Every summer we head off to Algonquin Park, about three hours north of us, for a week of camping. My daughter had a meltdown one fall camping trip where she exclaimed "I HATE CAMPING!!" ... now that she's almost 20, she has opted out of these trips. We tried over the years to make it enjoyable for her, but although she loves to swim in the lake, she's not crazy about the rest of it. My son tells us he's never going to stop camping with us, and I'm glad he enjoys it as much as we do.
So we packed up husband, me, boy, dog, bikes, canoe, kayak and trailer and headed off to the Great (white) North for a week's camping in the woods. There are various ways to camp in Algonquin Park. You can bring a tent or a trailer and camp in the campgrounds with showers and hydro (which is what we do). Or you can drive to an access point, park the car, load up your canoe and paddle into "backcountry" where there are designated individual campsites dotting lakes and rivers that have a fire pit and a privy down a well-beaten path far away from the comforting glow of your nighttime fire.
Black bears are prevalent in the park, and I'll admit that this is my only worry if we were to back-country camp. For the most part, bears only arrive in your campground when they are attracted by the smell of food. You can usually scare them off with some yelling and waving of arms. But there's always that ever so slight risk that a bear will attack you if you make a wrong move ... like if you run away from them, they then see you as the weaker mammal and give chase. An even rarer instance is my favourite, the "predator" bear, which will purposely stalk and attack humans. But the park authorities assure all campers that predator bears are very uncommon among black bears and not to worry. We've had bears come through our campsite, and I've come face to face with a bear very early one morning when I cycled over to the showers (he was tearing through some garbage that some lazy campers left outside the garbage bin), but the bears are honestly more interested in sneaking some food and making a quick get-away.
|Canisbay Lake at the "pet beach" ... or "Cody's beach" as we like to call it.|
There are 12 campgrounds within the park, but we always camp at Canisbay Lake (above 3 photos) campground, and take day trips all over the park. A two-lane highway runs through the lower corridor of the park (from west to east gates, it's about 60 km) and you can access lots of lakes along that highway. During our paddles around, we've often stopped at the canoe-in sites and we're sometimes disappointed by the amount of garbage people leave behind. The rule is if you pack it in, you must pack it out, but we've found broken camp chairs, fishing rods, lanterns and just general garbage littering some of the sites. It bugs me that people leave it all for someone else to clean up. However, most of these sites are clean and have beautiful views of lakes and rocky shores that you just can't beat!
We've never done "back-country camping" in the park, as we've become somewhat spoiled with a soft dry bed at night and relative safety from the violent thunderstorms that hit the north (ok, my second fear is a tree being struck by lightening and falling on your tent with you inside it!). But after this trip, we've decided that next year we might just do it for one night over on the east side of the park. The east side of the park is decidedly less-travelled. We've been there before, and this year we drove over again with canoe and kayak to paddle down the Barron Canyon River. It's about another three hour drive from Canisbay Lake to the east side and Achray Campground. But it's a lovely drive through amazing northern countryside with lots of old log barns and houses mingled with quaint towns. We drove through a portion of the Ottawa Valley, and were fairly close to Petawawa where there's a military base where my brother-in-law was stationed years ago.
The Barron Canyon River is a nice width and meanders gently along where there are some very pretty canoe-in sites. We passed beaver dams and marshes, and even saw one beaver on the way back to the truck.
Shortly after starting along the river, we were forced to portage around some small rapids. The portage was .5 km over some rough ground. Our canoe is quite cumbersome to navigate through dense forest and up and over rocks, being 65 lbs. and 17 ft long . We bought it years ago when Kevlar canoes were just coming into fashion. Ours is a very stable canoe which has been perfect for two adults, two growing kids and an active dog. Now that it's just my husband and I in the canoe, we've got our eye on a nice Kevlar canoe that's only 15 ft and weighs 35 lbs. We've always tried to avoid having to do long portages with our monster.
There was apparently a heavy storm in this area just prior to our camping trip, and there were a lot of large trees down. Here you can see the trail has been cleared of a couple of fallen trees over the path.
I was left here to wait while my husband and son carried his kayak to the end of the portage. Lots of people were leaving the park that day, and this portage was hopping shortly after I took these photos.
We happily continued on our way up the river and enjoyed the beautiful scenery on either side of us. The gentle hills gradually rising up higher and higher, and the turkey vultures soaring above us.
My son paddling up the river and our first glimpse of the cliffs ahead.
The small point on the right of the photo below is a canoe-in site.
The wind was actually quite strong that day, and it was hard going on the trip into the canyon.
Cody loves being with us, but he's a bit annoying in the canoe. He usually tries standing up on the tiny tip of the canoe and whines and cries till you just want to toss him overboard ... and yes, I have done it ... oops!
Here is the main part of the canyon, which is really more like a deep gorge. The rock cliffs are so colourful, and it was so quiet and serene down here on the river.
We passed only a few other canoes, but we were mostly alone here.
To give you an idea of how high the cliffs are, there is a man on the edge of this cliff that I zoomed in on ... he's taking a photo ...
And if you look closely, you can see him here in the regular shot ...
I know it's not the Grand Canyon, but it's still impressive to paddle along and look way up to see these rocky cliffs. There's a trail along the top of the cliffs which we've walked along another time, but I enjoyed the view from below better, I just love the look of the cliffs.
It took us all day to drive to the canyon, paddle up and back down the river and then drive back to our campsite, but it was well worth it! Next time we do it we're thinking of booking a campsite along the river for one night because it was fairly exhausting to do all that in one day. If we stay overnight, we can go further up river and enjoy a waterfall where you can slide down a rocky chute!
And that's all for today folks!
I'll continue with more Algonquin pics another day ;)
Thanks for stopping by!
PS...Cody loves to photo bomb ;)