Distance hiked: 7km
Location: Mississagi Provincial Park, Ontario
Date: August 16, 2020
On June 29, 1946, Bill Mackenzie, an RCAF flight lieutenant made an emergency landing on Helenbar Lake when his Gloster Meteor (the first British jet fighter) lost his way in a storm. Just before running out of fuel, he ditched his plane in Helenbar Lake and spent 23 days in the wilderness and made a trail through the forest of Mississagi Park. He was rescued by local fishermen on the north shore of Semiwite Lake.
We camped at Mississagi Provincial Park the night before. After “hiking” the Flack Lake Nature Trail (I use this term loosely as it was more like bushwacking and we’re still not entirely sure whether we were hiking along an actual trail), we drove back to our campsite and set off to hike along the Helenbar Trail.
The Helenbar Lookout Trail (7km, rated moderate) leads through the forest and is reputed to feature interesting geological features and a great view over Helenbar Lake. The trail starts from the northern part of the campground.
The first part of the trail gradually ascends through the forest along a ridge. After a few hundred metres, the path passes by an erratic, a large boulder deposited here at the end of the last Ice Age about 10,000 years ago.
Beyond the erratic, the trail continues to slowly ascend up the ridge. It’s a gentle incline and the path is free of rocks, roots and other obstacles. The trail was in good shape, better than we thought after hiking part of the Flack Lake Nature Trail, and is well signed with blue markers.
The first scenic lookout was a bit of a letdown as the views of Helenbar Lake were obstructed by trees.
The second scenic lookout was much better. There is even a picnic table here, which we sat on to take a break, eat a snack, and enjoy the views.
The trail then leads away from the lake and gradually descends the ridge. At this point the trail becomes more rugged with some rocky and muddy patches. There’s a small portage between Helenbar Lake and Semiwite Lake. We followed the signs and turned right at the junction towards Semiwite Lake.
There’s a small sandy beach at the junction. Beyond this point, the path is signed with orange markers and follows along part of the Semiwite Lake Trail.
The trail hugs the shoreline of Semiwite Lake and leads to the western side of the campground. Once we completed the trail, we just walked back to our campsite. Overall it took us two hours to complete the trail.
Mississagi is located in the middle of nowhere, but it was well worth the visit to hike along the Helenbar Lookout Trail. And for those that want more of a challenge, there is always the MacKenzie Trail (22km, rated strenuous), which was named for the pilot that landed here in Helenbar Lake.
My progress on the 52 Hike Challenge can be found here