The long, winding road that leads to Killarney reminds me of the road to Tofino on the west side of Vancouver Island. Killarney is a postcard pretty port where sailors from mostly Michigan, Ohio and Ontario dock their boats, some for one night and others for many more. One American I talked to stays in his slip for three months every summer. Watercrafts range from aluminum fishing boats to sleek, million dollar Carvers gleaming in the sunlight. There are a few restaurants, all with outdoor patios where the menus feature fresh fish. There is one grocery store where boaters can restock their supplies as well as refill their gas tanks. An old, white hotel with a large verandah is the focal point of this little hamlet and we wandered inside to check out the lobby.
After enquiring about hiking trails on George Island the harbourmaster pointed to a nearby dock. “Just ask for Tinkerbell” he said and it wasn’t until I walked away that I got it. The young lad that drove the pontoon ferry looked at our city white sneakers and said, “they won’t be white for long” and proceeded to enlighten us about the rugged trail across the island, a 7.5 kilometer hike.
A few minutes into the well-marked trail and I saw what he meant. The trail followed along the edge of a marsh and only a few days previous this part of Ontario had been deluged with rain. Two giant beaver lodges could be seen in the center of a large pond but all was quiet. Sometimes while hiking we’ll hear the harsh slap of a beaver’s tail on the surface of the water warning the others of danger. The trail now became rocky and the markers were now painted on the rocks. After about forty-five minutes of brisk walking we were rewarded with a beautiful vista high above Georgian Bay. The breezes felt wonderfully refreshing on our overheated faces. To the west we could see a hazy Manitoulin Island on the horizon. The downward sloping path leading west was a little easier to navigate and shadier as well. On the floor of the forest we spotted different types of fungus that weren’t familiar to us. One type was very small and crimson and another one large and yellow. We emerged at the southwest of the island on a rock-strewn beach. Many of the rocks were perfectly round and smooth, resembling ostrich eggs, the result of eons of pounding surf. As we clambered over high rocks the La Cloche Mountains could be seen to the north. I had spotted them peeking through the evergreen trees on the road to Killarney but they weren’t nearly as close as I had expected them to be.
The La Cloche Mountains are composed of ancient white quartzite and once stood taller than the Rocky Mountains. They are still among the tallest peaks in Ontario.
Many lagoons looked so inviting for splashing barefoot in the water. The water was so clear that it was difficult to perceive depth. A frigid, though refreshing dunk in Georgian Bay was what we did spontaneously, and we felt energized once more.
Some abandoned tar vats nearby was the only sign that people had ever been on these rocks. We had been informed that fishermen used to tar their nets here to protect them from rot and there were still trails of old tar that had dribbled onto the rocks so many years ago. The scenery was so amazing that I had to remind myself that this was Ontario and not the west coast.