Camping Without a Car or RV

A non-profit group is making camping without a car possible with a regular bus service between Toronto and key national and provincial parks in Ontario.

Starting June 29 (2012), the Ontario Parkbus Initiative will be running buses between Toronto and popular campgrounds, canoe access points, and backpacking trailheads in Algonquin, Killarney, and Grundy Lake provincial parks as well as Bruce Peninsula National Park, according to a news release.

Started as a grassroots initiative by two York University graduates and outdoor enthusiasts, the program runs in cooperation with Ontario Parks and Parks Canada.

Parkbus started as a private initiative in 2010 by a group of outdoor enthusiasts, with the goal of making outdoor destinations in Ontario accessible by bus.

After getting in touch with Mountain Equipment Coop, that provided them with an opportunity to conduct market research in their Toronto store, they created a plan and presented it to Ontario Parks.

Parkbus passengers are being picked up at Lake of Two Rivers Campground in Algonquin Park after a weekend of camping. Photo taken by Parkbus staff.

It started small with a pilot project to connect Toronto and Algonquin Provincial Park on a few select weekends. After meeting with Algonquin’s team and working out the details, they partnered with Hammond Transportation to make the service a reality in the summer 2010.

In 2011 Parkbus expanded its cooperation with Ontario Parks, and received sponsorships and grants, including Tourism Development Fund grant from the Ontario Ministry of Tourism. This critical support allowed them to expand the Algonquin service and to start developing new routes to Grundy Lake and Killarney Provincial Parks.

In 2012, Ontario Trillium Foundation made a key commitment to Parkbus project with a two year grant, allowing the initiative to expand and grow as it pursues a financially sustainable, long-growth model that will benefit people of Ontario, the province’s tourism industry, and natural areas that it now connects with Toronto.

Financial backing is provided by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, along with the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.

“Parkbus is bringing social, environmental, and economic benefits to our province” said Steve Bruno, partnership coordinator at Ontario Tourism.

Buses are operated by Muskoka’s Hammond Transportation, with one-way adult tickets ranging between $35 and $40.

During the 2012 summer camping season, Ontario Parkbus Initiative will be running buses between Toronto and the following popular campgrounds, canoe access points, and backpacking trailheads:

  • Algonguin Provincial Park – Bigger than the State of Delaware, Algonquin is Ontario’s most popular park and a world-class destination offering adventurers and comfort seekers alike their ultimate outdoor experience
  • Killarney and Grundy Lake Provincial Parks – Backpack the famous La Cloche Silhouette trail in Killarney, marvel at snow-white quartzite ridges from your canoe and your campsite, or enjoy a day away from it all at Grundy Lake
  • Bruce Peninsula National Park – UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve with sheer cliffs plunging down to deep blue waters of Georgian Bay, underground caves, orchids, hiking trails, and cozy resort town of Tobermory



Parkbus is a project of Transportation Options (T.O.), a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering sustainable tourism and transportation in Ontario.

Since 1992, T.O. has worked on numerous successful projects, including award-winning Bike Train Initiative and the Welcome Cyclists Network.

Mountain Equipment Co-op and the Ontario Ecotourism Society are the collaborative partners of the Ontario Parkbus Initiative.

Address: 850 Coxwell Avenue, Toronto ON M4C 5R1

Phone: (800) 928-7101


Worth Pondering…

In every walk with nature, one receives more than he seeks.

—John Muir

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Bare Facts on Bears

Grizzly Bear Kills Hiker in Yellowstone National Park

A grizzly bear is shown in this undated photo. A grizzly bear killed a man hiking in Yellowstone National Park on July 6, 2011. (Credit: Getty Images)

A couple’s hike off South Rim Drive, south of Canyon Village and east of the park’s Grand Loop Road, Wednesday (July 6) morning, turned tragic when they surprised a grizzly bear sow and her cubs. Brian Matayoshi, 57, of Torrance, California, was hiking with his wife, Marylyn, on the Wapiti Lake Trail when they encountered the bears as the couple emerged from a forested area into an open meadow.

The hikers first spotted a bear about 100 yards away and began walking in the other direction, but when they turned to look back they saw the female grizzly charging at them down the trail, according to an account issued by park officials.

The couple began running, but the bear caught up to them and mauled the husband, then approached the wife, who had fallen to the ground nearby.

“The bear bit her daypack, lifting her from the ground and then dropping her,” the park statement said, but the woman remained still and the grizzly lumbered off.

Yellowstone and surrounding areas are home at least 600 grizzlies. Once rare to behold, grizzlies have become an almost routine cause of curious tourists lining up at Yellowstone’s roadsides at the height of summer season.

These tourists have been flooding into Yellowstone in record numbers: 3.6 million last year, up 10 percent from 2009’s 3.3 million, also a record.

It was the park’s first fatal grizzly mauling since 1986, but the third in the Yellowstone region in just over a year amid ever-growing numbers of grizzlies and tourists roaming the same wild landscape of scalding-hot geysers and sweeping mountain vistas.

Officials also issued recommendations for visitors to stay safe from backcountry bears:

  • Stay on designated trails
  • Hike in groups of three or more
  • Make noise in places where a grizzly could be lurking

Bear spray—pressurized hot-pepper residue in a can—can be effective in stopping aggressive bears, they said.

Bears in Canada

Grizzly bears have a distinctive muscular shoulder hump, and the claws on the front paws are large, strong and slightly curved. (Credit:

Canada is home to approximately 380,000 black bears and 26,000 grizzly bears, half of whom are found in British Columbia, according to the Nature Conservacy of Canada.

Avoid Bear Attacks

To avoid unwanted encounters with bears adhere to the following precautions:

  • Obey all park regulations, stay on designated trails, and comply with posted warnings
  • Solo hiking is not advised; the risk of an attack is reduced hiking in a group
  • Always keep children nearby and in sight
  • If possible, keep pets at home. Free-running pets can anger a bear and provoke an attack
  • Make warning noises and loud sounds, e.g., attach bells to hiking boots
  • Pepper/bear spray has been effective in deterring some bear attacks; however, do not rely on it as a substitute for safe practices in bear country

Bear Facts

  • Bears are as fast as racehorses, on the flats, uphill, or downhill
  • Bears aggressively defend their food
  • All female bears defend their cubs; if a female with cubs is surprised at close range or is separated from her cubs, she may attack
  • Bears are strong swimmers
  • Bears have good eyesight and hearing, and an acute sense of smell
  • All black bears and young grizzlies are agile tree climbers; mature grizzlies are poor climbers but they have a reach up to 13 feet
  • All bears will defend a personal space; the extent of this space will vary with each bear and each situation; intrusion into this space is considered a threat and may provoke an attack

Know Your Bears

Are you able to tell the difference between a black bear and a grizzly bear? Color is a poor indicator of bear species as both species can range in color from blond to black.

Black bears are North America's most familiar and common bears. They typically live in forests and are excellent tree climbers, but are also found in mountains and swamps. Despite their name, black bears can be blue-gray or blue-black, brown, cinnamon, or even (very rarely) white. be blue-gray or blue-black, brown, cinnamon, or even (very rarely) white. (Credit:

Some unique grizzly features include a pronounced shoulder hump, silver or light-tipped guard hairs on their head, and ears that appear smaller and are rounded.

Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis Ord)

Color: Range in color from black to light blonde, mostly medium to dark brown in color; the long hair usually has a lighter tip, hence the grizzled look

Height: Approximately 3½ feet at shoulder; 6-7 feet when erect

Weight: Average 350-500 pounds; larger grizzlies can reach 800 pounds

Shape: Distinct shoulder hump

Face: Depression between the eyes and end of nose; short, round ears

Claws: Very long (2-4 inches)

Habitat: Prefers semi-open spaces; high country in late summer and early fall; valley bottoms late fall and spring

Black Bear (Ursus americanus Pallas)

Color: Range in color from black to light blonde, often with a lighter patch on the chest or at the throat; reddish-colored bears are common in the west

Height: Approximately 2½-3 feet at shoulder; about 5 feet when erect

Weight: Average 110-300 pounds; larger males can reach 600 pounds

Shape: No shoulder hump like the grizzly

Face: A straight line runs between the forehead and end of nose; roundish pointed ears

Claws: Shorter (about 1½ inches)

Habitat: Prefers forested areas with low-growing plants and berry-producing shrubs, small forest openings, streams, and lake edges

What to do if a Bear Attacks

Every encounter is unique and the following are offered as guidelines only to deal with an unpredictable animal and potentially complex situation.

Your response depends on the species and whether the bear is being defensive or offensive.

Bears sometimes bluff their way out of a confrontation by charging then turning away at the last moment. Generally, the response is to do nothing to threaten or further arouse the bear. Remain calm and avoid sudden movements.

Give the bear plenty of room, allowing it to continue its activities undisturbed. Remember that a standing bear is not always a sign of aggression. Many times, bears will stand to get a better view.

While fighting back usually increases the intensity of an attack, it may cause the bear to leave.

Note: This is the second of a two-part series on Bears and Bear Safety.

Previously posted: Are You Bear Aware?

Worth Pondering…
When a pine needle falls in the forest, the eagle sees it; the deer hears it, and the bear smells it.
—old First Nations saying

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Are You Bear Aware?

Wildlife is a huge part of the mountain and wilderness regions of Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Arizona, Alaska, Alberta, and British Columbia.

Deep snowpack, more grizzlies

Grizzly bears are powerful, top-of-the-food-chain predators, yet much of their diet consists of nuts, berries, fruit, leaves, and roots. Bears also eat other animals, from rodents to moose. (Credit:

Numerous encounters between grizzly bears and humans have been reported this spring, attributed to a growing bear population stuck in the low country as a result of the deep snowpack. High winter snowpack levels mean bears are moving to lower elevations and are likely to stay there longer than in previous winters.

Grizzly bears are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, but their numbers have been growing in recent years, increasing the chance for encounters with humans, according to Chris Servheen, the grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In addition, heavy snowfall this winter has taken longer to melt in cool spring weather.

“You have more bears, and then you have these high snow levels so the bears can’t be in the mountains where they want to be,” Servheen said.

In a nonfatal encounter, two hikers were mauled by a bear in the Gallatin National Forest (Montana) when they came across a young grizzly bear and a sow chasing an elk. The 36-year-old woman tried to climb a tree when the sow bit her in the leg. The man was bitten in the forearm when he tried to fight off the bear. Neither injury was life threatening. They were not carrying pepper spray.

Servheen said it served as a good reminder for people to be bear-aware and make noise and always carry pepper spray while hiking in Bear Country.

Bear Concerns near Yellowstone

The long guard hairs on their backs and shoulders often have white tips and give the bears a grizzled appearance, hence the name grizzly. (Credit:

The Gallatin National Forest says grizzly bear experts have recommended banning tent camping in three campgrounds near Yellowstone National Park, including one where a Michigan man was mauled to death last July. The requirement for hard-sided recreational vehicles only is in effect for the Soda Butte, Colter, and Chief Joseph campgrounds just east of Cooke City because bears frequent those areas, reports the Associated Press.

Forest spokeswoman Marna Daley says the requirement is in place this summer while managers consider a long-range strategy. Hard-sided vehicles include those made of metal or strong composite plastic. Truck-box campers that have a 4-foot high hard side, in addition to a raised upper section, are permissible.

Bear Safety

It’s important to be informed about bears and what to do when you come into contact with them.

Bears are not tame, gentle, or cuddly; they are unpredictable and potentially dangerous.

Bears are naturally wary of people and are reluctant to come close to humans. However, if you do encounter a bear there are some important things to remember:

  • If the bear is spotted in the distance and has NOT seen you, back away (without running) the way you came while keeping the bear in view; remain calm and avoid direct eye contact
  • If the bear is at close range, back away slowly
  • If you need to move forward, give the bear as much space as possibly
  • If the bear is standing up, it is usually trying to identify you; talk softly so it knows what you are; if its snapping its jaws, lowering its head, flattening its ears, growling, or making ‘woofing’ signs, it is displaying aggression
  • Never come between a bear and its cubs or animal carcass, as the bear will protect them; slowly back away and leave the area the way you came
  • Carry pepper/bear spray when venturing into the wild
  • Report all sightings to Park Staff

A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear

Black bears typically have black fur over the main part of their body with a tan colored muzzle. (Credit:

Don’t be a contributor to food-conditioning.

Wildlife experts say having a bear wreck your campsite is not only bad for you, but potentially deadly for the bear.

Bears that scavenge for food begin to associate food with humans, and become food-conditioned. Food-conditioned bears lose their natural fear of humans and become a threat to park visitors as they roam through the park in search of an easy meal.

There is little or no chance of correcting a food-conditioned bear; Park Rangers are forced to destroy them when they become aggressive towards humans.

Avoiding Dangerous Encounters with Bears

Food-conditioning of bears can be prevented by heeding the following simple precautions:

  • Never feed or approach bears or other wildlife
  • Reduce or eliminate odors that attract bears
  • Store food in air-tight containers in RV or car trunk
  • Keep your campsite clean
  • Never leave cooking utensils, coolers, grease, or dish water lying around the campsite
  • Obey all closures and warnings

The rule about bears is their unpredictability.

Note: This is the first of a two-part series on Bears and Bear Safety.

Worth Pondering…
Alive, the grizzly is a symbol of freedom and understanding—a sign that man can learn to conserve what is left of the earth. Extinct, it will be another fading testimony to things man should have learned more about but was too preoccupied with himself to notice. In its beleaguered condition, it is above all a symbol of what man is doing to the entire planet. If we can learn from these experiences, and learn rationally, both grizzly and man may have a chance to survive.
—Frank Craighead, Track of the Grizzly, 1979

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What do Ohio, Tennessee & British Columbia Have in Common? Part 2

America’s State Parks

Lackawanna State Park, Pennsylvania. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Throughout America, state parks are struggling.

These are your parks. Get out and enjoy them.

What do Ohio, Tennessee & British Columbia Have in Common?

Ohio, Tennessee, and British Columbia are among a handful of a few states and Canadian provinces that DO NOT CHARGE ENTRY FEES to their parks. Admission is also free to park users in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Alberta, and Manitoba.

Park fees vary in other jurisdictions. The following is a sampling of day-use fees currently in place:

Alabama          $1-3/person

Arizona           $2-20/vehicle

California        $3-15/vehicle

Colorado         $7-8/vehicle

Connecticut     $9-22/vehicle

Delaware         $3-8/vehicle

Quail Gate State Park, Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Florida             $4/vehicle

Idaho               $5/vehicle

Kansas             $3.70-4.20/vehicle

Massachusetts $2-9/vehicle

Minnesota       $5/vehicle

New Mexico   $5/vehicle

New York       $6-10/vehicle

Montana          $5/vehicle

Ontario            $10.75-19.25/vehicle

Oregon             $5/vehicle; some parks free

Saskatchewan $7/vehicle

Texas               $1-5/person

Utah                $5-10/vehicle

Vermont          $3/person

Wisconsin        $7-10/vehicle

State Park Pass

Shenandonah River State Park, Virginia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The state park entrance pass system works differently in each state. Many states offer some sort of pass that allows for unlimited entry at most state parks, while other offer park passes on a park-by-park basis.

Other State Park News

Gov. Dave Heineman of Nebraska vetoed a bill that would have increased annual resident permits for state parks and recreation areas from $20 to $25 and nonresident permits from $25 to $30.

Raising fees during these difficult economic times is not the appropriate way to better Nebraska’s state parks, Heineman said in his veto letter. Nebraskans have had to cut their spending, and they expect the same from government, he said.


BC Parks

Washington State Parks

Discovery Pass

The Discovery Pass can be purchased at almost 600 sporting goods stores and other retailers statewide next month. The pass can also be purchased online or by calling 1-866-320-9933. Starting next fall, the state Department of Licensing also plans to sell the pass.

Worth Pondering…
Your travel life has the essence of a dream.

It is something outside the normal, yet you are in it.

It is peopled with characters you have never seen before and in all probability will never see again.

It brings occasional homesickness, and loneliness, and pangs of longing.

But you are like the Vikings or the master mariners of the Elizabethan age, who have gone into a world of adventure, and home is not home until you return.

—Agatha Christie, British mystery writer

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What do Ohio, Tennessee & British Columbia Have in Common?

The following headline may provide a clue: As Washington State prepares to charge admission to all state parks, British Columbia is launching free admission to its provincial parks.

BC Parks

Mount Robson Provincial Park, British Columbia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

B.C. Premier Christy Clark recently announced that parking will now be free in all provincial parks to encourage families to take advantage of the system.

With 13.6 per cent of the province set aside as parkland and protected areas, B.C. has the second largest park system in Canada, second only to the national park system. Special events will be held in parks across the province all year, as BC Parks honors 100 years of conservation and recreation.

It started with Strathcona Provincial Park in 1911 and now BC Parks has grown to be one of the largest park systems in the world.

“The parking meters are coming out and parking will be free, effective immediately, so that British Columbia’s parks are even more welcoming for families,” said Clark, as she launched BC Parks centennial celebrations.

“Our parks not only contribute to a healthy lifestyle and protect our environment, they are important to our economy. More park visitors mean more tourism dollars and more jobs for rural British Columbians and we want to eliminate any barriers to using the parks.”
Clark said parking fees earned about $1 million annually, “although the ‘net’ was a lot lower than that.”

Mohican State Park, Ohio. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

She also announced a $500,000 Community Legacy Program to support communities while they celebrate the provincial park system centennial. The funding will be used to improve parks across the province. Community groups can apply for up to $20,000 for projects such as trail enhancements, improvements that support recreational activities, or conservation of a park’s ecology or cultural history. These projects will provide a lasting commemoration of B.C. Parks 100.

“BC Parks are a part of who we are,” said Environment Minister Terry Lake. “They help define us as British Columbians, and show that we care deeply about our environment and our planet. The new legacy fund looks to the future and the improvements we can continue to make, and it looks to the past 100 years by recognizing that community groups have played a key role in making the parks and protected areas system what it is today.”

Lake says while we celebrate B.C. Parks 100, park visitors will be the ones getting the birthday gifts through a number of promotions throughout the year.

Washington State Parks

As part of a plan to keep Washington’s state parks operating amid a $5.3 billion state budget deficit, Premier Clark’s counterpart, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed legislation yesterday (May 12) to create a $30 vehicle pass for state parks and other state recreation lands. The pass goes on sale in mid-June.

“It is essential that we keep our recreation areas open to the public,” Gregoire said in a statement. “I applaud the Legislature for coming together with a solution that allows us to help keep our state recreation lands open and accessible during the worst budget crisis in the state’s history.” House Bill 5622 requires drivers who visit state parks and other state lands to either purchase a $10 day-use permit or purchase a $30 annual Discover Pass. The proposal is designed to make the parks system more self-sustaining and it could save state budget writers about $50 million.

Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The single day permit or the annual pass will admit the holder to recreation lands managed by the Department of Natural Resources, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the State Parks and Recreation Commission.

House Bill 5622 was passed by the House on a vote of 55-42 and by the Senate on a vote of 33-14.

For the state Department of Natural Resources, creating the pass is crucial to keeping its recreation areas open. None of the budgets proposed by the governor, the House, or the Senate included money to maintain those areas.

It’s still unclear whether enough people will buy the passes or pay the day-use fee to keep the 119 developed state parks open. The state estimates that the annual pass and permit will generate about $53.9 million per biennium for state parks, which is still about $10 million short of what the state park system projects it will need.

No passes or permits are required when camping at a state park or when parked in a designated 30-minute short term parking area.

The legislation allows the state parks department to open up parks for use without a day-use permit for up to 12 days per year.

The Discover Pass goes into effect July 1.

To be continued…

Worth Pondering…
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.

Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.

The winds will flow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.

—John Muir

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AlbertaParks recognized for innovative reservation service

ESRI Canada recently presented an Award of Excellence to Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation (ATPR) for its online campground reservation system that uses ESRI’s geographic information system (GIS) technology.

The new innovative reservation service,, provides campers with maps and real-time space availability of more than 4,000 camping sites at 50 provincial campgrounds. Campers now have the capability of viewing, exploring, and reserving campsites online.

In addition to increasing visitor satisfaction, Alberta’s new automated and centralized campground reservation service, has also increasing efficiency in park management.

Image courtesy Alberta Parks

The ESRI Canada Award of Excellence recognizes organizations and individuals for their outstanding achievements in the application of GIS.

“ is an excellent example of how governments can leverage the Internet and GIS to deliver enhanced services to citizens,” said Alex Miller, president, ESRI Canada. “It maximizes the use of the province’s geographic data and provides an interactive and cost-effective system to communicate park information. More importantly, it promotes the sustainable use of provincial parkland and makes recreational opportunities in Alberta more accessible.”

Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park, one of 50 Alberta parks using the new reservation system, © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The development of was initiated in 2008 as part of Alberta’s Plan for Parks, a planning document that guides the management of provincial parks over the long term.

Previously, reservations could only be made by phone or in person. To address the need for a more efficient system, The Silvacom Group and Sierra Systems was chosen to design and develop an online application.

Using ESRI’s ArcGIS Server technology, they created an enterprise GIS that could manage and serve up large amounts of information about the campsites; more than 12 million map, data, and image files were compiled to build

Users can search campsites by geography, features, and amenities and obtain 360-degree panoramic views for an accurate depiction of the campground to help them choose the best site for their needs. The application also allows reservations to be made up to 90 days in advance.

Since launched on May 1, 2009, the site has received 10,000 visitors; more than 170,000 reservations were processed in its first two days of operation.

Image courtesy Alberta Parks

“With this technology, we have significantly improved our campground reservation service, which has resulted in our provincial campgrounds being easier to access,” said Cindy Ady, Minister of Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation.

Founded in 1984, ESRI Canada provides enterprise geographic information system (GIS) solutions that empower businesses, governments, and educational institutions to make timely, informed, and mission-critical decisions by leveraging the power of geography.

Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation supports the development and marketing of the province as a world-class tourism destination; manages a network of provincial parks and protected areas to preserve important ecological areas and provide opportunities to enjoy and learn about Alberta’s natural heritage; and promotes active, healthy lifestyles and athletic excellence by supporting sport, recreation, and training facilities.

Worth Pondering…

Four strong winds that blow

Lowly seven seas that run high

All those things that don’t change

Come what may

But our good times are all gone

And I’m bound for moving on

I’ll look for you if I’m ever back this way

Think I’ll go out to Alberta

Weather’s good there in the fall

Got some friends there I can go to.

—sung by Ian Tyson

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New Brunswick: Provincial Parks celebrate 75th anniversary

Back in the summer of 1935, New Brunswick’s first provincial park started out as a public rest stop and picnic area where families would gather. It was located about 35 kilometres west of Campbellton on a scenic piece of land between the Restigouche and Upsalquitch rivers, according to The Telegraph Journal.

In the 1950s, the province oversaw roughly 60 parks. Today, it owns and manages 10.

A host of provincial parks were closed because of government spending cuts. As a result, the private sector took over some of the parks; communities assumed ownership of others. A few parks have simply been turned over to the Department of Natural Resources, but remain unused as recreational areas.

To showcase some of these features, the province kicked off the 75th anniversary celebration at Murray Beach Provincial Park this past weekend (July 3-4). Admission to the park, located in Little Shemogue near the Confederation Bridge, was free.

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