Algonquin Park - a peaceful getaway near Toronto

Follow-up from: Fall foliage in Canada

This is the first part of my multi-part essay covering my fall vacation in Canada.

I wanted to include some wild-life experience in my round trip so I did some research, which region or National Park I could include in my vacation. Because Sault Ste. Marie (which comes highly recommended from canadiens) is located way off my planed route I limited my search to National Parks in the vicinity of Toronto, Ottawa, Montréal and Québec City.

Algonquin Provincial Park seemed the perfect choice for hiking or canoeing, but this time of the year it is very hard to reach the park with public transportation. The Parkbus schedule is very limited so I looked for multi-day trips which were organized in small groups. In general there are two kinds of trips, one includes the conveniences of a log cabin and the other one is basically a organized camping trip.

I liked the idea of camping in the wild and after some research of different tour operators I decided to trust the numerous great reviews of Algonquin Park Tours and contacted Stuart Letovsky.

He is very professional and even gave some advice how to include this canoe trip into my vacation. As he offered a transfer from Huntsville, I added another destination to my round trip (see later essay).

At the first day Stuart picked me up at my Motel in Huntsville and gave me the opportunity to store some of my baggage at his new farm in Dwight. Then we drove to Canoe Lake to meet the others. Our group really was small: two guys from the Bermudas, the guide - Andrew - and me.

After some introduction we had a delicious lunch (Montréal-style sandwiches with german multi-corn bread). Andrew gave us some advice how to operate a canoe, Stuart wished us a great adventure and then the trip started right away.

We paddled about 12km from Canoe Lake to Tom Thomson Lake. This distance sounds quite long but we didn't had to hurry - so it was no problem at all. On the way we had to portage the canoes to Joe Lake, as not all lakes (there are over 25.000 lakes in Algonquin Park!) are connected to each other. One large beaver dam blocked our way, so we had to get the canoes over it...

The weather was perfect - sunny with no clouds, temperature in the 20's - and there was amazing fall foliage. Additionally we were almost alone on the lakes. I really enjoyed the calm beautiful scenery with many photo opportunities :)

After we arrived at our camp site at Tom Thomson lake we put our stuff in the already erected tents and prepared a camp fire. Andrew cooked a delicious dinner on the stove: pasta and beef.

Afterwards we watched to sundown and Andrew answered all questions we had about camping and the park in general. It was a peaceful and quiet atmosphere I probably will not forget so fast. The lack of (loud city) noise combined with the color of the vanishing sun is quite an experience...

As there are no artificial light sources at Tom Thomson Lake you have a terrific view of the stars. I never had the chance to see the stars this way - even though the photo above looks great (and was quite hard to shoot due to the total darkness) it cannot replicate the real deal. But when I now see other pictures of star gazing I appreciate them even more.

In the morning it takes some time for the sun to dissolve the mist over the lake. The fog, clear water and sun created really spectacular views. As the temperature dropped below 0° C in the night (due to the clear sky and fall climate), leafs and spider webs were covered in morning dew. This conditions help to keep bugs away in this season, too :)

After breakfast we took some time to relax in hammocks and even had a short sun bath. It is hard to describe the scenery there. It was totally quiet (except some animal noise), which is something you normally don't know, if you live in a city. With the except two of other groups of canoeists we had no contact to other people this day.

At noon Andrew prepared our lunch (bean soup with sausages) and afterwards we explored the lake by canoe. We tried to watch some moose but we weren't successful. We only discovered some beaver lodges and appreciated the aquatic fauna and the stunning landscape.

It is great not to be disturbed by other people - this way you can really enjoy the nature. As we didn't paddle far away from our camp site we could return quite late and adore the starting sundown on the lake. Andrew really liked our small group and told us, that we could not have picked a better time; it is scare that you have this combination of great weather and lack of people in fall.

After a good dinner we started a camp fire and roasted some marshmallows. We had some nice conversations and planned the trip back into civilization.

After un-securing our food (against wild animals) and packing our gear we left the camp site shortly before noon. We took the same route back but because of the different daytime everything seemed new to me. The perfect weather gave us spectacular views of different colored trees and plants. The clear and dark water of the lakes combined with the deep blues of the sky gave numerous photo opportunities.

Shortly after noon we stopped at a camp site on Joe Lake. Before a delicious lunch Andrew showed us a great spot overlooking the beautiful scenery between Tepee Lake and Joe Lake. I took the following panorama (consisting of 8 photos and creating a canvas of 9000x4500 pixel) there, which I consider one of the best photos of fall foliage I have taken on my whole vacation:

I'll probably order a large print with this subject for my living room :)

When we finished our lunch we paddled back to Canoe Lake, where Stuart already waited for us. After exchanging some personal information Stuart drove my to his farm again. He gave me a tour of the whole property; he has impressive plans for the future of his company without disrupting nature. I took some time to re-arrange my baggage in order to comply with the rules of Greyhound Canada for the next segment of my round trip: Ottawa. Stuart gave me some recommendations for dining in Huntsville and he drove me to the city center. After a delicious meal with desert (strawberry gelato) at Little Place By The Lights my wild-life experience ended at the "bus stop" in Huntsville, ON.

I absolutely recommend taking this canoe trip with Stuart's crew when you're in the region; a vacation in Canada should always include some experience of wild nature. The whole team was very professional and Stuart provided really good - not dehydrated - food for the whole tour. And they deeply care about preserving the nature while brining people to the park.

I'd like to thank Andrew and Stuart once again for the impressive three days our small group has had in Algonquin Provincial Park.

Continued in: Both sides of the Niagara Falls