For our next sumer time excursion in Lennox & Addington, my partner Heidi and I set our sights to the northern portion of the county for a highly anticipated escape to The Addington Highlands. There, we would spend three days exploring the splendid scenery of Bon Echo Provincial Park. From hiking, kayaking and scenic boat tours to delicious local food and beyond – get ready for our biggest Lennox & Addington adventure yet!
Without further delay, join us and be completely immersed in the immaculate verdant expanse of #BonEcho.
Day 1: History, Hiking & One Heck of a Sunset
On the morning of our trip, we ate a quick breakfast at home and hit the road by 7:30. After a short, yet beautiful road trip along the 41, we arrived at Bon Echo and drove along the main park road to a parking area near the visitor’s centre. As we followed a footpath leading toward a nearby beach, we were met by one of the parks unofficial greeters. A rather chatty and fuzzy little fellow if I do say so.
Standing in The Company of Giants
As we stepped out onto the sandy beach that hugged the shore of Mazinaw Lake, we were halted in our tracks by the astonishing spectacle known as Bon Echo Rock. Standing an incredible 330 feet at its highest point – this geological marvel looks out over the entire park with an air of omnipotence and divine presence.
The word Mazinaw is derived from the Algonquin word: “Mazinaabikinigan-zaaga’igan,” which literally means: “painted-image lake.” For the Anishinaabe First Nations, Mazinaw is a place of great spiritual significance. Perhaps within a similar context to how the ancient Greeks regarded Mount Olympus – as a physical or earthbound link to their mythology, gods, spirits and ancestors.
Uncovering Bon Echo’s History and Legends
The park visitor centre is located in a cabin called Dollywood, which is one of the original rental cottages left over from the former Bon Echo Inn which was closed in 1928 – and burnt to the ground after being struck by lightning in 1936. The inn was a massive three storey building that was originally a religious retreat and later turned into a vacation spot after being purchased by prominent Canadian Suffragette Flora MacDonald Denison.
In 1959, Flora’s son (famous Canadian journalist and playwright Merrill Denison) donated the surrounding land holdings to the provincial government to be turned into a provincial park space for conservation and public enjoyment. Throughout the life of the inn, several prolific Canadian writers and artists came to visit and be inspired by Bon Echo, including members of The Group of Seven.
Within the visitors’ centre there are several exhibits representing several intriguing chapters of Bon Echo’s history. Most fascinating among them is the information about the relationship between Mazinaw Rock, and the First Nations. Here you can learn more about the 200+ ancient pictographs that adorn the great rock along the water’s edge.
Above is a reproduction of a pictograph representing Mishipizheu a mythical creature or deity from Anishinaabe lore, which means “Great Lynx” (or Panther in Ojibwe). This massive horned underwater cat would swing its tail, creating waves, winds and storms. It is also linked to the legend(s) surrounding “Nanabozho” or “Nanabush” who is a prominent spirit or Trickster appearing in many Anishinaabe stories.
A Memorable Hike on the Shield Trail
After an enlightening stop at the Bon Echo Visitor Centre, we were itching to get out and explore more of the park. We made the short journey to a little side-road on the west side of Highway 41, where we’d find the entry point to The Shield Trail: a moderate difficulty 4.8-kilometre loop (2+ hours) that carves its way through the rocky and rugged terrain of the Canadian Shield.
The first portion of the Shield Trail followed a segment of the now overgrown Addington Road. Throughout the hike are points of interest and the now virtually invisible locations of old homesteads that have been long since reclaimed by the young forest. Perhaps all that remains of them are a slight depression in the earth where a cellar once was.
Along the walk are the faintest echoes of human habitation – now replaced by the beautiful forest which is thriving, but still recovering from extensive logging operations that had stripped much of the surrounding trees throughout what is now Bon Echo Provincial Park.
Serene lakeside views, flourishing wetlands and teeming beaver ponds adorn the trail revealing a wondrous variety of ecosystems.
The forest floor is awash in a multitude of colours and varieties of moss, and other types of flora. A truly mesmerizing spectacle to take in.
A striking example of the rocky terrain throughout the Canadian Shield. During the Ice Age glaciers and receding ice sheets moved across the entire region over 11,000 years ago. Large and often gigantic boulders called erratics lay in place, as they were left behind by the long since melted ice that carried to their locations.
Crushing Our #FoodieGoals at The North of 7 Codfather
After a hardy hike on the Shield Trail, we had built up quite the appetite, so we decided to take a quick 15 minute drive South, to Northbrook Ontario in search of some hearty local fare. After reviewing the menu at the North of 7 Codfather, we discovered a bountiful offering of classic comfort food favourites we couldn’t refuse.
Plus, after pounding close to five kilometres worth of challenging and gorgeous hiking trails, we agreed that we had more than earned ourselves an epic feast of deep-fried delights.
I went with a three-piece basket of The Codfathers signature fried chicken. Each piece was wonderfully crispy on the outside while succulent and juicy on the inside. The serving of French fries was equally made to perfection with a golden exterior and fluffy texture. It also came with a tasty dish of delicious house-made coleslaw.
Heidi was in the mood for something spicy, so she asked for the “EL Dorito” burger, which came with a house made spicy sriracha ketchup, mushrooms, cheese, spicy Doritos, caramelized onions, lettuce and tomato. It made for a bold and snappy take on a traditional mushroom cheeseburger with the right balance of flavour and heat to give it some kick.
Checking-in at The Pine Grove Motel
With a most satisfying dinner sorted, we headed over to the Pine Grove Motel, which was just a short distance from the restaurant – and got ourselves checked-in. The motel is only a 15-minute drive from Bon Echo and nearby restaurants, and stores in Northbrook or neighbouring Kaladar.
An Astonishing Sunset at The Narrows
After getting our accommodations sorted, we headed back to Bon Echo for a leisurely stroll along the beach that looks out at Mazinaw Rock and to witness one of Bon Echo’s storied sunsets. The day’s cloud cover had partially fragmented, and as the approaching dusk drew closer – the face of the rock was cast in a symphony of colours, cast upon it by the waning sunlight as it was filtered through the thinning clouds.
As day transitioned into night, the rocks seemed to glow like a searing cherry hot ember in a blacksmith’s furnace. The refracted solar rays made the rock face appear as though it were illuminated with a seeming divine light of its own. As we stood there, at the narrows we were also joined by numerous other campers, along with their children, friends and pets. Each of us staring absolutely dumbfounded at the solar display before us.
There wasn’t much conversation aside from the occasional murmur or hushed exclamation. “Oh my gosh, it’s so beautiful,” I heard someone say. “My family has come here every summer since I was a kid.” said another.
As our first day exploring Bon Echo Provincial came to a visually and spiritually impactful close, we (reluctantly) left the park truly humbled, absolutely amazed – and hungry for more.
To be Continued…
Thanks for reading the first installment of our amazing trip to The Addington Highlands! This blog was so huge we had to split it into two portions. The first two days at Bon Echo Park were absolutely amazing! As always, we’ve included a Google Map that tracks our journey and pinpoints the locations we visited, as well as some bonus spots to check out.
The story isn’t over yet! We returned to Bon Echo the following weekend for some more hiking, a kayaking adventure and also checked out a local food truck that’s making some serious waves in Kaladar!
Make sure to check out Part 2 of Can You Hear The Bon Echo right now!