Canada is bear country – let’s face facts. Once in a while in the local news you hear about bear sightings nearby, as in 20 minutes up the road, and you are reminded that Canada is one big-assed country with a lot of wildlife (unless you live in Toronto).
Nonetheless, we embarked upon our first, and definitely not our last, camping experience. Summer is short in Canada, and camp sites tend to get booked up fast, which is why we went just before the summer break. As a result we ended up having the entire campsite almost to ourselves, which certainly makes it easier to pee in the bush when you wake up in the morning with a bursting bladder.
The Warsaw Caves are a natural wonder, with a forest surrounded by 350-million-year-old limestone which was carved away by moving glaciers and erosion. There are dozens of caves within the conservation area, though only seven are ‘open’ to the public. It seemed like a really unique place to go camping, because how many camp sites have their own spelunking adventure?
Warsaw Caves is not a big tourist attraction like the Scenic Caves in Collingwood – there are few signs to lead the way other than a big number on a board nailed to a tree, there are no lights in the caves, and it’s easy to get the feeling that if you wandered away for ten minutes you might not find your way back to the campground!
While there are only seven caves, they do take some time to explore, because you can go into all of them. Some are large enough to stand up in, maneuver through, and then come out the other side back to the surface. Some you go down into, take a peek, and them come out again.
You must take your own flashlights, or even better, headlights, because you need your hands for climbing around. Some caves you would need to take off your backpack in order to squeeze through so if you get claustrophobic… well, you won’t like this. We left our bags in the car so that our hands would be free.
After the caves, there is another trail from the car park that takes you to see the lookout point and the ‘kettles’ – a pothole formed when granite stones trapped in the river current were spun around in place, grinding their way into the underlying limestone. Some are tiny, like the size of your palm, and dot the trail, but one in particular is HUGE and very deep. To get into it, you don’t go from the top; instead you go down into the valley, and then put yourself into the kettle.
What I liked best about this experience was the natural beauty of the forest. Because the limestone had been eroded over hundreds of millions of years, it created so many caverns, cliffs and valleys, and from inside some very determined trees were making their way sunward. It made for very interesting terrain and scenery. We also came across loads of fossils embedded in the limestone which, if you’re a big nerd like me, was super cool.
So, while we didn’t get eaten by bears, we were surrounded by wildlife, even if we could not see them, particularly in the wee hours of the morning.
The first night gave us wild, horrible shrieking of some animal in distress, perhaps a small mammal whose mother has just been taken away by coyotes, because the screaming echoed through the forest and lasted a good 15 minutes. The next morning we awoke to the sound of a bellowing moose somewhere nearby. It was surprisingly loud!
And of course there are other little critters like racoons, squirrels and chipmunks who want to climb all over the coolers looking for something to eat, or perhaps drink, as one morning we found two of our beer cans in the forest.
Despite the mozzies, the things that go bump in the night, and the lack of sleep, this was an awesome camping trip and I can’t wait to go camping again! Canada rocks!