For me, the best way to deal with the anxiety after another pandemic lockdown is to head back to the familiar. During the next few weeks, I’ll be doing a road tour down in Ontario's Southwest: hiking, canoeing and camping at a bunch of Ontario Provincial Parks and Conservation Areas. This is where I grew up, worked in the outdoor field and began writing about it.
My partner, Kristine Redmond, and her dog Oliver will be joining me and my dog, Angel, during the tour. But to start things off, I went for a quick solo overnight to check out some new backcountry campsites set up by Wildwood Conservation Area.
The interior sites were the brainchild of Paul Switzer, superintendent at Wildwood Conservation Area. He came back from a family trip in Algonquin and thought it would be a great idea to create something similar but much closer to home. The Conservation Area is located just outside of St. Mary’s in Oxford County, about 30 minutes drive west of Woodstock and north of London, Ontario.
These backcountry sites are perfect for first-time campers looking to ease into the idea of the backcountry or families who want to avoid the crowdedness of a campground.
Four sites have been developed along the shore of the giant Wildwood Reservoir. Three are along the mostly undeveloped southern banks; one set under a canopy of hardwoods, another under a stand of pine, and the third is set on a grassy point. The fourth, the one I booked, is tucked away at the lower end of the north shore. All the sites are nice, but this (#500) is definitely my favourite.
The sites can be reached by the hiking trail that loops around the reservoir or by canoe or kayak. No motorboat users are allowed to book the sites. The Lake Front Trail is a solid and scenic 24 kilometres used by hikers and bikers that also links to the sites. Take note, however, you’ll have to bring your own drinking water (I wouldn’t recommend filtering directly from the reservoir), so you might be better to paddle to the sites. Mine was the farthest away from the launch at the main campground. It took me 45 minutes to reach the site.
I was very impressed with the set-up. There was a fire pit and picnic table. You also get a key to the port-a-pottie, and another key to a storage bin full of dry firewood, which also makes for an ideal spot to store your food away from sneaky racoons.
Check out my first video of my camping road trip. It was a great way to start the adventure across southwestern Ontario.