Photography and Art

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Algonquin Park Hike

As is often the case, it started with a book: Wayne Van Sickle's Algonquin Park Visitor's Guide. I picked up this excellent guide book somewhere along the way and started to read about hiking in the park. We have a vacation property about an hour away from Algonquin Park, but we had never set foot on a hiking trail or canoed in the park in the 25 years we'd been cottaging in the area. Shame on us!

Inspired by Wayne's book, I convinced Trish to spend some time with me hiking in the park this summer, but between travels to Italy and entertaining friends at the cottage, time was ticking and the end of September was approaching before we finally found an afternoon to hike in the park.

Our timing was pretty good. The bugs had disappeared and the fall colours were pretty close to their peak. The Visitor's Guide describes 14 day-hiking trails that are all accessible from the main Highway 60 corridor through the park. For our first hike, we chose the Mizzy Lake Trail, listed as tops in Wayne's guidebook for wildlife spotting. The trail is 11 kilometers long and rated as taking 5 hours in the guidbook. At the foot of the trail is a signpost that rates the trail as a 6 hour hike, but that is intended for the generally infirm. We took four hours to complete the trail and didn't really push ourselves. A fit, young hiker could probably do the trail in less time.

We really enjoyed our hike. The weather wasn't the greatest, with showers and drizzle, but the trail is pretty sheltered and we quickly got rid of our rain gear because we got too hot from the exercise. The trail is fairly flat, but there are a lot of tree roots and rocks as you clamber up and down the small slopes inherant in the terrain. About a third of the way through, the trail joins up with an abandoned railway line that used to connect Parry Sound with Ottawa (the Ottawa, Arnprior and Parry Sound Railway). The railway was built in 1897 and reputedly was Canada's busiest railway line during the first world war. The walk along the railway line is extremely easy and gives a respite from the tree roots and rocks.

About half way into the hike, we stopped and listened. It was magical. We were all alone on the trail, we were looking out over a small wetland with a lake beyond. The fall colours were bright in the distance and it was silent. Completely, overwhelmingly silent. We breathed in the fresh air and enjoyed each other's company as we contemplated unspoiled nature and thought our own thoughts.

We saw lots of evidence of wildlife and a few birds and squirrels. At one point we came to a turtle's nest that had been dug up by raccoons, with broken eggs scattered all around. There were many beaver dams and once lodge that was positioned very close to the trail. However, we didn't sight any moose which was disappointing. The fall colours were quite spectacular, making up somewhat for the lack of wildlife.

Ironically, when we were driving out of the park on Highway 60, we came across a large group of parked cars and found tourists madly snapping away at a lovely female moose that was munching away on some delicate trees close to the roadway.

If you find yourself in the Muskoka or Haliburton areas of Ontario, be sure to devote an afternoon to exploring one of the many trails of Algonquin Park.

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