What better way to spend the last day of summer than in one of Ontario provincial parks! I decided to “take a shot at” camping for the first time, after finishing the long grind of a summer season in the heat of a kitchen. I am an avid nature lover, who spends his spare time exploring local parks on day trips, yet I had never been camping. I packed the car full of supplies, after researching what was needed, and headed north. In case you’re wondering, of course I brought a furry companion with me, a five-year-old German Shepard. After driving for over four hours from Guelph, I arrived at Arrowhead Provincial Park. The park is located a few minutes outside the town of Huntsville, approximately two and half hours from Toronto, at the north side of Muskoka. Arrowhead contains over 15 km of hiking trails and two lakes. The lakes can be explored without the interruption of motor craft, making it a prime location for viewing wildlife by canoe.
After entering the park, down a long winding road with trees as far as the eye could see, I arrived at the welcome centre. The staff were helpful, explained where to find my campsite, and showed me where to buy lumber and kindling for a fire. I was excited to explore what I could in the next two days so proceeded to find my campsite where I began to set up my tent. I struggled setting up the campsite as a novice camper but had no problem hanging my food up in a tree after reading about bears in the area. Although I never saw a bear, it is always better to be safe than sorry. There is always a next time!
Exhausted from the long drive north I began soaking in the calmness of nature while I read a book and my pup fell asleep at my feet. I was excited to be away from society, as I escaped amongst the trees. I quickly fell asleep only to wake up in the middle of the night. I then climbed out of the tent and took in the pitch darkness as calmness filled my soul with peace, hearing only the sounds of wildlife not too far away; yet I felt safe.
I spent the next day exploring the park, beginning with a hike down a trail leading to a waterfall as my pup walked beside me. Arrowhead is a great place for dogs because it has an off-leash beach for your loyal companion. After I reached the edge of the waterfall, I sat on rocks, as I took in all nature had to offer. A couple proceeded to join me on the waters edge, fascinated with the beauty of the area. I hiked all the way to the beach on Arrowhead Lake. It was empty because of the time of the year; this, in turn, highlighted the beauty of the area.
I arrived back at my campsite later that evening, got a fire going underneath a grill, and proceeded to cook a rib eye steak. I sliced my finger on an open can of beans that were to compliment the steak. I wrapped it in paper towel and duct tape to stop the bleeding. I felt silly for being a rookie in forgetting a first aid kit. After dinner flames sparkled in the air, under the star lit sky, as darkness overtook the campsite. I began to write in my tent, inspired by my surroundings, before drifting off to sleep.
The next day I packed up my supplies while wishing the adventure would not end. I was content with my first camping experience while also learning valuable lessons for future visits. Arrowhead Provincial Park is a beautiful park to explore for a novice camper and is definitively worth the visit!
Original article & photos by Jonathan Buchner , Previously published in Archive Magazine.