over from the “Slippery Rocks” and mentioned that they were just swimming in Gurd Lake, a ten minute walk away, where the water was 10 degrees colder. Why the variance in the temperature? The “Slippery Rocks” are smooth rocks covered in algae making them ideal for sliding down into the water. Climbing out of the water is done with the aid of ropes.
That night we watched lightening dance in the distance for hours until the storm rolled over top of us. The heavy rain drumming on the tent woke me repeatedly throughout the night. I could hear the wind whip the tree tops into a frenzy while our tent protected by the thick underbrush, hardly ruffled. I wondered how many campers die or are seriously injured each year due to large falling branches or fallen trees?
The storm had subsided before dawn. We emerged from our protective layer of nylon; everything was wet, even the air. Our screen tent lay draped over the picnic table. It wasn’t wind that knocked it down but rather water build up on its roof. We returned it to an upright position and propped up a canoe paddle on the picnic table to create a slope for any future rain.
The day was shaping up to be overcast with intermittent showers. After breakfast we drove to the Grundy Lake Interpretation Centre, where we noticed a “Tornado Warning” was issued. Wow! That caught me off guard. There is not much protection against a tornado while camping other than staying close to the car — at least we would be mobile. We spent a good while at the Interpretive Centre where my daughter played extensively with the resident Garter snake. She was apprehensive at first, then curious, then insatiable about handling it; letting it coil around her arms and hands.
Sporadic showers encouraged us to take a short drive north to the French River Trading Post — watch out for the sloping floor on the right side it might throw you off your balance — to look at souvenirs and have some lunch at the Hungry Bear Restaurant. After lunch we stopped at the impressive French River Provincial Park Visitor Centre, which is free when you stay at Grundy Lake Provincial Park, to learn about the “Water Highway to the West”. It was raining too hard to hike the 4 km trail, however we did walk across the French River on Canada’s largest cable supported snowmobile bridge.
Once the tornado warning was lifted we decided to go swimming back at Red Maple campground beach. Wanting to jump off the floating dock with the other children, my daughter had to face her fear of walking past the minnows in the shallow water. Eventually, after some coaxing, she ventured into the ankle deep water and watched the minnows as they danced around her feet. She repeated to herself, barely audible, F. E. A. R. — False Evidence Appearing Real. I am not sure where she got that from, but it was working for her as she walked through the minnows into waist high water, then swam to the floating dock to join the other children. She proceeded to try to out funny herself with each jump into the water. Her best, was purely an accident. A couple of steps into a running jump, she slipped and rolled sideways through the air into the water. Amused and concerned, I anxiously watched as she resurfaced, laughing, as she yelled to anyone that would listen, “Did you see that!”
Each visit to the dock from shore she employed the same tactics to get herself past the minnows. What was perplexing was that she had no problem jumping off the rocks on the other side of the lake where there were larger fish. Perhaps it was because she couldn’t see them.
After breakfast on our last full day, we went to the Park Day activities near the Interpretive Centre. Do all Ontario Provincial Parks have a park day, or just Grundy Lake? Do they all have it on the same day each year?
A local outfitter supplied stand up paddle boards and kayaks along with instruction for anyone who wanted to try them. We walked over to take a look and watched as a girl fell in the water attempting her first time on a stand up paddle board. It looked like a lot of fun, whether on the water or in it.
My daughter and I raced in a backcountry obstacle course. We tied. There was a bear proofing contest where we had to find ten bear attractants at a mock campsite. We submitted our results into the raffle for a free week’s camping next year. I wonder if we’ll win?
The park incorporates bear safety into many of their activities, such as the games played at the evening amphitheatre program, where the contestants demonstrated how to scare a bear away if needed. We were informed that there were about eleven active bears in the park. We saw snakes, fish, raccoons, chipmunks but no bears.
The photo scavenger hunt, which was part of the Park Day activities, inspired us to explore the park throughout the day to find items for points. There were three different prize category’s based on the number of points accumulated. We found enough items to get us into the second category. For example, we had to take a picture of ourselves in front of chatter marks. There was a clue indicating that chatter marks had something to do with rocks. So as we explored the park I would take a picture of my daughter in front of any rock formation that looked odd. Later in the day I found a description of chatter marks, in “The Gut Lake Trail Guide”. We decided to hike along that trail to see what they look like.
The weather was cooler today and the water in Grundy Lake was back to a normal lake temperature. It was no longer the hot tub we swam in the previous day. Undaunted, we paddled our canoe to the small “Jumping Rocks”. Both of us only jumped once, then shivered back to warmth as we fought off the chill of the wind. The sun helped, and once dried, we didn’t jump anymore.
After helping a few teenagers, into their canoe, we headed back to the Red Maple beach. My daughter spent the rest of the afternoon jumping off the floating dock while I watched from shore.
It was too windy to explore the backcountry sites which were spread out over a few of the lakes by canoe. It would have been too much effort especially with the cracked paddle that was given to me by the outfitter. I felt the paddle start to give way when I had to really pull the paddle to fight against the wind. TIP: Check your rental gear before you leave the outfitter. Do not assume that they do it for you.
Later that night we made s’mores at a neighbouring campsite, then headed down with our new friends to watch the last of the sunset on Grundy Lake.
We’re already looking forward to our next trip to Grundy Lake Provincial Park. Maybe we’ll see you there.