Mew Lake to Silent Lake – 152km
(9pm-ish, Sept 22)
What a day! Not only was it about 20km further than we planned, but it was also every bit as hard as we thought it would be.
We started early – we planned to grab breakfast at the cafe near the campsite so that sped things up – and we were on the road by 7:45. Just four degrees again; hopefully tonight is warmer. After grabbing a tasty breakfast wrap at the cafe, we headed on. At first we intended to take a bike trail for a bit, but we couldn’t find it so we just hit the highway.
Thick mist this morning made visibility tough, but it lifted after 30 mins or so. Not too long afterwards, 16 – count ’em – OPP cars came screaming by as though the end of the world was nigh or something. No idea why (Note: we later discovered that it was due to a manhunt for a murderer). Lots of construction on the road today – not really inconveniencing, but a little nerve-wracking when the OPP cars were still coming by.
Anyway, we reached Whitney without incident, and grabbed a hot chocolate ahead of the off-road part of the day. We were about 37km in at this point, and had cleared the park (temporarily); we’d made good time and were feeling good.
HAY CREEK ROAD. That name will stick in my head. We turned onto it right by the cafe in Whitney, and it seemed nice… for about 35 seconds. That was when the asphalt ended and the dirt road began.
To call Hay Creek Road a “road” is to do a disservice to all other roads. This was mostly a track, at best. Sometimes a dirt track; sometimes a mud track; sometimes a rocky track. ALWAYS a hilly track. We were on it for 50km, which took us about four hours. It was brutal.
The road started out as mostly dirt, which logging trucks (we met a few on the way) had – in places – compacted with their wheels. We tried to stick to those ruts as much as we could, but sometimes they faded (go figure) or other things (rocks, potholes) interfered. Whenever that happened, our wheels would immediately be seized by deep dirt/sand whose only objective seemed to be to throw you off our bikes. Every so often the surface would get rockier which, while bone-jarring, was a little more predictable.
Eventually we branched off from the logging road and for several hours didn’t see a soul. Good thing neither of us got a puncture/had an accident/met another bear, as we’d have been hours from any sort of help (ok, a puncture would have been fine… but a buckled wheel would have been both disastrous and quite likely).
Eventually we came to a gate marking the entrance back into Algonquin, and from there eventually got to another as we left the park for the last time (there was about an hour of cycling between them).
Finally, after what felt like an eternity we came out to a real road. We were both tired and hungry so called in at a year-round campsite called Pine Lake, where our lunch consisted of a can of cola, a pack of Skittles and a freezie. Nice location; I grabbed a business card and may look to revisit some time.
From there the trip was fairly uneventful, although Father was “knackered” so instead of taking a slightly longer route via a store and the restaurant where we planned to have dinner we headed straight to Silent Lake (about 45-50km on from where we got off Hay Creek Road). There was, of course, a big climb to the campsite (as always) but we made it.
It was only once we put our tents up that we realized that skipping the restaurant on the way meant a 15km round trip for dinner, which we didn’t relish but managed. We planned to go to Mirrors Cafe in Bancroft, but it turned out to have been purchased by new owners and is now called the Lakehouse. Right on the edge of a lake, and it was lovely. Good service, food was tasty and after three dry days we could finally have a beer. We saw two deer near our campsite while on the way there too, which was nice.
After enjoying our dinner as the sun went down we had a nighttime ride back to the campsite which was blissfully uneventful. We both grabbed a shower at the comfort station… and now here we are.
97km to Ferris tomorrow. Feels like a short day which is crazy. We should be done by mid-afternoon though. Lord knows we could do with an easy day.
Today was fun in hindsight. Really tough at the time but looking back it was satisfying and enjoyable. Weird.