Camping Menu & Backcountry at Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park

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This blog post is the transcript from our Podcast episode on our camping menu and backcountry camping at Kawartha Highlands.

Pamela: Hello, and good day, eh. My name is Pamela.

Tim: And I’m Tim

Pamela: And we’re from We’re here today because we wanted to introduce and educate and excite other families about camping adventures such as we’ve had with our kids. And today’s topics are we wanted to go through just another camping menu day, we wanted to talk a bit about a backcountry adventure that was successful. So I’ll turn it over to Tim as far as camping menu day.

Camping Meal Plan

Tim: Okay, so Pamela will post a sort of a sample menu on the website. This one, in particular, was a couple of years ago when we went to Arrowhead for our second time. A typical day would be, I think Tuesday. We did pancakes and sausages in the morning, nice and easy to do, whether you’re over an open fire or you’re on your Coleman stove or just a single burner. Although, it’s always nice to be able to run two pans at the same time. You’re not always taking equipment that allows you that kind of space. It’s not a big deal to do the sausages first, wrap them up in some foil or whatever, then do the pancakes. It’ll give you some time to dice up some apples for the pancakes or to get the blueberries out of the cooler. Because you buried them when you were supposed to leave them on top. There’s a nice quick morning. Then you have children to wash the dishes. For lunch, we had kabobs slated for that and we cooked up extra pork the evening before so that it’s quick and easy to do. Big fat dices of pork, some apple, some zucchini – what else have we done? We’ve done pineapple, peaches, mushrooms, and tomatoes.

Pamela: Yep, peaches, and plums are really yummy on the kebab.

picture of kebabs on skewers cooking over a campfire for lunch while camping
Delicious kebabs for lunch while camping

Tim: That’s very true. We’ve done chicken. Pamela doesn’t do so well with red meats. But the boys and I have done big thick steak pieces. And again, they’re pretty easy. We’ve got a lot of kebab skewers but we can never seem to find one when we’re about to make kabobs. We also have a big backup bag of bamboo wooden ones which you soak in water for a while beforehand so they don’t turn into just crispy pieces of char. Then we did salmon and vegetables for dinner. So this is one of my favorites. We take cedar planks up with us. You can buy them online at Amazon or you can pick them up at Canadian Tire or Home Depot. Who else carries them? Costco is the last batch we got. You have to soak them in water for a couple of hours. You don’t have a big sink when you’re camping. You can just take a garbage bag, and put them in there with some water. Try to squeeze as much of the air as possible out and knot it off. Keep flipping it over every once in a while just to make sure that the water gets around and Bob’s your uncle. So you put that on your barbecue or on the fire. Whichever you’re going to do. I usually do a big lemon on each plank. Depending on how many salmon fillets you’re going to do. I do thick slices of lemon, put them on the plank, and then put the salmon on top of that. If it’s on the barbecue, close the lid. Not necessarily for the whole thing but it does help cook it a little bit quicker. Keeps it a little bit juicier. I think if you were doing it over the open flame, I’d probably tent it with a bit of tin foil and you can season to your own taste. Whether it’s a premade seasoning you picked up off the shelf at the grocery store. Or I often throw a bunch of stuff together and then sprinkle it on. I don’t even know what it is most of the time. Yeah, and you know, I would say probably 20’ish minutes at medium heat.

picture of cedar plank salmon on the barbeque while car camping at Arrowhead Provincial Park
Cedar plank salmon on the barbecue while car camping at Arrowhead Provincial Park

There’s a pretty delicious day. You’ll see on the menu we also have a snacks column for when you’re sitting around the campfire at night. That can be anything from marshmallows, Jiffy Pop, Jiffy Pop’s always a fun one, s’mores, spider wieners. For spider weiners, you take a weiner, cut it lengthwise a third of the way down, turn it 90 degrees and do the same, so you have 4 “legs” on each end. Then you put the middle part on the skewer to put it into the fire, as it cooks, it opens up and curls those sliced bits and it looks kind of like a spider. It’s just fun stuff.

Pamela: That’s it for the camping menu day and then as I mentioned, there was another backcountry trip to Kawartha Highlands.

Backcountry Camping at Kawartha Highlands

picture of a man in a canoe paddling in a river in the backcountry of Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park
Thomas canoeing at Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park in the backcountry

Tim: Right. So this was a successful one. This would have been the following year, 2018. Thomas and I went for six nights, I think. We went in through the south end of the park. Coon lake was our access point. It looks like it was probably about an hour and a half, maybe a bit more all told from where we started to our first campsite which was on Little Turtle Lake. It’s funny because Pamela asked Thomas what he remembered about that trip and whatever it was, it was about a different trip. Then he went – Oh yeah, yeah. Oh, that’s when we portaged a lot. It’s funny. I’m looking at the map and I can see all the portages on it. I think the issue was that it was our first go around. So it seemed like a lot. Of our three back-country trips since, it’s by far the least amount of portaging we’ve done. It’s also nowhere near the nastiest. This last one we just did, Killarney, was pretty rough. So we went into Little Turtle Lake site 470. We stayed there for two days. Note that I’m going easier. I immediately backpedaled from the hardcore go long-distance, change sites every day. Although, I think we did pretty close to that the next trip after this. We went on quite a decent amount farther north to Vixen Lake after that. Spent two days there. That was a really cool site. It was very high up. It was like an isthmus, peninsula-type bit of business sticking into the lake. So very commanding view all the way down the lake. Nobody around. We did see a couple on another site, but they were like ants. They were very, very far away. We could see that there was movement. That’s as much as we could tell. We had to go for a paddle around the lake and we saw that they were a couple. After two days there we headed back and we spent two nights at Adams Lake site 461. That was quite cool because we were the only ones on the lake. Nobody around at all. We had a bear encounter on the way from the portage into the lake itself. Thankfully, we didn’t see mom but we did see two cubs scampering up a hill so we departed a little bit quicker after that. It was great. A number of parks have areas where there are grandfathered cottages or Kawartha in particular allows hunting so there are hunting cabins in some areas of the park. There was a hunting cabin. It took us a while to figure out what the heck it was. Again, I was fairly new to the park and didn’t know everything about it. It was just this weird building on the other side. Anyhow, thankfully nobody was there. We had the lake to ourselves for two days. So that was quite cool. We did some fishing and caught a couple of nice bass which made for a pretty killer dinner one night. I think I have pictures of it somewhere it was a really good trip. I can’t recall any negative we had fantastic weather, a little buggy but not terrible.

Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park

picture of the beautiful landscape in the backcountry while backcountry camping in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park
Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park backcountry camping

Pamela: Just a little bit more about Kawartha Highlands – back country-wise, it’s considered a semi-wilderness destination. It’s not too far from Toronto – a couple of hours from Toronto. Yep. And it’s along the southern edge of the Canadian Shield. It features a rugged rolling landscape with small lakes, wetlands, forests, and rocky barrens. It has a wide range of camping options for beginner to advanced and six canoe routes. There are lots of birds, loons Herons, osprey, nighthawks, tanagers, and towhees. The park’s lakes are home to a wide range of fish species. Tim mentioned having caught a couple of bass, there’s also lake trout, brook trout, rainbow trout, splake, walleye, small and largemouth bass, and panfish. And there are 17 stocked trout lakes in the park and lots of opportunities for swimming and beautiful clear lakes for swimming in and then well-marked portages and campsites. Each campsite has a picnic table, a fire ring, and a box privy, and most campsites also have at least three tent pads.

Tim: I just wanted to mention, as you were reading through that list, I went oh, yeah! I believe it was the Adams Lake campsite, which was our final campsite, we saw the coolest thing. It’s a five-lined skink. They’re very few and far between. We saw an adolescent, I think. It was one of the younger ones and they actually have a blue tail. We didn’t have the fire going but it was crawling through the rocks in our fire pit. Thomas is the one who spotted it and then I saw a flash of blue, that was cool. I’ve never seen one in my life before. Thomas has a real knack for focusing on little things like that. He often picks up tiny salamanders and/or sees a snake where nobody else did. We all plowed through and nobody else spotted it. So that was really neat!

Pamela: The five-lined skink is the only lizard that’s native to Ontario.

picture of a five lined skink, the only lizard that is native to Ontario
The five-lined skink

Pamela: So that’s it for us for today. Have a wonderful rest of your day. If you’d like to reach out to us our email address is And we would love to hear from you. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, and if there’s anything you’d like us to talk about. Thanks. Have a great day.

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