Trip down memory lane: Algonquin Park Canada

Last Updated on by Charlotte van de Sande

Together with Ries, I have been making nice trips for more than nine years. We have visited beautiful places, had much fun and, especially in the beginning, made the necessary travel mistakes. In these ‘trip down memory lane’ blogs, I will tell you more about these first trips at the beginning of our relationship. This time I write about the time we canoed and camped in Algonquin Park in Canada. Here we heard wolves at night and we had to hang our food in the tree because of the bears.


July 2012

Canada is our first intercontinental trip together. I have never been outside Europe, Ries went to Thailand and South Africa with his parents a few years ago. We are still studying and therefore have long summer holidays. I just returned from Madrid where I did some modelling. And now we are in Canada where we are staying with Ries his family. It’s the middle of summer and very hot, but we have a great time. After spending a week and a half in Canada with family, we will travel to the United States to visit among other, New York and Boston.

The family of Ries has given us a warm welcome. We stay with his cousin Jef and Sara for a few days, who are living in the beautiful Toronto. They show us the city, take us to the theatre in the park and visit the Niagara Falls, large waterfalls on the border from Canada to America. Our jet lag slowly disappears and we are ready for our next adventure: canoeing and camping in Algonquin Park.

familie in Canada

Canoeing and thunderstorms …

After we did some grocery shopping at Wal-Mart with cousin Jeff, we put our luggage in a huge backpack and waterproof yellow barrel. We are so fortunate that we can borrow Jeff’s large SUV and armed with a map we drive away. The Algonquin Park is marked with a large cross on the map, we don’t have GPS and smartphones don’t really exist yet. Travelling in the old fashioned way!

Ries has never driven an SUV and has never driven outside of Europe, so it takes some time getting used to the six-lane roads and the Canadian traffic rules. But after driving wrong for three times, he gets a grip on it and we head on to the right direction. It is a three-hour drive and on the way, we see the landscape slowly change.

When we arrive at the park, it just starts to thunder. There are many large lakes and ponds in Algonquin Park. Our plan is to explore the park via water in a canoe. The man who rents us a canoe tells us that we go on the water at our own risk, thunderstorms on open water can be quite dangerous. After a short hesitation, we decide to go anyway, hopefully, the storm will blow the other way. And so we load our stuff in the canoe, put on the mandatory life jackets and get on board.Algonquinpark

Canoeing and beavers

It is a hot day and after a few minutes of canoeing, we are already sweating. In the beginning, it doesn’t go very smoothly. As some might know, I have 0.0 sense of rhythm and according to Ries, I’m rowing completely wrong. Add to that the fact that I am super clumsy and I almost fall off the boat a few times and you can imagine how much fun we are having. We have a map of the area and with that, we navigate through huge lakes and smaller rivers. Because we are a bit afraid of the storm, we have a super high pace. We know that it is about four hours of sailing, so we still have a long way to go.Algonquinpark Canoe

After a while, we come to a split. According to the map we have to go to the left, but we don’t seem to be able to do that. The entrances are blocked with wood and trees in the water. Well, how are we going to do this? Coincidentally a boat from the other side is approaching. The couple that is in it, get out of their canoe, climb agile on the wood and then pull their canoe without damaging it, over the wood. We look surprised at them. The buy cheerfully calls out: “Hi guys, it’s just a beaver dam. You can cross it carefully!”. Ah, of course, this explains it all. Clumsily we stand on the wood a few minutes later. Until our ankles in the water, we try to push the canoe over the wood. It works and carefully, without falling into the lake, we step into the canoe. Yes, we succeeded!

With this victory in mind, we relax. The thunderstorm seems to be completely gone and the sky is bright blue. Peacefully we row further and look around a bit more. Only now it strikes us, how beautiful the nature surrounding us is. Large pine trees, birch and beech trees grow along the waterfront. Sometimes we see a fish jumping above the surface. Hopefully, we look around to spot a deer or a moose. The park is quiet and the only sound we hear is the buzz of insects and water softly hitting the boat.

Camping

After two hours of canoeing, we arrive at the end of the water. According to the map, we now have to walk a short distance overland to get to the next lake. I grab the big yellow barrel and buckle it on my back. Ries grabs the life-sized backpack, then slowly turns the canoe around and keeps it above his head. The canoe is super heavy and the sun is burning on our backs, but fortunately, it is only a few hundred meters hiking to the next lake. Relieved we drop the canoe back in the water after which we have a small break. Later on, we have one small hike over land again but this time it’s even shorter. After this last hike, it’s only 45 minutes further to the camping spot.

A small hour later we do indeed pull the canoe on dry land. Our camping spot is marked with a red paper nailed on a boat and when we walk there we see a small open space. I start to unpack the tent while Ries explores the neighbourhood a bit. There is a chemical toilet a bit further into the forest and there is a fireplace. Together we set up our tent and take another quick dive into the water to cool off. We love this place! It is so idyllic to sit at our tent looking over this beautiful lake surrounded by tall trees!Algonquinpark

Fire, bears and wolves

Tonight’s supper we cook on a fire that we make ourselves. Full camping mode on, Ries starts collecting wood and tries to make a campfire. Fifteen minutes and a hundred unsuccessful attempts, he looks angry at the non-burning wood. I have already offered to help him ten times, but far too proud he has refused it so far. By now I am done with it, and start to look for some thin straw and smaller branches. After I have built a small pyramid with branches, straw and a small piece of paper, the fire burns within two minutes. Ries looks at me gruffly … “you are a city girl, why can you do this?” he asks. Well, that’s what happens when you are the only girl growing up between brothers and cousins. We’ve set stuff on fire dozens of times.Algonquinpark

After we have had dinner, canned soup with sausages and sandwiches, we put all the leftover food in our huge barrel, which Ries then hangs in a tree. Three meters from the ground, three meters from the tree trunk, just like Jeff told us. There are bears here in the forest and when they smell food we have two problems: bears that are nearby and no more food. The barrel must ensure that they don’t smell the food.

When it starts to twilight, we crawl into our tent. We have a bottle of bear pepper-spray next to us, for when a bear comes close to our tent. Still a little tense we finally fall asleep. Of course there is no bear that night, however, we do hear, from a distance, some wolves howling. Pretty exciting, but we finally sleep well!

Sore Muscles

We wake up just before sunrise. Completely stiff and sore, we crawl out of the tent. Wow, yesterday’s canoeing has caused a lot of muscle pain! It’s still a bit cold, so with long pants and pullovers, we walk to the lake. Which looks magnificent: there is a layer of mist above the water that causes it to have something mysterious. The sun slowly rises and then we see a moose on the other side of the water. It drinks water and suddenly seems to hear us. For a moment it looks our way and stands completely still, then it jumps back into the forest. Wow, that was truly magical!

The rest of the day, we take it easy. We sail to a small island nearby, where we read a bit and lie in the sun for a moment, until we discover that we have been lying on an anthill, oops. Showering is done in the lake with the use of special biodegradable shampoo.  All meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner are prepared again above a small fire. It is wonderfully relaxing to be in nature without other people. There is no electricity and no telephone coverage here. We are really dependent on each other and that is very cosy and quite romantic!

Less afraid of bears or wolves and tired of the sun and fresh air, we fall fast asleep in the evening.

The way back

Even today we wake up early. It’s our last day in Algonquin Park and after breakfast and another hour in the sun, it’s time to start canoeing back. We pack our things and get into the canoe. Despite the muscle pain, canoeing goes a lot smoother. Have lots of fun, we shoot over the water. We see a few beavers, spot a lot of birds and arrive at the starting point four hours later. After we have handed in the canoe, we drive back to Toronto. Jeff and Sara are awaiting us and we tell them all about our big adventure.


General information about the Algonquin park

Our canoe/camping trip through Algonquin Park was one of the highlights of our time in Canada. It has made me fall in love with camping and the outdoors. Do you also want to make a canoe trip through Algonquin Park? Below you will find (up to date) information about this adventure.

Park permits and reservations

You will need a permit to enter Algonquin Park. We used the Backcountry Permit which allowed us to camp in the park. For this we paid $ 12.43 per person per night. Are you planning to sleep in a lodge, or do you want to come to the park with a car for a day, then you will need other permits. Here you will find an overview of the different permits.

If you want to stay overnight in Algonquin Park, you can book a camping spot or lodge. Do this on time because there is only a limited number of camping spots available. You can do this via the Algonquin Park website (click here for more information).

Equipment / equipment rented

We rented our canoe at the Portage Store. You can already rent a canoe from $ 32.95 per day. The rest of our equipment (tent, stove, water-purifying device, etc) we borrowed from cousin Jeff. Do you not have a cousin Jeff? No worries, you can also rent all of this equipment at the Portage Store. On their website, you will find different packages and gear. You can even have food packages put together. The Portage Store store is located at access point 5 (also the starting point of our trip) where you can pick up your stuff.

If you are planning to start at a different location, you can rent equipment from Algonquin Bound Outfitters or from Algonquin Outfitters.

Other activities in Algonquin Park

Besides canoeing, you can also do a number of other activities in Algonquin Park. You can go mountain biking on one of the three trails. There are also three different tramping routes, with lengths ranging from 6 to 88 kilometres. There are many hiking trails here you can find an overview. And it’s also possible to go fishing, hunting, windsurfing, skiing, swimming and even dog sledging and skiing.

Best time for canoeing and camping in the Algonquin Park

The park is open all year, but keep in mind that in May and June you can suffer from mosquitoes and black flies. From October to December it can get quite cold in the park, but the lakes are usually not yet frozen. From December to mid-April (but sometimes later) the lakes are frozen and it’s not possible to canoe here. For me, the best moments would be in early May, July, August and September. In these months you don’t suffer from stinging insects and it is not too cold.

Our route

We started at Canoe Lake (access point 5) and finally paddled to Tom Thomson Lake. Here we slept for two nights. It took us about four hours to come here and we had to cross a piece of land twice. In total, this trip is about 13 kilometres. On this site, you will find several canoe routes. You can find our route on the map below:


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Read all about our canoeing and camping trip in the Algonquin Park in Canada


*All o the photo’s are taken in 2012, but were lost after a burglary in 2013 when our hard drive, including all of our photo’s, was stolen. Many thanks to my Mom and Jeff, the cousin of Ries, who found these photos on their computers!

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