Each Canada Day long weekend is typically a mass exodus from the city to cottage country, and this year was no different. Located three hours drive north, and about 30 minutes east of the city of North Bay, Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park was the site of my third camping event of the summer season. The Mattawa Valley forms the backdrop to the park, an important part of the historic fur trade route that links up with the Ottawa River further east. It is also located next to the Mattawa River Provincial Park.
As is usual for holiday weekends, the park was very busy but we still managed to pre-book a spot near the water. Compared to other parks, the sites were quite small and offered little privacy, but everything generally clean and well serviced. It was raining when we arrived, so we had to pitch the tents in the wet – luckily it cleared up shortly thereafter, and we had great weather for the remainder of the weekend.
The Etienne Trails
There are a couple of hiking paths in the park, the most longest being the Etienne Trails, a set of loops spanning the southern shore of the Mattawa River. We chose a long route (the Nature Loop, approximately 8.5 km over moderate terrain) which combined with the access to the trailhead resulted in a good 13km trek. It took us through dense forest and rocky cliffs with good views overlooking Long Lake and The Gut. This was a hike with plenty of ups and downs, made more challenging by the warm weather and seemingly never-ending mosquito assaults.
Starry Starry Nights
The rain and overcast skies on arrival gave way to wonderfully clear skies for the remainder of the long weekend. Combined with a moonless night, this was a great opportunity to get some shots of the Milky Way. With ever-present light and air pollution, too many city dwellers never get to see the true beauty of the skies above us. Plant yourself in a camp chair and gaze in amazement at natures most spectacular backdrop. It’s worth the drive up north.