1. Stressing simplicity and adherence to fundamental principles.
example: the movement suggests a back to basics approach to living for those whose lives have become complicated.
Sometimes the stressors of day-to-day life have you down and the city can wear on you. When this happens, we need to get away to a place with a slow pace; where the quiet hum of nature can reset the mind and body. I didn’t know when I had planned my most recent trip to Algonquin Provincial Park, that this was exactly what I would find.
This is a place where life slows down enough for you to enjoy the more simple things: the smell of the forest trees, the beauty of the loon’s call, the patter of the rain on the lake, the crackle of the campfire, how bright the stars look in a dark sky. I call this… nature therapy. Algonquin was the perfect place to get us back to the basics. Any worries we may have brought with us, fell from our minds as we embraced what was around us and appreciated our time spent in such a marvelous place. Our only tasks included moving our feet on the ground and our paddles in the water… and enjoying some wonderful camp meals… with wine.
Algonquin is Canada’s oldest provincial park, but also one of the largest in North America. It is overflowing with lakes, rivers, wildlife, forests… and adventures! The park can appeal to both weekend and warrior campers. Since most of the park can only be explored by canoe or foot, it provides ample opportunity to really “get lost” if that is what you aim to do. There are many backpacking trails as well as canoe-portage routes that can have you in the backcountry for days.
Interesting Fact: There are about 2000 km of canoe routes in the park.
For those on a time crunch, there are lots of ways to enjoy the park without falling completely off the radar for an extended time. There are plenty of campgrounds accessible from Highway 60, the main corridor through the park. We stayed in a quiet section of Mew Lake campground. The sites are great, secluded and most are right on the lake: perfect for putting in the canoe for an evening paddle. I was pleased that the simplicity of park has been maintained, despite the need to cater to the masses of tourists that visit the park each year. The rustic feel is still present and the beauty of the natural landscape is still the star.
The park is about a 2.5 hour journey (in good traffic) out of Toronto. For those without a car, Ontario’s awesome Parkbus has a route from Toronto to Algonquin (or Ottawa and Algonquin as well). Our trip this year didn’t include any backcountry excursions, we wanted to have a canoe to use over the weekend so we could explore some lakes near our campground. We rented our canoe from the Portage Store, which is located 14 km from the West gate park entrance. They can get you hooked up kayaks, canoes, backpacking gear etc.
H@H Tip: I recommend you bring your own life jackets and paddles (or borrow them from friends). You are required to have a rope, bailer and sound signaling device (whistle) on board. You can save yourself some cash on your rental if you bring these yourself. You can rent a kit (foam pads and tie cables) to tie the canoe to your car. If you already have something that works, save your money and bring your own supplies for this.
Canoe lake is a fairly large lake, perfect for a day of exploring. We took half a day to paddle a good section of the lake and have a picnic lunch on an island we found. Canoe lake is also a popular place to start an excursion of multi-day, epic proportions. It is one of many in the area, but was within good distance of our campground. Lake of Two Rivers is another big lake with easy access and is fairly central.
Algonquin is known for its abundance of wildlife. Wolves, moose, bears, otters, beavers, deer, and loons to name a few.
AWESOME FACT: Friends of Algonquin Park say that Algonquin has about 40 mammals, 30 kinds of reptiles and amphibians and more than 130 breeding birds ! !
The chances of seeing wildlife in the park are pretty high. In the spring, moose are drawn to the highway where the salt is concentrated from winter run off on the road. We got to see many beautiful birds, beavers (and their baby beavers) and listen to the loons sing us to sleep. We saw lots of tracks and evidence of wildlife on our hikes but didn’t get to see any moose unfortunately, even though we came at the perfect time of year. Perhaps we lacked patience, luck, and timing.
There are several hikes marked in the parked as interpretive walking trails. At the start of each marked trail, you can grab a booklet that gives lots of great information on history, wildlife, ecology and interesting facts about the park. We did many of the trails in the park but our three favorite were:
1. Hemlock Bluff Trail
A 3.5 km loop, moderate trail with great overlook of Jack lake.
I recommend having a lunch at the first lookout over Jack lake while trying to spot some wildlife on the banks by the water below.
2. Lookout trail:
A 1.9 km loop, steep but well maintained trail. Great overlook providing long distance views of the park on a clear day.
3. Centennial Ridges Trail
A 10 km loop, demanding trail with lookouts from 2 parallel ridges, views of many lakes (Whitefish and Lake of Two Rivers).
This was by far our most favorite hike in the park. We though the trail had a great effort to view payout ratio. Every time we felt like the trail was relentlessly climbing, we would break out onto the most incredible viewpoint, each more impressive than the last. Any of the lookouts along the trail would be a fabulous place for a picnic lunch.
The last viewpoint on the loop is the most remarkable. You sit on the bluffs just above Whitefish lake. If you are ambitious enough.. this would be an incredible place to come in the evening and watch the sun’s departure cast its amazing colors through the sky. Even if you aren’t able to complete the whole loop, you would still be able to reach a great viewpoint on either side of the loop trail (clock wise and counterclockwise) via a short hike in.
May was the perfect time to enjoy the park. We didn’t have many bugs, the days were warm while the nights were cool. Wildflowers were everywhere in the forest. Animals were curious and out enjoying the warmer days. The crowds were absent and the quiet solitude was rejuvenating.
I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect weekend. Algonquin park reminds me of a campfire song I would sing as a kid at summer camp. Many times during the weekend, this song would pop into my head:
Land of the silver birch, home of the beaver, where still the mighty moose wanders at will. Blue lake and rocky shore, I will return once more….
I definitely will be returning again. My next adventure will be a bit more ambitious as I plan to explore the backcountry by canoe to see a whole different side of Algonquin Park. Until then, I still fall asleep to the distant memory of the sound of my paddle and canoe swiftly moving through the quiet water.
Were you lucky enough to see a moose or hear the howls of the wolves while in Algonquin ?