In the pitch dark of an Algonquin Park night, a small light cuts the gloom. A park naturalist is collecting newly hatched turtles to protect them from predators. Further up the path, we had seen the destroyed leathery shells discarded after a hungry raccoon or fox had dug them up. He hopes to save these.
We’ve hiked out into the wilderness to see if we could entice the wolves to howl. I’d like to tell you they did, but they refused to answer our guide’s call. Happening upon this little drama is the consolation prize for their lack of response.
It’s late spring in Algonquin Park, and the black flies are out in force. But the air is sweet, fragrant with fresh pine and cedar, and the water in the more than 2,400 lakes and 1,200 km of streams and rivers is sparkling clean. When people talk about escaping the rat race, this park with more than 7,500 sq. km. of undisturbed wilderness answers the call.
What’s remarkable is that it was created in 1893 as a protected area, making it the oldest provincial park in Canada. And despite significant logging over the early decades, the park has remained relatively pristine.
In 1992, the old logging camps were recreated in the forest, a small history lesson on this dangerous occupation that brought men into the forest for months on end, to live in crude log cabins and spend daylight hours felling timber. The 1.3 km trail features the cabins, a steam-powered amphibious tug called an ‘alligator’, logging equipment and interpretive panels about logging activities in the park.
One major road which splices through the park, and it’s not unusual to see what locals call a ‘moose jam’. One car spots a moose and stops, and it isn’t long before a whole line of cars have stopped to take photos. The moose is generally sanguine about the whole thing.
Hiking and cross-country skiing in winter are popular ways to explore the park but getting out onto one of the lakes and rivers offers a very different perspective. From this vantage point, birds, shyer animals and water creatures can be more readily seen. Outfitters throughout the park provide canoes, kayaks, tent gear, etc. to facilitate exploration.
And getting out beyond the bounds of the roads, one catches glimpses of the magnificent views which so inspired the Group of Seven. Artists like Tom Thomson immortalized the colours and spirit of Algonquin Park. And the park continues to inspire creation.
A visit to the Algonquin Art Centre is a chance to see the breadth of that creativity. They even offer art classes. After a short lesson, I created my own masterpiece.
Nearby, the Algonquin Visitor Centre offers exhibits about the natural and cultural history of the park.
I’m awed by impressive displays of a family of bears or moose. There’s even a pack of wolves in full howl. Well, if I can’t see the real thing….
It’s made me determined to return for one of the famous Algonquin wolf howls (there are several of these hikes slated for August and September). I want to hear this eerie call in person.