Algonquin Provincial Park is located in southeastern Ontario in Canada. It is abundant with lakes, rivers, wildlife and forests. Ever since I can remember I’ve been enjoying the beauty of this Provincial Park each summer. Growing up, these were our standard family trips that consisted of myself, my two younger brothers and our dad. My father is an Outdoor Education teacher and an overall advocate for the outdoors. Naturally we were holding paddles as early as we could physically manage.
We weren’t always outdoor enthusiasts Lily-dipping was a favourite past time of ours. So was feeding chipmunks our Fig Newtons and catching frogs instead of helping to set up camp. Looking back now, I have nothing but admiration for my father. He taught us to appreciate nature and the outdoors. All the while trying to keep three wild kids under control in the backcountry. As the years went on and we began to hold our own. Coming of age let to new-found independence, summer jobs and friends. Despite always trying to carve out time for our yearly family camping trip, life would often get in the way. When I was unable to make these annual trips, I would consequently acquire a serious case of FOMO. I felt I was missing something essential in my life.
Disconnect from Urban Life
Escaping into the thick of Algonquin is a way to disconnect from the ever-exhausting world of electronics and social media. It gave time to reconnect with nature and ultimately myself. The eerie quietness on the lake offers a sense of peace I can’t find anywhere else. It allows me time to look inward and contemplate without interference. Each pull of the paddle elicites an inherent and familiar rhythm that washes my worries away.
Every time I hike a portage, I become more in tune with my body. I reconnect with nature as I trudge through the forest, over streams and beaten paths. I sing old camp songs and look for the blue in the trees to indicate I’ve made it to the other side. Evenings are full of laughter and loon calls. Dinners consist of freshly grilled lake trout with nothing but lemon and pepper as our seasoning.
The best time to visit Algonquin Park is in August when the black flies and mosquitoes have subsided. The black flies can be relentless in the middle of the summer, especially in swampy portages. The typical loops we take are at an intermediate level – you’ll need some experience to attempt them:
First day: Town of Whitney (access point #13) paddle to end of Galeairy Lake
Second day: Galeairy – Rock – Pen – Welcome
Third day: Welcome – Harry – Rence – Frank – Florence – Louisa
Fourth day: Louisa – Rock – Galeairy
Fifth day: Galeairy – Whitney
Big Trout Loop
First day: Canoe Lake (access point #5) Canoe – Joe – Little Joe – Burnt Island
Second day: Burnt Island – Little Otterslide – Otterslide – Otterslide Creek – Big Trout
Third day: Big Trout – White Trout – McIntosh Marsh – McIntosh
Fourth day: McIntosh – Ink – Tom Thompson – Littledoe
Fifth day: Littledoe – Teepee – Joe – Canoe
Last summer we were all able to make it on our annual family canoe trip to Algonquin Park. My brother brought his hound dog June Bug who was still a pup at the time. On one of our portages from Big Trout Lake into Lake La Muir, a bull moose jumped out onto the path. It was only 10 feet in front of us.
My dad and I were on “June duty”. Unfortunately we ended up having our title revoked after she took off into the forest chasing the massive moose. The eminent feeling of sheer panic took over us when she didn’t return after searching relentlessly for over five hours.
When she finally did show her face she had lost her dog pack and her food that was in it. She was then confined to a rope that was attached to one unlucky waist on every portage for the remainder of the trip. June’s whining was unremitting after learning of her new set-up.
Summers spent in nature
On the way out of our five-day trip, during our last big portage, we passed a family of seven. The brave parents had brought their five young children for one of their own family adventures. There wasn’t one child over the age of 12! As we passed them we gave the typical camper greetings and empathetic eyes. We saw ourselves in the young family.
Not too long ago our own adolescent summers were spent under open skies. Spent discovering the beauty of nature, and questioning the infinite universe. And in that moment, I felt a wave of appreciation wash over me. Appreciation for having the privilege of enjoying such magnificence and sharing it with my family. And appreciation for my father who passed down his passion for the outdoors. Each of us will eagerly pass this down to the next generation.
Spending time in the outdoors has defined our character. Learning to appreciate the delicate intricacies of nature can become ominous in a split second. You are also easily left up to the mercy of the gear we’ve packed. We devoted our days to the monotonous pull of our paddle only to set up camp and tear it all down the next day.
Algonquin is a place where we became intrepid explorers, jumping from floating log to rock. In search of the biggest bullfrog we could find. It’s a sanctuary where we feel calm and safe, a platform to openly discuss our thoughts and ideas. We love sitting around a campfire as we sip hot chocolate from our tin mugs.
It is still, to this day, a stage for my brothers to keep us entertained by enthusiastically reciting the best lines from every movie. Not only are the outdoors a place to relax and recharge, they’re a place you will gain confidence in your abilities. Where you will find yourself again and again if you’ve ever lost your equilibrium. It’s a place that will bring you closer to those you explore it with.