Camping at Bruce Peninsula – Day 1 Surprises

Highway 89, 10 and 6 for 3 hours and 51 minutes; the highways that should be taken and the estimated amount of time required to get to Bruce Peninsula National Park Visitor Center from Toronto. A bunch of roads that I’ve never been on, and probably the longest that I’ve ever had to drive in one go. However, I knew that this would be one of the few firsts that I will experience in the next three days.

There were a couple of self realizations though my “Academic exchange in Hong Kong“, one of them was I don’t really enjoy seeing cities and the other one was I don’t know anything about my own country. And so it only made logical sense that I tried out camping. Camping and hiking through nature, though not exactly like my time on Jeju Island in Korea, I had a feeling it was something that I will thoroughly enjoy.

The Perfect Senerio

Prior to leaving, my vision of this would be we would park the car somewhere, hike into the woods for as long as we want, taking breaks at all amazing views and potentially do some cliff jumping if we deem safe (I’ve been on a jumping high ever since I first tried cliff jumping in Hong Kong). When we get tired, we would find a place to set up tent for the night. During the night, we would start a campfire, cook, tell stories and constantly be smacking mosquitoes off each other. Of course to end the night, we would take full advantage of the lack of man made lights and just watch the stars. If those things happened, I would’ve called it a very successful trip.

How it Really Went – The First Night at Cyprus Lake

So on the day of, after picking everyone up and yelling ROAD TRIP, we were off. Taking highway 89, 10 and 6, the drive was much longer than what google estimated. After 5 hours on highways that were limited to 80, we finally reached the Visitors Centre for Bruce Peninsula. Checking in for our spot, and being quickly excused, I inquired about parking. After all, don’t we need to hike a distance to get to our campsite? However, the lady simply said “oh you park at your site”. Dumbfounded, I left the centre and started driving to our site. Lo and behold, cars at every campsite, huge tarps everywhere and massive tents and barbecues everywhere; nothing like what I had in mind. Oh well, new experience regardless, it’ll still be a lot of fun doing everything else on that list. So since it was close to 5 by the time we got there, we figured it’d best set up camp before exploring the area. Taking everything out of the tent bag, I realized that something was missing. Emptying out the whole trunk, I realized just what happened. During the practice of putting together the tent in my backyard (I was seriously confused as to how it worked), I decided that the frames were too heavy have everything go into one backpack and so I decided to separate it. Yep, after driving for 5 hours, the frames were still sitting in the storage room back home.

So what were the options? We could drive back, pick up the frames, and drive here again – 10hours – not happening. We could rent a tent… right? With that idea in mind, some of us started walking to the visitors centre and a couple of employees drove by so we waved them down and asked about rentals. Nope, they don’t know of any places in Tobermory that rent. They did give us a place to buy a tent though. Walking back to our site to tell the rest, I started wondering – the purpose of the frame is to maximize the tent size. What else can we do to make that happen. Scanning the walk back, we started picking up small but sturdy sticks and started listing out what we brought along and started talking about structure. When we got back to the site and told the rest of the crew, some were for buying and some were for trying this out. Of course I myself was for trying and so we decided to try before we buy, after all, who would keep the tent after?

After discussing what we needed to do to imitate the frame, we placed all the possible materials out in front of us: sticks, a 10m string that could pass as shoelace, and another 20-30m strong that looked a lot more sturdy. So two strings could be threaded though the top of the tent, create the x. We could then tie those ends to trees to make the frame. The idea started forming and after almost an hour of fixing up details that we overlooked (well, it was only really one person fixing up those details – she started leveraging hairties to tie the tent to the rope so it stopped sinking inwards), we had our tent! Made of 2 pieces of string and 4 hair ties.

The Start of the Tent - Bruce Peninsula Night 1
This would make a great team building activity.

Awesome Tent - Bruce Pensinsula Day 1
This my friends, is what going to university is meant to do – take your limited resources, work as a team to create a final product.

After getting the tent up, we decided to explore the area. The key place was the grotto and the surrounding area as that was the “main” attraction for the area. After losing our breath a couple of times and just enjoying the scenery, we decided to head back before the sun started to set. Here are a couple of pictures taken of the grotto:

Bruce Peninsula - Cyprus Lake - The Grotto - Fresh Water
The water at Lake Huron (one of the five big lakes in Canada).

Bruce Peninsula - Cyprus Lake - The Grotto - People Scuba Diving
People packing up their scuba diving gear

Bruce Peninsula - Cyprus Lake - The Grotto - Pretending to Rock Climb
Pretending to Rock Climb near the Grotto

Tent modifications

After getting back to our tent, we started a fire to cook the sweet potato and corn. However, during that process, I started feeling droplets of water. Hoping I was paranoid, it didn’t take long to start seeing drops of water come down. Knowing that our tent was going to be in no shape for handling rain, we needed to put the tarp on. Quickly getting the tarp out, we faced a brand new challenge. One: there can be no catchments in the structure otherwise rain will gather there and weigh down the whole thing, possibly destroying the tent itself. Two: The sting we had was limited to what was already part of the tarp. Three: it was getting dark, much harder to see all the string we’ve already put up. Four: it started pouring within 10 minutes. Five: half of us were not prepared to be poured on. It took us awhile, but with us having a round of practice already, we were able to get it up (after we were soaked of course). But once again, the person who thought of using the hairtie was also the one who was the expert with knots. Without her, this trip would’ve been a lot more difficult.

Bruce Peninsula - Cyprus Lake - Final Tent Form
Tent – Version 2

After we finally got it up, we all got into the tent to dry up and snack on snacks and maintained the tent (ie pushed the catchments every so often. Luckily, the rain didn’t last much longer after the tarp went up and to further celebrate, we still had half a bag of dry wood. Using that to create another fire and the wet wood to act as a shield against the spitting rain, we eventually cooked the sweet potatoes and corn. After filling our stomachs and getting all warmed up, someone realized that the rain stopped, the clouds had disappeared and the stars were all out as if they were congratulating us on surviving the unforeseen events. Having all these trees that blocked our view, we headed out to Cyprus Lake and just stared out at the sky for a good 15 minutes. Sadly, there was no way for me to take a picture of the sky but that view made everything that we went through that day totally worth it.

So the ideal camping trip did not happen. However, looking back retrospectively (actually even at that time), this experience was way more fun and challenging. And with that mistake, I don’t think I’ll be forgetting the frame anytime soon. That and I now know to carry more rope and hair ties ;). So tell me, what’s been your biggest challenge when camping or what would you have done differently if you were in our shoes?

To continue reading the rest of this trip, go to Camping at Bruce Peninsula – The Beauty of Stormhaven


3 responses to “Camping at Bruce Peninsula – Day 1 Surprises

  1. Pingback: Camping at Bruce Peninsula – The Beauty of Stormhaven |·

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