Wed. Nov 29th, 2023
After-hours road trips as an Ontario Parks summer student

Today’s story comes from park staff best friends: Zuzanna and Alysa, summer staff working at Killbear Provincial Park who spent their season visiting over 30 provincial parks. Are you interested in joining us for the 2023 summer season? Applications are now open!

“Do you work and live in a provincial park? What do you do on your days off?

“Camping in other provincial parks!”

If you asked the Killbear staff what they thought of the two of us, they’d say we’re “joined at the hip.” We met last year working as bouncers at Algonquin Provincial Park and this season we moved to Killbear.

Not knowing anyone else in this park, we applied to be roommates in our new staff house and have gone almost everywhere together since!

Working and living in Killbear this past summer has been an absolute dream. With pristine sandy beaches, rocky shorelines, and picturesque sunsets, we were curious to see what other provincial parks had to offer and decided to make the most of our summer season living here.

Growing up and living in southern Ontario, working at Killbear was a great opportunity to explore and experience the northern provincial parks.

Meet Alysa

I work as an administrative assistant at Killbear.

staff holding snake

I’m learning everything behind the scenes working in a provincial park: time sheets, expense statements, answering phone calls and sending emails – a complete 180° from my previous black fly infested job, working for the heat of summer in a canoe, paddling on the largest lake in Algonquin Provincial Park.

I worked inside for a few summers and then moved on to the door attendant position at Algonquin.

From then on, I enjoyed smelling less like DEET and got used to the air conditioning.

I loved being able to be the bridge between campers and nature! Sharing my passion for recreation and conservation through interactions with campers generated excitement in me.

So, I explored the different types of job park opportunities and moved to Killbear.

I’m very grateful and love what I do for the park in the office, but I definitely missed spending most of my days outdoors.

Meet Zuzanna

This is my second year in the parks.

I worked in Algonquin last year and moved here to Killbear as a door attendant.

staff

Changing parks was an adjustment for me, but it was great knowing I had someone who would be there with me.

Through my role as a gate attendant, I enjoy sharing with campers the enjoyment that parks and the outdoors bring.

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I wanted to explore more of Ontario’s provincial parks this summer to learn and experience what other parks had to offer.

I used to be in Scouts, so I spent many of my summers exploring provincial parks growing up, including many trips into the interior. Hiking the Western Highlands and portaging on Algonquin were just a couple of trips I enjoyed.

The excitement I feel from exploring nature is shown through my work with campers and being able to spontaneously go to the surrounding parks has been surreal. Being able to work in parks has been a dream and has opened up many opportunities for me to express myself and enjoy.

“You camp for one night and leave at what time?”

If you’ve ever worked in parks, you know that working on weekends is a must.

However, as Alysa, she has every weekend free!

It was difficult for us to even begin planning any type of trip due to our inconsistent schedules. We figured that since we wouldn’t be able to line up our scheduled days off, we could just go on spontaneous camping trips right after work with little to no planning: just us, a car, a tent, and our uniforms ready for our shifts. the next morning.

The adventure begins!

Our first trip was to Killarney Provincial Park.

Finishing work at 4:30 pm, we asked at the staff house if anyone else wanted to join our spontaneous expedition, to which two other girls agreed.

Hurried and excited, the four of us packed our gear, some dinner, and (of course) our uniforms into a small hatchback.

It was a 2.5 hour trip with traffic, stops, and seat adjustments due to being squished in the car.

staff standing next to the sign

We arrived at the boarding office just in time for check-in. It was an easy process since we pre-registered online (we know how much this helps the door attendants)!

We set up, made dinner and ate by the lake.

We built a fire and then looked at the stars as we walked around camp.

We wake up around 4:00 a.m.He slowly packed up and headed back to Killbear.

All of our shifts started at 8:00 am and we managed to return at 7:30 am, arriving at work early!

We did this several more times over the summer, leaving after our shifts ended and returning early the next morning at 4:00 am.

We camped or spent the night in about 30 provincial parks, including:

Northward

We always talked about wanting to visit more northern parks and knew we needed more than one night to explore the region.

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We managed to book the same free days towards the end of our season and planned a trip to Lake Superior. As always, we left right after our shifts ended at 3:15 pm and kept driving!

It took us 5.5 hours to get to Pancake Bay Provincial Park from Killbear, where we had booked an overnight stay.

person looking at the trail

We hiked the Pancake Bay Nature Trail the next morning, it was 5km to the lookout. It was relatively flat for the most part…until you reached the stairs, but the view was worth the muddy boots and bug bites!

We then traveled from Pancake Bay to Lake Superior Provincial Park, which was another hour of travel. We checked into our site at Agawa Bay and asked the friendly park staff for some trail recommendations.

We saw the pictographs and drove all the scenic drive to Wawa.

person taking selfie at the viewpointNokomis Trail

After a quick swim in Old Woman Bay, we decided to head back to Killbear.

On the way back, we were able to spend time at the parks between Lake Superior and Killbear, just off Highway 400, including Batchawana Bay, Chutes, Mississagi, and Fairbanks.

While we weren’t able to spend much time in these parks, we still picked up park crest stickers for our passports!

Try a summer with Ontario Parks!

The friends you make at Ontario Parks are friends that will last a lifetime!

It’s a great opportunity to work in a career that might interest you and spend the entire summer season with like-minded people who have the same interests and love of the outdoors.

Our friends who used to work at Algonquin have moved to the many parks we visited this summer. It’s interesting to see the roles our friends now play: as wardens, park employees, and even assistant superintendents!

To all future ranger students: make the most of your seasons by exploring the parks and the many student positions Ontario Parks has to offer, you never know where you’ll end up!

We are both very grateful for the friendships we have made and the experiences we have gained to advance our careers in the parks.

This fall we are planning a trip to Quetico Provincial Park, following the shoreline of Lake Superior and visiting our other bucket list parks: Neys Provincial Park and Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.

There are so many more people to meet and parks to see, we can’t wait to see what the next camping season will bring!

Do you want to join us for the 2023 season? Find out about the positions available in parks throughout the province!