We gathered down by the campground’s boat docks at 09h00 exactly, taking a quick group photo after Rob finished up cutting his Tacoma’s tail-pipe off with a Sawzall to prevent it from banging around after a weld had broken. Right off the bat we hopped back on our route, following it for a few miles before making a right turn to circumvent a few miles of trail riding. Easy gravel roads took us up and over a few hills, past farm fields and expansive valleys as CB chatter narrated our morning. Bob and I took turns in the lead position as we were the only two running GPS that wanted to be up front (in fairness, Brendan had the navigation up but usually likes to be the last vehicle in line). We strolled through a small lakeside town an hour and a half into our ride, then turned off the established roads in favor of the tighter, unmaintained roads that make our trips exciting. In single-file fashion our caravan rolled through the woods, suspensions continually articulating over uneven terrain, calling out to Brendan in the back to make sure he hadn’t gotten lost in our cloud of dust.
From the lake in Barry’s Bay we had roughly 30 miles to cover before reaching our campground in the Bonnechere Provincial Park. The terrain was comprised mainly of rough dirt roads that likely see a lot of 4WD traffic. Some areas were a tighter squeeze through brush and fallen trees than others, but Dani did a phenomenal job negotiating the Grand Cherokee as I took photos and attempted to write notes for the blog. With Rob and Mandy in front and Brendan behind us, we enjoyed a little break being at the back of the group. Exiting the thicker woods onto wider logging roads, we found ourselves back on pavement and quickly reaching the campground just before 16h00… and that’s where the fun really began.
Despite Jenny having called almost two months earlier to make our reservation, explaining the size of our group, our vehicle situation, etc, apparently someone who wasn’t “in the know” booked our reservation. We were assigned 3 campsites for 15 people in 7 vehicles; upon our arrival we were told only 5 people and 1 vehicle were allowed per campsite. This obviously wouldn’t work for our parking needs, but they happily informed us that for an additional $13 we could park extra vehicles in a parking lot “nearby” to our sites. Jenny hashed this out with the Park people, and we begrudgingly made our way to sites 111-113, a colorful commentary echoing through the CB radio as we went.
After setting up camp in our three respective sites, Jenny + Shaun, Brendan, and Andrew in one, Shayna + Topher, Dani + myself in between, and Rob + Mandy, Bob + Jessica in the last, the group dispersed for visits to the lake, quick naps, and a run to the liquor store. Topher and I took the Grand Cherokee down the road to the store for some local cider and beer, where they informed us that the nearest town that sold alcohol was in fact Barry’s Bay, a mere 30 minute drive almost all the way back to where we started our day. By the time we went, bought drinks, got ice, and returned to the campsite, Shayna and Dani were concerned we had either fell through a wormhole or died trying to complete our supply run; thankfully neither was the case.
The group gathered in our campsite as dinner was cooking, drinks opened and laughter frequent as we recounted our day and joked about how frustrating the parking situation was. To our advantage the overflow lots were completely full, so we had temporarily won the ability to keep all 7 vehicles at our campsites. As the night went on and we chowed down on yet another amazing dinner, our laughter got louder as we watched Jenny get in a dance competition with Bob’s sons Claude and Ben where she proceeded to get her butt handed to her. Just before the sun set two Park rangers came by on bicycles and inquired as to whether or not our extra vehicles were moving. Shaun, likely the least serious public relations representative our group has, took the lead in informing them of the full overflow lots and our alcohol consumption. He offered to have Ben and Claude drive the cars over (ages 3 and 5) to which the rangers told us to leave them parked for the night. Overland Group – 1 , Bonnechere Bicycle Cops-0.
I disappeared an hour or so later for a quick shower, and meandered back to the campsite as Shaun, Brendan, and Andrew arrived from another stroll to the beach. It was late and nobody was of sober mind, so after we had one last hurrah for winning the parking stand-off, each of us retired to our respective living quarters for the night. As a whole the day had gone much better than the one before; there was far less stress, we arrived at the campsite early, and everyone had a chance to relax. I wish we’d known going into this trip that even shorter days were necessary to allow for more things like time at the park and sitting by the lake, but it’s absolutely something we’ll account for even more of next time around. As I learned quite literally during my visit to Italy this past May, Rome wasn’t built in a year.