Algonquin Adventure: Day 1

Several months before leaving for Canada, I decided that making a stop at a major park/preserve was a must. After a little research, Algonquin Provincial Park became the easy and logical choice – and I am so glad we decided to visit.

Algonquin Provincial Park was established in 1893, making it the oldest provincial park in Canada. It is absolutely enormous at 7,653 square kilometers (2,955 sq mi), which Wikipedia claims is about a quarter of the size of Belgium. Located within a decent distance from Toronto and Ottawa, besides being considered some of the most pristine, woody wilderness in eastern Canada, has made Algonquin one of the most popular parks in Ontario and the entire nation.

There are over 2400 lakes, hundreds of kilometers of trails, and the southern, developed portion of the park is easily accessible by the Highway 60, which runs through the park. The majority of the park, however, is not developed but allowed to maintain it’s natural state and provides prime habitat for beaver, otter, red wolves, fox, black bears, trout, deer, all sorts of birds, and, of course, moose.

Mommy and I happened to have chose, by complete accident, the best time of year to see moose in the park. Apparently these sodium starved animals will come close to the roads to lick the sodium rich runoffs from salt that had been set out to melt snow and ice. Our AirBnb host, Kirk, told us that there was no way we wouldn’t see a moose while we were here.

Speaking of Kirk, his and his wife Mariska’s home is absolutely stunning. We found them through AirBnb and are staying in a basement apartment that has it’s own entrance, a full functioning kitchen, full bath, large bed, and combined dining/living space. It feels homey and rustic at the same time without being too much of either.

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They were kind enough to allow up to borrow an annual pass to the park, which will save us a lot of money as parking permits for Algonquin cost $17 per car, per day. Apparently they only started welcoming AirBnb guests this past January and have been a hit almost instantly. If you ever plan on visiting this area, I would highly suggest looking up their space.

Both Kirk and Mariska work for Algonquin, which gave us the added advantage of being able to ask them questions about the park and getting solid, educated answers. Mariska works for the Visitor Center and Kirk is actually a park ranger who has spent, as he told us, years running away from administrative positions that would require him to sit behind a desk because the favorite part of his job is being outside all the time. I totally get it – I would love a job like that, too.

So, armed with maps and guide books, we entered the developed area of the park late this morning and began our Algonquin adventure.

Highway 60, as I mentioned before, runs the length of the developed, southern portion of the park. It is 56 kilometers of gorgeous views of lakes, bogs, rivers, and forest. There are several paths coming off the highway for hiking and observing. Some of the trails take about an hour to complete and others can take six. Guess which ones we did today.

The first trail we walked was actually the Beaver Pond trail, which took us around two ponds/lakes that existed entirely because of the engineering skills of beavers. Although we did not see any actual beavers (we did see one earlier on, but not on this trail), we saw several beaver homes and one absolutely incredible dam that looked like the edge of an infinity pool. It was spectacular – rugged, strong, and perfect in its wildness.

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The second trail was called the Spruce Bog trail, which the provided guided book at the trail head called “the wettest desert.” Apparently there is tons of water, it’s just not accessible to anything except certain plants. The bog gives way to a sentinel of tall, skinny black spruce trees that provide a unique habitat for many creatures including the spruce grouse. Which we did not see. It would have been a lifer, but oh well. I did, however, have a chickadee land on a branch less than a foot from my face and a chipmunk come sniff my boots.

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I have to say that in general, I was surprised at the lack of wildlife we witnessed in the park today. With all the bodies of water, we barely saw any waterfowl and no loons. There was no sign of larger mammalian life either, and we started to become concerned that we wouldn’t get to see our moose, despite the previous assurances.

Although neither trail was overly difficult, both mommy and I were a bit worn out and decided to continue our exploring by car. Since the stretch of highway in the park wasn’t too long, I decided to drive to the other end to see if there was anything worth noting to come back for tomorrow. And I’m glad we did because at about Kilometer 35, we noticed a pod of cars stopped along the side of the road which could only have meant one thing – a moose!

Sure enough, a young bull moose was munching the grass and drinking the water by the highway, in search of the sodium he was in need of after a long winter.

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Admittedly, they are not the most beautiful animals. Even on the animal crossing signs they looked gangly and awkward next to the deer.

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To enhance the matter, moose are currently loosing their winter coats, meaning they look scruffy and scraggly. Almost everyone has told me that moose aren’t the brightest crayon in the box either (guess Brother Bear got that bit right), but somehow they are cute and majestic in their “ugliness” and awkwardness. I really like them and they are one of my mom’s favorite animals, so we were both super excited to finally see one for ourselves.

After seeing the moose we continued our journey to the West Gate of the park, turned around and returned to our comfy accommodations. Tomorrow there is so much more to see! Stay tuned. 🙂

Wildlife Count: 1 moose, 1 beaver, 1 woodchuck, 2 chipmunks, 4 red squirrels, 1 rabbit, 1 snake, heard at least 2 species of frogs, and 15 different bird species.

-Wandering Minstrelette

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