Algonquin is likely the most popular provincial parks, frequently visited by tour buses during the summer and especially the fall.
If you see a tour bus in a hiking trail parking lot (likely the Hardwood Lookout Trail - the shortest one in the park), your best bet is either wait or come back later, unless you want to hike with 50 other ppl at the same time.
Another solution is to do the Hardwood Lookout early in the morning or late in the evening. You can guarantee peace and quiet this way as most tour buses don't arrive until after 11am.
You may think you are hanging your food to keep it from bears, but actually it is to keep it from all kinds of critters. The most relentless are the chipmunks. This little guy came up for this photo and totally expected some payment for his services. When we gave none, he made every effort to get some on his own. It was amazing that this little varmint could cover so much ground so quickly. One second, he would be far across the camp and the next, crawling up the back of the cooking table. He was so brazen that at point blank range, he did not even flinch when I hurled a stone in his direction. (I purposely missed, it would have been too easy to hit him he was so close!) lol
I could have put this under nightlife as the hostel was a great place to down a few beers and chat with other travelers but since we were going out for five days, I did not want to leave my precious Wellington County Imperial Stout in what might become a hot car. I had never tried the stuff and it was the first time I was able to lay my hands on a couple bottles in all my times in Ontario. So, after downing quite a few beers already, we drank both big bottles of the very big beer. It clocks in at 8% alcohol and with all the fun, we forgot to pack our gear for the canoe trip entirely! We woke up a little late the next day and in no mood to pack. As it was, we did not get on the lake and paddling until nearly three in the afternoon. SO, do not drink too much beer the night before your canoe trip. Wait until after you get back instead. ;=>
The truth of it is, we are in the bear's territory and must be respectful of these amazing creatures. In general they're afraid of humans but the occasional 'campsite' bear is intelligent enough to know that humans = food.
You need not worry about black bears (campsite or otherwise) as long as you properly store everything that the bear could possibly construe as food. Bears have a VERY good sense of smell and will not hesitate to smash your canoe in half or destroy your tent to get at anything you've left there! That would be most unfortunate if you happened to be in the tent, at the time.
There have been a few deaths in the park resulting from bear attacks. Some provoked by poor food storage and some for no reason at all. The chances of this happening to you (if you follow my tip) are about the same as being struck by lightning twice in one day. But it has happened?
To remedy this possible disaster:
» Using a large piece of rope (30 or 40 feet), throw it over a branch that is at least 4 metres off the ground and few metres from any tree trunk (we're talking about a large sturdy branch here)
» Place all food, cooking utensils and garbage into your pack (including toothpaste, etc.). Waterproof packs work best for variable weather
» Tie the pack to one end of rope and hoist the pack up the tree using the other end and then tie the remaining rope securely to a sturdy tree trunk and sleep tight.
The presence of a dog also aids in keeping the bear problem at bay :-)
While there are heaps of percievably fresh water lakes in the park, but one must remember that those same lakes double as toilets for the local beavers. That means giardia or 'beaver fever'. You don't want to get this! So here is my water purification tip. There are two ways to purify your water:
1. Boil it for 5 minutes or so. (very effective but uses precious fuel)
2. Use water treatment/chemicals... too many types to list here but, a good one is Pristine (very effective, light weight, no bulk and cheap!)
3. Filters (can't remove some smaller bacteria, are more bulky & are most expensive)
Regardless of which method you choose, the water is going to taste like sh*t!. To combat the less than desireable taste, bring two (full) 1.5 litre bottles of water. Once these are done (once you start portageing, you'll easily go through two a day), refill with your purified water and, using a small funnel, pour in small amounts of Gatorade crystals to:
1. help give the water better taste
2. utilize its water absorbtion qualities
Kool-aid works too.
Anyone who has experienced Algonquin is aware of the horrid bug problems during the months of June and July. These include mosquitos, black flies, deer flies and maybe even horse flies. These pests can sometimes be a problem during other months of the years as well. Here are a few ways to help keep these little critters at bay:
1. Don't visit the park during these months
2. Wear mosquito net clothing
3. Lather up with 95% deet (not so great for you)
4. Don't wear dark clothing (attracts mosquitos)
5. An old trick borrowed from the Voyagers of the past. Gather up "green" tree branches (from a recently blown down tree - please don't cut "live" branches from trees) and attach them anyway possible to your headgear (using gaff tape, a scarf, etc...). Be sure that they protude in front of your face and ears. You will look and feel ridiculous, like you're ready for "combat", but then again you are at war... with the bugs!
After portaging through brutal trails (if you so choose) there's a good chance your hiking boots will be soaked through and covered in mud. If they're covered in muck, wash them off in a lake/river and place them close to the fire. Not too close though... besides the obvious (melting your boots) the heat of the fire will not only dry your boots, but weaken the glue used to bind your boots together.
"Good footwear should last you more than a few trips, they should last you a lifetime."
To avoid the meltdown altogether, apply a nice thick coat of silicone sealant to your snazzy new boots. Tough when you've just blown a decent sum of $$$ on them, but when combined with some cheap gaitors, they won't leak and there will be little need to dry them off at the end of the day.
Mountain Equipment Co-op is a great place to pickup gear and accessories related to outdoor adventure.
The hiking trails are maintained very well in Algonquin Park, so that's fantastic. But some spots might be muddy to hike, like in the Mizzie Lake Trail and also on the Booth's Rock Trail. These hikes go along beaver ponds and lakes, and after some rain or due to the work of the beavers, the trail might be very wet and muddy in sections. Hahaha, and as you can see, I always seem to get home all muddy and dirty after a hike like that, LOL. So don't put on your best clothes, because you might not keep it as clean as you would like :-)
Camping in bear country...... hahaha, nope I didn't see this bear on the campground! I actually didn't see any bears at all in Algonquin Park, but they are here, so it is something that you should be aware of!
The chances of meeting a bear Algonquin Park are very rare, but you could meet up with a campground bear. Unfortunately these bears have lost their fears of humans due to feeding by people. Campground bears don't (or very rare) pose a danger to people, but they are a destructive nuisance when searching for human food or garbage. Here are some simple rules to prevent problems with these bears :
* In campground and picnic area store all your food inside the closed trunk of your vehicle.
* Never store food, cooking utensils or fragrant items like soap, toothpaste and deodorant in your tent.
* Keep your campsite clean. Wash dishes after meals and don't forget to keep the barbeque clean.
The Black Bear is reasonable common in Algonquin Park, but like I said, the chances of meeting them are very slim. The bear population is around 2000, which is about one on every three square kilometres, hahaha, so it sounds likely to see one. But even the Park staffs themselves spot the black bear not very often; it's not uncommon for them to sight only one or two black bears in a year. Hahaha, so I never count on meeting them on my short trips to the park.
When you go to the visitor centre there is a whiteboard at the entrance where you can what wildlife you've seen in the park and where. And occasionally I did see the black bear mentioned on there, so it's not impossible!
This picture of a bear was taken on my trip to the westcoast at Mount Robson.
What is nicer than to sit on the beach have a nice drink and watch a beautiful sunset!.... hmmmm.... not possible according to the rules at Algonquin park :-((
It was very quiet in the park on my visit and I noticed we weren't the only ones ignoring these rules for the night. As a European / Dutch person these rules sound rather silly, I don't see any harm it in as long as you don't cause any nuisance to other visitors. I can see that they forbid being too loud, and openly drunk, but not for having one drink while enjoying the sunset. But they are in general much strict on the use of alcohol in Canada than in The Netherlands. That's something I really need to get used to, hahaha, but I doubt that I ever will. I feel a bit like being treated like a child and the rules give me the feeling that I don't have any idea of how to deal responsibly with alcohol. Oh well, it's a different culture, and every culture seems to have it's own rules... hahaha, but this is one that I find hard to understand :-)
There is one problem though when they catch you drinking alcohol (or carrying an open bottle) outside a registered campsite; you run the risk of getting a fine and maybe even eviction.
Hahaha, not sure if this is a warning or not, or sometimes just a relief. But when you are in Algonquin Park you don't have any radio signal anymore. When you are in luck you can pick up a vague signal of some channel, but the quality isn't very good. So if you want to listen to some music you better brings some cd's with you to play.
I don't mind it at all actually, I don't spend much time in the car, and outside you can hear the birds singing and lots of other wildlife, hahaha, that's more than enough for me :-)
In Algonquin, blackflies are usually out by mid-May (depending on the weather in any given year) and are usually around until late June. The worst time of day for blackflies tends to be the last two or three hours of sunlight. Mosquitoes are also abundant, beginning in mid to late-May and usually last longer than blackflies (into July). Mosquitoes are most often a problem in cooler, shady parts of the forest, as well as in the evening, and into the first couple of hours of darkness. They usually become less of a problem through the night (although they do not disappear entirely).
How to Prepare Yourself
If you are concerned about biting insects we suggest preparing yourselves in one or more of the following ways:
Wear long-sleeved shirts (if it is hot, lightweight cotton shirts are good) with cuffs and collars that can be buttoned tight as well as long pants with elastic cuffs (or tuck your pants into your socks). Blackflies crawl and will land on you and then crawl under clothing if they can (i.e., if you have a loose neckline they will crawl down your shirt, or if you have loose pants crawl up your pant legs).
Do not wear dark clothing (black, dark blue, red, etc.) as blackflies are attracted to dark colours. White, tan, khaki, etc. are preferable.
Use insect repellent on the areas that are exposed — something with DEET works the best although you have to be careful about not getting it on any plastics or rubber (camera housing, the rubber rim around binoculars, etc.) because it melts the plastic/rubber. Also be very careful with DEET around your eyes, lips, and nose (it stings!).
If you don't like to use insect repellent, either put up with the blackflies around the areas of open skin, or invest in some sort of netting (a bug hat, or bug jacket) which can be bought at most outdoor stores. Evidence exists that something in garlic acts as a repellent.
Bears are spectacular and beautiful wild creatures, and where they have had little contact with humans they tend to avoid us. Unfortunately, humans are encroaching on bear habitat more and more each year. If we are going to coexist peacefully, it's up to we humans to take care not to create bear problems, since, as the saying goes, " There are no problem bears, just problem people."
Nevertheless, there have been tragic consequences to bear/human interaction in Algonquin. Three boys were killed in 1978 and an adult couple, trapped on an island with a bear, was killed in 1991.
Here are some safety tips for travelling the interior:
Be prepared! Learn as much as you can about bears before venturing into bear country. Check with the appropriate authorities before setting out (provincial wildlife officer, park warden, etc.) to see if there has been any reported bear activity along your planned route.
Stay alert! Watch ahead for bears and bear signs. Claw marks on trees, tracks in the dirt, bear droppings, plant root diggings, berries or trampled vegetation are all signs that bears may be in the area. Overturned rocks or broken-up rotted logs often mean a bear has been foraging for insects.
Try not to surprise a bear. If a bear hears you coming, it will usually avoid you. Warn bears of your presence by talking loudly or singing, especially in dense bush where visibility may be limited or around rivers or streams where hearing is limited. Your voice will help identify you as human.
Never feed a bear, either intentionally or unintentionally by being careless with your garbage or food scraps.
Hike during daylight hours in as large a group as possible and stick together. If you smell or see signs of a dead animal (ravens circling) move away from the smell, making a wide detour. Leave the area if possible.
Leaches can also be a problem in Algonquin. Early in the afternoon I took a swim on the other side of the lake across from our camp area. When we returned I quickly dried off, got dressed, started to collect firewood for the night, and started getting dinner ready. These things all take time so once you're fed, the fires going and you've found a place to hang your food for the night, it's pretty dark. Well... about 11:30 at night we finally decided to go to sleep.
Of course the dog is being very pushy by trying to secure a spot inside the tent. I wage a short, but intense battle with her to maintain my authority and rightful place gaurding the entrance to the tent. I assist Maria by holding the flashlight while she takes off her mud-caked boots and she assists me in a similar fashion. I take off my boots to find one sock is soaked in blood. Hmm... I don't feel any pain? Well... let's take a look.
It turns out that a leech - who has been feasting on me for the past 9 hours - is a wee bit gourged with blood and is now stuck between my toes and unable to escape. Once I part my toes he just falls off and it appears he is now about 1.5 inches in length. Interesting. We take some photos, clean up and hit the sack.
Definitely drive within the speed limit. Slow down to enjoy the beautiful scenery along the highway. Algonquin is not a motor speedway and there is no reason to speed. It takes longer to brake at high speed.
And you really don't want to hit a moose, which is the largest of the deer family, and can weigh over 1000 pounds! Be extremely careful, especially at night, as they are difficult to spot because of their dark colour. No doubt that it can do tremandous damage to your vehicle and can result in serious personal injury. Unfortunately, there are a dozen moose that are killed every year as a result of collisions with a vehicle.
By driving slowly, you'll be able to spot wildlife easily. I spotted a moose in the meadow below the highway early in the morning while we were driving. In another incident, we had enough time to swirl around a toad crossing the highway.