|A canoe trip to Algonquin (small map of the area)|
|My first trip into Algonquin Provincial Park was over four days (with three nights camping).
For those who are not in the know, Algonquin is 3500 square miles of dense forest and lakes, rivers and marshland. There are some made hiking trails in the south of the park but the only real way to explore is by canoe. We entered the park on the west side at Tim River and on the first day we paddled to Tim Lake and our first camp site. Within minutes of setting off through fairly swampy country we encountered a male and female moose grazing in the water and managed to get within about 15 feet of them. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera to hand and that was the only male moose we saw with a full rack of antlers. I did get loads of moose pictures later with females and immature males.
Having set up camp we went for an evening paddle and managed to catch sight of another moose but it beat a hasty retreat into the forest before we got near. That night I thought my sleeping mat felt somewhat lumpy only to find as I woke up in the middle of the night that my Thermarest had got a puncture! Tossing and turning on tree roots for hours was no fun and I was very glad that I had bought a repair kit before leaving home!
The next day we continued down the Tim River. A single portage led into a meandering stream through extremely marshy and boggy country. The map warned that this area becomes impassable in low water and we were pleased to see that there was just enough water to paddle comfortably. There was lots of evidence of beaver at work on this stretch and we had to negotiate a number of dams. The last dam was holding back about 3 feet of water and subsequent paddling became quite hard work. Eventually we made it to Rosebary Lake where we were to camp for the next two nights. We quickly discovered that most of the campsites were occupied and so paddled miles backwards and forwards across the lake in search of an empty site. The wind was getting up and by the time we made our last crossing there was a significant swell with white caps on the waves. It was a bit hairy paddling across at rightangles to the wave direction as our canoes were quite heavily laden, and I heaved a sigh of relief as we hit the shore.
We were met in the campsite by an extremely tame chipmunk who enjoyed eating from our hands and paid us regular visits during our stay!
The third day 4 of us went out for a day paddle along Longbow Lake in search of wildlife and adventure. We originally aimed to find some unmaintained portage trails and campsites to see how difficult they were. We found one portage and after battling into the first 30 or 40 metres gave up as any sign of a path disappeared and swarms of blackflies decided lunch had arrived! A strenuous paddle followed against a very strong headwind for the next few hours. We had a break to explore another portage and found ourselves walking through an almost Alpine-type pasture - full of flowers and berries and really very beautiful.
Day 4 saw us heading back out the way we came only to find that water levels had dropped significantly and in places the river was only just passable. Getting out and towing the canoes was not an option as you would be wading in waste deep mud and reeds in leech infested water! After a lot of pushing and shoving with paddles to keep moving we got back to the large beaver dam to find the source of the problem. On our way down we had slightly damaged the dam but the beavers had been extremely busy and not only done a repair but added about a foot to the top - now there was a 4 foot difference in water level and an entertaining challenge to drag loaded canoes up and over while balanced on twigs and mud.
I saw lots of wildlife and flowers on the trips including lots of moose, more herons than I have ever seen before (and feeding within a few feet of the canoe), muskrat with kittens, swimming chipmunks (no one had apparently seen that before), lots of squirrels, otter alongside the canoe, racoon and eastern garter snakes. Unfortunately I didn't see any beavers as they tend to be shy and nocturnal. We did get a fascinating vocal display from loons on the lake especially just before dawn each morning as they sounded very like wolves howling.
Camping in Canada added a new dimension to the experience as I was convinced that every movement in the night was a bear coming to eat me! In fact it was probably only chipmunks but somehow in the dark they sounded much larger. I certainly didn't want to use the 'box' toilet after dark as it was about 30m from the campsite in the bush and even in daytime there seemed to be too many noises to make you jump. It was so nice to be camping where campfires are the norm, and we spent many happy hours sawing up dead trees for firewood!
A great trip and I must go back and do something longer and more ambitious. I am also very impressed that all companions were found via internet contacts and proved to be a truly great bunch of lads and lasses. Thanks to Steve, Brian, Andrew, Brad and Grace for truly great hospitality and companionship.
Moose, Tim River
|Dragonflies emerging. Campsite Tim Lake.|
|Andrew - an excellent paddling companion|
2) Steve helps Brad and Grace over a Beaver Dam
3)Steve and Brian enjoy a rest from the wind.
Rosebary Lake campsite
|Grace was always busy !|
|Loon on Tim Lake|