This was a long drive! Fortunately, traffic was not bad so it only took us 5 hours to travel the 425 kilometres to Mikisew Provincial Park. That includes the time we took to take a break to take the puppies on a short walk. We stopped at a picnic rest stop on the way there just before Mattawa.
We did not know very much about Mikisew Provincial Park before this weekend. I had never heard of it and I knew nobody who had stayed there. We did no research on it before setting out for the weekend. We had no preformed opinions. Overall, it is a lovely park. It’s not terribly big and is focused on its access to Eagle Lake. Everything is quite compact and close together. We stayed in Site 149 (the red dot on the map below). Next time, we would likely stay at a site closer to the water but we can’t complain about the site. It was heavily treed and relatively private.
There are a few pull-through sites and a good mix of serviced (electrical only) and non-serviced. Andre noted that the 300-400 level sites are all situated in a deliberately planted configuration so that the trees are all in perfect lines. While the trees are mature and provide shelter, they provide no privacy because of the regimented manner in which they are planted. Many people were hanging tarps between sites in order to screen their site from their neighbour.
Arrival: We arrived at 20h30. There was a line-up at registration and only one person was working but it only took about 5 minutes for us to get our permits. The sanitation station is one of the older designs with one single loop for fresh water and dumping. While we didn’t experience a line-up, the design is such that on a busy weekend, it could easily take awhile to get fresh water on arrival or to dump grey and black on departure. On top of that, the garbage point was at the entrance of the sanitation station which would force people who only want to throw out garbage to get in line with everyone else if they weren’t aware. Very poor design. Water fill-up didn’t take long. Good water flow and pressure. Dumping was fine but there was no black tank flush nozzle. Overall, we would give the sanitation station only a 6/10 due to its poor layout and lack of black tank flush
Set-up: Night had not yet fallen when we arrived but our campsite was sheltered by large mature trees that prevented light from getting through. As a result, it was quite dark when we were trying to set up. Of course, we had no sooner backed into our site than the skies opened and it started to pour! Unfortunately, the tall trees didn’t protect us from the rain! It took us about 30 minutes to do a bare minimum set up outside and then I started dinner, which was a disaster but I will discuss that later. Saturday morning proved to be much better weather for set up. It took about 2 minutes to set up the screen tent (best purchase ever!) and Andre properly levelled the trailer for the weekend.
Meals: I wasn’t feeling well the night before we left so my menu and grocery list was pretty haphazard. On top of that, it turns out I left half the ingredients I needed to cook the stuff that was on the menu! As a result, I didn’t cook anything that was planned and was left scrambling to throw something together after a late arrival. Friday night dinner was supposed to be grilled rib-eye steaks with Caesar salad… except I forgot pretty much everything for the dressing other than oil and garlic. I didn’t bring lemon, or anchovy paste! After trying to bastardized a dressing that turned out to be inedible, I gave up. What ended up on the table was pretty weak: lovely steaks with blue cheese but the only thing to eat with it was romaine lettuce with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Pretty wretched. It was pretty late and still raining by the time we had cleaned up from dinner so we went to bed without a campfire or walking the dogs.
Saturday morning was scrambled eggs and bacon. The eggs — cooked ala Gordon Ramsey — were pretty darn good but a bit salty. I used my bacon cooker again but unlike last weekend, the bacon stuck!!! I was terribly disappointed, especially since last weekend’s trial went so well! I will try it again next weekend but will use some cooking spray to see it it prevents the bacon from sticking.
Saturday supper was considerably more appetizing. We were supposed to have a lemon garlic and thyme grilled chicken breasts and potato salad but I had only packed garlic and chicken! Fortunately, I found an interesting Mark Bittman recipe on the NYT Cooking app for Stirfried Ketchup chicken. It might not sound terribly appetizing but it was incredibly easy to make and super yummy served on a bed of basmati rice. Andre swears that it doesnt’ taste at all like ketchup, like because of the garlic and cayenne but also because of how it is cooked. And with only a few ingredients, it was something I could actually make based on my limited pantry!
I will make the other chicken dish at a later date! I prepared the potato salad earlier in the day using the Instant Pot to cook the potatoes. It did a great job. I put water in the bottom of the Instant Pot, put 5 fairly large yellow potatoes on a trivet and set them to steam for 10 minutes. They were perfectly cooked and super easy to peel while still warm. I cut the warm potatoes in to cubes and tossed them in about ½ cup of Catalina salad dressing with a tsp of celery seed before putting them in the fridge to cool and soak up the flavour. Just before serving I added about ¾ cup of Miracle whip and a ¼ cup of fresh chives and tossed. It was yummy with enough left overs for lunch today on the trip home. The Instant Pot cooked the potatoes perfectly. They were the perfect consistency for potato salad. (These proportions may be way off because I make this by sight!)
Activities:Given our utter lack of staples with which I could prepare a proper meal, we decided to go to town to get gas and stock up. As we were walking the dogs, we noticed a sign marking the 1.8 kilometre path to The Narrows Grocery. We decided to check it out. The Narrows Grocery store is a charming little general store that had a little bit of everything! We picked up what we needed and walked back to the trailer. The pups were tired out by the time we got back so we put them to bed in the trailer and went out paddling for a few hours.
Eagle Lake was absolutely beautiful for paddling with a series of small islands and rock reefs to paddle around. There was some strong current and waves/wind/wake which made maneuvering tough at times but I really enjoyed the challenge. We did a bit of fishing. While the lake allegedly has pike, rainbow trout, small mouth bass and whitefish, we caught 3 (very) small Walleye. Obviously, they were released to grow bigger for another day but it was fun. The boat launch has a large parking area and a dock.
There were several small beaches that we walked by but didn’t go onto because we had the dogs. There is a large well developed dog off leash area and beach but we didn’t use it. We took the pups swimming on the way back from the store and that was enough for them! The park has also developed a frisbee golf course for families and there are a number of hiking trails that we didn’t try.
Infrastructure: As I noted, the sanitation station left a lot to be desired. That said, the individual water points were well designed with dual taps and a platform upon which to rest your water carrier. Andre was a big fan because he wasn’t left holding on to a 20 litre container while it filled. Andre assessed the comfort station as a 7/10, noting its relatively dated design and lack of floor mat. The water pressure was good but temperature was only warm at best. But like all other elements of infrastructure at this campground, everything was very clean.
Overall Conclusion: We liked Mikisew but think it deserves a longer visit before we draw our final conclusions. It offers a lot but we didn’t get a chance to take advantage of most of it. Our site was fine but I think we would like something closer to the water next time if possible. Unfortunately, it is too far for the average weekend so we will try it again on an extended long weekend where we arrive late on Thursday night and leave on Monday. That will be enough time to give it a fair evaluation. But even so, it is a lovely campground and the lake is a jewel.