After doing the Poker Lakes Loop earlier this year, I decided that it would be a great idea (with hopefully better weather) to take out my son on his first backcountry outing to explore Big East Lake. My little guy loves car camping with the family so I figured that doing some canoe camping with dad would be right up his alley, and boy I was right. The poor guy could barely contain his excitement for the long drive up past Gravenhurst and kept asking about the lake and what we would see. After a few hours we finally arrived at the parking area off of highway #118.
After a two trips down the hill to the launch on Big East, all of our gear was fastened into our canoe and ready to set out into the unknown. This was my first time on Big East so we set out with a copy of Jeff’s Maps for the HHWT area (that I also used on my Poker Lake Loop) which are awesome and I highly recommend.
We arrived at our site and spent the early afternoon getting everything set up. I was pretty excited to try out my new MEC Camper 2 tent after the drastic failure of my old tent on my last trip. Everything went up quickly and my son helped wherever he could. I had to show him how to use the saw to cut firewood as he was determined that he could do it.
After getting the fire going I started dinner. I dehydrated some homemade spaghetti sauce and ground beef at home for our first night’s dinner.. I’m new to making my own dehydrated meals but it turned out fantastic and we wolfed down our dinner. I’m going to have to find some more recipes for dehydrating meals as its quite a bit cheaper to DIY then buy an off-the-shelf freeze dried meal, not to mention much tastier.
After cleaning up dishes and a quick lesson for my son on hanging your food to keep critters away, we sat out on a large rock on the edge of our site to enjoy the stunning sunset. The sky was clear and the lake was like a mirror, even the wandering mind of a five year old was awestruck by this beautiful show of nature.
We bundled ourselves up and enjoyed the campfire slowly burning itself out. The weather forecast was for a chilly night so we brought along some extra blankets and layers with our toques to keep us warm all night. We retired to the tent for the night and my little guy fell asleep right away. I stayed up for a bit listening to some coyotes howling and an owl near our site. What a beautiful place.
I woke up around 4:30 and it was COLD! I checked my watch to see that it had gotten down to 4 degrees. I decided that the warmest place was in my sleeping bag and I stayed put, cuddling up with my son to keep him warm. Even though it was so chilly we were quiet comfortable in our sleeping bags and I was even sweating at one point. I finally got up a while later as I wanted to take some photos of the sunrise but the lake was under heavy fog, which made for some really neat pictures.
I made our breakfast of pancakes and bacon before we geared up and set out onto the lake to do some exploring for the day. I was determined to check out every little leg of this lake and see what hidden treasures it had to offer. We loaded our lunch into the canoe and paddled out from our site.
We explored the lakeshore across from our site and eventually found a little dam. Continuing on we made our way through some marshy areas and checked out some empty campsites to keep in mind for future visits. We finally made it to an old portage trail that was marked on the map, leading to Little East Lake. We left the canoe on the shore and decided to hike it for a bit. The trail was rough and disappeared at times but we did find a huge fallen birch tree (we took some bark for fire starting) and what I suspected was Moose poop. A quick google search back at home confirmed the moose poop sighting. My little guy darted along the trail happily and filled his little sac with treasures he found along the way.
We stopped along the way for a nice shore lunch I had packed with us before venturing off and finding a nice spot for a swim. It was much warmer now so we had no hesitation to strip down and go for a quick skinny-dip in the lake.
Back at the campsite, I had some relaxation time while my son ventured off and explored the wooded area around the site and eventually made his way down to the water to find a frog. He was quite excited about it but watched the frog from a distance so he wouldn’t disturb it. His love for nature is really starting to shine through.
It was getting into the evening by now so we made our dinner, cleaned up dishes and the campsite, and sat around enjoying the campfire while listening to the Coyotes howling in the distance. We did some howling of our own, which echoed through the lake, and to our surprise the coyotes responded back. It was a fantastic experience for the both of us. We let the fire burn out and snuggled up in the tent together. We fell asleep to the sounds of the coyotes still howling with a few yips from the little ones.
We woke up just as the sun was rising today and took our time getting out of the tent. After lots of goofing off we finally made our way out for breakfast. We slowly cleaned up and broke down camp, carefully packing all our gear back into our packs. My little guy was starting to get a little homesick by now and missed his mom and sister. We made a promise that we would come back one day and maybe mommy and sister would join us if we could convince them how beautiful it is up here.
We loaded up and set off, slowly paddling our way to the launch while doing some more exploring along the way. I didn’t want our trip to end but it was time to head out of the bush and back into the real world, taking just our photos and memories with us. Our first father and son backcountry trip was a great success and we both plan on doing more in the future. I was impressed with how well my son took to doing simple camp chores, as well as wandering off and exploring on his own without fear.
We arrived at the launch area and starting hauling our gear up the rocky trail. I looked back at my son, carrying his own little backpack, and smiled. He looked up at me and said “I wish we could stay here forever…. why can’t we just live here?”. It filled my heart with joy that he loved this area so much. I think I’ve got a little camping enthusiast on my hands now.
Check out my YouTube videos of the trip below: