For our first trip backpacking into the wilderness Jane and I chose Bon Echo Provincial Park as our destination of choice. With 17 seemingly easy kilometers of trail sneaking through pristine Canadian wilderness what could go wrong?
We both had sub 25lb packs even though they were fully loaded with camping gear, food, water, and fuel, which made us think we were going to have a nice leisurely stroll through the wood.
While our gear worked and we weren’t overburdened our biggest problem turned out to be one of the smallest things… BUGS.
The mosquitoes in the park were ferocious and both Jane and I came out covered in bites. Things were so bad at some points we were literally running down the trails to get away from them. Now this was in mid July, still the height of bug season, but it was still way worse than expected. So be warned, if you plan on camping during June or July bring bug spray, nets, suits, and a flamethrower if you have it.
The Abe’s and Essen’s trail has two shortcuts to give hiker the option of doing a shorter loop or to simply go for a day hike. For our trip we hiked the entire 17Km circumference opting to not explore the shortcuts. Along the trail there are 5 campsites that need to be reserved through parks Canada and a permit is necessary for access to the park.
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One of the biggest hurdles in preparing for this trip was finding information on the trails and the sites. We even found it difficult to find a good map of the trails to book out sites and had to rely on photos from a trip report by Suluk 46.
From looking at Google earth and referencing what information I could find online I chanced on site 529 and made a booking.
We arrived in the park on Friday night and camped in the car camping area so we could leave first thing in the morning. When the sun rose we packed up our gear, grabbed our backcountry permit, and headed to the trailhead. Once there we were putting on our packs as a father and two kids tromped out of the woods and call a warning over to us. “I hope you have some bug nets, It’s crazy in there” he said. Luckily we were prepared and pulled out our bug nets, sprayed ourselves down, and prepared for battle.
The trail was wonderful, much more rugged than either of us had expected, but still manageable for our first trip. We hiked up hills, over rocks, crossed beaver dams, and tried to enjoy ourselves while being eaten alive. We did get a few moments of refuge when the trail neared lakes and a breeze could be felt vanquishing the biting menace.
We passed our fist camp site, site 530, and I stopped to snap a few pictures. The site is up on a rocky rise overlooking a small lake with lots of lillypads around it’s edges. It’s a bit of a hike to get water and swimming it a bit weedy but it’s proximity to the trail head makes it doable for almost anyone regardless of pack weight.
The next bit of trail, the most northerly section, is difficult to navigate and crosses several beaver dams. At some times we had difficulty locating the trail but after a bit of searching we usually found a trail marker in the distance. It appears that not may hikers make it back this far to beat down the underbrush and really define a path. After this we emerged from the woods at our home for the night Site 529.
This beautiful site overlooks the larges site on the trip. Despite the look in the photo of weeds there was an excellent rock just to the left of this photo that slopes gently, and weed free, right into the water. We peeled off our clothes and slipped in the water to soak away our pains and wash away the stink of sweat and bug spray.
We had a beautiful evening of roasting marshmallows and relaxing around camp before heading to bed early, exhausted from our hike.
The next morning we awoke, rested and relaxed, to a beautiful day with a nice bug vanquishing breeze. Breakfast was eaten, camp was packed, and we hit the trails.
Our next site to visit was Site 528, This site is within visual distance of site 529 but far enough away that you have more than enough privacy. 528 has amazing swimming as well and lots of room to hang hammocks and setup tents. From there the trail plunges back into the woods, crossing streams and dodging swamps.
Nearing lunch time we came across site 527 up on a hill overlooking Essens lake. We dropped our packs and pulled off our boots to let our feet dry why nibbling Clif bars and relaxing in the shade.
After lunch we grabbed our packs then took the short hike to tour the nearby, and last, site 526.
After visiting the last site we had a nice hike out of the woods stopping to enjoy the view whenever we could. Then finally, tired but smiling, we arrived back at the car, threw our packs in the trunk and promised our selves we would come back… just maybe in the winter when there are NO BUGS!
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Get the .GPX file HERE (Right click & Save As)