a peek inside the fishbowl

01 Aug, 2018

Silent Lake 2018 part 1: A bit about the crazy weather and life on a walk-in camp site

Posted by andrea tomkins in: travel talk

Our campground of choice this year was Silent Lake Provincial Park. This was actually our fourth time visiting Silent Lake. Mark and I went there in the fall of 2005 and we returned as a family in the summer of 2006. We also went the winter and stayed in a yurt (which was totally amazing).

This year was different in many ways.

The youngest and I drove up alone on Thursday night. The eldest daughter had to work Friday so she and Mark drove up separately Friday evening.

This year we decided to try something completely new to us: a walk-in site. We aren’t the type of campers who portage deep into the wilderness. Normally when we camp, we just pull the car into our pre-booked campsite and pitch our tent. If you’ve camped this way before, you also know that the car serves many purposes other than mere transportation. While camping the car is also storage, shelter, and also a power source, but it’s mostly storage, especially food storage.

It’s never a good idea to leave food at a campsite – even a locked cooler- as it will attract unwanted attention from area wildlife such as raccoons and bears. Sidebar: we’ve only had a bear wander through our general area only once (that we know of, anyway) in our years of camping but raccoons are a reality and they are actually smart enough to figure out a cooler latch.

But I digress. Walk-in sites at Silver Lake are exactly that: you park your car in a designated lot and haul your gear in yourself. Advanced Car Camping! Just our speed.

I should point out that the distance between the lot and the site varies depending on what site you booked, obviously. We asked the Ontario Parks staffer at the front gate how far it was to the site we booked (#76, for anyone wanting to replicate our experience) and we were told that it was a five minute walk. Five minutes is relative, of course, depending on your length of stride, whether you need to pee, or are being chased by a bear, but I can confirm that it’s almost exactly 250 steps and the latter part of it is uphill and over a rough path that’s laden with rocks and roots. In other words, it’s not ideal for anyone who has issues walking on uneven terrain. If this was an ordinary walk in the woods it would be totally within my fitness and skill level. While carrying sleeping bags, mattresses, food, and boxes of camping gear (utensils, mugs, frying pan etc. etc.), it is, in a word, torture. (Mark had suggested we bring a dolly but I didn’t want to be That Person.) The youngest and I took multiple trips. In fact, I lost count so I can’t even tell you how many times we went back and forth. I do know that we didn’t manage to unload everything on that first day. We had no energy left, and no time. A pending thunderstorm, nay, a Severe Thunderstorm Watch issued by Environment Canada, had us scurrying to lay the tarp and get the tent set up, but more on that in a bit.


One of the surprisingly handy features of the Silent Lake walk-in site is a food storage shed part way in. It’s secure from animals and relatively cool and well-ventilated, even on warmer days. Rough shelving provided plenty of space for coolers and bins of food.

The food shed was about halfway from our site to the parking lot. The parking lot was also where the toilets were located. The toilets were a notch above a double outhouse, with concrete floors and heavy locking doors, but no light or running water. Did I mention the toilets were 250 steps away? This required PLANNING. I imagine that campers with small children would require even more planning. (“Will you need to pee in five minutes, honey?”)

Our site was quite nice – a lot of bumps and roots though – and I worried whether our home away from home would be uncomfortable. Inflatable mattresses helped immensely. It was a little close to the neighbours on one side, but it was surrounded by mature trees and a very short walk to the waterfront, which proved to be a nice place to relax and unwind.

I had assumed that the walk-in sites would be more private than the regular sites. For the most part I think that’s true, although I will say that sound carries just the same, even if there’s an extra 10m between your group and another one. I realized this when our neighbours spent some time singing the same two verses of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, multiple times in a row. Also, some dude down the way snored so loud he probably scared the bears away. (Thanks dude!)

So, back to Thursday night. The youngest and I barely had time to set up the tent when the rain started. I had my doubts that the two of us could manage, but we did. And then it rained. And it rained. And it rained. And it rained some more. It rained so hard that our tent shook. It also leaked. Fact: tents provide shelter but also serve as very large rain catchers. We took turns pushing off the ever-growing pools of water that were accumulating on the roof. Each shove resulted in a giant splash that I feared was just pooling under our tent.

In the middle of all of this, the youngest got up (of her own volition, I might add), donned my raincoat (which I had packed at the last minute thanks to Mark), went outside, and repositioned the tent pegs to minimize leakage. She also ran to the cooler to scrounge up some ham and cheese for dinner. (I already had a loaf of bread in my possession. Go figure.) Bless her heart. Thanks to her we had something to eat other than sour gummy worms and stale popcorn. It was still a sorry sight though. Imagine two shivering women hiding in a flimsy tent in a terrible rainstorm, eating cold ham and cheese sandwiches without butter or mayo.

The warmth of our sleeping bags and pounding rain eventually lulled us to sleep. It was early evening yet, but we napped. Apparently it had hailed as well, but somehow we slept through it. We woke to a very soggy campsite and took the opportunity to stretch our legs and check out the beach:

After the rain

Part two coming up next.

6 Responses to "Silent Lake 2018 part 1: A bit about the crazy weather and life on a walk-in camp site"

1 | Sara

August 1st, 2018 at 3:33 pm


I love reading about your camping adventures :)

2 | Lorrie Douthwright

August 1st, 2018 at 10:07 pm


We’re heading out to Murray Beach Provincial Park next week. This will be our first time in a Rustic Shelter and I’m looking forward to not needing to set up a tent ASAP upon arrival.

P.s. we bought a metal percolator for our coffee because I’m still scarred about your broken French press from camping trips past.

3 | a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive Silent Lake 2018 part 2: a leisurely Friday - a peek inside the fishbowl

August 2nd, 2018 at 2:12 pm


[…] Yesterday I wrote about our introduction to walk-in campsites at Silent Lake Provincial Park and our trial-by-fire (or should I say, trial-by-thunderstorm?) arrival. After the deluge we went for a walk down to the beach where a rainbow awaited us. I took this as a good sign. […]

4 | andrea tomkins

August 2nd, 2018 at 2:34 pm


Thank you Sara! I love reading about yours!

Lorrie: LOL. You know what? I totally forgot about that. It was very traumatic at the time though. :) I like the idea of a metal percolator! I will say that we have been very happy with our plastic press. It was a smart buy!

5 | Ginger

August 2nd, 2018 at 3:23 pm


“Five minutes is relative, of course, depending on your length of stride, whether you need to pee, or are being chased by a bear…”

You made me laugh at this! You make camping, even the stormy, walk 5 minutes to your camp site, camping sound fun. I wish I liked camping. Maybe I would if I didn’t live in Texas where camping in summer means being eaten alive by mosquitoes and sweating buckets 24 hours a day. I am thinking camping in Canada is different than camping in Texas…at least a little!

6 | a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive Beach day - a peek inside the fishbowl

December 1st, 2019 at 11:20 am


[…] a way, I am reminded of the time we booked a walk-in campsite and the youngest and I had to set it up together. It was horrible (for a short time) but it was, strangely, also super […]

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (24) and Sarah (22). During the day I work as a writer at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. 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, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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