I don't know if this will be a story so much as a description of the photos below. We'll see. I've only been to Algonquin Provincial Park once and that was long ago, an over-nighter and on a motorcycle. The ride was long, involved a couple of gas stops (300km one way) and one seriously sore ass. Sorry, should that be butt? Nah forget it, this is my blog. Ass.
I don't know why I haven't been back in so many years as it really was a fun night, and I did see 2 or 3 moose on my ride home. Maybe it was the 300km rainy ride home. That's probably it.
Enough of that. This trip started the same way many things in my life do. Spontaneously. I'm in the parking lot at work at about 5:45am listening to the radio when the thought enters my head. As soon as I can get out of work, I'm going home, throwing a few clothes in a bag, my camera, and going north. Well.. Everything worked out well and that's just what I did.
The drive went pretty quickly. In fact, I was surprised just how fast I was there. The highway moved strangely well and before I knew it I was on Highway 60 heading east, only 50km from the park. I wasn't even in the park yet when I was blown away by how beautiful the fall colours were. Reds, yellows and oranges were everywhere. A little voice told me to take off my sunglasses and I was greeted by even brighter colours.
Passing a small lake on my right, I couldn't help but stop and take a shot. I have a thing for reflections so getting the colours of the trees reflecting in a tranquil lake seemed like a win for me. Passing cars cooperated (by not killing me) as I parked on the shoulder set up my tripod and grabbed a few shots. My critical side says it would have been much nicer if those trees and shrubs in the foreground weren't there, but I couldn't get any closer so, sometimes you have to take what you're dealt.
Continuing east to the park, I passed the visitors office. Here, you buy your park pass ($16.00 per car) and this gives you access to the sights within the next 56km of park. Well, unfortunately when I arrived it was a bit late and nobody home. My evil side didn't pay for my pass via the machine so I hopped back in my car and continued on.
My first stop was to be a place that was marked simply as "Lookout". No name, just "Lookout". Interesting. I parked, and began a gradual climb up a roughly 1.5km rooty trail. At the beginning of the trails there are typically pamphlets that tell you what each numbered post is highlighting. Unfortunately my shots are less than interesting, but I grabbed this shot of a fallen tree. There are lots. Hundreds. Thousands probably. This isn't your mama's park. Go off the path and you're going to be seriously lost as Algonquin park covers thousands of square kilometers. Anyway, nuff said.
Up, Up, Up the trail went, and after a while, I reached the top and enjoyed a beautiful view. The sun was in my face though so I didn't take any pictures, so you'll just have to trust that it was worth the climb.
By the time I got back down, it was getting darker and darker. Dusk was definitely here and it was time to get into my car before the critters and creatures come out to play. With it being my first time out there and by myself, any large creaks and cracks got my attention quickly.
As the sun set and the sky darkened, I began to look for a place to get some night sky shots. It was clear that it would be a cloudless sky and since I was miles from the lights of the Greater Toronto Area, I hoped that I would be treated. And I was. As a kid, I'd been treated to a view of the Milky Way on a road trip to Vancouver with my parents and its something that has stuck with me ever since. This night was a close second. It was spectacular. I had found a spot just off the road with a watery foreground, trees in the distance and the stars above. Just about perfect in my books. If I wasn't clicking, I was taking it in.
I took a number of shots much like this one and in some, I noticed the trees were lit up nicely by the passing cars and trucks so I thought I would play with them a bit by turning around and shooting the sky and trees.
With my bike mounted on the back of my car, I shot the sky and a piece of the Milky Way and captured the lights of the passing cars. I may have had more fun results if I could have had a bit of traffic going each way at the time, but beggars really can't be choosers. I like the result.
I was really enjoying myself when I heard the sound of a rather large splash behind me on the other side of the lake, perhaps 100 feet away. The sound of something getting in the water and swimming in my general direction was clear. It's no secret that I have a fear of bears. I'd very much like to not be eaten by one. With that in mind, I quickly grabbed my camera and tripod, folded what I could and in a near-panic fumbled with my keys to unlock my door (damn you, Auto-Locking Tucson!!!) and threw in my gear before closing the door behind me.
My flashlight refused to illuminate whatever it is that was in the water, but no matter. Something large was out there and I wasn't going to be dinner for it. Even if it was just a moose. My night was done and it was time to find a place to sleep.
By now it was about 10:30 and I found a place outside the park that looked like it would do. Ringing the doorbell, I was greeted by a nice woman in a robe who was extremely kind and helpful and gave me her last room. Spring Lake Resort took care of me for the night so I feel like I should give them a plug. The lady spoke quite excitedly about my first time there alone, the things to do and see, places to hike and bike (and not to sweat the bears).
I spent a while by their small lake taking some more shots of the sky and playing with the mist as it drifted across the water before calling it a night.
The following morning there was a good amount of fog and mist in the air. I was up long before dawn to make sure I found a spot worth shooting. Keeping in check with my desire for reflections, I found this outcrop of land in a place called Mew Lake. With the sun rising in the distance behind the trees, I liked how it was backlit on the near and far shores. It didn't turn out exactly the way I wanted and given more time, I would have re-visited there several more times if necessary to get it the way I wanted. Ideally I would have liked a somewhat cloudless morning rather than overcast skies, but sometimes you have to take what you're given.
Sometimes I wish I hadn't moved from Orangeville so places like this could be much more reachable but what can you do. If I'd known that a year after moving that I'd be spending more time north than south.. nuff said.
With a fresh day ahead and fog in the air, I thought I'd visit another lookout. Algonquin has plenty of them - unfortunately I can't remember the name of this one. It may be Hardwood Lookout, but don't quote me.
Having noticed a theme of the lookouts being accessible via a loop, I took a more direct route to the top. What I didn't realize at the time was that the direct route seems to mean a steep hike upwards. Carrying a billion pounds of camera stuff with tripod meant that it was a serious pain in the butt (there I go censoring myself now).
Still a bit spooked by animals and the fact that it was still pretty dark on this trail, the nearby cracks and crunches were punctuated by the sound of that large creature I'd heard only hours before. But still, up I climbed until I reached this lookout. There was an area very close by that offered a much more unobstructed view, but somehow I think this one works to add some depth to the shot. It gives the illusion of being above the clouds, and I like that.
With the night on my mind and wanting to find a safer place to shoot, I found myself at Lake of Two Rivers. There is a place to stop and walk to the beach so as the sun was dropping from the sky, I carried my gear to the water, dragged a picnic table near the water and enjoyed some more quiet time. There was a stretch of cloud in the sky that I had been watching for a while which I think was a contrail. It lingered in the sky for a couple of hours and slowly got wider and wider over time. I was pretty fortunate that it slowly dissipated as darkness truly set in and I was able to get this shot. The glow near the horizon is from the lights of nearby Huntsville, Ontario. Yes, I managed to work in yet another reflection as well.
Heading back to Lake of Two Rivers, I had noticed this pile of rocks but didn't have a good lens with me to shoot it at the time. With a bit of mist still on the water and my 150-500mm lens set at maximum zoom, I'm pretty happy with this shot. It was probably 200 feet awaybut the lighting was pretty decent to get a contrasty shot with a nice backdrop of the changing leaves. Truth be told, I wish I could have gotten physically closer for a clearer shot but, oh well.
It was time to head back. My parents had given me a heads-up about a tower that I had to visit along the way home. It was only slightly out of the way and promised to be worthwhile.
They were right. My shots didn't really show anything spectacular (blame the photographer) but I have to tell you, if you're up there, climbing and descending that tower is an experience unto itself. The tower moves, creaks slightly and the steps are steep and small. I've never held a handrail tighter to avoid a very quick trip south from 100 feet.
Finally, along the trip home, I passed a small pond at the side of the road. I was well on my way home but something stuck in my head that I liked about it, so after a minute or two, I decided to turn around and get a second look at it. Well, since there's a shot here, you can tell I liked it. It was a bit of work to get though. I found a place to park, walked back, went over the barrier and climbed down a pretty steep and rocky embankment that led down to the water. Pushing aside the tall grass, I found a spot I liked and this is what I came up with.
The climb up wasn't any easier. I probably would have looked pretty suspicious if any cars had been passing at that moment, but I made it back to my car safely, and so ended my first solo trip to Algonquin.
I was planning on writing about both trips in a single entry but this one is already pretty long and I'm afraid I'll click something and lose it. I'd hate to throw my computer out the window.
I'm outta here! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for Algonquin #2!