New Adventures, New Friends ~ Happy 125th Birthday Algonquin Park
By Jen Wirch
If you have ever been on a canoe trip, you know that the planning starts with 3 main questions:
- where are you going?
- how long are you going for?
- who are you going with (or will this be a solo trip?)?
For me, the issue has always been ‘who am I going with?’. Having returned from living abroad 6 years ago and re-immersing myself into camping/canoeing/hiking etc., I lacked ‘outdoor friends’. I could usually convince my friends and family to car camp but the backcountry was asking too much.
So, I did the obvious thing in the 2000s and turned to social media. A few years ago, through a Twitter chat and possibly an outdoors blog, I met Kyra. We conversed online for a while and then met up at the Outdoor Adventure Show a few years ago. Last year, we both participated in the 150 for 150 event at Algonquin Park (150 canoes on Canoe Lake to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday) and shared a ‘get to know you’ campfire. We talked about planning a trip, but it took another year to make it happen. Funny, the toughest part for us was finding a time period we could both get away, even planning many months ahead. In the end, we had a 4-5 day time period in common – great! One thing down – next question, where to go?? We talked about the French River, Killarney and Algonquin. After some discussion, we decided there was something magical about going on a canoe trip in Algonquin Park on its 125th birthday.
Okay, we were set, except we needed to plan the route. I had talked to Randy from Algonquin Outfitters earlier in the year about a beginner trip, so I figured he was a good place to start. He provided suggestions, and we picked our route, first via Twitter and then a Sunday afternoon phone call. The route would be new to both of us, provide some challenge and met our timelines.
Magnetawan Lake access – Misty Lake – Big Trout Lake – McIntosh Lake – Daisy Lake – Magnetawan Lake Access.
Having never been on a trip with Kyra before, we needed to plan everything from scratch. We didn’t know each other’s gear, preference for food, etc., though I knew from the beginning we would get along just fine. Kyra sent me her gear list to review and it was exactly the same as mine – even organized the same way! Many Twitter messages, emails and FaceTime chats followed and we were ready to go.
Our trip started the Tuesday after the Canada Day weekend. We drove up to the access point after getting our permits in Kearney. We knew we had a long day ahead of us, so we hoped to be on the water by 11:00am. As we paddled away from the dock, my watch read 11:10am – not too bad. We quickly got into a rhythm of paddling, unloading, portaging, reloading etc. Both Kyra and I have been canoeing for most of our lives, so have decent canoeing skills. We would switch up the bow and stern positons throughout the trip. Kyra was the photographer on the trip, so at times the bow was a perfect spot for getting the moose shots!
The first 3 days were hot – really hot, like 35 degrees Celsius hot! It was amazing how the heat affected the speed on portages and the amount of water we went through. At times, we sat in the middle of the lake and filtered water, just to stay hydrated. By the time we got to our site on Big Trout Lake (after 2 long days), we were exhausted. I remember floating in the lake (trying to cool down) and thinking how worried I was about day 4 (our longest day). Day 3 was a planned ‘easier’ day and it finished with a fire and attempting to bake a birthday cake for Algonquin Park in my reflector oven – we even had birthday hats!!
Day 4 we lucked out and the temperature dropped – only 24 degrees Celsius. It was amazing how much easier portaging was – however, it was windy! Crossing Misty Lake in high winds tested our canoeing skills. The last night, we stayed on Daisy Lake and relaxed. The lake was full on the Friday night and it was very weird to see people again – for most of the trip we saw few people, and only at portages. With an easy paddle out on day 5, it was bittersweet to finish our trip. We were thrilled to be done, as it was physically challenging at times, but also sad, as we had so much fun and adventure. I won’t lie – there was a small part of me that wanted the trip to continue for 5 more days.
In the end, this route had lots of variety: big lakes, small streams, short and moderate length portages and lift overs along with tons of wildlife – an amazing variety of the beauty Algonquin Park has to offer those who travel within its waters.
- Seeing moose almost every day, including a mother and baby
- Great campsite on every lake
- A challenging, but manageable route over the 5 days
- Great weather (even though it was hot)
- Great food – Kyra introduced me to dehydrating your own food and I am hooked! I highly recommend for anyone considering backcountry trips
- The birthday cake attempt was a bit of a fail. It was a combination of lack of patience with the reflector oven and a small mishap when I dumped half the cake in the fire (yikes!). It was still fun and we still celebrated Algonquin Park!
- We did not account for the high heat in our menu planning. We came home with extra hot chocolate and tea – but could have used more juice crystals and electrolyte replacements.
The Bottom line:
All and all – it was an awesome trip. Despite Kyra’s daughter questioning us going on a trip together after only meeting in person 3-4 times prior to the trip, there were no issues. And on the drive home, there was already conversation about the next trip…a sign of a great trip. In the end, this trip was a wonderful way to see a new part of Algonquin Park while strengthening a new friendship – let the adventures continue……Happy 125th Birthday Algonquin and Ontario Parks!!