My cousin Fiamma was keen to see some Canadian wilderness while she was here and luckily I had the time available to go with her. We’d decided on Algonquin Park as it was near-ish (3 hours away) and there was a place available to spend the night. (Being after ‘the season’, there aren’t too many places open, especially accommodation, in that part of the country.)
On Thursday morning we went shopping for supplies, buying a baguette, some shaved turkey breast and salad stuff, as well as a couple of treats. We then collected the hire car, returned to the condo, loaded the car up with our stuff and then set off towards Maynooth.
Maynooth is a small town to the south-east of Algonquin Park. It was where Fiamma had booked us in for our one-night’s accommodation at The Arlington Youth Hostel. We got there at about 1pm but it was too early check-in so we headed into Algonquin Park to scope the place out. It wasn’t the nicest of days. It was raining but we’d brought enough wet weather gear that we didn’t let the light sprinkling put us off.
We stopped in at the information centre first to pay our fee and get a map. There’d been a moose sighting (mother and calf) the day before in the west of the park so that ignited our hopes of seeing a moose on this little jaunt. We also wanted to see beavers and so went to the Beaver Pond walk which was a little way into the park.
The walk wasn’t very long but it took us around two ponds which both had evidence of beavers. We saw their little mounds and opined that beavers were asleep within. We also saw a real beaver dam, which was really impressive. Despite our entreaties though, no beavers sallied forth. We did, however, see red squirrels and eastern chipmunks, one of which came up to Fiamma’s shoe and gave it a sniff.
By the time we returned to the car it was about 4pm and the sun was already starting to go down. We decided against exploring further and instead drove back through Maynooth to Bancroft to find somewhere for an early dinner. We got in there about 6pm and because it was so early were the youngest in there by about 30 years. It was a small country town kind of restaurant but the food was cheap and tasty, servings were large, and the staff friendly. We had big turkey dinners and then shared a cherry pie.
We returned to the hostel, night well and truly having settled in around us. (Daylight savings ended on Saturday night/Sunday morning so it’s taking a bit to get used to the sun setting so early.) Back at the hostel we sat and watched a Nicolas Cage film called Windtalker about the Navajo code talkers in WWII. It wasn’t our choice, we just joined in with the other two people who were already watching the film. At 9, when the movie finished, we went to bed, suddenly weary (and not really wanting to watch another crap film).
It took me a little while to fall asleep as the curtains didn’t block out the light, the bed was a bit short, the walls paper thin and people coming into the building late and talking in the corridor. Still, I managed to sleep.
We woke on Friday morning to a world blanketed in white. Yes, it had snowed. We left at about 8am on Friday morning and this was the first time I’ve actually had to scrape the snow and ice off the car. The novelty wore off after about five minutes. I wouldn’t want to have to do it every morning, that’s for sure. Luckily, the snow hadn’t been too heavy and the roads were pretty clear by the time we set off and they weren’t icy.
We stopped for breakfast in Whitney at a little roadside petrol station restaurant, getting a cheap breakfast of eggs on toast. We stopped in at the grocery store and Fiamma bought some ripe bananas for 15c for two. I thought that was funny. We then drove back into Algonquin Park, stopping off to pay for our entry fee. It snowed while I was sitting in the carpark (while in the car) and was a bit concerned about our plans for hiking, but it stopped pretty quickly.
We drove out to Lake Opeongo first, thinking that the outfitters store would be open. It wasn’t but we had a nice view across the lake at the Christmas-card-like scene around us of snow on trees. On the way back to the main road we stopped and talked to a couple who were walking along the side of the road. They looked like they’d spotted something. They had. Chickadees. We stopped and had a watch with them for a little while, then went to the Visitor Centre down the road.
As it was cold outside (about –1°C or 0°C), we took our time checking out the interpretation, learning a little about the beavers, moose and wolves in the park. We also saw moose, albeit stuffed, dead ones. Armed with new knowledge about the forming of the lakes and forest in the park, we next stopped at the Spruce Bog walk, heading out along the boardwalk. The great thing about the fresh snow was seeing the different animal tracks left in the snow.
Even though we couldn’t be sure as we didn’t have the guide book with us, we were pretty confident we could see which ones belonged to chipmunks or squirrels. There were probably some rabbit tracks as well. No moose. Of course no moose. Despite this being a prime area for moose to visit (they like bogs). Still, it was picturesque.
Our next walk was the Hemlock Bluff walk which took us up along a cliff, through forest and down to the shores of the lake. We saw more tracks, including what we think is likely mean to be wolf, no moose still, but a good walk through very pretty landscapes. The walk took about an hour and a half to two hours through some boggy, muddy areas. The last time I was in Algonquin Park was for the changing of the leaves and the place was full of people. This time we hardly saw anyone. It was magical and I was really glad we decided to do this short trip north.
After returning to the car, we figured we’d done enough and if we wanted to get back to Toronto before 8pm we needed to leave then. We drove through the rest of the park, out the west gate, and then stopped at Henrietta’s bakery for a bite to eat. Then we zoomed down the freeway back to the city, the roads a lot busier than I would have expected. Once we hit the city, the traffic slowed to a crawl and it took half an hour to go 9km. Such a contrast to the vast emptiness in the north.
Once back home, we ate dinner with Glen, who’d prepared tacos for us. He gets brownie points. Julian came by a little later and we whiled away a few hours talking about our travels and watching Mindy Project. I’d bought a book while in Algonquin, which listed 115 must-see destinations in Canada. I’ve seen 28 out of them. Clearly I need to spend a lot more time in Canada.
At 11, Julian and I took Fiam to the airport, said our quick farewells-for-now, then drove back to the city. I filled up the petrol tank, returned the car, we got late night pizza slices and then went to bed. What a great couple of days.