Sturgeon Bay Provincial Park Review

Review Date: June 2013

General Information / Location
Sturgeon Bay Provincial Park is located about 30 minutes north of Parry Sound.  It’s directly off of Highway 69, and located on Sturgeon Bay.   The park is located on one of the bays on the lake.

Sturgeon Bay Provincial Park
P.O. Box 271
Point au Baril, Ontario
P0G 1K0
705-366-2521
Click here to reserve, or view campsites


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Entry / Layout

ST.Campground

Once you get off Highway 400, it’s a fairly quick drive to get to the park entry.  The park only has 1 area, and it’s a fairly small park.  Unless I missed it, I didn’t see a bathroom with running water, but there are vault toilets.  There is a beach in the park which is nice.  There’s also a boat ramp, and parking for your truck and trailer.

General Discussion

 

The atmosphere when entering the park was kinda neat.  Can’t really explain it, but it felt really cozy and rustic.  After the front gate, that’s about where the excitement stopped.  The rest of the park seemed really “Homemade”.  The sites were small, and unused.  There was 2 foot long grass growing in most of them.

I didn’t see any flush toilets, or showers.  There are alot of vault toilets around.

I guess the beach is a nice addition, but I generally don’t enjoy beaches unless it’s on a large, “great” lake.

There is no hiking here, there are no trails here.

I think the only reason to stop at this park, is if you’re into fishing (and you brought a boat), or your stopping over for a night.  There is just nothing to do here.  I think Sturgeon Bay is great for fishing, so bring your boat, put it in the water, and enjoy your fishing, then back to the campsite for the night, and repeat.  We stopped here just to sleep for a night, then left in the morning.

One thing I noticed is the black flies were TERRIBLE!  The next day we drove to Killarney and there were NO blackflies.  So not sure why they are so bad here.

Best Campsites

The only site I would suggest is Site 6.  It’s near the water, and you have your own rock to sit on, and enjoy the water.   However, there is a marina right there, so the view isn’t amazing.

The other sites are just MEH.  Site #8 is small, and you can’t even view the water from your site.

Pro’s

– Beach

– Boat Ramp

– Boat and fisher friendly

Con’s

– Small

– There’s just nothing to do

– No running toilets

Conclusion

We just use this park as a stop over, as it’s right on the highway.  That’s about it.

Costco Preston 10×12 Hard Top Sun Shelter Review (Sojag)

There aren’t many reviews on this specific model, except for a few on the costco website. They are indeed helpful, but I wanted to create a review with a bit more info in it, and pictures of my setup.  I will continue to update this post with the condition of the gazebo, hoping that it will help others decided to buy or not.  I will put the updates at the top, and the review at the bottom.  So, I would suggest going to the bottom, read the review, then come back up for the updates!  Hope this helps!

** May 22, 2015 **

Here’s a video that shows some severe rain under the gazebo.

** Update May 7 – 2015 **

Gazebo lasted the winter with no problems.  Towards the end of the winter, I did prop a 2×4 up in the center, to give it some support IN CASE it needed it.  It would have lasted with it, but wasn’t taking any chances.  The roller shades I bought are holding up great!  A few clips have broken, but I’ve managed to continue using them.

** Update May 25 – 2014

I created a video showing the shades, and how they are mounted, and how it slides.

** Update Mar 5 – 2014

Still no problems with the shelter this winter.  You’ll probably know that this winter has been a particularity cold one, with A LOT of snow.  I have had no issues with the shelter.  It’s almost completely iced over right now.  If I remember, I’ll take a picture of it.

** Update Jan 13 – 2014

The shelter is holding up GREAT during this winter.  We’ve had A LOT of snow throughout November and December, and have had NO problems with the shelter.  I’ve left the snow piled on top (1-2 feet) for the most part.  One time I took a shovel and pulled it down, but it wasn’t necessary.  We had some crazy wind as well, and the shelter hasn’t budged.  Good to go so far! (FYI – I do NOT have the winter shelter)

** Update Sept 6 **

Still havn’t had any issues with this Gazebo.  Winter is coming in a few months, so I’ll def continue to update this review.  I don’t think I will do the winter cover, because I’ve heard that it really flaps in the wind, and I hate that.  I think this thing will stand our winters perfectly fine!

One other note, I still haven’t gone back through and tightened bolts.  I’ll have to remind myself to do that.

 

** Update July 21 **

As requested, I wanted to post a pic of the mounting of the coolaroo shades. The shades are about 2 inches too long to fit perfectly on the 8′ sides. So, they are mounted on the angled pieces / the legs to the gazebo. It kinda works out good, because you can reach around, inside the legs and put nuts on the bolts holding the shades on. Here is one picture showing the mounting, and one showing the 8′ shade on a 10′ side.

The third picture shows how the 10′ shade is mounted. There’s a hole drilled through the metal which the shades mount to, which then goes into a slat of wood, behind the roof mounts of the gazebo. It then slides side to side. It’s not perfect, but works until I figure out a better solution. I also made a YouTube video to help with the mounting. (Ill upload that tomorrow)

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*

** Update June 24 **

So, as below, I returned the privacy curtains as I didn’t like them. However, I still need some privacy and sun shade from the sides. So, I thought about it, and remembered seeing the Coolaroo roller shades at Costco for $60. They are 8′ x 8′. Two sides of my gazebo are also 8′. 🙂

So I bought 3 of them, and installed them into the Preston gazebo. Wow!! I love them!!! They fit really well into the gazebo, and you can roll them down half way, or all the way, depending on how much sun shade you need. When you want privacy, or more shade, you simply roll them down, and viola!! On the side that is longer, I allowed the shade to slide back and forth, depending on which end you needed the shade. Below are some pics.

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** Update June 21 **

I bought the privacy curtains for the gazebo. They come setup exactly like the screens. They are good quality, and the fabric is fairly thick. They come with hooks for it. To install the hooks, I simply undid the last screw in the track, and slide the new hooks in. Then the previous mosquito screen gets removed, and the privacy now goes on the outside. Then the screen gets put back up on the inside.

Well, I don’t like it. The fabric blows around too much, and it really blocks you in. Feels like I’m no longer outside. I can went out and came back 4 hours later, and all the Velcro had already been separated and the privacy curtains blowing in and out. I’ll have to find another way to get some privacy.

Review

photo 4

 

We needed something for our deck to give us some shade. We thought about having a couple umbrella’s, but didn’t really like the look of them, and we wanted something more permanent. We wanted something that stayed put, and you didn’t have to move around. We wanted something that we could turn into a decorated outdoor room.

Here’s why we ultimately picked the Costco gazebo:

1) Costco return warranty is one of the best out there. It’s my experience that they really take care of you, if there is a problem with a product.

2) This sun shelter has a number of accessories that you can buy for it. One of them being the privacy shades, and the other one, a winter cover.

3) The mosquito netting on this shelter is far superior then any other gazebo. It’s not that thin, nylon netting, but a thick textilene type netting. The privacy curtains are also alot thicker, and more rugged then other similar models. This is the reason we bought this one over the Essex Metal roofed gazebo from Canadian Tire. The netting, and privacy curtains on that one are HORRIBLE.

4) The poly-carbonate panels are 8mm thick, instead of more other gazebo’s which are 6mm thick.

The unit comes in 2 boxes. One of them contains the roof panels, and the other contains everything else. The larger box is around 150-175 lbs. It would fit in a van, and possibly in the truck of a car with the back seats down.

The written instructions that come with the shelter are fairly easy to ready, and understand. However, to make it even easier, have a look at this youtube video that shows how to erect it. I found that reading the instructions, and watching the video made putting this shelter together really easy. I decided to use a lock tight on all the hex bolts, just to make sure it doesn’t come apart. One of the reviews said the roof panels fly off in the wind. Well, if you read carefully, he said he was also trying to get new screws from Sojag because those flew off as well. Well, the reason the panels flew out, was because his screws came loose. Ither he didn’t tighten them all the way, or they eventually came loose.

I was able to setup this gazebo by myself. I started by adding the feet to the legs of the gazebo, just like in the video. I then joined the support beams, just like the video. Now, this is where the video really came in handy. Layout the gazebo legs, and the beams exactly like they did in the video. Then, when it comes time to lift one side, lift it, and lean it against the house, or another structure. Then lift a perpendicular side, and attach it to the side that’s leaning against the house or structure. After that’s bolted together, the gazebo should be free standing. Bolt on the third side. Now all that’s left is one long beam. I placed one end of the beam on a ladder, and attached the other end to the 3 sided gazebo. Then bolted the ladder side together. Now you have a free standing structure to work with!

photo 1

Next, I just followed the instructions as in the manual, and the roof went together really easy.

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I also did the roof panels myself. I just followed the instructions in the manual, and put them in, in the order they suggested. Just be 100% that all panels are in completely. Make sure they are completely pushed in, and completely in the tracks they are to sit in. After you think each panel is in completely, give it another good push to make sure! I think this is important.

After the panels are in, there are a few more steps to complete to hold the panels together, and to brace them from any load that might sit on them. Instructions were all easy to follow here. After that, the screen is placed on the hooks. And you’re all done!

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A couple other things about this shelter

1) Even when sitting under it, the sun is still bright through the roof panels. I’m thinking a steel roof would be nice here, as you are completely out of the sun. However, a steel roof would make it plenty dark underneath, and I think it would take away from the outside experience

2) Make sure you bolt this thing down, as it will take flight in strong winds

3) I would suggest going over all bolts every couple weeks to make sure non are coming loose.

4) In the instructions, when putting the roof cap on, it says to leave it loose, and don’t tighten until the roof panels are in place. It doesn’t remind you to tighten them later in the instructions. So, make sure you reach up, and tighten (from the inside) the 3 bolts holding the roof cap on.

Hope this helps! I will continue to update this review every few months. Any questions, email me!

Killarney Provincial Park Review

Review Date: We are camping here THIS WEEKEND! I’ll complete review shortly after (June 2013)

General Information / Location

Killarney Provincial Park is located about 60kms off highway 400/69. It borders Georgian Bay, and is full of great hiking trails, and canoeing adventures! I like this area because of the rocky and hilly landscape.

Killarney Provincial Park
Killarney, Ontario
P0M 2A0
705-287-2900

Click here to reserve, or view campsites


View Larger Map
Entry / Layout

KI.Overview
When travelling north, south on Highway 400, and you see the Killarney exit signs….. don’t get to excited yet.  It’s still a 57km drive on highway 637 to get to the front gates of Killarney.  However, the road is decent, and it’s a nice drive through the forest!  Also, be on the lookout for animals!  We saw a large black bear, 2 deer, and a fox.  The red fox actually lives in the campground, and you’ll see it walking around from time to time.

Right off the highway is the front gates and front office.  The front office also has a small gift shop / supplies shop.  I found it neat to walk around, and look at the displays that are setup.  There is also a Fox that likes to walk around the front office area. You also sometimes see it walking through the park.  Once past the front gates, the park is split up into 3 sections.   George Lake A, George Lake B & C, George Lake D.  I believe there is one main bathroom, with flush toilets, and showers, and there are plenty of vault type toilets scattered throughout the park.  There are 2 beaches, one on George Lake A, and the other on George Lake D.

Highway 400 exit sign

Highway 400 exit sign

Sign at front gates

Sign at front gates

Parking lot at front gates

Parking lot at front gates

Main office

Main office

Driveway leading to park

Driveway leading to park

General Discussion

We stayed at the George Lake A campground, in site 29.  If your staying in this part of the park, stick to the sites along the river, and not near the parking lot.  The sites along the river are spaced out nicely, and all fairly private.  You really feel like your camping in the middle of the bush here.  There are 3 vault toilets along the river.  The only issue is that you are fairly far away from the Flush toilets, and the garbage bins, but I didn’t mind as you are also away from all the noise.  There is a turn-around spot at the end of this road, so if you have a truck and trailer, you should be able to turn around.  I have a RAM with a 20′ trailer and was able to turn around without troubles.

I didn’t view all the sites in George Lake B & C.  From what I remember, the sites are closer together, and less private.  Maybe because the bush didn’t seem as thick?  However, this campground is alot closer to the flush toilets, which might be nice for some.

I didn’t go into George Lake D at all, so can’t really comment on this section.  I believe these sites are mostly tent sites.

As I said above, there is only 1 full featured bathroom, and lots of vault toilets around the campgrounds.

There are 2 beaches.  The one I did go to is at George Lake A.  For a small lake, the beach is pretty good.  There is also a roped off swimming area.  This also seems to be the main entry into the back hills of Killarney.  Meaning, alot of people are using this beach to begin their canoe trip.  You’ll also see alot of people coming back on Sunday’s, etc.  I believe the beach at George Lake D has a boat ramp. (Or a canoe ramp?)

The park suggests that you bring any garbage to the garbage containers every night.  If you don’t, the raccoons seem to not be afraid to come right in, and steal anything.  Even if you’re sitting at the campfire.

In order to rent a canoe, check the Killarney magazine, and it offers 3 different outfitters for canoes.  You simple call them, give them your credit card, and they supply you with the combination to the lock on a specific canoe.  The one I called was $28 per day.  The canoe trip was the highlight of our trip.  We paddled along the outside of the lake, and once you get to the other side, the cliffs are AMAZING.  There is even one spot where the cliff hangs over you.  Canoeing this lake is a must!

The hiking here is AMAZING!  So amazing, I’ve created it’s own category below.  I’ll describe the trails that we went on, and provide some pictures.  First, see some pictures below of Killarney Park.

View of lake from George Lake A

View of lake from George Lake A

Campsite in George Lake A

Campsite in George Lake A

Site 29

Site 29

Campsite in George Lake A

Campsite in George Lake A

Road following river

Road following river

Campsite

Campsite

Pathway to trail

Pathway to trail

George Lake

George Lake

George Lake

George Lake

George Lake

George Lake

Hiking Trails

Here, I will describe the trails that I hiked on.  I don’t have pictures handy right now, but will add them eventually.  You can see a brief description of all the trails in the park HERE

1) Chikanishing Trail – I suggest taking this trail first.  It only takes 1 – 1.5 hours.  It’s a loop trail.  It follows a river out to Georgian Bay, and brings you a-top large rocks, overlooking the river, and Georgian Bay.  Once you see the view of Georgian Bay, you gasp at how incredible it is.  We walked right to the lake, and went for a quick swim. IT WAS COLD!  On the way back, it winds through the forest, and eventually back to where you started.  This trail is fairly easy, and gives you a good idea of what hiking is like up in Killarney

2) Granite Ridge Trail – I also suggest taking this trail.  Do it at the same time as the above trail.  It brings you out to an incredible cliff, overlooking the Provincial Park.  We sat on this cliff for a long time, just taking in the great views. Here’s a video:

3) The Crack – This is the trail you’ve been practising for.  It’s a must!  I would suggest starting sometime in the morning, having lunch atop the mountain, then start the treck back down.  Bring lots of snacks, and a lunch.  The trail is fairly easy, but it’s long.  There are a few sections where you’re climbing, which can get tiring.  The view atop the final destination, is incredible!  Once up there, take an hour or two, and soak it all in. Relax, and rest.

4) Bike Path – This is a fairly short path that starts near site 30, and goes to the highway. Here’s a video of it:

Best Campsites

– I would say that any campsite along the river are fairly good.  Sites 18 – 30.  I would also say site 63 is pretty good.  It’s got a nice spot you can walk out and see the water.

Pro’s

– Hiking!  If you want to hike, and explore, this park is awesome for that!

– When camping, you really feel like your in the middle of the bush.  Camping in a real remote area (which you kinda are).

– The park is really quiet.

Con’s

– You need to watch out for bears, and throwout your garbage every night.  Which is kinda neat cause I love seeing bears!

– It’s a treck to get there

Conclusion

I really liked this park because it was really quiet.  The sites along 18-30 are spaced out, and give you alot of room.  I love being up north, and seeing all these wild animals.  All the hiking up there is amazing.  Go out and hike all day, come back and relax at your campsite.

McCrae Lake Conservation Trail

This trail has been active for a LONG time, and I know I’m late to the game. However, try searching google for information about this trail and you’ll notice that here isn’t alot of information out there.  Now, maybe that’s on purpose?  The less people who know about this trail the better?  I agree, but I think enough people already know about this place and the secret has been out for a long time.

Here’s the description on the McCrae Lake website. “Consisting of 2.8 km of trail one-way, the McCrae Lake Conservation Trail winds its way to the Crow’s Nest Lookout, situated on a 100-foot granite cliff, overlooking the untarnished waters of McCrae Lake.”

See below for the location of the parking lot. The green arrow is where the trail head starts.


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A quick note about parking. Depending on the time of day or year, the parking lot can be really full. When I went on this trail, there wasn’t a spot to park. Cars and trucks were lined up all down this roadway, and parking lot was full. To park, I drove down Georgian Bay Road West, and parked right past the snowmobile entrance, and right before it turned gravel. I’m not sure how legal this is, but it was all that was available.

When you start on the trail, after a hundred or so yards, you’ll come up to a wide snowmobile trail. If you want to stay on the McCrae Lake Trail, you must keep going straight, across the snowmobile trail. If you turn left on the snow trail, you’ll end up back on the road. If you turn right, it will take you down to a large bridge, crossing over a stream (it’s worth checking this out as well. The stream is nice to wade in if it’s hot).

I won’t really describe the trail in detail, mostly because I don’t remember. Some thing to note, is that if it’s been wet out, there will be some wet spots in the trail. Most times, you will see a smaller trail going around the wet spots. There are also some creek crossings, but there have been some small bridges made. The trail is fairly well marked. The only spot in question would be the large rock you walk out on, just make sure you keep right.

After 2.7 kms, the trail brings you to McCrae lake. You are standing 30 meters over the lake, and have spectacular views of the lake. You will see other people canoeing, and camping on the side of the lake. There are also rock climbers that are climbing this 30 meter cliff. When we went on this trail, we had a lunch ontop of this cliff, and enjoyed the scenery.

At this point, you can either hike back to the car, or, keep following the trail along the 30 meter cliff. I’m not exactly sure where it goes from here, but I think it winds around the lake some. You will see paths off to the right that lead down the cliff to the water. This is as far as we hiked, but the trail kept going so if your up for it! Keep hiking.

Below are some pictures.

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Pinery Provincial Park Review – Riverside

Review Date: May 2013

General Information / Location
PInery Provincial Park is located in Southwestern Ontario, on the shores of Lake Huron. It is a fairly large park, and also fairly popular. It’s my GO-TO park, as it’s one of the closest to me. We usually go here for a weekend at the very start of the season, to make sure our camping gear is all IN-CHECK. This review will focus on the Riverside section of Pinery only.

The Pinery Provincial Park
R.R.# 2
Grand Bend, Ontario
N0M 1T0
(519) 243-2220

Click here to reserve, or view campsites


View Larger Map
 

Entry / Layout
PI.RiversideO

As you enter Pinery, you are brought right to the main gate where you show your pass, or register for a pass. Each campground inside of the pinery has its own “main” office. After the front office, the road winds through the forest of the pinery, and you eventually navigate to the main store, where it branches off to the individual campsites. Here, we are only going to concentrate on riverside. Once you enter riverside, it’s split into 4 different areas. 1, 2, 3, 4.

Each area inside riverside has 1 bathroom, with showers, and flush toilets.

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This is the front gate.

This is the front gate.

The road into the park, after front gate

The road into the park, after front gate

General Discussion

I think area 4 is the best. There are a number of sites right on the river, and its awesome listening to the birds on the water. Area 4 seems a lot more private as well. There are some sites at the back that are large and private. However, the only reason we go to riverside is because the time of year we go to the piney, riverside is the only campgrounds that’s open. I much prefer burley.

I have to admit, I havn’t gone in area 1,2 or 3.  So I can’t really comment.  From the road, they look really open, and don’t offer much privacy.  Also, there are no spots directly on the river, which IMO, is the only reason to go to riverside.

In area 4, there is a large, bathroom in the center, which has lots of showers, laundry, and bathrooms.  There are also a couple vault toilets in the area.

Riverside is the furthest away from the beach, and its def a drive and park if you want to visit the beach. However, if you get a campsite on the river, swim in the river. 🙂  It’s a real nice drive to the public beach, so not a huge issue.  But, if your going to spend alot of time on the beach, you mise well camp at Burley, or Dunes, as you could just walk to the beach.

There is alot of hiking trails in the park.  Look at the park paper that is handed out at the front deck, and read about all the hiking trails.  Here’s a link to the trails on the Pinery website.  We went on the Carolinian Trail, which had some decent elevation, and boardwalks ontop of hills etc.  It also takes you to a small pond in the middle of the bush.   We also took the Cedar Trail, which takes you to the other side of the river, and gives you a good view from “the other side”.  The is also a bike trail that goes from the main gates, to the camp store, then to the public beach, then back around to the main gate.  It’s  good ride, but half of it is just on the paved road.  I would suggest following the path from the main store to parking lot 8, then turning around and come back.  That path is off the side of the road, on a bike trail through the forest.

Here’s a video of the bike trail.  Will give you an idea of what the trail is like

There are alot of activities to do at this park it seems.  I havn’t actually done any, but I see they have canoe and bike rentals at the main store.  There is also a visitor center that you can visit, and learn about the park, and the ecosystem.

I like to go to Pinery outside of regular camping months.  Example: April, May, September, October.  I find that when you go during the peak months, they seem really strict.  A lot of officers driving around, etc, etc.  I guess it’s a good thing, keeping the hoodlums in check, but it just seems to be over-policed.

One other thing to note.  When this park is full, you know it.  It’s just a BUSY place.  I’ve been to other parks that are FULL, and you’d never know it.  Maybe it’s just the layout of the pinery, with alot of open sites?  Also, when it’s busy, I’ve seen some pretty crazy line-ups at the gates.

Bicycle & Canoe rental at the main store

Bicycle & Canoe rental at the main store

Camp Store

Camp Store

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One of the docks at the camp store

One of the docks at the camp store

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Area 4 bathroom

Area 4 bathroom

Road at area 4

Road at area 4

Area 4 road

Area 4 road

Area 4 road

Area 4 road

Area 4 road

Area 4 road

Area 4 road

Area 4 road

Area 4 road

Area 4 road

Area 4 campsite

Area 4 campsite

Bike trail

Bike trail

Bike trail

Bike trail

Bike trail

Bike trail

Handicapped boardwalk at beach

Handicapped boardwalk at beach

The beach

The beach

The beach

The beach

The river view from campsite

The river view from campsite

The river view from campsite

The river view from campsite

Middle campsites in area 4

Middle campsites in area 4

Pond in Carolinian trail

Pond in Carolinian trail

Carolinian Trail

Carolinian Trail

Carolinian Trail

Carolinian Trail

Carolinian Trail

Carolinian Trail

Carolinian Trail

Carolinian Trail

Carolinian Trail

Carolinian Trail

Carolinian Trail

Carolinian Trail

Best Campsites

I don’t have a list of good campsites, and bad campsites.  However, the sites that back onto the river are really nice.  Depending on which one you get, the views of the river are great.  The campsites in the middle, I would stay away from, as they are really open.  It’s pretty simple, if you can’t get a river view site, book somewhere else.  However, if you must book at Riverside, and can’t get a riverview site, get a site at the very back, on the outside roads, as they are more private.

Pro’s

– Riverview sites are nice!

– The park is really beautiful in April and October

– Main bathroom is large, and clean

Con’s

– When it’s busy, it’s busy.  It feels cramped

– Over-policed

– Alot of sites at Riverside seem really open

Surround Area Activities

Conclusion

I really like this park during the off-season.  This is usually my GO-TO park for testing my trailer before the camping season.  It’s fairly close to home for me, so it’s fairly quick to get up here and camp for a weekend.  I really like the laid back atmosphere during the off-season, but generally don’t camp here during season, as it’s REALLY busy.  We love staying on the Riverview sites, as during the April and May months, there are alot of Waterfowl laying their eggs, etc.

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