As I sit here and write this my tired eyes and aching arms are welcome reminders of a great weekend. From Friday night to Sunday night Mark and I were on a trip with the Mac Outdoors Club to Algonquin Provincial Park,
As we rushed around on Friday trying to get ready it was raining, and when we loaded all our bags on the overpacked school bus in the wet, we thought it might be a cold, gloomy weekend. Thankfully, we were totally wrong!
We arrived at Algonquin after quite a long bus ride at about 10.30pm and found we could stay in ready-made canvas tents. This was a welcome surprise as setting up tents at night in the rain is no fun at all. After finding at tent the group of about 50 stood around the campfire and made introductions. We were a friendly group, with quite a few internationals.
The next morning I woke up feeling well rested but with the realisation that my backpack makes a terrible pillow. I walked outside to a beautiful view of a lake reflecting vividly red trees. Fall has well and truly hit Algonquin and it is astounding.
After a breakfast of blueberry bagels and cream cheese we filled up our water bottles with running water and loaded up the bus. with suitable-sized paddles in our hands we tried to squeeze back into that yellow school bus and head to the lake where we would launch our canoes.
We were lucky to have a great group who all knew how to canoe and so we were first to launch onto the lake. I was instantly astounded by the colours of the trees. They looked like fire… I consequently had “Smooooke on the waaater, FIRE in the sky!”in my head for most of the trip. In Australia you get trees changing colour on streets or in people’s gardens, but the scale of this is something else. The deciduous trees here are actually native, and so the whole forest lights up with colour.
As we were paddling one of our enthusiastic guides – Hilary – pointed out there was a loon (Canada’s national bird) and I said it would be amazing to hear its call. Right on cue the loon answered with its beautiful ghostly song. I felt so lucky to have heard the loon, but it wouldn’t be the last time.
For lunch we stopped at a little hike called Gibraltar and climbed to the top. It is a high point of Algonquin and so we could see the tops of the trees for miles. Lunch always tastes better with a view.
After some fancy tortillas and humus cut with pen-knives we headed back down to our canoes. The trip changed a little as we headed through beaver country. I saw a muskrat (which I had hoped was beaver but was a still cool) swimming by the canoes. Beaver dams are really impressive. Apparently the not-so-little critters are programmed to stop any trickle of water they hear – so I felt bad as we dragged our canoes over the top of their efforts.
We paddled, talked, enjoyed the scenery and even guided a lost couple to their destination before coming to a bank. We had run out of water so filled up our bottles in the middle of the lake and then added this weird “pristine” stuff that chemically cleaned the water of anything like “Beaver Fever” or other nasties. Unfortunately it doesn’t taste so pristine – it’s kind of disturbing to think that our tap water probably goes through a similar process. Well after we drank some water we filled up on GORP (good old-fashion raisins and peanuts – but minus the peanuts because of allergies and many fancier things added). We were then faced with a 1.1km portage. Now what’s a portage? Well it is where you wear a canoe like a hat. A very heavy, hard to balance hat.
After the giant portage everyone felt like they had been to visit a really bad chiropractor (can ou imagine going to a chiropractor and telling them you carried a canoe on your neck? They would freak!). We were very near our campsite and so paddled to find somewhere to pitch our tents. A lot of the good sites were taken but we managed to find a great one opposite an island. We set up camp, lit a fire and went for a swim. That’s right! A swim, in fall, in Algonquin. It was damn chilly… but beautiful. We swam out to the island where we stumbled across a geocache box. It was my first ever find so I was pretty excited. I traded a scrunchie for an ocky-strap. I was excited.
As the sun started to set, everywhere I looked seemed even more beautiful than the last place. I took so many photos that you can turn upside-down and not tell which was is the top. Definitely click through the gallery and have a look for yourself, turn your head and see the symmetry.
I could hardly believe that I was actually standing there looking out into the magic. Canadian nature is just… AMAZING.
For dinner we made very yummy pasta on the campfire (well our leaders Slade and Hilary made it, but we certainly enjoyed it) and then had s’mores and hot chocolate. Campfire food in Canada is awesome. As we ate our dinner we head a pack of coyotes howling.
The sky cleared up and showed us the Northern Hemisphere sky. It was so full of light, and these little stars shone perfectly back at themselves in th ripple-less reflection of the lake. When I stood at the edge of our camp a felt like I was looking down at the universe. It was such an amazing experience. We all fell asleep pretty hard with our aching muscles. I barely noticed the cold or discomfort as I slept through until the misty morning. I was by far the first up and could not believe the surreal experience of the morning forest.
Now no-one woke up to join me for about two hours so I took a lot of photos. I have put some of them up in the gallery… but might continue to add to pages when I go through again and remember another little but of awesomeness.
It was really foggy over the lake in the morning, to the point that you couldn’t even see the horizon. I could hear something breaking the water and looked out and was greeted by two loons doing their early morning fishing.
I also saw another little chipmunk and watched him puff his cheeks up with nuts for a good 10 minutes. He ran right past me and didn’t seem even slightly upset by the giant with a camera admiring his breakfasting.
I went exploring to find some really cool spider webs, territorial squirrels and amazing trees. I wanted to wander further but was slightly scared of encountering something a bit bigger and more territorial than a squirrel.
Others woke up and we had yummy oatmeal with fabulous toppings for breakfast before packing up camp and paddling out onto the lake. We met up with some other groups from our trip and had a canoe race. Mark and I either won or came a very close second… we needed a video ref. We stopped for lunch at another cool campsite and once full of wraps and apples decided to go for a swim. We weren’t going to enter any old way though… we jumped off a rock! Mark and Slade were incredibly brave and went first… but I was a close third and jumped into that chilly lake. It was such a rush.
We jumped, we swam, we ate, we paddled and we had a great time. After quite the bus ride home, Mark and I finally fell into bed around midnight. Necks, arms, legs… bodies are sore but memories are gooood! Take a little visual stroll through my adventure and see Algonquin through my camera’s lens. I want to go again!