A few years ago, we went on a paddling and hiking combo trip to Mississagi Provincial Park, which got us really interested in exploring more of the area. So last May long weekend, we spent a few days hiking the trails at Mississagi Park. We chose a romantic backcountry beach campsite based at the northeastern tip of Semiwite Lake, which provided perfect access to several of the park’s shorter trails. We were able to hike the Semiwite Lake Trail, Helenbar Trail, Jimchrist Trail, and part of the McKenzie Trail.
Of course, no trip ever goes as planned, and we got our share of dumb luck on this one!
On our first day of our trip hiking the trails at Mississagi Park, we set off in high spirits. I was confident because I’d been on this part of the trail before, having returned via Semiwite Lake Trail while Marc and our CouchSurfing guest paddled the way back on our first trip. The portion I hadn’t yet seen, between the Helenbar Lake portage and our campsite, was short, so I thought we’d be getting to our destination in about two hours.
Our time would have been close to that, had we been more attentive. We walked right by the sign indicating the first campsite. Granted, it had fallen to the ground, but it was still clearly visible, and when we walked by later, expecting to see it, we spotted it right away.
So having missed the first sign, we didn’t realize the sign we did see was for our campsite, and we kept going. After a tough, steep climb and a creek crossing, we noticed our mistake and backtracked about a kilometre to our site.
When we finally got there around lunch time, a group of boaters was there, using the fire pit and picnic table for their fish fry. They told us they were almost done, so we went off to the side and waited nearly half an hour before they left.
By the time we made our camp and were ready to start hiking the trails at Mississagi Park, it was getting on in the afternoon. But we’d chosen this campsite because we wanted to explore a portion of the McKenzie Trail, and the junction was nearby.
It was probably over an hour before we decided to turn around and go back to camp — we were at a great lookout point, and I thought it might possibly be the same one I'd hiked to from the other direction on our last trip, while the others were fishing. (Comparing the pictures once we got back home, I figured out that it wasn't.)
The next day, we tackled the remainder of Semiwite Lake Trail, which we really enjoyed. We were glad to be doing this part of the trail without our backpacks, since it's definitely more challenging! Plus it turned out to be a good trail for spring flowers and wildlife. The garter snake we saw let us photograph it for quite some time before finally getting fed up, which is how I managed to get such a cool shot.
Back at the park campground, we made our way to the Helenbar Trail instead of walking the multitude of park roads back to the Semiwite Lake Trail head. We would be able to return to our campsite once we reached the Helenbar Lake portage, I remembered. It was certainly an easier hike than the one we’d just finished, but it had its own attractions (winky face).
We really loved spending the weekend camped out on a romantic backcountry beach. Our evenings and mornings were spent in a dreamy setting we seldom get to enjoy, so this was a special treat, and we were sad to leave on our last day.
Still, we had one more hike before the drive home, so we headed out excited to see what would come next.
We’d been hoping to hike the Cobre Lake Trail, but were advised at the park office that it’s not officially on park grounds, and a work permit to maintain the trail hadn’t yet been obtained.
So, we made our way to the Jimchrist Trail instead. After the other trails we hiked that weekend, it wasn’t nearly as fun, but it’s a funny one to look back on. Even though we meant to follow the trail in the suggested direction, we somehow managed to go the opposite way. It didn’t take too long to figure out what we’d done — just long enough to decide to continue on our current path.
We kept our eyes peeled for the side trail to the lookout point over Helenbar Lake which was marked on the map, looking behind us frequently to make sure we hadn’t missed another sign. After some time, based on the direction of the trail, we knew we had.
Disappointed, we continued the trail, but since it became much more interesting on this portion, our enthusiasm quickly returned. We were making good time, and soon began to hope that the lookout point at Christman Lake would make up for missing the first one.
But something wasn’t quite right anymore. We came across some buildings, a road. We couldn’t find any sign of the trail anywhere. We retraced our footsteps a few minutes, convinced ourselves we were at the right placed, tried again, and still ended up coming off the trail somehow. We thought we might have to follow the road a little bit, but that only brought us to staff buildings. So we gave up and followed the road back to our vehicle.
Our last day hiking the trails at Mississagi Park didn’t quite turn out as expected, but it was still a good way to stretch our legs before a long car ride…
Having been out hiking the trails at Mississagi Park twice now, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to others. The variety of trails, campsites, and paddle routes makes it easy to plan a unique trip every time. I think for us, backpacking the McKenzie Trail will be our next trip out there, but for now, memories of our romantic backcountry beach trip are still sweet (smiley face).