Go Home Lake

March 2012
44° 59' 43.4" N, 79° 50' 7.4" W

My camping buddy Matthias and I were planning on trying winter camping this year, but unfortunately winter never showed up. So I dragged my heels in regards to making any camping plans. Fortunately, when Matthias (being the proactive guy that he is) gave me a call and said that we had to do some March camping, I was down.


When we started looking, none of the Ontario Parks were fully open. Unfortunately for us, what Matthias found, after making a few calls, was that all of the Yurts were already reserved. We had success at Moon River in November, so we figured Crown Land camping would be a solid choice. And then we thought back to our last trip, and as fun as it was trying to find a suitable place for a tent in the dark, we decided to wake up early on a Saturday instead of driving up after work on a Friday.

We agreed to find somewhere close, and from what we could tell, Go Home Lake was about as close as you could get to Toronto. Not wanting to step on any toes, I called the MNR (Ministry of Natural Resources) and told them that I planned on camping on the east side of the lake. The representative on the phone found the spot I was talking about and confirmed that we were good to go.

When we got back from Moon River last fall, I did a Google search of the area and discovered that we had missed out on seeing an epic waterfall by only a few kilometers. [Update: We checked out the waterfall, and it was awesome! Write up posted here.] So I plugged Go Home Lake into Google, and was disappointed to find a 24 page document from a Municipal Law Enforcement Officer outlining the problem the local residents were having with campers. According to the document, the residents had proof that people were abusing the Crown Land by using the lake as a personal get away spot, without paying taxes. As well, they were leaving a lot of garbage behind, which was attracting bears and contaminating the water, resulting in high levels of e. coli. While I can agree with their complaint of the latter, I don't see why they would complain about people using Crown Land as a personal get away spot. I was under the impression that one of the purposes of Crown Land was so that Canadians would have access to the province without having to own land. As well, there are rules set in place to prevent people from staying in one spot for longer than a month.

I called the municipality of Georgian Bay and spoke with the by-law officer. He said that as long as we were 65 feet away from any road, lake or river, we were free to camp and use fires for cooking since there were no burn advisories. That was good enough for me. I was a little disappointed and confused about the 65 foot rule because it was not listed on any of the Crown Land maps, but really, 65 feet is only a stone throw, and that was not going to be a big deal.

We headed up early Saturday morning and drove by a number of "No Camping" signs which we felt we could rightfully ignore. We parked the car, and headed into Crown Land. The area consisted of a lot of exposed Canadian Shield, as well as some fairly spectacular white pine. We found a natural path that took us along the shoreline, and after a short walk, we found a clearing. It was elevated maybe 30 meters above lake level, and about 100 meters from the water giving us a magnificent view of the lake. There were lots of spots to put up tents, even though we only needed one, and there was an existing fire pit not too far from where we wanted to set up.

The view from our tent. She was a beaut!

I had never set up a tent on Canadian Shield before, and I quickly learned that since I was unable to peg down the tent, I was going to have to get some large rocks to tie the corners to; after only a few minutes, I noticed the wind was was trying to steal my shelter. Some 550 paracord and some large rocks did the trick, and was enough to keep our tent from blowing off one of the cliffs. We did a quick set up of the site, and then headed to the lake with some nachos, guacamole, and a beer. This was indeed the start of a great weekend getaway.

It was the first week of spring, and there were already a few motorboats on the lake. The weather was warm enough to get away with only wearing a t-shirt, which was a nice surprise. We were ready for freezing temperatures and rain, but luckily the only time we got rain was for a short drizzle in the middle of the night. We headed back to camp, and picked up some firewood on the way. A decision was made against buying any because of how abundant the wood was last time we went to Crown Land. This time around was no different. There was deadfall everywhere you looked.

My Gerber folding saw made quick work of the larger logs, and Matthias accepted and won my challenge of making a fire with only one flick of his lighter. We spent the next few hours playing HORSE utilizing a bb gun and the nacho bag as a target. Call the shot, if you make it, the other guy has to make the same shot. If he misses, he gets a letter.

Katadyn Base Camp, good! Cheap water jug from Walmart, bad.
Before we knew it, we were hungry again, and we started boiling some of the water I had filtered using my new Katadyn Base Camp for the dehydrated meals we brought up. It was my first time filtering lake water, and being the city boy that I am, I was hesitant. However, the research that I had done before going up assured me that filtering and boiling would be enough to keep us smiling for the rest of the weekend. We were pretty hungry, so of course the food was delicious. If I recall correctly, we had chicken vindaloo and Jamaican rice.

The rest of the night was spent chatting by the fireplace and enjoying the simplicity and lack of schedule. We agreed that we seem to have a lot of fun on our camping trips because we set no - or very few - expectations. We usually have grand plans of constructing something out of wood or going on mega long hikes, but when we find that we're happy lounging around instead, we never seem to be all that disappointed with being lazy bums.


The next morning we woke up late feeling very refreshed after sleeping surrounded by fresh air. We made breakfast and sat around the fire for a bit. A decision was made that even though it's fun to build fires, they suck up way too much time to build, cook on, then wait to die down before you can go on and do something else. Next time, we'll use our stoves to allow more time to do other things. Anyway, all that thinking made my sleepy, so I walked over to a flat piece of rock and lay down. Matthias had the foresight to go to the tent and retrieve the our thermarest mattresses and pillows. After a draining two hours of consciousness, I was asleep again under the warm sun. I laughed to myself when I woke up two hours later at the idea of how people could in any way call this "roughing it." I was just as relaxed snoozing on my mattress as I have been on any other vacation I've been on. The only difference is that this vacation was only 90 minutes from the city, and the only expenditure was gas, food, and beer. And when you think about it, it's not like you can go through a weekend without spending money on food and a few drinks anyway. So why not spend it up on Crown Land?


After one of most luxurious naps I've ever had, I grabbed my go bag and went for a bit of a hike. I set my GPS, and I was off. Matthias had some blisters on his feet and stayed behind. I was kicking myself for not packing some moleskin.

I was wearing my new ORC level 5 pants and my Beyond level 5 top. The top was a bit much, but at times it got a little windy, so I was glad I had it. What became apparent was that gaitors were going to be an intelligent investment because it only took about half a kilometer before my boots were full of short and sharp pine needles from all the bush-wacking. Not that big a deal, though. I followed the shoreline and found a huge clearing of Canadian Shield with a bit of water running through the middle of it. It was quite a sight; photos cannot do it justice. If I ever come back, I would definitely set up at this clearing. The only disappointing thing was that on my way there, I saw a pile of broken beer bottles that looked like they had been there for a few years. It made me mad to see that some people were obviously taking this land for granted and treated it like a garbage dump. I could see why some of the locals were getting upset, considering how beautiful the scenery is. Hopefully these campers don't ruin it for the rest of us.


Probably the closest I found to the perfect white pine on my walk. Lots of wind blown branches, but not scraggly enough.
I made my way back and took a few pictures of some trees in my neverending quest to find the perfect white pine. Many have come close, but I haven't found it yet. Matthias and I sat around for a bit longer, and then cleaned up the site, leaving nothing behind. With another successful weekend under the belt, we commented on how hard it would be to have to pay for camping, now that we've found Crown Land.

Crown Land Camping
Pros:
• Free for Canadian residents.
• Many locations available within a reasonable distance from Toronto.
• Quiet. And since you do not have to make a reservation, should some noisy campers set up beside you, picking up and leaving is always an option.
• When you get back, and people ask what you did on the weekend, it always guarantees a good story.

Cons:
• It takes an investment in research and money to acquire the gear needed to make it enjoyable. Luckily for you geardos out there, the research and acquisitions are half of the fun.
• No running water or bathrooms. Digging a hole isn't romantic, but it really isn't as bad as you think.
Apparently this guy wanted to come with us. I found him on the bottom of the tent as I was rolling it up. He's lucky I found him!
I do not consider myself a seasoned outdoorsman. All it took for me to enjoy Crown Land was a bit of research and the drive to get outside. I sit at a desk during the day, and growing up, I never really had anyone to teach me outdoor skills. So when I say anyone can do it, I really mean it. If you've new to camping, and like what you see, but don't know where to start, don't hesitate to ask questions. You could always drop me a message in the comments, or better yet, go to a reputable camping store and ask them what you need. There are also lots of camping checklists that you can find on Google. One thing to be wary of, in my experience, is that when you're buying camping gear, you really seem to get what you pay for, especially when it comes to waterproof items. So do your research and go have some fun!

2 comments:

  1. That was always my impression of crown land as well, we're allowed to hunt on it as well but it's interesting how many people complain about it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The 65`(read actually 64` rule), is because the township supposedly claimed responsibility of the lake when the water level was lower. Now that the water level has risen, they feel they can claim that 64` back because their jurisdiction area is technically under water. If you read this blog from the cottage association (http://ghlcoa.org/blog/?page_id=143) it helps to explain it. But since it is crown land they `technically` cant enforce it. Here is the bylaw (http://ghlcoa.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Camping_Bylaw_2010-067.pdf) that says you cant camp on jurisdiction land. But like you did, play nice, stay 65`back, and leave no trace behind, and no one will fault you.

    T

    ReplyDelete