My spirit rejuvenates whenever I visit Killbear Provincial Park, found on a prominent point near Parry Sound, half-way along the eastern shore of Georgian Bay, Ontario. From the water, this ancient Canadian Shield portrays barren undulating spaces of gneiss rock, in between protected alcoves of sand beaches, set upon clear waters that caress its shorelines.
Killbear is a unique area of extreme contrasts, combining freshwater activities and wooded pathways with camping, affording friends and family a gathering place for outdoor adventures amidst spectacular geographical surroundings. The complimenting attribute of this magnificent environment is its on land, diverse northern wilderness, where wildlife abounds in harmony. It’s an intricate symbiotic gathering of soft mosses and grasses, delicate perennial blooms, willowy ferns, shrubs and tall stands of trees, all alive with birds and wild creatures. Once you experience how this intricate cohabitation survives in this stark unforgiving environment you absolutely respect and appreciate it.
As dawn’s glow expands and reawakens the forest, little chirps begin a symphony of the woods. Soon, tiny peeps and tweets duplicate, until there’s a full chorus of excited songbird twitter. Fully awake, I stroll to the lakeside, tea in hand, to meet friends and plan today’s activities. Upon reaching Georgian’s shore, I remove my shoes and step barefoot on the smooth rock, until I’m at precisely my favourite spot where I can dangle my toes in cool waters.
After breakfast I prepare for kayaking, packing healthy snacks and safety gear, including a long-sleeved partially neoprene jacket which protects me from sun, wind, and unexpected weather changes. Heavy soled water shoes are important, especially for swimming at unfamiliar landings. It’s a blue-sky day, with no hint of rain and I’m excited to get out on the water before the wind picks up and creates waves.
Heading west, towards the southern side of uninhabited Davy Island, I am greeted by its imposing mass, steeply sloping into the water. It’s delightful paddling in these flat unrippled waters, gazing down at the massive rock chunks and ridges in the depths beneath the surface. Floating along I see artistically wind shaped pine trees clinging to barren rock, often in clusters, their exposed roots supporting them from broken crevices or low-lying indentations. These boldly stalwart trees, supplied with meagre soil nourishment, exude a defiant ability to adapt in this harsh windy environment.
Waters at the western point of Davy have become wavy and turbulent, which can easily strand or capsize a kayak, so I cautiously stroke keeping a safe distance from all visible rocks. As I encircle the island, I return by the northern cliff side which creates a shaded and cool protection from the sun’s exposure and heat. Navigating here is predictably safe as waters are deep, except for occasional dead tree trunks, fallen from above, which cast interesting reflections in the calm waters below. The eastern end of Davy has an ideal place for my kayak to safely land in between rocks, so I slip into the shallows, step out and take a swim in Georgian Bay’s clear refreshing waters.
Gliding back towards the mainland, I pass the solid rock shore at Twin Points, as it gently inclines into a perfectly smooth beach. Part way across Kilcoursie Bay, I pass the adorable Scott Island then head towards the enormous Harold’s Point where dozens of brave jumpers gather on various heights of rock perches, awaiting their turn to plunge into the deep waters below. Around the point, topography is quite different again, back to gently sloping into the bay as other shorelines do along the same fault line. Further along the shore, towards Lighthouse Point, I pass the Visitor Center, where there are more extraordinary broken rock variations to explore.
Back on land, in the midday heat, I mountain bike the twisty and rolling gravel trailway to Lighthouse Point, admire its tall treetops and protected sandy beach, then hike the trailhead leading to the actual point where protruding angles of rock appear like jagged hardened waves, frozen in time. Cycling back, I examine distinctive rocky campsites in Granite Saddle and upper Georgian, then appraise intricate set ups at sites near the beachfront at Kilcoursie Bay and Beaver Dams. Late afternoon, back at Georgian’s rock beach, I take a swim to soothe aching muscles and gather with friends, sharing stories and laughs from today’s adventures.
Tonight, our veggies are complimented with smoked Lake Trout, obtained from a local fisherman, then it’s back to the lakefront for sunset. Day’s end at Killbear is a sacred time where everyone traditionally assembles out on the massive rock protrusion to watch the blazing western sky and reflect on their fun filled day.
Stargazing as the final flames of our campfire turn to glowing coals, I breathe in fresh air and gather my thoughts in awe. I’m grateful and inspired with today as I enthusiastically predict enchantments to unfold again tomorrow in this fascinating place, far away from city lights and stresses of civilization.
WILDERNESS WRITER AND PHOTOGRAPHER CYNTHIA PERCIVAL