|GPS Coordinates are N48 22.2081 W79 50.1837.|
Link on Google Maps
The Tower Road connects the 627 (Esker Lake Road) to the 101 north. The Barnet Lake Road leads west to Hwy 11. It may be called Road, but it is more like a trail and well over 30km in the middle of nowhere.
For the Off Road Enthusiasts, it is a mostly Maintained Dirt Road with lots of side trails to lakes and camping spots.
|Esker Lakes (or Great Cley Belt) is mostly Crown Land (Policy ID: G1854 and G1855, ) and belongs to the Kirkland Lake District. Consult the Crown Land Use Policy Atlas from the Ministry of Natural Resources for current information. Provincial Parks are regulated by a different Policy ID. Be aware, there is usually no cell phone connection.|
It is all Crown Land, except the Esker Lakes Provincial Park just south of here. We were staying at the Provincial Park again, this was our second visit to this quiet park.
Even so the weather was mostly wet, we got what we came for: Off road excursions and blueberries.
About 4 km in, we had to make our first decision, left or right? We went right - Tower Road. This was the only sign we encountered. It was all guess work from here on.
The Road is all gravel and mostly in reasonable condition, but that all depends on the season. We were there end of August, therefore it is perfect off-road terrain for anyone that doesn't like the mud or rock trails. The road can be driven with any vehicle that has some ground clearance. We went there two days in a row and spent several hours on this trail. We only met one couple that went fishing on Pothole Lake. The perfect place to escape the traffic and enjoy the beautiful outdoors.
The main road offers a beautiful scenery, from forest to bogs and anything in between.
IMPORTANT: There is no cell reception, make sure you have a backup plan if things don't go according to plan.
Esker Lakes has lots of sandy ground. If you are a blueberry connoisseur, you know what that means.
It also means that there are unstable sand pits. You either drive around it - or floor it !!!
We had multiple choices, gravel or sand. Some of the trails are frequently travelled, if the tracks are any indication. But this can be misleading, most of them are ATV tracks and getting stuck in the sand was not an option for us.
Other side trails didn't show any signs of tracks. The path was obstructed by trees and branches. Some of these trails lead to lakes, but navigating maps around here is difficult due to the lack of accurate details. There is actually almost no useful information at all. Google shows a wild labyrinth of roads that are different from the Garmin GPS and yet different again from the Canada Terrain map. By combining all three sources, we could explain about a third of the trails and some lakes. But we are really not sure.
And sometimes it is just a trail and signs of a fire pit and tracks. It is likely a spot where somebody camped for relaxation or hunting. This trail here may have been part of the logging activity several years ago.
Some of the "leftovers" from the loggers are still visible. This is good fire wood for the fire pit. Even so it is raining, that stuff burns very nice.
Young growth pops up all over the place. While the vegetation is still low, blueberries grow in abundance.
After about 4 hours we arrive at Hwy 11. The trail is about 37 km and offered way too many things to see. We did the Tower Road trail and decided to explore the Barnet Lake Road the next day.
Barnet Lake Road
Second excursion, same start from the 627. This time we kept left towards the Barnet Lake Road. We never made it all the way over to Hwy 11, possibly took a wrong turn somewhere. Way too many options to take a wrong turn.
A word of advice, turn on the GPS Tracking. When you are looking for the way back, you can follow the line on your GPS. Not very critical here, the main road is gravel. But it can make the difference between running out of gas and just arriving on fumes while looking for your way back. Also be aware of the time it takes to return to your safe place. Two years ago we were running low on fuel and the only gas station was already closed. We just made it back to our hotel in Whistler - on fumes.
So here we go, the Barnet Lake Road. Gravel and Grouse. We encountered more wildlife along this trail.
We noticed lot of "birds with a white bum" that flew away about 50 meters ahead of the the Jeep. We never got a good look at them. All we saw was the white back, it was very dominant. It took us a long time to finally get a chance to capture them on camera. Much later when we had Internet connection we found out that this is a Northern Flicker.
We also saw a bear and a hawk, but didn't get a chance to snap a good picture. Nevertheless, they are out there, so are deer, moose, beaver and wolves. Wildlife was not our primary focus, but we did take time to enjoy the sightings when we got the chance.
The Barnet Lake Road is a bit more rugged and not as wide as the Tower Road.
The curb is not always really there. But the mostly gravel foundation didn't cause too much excitement.
We never made it to Barnet Lake. Must have missed a turn. We did however stop at two lakes the day before. Both had a sign with the fish that are present. Neither of them had fish that took my bait - story of my life.
The first lake was the Pothole Lake with Brook Trout, allegedly. Just a few meters down the path was a large grassy opening with signs of frequent human activity.
This was also the lake where we met the only visitors in this remote place. They were equipped and ready to go fishing.
The second lake was just off the main road and impossible to miss. The Halfway Lake with Splake.
|Now that we have seen this place, next time we'll start from Hwy 11 and head eastward. The reason we returned to Esker Lakes are the blueberries. They are in abundance and ready for picking in late August. We returned to our secret spot again this year where picking them is not even a challenge. They grow so thick that we don't even have to move more than 50 meters away from the Jeep. And there is nobody there.|
But this secret location may be a story for another day.
First published on August 28, 2018