top of page
free camping logo



Places to stop along the Great Lakes in Ontario

  • Writer's pictureRyan Clark

A Great Story about My First Days Camping Alone. What an Adventure.

I don’t even remember writing these notes in 2016, but while gathering all my notes for this I tripped over a couple of pages in a lined book…So I’ll share it. I smiled so many times reading it again.

I drove straight from Ottawa into Algonquin Park after the Gatehouse closed. As I coasted along, I said ‘fuck it, I’m tired and NEED to rest.’ Alone on that stretch of highway, I spot a gate well concealed in a corner of a guard rail. A lock on a chain hanging, but all show as I push the gate open and drive in…

As my headlights ride across through the front window of the cottage I see the fridge is unplugged and its door open. No one home. I tuck my car round the side and spend the night on a deck overlooking a lake.

With a sleeping bag, a million stars and lapping waves, you’d think I would sleep well.

The animals had other plans rustling around in the night, but finally, I fell asleep.

5:30 my alarm goes off, got to get out of the park before the gate opens. So, off I go, after a quick stop a Tim Hortons I find some showers at a boat launch off Rousseaux Lake.

A swim and a shower, repack the car and I am off.

It’s so relaxing, speed limit only all the way, no rush.

Checking the occasional rest areas, I pull into Serpent River and to my delight, a local family is already playing in some rapids so I know it’s safe.

I got my first leech in years, did yoga, push-ups and a swim.

My lack of sleep catches up to me and to my fortune I find Harmony Beach, a hidden gem but covered in ‘NO OVERNIGHT CAMPING’ signs. I ask a resident ‘I know it says no camping, you think anyone will bug me?’, ‘No, it’s beautiful here.’

Just a sleeping bag I lay and watch the sunset. As the mosquitos come out, I’m just so tired I curl up in my sleeping bag and crash.

I’m up with the sun, well-rested this time.

I have Shreddies and coffee, some yoga, push-ups and a bath in the lake. About noon I roll out well-fed, rested and happy for Old Woman Bay in Superior PP. A happy memory from my trip with Tracy but I didn’t make it far when I wandered into Batchawana Bay Park to check it out. They have an honour system and normally I’d pay but any money I save now, the longer I can wander.

OPP roll by twice. Nothing. I wave.

As I am walking down the beach, I chat with a gent who extols the virtues of Pancake Bay, so off I go.

Tonight, I rented a campsite and do it differently. I set up early on the beach, it’s all sand and gets deep quicker than Ipperwash…so clear I am diving in an easy 14 feet of water but can still make out the light ripples across the bottom as I am treading water. Yoga and Push-ups again.

I realise camping among strangers is lonelier than camping alone and I don’t know if it’s the fresh air, but I feel wonderful.

New lesson learned, jumping in a freezing lake while gorged may induce vomiting…

This is where I dropped off writing, but it was still an interesting find. My first few days ever on my own. I met a beautiful girl and her swimming cat who were living in their van travelling and had left the Yukon for Quebec nine months before. I am really surprised I didn’t write about her too but now I can’t even remember her name.

Anyway, reading this back, it’s a great intro.

a flaming orange sunset over a lake with clouds
Sunset on Harmony Beach
a dock rides out into a lake as the clouds reflect off the surface
Lake Rousseau I believe.


Link to French version


bottom of page