Date: July 24, 2016
Distance hiked: 32 km // 20 mi
Steps taken: 47, 097
Time on the trail: ~9.25 hours
Calories burned: 4, 098
Fuel consumed: 2 cheese strings, 1 baggie dried fruit, 1 fruit bar, 1 clif bar, 1 apple, 2 tortillas w/ peanut butter + jam, ~3.5 L water, 500 mL gatorade
Wildlife spotted: mama + baby deer (on the road while driving into the park), lots of millipedes, some kind of woodpecker (possibly downy?), 4 or 5 garter snakes, 4 or 5 ruffed grouse, 1 loon, 4 deer on trail, 2 turtles, lots of chipmunks, squirrels, and other birds
Yesterday morning, I woke up on a mission. That mission: to bag my first ever 20 mile hike. I wanted to prove to myself that I could put in thru-hike worthy mileage. I woke up bright and early and made myself a hearty oatmeal breakfast before hitting the road. I was heading for Frontenac Provincial Park, which is about an hour away from me. I arrived at the park around 8:30, and purchased a day use permit. There was a family in the parking lot when I arrived, who appeared to be setting out on an overnight backpacking trip. Frontenac Park only has backcountry camping, which definitely helps to keep down the crowds.
After obtaining my permit, I was ready to hit the trails. My plan was to do the Slide Lake loop, which has a total distance of around 21km, but with my approach on some of the other trails, would bring me to just short of 20 miles. I started out on the Corridor Trail, which parallels the main road through the park. I loved the idea of the Corridor Trail, as it allows you to navigate the park on foot without having to do any road walking! So awesome! It was also super beautiful, taking me through a young, open deciduous forest with a groundcover of grass. It was still morning, and with the small amount of rain the night before, the world smelled more dewy than hard baked.
Various trail views!
It wasn’t long before I turned off the Corridor Trail and headed down the Dedication Trail. There was an abrupt shift in the landscape here, as the Dedication Trail traveled through a much more open and exposed landscape, reminiscent of oak savannah. The sun was getting higher in the sky now, and I definitely started to feel the heat. The trail weaved throughout many small, unnamed lakes, providing a lot of really nice views. Soon, I reached the actual Slide Lake loop. I had decided to hike the loop in a counter-clockwise direction, and so headed south. I was extremely impressed by the signage within the park. There are clear signs at each and every trail junction, showing what lies in each direction.
View from the first lookout point
The Slide Lake loop had more of the exposed hiking through grassy areas and along rocky ridges, with the occasional foray through the shaded forest. There were 4 marked viewpoints along my route, but the trail seemed to provide never ending views! It seemed like every corner revealed a new lake, rock formation, or sweeping view across a grassy meadow. This was definitely some amazing hiking! At one point, I stumbled upon a large group taking a rest on one of the rocky outcrops, which was slightly jarring given how isolated I had felt just moments before. When I arrived at the first official viewpoint, I was treated to an amazing 360-degree panorama of the surrounding landscape. It was incredible! Not long after this, the trail crossed “Devil’s Gorge” on a wooden bridge, which was super cool.
Soon, the trail turned northwards and I began heading towards its namesake, Slide Lake. The trail climbed up onto a rocky ridge just beside the lake, which provided some truly awesome views. I stopped on a formation called the “Whale’s Back” just before the halfway point to eat my lunch and take a well-deserved rest. It had become another scorcher of a day, and with most of the trail being exposed, I was really feeling the heat. It was tough to stay properly hydrated, which was somewhat concerning, but I had my water filter if I needed an emergency refill.
Lunch with a view on the Whale’s Back!
After lunch, I was wishing for more forested trail so I could have some time out of the sun. At first, the trail did not feel like playing genie, and presented me with more walking along exposed rocky ridges. That type of hiking is fun and makes for amazing views, but the heat and sun were starting to get to me. But then, the trail suddenly entered the forest and briefly paralleled a beautiful bubbling brook. It was magical! I felt like I could have sat there all day, dipping my feet in the clear, cool water and enjoying the shade of the forest. But, I settled for splashing my face a few times and dunking my hat, which felt amazing. The trail decided to have mercy, and gave me a lovely, flat stretch through the forest along a path of soft pine needles. At one point, it wrapped around a pond filled with large lily pads that felt almost enchanted.
Heading down from the Whale’s Back… Bear?! Where?!
Pretty flowers by my favourite stream
When the trail reached its most northerly point at Big Salmon Lake, I caught a glimpse of what the backcountry camping sites are like. It looked amazing, and I am definitely planning to return at some point in the future for an overnight trip! Big Salmon Lake was huge, and the trail ran right alongside it, offering an awesome wide view. There were a couple of people out swimming in the lake, who I imagine must have been camping at the site. When I reached the entry trail to the sites, I stopped to read the sign and examine the oddly-shaped outhouse, which looked kind of like a rocket ship. After I had been standing there for a few minutes, a deep voice suddenly called out, “it’s occupied!”. It turned out someone was using the outhouse with the door open, which I couldn’t see from where I was standing. It was kind of hilarious to picture this poor person sitting in the outhouse and listening to my approaching footsteps, which suddenly stopped right behind the outhouse. I carried on, laughing to myself a bit.
I was nearing the end of the loop, and was feeling tired but accomplished. The last named lake I had to pass was Cedar Lake, and at this point I was hoping for some good water access as I was craving a swim (I just can’t see other people swimming without wanting to get in there myself!), and was also thinking about possibly filtering some more drinking water. Unfortunately, the lake didn’t have good access, but there were some log bridges, one of which crossed a magical-looking wetland area. As I was taking a picture of it, I noticed there was a deer grazing on the opposite shore, just adding to the magic!
Not long after this, I made it back to the intersection with the Dedication Trail, and then I was motoring along to complete the section I had already hiked in the morning. I stumbled upon an older couple sitting in the trail taking a rest, and crossed paths with them a couple of times later as we leapfrogged a bit. The open landscape of the Dedication Trail was especially beautiful now as the sun was getting lower in the sky (though my exhaustion almost prevented me from enjoying it). When I reached the Corridor Trail, it was a welcome cooldown as it was relatively flat and travelled through shaded forest. As I was getting closer to the park office, I saw a few more deer, including what may have been the same mama and baby I saw as I was driving in!
When I reached the office, I was exhausted, but 2km short of my 20 mile goal. I was determined, so I set out along another very short loop that heads out from the office. It was mostly boardwalk, so I took it nice and slow as I drank my fill of water from the spigot near the office and finished off the last of my snacks. When I finally hit the 20 mile mark, I have to admit that my body felt slightly broken, but I had done it!! I now know that I can do it again, and it will only get easier with practice.
The hiking at Frontenac Park was absolutely incredible, and I would return in a heartbeat!! This park is definitely a hidden gem, as the lack of car camping seems to act as a deterrent to the mobs. This was some of the best hiking I’ve done in Ontario, and I highly recommend it to any hikers in the area. I drove home with a smile on my face, belting out the lyrics to a fun Spotify playlist (and of course, stopped to pick up a footlong sub!).
Trail lesson of the day: Push yourself, to a reasonable extent. I knew this hike would be a challenge, but I was fairly certain I could do it. That being said, I brought myself close to my limit and now know to increase mileage and difficulty gradually from here. I do recommend increasing your maximum mileage more slowly, but I am just stubborn and like to throw challenges at myself.
Also, when alone in the woods, things sound larger than they are. Squirrels and chipmunks sound like creeping foxes and coyotes, a raccoon sounds like a bear crashing through the underbrush, and a running deer sounds like an oncoming sasquatch. (And a ruffed grouse flying out of the bushes beside you sounds like a bomb going off).