a peek inside the fishbowl

13 Jul, 2011

Camping at Bon Echo part 2. Now about those bugs. And a bit about the hikes.

Posted by andrea tomkins in: travel talk

I’m thinking of you as I write this Lynn. :)

If you hate camping you will want to make it easier on yourself. And by “make it easier” I mean:

  • choose car camping over canoe camping
  • book a spot near a comfort station
  • for only a few nights
  • and bring inflatable mattresses
  • and as many comforts from home that you can squeeze into the car
  • and most importantly, don’t go easy on the bug spray. It won’t kill you.

You know what tune I had in my head while I was at Bon Echo? This one:

God that makes me laugh.

It’s about blackflies, but I believe that it applies equally to those other bloodsucking savages, mosquitoes.

I hate mosquitoes. I really do. But they absolutely love me, and they love my ankles most of all.

Our campsite was full of them. It was nonstop slapping and spraying. Swarms of bloodsucking villains disturbed our tranquility and upset the delicate balance of our sanity, throwing it in complete disarray.

We were surprised to see that they were as bad as they were. When dusk rolled around the mosquitos rolled out of bed. They were a relentless variety, one that had the uncanny strength and wherewithal to puncture us through denim.

I deeply regretted not bringing a screened in dining tent, as it would have made things a little easier and given us some additional living space.

We had the wrong kind of chairs for a mosquito infestation too. Little did we know that when we bought our ROOTS-brand folding chairs a couple of years ago we were actually purchasing four mosquito-feeding stations. The backs and bottoms of our chairs are made of mesh (MESH! WHO DOES THIS?), thus allowing easy access to our pale and sensitive parts.

Oh, and here’s a tip, don’t wear a skirt while you’re camping. (!)

You know, I consider myself a fairly eco-friendly kind of gal. I fret about pesticide residue on our strawberries. I don’t use a lot of chemical cleaners. I use unscented laundry detergent and skip the fabric softener because of scent-related sensitivities, but all this all goes out the window when mosquitoes enter the picture. There inevitably comes a point, if given the chance, I would gladly sit in a hazy cloud of DEET rather than continue being ravaged by mosquitoes. I’ll take the DEET, the stronger the better. FYI, here’s some interesting information about it from Health Canada.

Mark bought a bottle of deep-woods formula for himself and ran out on day two. Aside from not having a screened-in dining tent I deeply regretted not investing in a Costco-sized bottle for all of us.

We bought a new device called a Thermacell from Canadian Tire before we left. It got good reviews in the paper, and it was on sale so I thought it’d be worth a test drive. We tried it for a couple nights (not realizing it only came with only two “pads” of stuff that only give 4 hours of protection each) but I’m still not sure about it. Personally I think it made a difference, but Mark is not convinced. Perhaps more testing is needed. Have you tried it?

Related: industrial strength anti-itch lotions and meds are a very important part of your First Aid kit. If you don’t bring something – anything – you will become a sobbing lunatic and/or eventually find yourself cowering in your car. And this is the stuff that family legends are made of so you know don’t want THAT to happen.

I don’t mind bugs per se. If there’s a wasp buzzing around or a daddy long-legs crawling across my path I don’t have an issue. It’s the ones who willfully, pointedly, use me as a blood bank that bother me.

Here’s the thing: if it wasn’t mosquitoes at the campsite it was deer flies in the woods and horse flies on the beach. *sigh*

You’ve seen horse flies before, right? They’re the size of the end of your thumb; slower-moving critters that take hunks out of your flesh. Yeah.

Normally when we’re camping we like to go on a hike every morning and swim away every afternoon, but we learned early on that this was not to be. We did three hikes, two of which were extremely buggy and as a result, rather miserable. It’s very hard to focus on the beautifully woody surroundings if you’re racing to beat the bugs. Even stopping to take a drink or turning around to chat becomes unpleasant.

“DON’T STOP.” I’d yell, arms and legs churning like an Olympic speed walker on water. “THE BUGS WILL GET US!”

The worst thing about it (bug bites aside) is that it then becomes very hard to convince the younger members of the family that this is supposed to be, you know, fun.

Our best hike was combined with a short paddle and was remarkably bug-free. We rented a canoe at the Lagoon and paddled across the lake. (It’s a very short distance and is totally manageable, even for non-canoe people.)

We stopped to admire the pictographs up close on Mazinaw Rock.

Native pictograms

… as well as “old Walt,” a rather well-known engraving. Flora MacDonald Denison (the famous Canadian suffragette) was an admirer of Walt Whitman’s work and had some of his poetry engraved in the face of the rock. The letters are a foot tall.

Old Walt

Here’s another view.

After we’d seen everything there was to see on that side of the lake we tied our canoe to a dock which was at the foot of Cliff Top Trail. It might be helpful to point out that there’s also a little ferry that crosses the lake too (it’s called Mugwump Ferry) and it runs daily.

The trail is 1.7 km but feels slightly longer, due to this:

Stairway to Cliff Top Trail

Stairway to Cliff Top Trail

There was a set of stairs that has 50 steps and another group that had 138.

Stairless parts of the trail still had steep aspects to it:

Hike to Cliff Top Trail

Heed my advice and wear sturdy shoes and bring water, because it’s dusty and hot up there. It’s work getting up, but as we like to point out to the girls, there’s always a payoff when there’s hard work.

Sarah at the end of Cliff Top Trail

That’s the lagoon down there, the place we canoed out of:

View from Cliff Top Trail

Here’s something good to know, the binoculars at the top don’t actually take money (even though there’s a sticker that indicates it costs a quarter).

It was a very satisfying hike up, and a very satisfying hike down. But that’s the thing about hiking, isn’t it?

Anyway, back to the bugs. If you’re a smart camper, unlike me, you will make the investment and consider bringing:

  • Lightweight, light-coloured long sleeved shirts and pants. For some reason the mosquitoes aren’t as attracted to light colours (says the lady who wore a black hoodie for 5 evenings in a row)
  • Light jackets with a tight weave to provide that one extra layer of protection
  • Folding chairs that aren’t lined with MESH fer chrissakes. I spent way too much time applying anti-itch cream down the back of my shorts.
  • Ball caps, and spray them with bug spray before putting them on your head.

15 Responses to "Camping at Bon Echo part 2. Now about those bugs. And a bit about the hikes."

1 | Mary @ Parenthood

July 13th, 2011 at 10:12 am

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Have you tried the vitamin B patches?

2 | Lynn

July 13th, 2011 at 10:40 am

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Oh my daisies, now I am horrified. We are going the on the August long weekend for two nights. Thanks for the concrete tips, much appreciated. I’m off to shop, shop, shop for bug gear and spray…and then I’m going to close my eyes and sing loudly and go away to my happy place. It’s not happening! It’s not happening!

3 | Giulia

July 13th, 2011 at 11:25 am

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I hate bugs and I’ve found them particularly bad at Bonne Echo. We just got back from camping at 1’000 islands and it was not bad at all.
People love bringing me along on camping trips as the bugs attack me and only me, leaving the rest of the family unharmed.
My worst mosquito experience was in Venezuela, big as flies and kept on sucking while you sprayed them directly with DEET. My legs had bite marks the size of quarters!
I’m loving the OFF wipes for the little kids.

4 | andrea

July 13th, 2011 at 12:04 pm

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Mary – I haven’t tried them because I don’t believe they’d work. :)

Lynn – consider yourself warned, but make the best of it and try to focus on the big picture. You’ll be making some lifelong memories for your kids, besides, I think it’s good for us to get closer to nature!

Giulia – I thought it was just the season! You mean they’re like this all summer long? Eep! Also: I don’t ever want to meet a Venezuelan mosquito.

5 | Lorrie Douthwright

July 13th, 2011 at 2:52 pm

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yikers! This has inspired me to start writing my camping pack list now! I DO NOT WANT TO FORGET THIS INFO! I’ll check out the off wipes too. Our youngest looks like a prizefighter for weeks after a bite to the face.

I think we will be buying some bug mesh hats too. I went camping with my son’s beavers colony earlier this year and a few of the kids had those. I thought they were great but you still need a wide brim, bucket type hat under them to keep the fabric away from your face, otherwise the little vampires can still reach you.

6 | Javamom

July 14th, 2011 at 6:46 am

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It’s been years since we’ve been to Bon Echo – pre babies…but we do camp in Haliburton usually first week of August. I have to say the bugs are less annoying in August than July, based on experience. Unfortunately, I’m the one they love more than anyone else in the family which always makes it harder for me. I get stressed prior to leaving when we’re supposed to be relaxing a la vacation mode….:)

Having said that, they did predict a particularly bad year for bugs due to the wet spring…

Looking back at the memories and photographs though, as you say, made it worth it, no?

I hope the humidity will subside so I can wear long clothing…and hats…and cover all skin…

By the way we have bug mesh hats. They work. I like them. And you can spay the mesh prior to putting it on your head.

7 | binki

July 15th, 2011 at 12:14 am

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What I know about biting bugs….

1. they are not evil, they are hungry
2. get campsites that are open/airy (wind is good) and not close to swamps and stagnant water.
3. cover up
4. camp in August or Sept – after “bug out”
5. at some point you stop have allergic reactions to mosquito bites (mine no longer swell / cause welts)
6. canoe camping is better than car camping when it comes to biting insects. Once you start moving away from shore, the bugs disappear.

8 | mommymarshall

July 15th, 2011 at 9:56 pm

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so let me get this straight….are you saying you don’t like mosquitos?

couldn’t resist…I hate them too :)

9 | andrea

July 16th, 2011 at 4:14 pm

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Haha. I don’t like mosquitoes. But was it worth going? Definitely, yes!

11 | Car camping at Lake St. Peter, a great campground near Bancroft. >> a peek inside the fishbowl

July 30th, 2012 at 8:45 am

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[…] at Bon Echo, a different Ontario Parks campground we visited last year. You can read about our buggy adventure at Bon Echo here. (Anyone with a bug phobia may not want to […]

12 | Camping 2013: Grundy Lake Provincial Park >> a peek inside the fishbowl

August 9th, 2013 at 6:07 am

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[…] idea. We’ve had great success with many other provincial parks including Charleston Lake, Bon Echo, and Lake St. Peter, so I was happy to try out a new one. We ventured in this direction (a 6.5 hour […]

14 | a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive Camping at Bon Echo Provincial Park, part 1 - a peek inside the fishbowl

July 25th, 2017 at 9:15 am

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[…] a soggy mess the entire time. Also, related to that: bugs. Bon Echo had been buggy to the extreme the last time we were here so I drew a natural conclusion and assumed it would be just as bad, if not worse this year. So, […]

15 | a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive One last trail at Bon Echo (plus a challenge that is both disgusting and cool) - a peek inside the fishbowl

August 1st, 2017 at 6:50 pm

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[…] had, we were expecting a bloody massacre upon arrival (our massacre, that is). As evidenced by this archived post, Bon Echo has stood out as our buggiest camping experience in our family’s history. We […]

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark. We have two daughters: Emma (19) and Sarah (17). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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