Early morning mists add to the mystical allure of Silent Lake, near Bancroft, Ontario. PHOTO CREDIT: Sharon Matthews-Stevens
The sounds of Silent Lake are myriad.
Listen to the whisper of your canoe as you drag it over the sand of this little beach toward waters clear and cold; listen to the splash when the canoe slides into the lake; listen to the muffled thunk the canoe makes when it nudges the dock.
Earlier this morning, when my wife and I marched down the short but steep slope from our cabin to the nearby shore, the sounds of the lake itself dominated. Waters lapping boulders and pebbles on shore composed liquid melodies as if on a murmuring marimba. A chipmunk chittered. A blue jay, flitting from branch to branch of a maple wearing scarlet October robes, crowed raucously.
But now the sights compete with sounds.
The lake glows with a pewter sheen; an explosion of scarlets and golds and crimsons and pumpkins climb a tall ridge two or three bays over from our cove, contrasting with broad swathes of green that are balsam and pine and cedar bowing down at water’s edge.
Now we climb into the canoe. We plunge paddles into the water. The canoe surges forward with a fluid swish.
A loon shares the lake with us, content to lounge on the wind-riffled surface.
For a while we drift, listening to the wind in the trees on shore, then we steer for a tiny island – a slab of blushing granite decorated by a pair of lonely pine.
We reflect on how appropriate is the name of Silent Lake.
Nowadays the lake is namesake – and raison d’etre – for Silent Lake Provincial Park near Bancroft, Ontario, a hidden gem boasting ten rustic but comfortable cabins, nearly two hundred campsites (many of them walk-in-only) and a handful of yurts.
First called Pine Lake, her name was changed to Silent Park when Six Point Lodge was built on the very place our cabin stands, circa 1927. The provincial park opened in 1975.
The new name is fitting, a fact that becomes most apparent during this recent visit. We came up for the fall colours (roughly southeast of Alqonquin Park, it’s every bit as spectacular but without the crowds) and we have the place almost to ourselves. Might be forty or fifty campers in either of Granite Ridge or Pincer Bay campgrounds. Our first night here we’re the only guests in the cabins.
Four days here and we can count on our fingers and toes the number of people we’ve encountered.
But there’s an even better reason for this sense of solitude, of peace – the very sound of silence.
From our canoe we can just see our cabin deck. There is no other building on the lake – not so much as a boathouse.
And motorized vessels are prohibited. Just canoes like ours (we see three other canoes out there over four days) and the occasional kayak.
Next day we leave the lake behind, venturing out onto one of the park’s trails.
Think breath-taking views of the lake from lookouts thirty metres high, a forest of scarlet ridges and golden canyons.
Three trails here offer options ranging from the relatively easy Lakehead Loop, just 1.5 kilometres long, to Bonnie’s Pond Trail at 3 kilometres, to the rugged 15-kilometre Lakeshore Trail that can take more than six hours to complete.
On the trail, as on the lake herself, sights and sounds compete for our attention.
We stop to look and listen at water’s edge where one trail meets the shoreline: liquid tones an alto continuo, a sound like a murmuring fountain where waves nuzzle great slabs of granite. High in the forest canopy the winds sound like a waterfall, hissing and whispering in maples fifty metres tall. A hungry woodpecker accompanies us with a percussion groove as we march over a scarlet and golden quilt of leaves here, a carpet of spruce needles there, as we scramble up granite outcroppings decorated with emerald moss and turquoise-coloured lichen.
Late on our first day I warm up the barbecue back at our cabin, I light a campfire for later delectation and stroll to the amber sand beach beside our site (one of two park beaches).
I watch the sun begin to fall; I look at the waters as they reflect that boreal kaleidoscope; I listen to the sounds of Silent Lake.
As day flees into night the lake itself goes silent but the sounds that serenade us still are seductive and soporific.
The campfire hisses and crackles, an owl calls out in the twilight, across the lake another owl responds.
Listen to the sounds of Silent Lake.