Poker Lake Camping

So the time has come, I officially declare summer camping season…OPEN!  Huzzah!  That’s right, I’ve knocked the dust off my gear and taken it out into the bush.  It was a good time, I was with first-time campers (which was both aggravatingand a good thing for my confidence as a camper), and the sun was shining.

We put in at the Poker Lake put-in on Highway 118 in central Ontario.  It’s a tough put-in to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for, but the “Watch for People Crossing the Road” yellow signs are a dead give-away.  It’s about halfway between the firehouse at the end of Bird Lake road and Carnarvon.  We went south into Big East Lake, and after a 150m portage down a hill steeped with Canadian Shield granite we were on our way.  The paddle was short but scenic, and we had the whole lake to ourselves.  A broken yoke and weaker paddlers meant that I pretty much gunned the 3-4 odd kilometers as fast as I could just to get off the water (which is disappointing, I love the paddle/adventure).  We pulled into a rather steep and rocky take-out on site # 15 and I set to work setting things up.

My tent, a 2-pole 4-person MEC number, went up easy as pie and despite a few hours of solid rain remained bone dry.  I was very pleased with it.  The same goes for my new MSR pot set, which handled chili and mixing bowl duties quite nobly.  I was most impressed, however, with the Trailblazer Take-down Bucksaw I was borrowing from a friend.  That little tub of aluminum, with a flourish and some know-how it turns into a handy-dandy saw to hack up some firewood.  It was incredibly helpful and I was glad to have it.  One last piece of equipment I took out for the first time this year was a huge 110L backpack, which was tremendously awesome on the quick portage down to the put-in.  When you engage Beast Mode, put the pack with all your equipment/tent/sleeping bags/etc. on your back and then the canoe on your head you can move a whole ton of gear easily and quickly.

Like I’ve said, the weather was a mixture between good sunshine, calm wind (which kept the bugs away), and a bit of light to moderate rain.  I didn’t both putting up the tarp to keep the rain off because it would have been too much of a hassle.  The firewood I found was generally rotted rubbish, so we didn’t have a roaring blaze.  The wind DID however blow an ember out of the fire and I had to use my drinking water to stop the forest from burning down.  Fishing was a wash, I didn’t try anywhere outside of the site (as there was much to do), and the water was still quite cold which meant that they were very lazy and not biting.  We saw and heard a loon calling and fishing, which was magestic as ever.

All in all, it was a good trip.  Nowhere near one of my best, but better than working (amirite?).  It was good to get outside for whole days at a time and validating to see my coveted gear in action.  I’ve got only a few things to buy now before heading out in earnest, and I can’t wait to share it all with you.  If you have questions, route info, or any other info you want to share, please leave a comment!


2 responses to “Poker Lake Camping

    • Well, I looked at one in Hiker’s Haven in Oakville, but the website for booking ( offers a fairly accurate one. The system is fairly small and you can print off a screen capture of usable scale.

      The Barrie MEC also had a good selection of maps last time I was in there.

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