Over the years, I have done quite a few trips to Killarney, but I have not once stayed in the George Lake Campground. This weekend that would change.
I headed out around 7am on Saturday, November 17th with my hot tent in my vehicle. I expected to arrive at the campground around 9:15-9:30 and would be meeting my kayak instructors Jame and Dympna from Ontario Sea Kayak Centre there.
I was pretty excited as I had never done a trip with James and Dympna that didn’t involve kayaking and it would be cool to see them in a different light.
The drive to Killarney was absolutely stunning and I pulled over quite a few times to take some photos on the way. The forecast for the weekend was pretty good. The temperatures were expected to hover around -3 with a windchill of -10. Around the same as my trip last weekend when I went out on a canoe cold camping trip.
Around 9:10 am, I arrived at the park office of Killarney Provincial Park and was super excited. James and Dympna weren’t far behind. My task at hand was to walk the campground and look for a good site, then head back to the office to register and book that site.
In the winter, Killarney closes the gate to drive through the park and you have to walk from the parking lot. They have a few sleds available to use to get your gear to your site, but I had brought my own sled. After checking out a few spots, I settled on a nice site that had a little trail where you could view George Lake. The site however was fairly sheltered from the wind and there was no one else camping nearby.
I headed back to the park office and booked the site, advised them that James and Dympna would be by shortly to get their parking pass and to let them know any information needed. I then headed to my vehicle to pack up my sled. I had originally had 2 bins packed and the box for the stove but they didn’t fit on the sled properly, so I unpacked one of the bins and repacked pretty much everything to fit accordingly. As I finished packing up the sled, James, Dympna and Molly pulled into the parking lot.
We said our hellos, they went in to get their pass and some firewood and then packed up their sleds. Soon, we were on our way to the campsite, all in good spirits and ready for some winter fun.
It didn’t take us long to make it to the site and it was a hoot watching James trying to make it down the first big hill riding his sled full of gear instead of pulling it. Molly seemed to be having lots of fun already too. We checked out the site upon arrival and then began setting up.
I had brought the new hot tent stand that I had made to test it out in the snow. I had only used it on grass and in my basement thus far. Just packing it on the sled, I already had my doubts about using it in the backcountry. It was very light, but just didn’t fit very well on my sled with the other gear. When I went to set up the tent I had more concerns. The corners would not stay down. At home in the basement I had used bricks but out here I had assumed I could just bury them in the snow, but the snow didn’t hold the corners down at all. It was too light and they just popped up every time I went to bury the next corner.
Frustrated and disappointed, I removed the stand and set up the tent using stakes. This wasn’t the easiest task either as I had left my axe in the car to bring with the wood run we would do after and the stakes I brought were just last minute additions as I honestly thought I’d be using the stand. Eventually, after a bit of struggling, all was set up and ready to go.
Molly entertained us for a bit playing with a very brave squirrel. It would run down the tree and sit there only a few feet away from the curious dog and then would run back up the tree.
After a bit Molly started to get cold, so James put his coat on her. It was so funny. She looked a bit like ET with the hood on and let us take silly photos and even a video of her, not caring that we were making fun of her as she was warm and I think delighted to be bundled up and no longer shivering.
James, Dympna and Molly headed to the car to get Molly’s food so I hurried to do all the things. I hung a rope for the food as it was still so early in the season, I figured the bears were sleeping, but I was not 100% sure. I got a fire going in the stove, chopped up a bit of kindling, organized my tent and changed my socks as my current ones had gotten a bit sweaty and my feet were cold. Once I changed my socks, they were toasty warm again and I was good to go.
When everyone returned back to camp, we put on our snowshoes and went for a shoe. We walked through the campground which on it’s own, took forever with the snow and no previous tracks, and then we did a bit of the Cranberry Bog trail.
We crunched along and I had forgotten how loud snow could be. I suppose I should already have been reminded from the snow rumbles I experienced last weekend, but this was a whole different type of loud, but still a really nice welcome sound to winter.
I was pretty surprised that we were actually snowshoeing in November, but here we were doing it and loving it. It was such a great day, not too cold, not too warm and lots of snow. We even were granted a little sunshine every now and then. Who could ask for more?
Once we tired ourselves out marching through the wintery wonderland, we headed back to camp. Poor Molly was cold once again so she was wrapped in a foil blanket and kept off the snow for a bit. She seemed to like that but once I got the fire stoked again in the hot tent, she just stood outside of it in front of the door. She seemed to know that it was warm in there and that is exactly where she wanted to be. We let her in and she climbed up on my cot and slept for the rest of the afternoon.
It was beginning to get dark so James got a fire going outside in the fire pit so we could sit by it and warm up. He started to heat up their dinner which was garlic naan bread (I had some, it was yummy!) and some type of curry something. I wasn’t very hungry yet so I waited to heat up my beef stew until a bit later, but it was just a quick heat up and eat up, so nothing major.
After dinner we all hung out in the hot tent for a while. I was pretty amazed I could get 3 people and a dog in there, but with the cot, my guests were all comfy cozy and I sat in the chair and tended the fire and it was perfect. This was the first time I was using the cot even though I had purchased it last December. Due to my concussion, I wasn’t able to get out again in the winter to try it but I was so happy to have it with me today. From a test I did in Killarney last year I knew that sleeping on the ground, the temperature was about 3 degrees as opposed to like 25-30 degrees half way up, so I knew I’d be comfy cozy tonight.
Around 8:30 we were all very sleepy from the day playing in the snow. James, Dympna and Molly headed to their sleeping area, which was just a tarp in the snow. James had set it up quite nicely and I had always admired his tarping skills but I was still super cold for them and happy I had my hot tent to keep me warm. It’s not that I couldn’t sleep in the snow, but that I really had no interest in doing so. Below are some photos I took earlier in the day of their set up.
I got myself ready for bed and enjoyed the warmth of the tent.
I had honestly forgotten how lovely the hot tent really was and by the looks of the photo above, I had also forgotten to remove the side table from inside the stove before I got the fire going. DOH!!! You can see the corner of it in the photo above in the bottom right corner of the stove. (thankfully, it was okay the next day when I went to pack up. ) I was very happy to be out in the tent this weekend. Especially because I was presenting at the Ontario Winter Camping Symposium next weekend about creating it. It was a good refresher and reminder of how much I truly enjoyed camping in it and it gave me new inspiration to share it with others at the show.
The moon was bright and looked lovely. I did my best to get a photo when I headed out to hang the food bag before going to sleep. My view when I pop my eyes open in the night is the one to the right. The beautiful glow of the fire inside my stove keeping me nice and warm and warm I was. The cot was amazing and I was not even the slightest bit cold. It was a great improvement from lying on the snow and I was very happy I had bought it, even if I could only use it on front country trips.
The temperatures actually ended up being much colder than forecast but I didn’t really notice. I had woken up every few hours to put wood in the stove and remained comfortable and happy all evening. My body seems to wake up somehow automatically as soon as the temperature drops and then I say to myself, well, you’re awake anyways, throw a log on. I set up the tent at night with wood next to the bed so I can just sit up, open the damper, open the door, put the wood in, close the door, close the damper and lie back down without getting up at all, so why not?
I woke up pretty early, as I usually do, and went out to take a few photos. Then I got back in my bed for a bit, then did it again a little later. I also filled the kettle and put it on the stove so there would be hot water as soon as James and Dympna got up, just because it was so easy for me and I assumed they’d be a bit chilly when they got out of their sleeping bags.
The lake looked so magical. It wasn’t frozen or even close but it was so calm and frigid it looked almost mirror like and so serene.
I headed back to my tent once again with the food bag and got my breakfast stuff out. I had precooked bacon, 2 eggs and an english muffin. Even though I had rescued James and Dympna’s eggs from the picnic table last night so they wouldn’t freeze in the nalgene bottle they had them in, I managed to forget about mine and hang them in the food bag.
They were in turn frozen when I went to cook them, so my omelette turned into a fried egg omelette as i couldn’t break the yoke until it was on the stove for a bit and too late to scramble the eggs up.
James, Dympna and Molly got up just around the time I’d finished making breakfast. I had used the stove early in case they wanted to make their breakfast on the wood stove in the tent, but they weren’t cold at all it turned out and happy to cook outside on the picnic table. Molly, however, was more than happy to park her behind right in front of the wood stove and warm herself up and she stayed there almost until they were ready to take off.
After we all finished breakfast and cleaned up, James, Dympna and Molly got ready to head out. They had an appointment nearby and needed to get going.
They got all of their gear packed up, we took a short video and said our goodbyes and they headed down the trail with sled in tow, waving goodbye. I was so happy they had joined me on this outing and we had tonnes of fun hanging out. I hope we are able to do it again soon.
I puttered around the site and took my time packing up the sled. I even shoveled some snow where the tent was to cover up that I was there and as it was snowing, before long, there would be no trace of us at all except for these photos.
Before I knew it, I was on my way out to, following in my friends footsteps.
I really enjoyed my time at George Lake Campground in Killarney, even though a bit short, totally worth the trip. Thanks so much to James, Dympna and Molly for joining me. I can’t wait to do it again!
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Happy Winter Camping!