The following story and accompanying photos were submitted to JSGB for publication by Ken Yates. Ken has his Commercial Pilot License (CPL) and an Instructor Rating and can be reached at email@example.com
I have long heard of Killarney Mountain Lodge and have just as long wanted to go. Sometime back in March I picked a date and made a reservation. I called the lodge directly and they confirmed that all I had to do was call when I landed and they would pick us up from the airstrip. Perfect. An hour and a half flight in our own small airplane versus a four and a half hour drive sounded like a great way to get there. I figured by the end of May the weather should be reliable enough to count on.
Unfortunately, the weather gods ignored my memo.
The forecast as of Thursday night was not encouraging. The cloud cover was expected to be almost low enough that you could touch it, with scattered rain and reduced visibility. If we waited for the weather to clear at one end, it would be down at the other.
Being beyond the hotel reservation point of no return, we had to go or lose the money spent on the booking. So on Thursday night we made the decision that we were going to drive. “Oh, well”, I thought, “at least this way we can take the bicycles in the van.” Simultaneously, my wife thought, “Oh, well. Now there’s no problem souvenir shopping.”
Friday morning dawned cloudy and rainy. We pulled out of the driveway at about 08:00. By about 10:00, it was partly sunny with a high ceiling. Not only did the weather gods ignore my memo, they were now having a go at me. Here we were driving in good flying weather! However, in the end, it turned out just as well that we drove. The weather on the way home on Sunday would have made flying uncomfortable with low ceilings and a bumpy ride.
The drive up highways 400 and 69 was a lot smoother and went faster than I expected. The 400-series highways are usually an adventure at the best of times. Once we got onto highway 69, the traffic thinned out quite a bit. After turning onto highway 637, there is still another 68 km’s to go. This is the easiest and most pleasant part of the trip.
Not built until 1962, the only reason for 637’s existence is to provide a road access to Killarney and Killarney Provincial Park. There is nothing else. That is the beauty of it. No power lines, no fences, no road shoulders, and almost no traffic. Before the road was built, the only access to the community was by the waters of Georgian Bay.
Killarney was first established as a fishing village in the 1920’s, accessible only by water. Presumably, the village was only occupied during the summer. It is not clear when the Mountain Lodge was first established.
According to their web site, Killarney Mountain Lodge was held and expanded during the 1940’s and 1950’s as a private corporate retreat by the Fruehauf Corporation. In 1962, they sold it to Maury and Annabelle East, who ran it until 2015 when they sold to the current owners, Holden and Carey Rhodes.
The current owners have made extensive inside renovations, as well as outside grounds upgrades, even adding a few buildings. Everything is spotlessly clean, and our room was certainly spacious and the bed more than comfortable.
Activities are outdoor-based, such as hiking trails or swimming. There are no TVs in the guest rooms, and WiFi is only available in the common lounge areas. I made a point of complimenting the general manager on that choice. You have to go to some trouble to get to Killarney and “get away from it all”, leaving the noise of the city behind in favour of natural, untouched wilderness. So why would you want to bring any of the “noise of the city” with you? Yet, there was one small group of 20-somethings that had a small “boom-box” outside at the outdoor café tables. Go figure.
The one trail that we did hike was the Lighthouse Trail that led from the lodge to the east Lighthouse, which still operates. The trail skirted around the shore and over one large rock formation. The resulting view made the effort well worth it. Apart from a few cottages across the channel on George Island, there was no other development visible. Wilderness as it has appeared for millennia!
There are several choices for places to eat. The lodge’s menu is varied enough that there is a good selection no matter which of the three dining areas you choose.
There are also a couple local restaurants about 10 minutes’ walk from the lodge into the village.
Known for their fish and chips, we went to Herbert Fisheries one day for lunch. Being a fishing village on Georgian Bay, it makes much more sense that they serve perch instead of the other, more familiar species. The perch is every bit as good.
On the next day, we checked out Gateway Restaurant and Bakery for lunch—and grabbed a muffin to go. They do mostly take-out. Do not let the Spartan chairs detract from their menu or quality.
It takes a deliberate effort to get to Killarney, whether by road, by water, or by air. It is worth the effort just to be able to hear nothing but birds, frogs, and crickets against the sound of water lapping against the rocks. There is no road noise and rarely the sound of any engine. The peacefulness is spectacular—as long as nobody brings any outdoor amplification device.