Algonquin Provincial Park -- August 2009
Last year when we went to Algonquin my mom picked up Matt and I in the afternoon and we arrived in Ottawa in the evening. This year we left earlier, getting out of Toronto by 11am. This was definitely a good thing as it reduced the traffic on the drive and allowed us to arrive early enough to help with the packing.
My brother is also along this year with his friend Matt Strachan but they drove separately. It's going to be awesome having them on the trip. We have a total of 13 people this year and the larger group will hopefully make a lot of the work much easier. In addition to all the people we have another companion on this trip, Uncle Lloyd and Aunt Joanne's new puppy Gracie! She's still a bit young but we're hoping she'll behave on the trip.
Once we got to Ottawa we enjoyed a supper of hamburgers and salad and then went to work packing barrels and organizing equipment for the next day. We also enjoyed many beers, including the special edition "Kellerbier" from Creemore Springs. I picked up a case of it to try and it was super delicious. I loved the murkiness of the beer and all the stuff that was left in it from the lack of pasteurization.
Everyone is off to bed early tonight so that we can be up and moving by 6am tomorrow and be on the road as soon as possible.
We managed to be super organized this morning and were on the road by 8:45am which is definitely a new record for the trip. Uncle Lloyd had his trailer outfitted with special racks for the canoes and this made it really easy to load everything up. Also, there were more people to help out so that made a big difference too.
The drive to the park was mostly uneventful, and we were able to unload, eat lunch and get on the water in reasonable time. The only thing of note was that when we were getting our permits at the park gate a juvenile fox wandered into the parking lot! This was a bit disturbing because foxes never go out where people are unless they are rabid or something else is wrong. Since this one was young we figured it was just a bit confused. Some stupid people started feeding it, even letting their young daughter practically feed it right from her own hand. I don't understand stupid people. First, despite it being cute it is a wild animal and could be dangerous even without rabies. Second, feeding it only makes it more dependent on people and less likely to be able to survive the winter when there are no people in the park. Makes me angry.
There was one minor problem on the canoe to our site. Emily and Dave's canoe tipped just a few dozen metres from the launch point on Grand Lake! Fortunately everything was tied down to the canoe so it got wet but nothing was lost. Also, because they were so close they were able to touch the bottom and recover easily. All of the packs were wrapped in plastic but unfortunately some water still got in, soaking my mom's sleeping pad and Matt's sleeping pad and bag. However, we hung them up as soon as we got to camp and everything dried out really well and no one had to sleep in wet things.
Anyway, we followed the same general route this year as last but we went one lake further to St. Andrew's lake as all the sites on Stratton Lake were booked. Due to the larger group we needed to book two sites, however we managed to get a wonderful, gigantic site on St. Andrew's lake that could accommodate everyone! We were worried about being separated and having a long canoe trip to get from one site to the other. This would have made things less fun for sure. So the super-site was awesome.
Upon arriving at the site we unloaded, set up tents, and went to work gathering firewood for a cooking fire. Once again we had steaks paired with potatoes, onions and carrots wrapped in foil with oil and garlic. With so many people we had a roaring fire in no time and supper cooked up great!
Everyone is a bit tired so we're going to bed in good time tonight.
This morning Matt and I got up early and went for a swim in the lake. Our camp site has a real sand beach as opposed to rocks so it's great for swimming. The water wasn't too cold, but it was still refreshing. After the swim I got the fire going to cook breakfast of sausages and scrambled eggs.
Following breakfast we relaxed for a while just chatting. At one point a giant bug fell out of a tree on my mom's head! It was pretty freaky looking. She brushed it away and when it landed on the ground it didn't really move despite some gentle prodding. So, I took this opportunity to bust out my macro set up and takes some macro pictures of the bug! This was a bit crazy as it was dirty out and the macro set up kind of exposes the delicate parts of my lenses. But I was careful and managed to get some pretty good shots!
While sitting around, my brother and his friend Matt took it upon themselves to each fasion a boat out of a split piece of log using only a hatchet. This kept them occupied for a good long time and also made a lot of useful wood chips for starting fires.
After a lunch of cold meat, cheese, crackers and other snacky-type foods we all got in canoes to head to High Falls to do some swimming. Initially we canoed back to Stratton Lake to get to the main access point, however once we got to Stratton the waves and wind were so high that we couldn't get into the lake! It was pretty crazy and concerning for our trip out tomorrow! So we turned around and took the alternate path through St. Andrew's lake. This also required a reasonable hike in addition to the canoing, but it turned out to be a great opportunity to see two really nice waterfalls. Swimming at High Falls was just as fun as last year. We did some dives off one of the rocks and Anthony and Matt did flips.
Back at camp after swimming we made pasta with veggie-tomato sauce and meatballs for supper. When paired with wine and/or Bailey's Irish Cream this was delicious! We also made s'mores and ate cookies and fruit. Eating well is important when camping!
After supper we played Apples to Apples with the whole group for a while, and then the more senior adults went to bed and the rest of us continued playing in the big tent (to avoid the mosquitoes).
We stayed up a lot later tonight, and I suspect with all the activity today I'll sleep very well.
Once again, having lots of people really paid off. It took almost no time at all to get packed up this morning after our breakfast of oatmeal and fruit. We wanted to get going in good time because we were concerned about the possibility of strong winds like yesterday. However when we got to Stratton Lake it was super calm. Even the bigger Grand Lake was mostly calm. It was a very easy paddle back to the launch area.
We had a nice relaxing lunch at the cars and then said goodbye to Judy, Daniel, Pat and Emily who headed directly back to Barrie from the park. The drive back to Ottawa was pretty sleepy (for me at least). After showers and unpacking we settled in to a supper of lasagna and salad and beer. Of course we also picked up another Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cake with random inscription.
I'm just checking my email now and then it's off to bed. Everyone is pretty tired, but in a good way.
This morning we had a leisurely breakfast and chatted a bit with Aunt Joanne and Uncle Lloyd before heading back to Toronto. It's always nice seeing them and too bad we don't see them more often. Fortunately I'll be seeing them at least three more times this year!
The drive back to Toronto was easy and now it's time to do laundry and relax before work tomorrow. Good trip.