FORT LA CLOCHE PROVINCIAL PARK AND SURROUNDING AREA
May 20th – May 23rd
Estimated 40 km
Last year I was contacted by someone looking for information about some of the trails I had done in the area. After giving out some helpful advice, I was rewarded by him with a map and description of what is called The Heaven’s Gate Trail. This trail starts at Fort La Cloche, travels through La Cloche Provincial Park and makes it’s was to just outside of Willisville. Well, after seeing the map I started to look on the internet for some info. Unfortunately, I really could find anything, and right away I knew I had to hike this trail. Without much planning or any real idea of what the trail consisted of, I packed up some gear with my buddy Jason and we headed north of Toronto to hike the trail in 4 days. For those of you wondering what the trail is like, it is very similar to the La Cloche Silhouette Trail in Killarney, except obviously not nearly as well used. As a matter of fact, because of the sparse usage, I can only recommend this trail for those of you that are well experienced in map reading and feel confident traveling off trail as it can get a little tricky to follow at times.
This report with be short because I have made a video of the trip.
Driving Day (May 19th)
Driving Time: 4 1/2 hours
I carpooled to work with Jay in the morning and then met up after work so we could leave right away instead of driving back into the city. The drive is a familiar one for us and we arrived safely in Sudbury around midnight so we could spend the night.
Day #1 (May 20th)
Hiking Time: 7.5 hours
Distance: 10 km (6.2 miles)
We were up by about 7am and packed up to hit the road. We called a taxi to come meet us at the hotel while we were having breakfast. The taxi followed us to where we thought the end of the trail was just outside Willisville. I then parked my car and hopped in the taxi and got a lift over to the start of the trail at Fort La Cloche. We arrived without a problem and payed him the $125 as promised. We gathered our things and started off across the bridge which we think is where the trail started.
Today was a hard day. Although the beginning was well used and blazed, not far into it, it starts to become tough to follow and we quickly lost the trail. This was pretty much a normal thing for us and we soon got used to it. We had a long day and struggled to find a spot to camp because the terrain was so grown over and uneven. We did eventually leave the trail and hike up to La Cloche lake where we found a spot by the stream to camp.
Day #2 (May 21st)
Hiking Time: 9 hours
Distance: 9 km ( 5.6 miles)
We both slept well and were up early to get started hiking. We had left our campsite but couldn’t figure out how to get back on the trail. The day before we had only strayed for about 10 minutes from the trail, but we walked in circles for almost 2 hours to find it. That makes for a less than fun start of the day. Hiking was as expected, big rocks, lots of route finding, but at the end of the day we ended up at Wright’s Lake and made camp on the south side. We sat in the tent and drank the 2 beers that we had brought for the trip. It was an early night again because we were pretty tired from hiking all day.
Day #3 (May 22nd)
Hiking Time: 7.5 hours
Distance: 12 km (7.5 miles)
We woke up to a bit of rain today. Nothing major but enough that we decided to wait it out a bit. It eventually let up and we packed up to hit the trail. The trail from here on in is very well blazed and somewhat clear of debris, except because the area is used by many people, there are intersecting trails all over the place. It is sometimes hard to figure out which one to take. We once again got lost in the morning and ended up doing a 1.5 hour detour before finding our way and getting back on track….and that gets fairly frustrating.
We had anticipated an easy day today and to some extent it was. The topo map was showing less elevation but it was by no means a walk in the park. We passed a few nice places to camp but pushed on to Florence Lake where we had been informed was a large campsite for us. We arrived in the early evening but we did not see the campsite. Perhaps we missed it, but we did find a fairly nice spot right by the lake. It started to rain so we sat in our tents for a while but then the sun came out just before it set and we had a great night. A small fire by the lake and a nice meal made for a rewarding day.
Day #4 (May 23rd)
Hiking Time: 4 hours
Distance: 9 km (5.6 miles)
We woke up this morning to some more rain. Once again we waited for it to let up and then packed up and headed off for the day.
It was a short hike out, and we were back at the car within 4 hours so we had plenty of time to grab some food to eat and drive home. The trail was great, the bugs ate us alive but we had a good time as always!